Before Luther “Yellowstone” Kelly was an unexpected hero of the Old West, he was a young greenhorn, cast out of the big city and onto the frontier. This sequel to Yellowstone Kelly: Gentleman and Scout begins at the deathbed of Buffalo Bill Cody, where Yellowstone plays cards and reminisces with the legendary frontiersman in his last hours. Looking back on his own life, he recalls the sidesplitting tale of his dalliance with an Episcopal bishop’s daughter. This was the seed from which the legend of Yellowstone Kelly grew. Yellowstone carves an exciting, hilarious, and unforgettable path through the Old West, meeting historical figures and legends along the way. In Minnesota, he becomes the apprentice to noted mountain man Jim Bridger. In Utah, he runs afoul of Brigham Young and the Mormons. Through each adventure and misadventure, Kelly maintains his trademark wit and fortitude, always finding his way through even the stickiest mess.
About the Author
Following time at the University of Michigan and the University of Montana, he published his first novel, Yellowstone Kelly, in 1987. After two more novels featuring the real-life western hero, Bowen published Coyote Wind (1994), which introduced Gabriel Du Pré, a mixed-race lawman living in fictional Toussaint, Montana. He has written fifteen novels in the series, in which Du Pré gets tangled up in everything from cold-blooded murder to the hunt for rare fossils. Bowen continues to live and write in Livingston, Montana.
Peter Bowen (b. 1945) is an author best known for mystery novels set in the modern American West. When he was ten, Bowen’s family moved to Bozeman, Montana, where a paper route introduced him to the grizzled old cowboys who frequented a bar called The Oaks. Listening to their stories, some of which stretched back to the 1870s, Bowen found inspiration for his later fiction. Following time at the University of Michigan and the University of Montana, Bowen published his first novel, Yellowstone Kelly, in 1987. After two more novels featuring the real-life Western hero, Bowen published Coyote Wind (1994), which introduced Gabriel Du Pré, a mixed-race lawman living in fictional Toussaint, Montana. Bowen has written fourteen novels in the series, in which Du Pré gets tangled up in everything from cold-blooded murder to the hunt for rare fossils. Bowen continues to live and write in Livingston, Montana.
Read an Excerpt
A Yellowstone Kelly Novel
By Peter Bowen
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1991 Peter Bowen
All rights reserved.
YOU KNOW, DAMN NEAR all the real trouble I ever got into was caused by my friends. I ain't hardly ever had an enemy do anything bad to me at all.
Take Cody, Buffalo Bill to you—I got into more genuine mortal embarrassments due to him than I care to recall, some of which was spiced up with me being shot at, and even Cody dying warn't no different. On account of that damnable Ned Buntline, Cody spent about three years total killing buffalo and Indians and taking hunting parties here and there and over forty in a circus tent somewheres telling lies about it.
My luck, which has never been worth a damn anyway, especially if my friends is around and helping out, caused me to be in Denver on the eighth of January 1917. I had been back East seeing those members of my family still surviving—the good die young like the saying has it, the vile go on forever—and I had come into Denver on the train. I thought I'd stay a few days at the Brown Palace before heading back to my little cattle ranch in California. So I gets off the train and I'm waiting on my bags and I hear this voice behind me.
"Luther," says this voice. I think it's probably a newspaperman and I'm looking around for a handy club when the voice bellers again.
"Luther, goddamn it, it's Lew."
Cautiouslike, I turn around, and by God if it ain't Lew. Lew Decker, that is, brother-in-law to Buffalo Bill and a right good man save for what his wife had in the way of brothers.
Lew looked sad as hell. "Bill's dyin'," he said. "I know he'd admire to see you."
Well, that hit me hard. I wasn't sure what other feller in all the world I could possibly hate as much as Bill, unless it was good old Teethadore Roosevelt, God rot him, and without them the world would be a more quiet and restful place and I wouldn't have to worry so much about what's coming next. (I'll tell you about the year touring Europe with Bill's Wild West Show sometime. It'll curl yer hair.)
"He really gonna die this time?" says I, trying to sound sympathetic.
"He got told at the sanitarium over to Glenwood Springs yesterday, and now he's at a nursing home here over by the Brown Palace, with a couple of quacks pokin' at him. He feels like hell, Luther, I know he'd admire to see you."
"Yah, yah, I'll come," I says. "Right now." (I wanted to make sure.)
