Uncle Billy Cage
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS'
The Deputy Sheriff
of Commanche County
David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2000
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote four westerns over his career. The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County was first published in Thrilling Adventures (March, April, May, 1940) as "The Terrible Tenderfoot." There were two other working titles "That Damn Dude" and "The Brass Heart." Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. published the first book edition in September 1940. The dust jacket and interior illustrations were done by the author's son, John Coleman Burroughs.
I. The Line Fence
Buck Mason confronts Ole Gunderstrom regarding an 18 year old difference regarding a fence. Despite animosity over the land, young Mason inquires after Gunderstron's daughter, Olga they had grown up together as children. Ole is overly-protective of the girl currently attending school back east and threatens Mason. Mason rides off to his ranch, thinking of Olga, now twenty two, and realizing her eastern education left little opportunity for his uneducated affection.
II. Who Killed Gunderstrom?
Near midnight five riders approach Gunderstrom's lone cabin. Gunderstrom is murdered. At 9:00 am the sheriff chats with an old timer over the morning newspaper regarding outlaws operating in the area. A phone call reports Gunderstrom's murder as buck Mason enters the sheriff's office. Mason is sent to investigate. Gunderstrom's ranch hands give their statements. Buck gathers details at the site. After the sheriff arrives, Buck suggest preserving some evidence then leaves. Upon returning to the jail, Uncle Billy Cage repeats a phone call that accuses Buck Mason of the murder.
III. Bruce Marvel
The TR Ranch, on hard times, has become a dude ranch operated by Cory Blaine. By the third year it was making money, though Blaine's ambitions of wealth had not materialized. He watched as the buckboard, which shuttled clients from the railhead to the ranch, delivered Bruce Marvel. Blaine is not impressed with the tenderfoot. Gossip amongst the other guests regarding the new arrival is condescending. Marvel appears from his room in time for dinner and is introduced to Kay White, Bert Adams, Miss Pruell, Dora Crowell, and Mr and Mrs Talbot. Dinner conversation turns to the Gunderstrom murder with speculation that Buck Mason, now missing for three weeks, is the killer. Marvel retires early. At 7:00 am the next morning they gather for the lion hunt.
IV. Kay White
Bruce Marvel, the dude, is ridiculed for his English riding habit. The party mounts and departs. Three days later they arrive at a tiny shack near a trout stream. Marvel comes to know the group. He dislikes Blaine as much as he admires Kay White. Blaine later asks Kay to marry him. White politely demurs. Despite Kay's clear denial of love, Cory Blaine forces his attention.
V. The Lion Hunt
Bruce Marvel and Dora ride together. Dora suggests Marvel may not be what he portrays. Chatter between them discusses appearances, including Gunderstrom's daughter, known to Kay back east. The party comes across a mountain lion. Dora shoots. Kay's horse panics, Marvel saves her. After returning to camp, Cory Blaine has reservations regarding tenderfoot Marvel's abilities.
VI. Hi Bryam
At the night camp, Kay re-lives and discusses her narrow escape with Dora. Dora suggests that the dude Marvel is not what he appears. Birdie Talbot announces the arrival of Dora's lion kill. Marvel asks to shoot Blaine's revolver. Blaine accedes, making a bet Marvel cannot score a hit on a tin can. Marvel accidentally discharges the weapon into his bedding, then misses all shots at the tin can. Marvel later finds the bullet in the bedding and pockets it as a souvenir. After dinner Marvel speaks with Hi Bryam, the hunter, who is surly. Marvel notes the difference in size of the man's feet. Bryam's continued rebuffs are effective: Marvel returns to the camp and goes to bed. Later, Blaine and Butts speak of their dislike of Marvel. When the guests are retired, the two men go to Bryam's cabin. Blaine passes on the planned movements of Mart and Eddie and their destination a day later into Sonora.
