We come to the last two books in the series.
John Cutler, former law man, trapper of animals gone rogue. He has a wagon full of traps of all sizes for various predators, and the huge one specially designed by him for the most dangerous animal, the grizzly bear. The wagon is pulled by a matched set of mules named Kate and Emma. His gelding, Apache, so devoted that he follows the wagon without being tied, and the large Airedale, Big Red, rides alongside him on the wagon.
Cutler rides into the town of Thermopolis to meet a man about a job. The first folks he runs into are Butch and Sundance standing outside the Hole In The Wall saloon. He announces he’s looking for Dave Baker, you see him, send him over to the Irish saloon, a high class place, one of the four Iris Shannon owns in Wyoming territory. Butch says he’ll bring him over if he runs into him.
As luck would have it, iris was at the Irish, she makes a regular circuit of the four. They reconnect and he gets a bath, shave, and a new set of clothes. As per usual, the old are sent out to be burned.
Cutler doesn’t know what the job is about, Baker was closed mouthed in the telegram, but he soon learns when Butch brings a black man, Baker, into the Irish and the three set down for a drink and to discuss the job.
Baker is a small rancher and all the ranchers in his area are having a problem with a mustang stallion, they call Mesteno, who keeps raiding their ranches and adding mares to his harem. The animal aeems smarter than normal, at least all their efforts to capture him have come to naught, and Baker had convinced them to call in an expert.
Cutler’s not sure he wants the job. He understands freedom and he feels a kindred spirit in the magnificent stallion. But some elements want to shoot the mustang and all his mares, figuring they won’t be any good having returned to the wild.
He finally agrees the next morning and heads out with Baker.
Ben Harmon is the largest rancher. He wants the mustang captured, figuring it would be a valuable animal. His daughter,Ellen, a willful woman, wants it kept alive, spirit unbroken. The foreman, Tom Chase, of the ranch wants two things, Ellen and the horse dead. She wants nothing to do with him.
Cutler can’t use any of his many traps this time. A new plan is called for, But Chase keeps getting in his way. He senses Ellen is attracted to Cutler and he can’t have that.
Liked this one.
Cutler heads to Langtry, Texas after reading a newspaper article, a couple of months old, that mentions his name and quotes a man claiming to have seen the grizzly he hunts down there. A long way from Wyoming territory, but it was a rogue that stayed constantly on the move. Best to check it out.
He arrives in time to find a circus, The Great Maroney Circus, doing shows. He also is just in time when one of the tigers, named Anna, goes berserk and leaps at the audience while doing a riding horse trick. He uses his .44 Colt, firing up into the air, to drive it back into it’s cage.
He learns from the owner and the young woman, Molly, that does trick riding, that the tiger had been especially restless of late. Eric Hansen, the big cat trainer, wasn’t very happy that Cutler had interfered and din’t hide it well.
Unknown to all concerned, Hansen had made a deal with Judge Roy bean the year before(not giving anything away here, the deal was made in chapter one before we ever see Cutler). Bean wanted Molly, who bore a striking resemblance to his obsession, the actress Lillie Langtry. The only way he could get her was to buy the circus. Hansen would run it for Bean.
Later that night, the tiger escapes, kills some of Bean’s sheep, and disappears into the hills. Hansen drags his feet, it’s obvious he’s not trying very hard, and Bean keeps getting in the way.
Everyone seems to want the tiger alive, Cutler included. He knows the big cats on the North American continent. Anna is four hundred pounds of muscle and fury, but there’s that spirit Cutler admires, shares.
It’s his job to recapture the animal, hindered by Hansen, Bean, and Bean’s youngest son, Sam, who fancies himself a gunman.
These were the last two books in the series. Don’t know why. Maybe they didn’t sell well. The Elkin books weren’t bad, but I’m a big Benteen fan and prefer those. I guess Cutler is still somewhere out there hunting his obsession, the big silver tip grizzly bear that killed his wife.
For more forgotten books, check out Patti Abbott at her blog, Pattinase on Fridays.