Avalanche - Zane Grey - ebook

Avalanche ebook

Zane Grey



Pearl Zane Grey (1872 – 1939) was an American author best known for his popular adventure novels and stories that presented an idealized image of the American frontier. Zane Grey is the author of 86 books, he is today considered the father of the Western genre, with its heady romances and mysterious outlaws. Raised together in the wild country of the Tonto basin, Jake and Verde grew up closer than brothers. But when they both fell in love with the same fickle woman, their friendship turned to raging hate. The only force that could mend that shattered trust was the raging fury of nature itself. Grey, a word-painter of the western landscape, gives readers his best in describing the mountain winter, but not until he has frolicked with the hearts of two jealous brothers.

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NOT many years after General Crook drove out the last wild remnant of the Apache Indian tribe, the old Apache trail from the Mogollons across the Tonto Basin to the Four Peaks country had become a wagon road for the pioneer cattlemen and sheepmen who were drifting into the country.

Jacob Dunton and his family made camp one day at the crossing of the Verde. The country began to have a captivating look for this Kansas farmer. From the rim top his keen eyes had sighted a brook meandering through grassy clearings in the dark green forest below. His wife Jane and Jake, their six-year-old boy, were tired from the long journey, and a few days rest would be good for them… While they recuperated in camp Jacob rode up toward the rim, finding the magnificent forest, the deep canyons and grassy swales, the abundance of game, much to his liking.

Upon his return one day he found Jake playing with a handsome, curly-haired lad, perhaps a year older than himself.

“Hullo, whose kid is thet?” he asked his pioneer wife, who was still young, buxom, and comely.

“I don’t know,” she replied anxiously. “There have been several wagon trains passing by today. They stopped, of course, for water.”

“Reckon this boy got lost an’ hasn’t been missed yet.” replied Dunton. “There’ll be someone ridin’ back for him.”

But no inquiring rider visited the Dunton camp that day, nor the next, nor the day following.

“Jake, what’s your new pard’s name?” Dunton had inquired of his son.

“I dunno. He won’t tell,” replied Jake. Name obviously did not matter to this youngster. He was too happy with his playmate to care about superficials.

Mrs. Dunton managed to elicit from the lost boy the name Dodge, but she could not be sure whether that was a family name or one belonging to a place. The lad was exceedingly shy and strange. A most singular thing appeared to be his fear of grown people.

Dunton had decided to homestead in a beautiful valley up the creek, yet he was in no hurry to move. By the wagon trains and travelers who passed his campground he sent on word of the lost boy, Dodge. No one, however, returned to claim him.

“Jane, I’ve a hunch his people, if he had any, don’t want him back,” said Dunton seriously to his wife one day.

“Oh, no! Not such a pretty, dear little boy!” she remonstrated.

“Wal, you can never tell. Mebbe he didn’t have no folks. I don’t know just what to do about it. I cain’t go travelin’ all over the country lookin’ for a lost boy’s people. It’s gettin time for me to locate an’ run up a cabin.”

“We can keep him until somebody does come after him,” said Jane. “He and Jake sure have cottoned to each other. An’ you know our Jake was always a stand-offish boy.”

“Suits me,” replied the pioneer, and forthwith he fashioned a rude sign upon which he cut the words LOST BOY, and an arrow pointing up the creek. This he nailed upon a tree close to where the creek crossed the road. With this duty accomplished he addressed himself to the arduous task of getting his family and outfit up to the site he had chosen for a homestead.

Little Jake called his new playmate Verde, and the name stuck. No anxious father came to claim Verde. In time, and for long after the rude sign had rotted away, the crossing by the road was known as Lost Boy Ford.

The years passed. Ranches began to dot the vast, timbered Tonto Basin, though relatively few in number, owing to the widely scattered bits of arable land with available water. A few settlements, even far more widely separated, sprang up in advantageous places. Wagon trains ceased to roll down over the purple rim and on down through the endless forest to the open country beyond the ranges. The pioneers from the Middle West came no more.

The Tonto remained almost as isolated as before its domain had been invaded. In one way it was as wild as ever it had been in the heyday of Geronimo and his fierce Apaches; and this was because of the rustler bands that found a rendezvous in the almost inaccessible canyons under the rim. They preyed upon the cattlemen and sheepmen, who would have waxed prosperous but for their depredations. Jacob Dunton was one of the ranchers who was kept poor by these cattle-stealing marauders. But despite his losses he could see that the day of the rustler was waning. In fact, the tragic Pleasant Valley War, which was heralded throughout the West as a battle between cattlemen and sheepmen, was really between the ranchers and the rustlers, and it forever broke the stranglehold of the livestock thieves. Slowly the Tonto began to recover, and it began to hold promise for the far future.

