Dixon's Edge

Dixon's Edge

by Dennis O'Keefe


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In the late 1800's, aging Texas Ranger Billy Dixon decides it's time to turn in his badge and settle down with the Widow Tucker. On his last hunt, he rescues young Colt Patterson, an innocent victim from certain death. Billy takes him under his wing and teaches him how to survive in the harsh and brutal desert.
The Apache tribe is crowded into the hellhole the white men called Bosque Redondo, where they are starved and treated like animals.
Charley Tree, who has been adopted by the Apache Tribe, escapes and declares a one-man war against the entire white race. Billy and Colt are pitted against the horrific but compelling Charley. When they meet, only one can live.
"In Dixson's Edge, author Dennis O'Keefe paints a vivid portrait of the Old West, rich in authentic detail. He draws skillful contrasts between the harshness of his characters' lives and their surprising moments of poignant grace and humor." Jill Baer, writer for the Love Boat
"Dixson's Edge is a riveting saga that brings to life the Old West. Dennis O'Keefe is a gifted story-teller creating vivid original characters clashing with each other as they set forth on a dangerous path."
Golda David, Writer/Producer
"It will have you on the edge of your chair." Alan Caruba, Bookviews
"O'Keefe's novel is not the stereotypical western with bad guys versus the good guys. "Dixons Edge" is a story of psychological complexity about the connections between various individuals." Henry Berry, Small Press Book Review
"I highly recommend this book! 4.5 star rating!" Jennifer Leese, Storyweaver-Book Review
Finalist in the 2000 International Writer's Network competition
Winner Best Fiction, National Publishers Freedom Awards 2000

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781682139790
Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.
Publication date: 12/08/2015
Pages: 298
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

Read an Excerpt

Patrick ‘Pappy’ Patterson sat on the wooden stoop of the clapboard two bedroom house. The lump in his throat was so large it was like he had swallowed one of his five- hundred head of cattle that were being slaughtered. The gunshots had been going on continuously since mid afternoon. He could hear the pitiful moaning and bellowing of the panicked cattle. Even with their dim brains, they sounded as if they knew what was going on.

Pappy was trying hard to hold back the tears as he watched his oldest son, Colt, who stood with both fists shoved deep into the pockets of his bib coveralls.

Colt stared out across the fields looking through the dust stirred up by the milling and running cattle.

The evening sky looked red through the dust. The sun had almost disappeared below the low-lying dunes of sage and mesquite when the shooting finally stopped.

The county Sheriff, followed by the stranger from Austin, walked up. Pappy could see the grim look on both their faces. Sheriff Grimes looked like he had just completed the worst duty of his life. As he walked up to where Pappy was sitting, the Sheriff took off his white Stetson and wiped his face with his neckerchief for a moment before speaking.

“Mr. Patterson, I can’t tell you and your family how sorry I am about all this. I know how many years you worked building up this ranch and to have to destroy your herd this way, well dammit, it just doesn’t seem right. Hell, I never even heard of Anthrax before last week. Not until all those cows out at Miller’s place started dying.”

He motioned to his grim companion and continued, “Mr. Stallings here says that we have to burn the carcasses and the fields where you had those cows. Mr. Stallings says that it’s possible that the Anthrax could infect you, your family, and all your other critters. I hate to pile worse news on bad news but I guess we have to get rid of your other livestock too.” Pappy just nodded his head.

The Sheriff couldn’t bring himself to look at Pappy. He stood making a senseless circle in the dust with the toe of his boot and kneading his hat with both his hands.

Finally the Sheriff looked up at Pappy and said with a slight catch to his voice, “Ah shit, Mr. Patterson, I’m sorry.”

He turned and yelled to one of his deputies, “Okay Carl, round up all the other stock, including the horses and drive them into the corral. Keep your own horses out of that field. Saddle up Mr. Patterson’s horses, and let’s drag those carcasses into a pile. When you’re done, shoot the horses and burn them too.”

Colt couldn’t watch anymore. He rubbed the tears from both eyes using his dust-covered forearm and walked back into the house. He saw his father sitting on the stoop, staring straight ahead. Pappy and Colt were the only ones staying in the small house.

Pappy had sent Colt’s mother, Edna, and his twelve-year-old brother over to the Hunt’s to stay. Pappy didn’t want them to be there to watch the destruction of twenty years of their life and all their dreams. Colt had never heard of Anthrax, but according to the Sheriff; it must have come in with some Mexican cattle that his daddy and Mr. Miller both had bought. The Sheriff said the disease could actually get into the ground and could infect any livestock that even walked on it.

The man that the government had sent down, Mr. Stallings, said their only hope of avoiding an epidemic was to slaughter all the livestock and burn them. They’d also have to burn the grass where any of the stock had been.

