Buffalo Trail (Cash McLendon Series #2)

Buffalo Trail (Cash McLendon Series #2)

by Jeff Guinn


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New York Times–bestselling author of The Last Gunfight Jeff Guinn once again brings the Old West to life in the grand follow-up to Glorious.
After barely escaping nemesis Killer Boots in the tiny Arizona Territory town of Glorious, Cash McLendon is in desperate need of a safe haven somewhere—anywhere—on the frontier.

Fleeing to Dodge City, he falls in with an intrepid band of buffalo hunters determined to head south to forbidden Indian Territory in the Texas Panhandle. In the company of such colorful Western legends as Bat Masterson and Billy Dixon, Cash helps establish a hunting camp known as Adobe Walls. When a massive migration of buffalo arrives, Cash, newly hopeful that he may yet patch things up with Gabrielle Tirrito back in Arizona, thinks his luck has finally changed.

But no good can come of entering the prohibited lands they’ve crossed into. Little do Cash and his fellows know that their camp is targeted by a new coalition of the finest warriors among the Comanche, Cheyenne, and Kiowa. Led by fierce Comanche war chief Quanah and eerie tribal mystic Isatai, an enormous force of two thousand is about to descend on the camp and will mark one of the fiercest, bloodiest battles in frontier history.

Cash McLendon is in another fight for his life—and this time running is not an option. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399165429
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Series: Cash McLendon Series , #2
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jeff Guinn is the bestselling author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including Manson, The Last Gunfight, and Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde. A former books editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and an award-winning investigative journalist, Guinn is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. He lives in Fort Worth.

