Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kid Wolf of Texas

If you’re not familiar with Paul S. Powers, scroll on down to the post of August 14 called "Paul S. Powers, King of the Wild West,” or take the shortcut by clicking here. The quick version is, he wrote four hundred and some stories for Wild West Weekly. Many were under the name Ward M. Stevens, and many featured Kid Wolf.

This book, collecting five novelettes loosely disguised as a novel, was published in 1930 by Chelsea House (a Street & Smith imprint) and reprinted in 2006 in Large Print only by Center Point publishing. I had to hold the book at arms' length to read it, but it was worth the effort.

Kid Wolf was sort of the Doc Savage of the Old West – a wealthy rancher who chose to ride around righting wrongs and punishing evildoers. And like Doc, he had no trouble finding plenty of both. I’ll be telling you a bit on my own, but in large part I’d like let you experience Kid Wolf for yourself. No amount of second-hand yapping can truly describe Power’s style.

Here’s our first glimpse of Kid Wolf and Blizzard: Together, man and mount made a striking picture; yet it would been hard to say which was the more picturesque—the rider or the horse. The latter was a splendid beast, and its spotless hide of snowy white glowed in the rays of the afternoon sun. With bit chains jingling, it gracefully leaped a gully, landing with all the agility of a mountain lion, in spite of its enormous size.

The rider, still whistling his Texas tune, swung in the concha-decorated California stock saddle as if he were a part of his horse.
He was a lithe young figure, dressed in fringed buckskin, touched here and there with the gay colors of the Southwest and of Mexico.

Two six-guns, wooden-handled, were suspended from a cartridge belt of carved leather, and hung low on each hip. His even teeth showed white against the deep sunburn of his face.

In the first tale, Kid encounters a man staked stretched out on his back, face up to the sun, with his eyelids removed and ants crawling over him. – He's still alive, but only long enough to warn Kid of a villainous gang leader known as The Masked Terror. The Terror’s plan, it develops, is to waylay a wagon train, and despite resistance from the man leading the train, Kid is determined to stop him.

Kid rides into Santa Fe, all the way to the palace of the Governor. Spotting a Spanish officer mistreating a peon, Kid cannot resist humiliating him. In a shooting match worthy of Wild Bill Hickock, the officer has a sombrero tossed into the air and shoots a hole in it. When the hat is tossed again, Kid Wolf fires off six shots, and all appear to miss. But, of course, it’s discovered all six shots went through the same hole. Needless to say, Kid Wolf foils the Terror’s plans and unmasks him. This is Kid at his absolute pulpiest.

In the second story, Kid is riding along when he sees a half-breed ambush and murder an innocent rider. Kid drags the killer into the nearest town, and is soon in the middle of another wild shoot out.

Kid Wolf is so appealing because he’s absolutely fearless and supremely confident in his ability with his weapons. In addition to his twin .45s, he has his Ace in the Hole, a big Bowie knife in a sheath sown into the back of his buckskin shirt. In times of need, he just reaches behind his neck, plucks out the Bowie and flings it unerringly into the heart of the villain of the week. Very cool.

In the third tale, Kid befriends a widow whose husband has been shot, her ranch hands paid to desert, and her cattle run off. Naturally, there’s a slippery gent in town eager to buy her ranch for bottom dollar. Next, he’s off to Skull, New Mexico, where he encounters such charming folk as rustler and bullwhip artist Blacksnake McCoy and his comparatively respectable boss, Gentleman John the cattle king.

The Kid’s roundup adventure involves a stagecoach rattling along the Arizona-New Mexico line when they’re pinned down by Apaches. A brave young soul rides to the nearest town, Lost Springs, and staggers into the saloon for help. He’s met with nothing but indifference, and when he calls the men cowards, their leader sends him sprawling to the floor. Enter Kid Wolf, sweeping the room with cool, calm eyes. “Isn’t it rathah wahm foh such violent exercise, gentlemen?” “Are yuh tryin’ to mind my business?” asks the bad guy. “When I mind somebody’s else’s business,” Kid Wolf drawls, “that somebody else isn’t usually in business any moah.” The young man from the stagecoach tells Kid his story, ending with “Won’t you help me?”

“Sho’,” Kid Wolf says. “I’ll throw in with you. And these othah men are goin’ to throw in with yo’, too!”

The men in the saloon stood aghast, open-mouthed. But they didn’t hesitate long. When the stranger spoke again, his words came like the crack of a whip:

“Get yo’ hosses!”

Garvey’s heavy-jawed face went purple with fury. That this young unknown dared to try such high-handed methods so boldly in Lost Springs—which he ruled—maddened him! His big hand slid down toward his hip with the rapidity of a lighting bolt.

There was resounding crash—a burst of red flame. Garvey’s hand never closed over his gun butt.
The stranger had drawn and fired so quickly that nobody saw his arm move. And the reason that the amazed Garvey did not touch the handle of his .44 was because there was no handle there! The young newcomer’s bullet had struck the butt of the holstered gun and smashed it to bits.

Garvey stared at the handleless gun as if stupefied. Then his amazed glance fell upon the stranger, who was smiling easily through the flickering powder fumes.

“Who—who are yuh?” he stammered.
The stranger smiled.

“Kid Wolf,” he drawled, “from Texas, sah. My friends simply say ‘Kid,’ but to my enemies I’m ‘The Wolf’!”

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