Trail of the Vanishing Ranchers
by Stephen Payne
This is another of the Books Forgotten. I`m not really sure whether it is a western or a detective story, so you`ll have to figure that out for yourselves...Dell Stover, a young rancher, comes home from a long journey. He is tired and hungry, but he is happy. He has sold some cattle and he has bought nine young Hereford bulls to improve his herd. Much to Dell`s surprise, there`s a strange man making himself at home at the Dipper - the ranch that belongs to Dell. The man, one Herbert R. Freeman, claims he has bought the BX, the ranch adjoining the Dipper, from Dell`s neighbor Bertram Marfle, and the Dipper... from Dell Stover! After some sounding out it appears that the old pouter Marfle, who has always hated the Stover family, has not only sold his own ranch to Freeman, but has also cajoled Dell`s hired hand Rupert Wilkes into impersonating Dell Stover and selling the Dipper ranch. It seems that the pair of swindlers have taken the money and pushed off. To top it all, Dell notices there`s a fresh mound and signs of something being burned, indicating that some of the calves had recently died of blackleg. Dell is shocked and bewildered. Besides, Marfle`s daughter Sylvia, the girl Dell secretly admires, comes home totally unaware that she has no home anymore...Neither Dell nor Sylvia nor Mr.Freeman nor Sheriff Fat Frank Ames seem to like this strange deal. So they - each after their own fashion - set off on the trail of the vanishing ranchers...Written about a half of a century ago, the book is still worth reading. No deep philosophy, no heartbreaking passions in the book - just easy and pleasant reading with just the right amount of tension and action and some mystery and an unobtrusive love story for a background..