Hopalong Cassidy and Red Connors had made the 1500 mile ride from Montana to visit the old Bar-20 and Johnny Nelson’s ranch. They were ready to head back up to “Montanny” when they ran into a 5’7″, 150 pound cyclone named Mesquite Jenkins. The first thing the kid did was shoot Hoppy, the bullet grazing his skull. Red Connors pursuing him and leaving him for dead with a bullet in him.
Nice way for a friendship to start.
You see, Mesquite had been hanging with a couple of slackers who convinced him to be lookout while they robbed the bank. The trio split up and, unknown to Jenkins, one of the men went out of his way to knife an innocent woman and slice the corpse up pretty bad. The Sheriff knew who killed the woman, he had a reputation with a knife, but he wanted all three.
When Hoppy and Red return after a few days to Johnny’s ranch to fix the head wound, they find Johnny had found the kid and fixed him up. Almost coming to fatal blows, the kid finds out who Hoppy is, he bore an unfortunate resemblance to the Sheriff that had been dogging Mesquite, and realizes this was the man, his idol, that he’d rode a long ways just to meet.
Hoppy saw something in Mesquite, maybe him when he was just a youngster, and decided to straighten him out. The kid could fight, and was fast with a handgun, but he could still use some seasoning. Jenkins had already killed the knifer, who wanted him dead, and recovered the money, anxious to get it back to the rightful owners
The novel is about the three men’s ride those fifteen hundred miles back to Buck Peters’ ranch in Montana, with stops in Dodge, Ogallala, and Laramie, dealing with the kid getting into troubles, his maturing under the two men’s tutelage, crooked lawmen, gamblers, avaricious bartenders and women. Mesquite was a trial, but Hoppy was determined to help the kid grow up. He hadn’t made any new friends in a long time. All his others were married(he’d lost his wife and child) and he wanted him “right” by the time they reached Montana.
This novel didn’t have a plot as such, more episodic in nature, and may have been a fix-up of shorter works. I enjoyed it though, it read pretty smooth though and I finished it in a day. The Hoppy here, of course, bears little resemblance to the one I first encountered. William Boyd of course, in early TV. He was a favorite along with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. I’ve come to prefer the book version, though I haven’t read all that many of them. The price on some are more than I want pay and I learned to my horror that one I purchased was an abridged version.
This 1924 copy I have is in pretty good shape, although the dust jacket is kind of battered.