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Legend of the Golden Coyote

Max Brand

  First Skyhorse Edition 2017 by arrangement with Golden West Literary Agency

  Copyright © 2010 by Golden West Literary Agency

  The name Max Brand® is a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and cannot be used for any purpose without express written permission.

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

  Cover design by Tom Lau

  Cover photo:

  ISBN: 978-1-63450-767-7

  Ebook ISBN: 978-1-63450-768-4

  Printed in the United States of America


  “Thunder and Lightning” first appeared as “Lightning Lumberjacks” by John Frederick in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine (3/12/27). Copyright © 1927 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright © renewed 1954 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Golden West Literary Agency for restored material. Acknowledgment is made to Condé Nast Publications, Inc., for their co-operation.

  “Legend of the Golden Coyote” appeared in six installments by David Manning in Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine (4/12/30-6/7/30). Copyright © 1930 by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright © renewed 1958 by Dorothy Faust. Copyright © 2010 by Golden West Literary Agency for restored material. Acknowledgment is made to Condé Nast Publications, Inc., for their co-operation.




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  In “Thunder and Lightning” Frederick Faust wrote with a light touch, having fun with his readers, spinning a tale of the timber country in the Paul Bunyan tradition, employing a down-to-earth, folksy narrative style that perfectly fits his overtly melodramatic subject matter. Celebrating the strength of two massive lumbermen, Almayer and Clarges, these titans inevitably move toward one another to clash in the kind of mythic battle Faust excelled at describing. Never previously reprinted and now with its original title restored, the story first appeared as “Lightning Lumberjacks” under the John Frederick byline in the March 12, 1927 issue of Western Story Magazine.


  Up in our part of the world we used to say that the reason that Jimmy Clarges and Soapy Almayer teamed it together and were such good partners was because they were afraid not to be friends. I mean that each of them could lick all the rest of the world, you understand. And each of them had licked all the rest of the world, as you might say. All that was left was each other. I wasn’t on hand when Clarges came hunting for Almayer to get his scalp, and when Almayer came clean across the mountains to eat up Clarges. But they met one day in a little one-horse town, and the minute that they laid eyes on one another, they began to slow up. And you wouldn’t wonder.

  Each of them was made just opposite. Soapy Almayer was four and a half inches above six feet in his bare feet, and he weighed two and a half hundred pounds. He was blond and handsome in a sort of a terrible, bold way, if you know what I mean. And Jimmy Clarges was three inches under six feet, but still he weighed a shade more than Soapy. He was not fat—just knotted and deformed with muscle. His hands came nearly to his knees. No neck could hold his head. It just was laid on his shoulders like a bowl on a shelf. He had a long, lean, ugly, pale face down to the jaw that was made like the prow of a battleship. Soapy was kind of glorious, and Jimmy was kind of nightmarish.

  There was a sad look in the eyes of each of them, folks said, until they met one another. There was a sad look, the saying went, because neither of them could find a man to fight. But, when they saw each other, the sad light went out of their eyes. It wasn’t a question of one of them backing down. It was just a question of each of them seeing that the other was dynamite. And not even a fool will step on powder.

  So they began to team together, and what they did in company was to be told, but hardly to be believed. Most storytellers like to have a theme so that they can expand on it, but there was no question of expanding on Almayer and Clarges. You had to trim your story fine and undershoot the mark, or else the folks that didn’t know about the pair would laugh in your face.

  I’d heard about them, of course, but I’d never seen them, till one day they walked into the lumber camp, along about evening time. They came out of the woods like a pair of bull moose. They walked up to the superintendent and asked for a job.

  “Do you know timber?” he said.

  “No,” said Almayer.

  “Can you pick up ideas?” said the big boss. “No,” said Almayer.

  “Then what can you do for me?” the boss demanded.

  “Work,” said Almayer, and he held out his hands.

  Gloves were never made that would fit Almayer. The boss looked down at those hands, and then he looked at the shoulders of Clarges.

  “I guess I can use you,” he said.

  “We guessed that maybe you could,” said Soapy.

  Not boastful, you understand. Just stating the facts. When they got started to work the next morning, we saw what they meant. They couldn’t be given the jobs that required skill, but there is plenty of horse work around a lumber camp. I’ll never forget when the pair of them was given a big saw and told to get to work with it. In a few minutes they quit, and Almayer came to me, for I was straw boss over them and some others besides.

  “Me and Jimmy are getting cold working that little saw,” he said. “He’ll take that saw for himself. Gimme another one, kid.”

  I gave him another one, and he set to work. It was tough, pitchy pine that a saw of any kind hates to work through. There was plenty of flaws and streaks and knots in that wood. And two men had plenty of work dragging a saw through. But not these fellows. I watched Clarges pumping a white stream of sawdust out at either end as he whipped the big saw through the trunk. And it cost him so little effort that, as he worked it, he began to sing. It was not a smooth voice, but out there in the woods it sounded like an organ blowing. It drowned the whining and groaning of the saws. Pretty soon, over the bass of Clarges, Almayer struck into the chorus with a really fine tenorbaritone that made the echoes ring, you bet. They sang, and they worked. And every hour each of them did what would have been a full day’s labor for any other strong man. I never saw such a pair.