VII. The Bur
Butts tops Baldy, Marvel's horse, and places a bur under the saddle. Marvel removes the bur before mounting. The group begins a scenic ride. Blaine rides with Kay. Marvel rides with Dora, who expresses her disbelief that Bruce is an easterner. Dora provides gossip regarding Blaine's operations. She privately reveals a strong distrust toward Blaine. Kay White, at the head of the column with Blaine, enjoys the country, yet she is remembering Marvel's heroic transformation with interest. Her thoughts are disturbed by Blaine's almost apologetic avowal of love. Kay quickly states she has no reciprocal feelings. On the surface Blaine accepts the rebuff, silently he feels angry. After lunch, Kay rides with Marvel.
VIII. Fourflushers, All
Kay finds Marvel's companionship enjoyable, in silence or conversation. Marvel admits he knows about horses. Kay thanks him for the rescue and admits, with some embarrassment, she had thought him a tenderfoot. Marvel acknowledges that he is not what he appears. Marvel later explores feelings ignited by Kay White, confused, since he has affections for another he has not seen in years. At the evening fire Marvel offers to buy Baldy at an outrageous price from Blaine, who has become surly toward Marvel. Blaine ups the ante and is surprised when Marvel meets the price. Much later, when Marvel and Kay are alone, he admits to buying Baldy because the horse had help save Kay's life. After returning, when all are asleep, Marvel examines one of Blaine's boots, then throws it into the fire.
IX. The Sorrel Colt
Next morning Blaine is missing a boot. Marvel later mounts Baldy, no topping needed. On the ride Kay expresses disappointment in Marvel she had witnesses Bruce's actions the night before. Marvel is apologetic, but offers no explanation. The party returns to the ranch and separates. Marvel later notes Blaine in old boots with a brass heart in each heel. Marvel wants to explore, rides a sorrel colt tames the bronc, much to Blaine's disappointment. Marvel rides off, eventually arriving at the railroad town. At the post office he writes and mails a letter, then starts back to the dude ranch.
X. Blaine is Jealous
Kay is concerned, once when learns Marvel is riding a vicious horse, but before she can get a search part started, Marvel returns. Blaine is perplexed at Marvel's dismissal of any trouble with the horse. Kay gets a letter from her father. Dora reveals that Olga Gunderstrom will soon visit the ranch. Gossip regarding Buck Mason suggest the man is not only a murderer, but a bank robber as well. As the guests head for bed, Blaine draws Marvel aside and asks how long he is staying since he needs Marvel's room to accommodate expected new arrivals in the next few days. Blaine also tells Marvel to steer clear of the girls.
XI. "That Would Be Eddie"
At breakfast Blaine changes plans for the day (a paper chase) to a ride to Crater Mountain. Bud is assigned to lead them as Blaine has business elsewhere. Marvel opts out to hunt a horse's tooth. Blaine pairs Bud with Marvel and orders Butts to take charge of the mountain ride. Bud shows Marvel the corpse of Blaine's horse, only a few weeks dead. Marvel examines the dead animal then changes his mind about hunting teeth. On the return, Marvel questions Bud about the ranch, then realizes he has lost a spur. Marvel sends Bud on, saying he'll find it himself. Once out of sight, Marvel swiftly rides to where an unknown rider was seen and investigates. He sees three men meeting clandestinely, one is Cory Blaine, another is called Eddie by Blaine. As the meeting breaks up, Marvels races around to enter the arroyo as the two riders are leaving. He offers a lame excuse for being lost, all the while studying the two men. Cory Blaine, at the ranch, complains about tenderfoots and, when Marvel returns, pushes Bruce to vacate, again stating a need for the room.
XII. "Goodbye Kay"
That evening, the guests retired, Blaine tells Butts he's running Marvel off "he's sweet on Kay White. I want her for myself." Marvel, smoking on the veranda, struggles with romantic feelings and a promise in his own heart to another. Moments later Kay comes out. The couple talks, she is disappointed he is leaving. Sleepless, she realizes Marvel's romantic interest, and is grateful he will be gone because he might be a difficult man to resist. At breakfast Marvel tells the other guests he is leaving. Adams tries to buy Baldy from Marvel. Marvel is not interested.
