2015 October 27 “Sky High Corral” by Ralph Cummins

12 Sky High Corral

Remarkably both the story and the cover art hail from the 25 March 1922 edition of Short Stories magazine. Of further note, this story splashed onto the silver screen four years later, under the same title, on 28 February 1926 (see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0017402/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)

Cummins’ tale has both heart and meat. The bare essentials…a grouchy rancher is annoyed that the Forest Rangers are forcing him to keep limitations on the amount of cattle he can herd within the range. They want to keep it to 200, while he has been letting them feed at higher counts without trouble for many years. The service hires out to a gunman to come in an settle up.

In rides a young man, of cheerful disposition, and he is readily accepted by the outfit as a young person that they themselves had sent for to work the ranch. (This part of the plot is baffling, since it never rears its head again, and, if they HAD indeed reached out for such a body, how come the real McCoy never shows up?)

Clearly, as the reader readily realizes, he works for the Forest Service. Rather than show his hand, he agrees to work and learns all he needs as thus, from the inside. He falls in love with the cowman’s daughter (naturally, right?) and comes to blows with the true villain of the story, a man whom is bent on creating a tourist trade out of the canyon.

When things go wrong, the villain sets the canyon ablaze, in an effort to slaughter all the cattle. Our young hero remarkably saves most of the cattle, while losing some to the blaze and ultimately, must shoot his own horse dead.

Fainting from the effort of forcing the cattle up the ravine away from the blaze and to safety, he is eventually found by the head cowman. Nursed back to health, there, by a fire, he finds on the fainted man a brass Forest Service badge and papers that seem to indicate his workings with the service against him. Annoyed, once the man revives, he kicks him out and won’t allow the young man any retort.

Not the least aggrieved, the hero retires into the canyon’s cabin, and next day goes up again to the place where he was saved, only to find the old man neatly bound, beaten, and burned by a brand in many places. He in turn brings the man down to the cabin to be nursed, and learns the villain has done all this. Worse, they discover that he has kidnapped the daughter.

Ergo, we now have the prerequisite rescue scene, a final fight, the villain dies, and the hero gets the girl.

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2015 October 27 “Sky High Corral” by Ralph Cummins

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