Thursday, January 3, 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 skull.

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.

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