In "Black Rock Desert" when Lee Cone is hired by Braz Boland to chouse a herd of horses from Carbide Junction into Maacama Basin through Black Rock Desert, he has no idea that it will reignite the old enmity between himself and Tasker Scott. Cone had left the basin two years earlier, when the girl he loved married Scott. When the horse herd reaches Antelope, the basin's town, Boland refuses to pay Cone because of a horse stampede that happened going through the pass into the basin. Cone quickly learns that Scott has been running rough-shod over the basin and that his old partner in the Flat Ranch, Buck Theodore, has been made destitute due to the rustling of their stock. Cone is determined to find out what has been going on in the basin, even if it means hurting the woman he once loved.
Buck English in the title story has been a hard and bitter loner willing to step outside the law ever since his father Martin, former sheriff of the county, had been killed by outlaws. A friend of Martin's, Jack Carleton, is sheriff now as well as the owner of the Red Mesa Ranch. Carleton fears that someday he will have to go after Buck if he continues on the trail he is on. To that end, he hires Buck to take over the ramrodding of his ranch as his duties as sheriff do not allow him to tend to the duties of his ranch, which has been suffering from rustling. Buck agrees, but he must submit to Carleton's order that gun play is not allowed.
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