Read an Excerpt

   As a man who loved his tribe and understood its ways very well, Quanah was worried.
   Winters were always hard, with the buffalo gone and most other game skittish and hard to track. But this year when the cold months came, the People began observing many strange signs. Rocks resembled faces of long-lost loved ones. A crow spoke to some hunters and told them where to find a bear who should have been hibernating but wasn’t. Someone saw a six-legged buffalo, but its two extra limbs allowed it to run away so fast that it was lost to sight before the rest of the village could be alerted. At night, huddling around fires, trying to ignore the hunger pangs that wracked them, everyone discussed these things, pondering what they might mean. Though they believed in spirits and omens, the People had no formal religion, and unlike the Kiowa and Cheyenne did not designate official medicine men to explain signs. Among the People, anyone was free to interpret and prophesize, and everyone else could either agree or not, as they chose.
   Though he accepted the possibility of spirits, Quanah did not believe in omens at all. In his twenty-fifth year and a full warrior since his fourteenth, he thought people saw signs when they wanted to. A profusion of omen-sighting was inevitable whenever there was widespread desperation, and this bleak season was the most desperate time in memory for the tribe called Comanche by outsiders, white and Indian alike. Those on the reservation who depended on the white man’s charity were starving, because the promised cattle and corn were not supplied in sufficient quantities to feed even small children, let alone hungry adults. The People who still roamed free were hungry, too. Traditionally there were winter stores of pemmican - dried turkey, venison or buffalo meat pounded into strips during the bountiful hunting months and flavored during drying with honey, pinion nuts, and wild plums. Though pemmican was not as delicious as fresh meat, it was nourishing and could tide everyone over until the cold broke and the game returned. But now there was very little pemmican, either, because white hunters encroaching on Indian land in the warm season thinned game that became even scarcer in the winter. In particular there were far fewer buffalo; the whites who killed them took only the hides, leaving to rot the meat that the People required to survive the winter.
   So as the snow and ice storms loomed, there were meager food stores and little hope of replenishment for some time to come. In their present straits, the very old men and women and weak babies would soon begin to die. They could start eating their horses, but among the People no possessions were as prized as a man’s horse herd. Instead of acting as superior beings should, arming themselves and going out to take what they needed, most of the warriors seemed resigned to endlessly discussing reported signs and accepting diets of horse meat or the rumblings of their families’ empty bellies. This made Quanah furious; he railed at his fellow Quahadi, “Antelopes” in the People’s language, urging them to put aside their obsessions with omens and mount a large scale expedition instead of scattered raids against the white men. When his own camp wasn’t sufficiently responsive, Quanah rode to several others, as the People lived in scattered bands that formed a loose confederation. He imagined all the fighting men from each band combining in a massive war party, perhaps one augmented by warriors from among the Cheyenne, Kiowa and Arapaho. Together, they would present such an invincible force that the whites would either be driven or choose to withdraw from Indian Territory, and the hunting would be good again.
   Everywhere Quanah went among the People, he was greeted with respect. In recent years he’d earned a deserved reputation as a great fighter. But there was little enthusiasm when he described his grand plan. Those willing to go out and fight preferred doing so in the traditional way, small parties that attacked swiftly and just as quickly threw off pursuit in the foreboding reaches of their vast territory. These raiders made up in ferocity what they lacked in numbers. Collaboration was not the People’s tradition, and what Quanah wanted to do would require considerable cooperation. Besides, as much as he was renowned as a warrior, he was also somewhat suspect as a half-breed, the child of a Comanche warrior and a white woman rescued as a girl from her lesser race and eventually given the privilege of living as an equal among the People. One of the many reasons Quanah hated whites was that some years later they stole his mother back, also taking his baby sister and killing his father, a renowned warrior named Peta Nocona, in the same attack. Quanah had his father’s battle skills, mahogany skin and thick black hair, but also his mother’s gray eyes and a white man’s height. He towered over the other braves. Many of the People were of mixed blood, Mexican and black as well as white, but Quanah’s appearance made it particularly obvious. In battle they trusted him, but in counsel had their doubts. When the Quahadi scoffed at Quanah’s suggestion of a unified war party, he mounted one of his best ponies and took his plan in turn to several other Comanche bands. Try as he might, none were persuaded.
