Sunday, April 29, 2012


By Robert E. Howard

While Robert E. Howard is best known as the guy that came up with Conan, the barbaric, unstoppable killing machine that changed the rules of fantasy forever, he was also the author of many tall-tale Westerns. Breck Elkins is a Conan with a Texas drawl, instead of a broadsword, he has his unstoppable fists. Too good-natured to be homicidal, Breck actually is the lunkhead so many assume Conan is. It’s not so much that Breck’s a bull in a china shop, but the world is too fragile for a lad of his strength. The fact that he doesn’t feel pain makes him a bit careless of regular folks, with their odd manner of reacting badly when a hot stove falls on them. Not that Breck would do that on purpose, but when he’s around he tends to throw stuff such as stoves, barrels of gunpowder, or mountain lions.

What might surprise you is how successful they were. REH never got Conan into a hard-cover collection in his lifetime, Breck Elkins was picked up by Herbert Jenkins, a British publisher eager to offer up Texan humor to the reading public of the UK. The resulting collection was titled A Gent from Bear Creek and fit a number of stories into a running storyline.

The Riot at Bucksnort takes a looser approach to Breck’s adventures. This set includes “Meet Cap’n Kidd,” perhaps the funniest of them all, detailing Breck’s encounter with a wild stallion, about the only creature that can match Breck in strength, and by far his superior in orneriness. The only ones that get the best of Breck and his ilk are the ladies, Glory McGraw in particular. Breck’s wooing of Glory formed the basis for A Gent from Bear Creek. Not that romance ever causes Breck to settle down.

Riot also contains a couple of tales featuring Pike Bearfield and Buckner J. Grimes, characters in a similar vein to Breck Elkins, though with their own quirks. All of the stories are mirthful yarns of Western slapstick, where gigantic hill-billies blunder their way across the landscape.

Perhaps the best way to convey what these stories are like is to give a little taste of fatherly advice on Bear Creek:

“Be keerful how you spend that dollar I give you,” he said. “Don’t gamble. Drink in Reason; half a gallon of corn juice is enough for any man. Don’t be techy—but don’t forget yore pap was once the rough-and-tumble champeen of Gonzales County. Texas. And whilst yo’re feelin’ for the other feller’s eye, don’t be keerless and let him chaw yore ear off.”

Words to live by.

-Dave Hardy

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