The Long Riders by Dan Cushman
Gold Medal d1733, Copyright 1967
I’ve been reading a lot of westerns this summer. I don't know why, but sitting out on the patio and sweating with a western paperback stuck to my fingers seems to appeal to me lately. Dan Cushman was a versatile writer, who started in the pulp short story days and later turned over many quality adventure, mystery, and western novels. In "The Long Riders", we have a cattle drive story- where a few powerful men suppress an inferior group, until someone helps them take a stand.
He dived for the gun and got hold of it, and Broadbaker, waiting half a second, jumped and came down on his forearm with both feet. He had his arm under the high insteps of his boots, pinning it to the ground. And he turned grinding, bearing down with all his weight. He felt the bones crack. It was a good feeling.
Leo Glass and partner Old Dad receive a proposition from Kid Maybee. The Kid has a checkered past and is laid up after taking a vicious beating, that included a bullet in his chest. The Kid has 400 head of cattle that need to be moved and he offers Glass and Old Dad a cut if they take them to Montana. The cattle are part of a larger drive that is run by Andy “man-eater” Broadbaker. Broadbaker is moving his stock further west to claim grazing land that the government has secured for the Indians. By taking a group of poor homesteaders with him, along with some political pull, Broadbaker has plans to be the big land baron in the new territory. Along with Broadbaker, are a bunch of experienced cowboys and gunhand Billy Grand. (whose “pistols were swifter than weasels in a henhouse”) Also included in Broadbaker's group is Polly, part of the influential Arbogast family, who Broadbaker expects to marry. Knowing that Leo Glass and the homesteaders plan to cut north halfway through the drive, Broadbaker schemes ways to force them westward with him. He needs the whole group to insure he has the numbers to take over the grazing land promised to the Indians. The homesteaders, treated no better than the cattle, turn to Leo Glass for leadership. After learning that Billy Grand shot a boy in the back, Glass confronts the gunslinger, outdrawing and killing him. Broadbaker suspects that Polly has taken a liking to Leo, and roughs her up for disrespecting him. Realizing that Glass has become the major obstacle for Broadbaker and his plans, he sets out to eliminate him. The time comes for Leo Glass to move his group north and Broadbaker makes his final violent attempt to stop them. The two men, without weapons, meet to settle all scores.
"You bitch!" he said through his teeth. "You little ungrateful bitch. You'd choose him, the long rider." He back-handed her across the face.
"The Long Riders" is written in a pulp style, and has everything that made those westerns admirable; a good-ole cowboy, the opposing powerful one, a rotten gunslinger, a girl who both men want, and the young kid who looks up to Leo Glass and is taken under his wing. Even the titles of each short chapter have a pulp ring to them, “The Girl with the Whip,” “Plan for a Showdown,” “Kid Maybee’s Story” are examples. I really enjoyed the Kid Maybee character, too bad he was only in the story briefly; but gunhand Billy Grand and Leo Glass made up for that. You sense the confrontation building within them as you are flipping pages. And the reader is not disappointed when they meet in a gunslappin' showdown.The echoes of the gunshot were gone, and the trail of smoke from Glass’ pistol. Nobody moved as the cattle came on. A horsefly lit on the back of Grand’s neck and crawled leisurely, drinking his sweat.
Dan Cushman tries to spice up the girl interest (Polly) in the story, but I found it average. That said, everything else makes this a worthy story. The relationship between Glass and the boy Will Pattison is quite touching, and should be appealing for younger readers. The final battle between Broadbaker and Glass is exceptional. They meet hand-to-hand using their gun belts, lashing each other raw “Spanish–quirt style” with the buckles. If you like western stories written in the pulp style of the 30s/40s, this one is good. I can take them as long as I don’t knock off too many in a row.
In the late 40s, Dan Cushman wrote short stories featuring the western pulp hero -The Pecos Kid. These were quite popular and the stories were headlined in the magazine called “The Pecos
Kid Western,” which was published in 1950/51.
Reprints of these stories are easily available. I have seen them in local dollar stores. (Leisure Books published them)