Colt thought, “Hell, that was damn near the whole thousand acres.” There was so little grass that the cows had to be rotated, using all the fields. Colt sat just inside the dark interior of the house looking out the front door. He couldn’t see Pappy anymore. He must have gone to talk to the Sheriff.

Pappy watched Colt walk by. The boy was obviously trying to hold back his emotions. This was just too much for Pappy to bear. He and Colt had worked so hard. Every posthole, every stump cleared, and every strand of fence was dug and strung by his and Colt’s hands. Even the house and barn had been built by them. He was so proud of his son. He was proud of the rest of his family too, but there was something special about a man and his son, especially his first born, building something together. Now, in just a few days since they got the news, it was all over. Pappy stood and walked the hundred feet to the barn.

Colt sat staring at the shadows. The shooting had stopped for a couple of hours while the Sheriff and his people apparently dragged the cattle into a pile. A few more shots rang out. Colt knew that would be the horses. He could hear men talking but they were too far away to make out what they were saying.

It was dark now and Colt sat still looking out the door. He could smell the evening dust and for some reason it smelled good. He could smell the house that had the fine scents of cooking, lye, and leather. He could pick out the other smells that were typical, yet unique in their own way, of every well-maintained house. It seemed to Colt that the personality of each member could be picked out just by the smell.

The night air soon carried the sharp acrid odor of kerosene. The smell soon became overwhelming.

It wasn’t long before the fires of the burning carcasses lighted up the night. Revulsion swept over Colt.

He was drawn to the door where he looked out at the carnage.

A huge fire was engulfing the cattle. A second fire was in the corral, burning their now dead horses. He could see smaller fires springing up all over the ranch. They were burning the fields. Colt went back into the house.

He walked into the bedroom and flung himself across his bed. He pulled the blanket over his head to keep out the kerosene smell and to stifle his sobs.

Colt had no idea how long that he lay there. It could have been minutes or hours because he began to doze.

He awoke with a start. The smoke had increased to the point he could barely breath and the heat was intolerable.

The wind had picked up and was blowing towards the house stronger than it had been. He removed the covers from his head. The light from the window was a bright red from the fire and was lighting up the darkened room. The smoke was like a bright, heavy fog. He got up and went to the door.

The flames were leaping twenty to thirty feet in the air. It was pre-heating the grass in front of the main fire until it reached its combustion point. The fire would leap forward as the grass before it exploded. The ranch house was being threatened by the southeastern winds.

He ran outside looking for Pappy. Sparks and embers were flying everywhere. The thermal wind created by the fire was almost at hurricane force.

“Pap! Pap! Where are you?” He couldn’t see his father. “Pap, I think the house is gonna’ go!”

The roar of the fire was so loud that he doubted if Pap could hear him. He found a blanket and wrapped it around his nose and face. He again looked around for Pappy, but he was no where in sight. Colt ran through the smoke to the barn.

He went inside and froze. Through the smoke and light of the fire he saw Pap gently swinging. A sawhorse was turned over nearby and the rope around Pap’s neck was drawn tight by his weight. His neck had stretched to twice its normal length and was bent at an angle.

Colt screamed. “Pap, Oh no! Oh no!”

He ran to his father and cut him down. Pap was already stiffening up and Colt knew that he was dead. Colt knelt by his father, cradling his head in his arms. This time he didn’t try to hide his anguish. He held his father and rocked back and forth, crying as he had never cried before.

Slowly he came back to himself and lay his father’s head down. He noticed a folded sheet of paper protruding from his father’s pocket. He opened it and by the light of the raging inferno, he read.

Edina, Colt and Douglas

Please forgive me,


Colt crumbled the paper and shoved it in his pocket. He leaned over and again cradled his father. “Why now, Pap? Why now?”

The crackling of the flames grew louder. The haystack outside the barn was burning and it would be only seconds before the barn was engulfed.

Colt picked up his father and carried him back to the house, oblivious to the heat and smoke created by the hell surrounding him.

He sat all night watching his father. There was no doubt that the house would go next but somehow he just didn’t care.

Colt dozed and when he awoke, it was daylight.

The stench of burned grass, lumber, and cattle was heavy in the air but the fire was out.

He stood and walked to the door. He saw that the barn, chicken house and corrals were only ashes. The fields were black as far as he could see.

The charred remains of their cattle and horses could be seen scattered throughout the fields of blackened ashes. Smoke was still wafting into the still morning air.

Colt looked at his father. “Pap, what am I gonna’ tell Ma and Douglas? That you hung yourself? You know you’ve killed her too, by doing this. Pap, if we ever needed you before, we really need you now. What the hell am I gonna’ tell ma?”

