The Checker Board, Book One: The Life Game Begins
In 1880 West Texas, Dave Smith seeks a way to stay alive after choosing to run away from a family scandal in St. Louis. Dave encounters drunken Red Talbot and learns a hard knock lesson in a one sided fistfight. Pinto Larson, wily owner of The Checker Board ranch, believes Dave Smith can become a seasoned drover with training from Sam Eagle Feather, the Cheyenne Indian adopted by Pinto. While the two are at a remote line camp, they rescue a battered woman. Sam acknowledges he has feelings for the woman and takes her to safety. Ignoring laws relating to Indians, trouble develops for both of them when crazed Red Talbot calls out Sam in a fatal fight in which Dave makes a deadly decision. Through a series of lethal encounters, Dave becomes a gun hand under the tutelage of Pinto Larson, who had plied the trade in his youth before settling down to ranching. Dolores Alconda, an orphan from Santa Fe, now the schoolteacher in the village of San Miguel, finds an extraordinary affinity with Dave’s own self elected banishment from family. Together they form a loving relationship and plan a wedding, expecting to settle and prosper on a small cattle holding provided by Pinto Larson. Life’s game of luck is fleeting.