I got my bags trundled off the train and we took a horsecab to the hotel and sent 'em on up to my room and I followed Lew down the street a ways. This nursing home was a big old mansion sort of place squatting like a dirty gray setting hen on filthy black snow. Denver is plumb up to the front range of the Rockies, and all the smoke and soot from the coalfires just stays there.
Well, we went in through the front doors and of course the stink of medicines and dying folks hit us like a blast of sour wind, and then I could hear something else. It was a fat voice runnin' whey; I'd never heard one before.
"He's up here," says Lew, looking back like he thought I might have made a dash for the door—he knew me pretty good, you see—and he leads me down about five doors and goes into a room.
Well, I wish to hell that I had a magic lantern slide of what was in that room. That fat voice belonged to this fat doctor—he musta weighed five hundred pounds, all poured into an ice cream suit looked ready to bust and a white doctor coat looked like what you see on an organ-grinder's monkey. The fat doc is looking at the ceiling, and there on the bed, just setting, is Buffalo Bill. Bill's dressed like Buffalo Bill—buckskins, lacy shirt, skin-tight tan trousers, high dragoon's boots, and a hat big enough to cover Nebraska.
"Mr. Cody," says the fat doc, "it becomes necessary for the physician at times to turn the case over to a Higher Physician, one who ... uh ... ah ..."
This musta been going on for some time, as Bill was reddening up like a cock turkey. He stood up and grabbed this doctor by the throat.
"HOW THE HELL GODDAMN LONG DO I GOT, YA FLANNELMOUTHIN' SON OF A BITCH?!" Bill roars. The doc began turning purple—his face looked like a blood pudding.
"If ya would take yer thumb outa his windpipe he'd likely tell ya," I says.
Bill relaxes his grip a bit and the doctor gasps like a beached whale for ten minutes 'fore he can speak, and then he wheezes out, "About ... thirty ... hours," and the bloated Hippocratic makes for the door and manages with some puffing and blowing to squeeze through.
The red color in Bill's face drained off. He looked at me and his eyes was twinkling.
"Well, goddamn it, you two," he roars. "Go and get some whiskey and some cards and all the dancin' girls you can find and get back here pronto. I may have to die, but I sure as shit don't got to be bored."
Well, Lew and I drew straws and I got to go for the cards and whiskey and Lew went for the dancing girls. I come back long before Lew with a couple cases of Panther Sweat and some cards and chips.
There was this circular table out in the lobby didn't have nobody watching it, so I tipped it on edge and rolled it down to the room. We spread the blanket from Bill's bed on it, pulled up some chairs, lit seegars, and commenced into playing five-card stud.
The smoke went out into the hall and flushed this big mean nurse out of her catpit. She come sailing in like the good ship Wrath and informs Bill that smoking ain't allowed.
Bill pulls out a little six-shooter and commences shooting it into the wall some. The nurse swaps bow for stern and sails back out, and that's the last we hear about that.
"What the hell are we doin' with these things?" says Bill, looking at the chips and curling his lip. He took a long pull at his bottle and belched happylike.
So we toss the chips in the trash and dig around for our gold and silver.
"See?" says Bill, holding up a double eagle. "This is the real pure quill."
We'd played ten hands and I had maybe a hundred of Bill's gold when Lew come back with some lovely ladies, all bundled up against the cold. When they took off their wraps they didn't have enough on to wad a shotgun with, lessen you counted the feathers, and they commenced into cooing at Bill and cuddling up to him. Thus distracted, he lost two more hands. A couple sat down by me, one on each side—I'd swiped a piano bench from the chapel—and I tried to keep my mind on the cards and not on all this pretty white flesh about to bust out of the tiny silk rags they wore. Waves of sweet perfume mingled with my seegar smoke. It was most enjoyable in the nostrils.
One of 'em was rubbing up against Lew, who wasn't drinking or smoking neither.
"You get bit by Jesus or something?" I says. Lew was a man knew how to enjoy himself once. Well, friends fail you.
"He did that," says Bill. "Ain't been worth a pinch of dried coon shit since."
The girl took on Lew as a challenge, rubbing him with various of her parts.
"Goddamn it, Lew," Cody roars. "If ya can't be nice to the lady then go find a church to flog yer knees in. Luther'll take good care of me. We don't want yer lily-livered soul smirched, now do we?" Lew scuttled out the door and one of the chippies closed it, and then she started removing her feathers while doing a slow dance.