Colt left the house and walked to what was left of the barn and tool shed. He rummaged through the ashes until he found the remains of a shovel, a hammer and saw. He found that the ashes from the wooden nail keg had burned away, leaving only the nails mostly welded together.

He managed to scoot A few loose nails, shovel and saw to an area that wasn’t burned too badly and allowed them to cool. He then walked back to the house and began pulling up boards from the front porch. He worked for over an hour before he started to feel faint.

He had no appetite, but he hadn’t eaten since the morning of the day before. He went into the house and using a dipper, poured water from a bucket over his head. He found some cold cornbread in the cupboard and some cold beans, still in the pot, sitting on the stove. He ate the beans right from the pot.

Colt managed to build a crude coffin and laid Pap in it. For some reason, his father wasn’t stiff anymore.

He dug a hole to what he guessed was six feet and laid his father to rest. He covered the grave with as many rocks as he could find. He took another board for a headstone and wondered what he would carve. He hadn’t had much religion and didn’t know what to say. He finally settled on:


He wanted to say more but there were no words to express how he felt. He looked up at the sky, again knowing he should say something. “God, you knew him better then most, but no one loved him more than his family. Dammit, God, ask him why he had to do it. Amen.”

Colt went back in the house and began gathering the few things he would need for the long walk to the Hunt’s.

It was almost mid afternoon and he knew it would be after dark before he got there. He grabbed a long butcher knife from the kitchen, Pap’s gold watch and the .56-50 Spencer from the mantel. He gathered a little food and a fresh shirt, rolled them in the blankets and tied them with a piece of hemp twine. He removed a loose rock from the fireplace and withdrew a small bag of coins and some bank notes.

Colt poured the money into his hand and found twelve double eagles and eighty-five dollars in banknote. It was his father’s life savings.

He strapped on Pap’s Savage 36-caliber percussion pistol and the two blankets from the bed.

When he left, he didn’t bother even closing the door.

What People are Saying About This

Jill Baer

In Dixon's Edge, author Dennis O'Keefe paints a vivid portrait of the Old West, rich in authentic detail. He draws skillful contrasts between the harshness of his characters' lives and their surprising moments of poignant grace and humor.

Golda David

Golda David, Writer/Producer, Walt Disney Productions, HBO
Dixon's Edge is a riveting saga that brings to life the Old West. Dennis O'Keefe is a gifted story-teller, creating vivid original characters clashing with each other as they set forth on a dangerous path.

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Dixon's Edge 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elroy Peoples (a.k.a. Dr. Sam Pritchett) played a big part in young Colt Patterson's life. Peoples convinced the authorities that the cattle on the Patterson ranch had anthrax and must be slaughtered. That set events into motion.

Texas Ranger Billy Dixon was tired of hunting down criminals and bringing in the heads in pickle barrels. He decided it was time to retire, marry the Widow Tucker, and relax for the rest of his days. On his last hunt for fugitives, one of which was Peoples, Billy rescued Colt from death's door. Billy took Colt on as a partner and began to teach him how to survive, Ranger style.

Charley Tree had been raised by one of the Apache Tribes at the Bosque Redondo, a reservation. He declared war on all whites and began a bloody campaign. Other Apaches believed Charley insane, instead of brave, which made matters worse. The Indian Renegade felt he had a personal grudge against Billy and Colt. The two lawmen thought the same of Charley. Soon they would meet in a battle to the death.

***** Now THIS is my type of Western! I have been a fan of a few western series like 'Headhunter', 'Lone Star', and 'Long Arm'. But, in my opinion, they pale in comparison to this book! This one is much more realistic! Author Dennis O'Keefe, for example, goes into details on how Billy teaches Colt. I witnessed how Billy taught Colt to aim without dipping the head of the pistol, how a racket of card sharks were cheating, and how to get yourself out of a tough situation while making money at the same time! This author has a new fan in me! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING! *****

Reviewed by Detra Fitch

Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that once into it, you can't get out until you finish. In simple yet descriptive ways O'Keefe paints a vivid, richly textured picture of the old west with his quill and ink bottle. Required reading for anyone who enjoys being totally engaged.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't think a single other literary work has pried open my zest for such vivid imagery and sheer emotional snap with such precision and mastery as this one did. It commanded my full attention cover to cover. Simply Awesome!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Stellar' writing..brilliant from start to finish..Dennis O'Keefe pales Hemmingway and the rest...definitely 'top drawer'! Order it today!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great read! One of the best novels I have ever read and THE best western ever. It's a finely woven tale of the old west, mixing adventure, humor and a little tragedy. If you like McMurtry you'll absolutely love this one!