XIII. Marvel Buys An Outfit
After breakfast the guests depart on the paper chase. Marvel has a long talk with Miss Pruell, who reveals more of Kay's background and character to him. Later, John White arrives by car. Marvel is introduced as the man who saved Kay's life. Marvel stays through lunch then gives the rude Butts a hard time over a trunk before leaving. Marvel ties Baldy to the buckboard's lead horse. In town, Marvel takes a room at the hotel, the east bound train not arriving until the next morning. The horse is taken to the livery stable and fed. Marvel makes a deal for a saddle and bridle.
Riding out, Cory, Kay, and Bud start leaving scraps of paper for the other guests to find. Blaine sends Bud ahead after giving very specific instructions as regards the paper chase route. Cory and Kay ride on. Later, Kay notes they are off the main trail. Blaine says it is a short cut. Kay is mildly suspicious. In a narrow arroyo they are waylaid by masked men. Blaine is tied up. Kay is kidnaped. Late afternoon Bud arrives at the TR Ranch. He tells Miss Pruell that Blaine and Kay separated early, but the others were following behind. John White is introduced as the guests arrive, then Blaine's horse comes in without a rider. Bud and two men are sent to search for the missing couple. White calls the local deputy sheriff. Meanwhile Marvel, who is in the hotel, answers the phone for the clerk. He takes White's call and learns from the clerk the deputy is out of telephone reach. Assuring White that a search would commence immediately, Marvel tells the clerk to send for the sheriff and suggests specific search areas. Marvel then goes to his room and changes into a working cowboy's outfit, complete with two pistols and gun belt. He saddles Baldy and rides out, unaware that Olga Gunderstrom has arrived by train.
XV. One Hundred Thousand Dollars
Butts grumbles as he packs Olga's cases on the buckboard. Olga, imperious and demanding, has little use for Butts. At the ranch Dora recognizes Olga immediately. Olga is unhappy. White sends Butts to join the search. Butts rides directly to a pre-set area and finds Blaine, who is angry at the delay. Riding double, the two thieves and kidnapers discuss ransom and rewards. At the TR ranch, Blaine reports the bad news to John White. Butts "finds" the ransom note. Blaine rides out to rescue Kay White.
XVI. At Bryam's Cabin
Marvel rides, conserving his horse, until midnight. Resting ten minutes, he resumes the trail, resting again just before dawn. Hi Bryam sees a campfire in the distance. Becoming nervous he, Mart, and Eddie make ready to leave with Kay White. The girl, frightened, has not slept all night. She suspects Blaine is behind the kidnaping, then thinks Marvel, but her memories of Marvel rule him out. As they eat breakfast, plans are made: Bryam is to remain behind where any searchers would expect to find him and to misdirect the posse. Mart and Eddie mount up, taking Kay, who has hidden a deck of playing cards and begins leaving a trail of torn cards.
XVII. Torn Playing Cards
Cory Blaine followed the Porico County posse, regretting John White had arrived a day early and getting the search started so quickly. He could not get ahead of the posse without exposing himself, then fortune smiles and Blaine moves ahead when the posse stops to rest. But inconsiderate horsemanship and the night ends in disaster, the horse breaks a leg. Blaine puts the animal out of its misery and the shot brings the posse, who insist he ride with them. Meanwhile, Marvel arrives at Bryam's cabin, who has hidden himself from view. Bryam observes Marvel following the kidnapers' trail and takes a shot at Marvel. Marvel wheels at the miss and shoots Bryam. Bryam is not dead; Marvel resumes the trail of torn playing cards.