"This is right fun," I says. "You ought to die more often."
"Give me two," says Bill, glaring at his hole cards.
We was intent on this couple of hands, and then one of the girls' screams about knocked the paint off the walls. She was pointing to a window that had faces in it like figs packed in a box.
"That will be the gentlemen of the press," Bill says, pulling out his revolver. He made a couple offhand shots in that direction. A couple panes of glass busted and the faces disappeared.
"I think yer breakin' the law doin' that," I says. Bill was looking at the smoke twirl up toward the ceiling.
"Might even hang me for it, this being Denver," says Bill. "I'm full of the trembles about what all they might do to me."
There was a draught coming in the broken window.
"Pull them curtains, will you, honey?" says Bill to the girl who had been taking off the feathers. She drew the heavy velvet drapes.
A few minutes later there was a heavy pounding on the door.
"That will be the gentlemen of the police," says Bill. "Go talk to 'em, will ya, Luther? Don't hurry back." The girls was undoing his buttons.
I slipped out into the hall and there was four cops there—two in uniforms and two in overcoats.
"We have a complaint ..." one of the overcoats says.
"That's Buffalo Bill Cody in there and he's dyin'," I says. "You keep the damn reporters away, he won't shoot at them."
Well, when I said Bill's name and that he was dying these four fellers got horrified looks on their faces, said, "Buffalo Bill? Dying?" in chorus and they hotfooted it toward the front door. Ten minutes later there must have been forty of Denver's finest scattered around in the hallway, hiding in the shrubs, and guarding all the doors.
Time to time we'd hear voices raised in argument, and time to time we'd hear a sound like a watermelon makes when you drop it on the sidewalk. The watermelon sound usually come right after the journalist started bellering about the Constitution.
"Such a privilege to be sittin' here skinnin' a legend," I says, raking in another pot. Bill had lost his pants and shirt in some sort of accident, I guessed.
"Why don't you go screw a lame coyote?" says Bill. More fists pounded on the door.
"Luther?" says Bill, checking his revolver.
I stepped out into the hallway to find several inflated-looking gents in dark-rich-looking overcoats and self-satisfied smiles standing there.
"We need to see Mr. Cody," says one.
"Mr. Cody don't want to see nothing but friends," I says. "And I know he ain't got any friends look like you."
"Do you know who this is?" one of the fellers says, pointing to a smug-looking, portly feller with lawyer's eyes.
"No," I says.
"It's the Governor!"
So I opens the door and says, "Bill, the Governor is here to see you."
"Shut the door and get out of the way," says Bill, tearing himself away from a long kiss.
So I shuts the door and does a fast sidle behind some cast-iron drainpipes. The four gents look at me like I'm touched. Then Bill puts four shots through the door, one going through the Governor's homburg. All four move right smart for such fat crooks.
"He don't want to see you!" I hollers at their fast waddling backs.
Well, we had a right good little card game there all night, interrupted from time to time by senators, newspaper editors, silver magnates, and riffraff like that, all of whom went quiet or got shot at.
Long about sunup I paid off the girls handsomely and sent them off in a horsecab. I'd won sixteen hundred dollars off Bill. I was tired and commencing to yawn a lot when I heard a fearful bellering in the hallway and sounds of a scuffle. I opens the door to see Mulligan, barefoot as he always was, standing on a couple of unconscious coppers. Mulligan had a nightstick in each hand.
"Guudun un," he says through his adenoids, which must have been the size of plums, "Wiz Bilph?"
Mulligan ain't well known on account of he weighed about eighty pounds, never bathed, and couldn't talk, but he was a fine scout and a brave man.
"Bill," I says, sticking my head in the door, "Mulligan is here and I'm needin' some sleep. You're dragging out this dying business, hard on an old man like me."
"Mulligan?" says Bill, delighted. "Send him in and go rest your pore old worn ass a while. Never could stick it, anyway."
"Thunka," says Mulligan, passing by me.
Well, I went to the hotel and got some sleep. I woke up about four in the afternoon. I thought that I'd take some food back with me. I had the hotel make up sandwiches and filled a hamper with cheese and sausage and took a horsecab back, just a little apprehensive. Maybe, I says to myself, he's dead and this is all over.
