Son of the Flying 'Y' by Will F. Jenkins (1951)
Bud Hornaby is an immature and coddled young man. It's not his fault; his father -- a Texas legend who can outshoot, outshout, outfight, and outswear anyone in the region -- was distant and protective, never letting Bud to take risks of to have a normal. Then, too, Joe Bradley, King Hornaby's trusted ranch foreman, never tired of telling King how useless his son is. This type of poison is accepted King. All of this leaves Bud wanting to leave his father's grip and the large Flyng 'Y' ranch and to prove himself to be a man. The only person who listens to Bud and who accepts him is Bud's Uncle Paul...then Paul is killed in a gun duel.
Clem Short has been tracking Paul for years, intent on killing him. Paul acknowledges that short has good reasons for killing him but won't say anything further. Clem finds Paul in a local saloon and confronts him. When Bud arrives on the scene, Paul has Short covered with his gun but doesn't want to shoot him. Short, in turn, calmly states if Paul puts down his gun Short will shoot him...or, Paul can face him in the street for a shootout. Paul reluctantly agrees and the two face off. Both men empty their guns and Paul is killed, Short is merely wounded. Witnesses agree it was a fair fight and allow Short to leave town, Bud, however, is incensed and vows to kill Short.
Bud is humiliated when his father's men keep him from following Short. The rage that has been building up inside of Bud for two decades has reached the boiling point. A few days later, he escapes the Flying 'Y' and sets out in pursuit of Short and with a determination to erase the ranch and his father from his life and to himself a man.
His adventures lead him along the cattle trail towards Dodge City. Along the way he gets suckered by a dance hall girl, joins up with an unemployed cowboy (and, in true The Prince and the Pauper style, switched identities with him), helps a herd of reluctant cattle to ford a river, saves the herd from Indians, falls in love (with complications, naturally), foils a large cattle rustling enterprise, and comes face to face with his nemesis, Clem Short.
Son of the Flying 'Y' is a bildungsroman set on the dusty cattle trails of the Old West. It's not an outstanding western but it's a darned good one. The characters are well fleshed out and the vision of the West rings true with detail. Bud Hornaby's adventures provide a fast-paced narrative that kept me reading well into the wee hours -- long after I should have turned out the light.
Jenkins, of course, is the real name of the man better known as "Murray Leinster," the one-time "Dean of Science Fiction." In addition to his science fiction, Jenkins/Leinster was prolific in the Western field where his gripping sense of plot and narration served him well. His western novels are difficult to come across these days -- most have not seen print since the Fifties, a real shame. Son of the Flying 'Y' was the second of two he wrote for Gold Medal books. A quick check of Abebooks shows four copies -- all from outside the US -- available for $12 -$26, including shipping; other retailers may have less expensive copies.
A fast, gripping read. Recommended.