John Cutler trapped and killed rogue animals, For years, he’d been a Federal Marshal in Indian Territory before he married and retired, buying a ranch in Arizona.
It was a rogue grizzly that changed his life. A big, snake headed monster with a silver blaze that was killing cattle, a lot on his range. He put out traps and got a hit, But before he found it, the big bear gnawed off the trapped paw and went on a berserk rage. While out hunting the grizzly, the animal showed up at his ranch and attacked his pregnant wife. Cutler rode in just in time to catch her dying breath about the bear.
He immediately went on the hunt, following the beast until a blizzard caused him to lose the trail. That was five years ago and he still hunted the bear. Unlike most bears, it stayed on the move, killing anything that crossed his path. Cutler seemed to be always one step behind, But he refused to give up. He made his living hunting and killing rogue animals with bounties on them.
He had a wagon with two mules to haul around his many traps, an arsenal of heavy weapons, a horse named Apache, and a huge Airedale named Big Red.
John Benteen(Ben Haas) wrote the first two novels and the H. V. Elkin carried on with four more. Haas is well known to fans of his westerns, but I can’t find much on Elkin, other than the five books attributed to the name. Whether that’s a pseudonym, I have no idea.
Cutler has been hired by the Cattleman’s association of Buffalo Springs in West Texas. A huge wolf was decimating their herds, rushing in at night and pulling down as many as possible, eating nothing, before rushing off. It was called the Victorio Wolf, the superstitious claiming it was the ghost of the old Apache chieftain. A two thousand dollar bounty was on it’s head.
There’s a rancher standing in the way, his holdings equal to all the association’s, that denies access to his lands where the big wolf has a hiding spot. He holds mortgages on all the small ranches. there’s also another trapper, Strick Gilbert, pissed because he didn’t get the job. The nickname comes from his use of strychnine laced meat scattered around. Cutler hated such methods as they killed off all predators, big and small, in an area, resulting in a population explosion of pests over the next few years. Gilbert has a big dog as well, a black mastiff.
In THE GUNHAWKS, Cutler is forced to kill a man in a fist fight when he goes for his gun, the man getting off two shots before Cutler drills him. Cass Calhoon was his name and his family was the biggest landowners in the area and a tight-knit clan. Cutler was cleared at the inquest. The Calhoon patriarch, an old man in a wheelchair, didn’t agree and promised retribution.
While all that was going on, a letter that had been following Cutler over the west catches up. It’s from an old friendm A Mexican who’d saved Cutler’s life years before, needing help.
Cutler immediately heads for Mexico, only to find the youngest Calhoon, Billy, on his trail. A twenty year old born late to the old man, who, in this year of 1894, had missed all the rough, hard times his brothers bragged about. He wanted to prove himself and was just green enough to let Cutler get the drop on him. The trapper leaves him on foot, his fancy two gun rig still with him, but all bullets removed from guns and belt.
In Mexico, Cutler learns of his friend’s problem, problems. A gang of outlaws, Allen “Preacher” Gorman’s Gunhawks, had taken over the town and forced the people to work their own silver mine for his own profit. He’d convinced the superstitious people that Cutler’s friend was a brujo, a witch, that transformed every night into the giant jaguar plaguing them. Having developed a taste for human flesh, it was known to enter the town and grab people.
As Cutler is about to be tortured, Billy Calhoon shows up and saves him. The pair are forced to team up, with the promises showdown to come later.
Two men against two dozen. And the jaguar.
Over the next couple of Fridays, I will be covering the four H.V. Elkin books in the series.
For more overlooked books, as always, Check in at Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, on Fridays.