On The Chisholm Trail
From: Kid Wolf Of Texas
From the sweeps of high country bordering close upon Santa Fe, it was
no easy journey to the Chisholm Trail, even for a trail-eating horse of
Blizzard's caliber. But The Kid had taken his time. His ultimate
destination, unless fate altered his plans, was his own homeland--the
sandy Rio Grande country.
More than anything else, it was the thirst for adventure that led the
buckskin-clad rider to the beaten cattle road which cut through
wilderness and prairie from Austin to the western Kansas beef markets.
And now, after following the trail for one uneventful day, Kid Wolf had
left it--in search of water. A line of lofty cottonwoods on the
eastern horizon marked the course of a meandering stream and The Kid
had been glad of the chance to turn Blizzard's head toward it. Horse
and rider, framed in the intense blue of the western sky, formed a
picture of beauty and grace as they drummed through the unmarked
wastes. The Kid, riding "light" in his saddle, his supple body rising
and falling with the rhythm of his loping mount and yet firm in his
seat, dominated that picture. His face was tanned to the color of the
buckskin shirt he wore, and a vast experience, born of hardship and
danger on desert and mountain, was in his eyes--eyes that were
sometimes gray and sometimes steely blue. Just now they were as
carefree as the skies above.
A stranger might have wondered just what Kid Wolf's business was. He
did not appear to be a cow-puncher, or a trapper or an army scout. A
reata was coiled at his saddle, and two big Colts swung from a beaded
Indian belt. No matter how curious the stranger might be, he would
have thought twice before asking questions.
The horse, in color like snow with the sun on it, was splitting the
breeze--and yet the stride was easy and tireless. Blizzard, big and
immensely strong, was as fast as the winds that swept the Panhandle.
The stream, Kid Wolf discovered, was a fairly large creek bordered with
a wild tangle of bushes, vines, and creeper-infested trees. It was no
easy matter to force one's way through the choked growth, especially
without making a great deal of noise.
But The Kid never believed in advertising his presence unnecessarily.
He had the uncanny Apache trick of slipping silently through
underbrush, even while on horseback. The country of the Indian
Nations, at that time, was a territory infested with peril. And even
now, although he seemed to be alone on the prairie, he was cautious.
Some distance before he reached it, he saw the creek, swollen and brown
from rains above. So quiet was his approach that even a water
moccasin, sunning itself on the river bank, did not see him.
Suddenly the white horse pricked up its ears. Kid Wolf, too, had heard
the sound, and he pulled up his mount to watch and listen, still as a
Splash! Splash! A rider was bringing his horse down to the creek at a
walk. The sounds came from above and from across the stream. The
water on that side had overflowed its bank and lay across the sand in
blue puddles. In a few minutes Kid Wolf caught sight of a man on a
strawberry roan, coming at a leisurely gait. As it was a white man,
and apparently a cattleman, The Kid's vigilance relaxed a little.
In another moment, though, his heart gave a jump. And then, even
before his quick muscles could act in time to save the newcomer it had
happened. From behind a bush clump, a figure had popped up, rifle
leveled. A thin jet of flame spat out of the rusty gun barrel,
followed by a cracking report and a little burst of steaming smoke.
The man on the strawberry roan lurched wildly, groaned, and pitched
headlong from his saddle, landing in the creek edge with a loud splash.
One foot still stuck in a stirrup, and for a few yards the frightened
pony dragged him through the muddied water. Then something gave way,
and the murdered man plumped into the water and disappeared.
The killer stood on his feet, upright. He laughed--a chilling,
mirthless rattle--and began to reload his old-pattern rifle. He was a
half-breed Indian. The dying sun glistened on his coppery, strongly
muscled flesh, for he was stripped to the waist. He wore trousers and
a hat, but his hair hung nearly to his shoulders in a coarse snarl, and
his feet were shod with dirty moccasins.
Kid Wolf's eyes crackled. He had seen deliberate murder committed, an
unsuspecting man shot down from ambush. His voice rang out:
"Drop that rifle and put up yo' hands!"
The soft drawl of the South was in his accents, but there was nothing
soft about his tone. The half-breed whirled about, then slowly
loosened his hold on his gun. It thudded to the grass. On a line with
his bare chest was one of Kid Wolf's big-framed .45s.
The snaky eyes of the half-breed were filled with panic, but as The Kid
did not shoot or seem to be about to do so, they began to glitter with
mockery. Kid Wolf dismounted, keeping his gun leveled.
"Why did yo' shoot that man?" he demanded.
The half-breed was sullenly silent for a long moment. "What yuh do
about it?" he sneered finally.
Kid Wolf's smile was deadly. His answer took the murderer by surprise.
The half-breed suddenly found his throat grasped in a grip of steel.
The fingers tightened relentlessly. The Indian's beady eyes began to
bulge; his tongue protruded. With all his strength he struggled, but
Kid Wolf handled him with one arm, as easily as if he had been a child!