   After several frustrating weeks, Quanah gave up and began the long ride back to the main village of the Quahadi, which that winter was north of all the other People’s camps. It was a dismal journey and he brooded along the way. When he arrived home at the Quahadi camp it was possible, even likely, that many there would mock him – he’d failed to convince outsiders to join in his scheme, just as his own Quahadis had rejected it. In better times that failure might have been overlooked, but with everyone edgy from hunger, Quanah felt certain that ridicule awaited him. His immense pride made him highly sensitive to even the mildest slights. He understood that this was a great personal flaw, but Quanah couldn’t help it. The stigma of being a particularly obvious half-breed among the People left him insecure in a way that no battlefield triumphs could entirely ease.
   Quanah was imagining the jeers he would surely hear in his village when he first sensed rather than saw movement in a shallow valley to his right. He hopped down off his horse to diminish his own silhouette against the sky and led his mount behind a small grove of trees. Then, looking down, he spied a small band of white men riding south. There were four on horseback, plus another on the bench of a wagon pulled by a two-horse team. Typical of white buffalo hunters, these men all had long hair hanging to their shoulders. Watching them, Quanah initially felt a spark of hope. If he could take them by surprise, cut down two or three while the others ran away in panic, then he could return to the Quahadi laden with dripping scalps and something to brag about. That might deflect any comments on other, less positive aspects of his excursion. The odds of five to one didn’t bother him. Most white men were bad fighters, and cowards besides.
   But as he studied his potential prey, Quanah hesitated. They were well-armed with powerful rifles, and clearly wary. They crossed the valley slowly, taking care to watch on all sides. Regretfully, Quanah decided not to attack. He still thought he could kill one or two and get away, but the other whites would prevent him from taking scalps and so he would have nothing to show off to his village. Feeling thwarted and even more miserable, he watched the five men as they rode. One was the obvious leader, even though he was younger than the rest. He rode in front, studying the ground and occasionally calling back to the others. A red dog romped alongside his horse. As Quanah looked on, this young leader pulled up, dismounted, and shouted to his companions. They hurried over and dismounted too, exclaiming about a wide swath of months-old tracks cut deeply into the packed dirt. Quanah had seen the tracks, too. Some time earlier a big herd of buffalo, escaping their widespread slaughter in the white man’s territory to the north, moved across several rivers into this region, supposedly reserved for Indian hunting by the white government. These intruders were breaking the treaty, but Quanah knew why they had come. Just like the People, they were looking for better hunting, though of course whites already had all the food they needed without coming here and taking what belonged to the Indians. The interlopers in the valley beneath him just wanted the buffalo for their hides. For now, the herd would have migrated so far south that neither the whites nor the People could hunt them, but when the weather warmed the buffalo would return here, and so would these white men, who now knew where to come in Indian land to find them. This proved again why Quanah’s plan was necessary. When the warm season was back and the white men returned, the People needed to be ready to kill or drive all of them off, no matter how many came.
   As the hunters crossed the valley and disappeared down a ravine just beyond, Quanah took a corn cake from his pouch and moodily ate it. He gagged on some dry bits – corn being almost as scarce as meat that winter, his wife had to mix in ground husks to bind the patty together before cooking it – and wished the next water hole was closer than another half-day’s ride. After choking down the food he pissed against a tree, remounted and began riding north again.
   Almost immediately, he saw more movement, this time above the entrance to the valley. He nudged his horse along, making certain to keep its unshod hoofs from clopping on the hard rock, and after a few moments saw there was another white man coming south. At first Quanah thought the white man must belong to the others, and was lagging behind to guard their rear. But then Quanah realized that this one was alone, and stupid besides. Though it was not unusual to come upon white hunters in Indian lands during the winter, it was rare to find one crazy enough to venture there alone. That this fool had done so, let alone to pass by Quanah right on the heels of a smarter, well-prepared group of whites, was clearly tremendous luck. Now Quanah would have a trophy to bring home to his village.
   Almost without thinking, Quanah began to stalk him. He tethered his horse to a raggedy bush, running his hand over the animal’s nostrils as a reminder for it to keep silent. Then Quanah checked his bowstring to ensure it was properly taut. He left his rifle back with his horse because the sound of a shot might reach the five other hunters who’d just crossed the valley. He could get away if they returned on the gallop, but then he wouldn’t have time to do anything other than kill his victim – which, to him, was only the beginning of the thrill.
