Badrock is the third book in the Archie Ledbetter series. Beginning in Billings, Montana after both of his friends leave and go home, Archie continues his search for easy riches by lookng up a man named France Wah, who had saved him from some thugs back in Omaha. To get up to north central Montana, he joins a cattle drive and takes his hand at being a cowboy. When the drive ends in Giltedge, he finds that France Wah may be only a day's ride away, so he makes the trip. Once he finds his friend, Archie finds himself as a bounty hunter, and that the good become the bad and the bad become the good, until it is all sorted out and he becomes "rich" with the reward money, a situation which lasts not long enough for him or for his fellow bounty hunters.
I got to admit right off that things in my life hasn’t always gone as I planned on them going. Some a that might be counted to the fact that I don’t always get real planned up before I take off to go and did something, and then when it all starts to happen, I hasn’t got a plan set in place, so I got to make do with what I can think of on the spot, which sometimes I get carried away with, and it all ends up where nobody would a thought for a minute it was goin to. Other times, it ain’t the least bit my fault, on account a I might be doin somethin planned real good, only to have it bust open because someone else comes into the scene that don’t belong there.
Miss Martin, my school teacher from way back a year or two, would say that I have a propenserty to think only about the present, and not the future. On the surface, that might seem like a logical and reasonable observation, but if you want to get picky nit about it, thinkin about what’s goin to get did a minute from now is plannin for the future, so there you have it.
Right now, though, is a good time for that kind a thinkin, of plannin my life way out to the future, for maybe up to a month or so. Even though it’s only been a couple of days since Percy and Woyer left me alone here in Billings, I’m already findin myself wonderin greatly about how they both is doin without me there to show them the way, and determine what things need to get did. The funny thing to me is, however, that I don’t worry so much about either a them.
Percy is on a boat back to Iowa, so all he has got to do is ride it until it gets to Omaha, and then get off and walk home to his job makin cherry whiskey with Willie Dan McCarty, and a course courtin Annie Bolston, who he promised he would buy a new dress with the money I gived him for just such a thing. Woyer, on the other hand, is the one I should most not worry about but the one I worry about the most. He is goin back to Casper to pick up Little Doe, and get married and fill up his quiver, which seems simple enough, and he can find and make food out a anything dead or alive, but he also can be a bit stubborn and hard headed at times, where he could keep to hisself or say that he is French, and things would stay peaceful, but no, he has got to stand up and say that he is a Injun, which some people doesn’t like, and then there could be trouble with me not bein there.
So, without there bein the slightest thing I can do for either a them, like if I put a stick in the Yellowstone River to see where it would go, and then decided I want the stick back, well, too bad for me. I got to let it go to where it’s goin, just like I do Percy and Woyer.
All a that leads me to sittin here, lettin the determineration built up in me to go on and finish doin what I came here to did, which is to find France Wah and catch us up some thiefs and outlaws and turn them in and get rich in the process, and then I can go back home and drink cherry whiskey with Percy or ride out to the plains and find Woyer with his wife and quiver. Either way, I got to do what I came here to do, or what’s the point?
I still got a pocketful, or at least a half a pocketful, a money from what Woyer left with me when he left, minus what I gived to Percy when he left. When I spent all a that time with Woyer out in nowheres and beyond, I got to countin on him for the food and things like that, and I didn’t pay no attention at all to which plants he was pickin, or which lizards he was cookin up, and then I get here to civilization again, and find it’s way easier to go into a restaurant and have them cook me up somethin eatible, than it is to go out lizard huntin. The problem is that if you do that all a the time, you got to have money comin in the other end, or sooner or later you end up eatin the lizards again, so I got to watch my money real tight.
I been askin around where is all a the thiefs and outlaws I heard so much about, and half a the people say there ain’t many a either in Montana, and half a them say there is a few over by Butte, and the other half says there is plenty a them up by the breaks, which I don’t got the slightest idea where that is or what it means.
Right off, I eliminate the first one, because if there ain’t thiefs and outlaws, I’m wastin my time, and I eliminate the second one because there ain’t a good reason to go lookin for somethin when there is more somewhere else. It would be like huntin for ducks in the forest instead a on a pond. So, that leaves up north, which after all a the travelin north Woyer and I done, I don’t think there can be much more of until you go over the top a the pole and starts to head south again.
With another day a investigationing, for which I am knowed and famous for, on account a solvin the big crime back in Iowa, I find out that when people say the breaks, they is talkin about some rough country along the Missouri River, and nothin more. They say that people there can get lost even from theirselfs if they blink too long, and there is likely as many sets a dried bones up there as there is live people, so you had better watch out. Hearin all a that makes me feel like that’s where I will find France Wah for sure.