"Yo're goin' to answer fo' yo' crime--that's what I'm goin' to do about
it!" The Kid declared.
The half-breed's yell was wild and unearthly, when the grip at his
throat was released. All the fight was taken out of him. Kid Wolf
shook him until his teeth rattled, picked him up bodily and hurled him
across his saddle.
"I'm takin' yo' to the law," he drawled. "I might kill yo' now and be
justified, too. But I believe in doin' things in the right way."
At the mention of "law," the half-breed snarled contemptuously.
"Ain't no law," he grunted, "southwest o' Dodge. Yuh no take me there.
Kid Wolf knew that the killer was right. Still, on the prairie, men
make their own commandments.
"Theah's a new town, I hear, not far from heah--Midway, I think they
call it," he drawled. "Yo're goin' theah with me, and if theah's no
law in Midway, I'll see that some laws are passed. And yo' won't need
that, eithah!" he added suddenly.
The knife that the half-breed had attempted to draw tinkled to the
ground as The Kid gave the treacherous wrist a quick twist.
"Step along, Blizzahd," sang out Kid Wolf in his Southern drawl. "Back
to the trail, as soon as we get a drink of watah, then no'th!"
At the mention of Midway, the half-breed's expression had changed to
one of snakelike cunning. But if The Kid noted his half-concealed
smile, he paid no attention to it. They were soon on their way.
Always, even in the savage lands beyond civilization, Kid Wolf tried to
take sides with the weak against the strong, with the right against the
wrong. And on more than one occasion he had found himself in hot water
because of it.
The average man of the plains, upon seeing the murder committed, would
have considered it none of his business, and would have let well enough
alone. Another type would have killed the half-breed on general
principles. Kid Wolf however, determined that the murderer would be
given a fair trial and then punished.
Again striking the Chisholm Trail--a well-beaten road several hundred
yards wide--he veered north. Thousands upon thousands of longhorns
from Texas and New Mexico had beaten that trail. This was the halfway
point. Kid Wolf had heard of a new settlement in the vicinity, and,
judging from the landmarks, he estimated it to be only a few miles
In the meantime, the sun went down, creeping over the level horizon to
leave the world in shadows which gradually deepened into dusk. All the
while, the half-breed maintained a stoical silence. Kid Wolf, keeping
a careful eye on him, but ignoring him otherwise, hummed a fragment of
"Oh, theah's hombres poison mean, on the Rio!
And theah's deadly men at Dodge, no'th o' Rio!
And to-day, from what I've seen,
Theah's some bad ones in between,
And I aim to keep it clean, beyond the Rio!"
Stars began to twinkle cheerily in the black vault overhead. Then The
Kid made out a few points of yellow light on the plain ahead of them.
"That must be Midway," he mused to himself. "Those aren't stahs, or
camp fiahs. Oil lamps mean a settlement."
Camps of any size were few and far between on the old Chisholm Trail.
The moon was creeping up as Kid Wolf and his prisoner arrived, and by
its light, as well as the few lights of the town, he could see that the
word "town" flattered the place known as "Midway."
There were a few scattered sod houses, and on the one street were two
large buildings, facing each other on opposite sides of the road. The
first was a saloon, brilliantly lighted in comparison to the
semidarkness of the other, which seemed to be a general store. A sign
above it read:
THE IDEL HOUR SALOONE
Below it, in similar letters, the following was spelled out, or rather
OWNER AND PROPRIATER
As the only life of Midway seemed to be centered here, Kid Wolf drew up
his horse, Blizzard, dismounted, and dragged his prisoner to the
swinging green doors that opened into the Idle Hour Saloon.
Pushing the half-breed through by main strength, he found himself in a
big room, lighted by three oil lamps and reflectors suspended from
beams in the roof. For all the haze of tobacco smoke, the place was
agleam with light. For a moment Kid Wolf stood still in astonishment.
To find such a group of men together at one place, and especially such
a remote place, was surprising. A score or more of booted-and-spurred
loungers were at the bar and at the gambling tables. A roulette wheel
was spinning at full clip, its little ivory ball dancing merrily, and
at other tables were layouts of faro and various games of chance.
Cards were being riffled briskly at a poker game near the door, and a
little knot of men were in a corner playing California Jack.
Kid Wolf took in these details at a glance. What puzzled him was that
these men did not appear to be cattlemen or followers of any calling,
unless possibly it was the profession of the six-gun. All were heavily
armed, and although that fact in itself was by no means unusual, The
Kid did not like the looks of several of the men he saw there. Some
were half-breeds of his prisoner's own stripe.
At The Kid's entrance with his still-struggling prisoner, every one
stared. The bartender--a bulky fellow with a scarred face--paused in
the act of pouring a drink, his eyes widening. The quiet shuffle of
cards ceased, the wheel of fortune slowed to a clicking stop, and every
one looked up in sudden silence.
