“The Master Squatter” by J. E. Grinstead

76-13 The Master Squatter

Book 76 is “The Master Squatter” by J. E. Grinstead.
The story originates in the November 1925 edition of the pulp, Frontier.

Officially, this book is # 76, however, the publishers, Garden City Publishing (Doubleday & Co.), decided to alter the spine numbering to # 13, reflecting the fact that the prior dozen were part of “The New Western Series” (as advertising on the back cover). This book was released 1st February 1927.

(NOTE: All of the books in this “New Western Series” were released monthly)

 

The first in this proposed series was E. E. Harriman’s “Texas Men and Texas Cattle” which I blogged about, weeks ago.

The tale opens with the Mitchell family moving out to Texas, for the health of Lon’s mother, during the years of the fence-cutting wars. Barbed wire is a fairly recent invention up to this point, and the Mitchell family find themselves walled in by miles of wire. One day, Lon’s father is slain by squatter Jim Sampson. The consumptive mother runs out of the cabin, spots her slain husband, froths at the mouth, and promptly dies. Lon, blond and blue-eyed, barely 15-years of age, cries his eyes out and on that fateful day, youthful innocence is shattered. On the outside, he becomes a shell; inside, he is seething with murderous, vengeful intent. He eventually makes his way to some neighbors, whom take him in and teach him the ways of the gun. It’s not long before he is proficient, with both eyes open, and capable with either hand. A sure dead-shot and damn quick on the draw.

Fast-forward 7 years. Murderer Jim Sampson is no longer in Texas. He has migrated up to the Chickasaw reservation some years back, and, with two outlaws, secured half a million acres of land over the years. All that was required, initially, was his two sidekicks to marry a squaw. Within a year, the women were mysteriously dead but they had lived long enough for the villains to be accepted on the territory.

Not content with his reach, Sampson, the master squatter, seeks to freely obtain [illegally] more land, by slapping down posts and fencing in the obtained property. However, his neighbor has other ideas. He is preparing to go to war with Sampson, to preserve his lands.

Enter Lon, seven years older. He is riding with a bunch of cowmen pushing 7000 head north through the Chickasaw trail, when they come to a stop outside of a town. Lon and a small crew go into town and unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of a proposed murder plot. Lon drops both assassins before they have a chance to slap leather, stunning all occupants.

Turns out the pair due to be slain are the aforementioned owners of the competing ranch. With their assistance, they move all 7000 cows safely through the reservation, as a debt for Lon’s slaying of the assassins.

With that mission complete, Lon breaks company with the crew and joins up with the rancher, since he now knows that Jim Sampson’s residence is here. Riding onto the ranch one day with a marshal, he and Lon await the arrival of Sampson from his ride into town.

Sampson curses vilely when he spots Lon, and goes for his iron, but, unfortunately (for him, of course), he was both neither quick enough nor smart enough to wait for a better opportunity. Dying in minutes, he curses the boy before the marshal, whom later asks Lon to explain how the two know each other.

Lon, for the first time in seven years, spills the beans, and expects to be arrested for murder. However, the marshal negates this, stating that Lon had been deputized, and Sampson had been reaching for his death-dealer. The slate is clean.

Lon rides away, with no mission left in life, back to the neighboring ranch, where there is a cute 18-year old innocent-looking girl, waiting for him…

At its heart, the novel is quite simple, forthright, and engagingly fun to read. However, like so many other authors, Grinstead inserts some of his own religious philosophies and propaganda into the novel, for literally SEVERAL pages. Personally, I detest this, as it detracts from the story, but I do understand that young men are reading this story (back then) and Grinstead (or the editors) may have wanted to make sure the readers understood that you are held accountable for your own actions, whether it be your belief in God, or, the judicial system, or vigilantism, etc.

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“The Master Squatter” by J. E. Grinstead

“The Scourge of the Little C” by J. E. Grinstead

65 The Scourge Of The Little C

Book 65 is “Scourge of the Little C” by J. E. Grinstead. This pulp reprint to 1920s soft-cover paperback “cheap edition” is a well-written novella hailing originally from the August 1925 issue of The Frontier magazine. The artwork is from the 10 August 1925 issue of Short Stories.

“Dimp” Gier rides into town in time to be the partial witness to a gunning. Unconcerned with the rowdy surroundings, he deposits his horse at the stable and takes a room for the night. The hotelier and stableman are afraid for their lives once they realize the man is with the secret “C” society, which has been lynching and killing, locally.

The reader is confused by all this talk, and Grinstead does well to keep us adequately in the dark until he feels like dispensing with further information. Eventually we learn that the rider, “Dimp,” so named for the dimples he sports, thus created when a bullet ripped through his face, while short of stature but strong as an ox, is one of the secret original founding heads to the “C” group, an association bent to exacting justice and cleaning up the county and surrounding areas from rustlers and killers and other assorted malcontents that are ruining their homesteads.

The next day, he leaves the hotel and rides out to the J Bar B ranch, run by old man John Barton, whom has a deaf wife whom can read lips fairly well, and of course, the traditionally necessary lovely heroine daughter, whom handles the ranch books and funds, etc.

Dimp lets Barton in on who he is but demands that nobody else be informed. Despite that, it isn’t long before the crew figure out he is “somebody” since Barton refers to him as “Mr. Gier.” Dimp insists on bunking with the fellows and that Barton desist from the “Mr.” as it gives away everything (yeah, no shit, right?)

There are many harrowing battles throughout the book, many killings, lots of vicious episodes, and throughout, Dimp maintains his distance from Barton’s daughter, despite the fact that she has finally come around to liking him and can’t fathom why he refuses to mingle with her. Man of little words but loads of action, Dimp is set on focusing on the task at hand rather than mix it up with a girl.

Things come a head one day when the neighbors are all rounded up to attend a party, and Dimp ends up dancing with the daughter (Edna). But when another man (Keechi) arrives on the scene, Keechi, looking in from a window, is infuriated to spot Dimp dancing with “his girl.” This man is part of the local criminal element and a large gun battle ensues.

Many are injured, and the leader of the gang and Keechi effect their escape.

While riding back to their ranch, Barton, Edna, and Dimp are astounded to behold before them the very dark handsome tall leader of the criminals, one Dan Pemberton, astride a fine horse, before them. He draws on Pimp, realizing he is the brains behind the resistance but Dimp takes him alive. While traversing a ferry, the four are under heavy fire from the banks and a stray bullet meant for Dimp’s skull takes the taller Pemberton full in the face. He pitches over the rail and dies in the waters.

Dimp is enraged to learn that a heavy barrage of fire had been directed at Edna, and knows that Keechi, realizing that she is no longer “his girl,” has decided to slay her.

A final battle ensues when Tinshkila (a local ranking Indian) sends a fellow man to bring Barton a note to come to their aid, as the rustlers have now heavily infiltrated their territory.

Barton, Dimp, and crew mount (and leave Edna and mom home alone with four to protect them, just in case) and ride off to assassinate the entire bloody lot of villains. This they handily do, but some escape, among them, Keechi. Dimp rides like hell back to the ranch in time to save the woman he loves and they fall into each other’s arms and Dimp idly wonders, as papa Barton strides in, just what he thinks about his daughter in Dimp’s arms.

Apparently he isn’t worried….

This is a fine novel, and I strongly advise anyone with the opportunity and interest in Westerns with sound plots, to read it. You won’t be disappointed. I’m somewhat surprised that this novel never made it to the big screen, but it might have been too complex for Hollywood and the audience to devour.

“The Scourge of the Little C” by J. E. Grinstead