Guns on the Cimarron by Allan V. Elston 217 pages. Copyright 1943 by Allan Vaughn Elston. Pocket Book edition published 1948. Serialized version appeared in Western Story magazine (17 April – 12 June 1943) as “The Range Finders”.
This is an older western story first published in 1943. It has a very vintage feel to it–as if you are watching an old black and white movie, but this is not bad thing at all as Guns on the Cimarron is an excellent story. Our hero, Johnny Cameron, starts the story off by stumbling on a brazen hold up of an older but dignified Spanish business man (Don Ygnacio Sandoval) that he met just earlier on the trail to Santa Fe. He intervenes and rescues Don Ygnacio’s small caravan but fails to stop the escape of the black clad ringleader. He then travels to Santa Fe as a guest of honor of the grateful Don–arriving in time for a city wide festival and the marriage of Ygnacio’s young grand daughter Josefina to the dashing Don Ramon Montoya. Johnny is no slouch when it comes to cattle and is eager to get started on a business plan to bring some good stock into the region but while he is engaged in setting up this enterprise and awaiting the arrival of several of his friends and the herd they just bought he runs up against some problems. Primarily he begins to suspect that Montoya is the leader of the bandits who tried to rob Don Ygnacio and this suspicion grows larger each time someone tries to kill him. Then there is the the young (very young–16yrs old going on 21), Josefina who is starting to eyeball Johnny. Not willing to accuse a man in good standing with Don Ygnacio without proof he tries to keep his suspicions to himself but eventually he is compelled to tell the old Don of his opinion of Montoya. Don Ygnacio is insulted and he Johnny is ostracized from the family but since he was wounded earlier in an ambush however and needs to heal before leaving–that much the Don has allowed. Johnnies’ cattle eventually arrive and he and his odd mix of cowboys attempt to stake out claims to a small valley north of town where they can winter their cattle. They also concoct a plan to expose the bandit/Montoya who seems to be confounding their cattle business. Assisting in this plot is an old prospector (of course) who befriends Johnny and becomes his eyes and ears in town. There is also use of tried and true smoke signals. The prospector helps save the day and also turns out to be very related to the Sandoval family. Eventually Johnnie wins the day after the bandits try to take his cattle and Montoya is exposed as the crook he is and Johnnie wins the heart of Josefina.
Guns on the Cimarron is almost boilerplate horse opera but it is very well written and contains unique descriptions of Santa Fe history and culture and provides a very good feel for old Spanish-American traditions. I thought they made this into a movie but I could find no reference to one by this title.
Role Playing Hooks: The beginning scenes in this story lend well to starting a campaign scenario. The PC’s can be traveling the Santa Fe trail like Johnnie and are provided the opportunity to rescue Don Ygnacio Sandoval from the bandits. The game master should develop a large and elaborate Spanish style ranch on the edge of Santa Fe where the PC’s will be allowed room and board. From there they can branch out and confront Montoya’s henchmen (about seven of them) in a small valley north of town. Specific conflict points could be a hidden prospectors camp, an abandoned cabin, an empty villa in town, and the trails from the Sandoval Ranch to the valley. The PC’s could be part of a larger enterprise waiting to meet the cattle drive of about 300 head and prepare for their reception at a large cattle transit station in Santa Fe. One of their missions could be to ride out, meet the cattle and prevent Montoya’s gang from stampeding (rustling) the cattle away. They should use the prospector to collect information about Montoya and his men but have to be able to protect him if he is discovered.
The criminals working for Montoya are mainly in it because Montoya used to pay well and would help identify find rich targets for the gang to rob along the roads to and from Santa Fe. Lately Montoya has been short of money and that was the reason he tried to rob from his future in-laws. The bandits now want to take Johnnie Cameron’s cattle as part of their dealings with Montoya since he is short cash. If done right the cattle can be rustled and the PC’s will have to track and recover the cattle. Smart PC’s might want to capture some bandits alive to testify against Montoya. To be successful in this scenario the PC’s will have to convince Don Ygnacio of Ramon’s guilt and maintain control of their cattle in the small valley by killing, capturing or driving off the bandit gang.