Kid Wolf dragged the half-breed to the center of the room, holding him
by the scruff of the neck.
"Men," he said quietly, "this man is a murderah!" In a few more words,
he told the gathering what had happened.
From the very first, something seemed to warn The Kid of approaching
trouble. Was it his imagination, or was a look flashed between the
half-breed and several of the men in the room? He sensed an alert
tenseness in the faces of those who were listening. One of the men,
whom the Kid immediately put down as the owner of the saloon--Jack
Hardy--was staring insolently.
Hardy was flashily dressed, wearing fancy-stitched riding boots, a
fancy vest, and a short black coat, under which peeped the butt of a
silver-mounted .44. Kid Wolf's intuition told him that he was the man
he must eventually deal with.
The saloon owner had been watching the faro game. Now, having heard
Kid Wolf out, he turned his back and deliberately faced the layout
"Go on with the game," he sneered to the dealer.
There was a world of contempt in his silky voice, and Kid Wolf flushed
under his tan. Hardy pretended to ignore the visitor completely. The
faro dealer slid one card and then another from his box; the case
keeper moved a button or two on his rack. Then the dealer raked in the
winnings from the losers. The game was going on as usual. The
gamblers, taking their cue from Jack Hardy, turned to their games
again. It was as if Kid Wolf had never existed.
The Kid took a firmer hold on the wriggling half-breed. "Do yo' know
this man?" he demanded of the proprietor.
Hardy turned in annoyance, his black brows elevated sarcastically.
"It's 'Tucumcari Pete,'" he mocked. "What is it to yuh?"
Looking at the faro lookout, perched on his high stool, he winked. The
lookout returned it knowingly.
Kid Wolf's eyes blazed. He had told his story so that all could hear.
None had paid it any attention. All these men, then, were dishonest
and unfriendly toward law and order.
"I want yo' to understand me," he said in a voice he tried to make
patient. "This hombre--Tucumcari Pete, yo've called him--shot and
killed a man from ambush. Isn't there any law heah?"
With long, tapered fingers, Jack Hardy rolled a cigarette, placed it
between his lips and leered insultingly.
"There's only one law in Midway," he laughed evilly, "and that law is
that all strangers must attend to their own business. Now I don't know
who yuh are, but----"
"I'm Kid Wolf," came the soft-spoken drawl, "from Texas. My enemies
usually call me by mah last name."
A man brushed near the Kid; his eye caught the Texan's significantly.
But instead of speaking, he merely thrust a wadded cigarette paper in
the Kid's hand as he passed by. So quickly was it done that nobody, it
seemed just then, had seen the movement. Kid Wolf's heart gave a
little leap. There was some mystery here! If he had made a friend,
was that friend afraid to speak to him? Was there a note in that paper
Hardy's eyes met the Texan's. They were insect eyes, beady and
"All right," he snarled. "Mr. Wolf, you clear out!"
The Texan's fiery Southern temper had reached its breaking point. It
snapped. In a twinkling, things were happening. Using quick, almost
superhuman strength, he picked up the half-breed by the neck and one
leg and hurled him, like a thunderbolt, into the group at the faro
Tucumcari Pete's wild yell was drowned out by the tremendous crash of
splintering wood and thudding flesh, as the half-breed's body hurtled
through the air to smash Jack Hardy down to the floor with the impact.
The table went into kindling wood; chips and markers flew! A chair
banged against the lookout's high perch, just as he was bringing his
sawed-off shotgun to his shoulder.
Br-r-r-ram, bang! The double charge went into the ceiling, as the
lookout toppled to the floor to join his companions, now a mass of
waving arms and legs.
Kid Wolf's twin .45s had come out as if by magic. He ducked low. He
did not need eyes in the back of his head to know that the men at the
bar would open fire at the drop of the hat! A bullet winged venomously
over him. Another one whined three inches from his ear. At the same
instant, a bottle, hurled by the bartender, smashed to fragments
against the wall.
But with one quick spring, Kid Wolf had his back against the
green-shuttered door. For the first time, his Colts splattered red
flame and smoke. There were three distinct reports, but they came so
rapidly that they blended into one sullen, ear-shattering roar. He had
aimed at the swinging lamps, and they went out so quickly that it
seemed they had been extinguished by the force of one giant breath.
Glass tinkled on the saloon floor, and all was wrapped in darkness.
The Texan's voice rang out like the clang of steel on granite:
"Yo're goin' to have law! Kid Wolf law--and yo' may not like it as
well as the othah kind!"
A score of revolver slugs, aimed at the sound of his voice, sent
showers of splinters flying from the green-shuttered doors. The Texan,
though, had taken care not to remain in the line of fire.
When the inmates of the Idle Hour swarmed out, looking for vengeance,
they were disappointed. Kid Wolf and his horse, Blizzard, were nowhere
to be seen!
Next: M'cay's Recruit
Previous: The Camp Of The Terror