He’s the son of a cattle rancher. A restless young dreamer who, under normal circumstances, would follow in his father’s footsteps. Normal, however, is not his style. Like his famous grandfather and namesake Perley Gates—a hell-raising mountain man with a heavenly name—young Perley wants adventure, excitement, and freedom. And like his grandfather before him, he will find his dream—in the untamed wilds of a lawless frontier . That dream though might just become a nighmare . . .
After his father’s death, Perley strikes out on his own. His first order of business is to track down the grandfather whose name he shares. When he crosses into Oklahoma Territory, young Perley discovers that the trail is full of dead ends—and near-death encounters. Hostile Indians, wanted outlaws, and bloodthirsty killers are just a few of the dangers waiting for him. And the closer he gets to finding the original Perley Gates, the closer he comes to meeting his Maker at the fabled gates they’re named for . . .
About the Author
Being the all-around assistant, typist, researcher, and fact checker to one of the most popular western authors of all time, J.A. Johnstone learned from the master, Uncle William W. Johnstone.
He began tutoring J.A. at an early age. After-school hours were often spent retyping manuscripts or researching his massive American Western History library as well as the more modern wars and conflicts. J.A. worked hard—and learned.
“Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling. ‘Keep the historical facts accurate,’ he would say. ‘Remember the readers, and as your grandfather once told me, I am telling you now: be the best J.A. Johnstone you can be.”
Read an Excerpt
"Howdy, Perley," Ben Henderson sang out when he saw the familiar figure walk into his general store in the little settlement of Paris, Texas.
"Ben," Perley returned. "I've got a list of things we need — some flour, salt, sugar, and such. It's right here on this list." He handed the list to Ben. "Reckon you can read it as well as me callin' 'em out."
"That I can," Ben said. "Looks like your mother's handwritin', and anybody can read that. How are your folks? Your pa still down on his back?"
"Never mind his pa." A harsh voice came from the other end of the store, where the hardware and ammunition were located. "You're supposed to be waitin' on me, and I don't see no .44 cartridges on these shelves."
Perley had not noticed the two men near the back shelves. He looked then to see them, neither of whom he had ever seen in town before. "Ma's fine," he answered Ben quickly, "but Pa's come down with something he can't seem to get rid of. You go ahead and wait on those two fellows. I'm not in any big hurry."
Henderson hurried over to the end of the counter. "Yes, sir, boxes of .44 cartridges right here on the shelf," he said and pointed to them. "If they'da been a snake, they'da bit you." He laughed good-naturedly but stopped when it was obvious the strangers didn't appreciate his attempt to lighten the atmosphere. "Yes, sir, how many boxes?"
While he was biding his time at the front counter, Perley remembered something he had promised his younger sister, Esther, he would ask about. Figuring he needed a woman's help with that, he asked Ben, "Is Mrs. Henderson around? I'm gonna need some help with some material."
"Yeah, Perley," Ben answered. "She's in the stockroom." He called out then, "Shirley!"
It obviously irritated Ben's ammunition customer, who said nothing, but the hard look he shot Perley's way was enough to send a message. Perley decided he'd better wait patiently, but it was too late, because Shirley Henderson popped through the stockroom door immediately.
"Perley's gonna need some help with some dress material," Ben said.
"Well, hello, Perley," Shirley said. "I haven't seen you in town in a long time. How's your mother and father? Is he over that fall yet?"
Perley started to answer but was interrupted before he was able to.
"His mama's doin' just fine and his papa's still in the damn bed," the gruff voice blurted. "Now, are you gonna get me those damn cartridges or not? Two boxes. I ain't wastin' my time all day in this store."
"No need to get cross, neighbor," Ben said as he hurried to get the cartridges. "Anything else I can do for you?"
While the stranger was paying Ben, Shirley gave Perley a raised eyebrow but carried on cheerfully. "That dress pattern came in. I suppose you want to pick that up."
"Yes, ma'am," Perley answered, trying to remember if Esther had given him any other instructions. "I need to see if you've got some dress material in a deep blue."