   The lone white man now entering the valley was on horseback, and his mount picked its way carefully around sharp rocks. Its rider peered intently at the ground ahead of him, oblivious to Quanah, who swiftly and noiselessly rushed in behind him, closing ground fast. He had an arrow nocked on his bowstring and could have shot the man out of his saddle at almost any time, but there was no sport in that. Instead, he came up a few paces behind the rider and deliberately kicked a fist-sized rock into another larger one. At the sound of the loud clack the white man turned in his saddle and saw Quanah there, his bow now drawn and ready. The white man squealed, a high womanish sound, and scrabbled for the rifle hanging in a scabbard by the side of his saddle. Quanah waited and let the man’s fingers curl around the stock before he loosed his arrow, which tore into the fellow’s shoulder and knocked him off his horse. The white man hit the ground hard; the breath whooshed out of him, and he gasped for air as he writhed there. Quanah hooked his bow over the quiver on his back, drew his knife, and moved forward. The white man tried to scream but still didn’t have enough breath. Quanah grabbed him by the hair and yanked him into seated position. He pressed his knife just below the man’s hairline and began to cut. The wounded man pounded at him with his left arm; his right one dangled uselessly. The point of Quanah’s arrow protruded several inches in front of that shoulder. Quanah ignored the blows and sawed away. He got a lot of blood on his hands and arms, but the warm wetness felt good in the cold winter air. Just as the scalp came loose the white man finally had enough air in his lungs to scream. Because the other five white men might still be close enough to hear, Quanah regretfully leaned down and cut his victim’s throat. He would have enjoyed playing with him some more. The People knew many ways to mutilate enemies without quite killing them on the spot, and Quanah was a master of them all. He dumped the white man’s body and examined the gory scalp in his hand. It was a fine one. The hair was thick and dark brown, almost black. Quanah had cut it away from the skull so well that there were few unsightly flaps of skin dangling from the edges. He trimmed these away with his knife. The white man’s horse had stopped a short distance away; Quanah draped the scalp on the corpse and wiped as much of the gore on his hands off on the dead man’s shirt, so the sharp smell of blood wouldn’t panic the horse and cause it to bolt. He caught the horse’s bridle and muttered soft words to it. The animal’s tail twitched nervously as Quanah went through its saddlebags. He found a few bright shiny cans whose contents sloshed when Quanah shook them. He tossed these away and took the dead man’s rifle from its scabbard. It was a Winchester, a good gun, and so Quanah kept it. He was disappointed to find only a handful of shells in one saddlebag. There was a little tobacco, too, always good to have, and a canteen of water. Quanah took a hearty drink. Then he led the captured horse back through the valley to where he’d tethered his own mount. As he passed the body of the man he’d killed, he leaned down and grabbed the fine scalp. That, along with the Winchester and the horse, might deflect criticism when he got home.
   As a prominent warrior who’d been gone on a well-known, if controversial, mission, Quanah expected to attract considerable notice when he rode into the Quahadi village. Just before he did, he prominently placed the scalp on the neck of his horse where everyone would see it. But when he arrived, leading the captured horse and brandishing his victim’s Winchester, no one paid attention. They were all gathered around a man proclaiming loudly that he’d just received a message from the spirit world beyond, the place above the clouds. The identity of the speaker and the villagers’ willingness to listen raptly to his words astonished Quanah. Previously, most of the camp considered Isatai something of a buffoon. Moon-faced and stout even in times of hunger, with a neck so short and thick that it seemed his head sprang directly from between his shoulders, Isatai was a liability in battle, lumbering clumsily about and getting in the way of more skillful fighters. The People generally had no regard for a grown man like Isatai who couldn’t fight well. In the summer just past, he was relegated to helping hold horses away from the fighting, a lowly chore usually reserved for young boys on their first raids. Despite his obvious failings as a warrior, no one bragged more after battle than Isatai, who always described some heroic action on his part that had been completely overlooked by everyone else. Even his name was derogatory. The People assigned adult names based on physical traits, personal history or perceptions of character. Quanah’s name meant “smell” – women thought he exuded a particularly pleasant body odor. His younger brother, who’d died of a fever many seasons ago, had been called “Peanuts” because he was a runt. Isatai’s name meant “Wolf Cunt,” a blatant insult to his manhood. He either misunderstood or ignored the slur, decorating his breechclout with bits of wolf fur and claiming the animal as his special totem. He was mocked for this, but now, to Quanah’s astonishment, everyone hung on his words.
   “Two days past, I rose straight up in the air,” Isatai boasted. “Maybe some of you saw me.” His audience mumbled among themselves, with a few agreeing that yes, they thought that perhaps they had. Quanah steered his horse past the crowd, snorting loudly to indicate derision. No one paid him any attention. Their eyes were locked on Isatai, who began jerking his jiggly body to mimic passage to the spirit plain. “The spirits live high above us, and when I glanced down the village seemed very small.”
   “What do the spirits look like?” a woman inquired. “What did they say to you?”
