Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, October 18, 2022


 "By the Guns Forgot" by "Murray Leinster"  (Will F. Jenkins) (from Fifteen Western Tales, December 1947; reprinted in Westerns from the 40s:  Classic Tales from the Great Pulps, edited by Damon Knight, 1977)

For a gent who had only known peace at the flaming end of a six-gun, Buck Reynolds had a strange ambition.  He wanted to grow flowers -- on a worse man's coffin!

So speaketh the original magazine blurb for this story.

Buck Reynolds was "a small bow-legged man with wispy, sandy hair and an expression of truculent stubborness.  He limped a little from an old bullet wound."

The bullet wound was from when a cohort named Deacon shot him in the back of his leg, leaving him to be arrested by the law.  Deacon also shot and killed Joe Davis, Buck's best friend and partner in crime.  Buck and Joe were outlaws with a fierce local reputation who had only lately brought Deacon into their fold.  The final result was that Joe was dead, Buck went to the penitentary, and Deacon managed to escape unscathed, eventually building up a reputation as a local businessman.  Deacon was smart.  He still was an outlaw but he kept his hands pretty clean, ordering his gang to do the actual robbing and rustling.

Now Buck was put of the penitentary and back in the town of Animus.  His years in rpison had calmed him and he wanted only to live in peace.  While he was locked up he gained a strong interest in gardening and he dreamed of the day when he could just retire from all of civilization at the secluded hideout that he and Joe had established and live off his garden.  But first, there was one thing he had to do -- kill Deacon, the man who had betrayed Buck and his best friend.

Joe's widow still lived in town and had put Joe's violent past behind her.  She had opened a small restaurant, raised her son, and now hoped he would get a job in Tucson and marry his sweetheart.  The widow had become friends with Deacon, who had recommended the boy for the Tucson job -- at least that's what she thought.  In reality, Deacon had brought the boy into his gang and he was now under arrest in Camino, awaiting trial for rustling.

Several problems develop.  One is that Deacon knows that Buck aims to kill him and will certainly try tomkill him first.  Another is that Buck's old hideout, where he had planned to retire and grow his garden, is now being used as Deacon's base of operations.  Joe's widow, not knowing that Deacon was  a bad guy and was using the hideout for his own criminal purposes, manages to send a map for the hideout to the sheriff in order to spoil any chance of Buck's using it.

The complications come hard and fast.  Now Buck has to face down Deacon and his gang, kill Deacon if he has the chance, somehow manage to stop a gold bullion robbery, save his hideout from the sheriff, manage to free Joe's son and turn him on to the straight and narrow without the widow finding out, and avoid any run-ins with the law, doing all this with a gun that has no bullets.  And he has to get some seeds for his garden.

Despite Damon Knight's claims,  this tale really cannot be considered a "classic."  It's a fast-moving tale with plenty of twists and turnsbut there's nothing momentous here, just good old-fashioned pulp writing -- the type Leinster excelled at.  If you're tired of meaningful literature, consider this a good palate cleanser.

NOTE:  The Damon Knight anthology has been reprinted in trade paperback in two volumes:  Western Classics:  From the Great Pulps and 7 Westerns of the 40s:  Classics from the Great Pulps, both 1978.  The Leinster story is in the latter.

1 comment:

  1. I have many Damon Knight anthologies, but not WESTERNS FROM THE 40s.. And, I've ready many Murray Leinster SF stories, but none of his Westerns. Time to go online and rectify that! Nice choice!