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THE LONG TRAIL

Brad Dennison

Author of TREMAIN

Published by Pine Bookshelf

Buford, Georgia

The Long Trail is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright 2013 by Bradley A. Dennison

All Rights Reserved

Editor: Kay Jordan

Cover Design: Donna Dennison

Cover art is from

SKETCH OF A COWBOY AT WORK

By Thomas Eakins

FORWARD

One problem we Indie writers suffer from is we often don’t have access to good copy editors, and I have always been plagued with typos. As such, earlier versions of this novel were fraught with them. However, I am blessed to have found Kay Jordan, editor extraordinaire. Or she found me. The novel on your screen is a revised version of the original, and the first one to have an editor’s touch.

While this is not a novel of history but of characters living in a historical time, I did make an effort to get the historical references right. This involved a fair amount of research. I referred often to such books as Log of a Cowboy, by Andy Adams, The Trampling Herd, by Paul Wellman, The History of the Colt Revolver by Charles T. Haven and Frank A. Belden, Winchester: The Gun That Won the West, by Harold F. Williamson, and Once They Moved Like the Wind, by David Roberts. It also meant many hours of conversation with Sandy Sanborn, historian extraodinaire and longtime friend. Anything wrong is the fault of me, not of these authors or Mr. Sanborn.

I highly value reader feedback. I can be reached by email at [email protected] If you like THE LONG TRAIL, please let me know. I respond personally to every email. I love to discuss character motivation and western authors and the Old West in general. I can also keep you advised of future novels.

Brad Dennison

Buford, Georgia

May, 2013

PART ONEDUSTYONE

His name was Dusty. Simply that. The only name he had ever known. He was twenty years old – still a boy, by the standards of some - but he had been doing the work of a man since he was twelve. Swinging an ax, working a shovel, shoeing horses. He was not overly tall, but he filled out his shirt with muscle.

He rode along, keeping his horse to a light canter, his horse’s hooves kicking up a cloud of dust that trailed away behind him. The countryside was flat, stretching away to a line of low ridges to his left. To his right, the land simply faded into a distance hazy with heat. Short, brown grass grew, sometimes so sparsely that six inches of gravel was visible between each strand. Such was Nevada in the late spring.

A tattered stetson was pulled down over his head to keep the Nevada sun from frying his brains, and shoulder-length hair caught the wind and trailed out behind him. He wore a buckskin shirt he had made himself, and the legs of his tattered levis were tucked into worn and scratched up riding boots.

A Colt .44 was holstered low at his right side, and tied down for a quick draw. A second one was tucked into the front of his gunbelt. They were each of the older cap-and-ball percussion design, not even in production anymore. Soon spare parts would be difficult to find. They had long been replaced on the market by the newer Colt Peacemaker, which was out of his price range. But his pistols were functional, well balanced, and with them he was able to shoot fast and straight. They had been given to him by the man who had raised him, along with the knowledge of how to use them.

Dusty’s horse was the color of straw, and had been a gift from a man he had worked for in Arizona, a man named Cantrell.

“I think you’re going on a fool’s quest,” the man had said. “But you’re a good man, and I can’t let you leave without a good horse to get you there safely, and hopefully bring you back. And don’t forget, your job will be waiting for you.”

Mister Cantrell had let him have the pick of the remuda, and Dusty chose the gelding he was now riding. Dusty had ridden this animal many times, and thought it had sand. A cutting horse, actually. Not what you would normally want for a cross-country ride, but the horse could run fast and long.

Even now, the gelding moved along with spirit, its hooves tapping out a rhythm along the hard packed Nevada dirt, its mane waving in the hot wind.

A bedroll was tied to the back of Dusty’s saddle, and packed in it was some ammunition, a skillet, a spoon, and a dented coffee pot. Draped over the pommel were two canteens. He owned nothing more in the world.

Dusty had left a small mining town the day before, and the bartender there had told him somewhere ahead would be a way station. Dusty would remain there just long enough to fill the two canteens and maybe grab a plate of beans, and rest his horse a little. Then, he would continue on, covering as much ground as possible before sunset.

If the bartender was correct with his directions, sometime the following day Dusty would reach the town he now sought. And maybe-just-maybe, his long ride would come to an end, and he could return to his life in Arizona.

Dusty hoped the old barkeep was right about the way station, and gave a quick sigh of frustration at his own negligence to ask for more reliable information. One of his two canteens was already empty, the other only half-full. He had put fifteen miles of desert behind him since leaving that mining town, and if he did not find a stream or a well soon, he would be in serious trouble; he did not have enough water to make it back.

As he rode, he caught sight of a

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