Then, I find out that the ride up there isn’t one to do for fun, and that it’s only for cowboys and rattlesnakes, if you can tell the difference, one man says to me, but that if I had paid attention to where it was, I would a recollected that they said it was on the Missouri River, which by coincidence, the Yellow Stone river dumps into, so you can float there if you want to instead a ridin. It don’t take a genius to figure out which a those a intelligent person like me would choose.
A day after that, I am on a boat myself, with a ticket all the way to the Missouri River, where I will get off and then be on my own to the breaks, where I will find both France Wah and all a the thiefs and outlaws just waitin to get catched.
The first thing I do when I get on the boat, which is called the Mary Lou, after the captain’s daughter a the same name, is to introduce myself to the captain hisself. I tell him about my extensive experience with boat security, a job I once held on this same river all the way from Omaha to Sioux City, where I got back to the boat after it had left on account a havin to settle a big dispute there that would a tore the whole city into five pieces if I had not brung them together and solved what all a the problems was about. I tell him that the details beyond that isn’t important, and wouldn’t be understood by normal people anyways, so there ain’t a good reason to get my horn tooted no more about it. He says to me that’s quite a story, but they don’t need no security on board, on account a this bein Montana, and everyone on board has a gun on them, which ain’t like the sissies back to the east, so if anyone tries to capture the boat, they will be filled with holes right quick.
“Well,” I says, “that’s a fine thought, that I won’t have to worry about savin all a these people’s lifes, and that I can just set down and rest a spell until one a them recognizes me for bein so famous, and then there will be a commotion for a while until they all gets used to bein around famosity, but it won’t hurt nothin.”
“That would be a relief,” he says. “Maybe I could get some work done if you would jabber at someone else.”
He is quite proud a hisself for his unnecessary and insulting comment, and I am tempted hard to show him who he is dealin with as far as brains goes, but I don’t, choosin instead to go ahead and let the mobs mob me and maybe get them all to one side and tip the boat to that side until just before it tips all a the way over and then he will be sorry. After a second a thought, I decide not to do that all the way to tippin over, even though it would be easy for me to do, and that I will just keep walkin around the boat so it tips back and fourth makin it harder to steer. That should show him who he’s insultin with his ignorants.
After walkin around the deck a few times, and not drawin quite the crowds I was expectin to draw, blamin it on their ignorants like the captain, I decide it ain’t worth the effort a all a it, and goes to find myself a nice bed to sleep in. Most a the rooms is locked up for some reason, probally because they is carryin somethin they don’t want us to know about, like gold or fresh eggs, but I don’t feel like takin the time to pick no lock right now, so I keep goin until I find a room that’s unlocked and empty from people. It has two beds in it, one on top a the other, so I climbs up onto the top one and scoots over against the wall, and before I know it, I’m sleepin like a baby. Before I get to sleep, though, I ponderate about how long it has been since I took a proper nap in the day time, and can’t rightfully recall.
Well, everything goes along good for a while— I can’t tell for sure if it’s been a long while or a short while, on account a I been sleepin— and then I hear some voices real close to me. I wake up and open my eyes, but don’t move, which is somethin I learned from Woyer. You never jump right out a bed, because if it’s people wakin you up and they mean some harm, you don’t want them to know you are awake until you are ready, which I ain’t at the time.
I listen to the voices, and can tell right off it’s a man and a woman, and they is having a private conversation. By that, I don’t mean private like you don’t want no one to know what you is plannin, but private like if anyone else hears, it would be embarrassin for everyone. I listen to what he says, and what she says back, and I get to thinkin about how I use to talk to Emily Prater, and I got to admit, this guy is sayin things I ain’t even sure what they mean, but evidently she does, because she giggles and coos back at him. Then, the talkin stops, and it starts to sound like someone suckin the gravy off a their plate with their mouth, slurpin like crazy. It don’t take me but a minute to guess what they is doin, and it ain’t for spectators.
Knowin I’m kind a trapped up here, I make a point to lay real still, not wantin to rock the boat this way, if I know what I mean. That goes okay for a bit, until I gets both a itch on my nose and the startings of a cramp in my foot, and the more I think a them, the more they get to botherin me, and the more I have to try to fight off the urge to do somethin. Then, I got to pee, and then the other one. My body is just about to give itself away when the girl says that was some fine kissin, and maybe they should do it again some time, and he says he has all the time in the world right now, so why put it off? She says she has got to get back to her parents before they notice she is gone, and which would cause them to have a fit and probally kill them both. He says maybe they should leave too.
