John Parrish had come west for his health, A minnie ball through the chest in the war had caused him trouble for years before he made the decision to head west. He’d bought a ranch with the idea of selling when he regained good health. That was three years before.
Since that time, his health had returned and he’d become engaged to the dry goods store owner’s daughter, Caroline Vail. She wanted to go East, hating it out here, and he was gradually coming around to finally selling the ranch.
The big wheel in the valley was a man named Wilkison, a rancher who’d made a habit of running roughshod over anyone in his way. It had cost him years before, leading his band into an ambush, killing a half dozen men, wounding most of the rest, himself included. These days he rode a wheelchair. His front line man was a bully named Hansen, former foreman, now son-in-law.
Parrish had decided to sell to him if the price was right. Two things ended that idea. He saw the Marshall, a nice old man, shot to death in the back in a set-up by Hansen’s main gun hand. The second thing was the nominal sum offered him for his spread, made only, they admitted, to save them from having to take it.
John Parrish was a gentle man, short, with red hair, and he didn’t even wear a gun. He’d ended the war a Captain and only twenty years of age, Violence was something he thought he’d left behind. Thirty now, he wasn’t afraid, just tired of it all.
The murder of the old Marshall and the callous way it was dismissed began to waken something in him, something he thought he’d had control of for years.
They tried to burn him out, tried to kill him, and only succeeded in making him mad. His crew was small compared to the Anchor bunch, six to thirty. And his were all cowhands where Hansen’s bunch were hard men who used their guns for a living. So his military training came back and he took to guerrilla warfare. He knew enough blows to the enemy would make them cut and run, looking for prey that didn’t shoot back, and leave Hansen for him to deal with.
And to spice the story up, there was Wilkison’s younger daughter, Judith, a twenty year old firebrand he couldn’t seem to avoid. And another part of the mess was George Menefee, Caroline’s fellow before Parrish had come along.
The title SMOKY VALLEY is apt for the showdown at the end of the book.
This makes the third western by Hamilton I’ve reviewed. I’ve noticed one thing in Hamilton’s westerns. His heroes are self-assured in their manhood and never feel the need to brag or go out of the way to show it. It often has them being thought cowards, a thought they usually have occasion to disprove. But only as a last resort.
I have two more of his westerns to review. I will get to them. The previous are below.
For more forgotten books, go to PATTINASE.