One of my all time favorite songs.
Wes Tancred had roamed for nine years fleeing a song. He heard it everywhere he went, a ballad that told the tale of how the coward Wes Tancred had betrayed his best friend, Sam Older, shooting him in the back for the $10,000 reward and amnesty.
That was not how it happened. Older had tried to kill him and Wes struck first. The pair had rode with Quantrell during the war and had turned to robbery after. Much in the manner of Jesse James, Older had a reputation as a “Robin Hood,” although it wasn’t true. When Wes grew tired of the bloodshed and tried to leave, the falling out had happened. The ballad became very popular and he couldn’t get away from it. The funny part, although he got his pardon, he didn’t take the reward.
During his nine years of roaming, he quit wearing his gun, still carrying in his bags, and did whatever he could to get by, everything but what he knew: the newspaper business as a printer. he was John Bailey now. He’d settled in as a hostler at a stage station helping an old man named Vessner and his daughter Laura.
Things were going well until the three men rode in and he was forced to take a hand when they intended to rob the stage coming in. Vessner was bound to stop them and was killed for it. Wes was too late when he killed the three.
Time to move on again.
Sage City was where things come to a head. Two factions: the rich mayor, Jacob Fugger, his tame judge, a thuggish cattle boss, Hong Kong Smith, and his drovers, all lined up against the crusading newspaper owner and a handful of honest citizens. There wasn’t but one side Wes could take. He even gets sucked into a shooting match with Wild Bill Hickok just before he heads north to his destiny in Deadwood.
BITTER SAGE was made into a movie, TENSION AT TABLE ROCK, which starred Richard Egan as Wes Tancred and DeForest Kelly had a small part as a gunfighter.