   “The spirits are more of a feeling than a sight,” Isatai replied. “If you are chosen to rise up among them, one or more will blow into your heart and then you understand their messages without any words spoken.” There were nods and murmurs of assent. After Isatai explained it, the villagers realized that of course this was the way spirits communicated with someone chosen from among the living.
   Quanah dismounted in front of his tipi. He was gratified that his wife Wickeah was there, instead of among those surrounding Isatai. He handed her the reins to his horse, and also those of the captured one. She seemed not to notice he’d returned with an extra mount, and if she was aware of the fine thick scalp she failed to mention it. Irked, Quanah demanded, “What is this foolishness?”
   “Isatai has been away two nights,” Wickeah said. “When he returned just now, he started talking about spirit messages. Can we go listen?”
   “Take care of these horses, then make me something to eat,” Quanah said sharply. “I’ve just won a hard battle with a fierce enemy, a white hunter, and I’m very hungry.”
   “There isn’t much,” Wickeah said, looking past Quanah at Isatai. “You’ve been out talking again, instead of hunting.”
   “I’ve been out fighting as well as talking,” Quanah said. “Care for the horses and then get me whatever food there is. You need to work instead of wasting time paying attention to that fool.” Wickeah obediently led the horses away. The comeliest woman among the Quahadi, she could have married any man in the village, but chose Quanah because he was the best fighter. When Wickeah’s father refused to let him have her, she and Quanah ran away together. They only rejoined the camp when Quanah gave her father some fine horses and he relented. This was another reason why many of the other warriors, especially the older full-bloods, harbored some resentment toward him. Wickeah was a once-in-a-generation beauty, and all of them had badly wanted her.
   While she was gone, Quanah hung the scalp by the outside flap of his tipi and leaned the Winchester beside it. That way, everyone in the village would be reminded that Quanah was a great warrior. Then, despite himself, he sidled over and joined the crowd. Having described his ascension, Isatai was now regaling his audience with the messages passed on to him by the spirits.
   “There are five deer a short ride to the east,” he said. “As soon as I’m finished talking, some of you should ride in that direction and kill them. But as you ride, be sure to believe that they will be there. If any of those who go don’t truly believe, if they have any doubts at all, then the spirits will make the deer disappear.”
   Quanah stood beside Crippled Foot, an older warrior, and asked, “Why is everyone listening? He’s making this up to get attention.”
   Crippled Foot hushed him. “There’s something about Isatai that’s different. I think the spirits really did speak to him. They can choose anyone they like.”
    “Think about it. Why him?”
   “That’s for the spirits to know.”
   “About the six-legged buffalo,” Isatai continued. “It was a very important sign.”
   Quanah couldn’t help himself. “A sign of what?” he called out sarcastically. “A sign that there are buffalo all over our land right now, and all we have to do is ride out and kill them? But if we don’t believe you, they’ll disappear?”
   Some in the crowd shouted for Quanah to be quiet, to go away if he didn’t want to listen. But Isatai calmly said that it was a good question.
   “This sign is about more than what we can hunt and eat right now,” he said. “It’s a signal to prepare.”
   “Prepare for what?” Quanah demanded.
   Isatai looked stern. “The spirits want us to know that when the buffalo disappear, we will disappear too. The fate of the buffalo will be the fate of the People. We must preserve them for our own use. Very soon we will have to make some great thing happen to save the buffalo, and ourselves. It will probably be a very hard thing and daring, but the spirits command us to do it and so we must.”
   “The spirits told you this?” Quanah asked incredulously.
   “They did. And when they had, they lowered me to Earth, and as instructed I came back to my village to tell you all about it.”
   Quanah looked around at everyone listening raptly to Isatai’s words. “The spirits told you that we must do something daring,” he said.
   “They did, though they didn’t say what. That will be revealed to me sometime soon. And now I’m tired from my trip to see the spirits and must rest. Some of you go kill those deer to the east, and be certain to believe.”
   A half-dozen warriors rushed to their ponies. Later they returned empty-handed and ashamed. They agreed that someone among them must not have believed, but no one would admit that it was him. Somehow their failure seemed like more proof that Isatai was indeed singled out by the spirits. Everyone wanted him to visit them again and learn more about what the People had to do.
   Quanah still believed Isatai was making everything up, but that didn’t matter. At least the attention Isatai called to himself meant no one gave any further thought to Quanah’s failed embassies to the other tribes.
   That night, Quanah woke with a start. Somehow, a plan had come to him in his sleep. Fat liar that he was, Isatai might be very useful.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Fantastic Praise for Glorious
“An affable . . . bit of frontier mythmaking . . . readers may find by the end that, like Cash McLendon, they’ve become inexplicably fond of Glorious and its colorful denizens.” —The Washington Post

