The Rustlers Of The West Fork: A Novel by LOUIS L'AMOURThe Rustlers Of The West Fork: A Novel by LOUIS L'AMOUR

The Rustlers Of The West Fork: A Novel

byLOUIS L'AMOUR

Mass Market Paperback | April 1, 1992

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In this first of four classic frontier novels, Louis L'Amour adds his own special brand to the life and adventures of one of America's favorite fictional cowboys, Hopalong Cassidy. In The Rustlers of West Fork, the quick-thinking, fast-shooting cowpuncher heads west to deliver a fortune in bank notes to his old friend, Dick Jordan. When he arrives at the Circle J, he discovers that the rancher and his daughter, Pam, are being held prisoner by a desperate band of outlaws led by the ruthless Avery Sparr and his partner Arnold Soper. Even if Hopalong Cassidy can free Jordan and Pam, he will have to lead them across rough and untamed Apache country, stalked by the outlaws who have vowed to gun him down. But Hopalong is no stranger to trouble, and before his guns or his temper cool, he's determines to round up Sparr and his gang and bring the outlaws to justice ... dead or alive! This classic tale of pursuit and survival is vintage L'Amour and adds new life and luster to the legend of Hopalong Cassidy.
Our foremost storyteller of the American West, Louis L’Amour has thrilled a nation by chronicling the adventures of the brave men and woman who settled the frontier. There are more than three hundred million copies of his books in print around the world.
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Title:The Rustlers Of The West Fork: A NovelFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 6.85 × 4.15 × 0.76 inPublished:April 1, 1992Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:055329539X

