Clay Evans inherited the Circle E ranch and all the responsibilities that went with it when his family died of smallpox thirteen years ago. When the Circle T began losing stock, they cast a suspicious eye at Evans. It was bad enough that they suspected him of rustling, but when a man he barely knew was killed, they blamed that on him too. They were so relentless that they chased him right into an Indian uprising.
Evans wanted to go back to his ranch, but he couldn’t leave three greenhorns to the mercy of the Apache with two irresponsible guides and a clueless posse. He’d have to join them in a standoff at Apache Butte
“Standoff At Apache Butte” is another western by Rigsbee that recognizes the plight of the native American while delivering a traditional western story. Young Clay Evans has a ranch bordering Apache hunting grounds, but they have established a mutual policy of respect.
The Circle T ranch is losing stock and they suspect Evans of using a running iron to make it the Circle E brand. When Evans is prodded into a fight with the Circle T owner’s son, the foreman invites him to leave town. He accepts, but then they accuse him of running out of town after committing a murder.
Unaware of the murder or that there is a posse on his tail, he heads across Apache territory to his ranch. He stumbles on an Apache hunting party before he discovers a British party camped at a popular Apache water hole. To make matters worse, they are trophy hunting on Apache hunting grounds. They don’t heed his warning and he is ready to let them work out their own problems with the Apache; but he is bound by honor to help them.
Honor gets Evans into one scrape after another. If the posse doesn’t hang him, the Indians will probably kill him. At the point he thinks he has nothing but enemies, some people are beginning to respect him. He must solve a mystery before he can clear his name. There was only one shot fired at the murder scene, and he heard that go by his head. If he knew how it was possible, he might know who did it.
From the first page, this short novel plunges into action, and it stays there. The first chapter of this story won first place in the western category of the Missouri Writer’s Guild in 2018.
Evans has lived around the Apache all his life. His ranch borders Apache hunting grounds and they have a tentative unspoken agreement. He doesn’t hunt on their land and they are permitted an occasional beef to replace the buffalo white men have run off. Getting along with white men is a little more complicated.
Anyone who actually knows Clay Evans is aware of his integrity. He is a confident and decisive young man. The trouble is; the people of Black Rock and the Circle T ranch only know of him. They know he owns the Circle E and that its brand would cover the Circle T. They know he was at the murder scene when it happened, and that he rode away without looking back. They know that last part because Red, a circle T rider, witnessed the killing – or at least he said he did.
Kid Talon’s taunt at the bar in Black Rock wasn’t the first time Clay Evans had heard the rumor about his ranch and running irons. He didn’t start the fight with Kid Talon, but he wrapped it up without a scratch. He even left town at the Circle T foreman’s request. He left oblivious to the fact that there was a murder. He didn’t know why the posse was following him any more than he knew why they started shooting at him as soon as they saw him. All he knew was that he wasn’t going to hang around collecting lead.
After a brush with Apache hunters, Evans stumbles on a British camp beside a waterhole smack in the middle of Apache hunting grounds. As if that isn’t enough, they are trophy hunting with the consent of the government. They are skeptical about the danger and reluctant to leave.
If there is one thing Evans doesn’t need, it’s another complication in his life. He is tempted to leave them to their fate, but his conscience won’t let him. He finally accepts their decision to make a stand on Apache Butte. From that point on, things deteriorate.
Evan’s integrity garners respect from some of the men on the butte, and disdain from others. He is willing to go back and stand trial to clear his name, assuming he can get off the butte alive.