"We got some in," Shirley said. "Are you thinking about a navy blue, or something a shade lighter?"
"I don't know," Perley replied. Esther hadn't given him that much information. He followed Shirley over to another counter where bolts of cloth and sewing things were kept. The two strangers, both trail-hardened cowhands, from the looks of them, turned to stare at him in open scorn.
"Will there be anything else?" Ben asked.
"No, reckon not," the big one replied. "I was thinkin' 'bout lookin' at some of your fancy lace or some pretty bows or somethin', but I reckon I'll do that some other time."
His friend cracked up over the remark, and they both roared with laughter. They were still laughing when they headed toward the door.
"Maybe I'll knit some booties to put on my horse," the big one said loudly as they went out.
"I'm sorry about that," Ben said.
"Sorry about what?" Perley asked.
Ben looked surprised. "Those two jaspers," he said. "They were a rough-lookin' pair, and I'm sorry they took to japin' you like that. But I'll be honest with you, they looked like too much for me to handle."
"Were they japin' me?" Perley asked. "I reckon I wasn't payin' enough attention to know it. Don't pay 'em no mind — just some cowhands in town to dust off some rust. They most likely didn't mean any harm."
Ben exchanged a puzzled glance with his wife and shook his head.
"I think this blue is more what Esther is looking for," Shirley said.
"Looks good to me," Perley said. "Cut off however much the pattern calls for. I've gotta pick up something from Patton's. I'll go do that while you're gettin' my order ready."
* * *
He left the buckboard at the rail in front of Henderson's and walked up the street past the post office to Patton's Saloon.
"Howdy, Perley," Paul McQueen, the blacksmith, called out when Perley walked by.
Perley returned the greeting but continued on to the saloon. As long as he was picking up a pattern and material for Esther, he thought he might as well surprise her with one of her favorite treats. Patton's was an odd place to get it, but in Paris, it was the only place. Perley might have considered having a drink while he was there, but it was a little early in the day for him. Another reason was of a more personal nature. Any time he came to town, especially if alone, he made it a point to eat dinner at the Paris Diner, and he didn't like to have whiskey on his breath when he ate there. He wouldn't want Lucy Tate to smell it on him.
According to his railroad watch, he had about the right amount of time to make a quick stop in Patton's, then return to Henderson's to pick up his supplies. That should put him at the diner right when they opened for the midday meal. A picture of Lucy Tate, floating cheerfully around the dining room, immediately took over Perley's mind. Sometimes, he couldn't clear his brain of the diner's young waitress, and he was certain that she had similar feelings for him. She never failed to give him special attention when he came in, even to the point of sitting down at the table with him to visit. Perley was the only one of Nathaniel Gates's grown sons who was not married, and Perley felt that maybe it was time to think about things like that. Rubin and John were lucky that they had found good women to build their families with. He just hadn't met that special woman yet, but maybe Lucy was meant to fill that void in his life.
There were two saddled horses and one packhorse tied at the rail in front of Patton's. It was early for the afternoon customers and already late for the dedicated drunks who opened up the saloon. Perley stepped up onto the boardwalk and went inside, where he found Raymond Patton sitting at a table against the wall, drinking coffee.
"Mornin', Perley," Patton greeted him.
"Mornin'," Perley returned with a nod, then went straight to the bar to speak to Benny Grimes, the bartender.
"Howdy, Perley," Benny said. "Ain't seen you in town in a while."
"Reckon not," Perley said. "We're kinda busy this time of year, gettin' the cattle ready for the drive up to Ogallala."
"I figured as much," Benny said. "Ain't seen much of any of your crew. What'll ya have? Whiskey?"
"Little too early," Perley answered. "I just came in to buy a couple of those big peppermint sticks you keep for Mrs. Patton."
At the other end of the long bar, Zeke Cotton nudged the man drinking beside him with his elbow. "Lookee there," he drawled, making no attempt to muffle his comment. "Damned if that ain't that sweet little girlie feller that was at the store buyin' some material to make him a dress."
They both turned to stare at Perley, who was just in the process of taking the peppermint sticks and wrapping them in a piece of cloth that Benny had torn from a clean bar rag.