“[Guinn] knows how to dig into the past . . . an absorbing, informative and entertaining tale of life, love, hope and ambition in the American West.” —The Dallas Morning News

“A worthy addition to the western genre . . . Catnip for Lonesome Dove fans.” —The Seattle Times

“Delightful . . . wonderfully appealing. Glorious is an old-fashioned western with likable characters who, because Gunn projects a trilogy, will return shortly.” —Booklist

“This first installment in a trilogy will delight historical fiction fans longing for the return of classic Westerns. This entertaining outing is sure to keep the saloon doors swinging for more entries in the genre.” —Library Journal

“The Wild West comes alive in this novel of prospectors, desolate cavalry posts, rotgut saloons and Apache raiders. . . . The plot is classic . . . good fun.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Since he’s already written about Wyatt Earp, Bonnie and Clyde, and Charles Manson (Manson), Jeff Guinn might as well create his own attractive bad boy. He’s done so in this first-in-a-trilogy Western. . . . There’s an interesting contemporary feel to this Western. City boy McLendon doesn’t know how to ride or shoot or bust heads; what he knows how to do is observe, spy and think on his feet.” —Tucson Weekly

“A trip to Glorious, Arizona, in Jeff Guinn’s new western novel is like a cool draft beer after a long, hot day on a dusty trail. Glorious is old-fashioned in the very best way: it’s good-hearted, optimistic, compelling, comfortable, and extremely well told. It’s wonderful when an author clearly has affection for his characters, and readers will feel the same way.” —C. J. Box, New York Times–bestselling author of The Highway and Stone Cold

“If, like me, you’ve been waiting for the next Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey, the good news is his name is Jeff Guinn. His newest novel, Glorious, has all the elements of a fabulous Western: compelling characters, breathtaking scenery, and something more—an unblinking take on the western frontier.”
—Craig Johnson, New York Times–bestselling author of the Walt Longmire mysteries

Reading Group Guide

Buffalo Trail
Reading Group Guide
1) There are obvious differences between the concerns and ambitions of the buffalo hunters and the Indians. But are there also similarities?
2) “Counting coup” is a way of measuring the greatest acts of bravery. Why is this so important to the People? And how does it influence their decisions?
3) Quanah tricks Isatai into saying what he wants him to say, and in turn also tricks the People, who believe Isatai’s spiritual messages. Was Quanah right to do this? What consequences did Quahah and the People face because of this manipulation?
4) The People are quick to accept Isatai’s messages as true. Why do they believe so easily? How does their desperation for better times affect their judgment?
5) The buffalo hunters and the Indians have strong opinions about one another. Historically, what drives these views?
6) Within the Indian bands, there are many differences, yet they manage to join together to fight the buffalo hunters. Why?
7) What might the buffalo hunters have learned from the first Battle of Adobe Walls? Did they use any of that knowledge in the second battle?
8) In the end, the kindness Cash showed Mochi is returned when she does not kill him. Discuss her motivations during the fight. What influence might Gabrielle have on Cash’s actions with Mochi?
9) Is it possible to sympathize with both sides in such a life-or-death battle? Was one side completely in the right or at least more so than the other?
10) Does there seem to be any way that the Indians and white hunters might have coexisted, or was this ultimate battle inevitable?

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Buffalo Trail (Cash McLendon Series #2) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Crystal61 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story very much. It was a very gritty tale in the historic west. The details of the lives of the Comanche and other native People, the white men who hunted the buffalo for their hides all kept my attention. This book showed a darker, less romantic side of the old west. I was given a chance a read this book in exchange for an honest review.