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‘Haunt of the Hunted’
Vultures Sanctuary by Robert E. Howard


First published in the January 1936 issue of Argosy, reading from pages 105-25, of The Last Ride, Berkley, 1978

Bill McClanahan, or Big Mac, was stopping in Capitan town on his way to San Francisco. He soon stood at the bar of the Four Aces saloon. He is one of Howard’s numerous Gaelic heroes:

“Big Mac, cowpuncher from Texas, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, with thews hardened to the toughness of woven steel by years on the cattle trails that stretched from the live-oaks of the gulf marshes to the prairies of Canada. A familiar figure wherever cowmen gathered, with his broad brown face, volcanic blue eyes, and unruly thatch of curly black hair.”

This is Kull or Conn, or Conan, or Esau Cairn, Howard’s favorite type of hero, a direct actionist who uses a simple, heavy weapon, in this case a Colt Forty-five.

Big Mac is sick of working and declines an offer to prospect with a known murderer, who then tries to back shot him, but gets pummeled with those big Irish fists instead. The rough justice is all but complete when a young woman from back east scolds Mac, names him a low brute, and gets sucked into the clutches of the gunfighter, who acts just like most modern criminals when they get punched out, a whining, travesty of manhood.

The story is simple, direct and elemental, representing one of Howard’s many attempts to rectify his concept of the masculine with the world as he knew it, and as he imagined it might have been.

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