  When noon came, they came in for chow, and then all of us could sit around and wonder for a different reason. Almayer took two quarts of baked beans and a loaf of brown bread for a starter. Jimmy Clarges sat down to a gallon of mulligan. And they polished off their portions, and then came back for more. Each of them ate like three men, and the big boss said to me: “We can’t feed those fellows. They’ll eat us out!”

  “Let ‘em eat,” I replied. “They’ll turn all that fodder into energy before the afternoon is over.”

  They did, too, until Soapy’s saw
got stuck. He gave it a jerk and a lunge, and that tough steel blade snapped square off. He came to me carrying the fragments.

  “Have you got a real, man-size saw?” he asked.

  Well, that was the way that they started in the camp. We learned the very first day to respect and to value them. And before the week was over, we accepted them as fine fellows.

  Friday night a big Canuck came into camp full of moonshine, and started to make trouble. He tripped around the circle over the feet of the jacks, cussed them off, told what a great man-eater he was, and begged somebody to come out and fight him. There were men in that camp that would have fought the Canadian, but they didn’t step out. They waited, because they felt that this was no time for them to do the hero act. And pretty soon the Canuck came to where Soapy Almayer was lying rolled in a blanket, asleep. He hauled off and kicked Soapy.

  “Get up, you fat pig! Fight!” he commanded.

  Soapy got up, took the Canuck by the collar and the seat of the pants, and chucked him through the air like a sack of bran to where Jimmy Clarges was sitting.

  Jimmy stretched out his arms and gathered the Canadian in.

  “Throw this rubbish away for me, Jimmy, will you?” said Soapy. And he lay back down and went on with his nap.

  Jimmy Clarges stood up. It wasn’t the difference in weight. That big Canuck must have been within fifteen pounds of Jimmy, but he had turned to pulp under the grip of Soapy. Now Clarges just grabbed him by the neck and dragged him out of camp. And the Canuck hung limply, screaming for help. Clarges took him to the bank of the river. We heard a splash, and we knew that the Canuck had had a chance to cool off his moonshine in water fresh from the snows. But neither Clarges nor Soapy prided themselves on that. They never referred to the Canuck again, and, when anybody else mentioned him, they yawned.

  We liked the pair of them fine. They were big without being overbearing. They were strong without taking advantage of anybody. I mean that they didn’t take advantage of anybody in important things. But, just the same, they had a rather irritating way until you got used to it. They took certain things for granted. They felt that the best place on the windward of the fire ought to be theirs, and that they should be allowed to sleep an extra hour in the morning, and that they should have the grub that they wanted.

  The pair of them had what they wanted, without any questions asked, until another gent came into camp and started trouble. Certainly you never would have thought, to see him, that he was the man to make trouble for a pair of giants like Almayer and Clarges. He was almost five feet eight, I suppose, but, up there in that lumber camp, where the smallest man shaded six feet as a rule, he looked hardly more than a boy. Some of the fellows started calling him Skinny, but that was changed to Shorty, and he was let down at that. He was right off the range, wearing high-heeled boots and a neckerchief and all the rest. Although he took off his gun belt after the first day, and put off his holster, too, still you could always see the bulge of his Colt on him, where it was stowed away under his clothes. You take a cattleman, and he ain’t happy without a gun. Deprive him of his gun, and it’s like robbing an ordinary man of his eyesight or his hearing.

  Shorty got a job and stuck to it. He was very quiet and made no trouble at all until the third day, I think it was, after he arrived, when lunch time came. That was the main meal. Along about 12:00 P.M., you would see the lumberjacks coming in from the woods, with the steam from their nostrils floating behind them in the crisp mountain air. And right in the first of the rush was sure to be a pair of giants, shoulder to shoulder. That day, the pair of them was a little late for some reason. When they came in, they found that the bench opposite the center of the table was sort of full. Soapy found room to squeeze himself in. Jimmy Clarges took the next man under the armpits and lifted him right off the bench and sat down in his place, saying: “Give a man room, kid, will you?”

  The rest of us sort of grinned, seeing Shorty snatched out of his place, that way, but the next moment we stopped our grinning, I can tell you, because Shorty’s voice barked sharp and high, like the voice of a terrier.

  “Stand up, you fat-headed sap!”


  You don’t know how it sounded. It made me want to laugh, until I craned my neck and saw the twisted, white face of Shorty. He was frantic. But what could he mean by fighting? We saw in another minute, for Soapy picked up a half loaf of bread and chucked it over his shoulder, saying: “Eat that, kid, and don’t talk foolish.”