They get up, and I can hear her straightenin out her dress, and fluffin her hair, and he is still tryin to get one last kiss in, but she pushes him away and real playful tells him there is more where that come from, but not now.
As soon as they leave, I get up out a the bed and jump to the floor. The door is a jar just a couple inches, which is enough for me to be able to stick my ear to the crack and listen for noises right outside, which I don’t hear none, so I open it a crack more, and then another crack until I can fit my head in it just enough to look outside to the hallway, and seein it’s clear, I hop right out and act like nobody’s business.
I go back to the deck to see if the people is any more in the mood for famosity than they was earlier, and the first person I see is the man from the room. Actually, I hear him first, and recognize the voice, and then turn around and sees someone who I know right off could wring my neck with one hand and not work up a sweat doin it.
“What’re you looking at?” he asts, with a bit a mean in it.
“Well, sir,” I says, “I admit to lookin, but it’s because I thought for a second there that my eyes was playin tricks on me, and that I was lookin at Barkdale, who you probally don’t know, on account a he hangs around Omaha more than Montana, but just as you spoke, I had figured out that you wasn’t Barkdale, and I was just about to politely avert my eyes.”
He comes up to me, close enough I can smell the girl’s perfume that has made it to his clothes and face, and he says, “If you got looking to do, do it somewhere else. If I catch you looking at me again, you will eat one of these.”
At that, he holds up a fist the size of a pumpkin, and shakes it real slow in front a my face. I says to him that he can go on now and not be worryin hisself about me lookin at him, because I got no good cause to do such a thing, and so that’s that. He says I better not again, and I says I won’t again.
I real quick turn around and walk to the other side a the boat, and there I see the girl who was in the room, or someone wearin the hat she was wearin, which has a brim so wide it near to don’t fit through the door. I don’t want to be saw talkin to her when the man is out and about, so I stop short a them, and look out at the scenery, which is goin by at a fast rate.
Well, she comes up to me anyway, sass shayin to all get out, holdin her parasol over her head to keep the sun off a her hat, and comes right up to me and stands there waitin for me to say somethin about how nice it is to have her come up to me, but I don’t because I don’t want to eat that pumpkin I just seen a minute ago.
Finally, after a couple a seconds, she holds out her hand, which has got a glove on it even though it’s a hot day, and a course, I take it and shake it right proper and says hello.
“You are supposed to kiss my hand, not shake it,” she says, although she don’t seem too preturbed about it.
Well, now I know I’m in a pickle. I try to think of a way out a this, but before I do, she says, “Or perhaps you would rather kiss my lips.” When she says it, mischief shows all over her.
After a awkward silence, I says to her, “Well, Ma’am, I must admit that I would sure be tempted to kiss either your hand or your lips, except for one thing. It seems that I have managed to catched some kind a disease or condition when I was out in the wilds a the plains, and although it don’t cause people to act sick or nothin, what happens is that everythin my lips touches turns a bright green, and we couldn’t have none a that now, could we?”
“You’re lying,” she says real calm.
“Why, I am hurt and disappointed that you would make such a accusation, Miss. As a famous person, I take things like that terrible hard. I was only lookin out for you, not wantin you to be embarrassed on account a the green color you got all over you.”
“Then kiss my glove,” she says. “I don’t mind if it turns green.”
Then, I got to explain that it only turns things green that’s alive, or has been alive, and not things like clothes and such. She then holds up her boot, and says it use to be a cow, so it was alive, so go ahead and kiss it or she will tell the whole world that I am a stinkin liar.
I am about to make up a story about how there is certain things which turn green, but only certain people can see them, and you never know who they are, but to most people, things look the same, except for lips and hands.
“You’re lying,” she says again.
Then, I feel a hand, which feels suspiciously like the pumpkin her kissin partner had on the end a his arm, set itself right on my shoulder. I begin to tell him I didn’t did nothin, that I was just mindin my own business when she come over to me and started to ask me to kiss her, but that obviously ain’t a good idea, so I let them talk it out.
He asts her what was I doing to bother her, and she says I was being very rude, by not showin appropriate respect, and besides that, I was tellin her all sorts a lies. He asts me if that is true, and a course I say not exactly, and then he asts if I am callin his girl a liar, and again I says not exactly, which don’t make him any happier, so he tosses me right overboard like I was a empty sack.