Another short story from Ernest Haycox for this weeks pulp. This time it’s something of a murder mystery that takes place in a ghost town during a severe snow storm when three gangs of cowboys take refuge in the small abandoned mining town of Sumpter Gulch. Freelancer Tom Darah then rides into town on his horse’s last bit if energy as the snow piles up to belt height and the winds whip everything into a whiteout. Darah finds that there are horses in the livery wearing three different brands. He finds several men from the Circle Arrow brand in the hotel led by his old friend Lonzo Hardesty. The other two groups are in different buildings just down the street. The men of the Lazy JT are on edge because of the recent killing of their boss Lewes DeSpain. Complicating matters is the presence of Nig Sommers, a suspected rustler, and several of his men from the Slash-N. Then to put a twist into the whole mix there is the woman. A great little story. You can also find this at Munsey’s. It appeared in the 25 May 1932 issue of Short Stories.
Lots of elements for creative game play here. All campaigns should have a couple of abandoned ghost towns on their map. These locations are great for large scale shootouts without pedestrians and small kids getting in the way. Also good for outlaw hideouts, buried treasure, and shelter from the elements. Also a good campaign map should always have the boundaries draws out for the various ranches in a given area—just like your D&D map has the different kingdom’s and fiefdom’s sectioned off. Western action is so very often the machination of competing ranches. There are the large noble ranches led by the “old man” who initially settled the area. Some ranches are struggling–perhaps caught between the conflict between two other ranches. Other ranches are simply a launching point for a criminal enterprise like Nig Sommers in this story.