"I swear, Lige, ain't that plumb precious?"
"It sure is," Lige replied, knowing there was going to be some fun to follow.
"Reckon he could do some sewin' for us? I've got some socks that sure need darnin', and he's the only seamstress we're liable to come across between here and the Red River."
"Maybe so," Lige said. "But what strikes me as kinda queer is, what the hell is he doin' in a saloon? There ain't nobody but men supposed to be in a saloon."
Their sarcasm became louder and louder, no matter that Perley ignored it.
"Wait a minute!" Zeke exclaimed. "Maybe she is supposed to be in here. She might just be dressed up like a man. I think it'd be a good idea to pull them trousers off her and see if she is a woman."
When they started to move down the bar toward Perley, who was now facing them, it finally became too much for Raymond Patton to ignore. He got up from his chair and walked after them.
"Hold on, there, men — there's no need for that kinda trouble in here."
Zeke turned to face him. "Who the hell asked you? You'd best set back down there and keep your mouth shut."
"I'm the owner of this saloon, and we don't stand for any harassing of our regular customers, so you'd best sashay right on out that door, and don't come back."
"You're talkin' mighty big," Zeke said. "Maybe I ain't ready to get out till I take a look at what ol' Precious, there, has between his legs. Whaddaya think about that?"
"I think you'll be a mess to clean up," Benny answered for his boss. "And it's my job to clean up around here."
They turned back to see the double-barreled shotgun resting on the bar, with the bartender sighting in on them, both hammers cocked.
"Whoa, Zeke!" Lige recoiled. "I believe he means what he says. Maybe we'd best do what the man wants."
Zeke hesitated, unwilling to back down, but there was no chance against the cocked shotgun. He considered himself handy with a six-gun, but there was no use in committing suicide.
"All right," he finally conceded. "You got the jump on me this time, but this business ain't none of yours anyway. It's between me and Precious, here." He glared at Perley, who had said nothing up to that point. "And you'd better stay clear of my path, 'cause next time I see you, you might have to use that gun you're wearin'."
"Ain't no cause for you to threaten Perley," Patton said. "He ain't done nothin' to rile you. Now you'd best be movin' along before I send somebody to get the sheriff."
"We're goin'," Lige said and grabbed Zeke by the arm. "Come on, Zeke."
Zeke allowed himself to be pulled toward the door, while Benny's shotgun followed him all the way. When they passed close by Perley, Zeke growled, "What did he call you, Precious? Pearly? That's a good name for you — Pearly Precious."
"Looks like we got off to a bad start, friend," Perley replied. "Most likely the likker talkin'."
Zeke laughed at Perley's weak response. "You'd best stay outta my way if you see me comin'," Zeke threatened. "Next time, you might not have somebody there to save you."
"That makes sense to me," Perley said. "I know I ain't got any desire to see you again."
Lige pulled his friend out the door, and Benny followed to make sure they were leaving. In a few seconds, he reported that the two had gotten on their horses and ridden down toward the stable.
"Damn it, Perley," Raymond Patton said, "I'm sorry you had to have something like that happen to you in my place. Those two drifters had no reason to start in on you."
"Just the whiskey talkin'," Perley said. "Don't think nothin' of it. I didn't. I can't blame 'em for japin' me a little about comin' to the saloon to buy peppermint candy." He picked his candy up from the counter and stuck it in his shirt pocket. "I'd best hurry on back to Henderson's now and pick up my order."
When he got back to Henderson's store, he saw that Ben had loaded his packages in the back of the buckboard. I appreciate that, he thought, for he was anxious to get down to the Paris Diner, and now all he had to do was go in and pay for the merchandise. That took only a couple of minutes, and he said good-bye to the Hendersons.
Back outside, Perley took a quick minute to say good morning to Jenny McQueen, the blacksmith's wife. She was in the process of scolding her six-year-old son for playing around an old unused shack next to the store.
"I told him he could stay with his daddy at the shop, but every time Paul turns his back, this little mischief-maker winds up in this old snaky-looking shack. I declare, I wish Ben would tear it down."