XVIII. On The Trail
The posse finds Bryam, who misleads them as to the kidnapers' trail. He reports that Marvel shot him. Bryam dies. Blaine suggests that Marvel is the kidnaper because "...he got stuck on her...kicked him out yesterday." The posse leaves on the wrong trail, Blaine saying he'll catch up after burying Bryam. Blaine is puzzled by events and Marvel's presence. Elsewhere, Marvel has narrowed the gap near the Mexican border. Entering a mountain range near sundown, water is the main concern. After a rest, the man rides to the next valley and sights a distant campfire.
XIX. "Stick 'Em Up!"
Marvel stealthily approaches the camp near dawn. Marvel is forced to kill Mart, Eddie surrenders. Marvel takes Kay and Eddie back to the TR by a different route. Kay ponders this new Marvel, finding him a bit frightening after the killing of Mart. She resolves her unease by realizing all Marvel had done was on her behalf.
Blaine rides to meet his fellows and finds Mart's body. Blaine notes the direction taken and assumes the "tenderfoot" has gotten lost. Blaine races back to the TR to put the blame on Marvel. Marvel, meanwhile, searches for a water hole once known to his father, which is eventually found when they are most desperate for water. Blaine pushes his horse at a killing pace. Marvel, Kay, and Eddie leave in darkness, expecting to arrive at the ranch after breakfast.
XXI. "He Is Buck Mason"
Blaine's horse drops dead within sight of Bryam's cabin. Hauling his saddle and gear, Cory takes Bryam's horse and soon reaches the TR ranch. He speaks to Butts privately about his plan to hang the kidnaping and killings on Marvel. They go to John White. Blaine makes his accusations, which are met with some skepticism by a few of the guests. Blaine and Butts retire to the bunkhouse. The guest discuss the startling news, then disperse to their rooms. The veranda is vacant when Marvel, Kay, and Eddie arrive. John White steps out, daughter and father are reunited. Kay, weary, goes to her room. White, though believing Marvel is evil, offers him a head start for returning his daughter unharmed. Marvel refuses, saying all will soon be explained. Olga Gunderstrom appears and names Marvel as Buck Mason, the murder of her father. Buck turns Eddie over to White, revealing he is a deputy sheriff. Mason walks away. Olga pleads for White to do something, but White replies he is unarmed. He does telephone the sheriff. Kay learns that Marvel, near the corral, is really Buck Mason.
XXII. "You're Under Arrest"
Kay does not believe Olga's accusation. Olga goes to Blaine to arrest Mason. Kay attempts to stop her. Failing, she runs to warn Mason. Grateful for the warning, he sends her to the ranch house. Meanwhile, Olga informs Blaine and Butts there is a $5,000 reward for Mason they are surprised to learn Marvel and Mason are the same man. Kay and Olga have words. White intervenes. Eddie, tied up, gets Olga to release him to help get Mason. Eddie, once free, runs for the hills. Butts exits the bunkhouse first, Blaine follows; neither is aware Mason is forewarned. The gunfight is short. Two men arrive at a gallop, one shoots at Mason and misses. The older man speaks to Buck, he is Mason's boss, the sheriff of Comanche County. Though he believes Buck innocent of Gunderstrom's murder, the sheriff does have a warrant. Buck surrenders. Buck and the two sheriffs go to the ranch house. Meanwhile, the Porico posse pucks up Eddie on their way to the TR.
XXIII. The Brass Heart
Olga recovers from a swoon, staring at Buck, who she has known since childhood. Kay explains how she was kidnaped and rescued by Buck Mason. Eddie testifies that Blaine was the master mind behind the robberies and the kidnaping. Buck then explains his part and the clues he'd found at Gunderstrom's cabin. He traced the leads to Cory Blaine and his game. Mason reveals all the detective work necessary, Eddie confirms all of his conclusions. Olga does not believe him, then Eddie gives the most telling testimony; Olga's father was part of the gang and was killed by Blaine for holding out on the others. The following morning Dora notices someone in the cottonwoods, then realizes it is Kay and Buck in an embrace.