GUNS OF THE BARRICADE BUNCH [West of the Wide Missouri] by Philip Ketchum


“A rattle-banging western centering around grimly contested Blockhouse springs, pits the cattlemen of Blockhouse range, desperate for water, against Wahlberg's outfit, intent on moving their cattle onto Blockhouse land – no matter what the cost!” – Albany (OR) Democrat-Herald

There had been no water in Pueblo Creek since late June. Carl Gifford was luckier than most ranchers in the valley. He'd dug his wells, built his windmills, when times were good. There were five windmills on the Blockhouse range. All still pumping a thin trickle of brackish water. As long as they didn’t fail, most of Gifford’s stock would live. As long as they didn’t fail, Gifford would come through this drought all right.

John Murray was a tall man, not noticeably tall. He packed his weight in the muscles which lined his body. The skin of his face was deeply tanned below the brim line of his hat. In another month he would be thirty years old, and at the tag end of this hard summer, he looked it, and felt it. He had worked for Gifford for most of the past ten years and for the last six had been the Blockhouse foreman. He knew how Gifford thought, what he believed in, what he hated. He knew his stubbornness. Gifford’s recent marriage, only a year ago, might have mellowed him, but it hadn’t changed the core of the man.

But when Gifford returned from Albuquerque it was to tell Murray he was dying and didn’t have long to live. Moments later, he was gunned down by an unseen rifleman. Now his water rights were up for grab.

But, Gifford’s will left the ranch to his wife, Julia, not yet thirty, and his daughter, Ann, twenty-three. Two women who had never agreed on anything. Tensions become inflamed when Ann learns Julia is considering selling the ranch. Ann is vehemently opposed.

Meanwhile Dan Wahlberg plots to take the ranch by force, and do the same with the two women who own it. Dan Wahlberg isn’t alone in his plans. He’s convinced other ranchers to join him in bringing their thirsty cattle to Gifford’s wells come hell or high water.

Only John Murray, Ann, their loyal ranch hands are left to defend Gifford’s dreams for the ranch.

And Sam Ackerman, sheriff and town marshal, a short, stocky man with a ruddy face, knows that when the shooting starts, he won't be able to stop it.


“Hit them from all sides!”

Murray scanned the faces of the men around him. They were all grim and hard. Not a man smiled. And no one spoke. This might be their last ride. Determination tightened Murray’s stomach muscles. “This time we’ll run Wahlberg’s strays off our range. Let’s ride, Blockhouse!” he snapped. He wheeled away, roweling his horse, lifting it to a gallop. The others swerved and followed. But around the rimrock they saw Wahlberg’s men already hazing the spooked cattle toward the grimly contested Blockhouse springs. This was range war! This was a fight they’d win—or die!

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