Canyon Walls - Zane Grey - ebook

Canyon Walls ebook

Zane Grey



The western novels by Zane Grey have been a source of imagery about the American West for almost the entire twentieth century. The plots and characterizations of Grey’s popular novels set in the American West have been thoroughly examined and it is clear that his works acquired a fundamental role in the creation of western imagery. Gunslinger Smoke Bellows leaves behind a violent past in Arizona to begin a new life in Utah, where he finds a ranch that needs the touch of a strong man in order to thrive – and a reason to live. This story is filled with great descriptions of the land and characters who do what they had to do to survive the climes of the West. There is love and betrayal, and faithfulness and unfaithfulness, great animals, and solid story telling to keep you entertained.

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“WAL, heah’s another forkin’ of the trail,” said Monty, as he sat cross-legged on his saddle and surveyed the prospect. “Thet Mormon shepherd gave me a good steer. But doggone it, I hate to impose on anyone, even Mormons.”

The scene was Utah, north of the great canyon, with the wild ruggedness and magnificence of that region visible on all sides. Monty could see clear to the Pink Cliffs that walled the ranches and ranges northward from this country of breaks. He had come up out of the abyss, across the desert between Mt. Trumbull and Hurricane Ledge, and he did not look back. Kanab must be thirty or forty miles, as crow flies, across this valley dotted with sage. But Monty did not know Utah, or anything of this north rim country.

He rolled his last cigarette. He was hungry and worn out, and his horse was the same. Should he ride on to Kanab and throw in with one of the big cattle companies north of there, or should he take to one of the lonely canyons and hunt for a homesteader in need of a rider? The choice seemed hard to make, because Monty was tired of gun fights, of two-bit rustling, of gambling, and the other dubious means by which he had managed to live in Arizona. Not that Monty entertained any idea that he had ever reverted to real dishonesty! He had the free range cowboy’s elasticity of judgement. He could find excuses even for his latest escapade. But one or two more stunts like the one at Longhill would be bound to make him an outlaw. He reflected that if he were blamed for the Green Valley affair, also, which was not improbable, he might find himself already an outlaw, whether he personally agreed or not.

If he rode on to the north ranches, sooner or later someone from Arizona would come along; on the other hand, if he went down into the breaks of the canyon he might find a job and a hiding place where he would be safe until the whole thing blew over and was forgotten. Then he would take good care not to fall into another mess. Bad company and too free use of the bottle had brought Monty to this pass, which he really believed was completely undeserved.

Monty dropped his leg back and slipped his boot into the stirrup. He took the trail to the left and felt relief that the choice was made. It meant that he was avoiding towns and ranches, outfits of curious cowboys, and others who might have undue interest in wandering riders.

In about an hour, as the shepherd had directed, the trail showed up. It appeared to run along the rim of a canyon. Monty gazed down with approving eyes. The walls were steep and very deep, so deep that he could scarcely see the green squares of alfalfa, the orchards and pastures, the groves of cottonwoods, and a gray log cabin down below. He saw cattle and horses toward the upper end. At length the trail started down, and for a while thereafter Monty lost his perspective, and dismounting, he walked down the zigzag path leading his horse.

He saw, at length, that the canyon was boxed in by a wild notch of cliff and thicket and jumbled wall, from under which a fine stream of water flowed. There were still many acres that might have been under cultivation. Monty followed the trail along the brook, crossed it above where the floor of the canyon widened and the alfalfa fields lay richly green, and so on down a couple of miles to the cottonwoods. When he emerged from the fringe of trees, he was close to the cabin, and he could see where the canyon opened wide, with sheer red-gold walls, right out on the desert. It was sure enough a lonely retreat, far off the road, out of the grass country, a niche in the endless colored canyon walls.

The cottonwoods were shedding their fuzzy seeds that covered the ground like snow. An irrigation ditch ran musically through the yard. Chickens, turkeys, calves had the run of the place. The dry odor of the canyon here appeared to take on the fragrance of wood smoke and fresh baked bread.

