Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Six-guns and Slay Bells -- Story 13

The Toys

You all have heard of the Johnson County war, right? Tom Horn was famous for the things he did up there, things the Wyoming Stock Growers Association knew of and cottoned to. You know, right?

But have you heard of Harlan Stoddard? Gunman. Assassin. Bushwacker. The man who killed at least two small-time ranchers from hiding and without warning. The man who took the trouble to shoot the head off a doll that one of the men was carrying home for his little daughter.

If he just hadn’t shot up that doll.

But how’d he know the doll had it in for him. How’d he know the tin soldiers drum would rattle out his death march. How could he know? I mean, toys. Trinkets. Things that kids like to make believe with.

The day came when Harlan Stoddard rued his cold-blooded destruction of toys. Yes he did. But how? What revenge could porcelain dolls exact on a full-grown man? How much fear can a little toy drum beat into a man’s scull.

Wouldn’t you like to know?

JAMES J. GRIFFIN is a lifelong horseman, western enthusiast, and amateur historian of the Texas Rangers. He is the author of a series of Texas Ranger novels, and his extensive collection of Texas Ranger artifacts is now part of the permanent collections of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco. To learn more about Jim, visit his website at

Yes, I know Christmas has come and gone. But these stories are too good to be crowded into a corner and hogtied by a seasonal title. They're creepy enough to save you a lot of air conditioning money come summer.


  1. Charlie, thanks for posting this look into Jim's story. That was one good, scary Christmas story. I agree with you--this collection needs to be read year-round--not just at Christmas!

  2. Sorry about posting it on the wrong blog. It was supposed to go on mine. Also apologize for the misspelled "scull" which should have been skull.

  3. Charlie, that's okay--we need variety, and no one was posting today anyhow, so it was a change. It would be good to have something new every day.

  4. Thanks for the praise, Charlie. As far as "sculls", I passed the Yale boathouse, which is full of sculls, on the way to my niece's for Christmas dinner.

    Interestingly enough, my local indie bookstore, The Toadstool in Keene, NH, has not yet sold one single copy of the Wolf Creek series. They're still on the shelves. But "Six Guns and Slay Bells" sold out almost as soon as the books were put on display, and will be wanting more for next Christmas season.


  5. This is one scary story and ol' Harlan finally found out what it was like to be the prey. Six-guns and Slay Bells is a great read, cover to cover.