There was a big crowd in front of the nursing home, so I guessed he wasn't dead yet. There was a big black column of smoke coming up from a hole in the crowd on the lawn. I managed to elbow and cuss my way up to it, and there was several full-dress Injuns feeding a fire with the shrubbery and such trees as was within easy reach. There was a whole buffalo carcase on a spit sizzling away, and Dirty Dack Tom, best camp cookie ever, slathering on his tonsil-melting barbecue sauce.
It smelled wonderful and sure took me back. The smoke got to me and my eyes teared some.
"Just a holdspell," I says to Dirty Dack Tom. "Where in the hell did you get a buffalo?"
"Think, Kelly," says one of the Indians, Black Lynx, a Brule Sioux I'd known for years, "where would you go to get a buffalo in these sorry times?"
"The City Zoo," I says.
Black Lynx patted me on the head like I was an especially promising idiot. When he wasn't riding in Cody's show he was a lawyer.
"You goin' in to see Bill?" says Black Lynx.
I nodded, hoping he wouldn't ask to come along. There were hundreds of folks who'd like to, and they would in a moment if they was asked, but Bill was dying and he didn't want to see everyone.
Black Lynx had taken out a skinning knife—I recognized it, it was his father's, Spotted Tail—and he cut off a heaping plateful of hump meat.
"Not so bad dyin' with that taste in yore mouth," says Black Lynx. He turned away sudden.
I didn't have to fight my way in—just hollering that I had a plateful of Bill's favorite meat and the favored cut of that parted the crowd right smart. I walked down the hallway and rapped on the door with my cane.
A tall blonde whore opened the door. I could see Mulligan's bare, dirty old feet sticking out from under the bed, they was pointed down between two clean lady feet pointing up—a scene of terrible debauchery, which I have always found pleasant in comparison to wars and disasters. So I clapped my hands and whistled.
Bill was sipping his whiskey out of a beer stein, genteel-like, and playing cards with four pretty ladies wearing nothing but smiles.
"Luther's pecker is this long," says Bill, holding up his hands like a lying fisherman.
"Christ," I said.
Well, we played cards and the sun went down, and I would have been further ahead but for various distracting attacks upon my person by the dancin' girls. Long about midnight the door opened and one of the Paddy cops says "The Bishop to see ..." but he didn't finish because there was this despairing "Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph" behind him, which I guessed belonged to the Bishop, who saw right off his comfort for the dying was like to being underappreciated. Fast mind like that, no wonder he was a bishop.
"Four sevens," I says, turning up my hole cards, "and I think your soul just went to Texas."
"A pair of twos," says Bill. "Gawd I hate to lose like this even if it is the last time. Glad that whatever he was went away. I'm sort of enjoyin' myself and them godwallopers take the enjoy out of everything."
I cut and shuffled a bunch while Bill pulled on his half-quart of Panther Sweat. "Where's Mulligan?" says Bill, coming up for a little air.
"Fuckin' like a mink under the bed there," I says.
"Good," says Bill, "I thought we was having an earthquake."
We played a lot of cards, and about the time the light was coming up Bill started sweating a lot and scratching his wrists.
I stuck my head out the door and saw Lew Decker and asked him to take the whores home. He nodded and in a few minutes they had flounced out, jingling a lot of gold in their pretty hands.
Mulligan was snoring—a strange sound, like unbuckled galoshes make—and I hauled him from under the bed and carried him down to a couch in the lobby. The cops sort of rolled their eyes, remembering what he'd done to a couple of them the night before.
Bill crawled painfully up to the bed. He was white and cold and shivering now and the sweat was running off him.
"Give me another piece of buffalo," says Bill, and I stuck a cold, greasy hunk of it in his mouth. He chewed it and it seemed to take his mind off the pain a bit. Took him a long time to swallow it, but he finally did.
"Luther," says Bill, "there's a bag of gold in my bag over there. Could you get it?" His eyes seemed troublesome to him, he rubbed them hard for a few minutes.
I found a blue leather bag that was full of something so heavy it could only be gold. I figured about ten thousand dollars' worth.
"I want you to take that down to Susie's and give it to the girls," he says. "They was always square with me. Buy 'em a few new feathers, anyway."
"Sure, Bill," I says. They was as good as any and better than most I could think of. Time you get the gold they're all dead anyway, the ones you got it for.
Excerpted from Kelly Blue by Peter Bowen. Copyright © 1991 Peter Bowen. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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