ISBN - 13:9780553295399

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Chapter 1   SIX-GUN SALVAGE   Hopalong Cassidy watched the old banker count the money with careful fingers. Fifteen thousand dollars was an amount to be handled with reverence and respect. As he watched the mounting stack of bills, Hopalong saw them less as the long green bills they were than as the cattle they represented—the cattle and the work. Into that stack of bills was going money that had grown from days of cold wind and rain, nights of thunder and lightning, of restless herds poised for stampede, of rivers and washes running brim full with roaring flood waters, of dust, blistering sun, and the roar of rustlers’ guns.   Into that pile so flat and green went more than money. Into that pile went months of brutal labor, the brindle steer that had killed a horse under him down in Lonetree Canyon, and the old mossyhorn who had fouled Lanky’s rope on a juniper, putting him three weeks in bed with a broken leg. And into that pile went the kid from Toyah, who had ridden up to join them so full of vitality and exuberance, only to have his horse step into a prairie-dog hole while running ahead of a stampede. They had buried what was left of the kid and sent his hat and gun to a brother in El Paso.   “There she is, Hoppy,” the banker said at last. “Buck will be mighty glad to get shut of that debt, I know. He’s a man who takes bein’ in debt harder’n any man I can think of, an’ he’s sure scrimped an’ cut corners to have that much in three years!”   “Yeah,” Cassidy agreed, “Buck’s right conscientious about most things. He don’t like to get into debt in the first place, but you know how it was with Dick Jordan. When he fell heir to that ranch out West he sold his cattle an’ remuda to Buck, knowin’ if there was one man around he could trust to pay ever’ last red cent it was Buck.   “Came at a good time too. Buck had been talkin’ about more cattle, an’ with the additional range he could use, it would be a positive shame not to have ’em. Otherwise, he never would have gone into debt.”   “You takin’ this money West yourself?” The banker’s shrewd old eyes studied the silver head. “I know Buck can’t afford to be away right now.”   “Yeah, I’m takin’ it West, an’ glad of the chance. Old Dick was a friend of mine, too, an’ I’ve heard a sight about that ranch o’ his. Rightly, it belonged to his wife. It was part of an old Spanish grant, you know.”   “Uh-huh. Helped draw up some o’ the papers. Got a daughter now, I hear.”   “Had her a long time. Shucks, she was fourteen or fifteen before they left here.”   “Say”—the banker turned around in his chair—“who’s goin’ out there with you?”   I’m goin’ alone. Mesquite’s off somewheres, as usual, an’ Buck can’t spare two men. Anyway, it ain’t a two-man job.”   “Maybe. Things out thataway are pretty lively. Had a letter from a friend of mine out to McClellan. Had his bank held up about three weeks ago, killed his cashier, wounded a deputy sheriff, then lost the durned posse.”   “Lost ’em?”   “Uh-huh, just plain lost ’em.”   Hopalong slid off the desk and gathered up the money. “Well, Buck will be waitin’ for me, so I’d better get into the leather an’ ride to the ranch. But don’t you worry about this money. I’ll see it gets to Dick, as promised.”   Tucking the packages of bills into his black shirt and drawing his belt tighter, he hitched his guns into an easier position on his dark-trousered hips and started for the door.   The banker arose from his chair and walked to the window where he could watch Cassidy cross the street. The same trim bowed legs, the broad, sloping shoulders, the lean waist and choppy walk of the horseman. His silver guns were worn by much handling, and his boots were cracked and dusty. Suddenly the banker found himself wishing he was younger and starting West with Hopalong on that ride.   As he started to turn from the window a movement caught his eye, and he hesitated. A man had stepped out from beside the bank and started slowly across the street in Hopalong’s wake. If that man had been standing alongside the bank, he might have seen Hopalong take the money, for there was an office window near the desk. The banker frowned. His wife would be waiting supper, and if he got into the saloon he might not get out for hours.… Anyway, Hopalong could take care of himself. He always had.   Trouble followed Hopalong Cassidy like wolves follow a snow-driven herd, but few men were more fitted to cope with it than the silver-haired gunfighter. He should have told Hoppy to ook up Monaghan, at the bank in McClellan. Well, he could write to him. Maybe Hoppy would have business over that way.   Dusk was softening the line of the buildings when Hopalong crossed the street to the saloon. A poker game was in session when he pushed through the batwing doors, but the players carefully avoided his eyes. They knew each other, and knew the game was fairly even all around. But Hopalong was a specialist at draw. His brand of poker was apt to be expensive for them, and they wanted none of that.   Three men lounged at the bar, all strangers. One of them, Hoppy remembered, had passed him on the step. His casual glance read their brands with a quick, easy eye, and he grinned to himself. Drifting punchers, maybe a shade on the owl-hoot side.   Trail dust lay thick on their clothes, but their guns had been wiped clean, and the cartridges in their belts shone brightly. One man—who had passed him on the walk before the saloon—was a slender young fellow with straight, clean-cut features and a deep line at one corner of his mouth. When he glanced toward Cassidy, Hopalong saw that one eye was half closed by a lowered lid. At first the man seemed to be winking, and then Hoppy realized the affliction was permanent.   The other two also had the look of hard cases. The tall man was round-shouldered and his face carried deep-set lines of cruelty and harshness. The third stranger was scarcely more than a boy, but one already far gone down the hard trails by the look of him.   Drifters were not uncommon, and the range life was not one calculated to make men soft. Such men as these came in and drifted on each morning and night, for Twin Rivers was on a trail much traveled in these months.   “Pullin’ out tomorrow, Hoppy?” The bartender leaned his arms on the bar. “Johnny was sayin’ you were headed West to visit Dick Jordan.”   At the name all three strangers turned sharply to stare at Hopalong. Their expressions excited his interest and also their apparent familiarity with the name of Dick Jordan. Only a familiar name could have turned them so sharply. They looked away, and the man with the squint eye spoke to the others in a low, careful voice, as though explaining something.   “Yeah,” said Cassidy, “we bought his herd three years ago. Buck wants me to ride out there, and that country always did appeal to me. It will be good to get shut of this dust and fill my lungs with that good mountain air again.”   “Dick bought hisself a good ranch, I hear.”   “He didn’t buy it. His wife was Spanish an’ the ranch was part of an old land grant belonging to her family. She inherited it, so they just moved out there. They took their daughter with them. She was maybe fifteen years old. Nice kid, but all knees and freckles.”   One of the strangers snickered, and Cassidy glanced at them appraisingly. Two of them avoided his eyes, but the one with the bad eyelid met his glance boldly. “Heerd what y’ said about ridin’ to see Dick Jordan,” he commented dryly, “an’ if I was you, I’d forget it. That there’s a tough country for drifters. They don’t cotton to ’em, not none a-tall!”   “That right?” Hopalong said carelessly. “Well, maybe I can help them get used to it.”   The tall man answered him, and his eyes were hard as he looked at Cassidy. “You go out there huntin’ him,” he said insolently, “an’ you’re sure likely to find him! You’re liable to go right where he is!” As he finished speaking he put down his glass and all three walked out of the saloon. On the walk outside one of them spoke, and then all laughed.   Cassidy glanced at the bartender. “Know those fellers?”   “Been around all afternoon,” the bartender explained, “an’ takin’ in a lot of room. The squinty one, he’s gettin’ his horse shod. Then they’re driftin’ on, headin’ West.”  

From Our Editors

This is the first of L'Amour's four classic Hopalong Cassidy novels to be published in mass market under the author's real name. Hopalong Cassidy's creator, Clarence E. Mulford, chose the young L'Amour to continue Hopalong's adventures in print when Mulford retired. Bamtam will publish L'Amour's second Hopalong Cassidy novel, The Trail to Seven Pines, in hardcover in June 1992