Monty limped on, up to the cabin porch, which was spacious and comfortable, where no doubt the people who lived here spent many hours during fine weather. He saw a girl through the open door. She wore gray linsey, ragged and patched. His second glance made note of her superb build, her bare feet, her brown arms, and eyes that did not need half their piercing quality to see through Monty.

“Howdy, miss,” hazarded Monty, though this was Mormon country.

“Howdy, stranger,” she replied, very pleasantly, so that Monty decided to forget that he was looking for a fictitious dog.

“Could a thirsty rider get a drink around heah?”

“There’s the brook. Best water in Utah.”

“An’ how about a bite to eat?”

“Tie up your horse and go around to the back porch.”

Monty did as he was bidden, not without a few more glances at the girl, who he observed made no movement. But as he turned the corner of the house he heard her call, “Ma, there’s a tramp gentile cowpoke coming back for a bite to eat.”

When Monty reached the rear porch, another huge enclosure under the cottonwoods, he was quite prepared to encounter a large woman, of commanding presence, but of most genial and kindly face.

“Good afternoon, ma’am,” began Monty, lifting his sombrero. “Shore you’re the mother to thet gurl out in front–you look alike an’ you’re both orful handsome–but I won’t be took fer no tramp gentile cowpuncher.”

The woman greeted him with a pleasant laugh. “So, young man, you’re a Mormon?”

“No, I ain’t no Mormon, either. But particular, I ain’t no tramp cowpoke,” replied Monty with spirit, and just then the young person who had roused it appeared in the back doorway, with a slow, curious smile on her face. “I’m just lost an’ tuckered out an’ hungry.”

For reply she motioned to a pan and bucket of water on a nearby bench, and a clean towel hanging on the rail. Monty was quick to take the hint, but performed his ablutions most deliberately. When he was ready at last, his face shining and refreshed, the woman was setting a table for him, and she bade him take a seat.

“Ma’am, I only asked for a bite,” he said.

“It’s no matter. We’ve plenty.”

And presently Monty sat down to a meal that surpassed any feast he had ever attended. It was his first experience at a Mormon table, the fame of which was known on every range. He had to admit that distance and exaggeration had not lent enchantment here. Without shame he ate until he could hold no more, and when he arose he made the Mormon mother a gallant bow.

“Lady, I never had sech a good dinner in all my life,” he said fervently. “An’ I reckon it won’t make no difference if I never get another. Jest rememberin’ this one will be enough.”

“Blarney. You gentiles shore have the gift of gab. Set down and rest a little.”

Monty was glad to comply, and leisurely disposed his long, lithe, dusty self in a comfortable chair. He laid his sombrero on the floor, and hitched his gun around, and looked up, genially aware that he was being taken in by two pairs of eyes.

“I met a shepherd lad on top an’ he directed me to Andrew Boiler’s ranch. Is this heah the place?”

“No. Boiler’s is a few miles further on. It’s the first big ranch over the Arizona line.”

“Shore I missed it. Wal, it was lucky fer me. Are you near the Arizona line heah?”

“We’re just over it.”

“Oh, I see. Not in Utah at all,” said Monty thoughtfully. “Any men about?”

“No. I’m the Widow Keetch, and this is my daughter Rebecca.”

Monty guardedly acknowledged the introduction, without mentioning his own name, an omission the shrewd, kindly woman evidently noted. Monty was quick to feel that she must have had vast experience with menfolk. The girl, however, wore an indifferent, almost scornful air.

“This heah’s a good-sized ranch. Must be a hundred acres jist in alfalfa,” continued Monty. “You don’t mean to tell me you two womenfolks run this ranch alone?”

“We do mostly. We hire the plowing, and we have firewood hauled. And we always have a boy around. But year in and out we do most of the work ourselves.”

“Wal, I’ll be dogged!” exclaimed Monty. “Excuse me–but it shore is somethin’ to heah. The ranch ain’t so bad run down at thet. If you’ll allow me to say so, Mrs. Keetch, it could be made a first-rate ranch. There’s acres of uncleared land.”

“My husband used to think so,” replied the widow sighing. “But since he’s gone we have just about managed to live.”

