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Book Cover Nick Stolter image


A Ten Day Ride Turned into Months of Hell

Fifteen new head of horse for breeding stock. Five hundred in gold for a better year for his family. All he had to do was ride through the wilds of Arizona with a friend. An easy job.

Chaos erupted at the herd rendezvous. Shots fired in an ambush. The horses were gone. No stock, no gold, failure. Battered, bruised and beaten. Then Stolter woke up to find three Mexican kids watching him. His horses waited in the next valley and the animals secretly carried the gold.

Five hundred miles to his front gate. Alone. Dogged by outlaws, nick-of-time help from a new friend along the trail. The telegram gave him the ultimate bad news about home. Twenty-two stitches, a thundering herd, bullets fly and miles of dust. What could go wrong, did go wrong. A ten-day trip turned into months of Hell.

One Last Ride. One Last Risk to Take

Tall at six feet three with sandy dark hair, dark eyes. From a poor family around New Orleans, Louisiana. As a young boy, Stolter had a knack for working with horses and was a good judge of horseflesh. But it was a hard-scraping life. Stolter was tired of being hungry, going without clothes and shoes. At age eleven, he had packed up everything he owned and rode away one day.

Nick Stolter image

Months, weeks and years went by as he followed the rodeo circuits from Oklahoma to California. Odd jobs and prize money kept him alive. Stolter always talked about how he knew his big break was right around the corner

Stolter thrived on anything to do with horses. Former competition rodeo champion with a box full of ribbons.  Stolter said it was the best day of his life when he met the beautiful Marianna Richardson in Denver. Two years later they were married.

During those years, Stolter had nurtured a friendship with many people across the west. One was Ginger Whelihan, who hired Stolter on to ride shotgun security to Wells Fargo runs to Phoenix. It is Whelihan who walks into the Windy Ridge yard one morning and asked Stolter to ride with him. It was a promise of easy money, fresh stock for the herd, and a chance to wipe a debt clean.

Marianna Richardson Stolter

Daughter of Glenn Richardson, deceased.  Owner of the Flint Hills Ranch. 35 years old, auburn hair down the middle of her back, sparkling brown eyes.

At the Denver rodeo after winning the cutting horse competition. Stolter met the young Miss Marianna Richardson and her stern father, Glen who had come looking for agile horses. A trickle of nervous sweat slid down his spine as Stolter discussed his vision for the future. He remembered the flashing grin the young beauty had for his discreet wink. Stolter had made a good impression. Marianna Stolter image

Tragedy had befallen the young couple in their early marriage. A son, Charlie had died from pneumonia at age three. Marianna convinced her husband to move north and find a new home. They bought the Windy Ridge ranch in Yucca Valley and settled in. Children, Kelly, Lola and Colton were born at Windy Ridge.

Marianna is against Nick riding out and being away from the ranch. Money is tight for them and there are plans for sales of some of the horses later in the month. Marianna had been working with two colts and a filly on cutting exercises for almost a year. It was an overwhelming feeling of dread as she watched her husband ride out the gate that day.

Victorio Imperisante Romero Estrella AKA Rio

Rio and his siblings are the Mexican kids who delivered the horses to Stolter at the rendezvous.

“You sleep real good, mister.” A short black-haired boy about the same age as Colton spoke.

“Romero Estrella. That sounds familiar and I don’t know many Mexican families. You related to Zippy?” All the dark-brown shining faces looked at each other and laughed.

Rio Estrella image

The young girl with the black hair and dark eyes spoke. “Zippy is my uncle. My mother’s brother. He is the eldest in his family and my mother is the youngest. I am her youngest.”

“Six months every year we have to go up to Phoenix to our other Uncle Victor and go to the American school there. We work in his restaurant nights and weekends to pay for our keep. We have a lot of friends up there and Uncle Victor is a good man.” Rio nodded.

Rio said, “Uncle Zippy has told us stories about taking some of our best mustangs up to California and beating all their fast horses. We heard the story about this champion Arabian who was something really special. It was a big, strong racehorse. Uncle Zippy’s mustang beat it easy in the first mile, in the second mile it was lagging and after the third mile it was so far behind you couldn’t see it. It was owned by a girl, by a friend of Mr. Ginger’s and Uncle Zippy almost made her cry.”

Rio patted the neck of his stallion and adjusted the cloth pack strap. “Good luck to you, mister. You are riding west. We are riding south. Someday you should bring your fancy cutting horses south to visit us. We’ll have a contest to see who is better!” All three animals began walking out of the clearing as the children waved.

Griff Southcott

Gray-haired and grizzled stubbly beard. Well into his 60th year. Plain talking, folksy style of living. His ranch south of Tucson holds twenty head of stage horses for Wells Fargo.

Stolter had found Southcott shot, nearly dead alongside the road headed west. Stolter went for help and managed to get Southcott to a doctor in the next town.

Griff Southcott Image

After three riders alongside the road, Stolter and Southcott rode in silence for a mile. Southcott cleared his throat. “I fought Indians in the Dakotas and Wyoming. The most Ricky back there ever fought was that little paper wrapper on the top of a whiskey bottle.” They laughed.

Southcott nodded and said, “My folks had horses over just south of Tucson. I was 14 when my pa died. His heart gave out. I never knew him to be sick a day in his life. My ma died of pneumonia four years later

Southcott rubbed his forehead. “Nobody wants an old horse rancher. I never married. I look from time to time, but nobody is looking for me.”


“Griff? Griff Southcott? I know him.” Sullivan’s face lit up in a smile. “He used to come through with stage horses every other week. How is he?”

Stolter nodded. “He’ll be okay. On a trip to Red Springs, he was shot and thieves stole two of his mares. I got him into Rio Mesa and the doc sewed him up. He’s a tough old bird and I managed to get him back to his ranch. I left him the good hands of a friend so I believe he’ll be alright.”

Southcott laid out a map west from Tucson to Bradford and marked up the waterholes and campsites. One of the most important things Southcott passed on to Stolter was where not to stop.


Published: Dec. 13, 2015

Words: 94,720

Language: English

ISBN: 9781311795168

Print Length: 260 pages

Fiction – Western – Thriller – Suspense – Action

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