Jake and Verde were raised together in a log cabin that nestled under the towering gold and yellow craggy rim. The brook that passed their home roared in spring with the melting snows and sang musically all during the other seasons.

The boys grew up with the deer and the bear and the wild turkeys which ranged their pasture land with the calves and colts. They learned how to track animals as other boys learned to play games. It was to be part of their lives. They hunted and trapped before they even know how to read. In fact, the few summers’ schooling they managed to get did not come until they were between twelve and sixteen years old.

Both of them grew into the rangy, long-limbed type peculiar to the region. The Tonto type was a composite of rider and hunter, wood chopper and calf brander, with perhaps more of the backwoods stamp than that of the range.

Jake, at twenty-two, was a lithe, narrow-hipped, wide shouldered young giant, six feet tall, with as rugged and homely a face as the bark of one of the pines under which he had grown to manhood. He had a mat of coarse hair, beetling brows, a huge nose, and a wide mouth. But his eyes, if closely looked into, made up for his other possible defects. They were clear gray, intent and piercing, even beautiful in their latent light.

Verde, at twenty-three, was a couple of inches shorter than Jake, a little heavier, yet of the same supple, lithe build, fair and curly-haired, ruddy-cheeked, with eyes of flashing blue, handsome as a young woodland god.

And these two, from the day of their strange meeting at Lost Boy Ford to the years of their manhood, had been inseparable. No real blood brothers could have been closer.

Jake liked hunting best of all work or play, while Verde inclined to horses. Being a born horse-man, naturally he gravitated toward riding the range. Jake was the most proficient with rifle and six-shooter, as he was also with everything pertaining to trapping wild animals. Verde had no peer in the use of a lasso. He could rope and throw and tie a steer in record time. Jake’s father called Verde the champion “bulldogger” of the Tonto. Verde was not so good with an ax as Jake, but he could mow his way down a field of sorghum far ahead of Jake.

Thus the two of them, with their opposite tastes and abilities, made a team for Jacob Dunton that Thus the two of them, with their opposite tastes and abilities, made a team for Jacob Dunton that could not have been equaled in all of the Tonto Basin. Long ago Dunton had abandoned any hope of ever learning Verde’s parentage. In fact, he did not want to. Verde was as his own son. And Verde had all but forgotten the mystery behind his boyhood.

The Duntons had no other children; and the great herd of cattle they hoped to amass someday would belong equally to Jake and Verde.

In spring, after the roundup, which was a long arduous task, owing to the wild timberland and rough canyons where the cattle ranged, there would be the plowing and the planting, the clearing of more land, the building of fences. In the fall would come the harvesting, which time, of all seasons, these backwoods pioneers loved best. They had their husking bees and bean picking parties and sorghum-cutting rivalries–and their dances, which were the very heart of their lives. In late fall they killed pigs and beeves and deer for their winter meat; and from then on to spring again they chopped wood and toasted their shins before the open fireplace.

During the autumn the settler families on the upper slope of this Tonto Basin gathered once a week for a dance. Occasionally it was held at a ranch cabin, sometimes in the woodland school-house, but mostly in the little town of Tonto Flat.

The dance represented their main social life. They had no church, no county house, no place where old and young could meet. Therefore the dance constituted a most serious and important affair. It was here that the strapping young backwoodsmen met and won their sweethearts. In fact, that was perhaps the vital purpose of the dances. There was little other opportunity for courting.

And seldom did a dance occur without one or more fights, one of which, now and then, could be serious. Fighting was characteristic for the Tonto youths. Had not their fathers fought the rustlers for twenty years? And as these hardy pioneers had settled many feuds over cattle, sheep, land, and water with cold steel or hot lead, so their sons settled many rivalries with brawn and blood.

Jake and Verde went to all the dances. Even when off on a hunt up into the canyons or over the rim, they made sure to get back in time for the great events of the week. And Jake and Verde were very popular among the valley girls. Seldom did they take the same girl twice in one season, and every occasion was a gala one. Sometimes they exchanged girls–an event which was regarded with wonder and amusement by their young comrades, and always with concern by their elders. Jake and Verde were not responding satisfactorily to the real purpose of the dance. Neither youth evinced any abiding interest in any one girl. They were both capital catches for any young woman, and this, coupled with their debonair indifference and their boyish brotherly absorption in each other, was the cause of considerable pique.

“Wal,” said Jacob Dunton, “I reckon them thar boys of mine ain’t feelin’ thar oats yet.”

“I’m tellin’ you, Pa,” replied his wife, “it ain’t that. They’re both full of fire an’ go. It’s jist that Jake an’ Verde are too wrapped up in each other to see any of these steady home-makin’ lasses they meet. I love Jake an’ Verde jist as they are, but sometimes it worries me.”

“Reckon thar’s reason for consarn,” said Dunton, shaking his shaggy head. “Some hussy will split them like a wedge in dry pine someday.”

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