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Buck Mason confronts Ole Gunderstrom regarding an 18 year old feud over a fence, setting off a chain of unexpected events in this Western Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
215 pages, with a reading time of ~3.5 hours (53,878 words), and first published in 1930. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2016.
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A lone rider drew rein before a gate consisting of three poles cut from straight pine saplings. He leaned from the saddle and dropped one end of each of the two upper bars to the ground, stepped his horse over the remaining bar and, stooping again, replaced the others. Then he rode slowly along a dirt road that showed little signs of travel.
As he rode he seemed but an animated part of the surrounding landscape, so perfectly did he harmonize from the crown of his Stetson to the light shod hoofs of his pony.
Everything that he wore seemed a part of him, as he seemed a part of his horse. His well worn chaps, his cartridge belt and holster, his shirt and bandana, like the leather of his horse trappings, were toned and mellowed by age and usage; yet they carried the same suggestion of strength and freshness and efficiency as did his bronzed face and his clear, gray eyes.
His mount moved at an easy, shuffling gait that some horsemen might call a rack, but which the young man would have described as a pace.
The horse was that homeliest of all horse colors, a blue roan, the only point of distinction in his appearance being a circular white spot, about the size of a saucer, that encircled his right eye, a marking which could not be said to greatly enhance his beauty, though it had served another and excellent purpose in suggesting his name–Bull’s Eye.
At first glance the young man might have been found as little remarkable as his horse. In New Mexico there are probably thousands of other young men who look very much like him. His one personal adornment, in which he took a quiet, secret pride, was a flowing, brown mustache with drooping ends, which accomplished little more than to collect alkali dust and hide an otherwise strong and handsome mouth, while the low drawn brim of his Stetson almost accomplished the same result for the man’s finest features–a pair of unusually arresting gray eyes.
The road wound through low rolling hills covered with stunted cedars, beyond which rose a range of mountains, whose sides were clothed with pine, the dark green of which was broken occasionally by irregular patches of quaking aspens, the whole mellowed and softened and mysterized by an enveloping purple haze.
The road, whose parallel twin paths suggested wheels of traffic, but in whose dust appeared only the spoor of hoofed animals, wound around the shoulder of a hill and debouched into a small valley, in the center of which stood a dilapidated log house.
“This here,” said the young man to his pony, “is where we were headed fer. I hope the old man’s in,” and as though to assure him of the fulfillment of his wish, the door of the cabin opened and a large, droop-shouldered, gray haired man emerged.
“Ev’nen, Ole,” said the rider.
“Ev’nen,” said the older man, rather shortly, as the other stopped his horse and swung from the saddle. “What you doin’ here?”
“I come to see you about that line fence, Ole,” said the young man.
“Gol durned if you aint as bad as your pa,” said the older man. “I aint heared nuthin’ else but that durned line fence fer the last twenty years.”
“You and the old man fit over that fence for eighteen years up to the very day he died, but I’ll be doggoned if I want to scrap about it.”
“Then what you doin’ up here about it?” demanded the other.
“I aint up here to scrap with you, Ole. I just come up to tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“You aint doin’ nuthin’ with that land. You aint never done nuthin’ with it. You can’t get water on to it. I can and there’s about a hundred acres of it that lies right for alfalfa and joins right on to the patch I put in last year.”
“Well what you goin’ to do about it? It’s my land. You sure can’t put alfalfa on my land.”
“It aint your land, Ole, and you know it. You put your line fence in the wrong place. Maybe you did it accidental at first, but you know well enough that you aint got no title to that land.”
“Well I got it fenced and I have had it fenced for twenty years. That’s title enough for me,” growled Gunderstrom.
“Now listen, Ole; I said I didn’t come up here figurin’ on quarrelin’ with you and I aint a goin’ to. I’m just tellin’ you, I’m goin’ to move that fence and put in alfalfa.”
Olaf Gunderstrom’s voice trembled with suppressed anger as he replied. “If ye lay a hand on that fence of mine, Buck Mason, I’ll kill you.”
“Now don’t make me quarrel with you, Ole,” said the young man, “cause I don’t want to do nuthin’ like that. I’m gonna move the fence, and I’m gonna say here that if anybody gets shot, it aint me. Now let’s don’t chaw any more fat over that. What do you hear from Olga?”
“None of your durn business,” snapped Gunderstrom.
Mason grinned. “Well, Olga and I grew up together as kids,” he reminded the older man, “and I’m just naturally interested in her.”