  That bread was stopped in mid-flight through the air and came right back at Soapy. A gun had jumped into the hand of Shorty and spoke. As that half loaf glanced off the head of Soapy and tumbled onto the table, we couldn’t help observing the hole that was blown through it. A .45 chips out a pretty big chunk, where it lights. And, just then, that hole through the loaf seemed to me like a bullet through a man’s vitals.

  I looked at it and looked at Shorty, then I looked back at Soapy. No, it wasn’t any joke. There had been gunfighters around that neck of the woods before, but there had never been a fellow who could snap a gun out of his clothes and pop small things as they drifted across through the air.

  Soapy turned around with a roar, leaped out of his place, and started for Shorty. But Shorty didn’t run. He stood in his tracks with fire in his eyes, and the gun hanging at his side.

  “Get out your gat, you thickheaded bull!” he yelled at Soapy. “Get out your gat because, if you try to handle me with bare fingers, I’ll tear you to pieces.”

  Soapy didn’t pause. He couldn’t. And you couldn’t imagine a giant like that really pulling up at all on account of such a little thing as a revolver.

  I expected the next minute to see that gun’s muzzle twitch up, and a jet of smoke and fire dart from it. But the gun didn’t stir. There wasn’t time, for, just then, a shadow sailed in between Soapy and the kid.

  It was the big bench that the men had jumped up from and that Jimmy Clarges had heaved up to help his pal. That bench hit Shorty and bowled him over, while the second bullet from his gun punched a nice, clear hole in the blue of the sky.

  Then he lay still, and Soapy ran on and picked the kid up in his arms.

  “What d’ye mean?” he yelled to Clarges. “What d’ye mean spoiling my little party?”

  “You fool,” said Clarges, “ain’t you ever going to learn that a Colt ain’t a popgun?”

  “What could it have done to me … a little thing like one bullet?” asked Soapy Almayer. “And here you’ve killed the kid, sure.”

  By the ugly look of the blood that was streaming down Shorty’s face, you would have said that was the case, and that the kid was done for. But, when we swabbed off the blood, we saw that it was only a shallow scalp wound just above the forehead. Then he came to, and he came to raging. He reached out for his gun, no doubt. And then he saw that he had missed his Colt, and, at the same time, he laid eyes on Almayer. You would have thought that he had gone mad, to hear the yell that he let out. He wriggled right through my fingers, very snaky and fast, and rushed for the giant. Yes, sir, tackled him bare-handed!

  It was an amazing thing to see. Soapy reached out a hand to brush Shorty away, as you would have brushed away a fly. The cowpuncher dipped under that swinging arm and rammed four full-speed punches into the pit of the big boy’s stomach as fast as he could slam them. Then, as Soapy tried to gather the kid in, Shorty ducked out again, and the spat of his knuckles on the face of Soapy was like the clapping together of bare hands. They were not easy punches, either. When a man knows how to hit, he can hurt anyone in the world, no matter how big. There was a snarl beginning to form in the hollow of Soapy’s throat. In another moment, I suppose he would have clinched with the kid and smashed him, but here the big boss stepped in and laid a hand on the kid’s shoulder.

  Shorty tossed him a glance, and then lowered his hands.

  “He insulted me,” said Shorty, his face twitching. “And now I get a chance to fight him, or I’ll know the reason why.”

p; “Leave him go,” said Soapy, nodding. “He’s a game little chicken, and I won’t hurt him. Let him have his place on the bench, if he wants. He deserves it.” And he felt one of the bumps that was rising on his face and laughed a little. It just tickled him that any man had dared to stand up to him.

  “I can have my place, can I?” snapped the kid. Then he whirled around and pointed a finger at Jimmy Clarges. “You’re on my books, too, you lump of nothing,” he stated.

  Oh, he was in a fighting humor, that Shorty was. It did me good to listen to him rip into the pair of them. But then the big boss led him away. I went along.

  The boss said: “Kid, you’re game, and you had something to fight about. But you’re wrong, just the same.”

  “Show me where,” said Shorty.

  “Clarges and Almayer mean no harm. It’s only that they have an overbearing way with them. Besides, I don’t allow guns in this camp.”

  “Then I’m through with your camp and you, too,” spat Shorty. “And tell the pair of them, after you’ve paid me off, that I’m going to trim them down to the quick. I’m going to make them wish that they’d never seen my face.”

  The boss tried to smooth him down, and said that he didn’t want to lose him, and that we all respected him for the way that he’d acted, and that Almayer and Clarges respected him, too. But that wouldn’t work. Nothing would please that kid except a chance to fight it out with the pair of them.

  “Give ‘em to me one at a time,” he said, “with knives, clubs, or anything they please. Or with a gun, I’ll take on the pair of them.”

  Nothing else would suit him. He even offered to fight them bare-handed. But, of course, the boss was too sensible to allow that. So he had to pay off the kid, who went away through the woods, the hottest youngster that you ever seen in your life.

  The boss said to me: “This ain’t the end of this fracas. We’ll hear some more about Shorty before we’re done with him, and I’d like to bet that we curse the day that we ever saw him.”