In this western novel, yes western, Huck and Tom are grown men now, in their mid-twenties. When the war breaks out, they join up for the adventure. Their first battle, Manassas, disabuses them of any glamour. Tom is seriously injured with a ball in him. Huck gets him away and they end up on a farm owned by a family named Lee, no relation to Robert E.
Three Union soldiers wander into the farm, two older men and a kid. When the two older make moves on the teenage daughter, Huck kills them. The kid, Jed Bevins, has a chance to shoot Mr. Lee and doesn’t, a fact Huck notices and it saves his life.
His story is he didn’t know the two men, but got hooked up with them in the battle. He didn’t like the war, but had been marched down by his father and signed up. He becomes friends with our two heroes.
The three set out for Missouri where they split up. Jed wants to see the country. Tom has notions about taking a job on a sailing ship headed to China. Huck has notions of settling down, but accompanies Tom to San Francisco and sees him off.
It would be twelve years before the three men would see each other again in a small town called Redemption.
Huck becomes a town tamer, a job he falls into by accident when he knocks a bully unconscious in another small town. He takes the Marshal’s job, then when the town is cleaned up he moves on. He gets a reputation and even a dime novel written by Ned Buntline. Which is where Tom learns about him.
Tom never makes it to China. The three week trip from San Francisco to the clipper’s first stop in Hawaii is a journey in misery, seasickness most of the way. Tom decides to jump ship and hide out until it moves on, then book passage back to the States. But as often happens with young men, his head is turned by a pretty face and he becomes a fisherman with his father-in-law.
Young Jed Bevins takes a third turn. He rescues a young Pawnee boy found unconscious in the wake of a buffalo stampede and saves his life. He’s found by the boy’s father, a chief, and taken in, falling ill himself and nursed back to health. he lives with them for several years until the village is attacked by a greedy rancher who wants their land who wipes out the village, all sixty men, women, and children, then finds a piece of land he likes better. Jed survives only by accident, but vows revenge. It takes years as he prowls the town looking for braggers about the slaughter, then challenging them to a fight.
He becomes known as the gunslinger The Laramie Kid.
The three men arrive in Redemption within months of each other, Huck is the town Marshal, Jed having tracked the last man, the rancher Cantry who’s still up to his old tricks, this time with white farmers who are on range land he claims(government owned). Tom merely shows up looking for his old friend Huck who he’d read about in that dime novel.
It’s the trio against Cantry and his gunslicks.
Liked this one a lot.