"Yes, ma'am," Perley replied, taking time to be polite, even though he was eager to get to the diner. "Places like that old shack just naturally call to little fellows with a spirit of adventure."
The youngster sidled back over to the door of the shack while his mother was distracted and began pulling on it again. Perley was puzzled then by the inquisitive frown on Jenny's face as she seemed to be looking beyond him.
"Well, I'll be damned," Zeke Cotton drawled. "Look here, Lige — it's ol' Pearly Precious."
Perley turned to discover the two drifters, who had walked their horses slowly up behind him while he had exchanged polite conversation with the blacksmith's wife. He had hoped they had left town, but it appeared they were going to be impossible to ignore.
"Reckon what they're talkin' about, Zeke?" Lige mocked. "Maybe they're exchangin' recipes."
Perley knew he was going to be forced to deal with them, no matter how he tried to avoid it. Jenny seemed confused by their remarks, and Perley wished she would grab her kid and be on her way, but she remained.
"You fellows have had a good time japin' me, but I reckon it's time for me to say that's enough. So whaddaya say you just ride on outta here now, and we'll all get back to our business."
"Why you ..." Zeke started. "I've had about enough of you. You wanna get back to business, do ya? Well, my business is takin' care of smart-mouth son of a bitches like you."
"I'll have to ask you to watch your language around the lady and the little boy," Perley said.
"You son of a bitch!" Zeke spat. "You're wearin' a gun, so you'd better get ready to use it, or I'm gonna shoot you down where you stand." He stepped down from his horse and handed Lige his reins.
"Go get him, Zeke," Lige jeered. "He ain't got the guts to stand up to you. He's most likely peein' in his britches right now."
Confident that Perley would turn and run instead of standing to fight, Zeke walked a few steps back toward the street and stood ready to duel.
"I asked you politely to watch your language. Now you're gonna force me to do something that there ain't no call for at all," Perley said. He looked at the woman, standing wide-eyed and stunned, and said, "Jenny, take your son and walk away from here."
Seemingly paralyzed moments before, she suddenly realized that all hell was about to break loose. She turned to her son and screamed, "Tommy!"
But it was too late. The huge rattlesnake coiled just beneath the rotted-out boards of the old shack was already set to strike the youngster poking around its nest.
With no time to think, Perley spun around, drew his .44, and fired, splattering the rattler's head onto the walls of the shack. It happened in less than a second and left the two drifters, as well as the shaken mother, stunned.
Perley twirled the pistol on his finger and dropped it back in the holster; then he turned to face Zeke again. Unable to believe what he had just witnessed, Zeke found himself virtually paralyzed. It took Lige no more than a moment to realize Zeke was facing instant death.
"We're done here, mister. Come on, Zeke, we've got no more business in this town." He tipped his hat to Jenny. "Beg your pardon, ma'am, for our language."
Zeke, still suffering from the shock of the draw he had come close to facing, needed no further encouragement. Almost stumbling, he climbed onto his horse and followed Lige out the south end of the street, wanting no part in a shoot-out against a draw too fast to see.
* * *
Still shaking, Jenny McQueen finally asked, "Who were those men?"
"Ah, nobody important, I reckon," Perley replied, greatly relieved that the trouble had gone no further. "Just some drifters passin' through town. I'm real sorry you had to hear their rough language. They most likely ain't been around civilized ladies like you in a long spell."
He looked at Tommy, clutching his mother's skirt now. "Reckon this old shack ain't a good place to play. Looks like a family of rattlesnakes has moved in." Perley looked up to see Paul McQueen running from his forge. "Here comes your daddy, now, so I guess I'll get along."
He climbed up in the buckboard, since some other folks were running to investigate as well, and he didn't want to hang around to answer questions. "Maybe your daddy will skin that snake — make you a nice belt, like the Indians do."
"What was that shot I heard?" Paul asked excitedly when he ran up.
Excerpted from "The Legend of Perley Gates"
Copyright © 2018 J. A. Johnstone.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a great read as always. Can’t wait for more.
Anyone who loves a good western should make this a must read. Clay