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Casey Ryan   By: (1874-1940)

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Author of "Chip of the Flying U", "Rim O' the World", "Cow Country", etc.


[Illustration: Casey reached for his pocket, and the white man also reached for his. FRONTISPIECE. See page 237.]


From Denver to Spokane, from El Paso to Fort Benton, men talk of Casey Ryan and smile when they speak his name. Old men with the flat tone of coming senility in their voices will suck at their pipes and cackle reminiscently while they tell you of Casey's tumultuous youth when he drove the six fastest horses in Colorado on the stage out from Cripple Creek, and whooped past would be holdups with a grin of derision on his face and bullets whining after him and passengers praying disjointed prayers and clinging white knuckled to the seats.

They say that once a flat, lanky man climbed bareheaded out at the stage station below the mountain and met Casey coming springily off the box with whip and six reins in his hand. The lanky man was still pale from his ride, and he spluttered when he spoke:

"Sa ay! N next time you're held up and I'm r ridin' with yuh, b by gosh, you s stop . I I'd ruther be shot t than p pitched off into a c canyon, s somewhere a and busted up!"

Casey is a little man. When he was young he was slim, but he always has owned a pale blue, unwinking squint which he uses with effect. He halted where he was and squinted up at the man, and spat fluid tobacco and grinned.

"You're here, and you're able to kick about my drivin'. That's purty good luck, I'd say. You ain't shot, an' you ain't layin' busted in no canyon. Any time a man gits shot outa Casey Ryan's stage, he'll have to jump out an' wait for the bullet to ketch up. And there ain't any passengers offn' this stage layin' busted in no canyon, neither. I bring in what I start out with."

The other man snorted and reached under his coat tail for the solacing plug of chewing tobacco. Opposition and ridicule had brought a little color into his face.

"Why, hell, man! You you come around that ha hairpin turn up there on two wheels! It's a miracle we wasn't "

"Miracles is what happens once and lets it go at that. Say! Casey Ryan always saves wear on a coupla wheels, on that turn. I've made it on one; but the leaders wasn't runnin' right to day. That nigh one's cast a shoe. I gotta have that looked after." He gave up the reins to the waiting hostler and went off, heading straight for the station porch where waited a red haired girl with freckles and a warm smile for Casey.

That was Casey's youth; part of it. The rest was made up of fighting, gambling, drinking hilariously with the crowd and always with his temper on hair trigger. Along the years behind him he left a straggling procession of men, women and events. The men and women would always know the color of his eyes and would recognize the Casey laugh in a crowd, years after they had last heard it; the events were full of the true Casey flavor, and as I say, when men told of them and mentioned Casey, they laughed.

From the time when his daily drives were likely to be interrupted by holdups, and once by a grizzly that reared up in the road fairly under the nose of his leaders and sent the stage off at an acute angle, blazing a trail by itself amongst the timber, Casey drifted from mountain to desert, from desert to plain and back again, blithely meeting hard luck face to face and giving it good day as if it were a friend. For Casey was born an optimist, and misfortune never quite got him down and kept him there, though it tried hard and often, as you will presently see. Some called him gritty. Some said he hadn't the sense to know when he was licked. Either way, it made a rare little Irishman of Casey Ryan, and kept his name from becoming blurred in the memories of those who once knew him.

So in time it happened that Casey was driving a stage of his own from Pinnacle down to Lund, in Nevada, and making boast that his four horses could beat the record the month's record, mind of any dog gone auty mo bile that ever infested the trail... Continue reading book >>

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