Well, it’s finally here. TRAIL DRIVE, which is the fifth installment in my series, THE McCABES. I have always liked cattle drive stories. One of my favorite TV series was RAWHIDE. It only seemed natural that the McCabe family would get around to a cattle drive, sooner or later.
This story takes place in 1881. Historically, it was a time of change in Montana Territory. The Lakota and Cheyenne Indians had been defeated and corralled (I’ll write another blog later dealing with my feelings about this), which opened up the Bozeman Trail for settlers to stream their way into Montana. They didn’t quite stream into Montana the way they streamed into California in 1849, or into Nevada and Colorado ten years later. But based on the standards of Montana, which was quite remote, the settlers were sure enough streaming.
Johnny McCabe is unusual, in that he ramrods cattle drives himself. Most ranchers didn’t do this. They sell the herd to drovers, like the guys you see in RAWHIDE. The drovers take the herd to market in one of the railheads. Johnny likes to take his herd to market himself, though most of his trail hands are experienced drovers.
Johnny knows this will probably be the last major cattle drive he will part in, because the writing on the proverbial wall is the railroad is coming to Montana, and the railroad altered the cattle industry. History shows he will be right. History shows the Utah and Northern Railway stretched itself into Silver Bow, Montana in October, 1881. Just a few months after the end of the novel TRAIL DRIVE. It won’t be long before the railroad hits the town of Jubilee, which will be chronicled in my series of the same name.
This novel was fun to write. I don’t usually get too much into the details of ranch work in the 1880s, but with this novel, I get to delve a bit into the business of cattle drives. For research, my main source is LOG OF A COWBOY, by Andy Adams, though I also referenced THE TRAMPLING HERD, by Paul I Wellman, and TRAIL DRIVING DAYS, by Dee Brown and Martin F. Schmidt. That’s the same Dee Brown who wrote BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. As always, since the McCabes are gunfighters and guns are the tools of the trade, I fall back on A HISTORY OF THE COLT REVOLVER by Charles T. Haven and Frank A. Belden, and WINCHESTER, THE GUN THAT WON THE WEST, by Harold F. Williamson.
As with all of my McCabe novels, there is more than one storyline going on. While most of the men are off on the trail drive, Charles Cole remains home to tend the ranch. He finds out very quickly that someone has placed a price on his head, and a gunman comes to the valley looking to put a bullet into him. Charles has to learn to fight. He turns to Harlan Carter, and to the mysterious Chinese man known only as Mister Chen. For the fighting maneuvers he has been shown, I drew on my own knowledge of Tai Chi and Praying Mantis, and I referenced the book OLD FRAME CHEN FAMILY TAIJIQUAN, by Mark Chen, and KOKUSHI-RYU JUJUTSU, by Nobuyoshi Higashi.
I try not to make my McCabe novels about the history, or about the guns or the fighting maneuvers. My stories are about not about events or the tools they use, but the people caught up in the events, and the people using the tools. My stories are entirely fiction, but I try to paint the story against a historical backdrop, and I try to make that historical backdrop as accurate as possible.
If you check out TRAIL DRIVE, drop me a line and let me know what you think. I can be reached at my new email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’m on Facebook. I also am entering the twitter world and can be found at @McCabeWestern. If you want to post a quick review at Amazon.com, that would be much appreciated.