Sixteen-year-old orphan Tyrell Breen leaves South Carolina and heads West, hoping to make it to his uncle's ranch near San Antonio, Texas.  It's 1874, and Ty means to become a cowboy -- although his idea of what that entails comes from half-dime novels.  On the way, Ty is robbed of his money and his horse by a gambler named Rip Ford and arrives at his uncle's ranch a sorry sight...but not as sorry as his uncle, who has been neglecting everthing but his whiskey bottle.  Uncle Cliff Rynders had built quite a reputation as a trail boss in his time.  Neighbor Doug Simpson, an affluent cattleman in danger of losing everthing to plunging beef prices, asks Cliff to boss the trail drive and get his beef to market early.  Cliff knows that when he accepts the job, it will force him to quit drinking and tend to business, facing the plentiful obastacles encountered along the trail.
The Lonesome Chisholm Trail
Five Star, 2000
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The Lonesome Chisholm Trail by Johnny Boggs. Western Novel, Historical Novel.
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Excerpt from The Lonesome Chisholm Trail:

Chapter One

    He was exactly what I envisioned as a Texas cowboy, a tall, handsome man with straight white teeth and a Stetson Boss of the Plains as black as a crow's wing. With his shining blue eyes, high black boots and crimson bib-front shirt, he looked as if he had stepped off the cover of a Beadle's half-dime novel. Of course, he carried a sidearm, a new model Colt revolver, fast becoming the choice of weapon for plainsmen everywhere.
    And it was pointed right at me.
    "Now, Ty," he said, maintaining his smile and friendly voice while leveling that long-barreled .45-caliber cannon. "Just ease that money belt off and put it on your saddle."
    I had dismounted to nature's call for the first time since we had left San Antonio. When I came out of the bushes, I was dumbfounded to find my new friend pointing his Colt at me. Now the shock was wearing off and I realized the man who called himself Rip Ford had intended to waylay me all this time. With a dry throat and sick stomach, I loosened the belt that held the only money to my name -- not that it was much.
    After placing the belt on the saddle, I stepped back from the spare horse he had loaned me. He shifted the gun to his left hand, then deftly picked up the reins to the roan I had been riding. He smiled again, and with his gun barrel, motioned toward the canteen on the roan's saddle horn. I took the canteen and waited.
    "I don't want you to think badly of me, Ty," he said, "and I ain't one to leave a greenhorn without any water. Better take that blanket, too. It's apt to get a mite chilly tonight." I unlashed the heavy wool blanket strapped behind the saddle's cantle and threw it over my shoulder.
    "I just need a stake, Ty. Now you just wait here by the road and someone's bound to come along by morn and take you back to San Antone or down the road. You can tell all your friends that you was robbed by the great Rip Ford." He laughed at that, holstered his gun, and kicked his horse into a trot, pulling the roan behind him.
    "You'd leave a body in the middle of nowhere without a horse!" I cried, finally finding my voice.
    "Hell, Tyrell," he called back. "It's my horse."
    When he had disappeared down the road, I sat down and studied
my options, none of which I liked. It would be dark soon, and the thoughts of Indians, wild animals and snakes didn't make me comfortable. Here I was, a sixteen-year-old orphan, penniless and alone, with only a blanket, half a canteen of water and the clothes I wore -- and most of those were stolen. I thought about walking back to San Antonio but dismissed the idea, realizing I could easily get lost at one of the many crossroads we had traveled. Rip Ford -- and I was starting to doubt that was his real name -- was right. My best bet was to wait, so I settled down for a cold night, alone in South Texas, suddenly wishing I had never left Florence, South Carolina.
    The shock of being robbed soon wore off, gradually replaced by anger, then of foolishness for being suckered like that. I had let a stranger charm me, befriend me, rob me and leave me stranded. I should have never stepped inside that saloon.
***
    It was the music that had drawn me there, a rich baritone voice and soft guitar strumming that carried above the sounds of glasses clinking and laughter inside the building and traffic in the streets. I was on the wrong side of San Antonio, and I knew it, but I was looking for my uncle, or directions to his ranch, and had been unable to find anyone who knew him in the city proper. Now I was in the rowdy part of town, what the locals called Hell's Half Acre, and, remembering his letters to my mother, I knew this was his element.
    Stepping into The Clipper, I smiled. The place was full of cowboys, women in frilly dresses and an assortment of rawhide-looking men. This was the West I had imagined. To my right, sitting on a stool and leaning against the far wall, was the source of the music. He was a dark-haired young man in a yellow shirt and blue pants, smiling as he sang to a small gathering of cowboys and dance-hall girls, the latter hanging onto his every word.
              I spent my years pushin' cattle
              Down that lonesome Chisholm Trail.           
              Herdin' all those dogies
              Through wind and rain and hail.
              The only thing I ever owned
              Was a horse and a gun.
              Keep on drivin' 'em
              Until the day is done.
    I leaned against the bar and listened to him sing. His voice and boyish good looks were those of an actor, but his boots were worn and brown, and the spurs hooked on the stool gave him away as a cowboy. Why he was singing in a saloon in the red-light district, I had no idea.
    "What'll it be, sport?" a booming voice sounded behind me.
    Turning, I saw a burly bartender with mutton-chop whiskers and a scarred forehead. "Whisky," I said dryly, caught up in the moment. He nodded, uncorked a bottle and filled a shot glass of some reddish looking liquid, then waited.
    I pulled up my shirt and found my money belt, withdrew a Yankee greenback and handed it to him. When he gave me my change, I quickly put it back in the belt and reached for the shot glass. Quick death is better than slow death, I thought, and gulped the whisky. It burned its way down and exploded in my stomach. I leaned against the bar and coughed.
    Whisky wasn't new to me; I had stolen sips from my father's private stock, and stills were common around Florence. But this wasn't what I would call whisky.
    The man to my left laughed and summed up my thoughts perfectly: "That rotgut goes down about as smooth as coal oil."
    Through watery eyes, I saw him. He had blond hair, a neatly trimmed mustache, blue eyes that reminded me of my mother's and a smile that immediately put you at ease. After he tipped back his black Stetson, he held out his right hand. "Rip Ford," he said.


Copyright 2000 by Johnny D. Boggs

The Lonesome Chisholm Trail

"Boggs is among the best western writers at work today. He writes with depth, flavor, and color, all of which are evident in this right-of-passage tale. ...Boggs tells the familiar story with authenticity and power."
-- Booklist

"Realistic dialogue, a little humor to lighten up the dramatic tension, a strong plot, and a sense of place that leaves one sneezing from the dust makes for one of Boggs's best novels. "
-- Roundup


"The settings and incidents are realistically portrayed, the characters are well differentiated and believable, and the dialogue is earthy and authentic. For a good look at an exciting past, you can't do much better than The Lonesome Chisholm Trail"
-- The Shootist

"You'll eat dirt with Tyrell and get an education in cowboyin' just like he does as Boggs dishes up the reality of chasing cows up a long, lonesome trail."
-- True West