Gun Wolves – three stories about honor and bravery in the Old West by Walt Coburn.
The Honor of Old Thunder (1954) – The watched stars had fallen. Manitou had decided. And the broken heart of the old Indian policeman lay upon the ground.
Gun Wolves of the Chisholm (1937) – Chisum, Goodnight, Chisholm, Slaughter! Ashes marked their camp fires along the Chisholm Trail. But when lobo-guns unlimbered on a water-hole den, Big Jim Trigg crossed their sign with trail-code lead and a free-water guarantee!
War-Bonnet Mavericks (1938) – Johnny Green—U. S. Marshal! Crooked cow kings laughed when that pint-sized lawman rode into War Bonnet. But they didn’t know the raging devil that lurked behind his smooth-cheeked face—the merciless death that slumbered in his judgment guns! A novel in twelve chapters.
Walt Coburn (1889–1971) was one of the premier writers of Western pulp fiction. Coburn was so popular and so prolific that eventually, two pulp magazines – Walt Coburn’s Western Magazine and Walt Coburn’s Action Novels were published, consisting mainly of reprints of his work.
LIKE the uneasy moanings of a restless spirit, the North wind swept down the long draw that led from the burial ground of the Assiniboines. Bits of faded cloth, the Indian ghost flags, tied here and there to the bare limbs of the buck-brush, to ward off evil spirits from the dead, fluttered uneasily in the wind, as if stirred by the passing of unseen hurrying things.
High above, on the barren, wind-swept knoll, tall poles supported rude platforms which held the blanket-wrapped bones of the dead. The poles stretched upward like long, ill-shapen, fleshless arms that strove to hold the lifeless bodies from the reach of a lean-flanked wolf that prowled restlessly about.
Slowly, silently, their blankets pulled protectingly across their frost-blackened faces, rode Takes the Shield and his son, Spirit Boy. Into the teeth of the bitter wind that caused their mounts to travel with heads lowered till their frost-whitened muzzles touched the crust of the frozen drifts, the two Indians urged their mounts up the draw that led to the burial ground.
Takes the Shield, his pony wearily breaking trail through the heavy drifts, rode in the lead. He rode bareback, his long-barreled rifle in its heavily-beaded scabbard lying across his pony’s withers. A wide belt, decorated with brightly colored porcupine quills, encircled his middle, holding together the folds of the Hudson Bay blanket that covered him. To the belt was fastened a large knife scabbard from which protruded the black hilt of his skinning knife. On his feet he wore neatly-fitting moccasins.
Behind his father rode Spirit Boy. Now and then a fierce gust of wind whipped aside the blanket of the younger Indian, revealing a ghastly wound midway between knee and hip, the blood from which had congealed and frozen in a crimson blotch on his white buckskin leggings.
The dark face of Spirit Boy, half hidden behind the folds of his blanket, was drawn with pain, but he made no sound. Never did his half-closed eyes waver from the white blanket of his father who rode before him.
The older man, with only his eyes visible above the edge of his closely drawn blanket, looked neither to right nor left, nor backwards toward his wounded son. His gaze was fixed on one spot. A grave at the crest of the wind-swept knoll.
AS the two Indians reached the top, the knife-like wind caused their ponies to whirl suddenly, turning their rumps to the wind’s unbearable, stinging force.
Takes the Shield slipped stiffly to the ground. In silence he made his way through the blinding swirl of dry snow to the grave that had held his gaze throughout the torturous ride up the draw. For a time his numbed fingers fumbled at something inside his belt. The blanket fell unheeded from his shoulders, and the wind wrapped it about his legs. The gale was now tearing at the buttons of his buckskin shirt and whipping his long braids of coarse hair, but he paid no heed. High above his head, tightly clutched in his lean hands, he held that which he had taken from his belt. It was a scalp, to the short, light-colored hair of which still clung drops of fresh, frozen blood. The scalp of a white man.
Thus stood Takes the Shield, speaking in a high pitched, chanting voice to the blanket-covered corpse on the platform above him.
“Little daughter,” he spoke, “who many moons ago departed from the tepee of your father. For many sleeps the heart of your old father has been as heavy as the rocks beneath the snow. But today the Manitou has made his medicine strong. Today he gave Takes the Shield the eye of the eagle and the ears of the fox. He saw the white man who has brought sorrow and death to his daughter. He heard him boast of the love of the daughter of Takes the Shield, who killed herself rather than bear his child.
“Then into the arm of Takes the Shield, the Manitou put the strength of the bear that he might strike. Long did I and your brother, Spirit Boy, torture this man of the pale face and heart of the little bird. Till he told what my daughter would not tell.
“No longer is the heart of Takes the Shield on the ground, for he has brought you the scalp of the white man to take with you into the Land of the Spirits.”
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