Gun Proud by Lewis B. Patten, Graphic Books (A Graphic Western #151), CR 1957, 155 pages, cover art by Robert Stanley).
Gun Proud is a well written tale about a gunman on the run and his eventual collision with the reality of who he has become and who he wants to be. It starts with two outlaws (Alex Longamire and Bud Purvis) being pursued over several hundred miles from Wyoming Territory into Colorado. They hazard that they may have gained enough ground to chance a night’s rest at an abandoned mining camp. They are wrong of course and by dawn the shack they holed up in gets surrounded by the posse intent on taking revenge for their killing of two men from the Z-Star Ranch. One of the dead was the reckless son of former gunfighter turned rancher Rod Zellman. It happened in a bar and Longamire and Purvis tried to walk away from trouble but when their backs had turned the younger Zellman and the foreman drew down. Purvis, the more experienced, whirled and shot the foreman and Longamire killed the kid. For Longamire, this same pattern of events just keeps repeating itself as he finds himself reluctantly killing one man after another in a never ending series of provocations. In his mind he started walking this road to becoming a killer when he was just a boy and found out he was quick and accurate with a gun. He thought it would finally end at the mine in Colorado but his buddy Purvis has other ideas. Purvis is gut shot when the posse arrives and knows he is not going to make it so he buries Longamire in a shallow grave, leaving him a tin can to breath from. He hides the dirt in the stove and covers him with a broken table and then with the cabin burning down around him he goes out shooting. Purvis never makes it of course but Longamire is not found when the posse inspects the rubble of the cabin. Badly burned he heads for the hills and lays low for several months but eventually comes down to the valley and buys himself a small ranch and a string of cattle using using $600 he got from Purvis before he died. He also assumes a new name–Art Lyman. Life is good and he is finally able to take off his guns. He also catches the eye of a local ranchers daughter (Edie Sheridan). Unfortunately, his ranch is between two other, larger ranches whose families have recently been at odds. The Le Clair’s have decided to raise sheep instead of cattle (he’s a Basque from France) and the Haitt’s don’t want sheep grazing anywhere near their cattle even though Le Clair has rights to the pasture. Le Clair has always been good friends with Haitt yet he hires a gunman in an ill conceived plan to intimidate the Haitt hands when he begins to move his sheep. When the confrontation starts up at the fence line, Longamire reluctantly straps on his guns and steps up to face the notorious Chet Swann. He seeks to avoid needless bloodshed between the two families. In doing so he announces his real identity knowing it won’t take long for word to get back to Zellman in Wyoming. He kills Swann in a gun fight and now realizes he must leave his girl, Edie Sheridan, behind and go back on the trail. However, his girl talks him into staying and, after smashing his gun hand in the door jam, they get married. Eventually, Zellman arrives and begins searching the area for Longamire. Longamire, with his hand barely healing, takes off on the run again not realizing that Zellmam killed his wife’s father (Frank Sheridan). Going from town to town and living on the trail (and training to shoot with his left hand) he eventually winds up in Troncosa, Texas. He catches the eye of Sheriff Murphy who recognizes his gun talent and offers him a job as deputy to help him deal with a brewing war between an English owned corporate ranch (the Triple X) and several smaller steads. (Murphy offers the job to Longamire with the advice that it is the only occupation for men like themselves that offers any protection from the challenges and provocations that seem to always follow gunmen.) The large ranch is managed by Englishman (who has a hot but dangerous daughter) who also recently employed a hired gun (Dan Shriver) to settle things with the squatters. The Triple X is planning on running lots of wire to mark off their land and this would create problems for the smaller ranchers whose land claims are not all that legal. Careful not to choose sides Longamire eventually has a show down with the hired gun of the Triple-X. Murphy gets killed, Zellman arrives and his girl shows up in town all around the same time. Mayhem ensues.
Role Playing Hooks & Plots:
- A relentless posse that never gives the character(s) a chance to rest and can only be resolved in one way.
- A gunman who hides in the hills for a year after burying himself to avoid begin killed or captured. Living under an assumed identity.
- A gunman who is given money (and a chance for a new life) from his dying friend.
- Conflict between sheep ranchers and cattle ranchers. It seems cattle won’t graze were sheep have been. European settlers in the west with customs that don’t sit well with Americans.
- Gunmen (or player characters) being hired by ranchers to intimidate other ranchers.
- Barbed wire and foreign owned mega-ranches–the double curse of the open range.
- Map ideas: the abandoned mining camp and cabin, Troncosa (a small dusty cow town), a gate along a wire fence line.