“Wal, wal! Now I wonder what made me ride down the wrong trail… Mrs. Keetch, I reckon you could use a fine, young sober, honest, hard-workin’ cowhand who knows all there is about ranchin.’ “

Monty addressed the woman in cool easy speech, quite deferentially, and then he shifted his gate to the dubious face of the daughter. He was discovering that it had a compelling charm. She laughed outright, as if to say that she knew what a liar he was! That not only discomfited Monty, but roused his ire. The sassy Mormon filly!

“I guess I could use such a young man,” returned Mrs. Keetch shortly, with her penetrating eyes on him.

“Wal, you’re lookin’ at him right now,” said Monty fervently. “An’ he’s seein’ nothin’ less than the hand of Providence heah.”

The woman stood up decisively. “Fetch your horse around,” she said, and walked off the porch to wait for him. Monty made haste, his mind in a whirl. What was going to happen now? That girl! He ought to ride right on out of this canyon; and he was making up his mind to do it when he came back round the house to see that the girl had come to the porch rail. Her great eyes were looking at his horse. The stranger did not need to be told that she had a passion for horses. It would help some. But she did not appear to see Monty at all.

“You’ve a fine horse,” said Mrs. Keetch. “Poor fellow! He’s lame and tuckered out. We’ll turn him loose in the pasture.

Monty followed her down a shady lane of cotton-woods, where the water ran noisily on each side, and he trembled inwardly at the content of the woman’s last words. He had heard of the Good Samaritan ways of the Mormons. And in that short walk Monty did a deal of thinking. They reached an old barn beyond which lay a green pasture with an orchard running down one side. Peach trees were in bloom, lending a delicate border of pink to the fresh spring foliage.

“What wages would you work for?” asked the Mormon woman earnestly.

“Wal, come to think of thet, for my board an’ keep… Anyhow till we get the ranch payin’,” replied Monty.

“Very well, stranger, that’s a fair deal. Unsaddle your horse and stay,” said the woman.

“Wait a minnit, ma’am,” drawled Monty. “I got to substitute somethin’ fer thet recommend I gave you… Shore I know cattle an’ ranchin’ backward. But I reckon I should have said I’m a no good, gun-throwin’ cowpuncher who got run out of Arizona.

“What for?” demanded Mrs. Keetch.

“Wal, a lot of it was bad company an’ bad licker. But at thet I wasn’t so drunk I didn’t know I was rustlin’ cattle.”

“Why do you tell me this?” she demanded.

“Wal, it is kinda funny. But I jist couldn’t fool a kind woman like you. Thet’s all.”

“You don’t look like a hard-drinking man.”

“Aw, I’m not. I never said so, ma’am. Fact is, I ain’t much of a drinkin’ cowboy, at all.”

“You came across the canyon?” she asked.

“Shore, an’ by golly, thet was the orfullest ride, an’ slide an’ swim, an’ climb I ever had. I really deserve a heaven like this, ma’am.”

“Any danger of a sheriff trailing you?”

“Wal, I’ve thought about thet. I reckon one chance in a thousand.”

“He’d be the first one I ever heard of from across the canyon, at any rate. This is a lonesome, out-of-the-way place–an if you stayed away from the Mormon ranches and towns–”

“See heah, ma’am,” interrupted Monty sharply. “You shore ain’t goin’ to take me on?”

“I am. You might be a welcome change. Lord knows I’ve hired every kind of a man. But no one of them ever lasted. You might.”

“What was wrong with them hombres?”

“I don’t know. I never saw much wrong except they neglected their work to moon around after Rebecca. But she could not get along with them, and she always drove them away.”

“Aw, I see,” exclaimed Monty, who did not see at all. “But I’m not one of the moonin’ kind, ma’am, an’ I’ll stick.”

“All right. It’s only fair, though, to tell you there’s a risk. The young fellow doesn’t live who can seem to let Rebecca alone. If he could he’d be a godsend to a distracted old woman.”

Monty wagged his bare head thoughtfully and slid the brim of his sombrero through his fingers. “Wal, I reckon I’ve been most everythin’ but a gawdsend, an’ I’d shore like to try thet.”

“What’s your name?” she asked with those searching gray eyes on him.

