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The Trail to Seven Pines
Cover of The Trail to Seven Pines
The Trail to Seven Pines
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Hopalong rides into a firestorm of violence and betrayal. On the rain-drenched trail to the lawless town of Seven Pines, Hopalong discovers two men—one dead, the other badly wounded. Returning with medical help, Hopalong finds the wounded man has been shot through the temple. Who would commit such a murder? To find out, Hopalong hires on at Bob Ronson's Rocking R Ranch. There he learns that more than a thousand cattle have been run off by men keeping one scheming eye on the ranch and the other on the monthly stagecoach shipments of gold. Hopalong is determined to stop those responsible. But even the best gunfighter needs men he can trust to watch his back, men willing to risk their lives to do what's right. With their help, Hopalong fights to save the Rocking R, only to find himself the target of a ruthless gunman in a life-and-death struggle for frontier justice.

Hopalong rides into a firestorm of violence and betrayal. On the rain-drenched trail to the lawless town of Seven Pines, Hopalong discovers two men—one dead, the other badly wounded. Returning with medical help, Hopalong finds the wounded man has been shot through the temple. Who would commit such a murder? To find out, Hopalong hires on at Bob Ronson's Rocking R Ranch. There he learns that more than a thousand cattle have been run off by men keeping one scheming eye on the ranch and the other on the monthly stagecoach shipments of gold. Hopalong is determined to stop those responsible. But even the best gunfighter needs men he can trust to watch his back, men willing to risk their lives to do what's right. With their help, Hopalong fights to save the Rocking R, only to find himself the target of a ruthless gunman in a life-and-death struggle for frontier justice.

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    Chapter One


    The man called Key-Lock was a man alone, and before him lay wilderness. Behind him were searching men, and each was armed, each carried a rope. Each rope was noosed for hanging, and each man was intent on the purpose of the chase.

    The solitary rider did not fear his aloneness, for he had the companionship of the mind. He had strength also, patience beyond that of most men, and some knowledge of the wild lands into which he rode. If the men who pursued knew nothing of him, he at least knew their kind, and was stronger because of this.

    They were men shaped and tempered to the harsh ways of a harsh land, strong in their sense of justice, ruthless in their demand for punishment, relentless in pursuit. In the desert and the wilderness they had built their homes, and from the desert and the wilderness they drew their courage and their code. And the desert knows no mercy, the wilderness shows no kindness.

    Before the man called Key-Lock lay a land fragmented and torn, a magnificent land, gnarled and ancient. It was a land of shattered battlements, broken towers, and the headless figures of vast and shapeless gods. An empty land, yet crowded with epics in stone, harried by wind and thunderstorm, ripped by flash floods, blistered by summer's heat, frozen by winter's cold.

    He rode now in Arizona, but beyond the horizon to the north lay Utah, and between himself and the border, a desert. Between himself and escape--if he chose to escape--lay an almost waterless waste in which he must trust to his ingenuity to keep him free.

    The border lay ahead, but the border was merely a line on a map, and did not exist in the minds of the men who pursued him. If they knew of this border, it would have no place in their thinking, for to them he had already crossed another border, a border between the law and the lawless, between the right and the wrong, between what was done and what was not done.

    To kill a man who faced you with a gun was in their minds no crime, nor was it a crime in the customs of their period. In the East and in Europe men settled affairs of honor with pistols, but according to plan and ritual. In the West, in what was a new world, where men were often strangers to each other, the settling of such an affair was immediate, and without ritual.

    To shoot a man in the back, however, was a crime, and this they believed he had done, and for this he must be hung.

    But it was not enough for the man called Key-Lock to understand the philosophy of the hunters; the important thing for him was to escape them.

    Though he knew none of the men back there personally, he knew there must be good men among them, and on a different occasion he might have been riding as one of them, the pursuer instead of the pursued. For he had worked beside such men, fought beside them, and he knew that they were hardworking men, stern but just, according to their code. When such men come to a new land the law comes with them, for they are builders of homes, builders of towns, layers of foundations.

    And now he must escape or fight. If he fought, he must be prepared to kill, and he had no enmity for these men . . . not yet.


    Where's he bound?"

    "Home, more'n likely. He'll need an outfit if he aims to run far . . . if we don't get to him first."

    "Where's he live?"

    "He was a stranger, and had no trail outfit with him. Over to the store they said that when he taken out to get away, the one thing he latched onto was a woman's comb."

    "A comb?"

    "Seems daft, but that's what was told us. One of those fancy combs like Spanish women wear in their hair. He rummaged through all that grub...

About the Author-
  • Louis L'Amour is the only novelist in history to receive both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He has published ninety novels; twenty-seven short-story collections; two works of nonfiction; a memoir, Education of a Wandering Man; and a volume of poetry, Smoke from This Altar. There are more than 300 million copies of his books in print.

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