“Monty Bellew, Smoke for short, an’ it’s shore shameful well known in some parts of Arizona.”

“Any folks living?”

“Yes, back in Iowa. Father an’ mother gettin’ along in years now. An’ a kid sister growed up.”

“You send them money every month, of course?”

Monty hung his head. “Wal, fact is, not so reg’lar as I used to… Late years times have been hard fer me.”

“Hard nothing! You’ve drifted into hard ways. Shiftless, drinking, gambling, shooting cowhand–now, haven’t you been just that?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am–I–I reckon I have.”

“You ought to be ashamed. I know boys. I raised nine. It’s time you were turning over a new leaf. Suppose we begin by burying that name Monty Bellew.”

“I’m shore willin’ an’ grateful, ma’am.”

“Then it’s settled. Tend to your horse. You can have the little cabin there under the big cotton-wood. We’ve kept that for our hired help, but it hasn’t been occupied much lately.”

She left Monty then and returned to the ranch house. And he stood a moment irresolute. What a balance was struck there. Presently he slipped saddle and bridle off the horse, and turned him into the pasture. “Baldy, look at thet alfalfa,” he said. Weary as Baldy was he lay down and rolled and rolled.

Monty carried his equipment to the tiny porch of the cabin under the huge cottonwood. He removed his saddlebags, which contained the meager sum of his possessions. Then he flopped down on a bench.

“Doggone it!” he muttered. His senses seemed to be playing with him. The leaves rustled above and the white cottonseeds floated down; the bees were murmuring; water tinkled softly beyond the porch; somewhere a bell on a sheep or calf broke the stillness. Monty had never felt such peace and tranquility, and his soul took on a burden of gratitude.

Suddenly a clear, resonant voice called out from the house. “Ma, what’s the name of our new hand?”

“Ask him, Rebecca. I forgot to,” replied the mother.

“If that isn’t like you!”

Monty was on his way to the house and soon hove in sight of the young woman on the porch. His heart thrilled as he saw her. And he made himself some deep, wild promises.

“Hey, cowboy. What’s your name?” she called.

“Sam,” he called back.

“Sam what?”

“Sam Hill.”

“For the land’s sake!… That’s not your name.”

“Call me Land’s Sake, if you like it better.”

“I like it?” She nodded her curly head sagely, and she regarded Monty with a certainty that made him vow to upset her calculations or die in the attempt. She handed him down a bucket. “Can you milk a cow?”

“I never saw my equal as a milker,” asserted Monty.

“In that case I won’t have to help,” she replied. “But I’ll go with you to drive in the cows.”

From that hour dated Monty’s apparent subjection. He accepted himself at Rebecca’s valuation–that of a very small hired boy. Monty believed he had a way with girls, but evidently that way had never been tried upon this imperious young Morman miss.

Monty made good his boast about being a master hand at the milking of cows. He surprised Rebecca, though she did not guess that he was aware of it. For the rest, Monty never looked at her when she was looking, never addressed her, never gave her the slightest hint that he was even conscious of her sex.

Now he knew perfectly well that his appearance did not tally with this domesticated kind of a cowboy. She realized it and was puzzled, but evidently he was a novelty to her. At first Monty sensed the usual slight antagonism of the Mormon against the gentile, but in the case of Mrs. Keetch he never noticed this at all, and less and less from the girl.

The feeling of being in some sort of trance persisted with Monty, and he could not account for it, unless it was the charm of this lonely Canyon Walls Ranch, combined with the singular attraction of its young mistress. Monty had not been there three days before he realized that sooner or later he would fall and great would be the fall thereof. But his sincere and ever-growing admiration of the Widow Keetch held him true to his promise. It would not hurt him to have a terrible case over Rebecca, and he resigned himself to his fate. Nothing could come of it, except perhaps to chasten him. Certainly he would never let her dream of such a thing. All the same, she just gradually and imperceptibly grew on Monty. There was nothing strange in this. Wherever Monty had ridden there had always been some girl who had done something to his heart. She might be a fright–a lanky, slab-sided, red-headed country girl–but that had made no difference. His comrades had called him Smoke Bellew, because of his propensity for raising so much smoke where there was not even any fire.

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

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