Cover image for Ten and me
Ten and me
Boggs, Johnny D.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Avalon Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
182 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
"An Avalon western"--Jkt.
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Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The "Ten" in Ten and Me stands for Charles Dennis Tenedore Keough, a hard-drinking, consumptive dentist, gambler, lawman, and outlaw, who sounds a little like a Doc Holliday clone. The "Me" is Ten's friend Jack Lindsay Mackinnon, better known throughout the Southwest as Ranger Jack. The novel unfolds in flashback as Mackinnon, on his wedding day in 1886, reflects on his adventures and misadventures with Ten Keough, who lies in a grave just up the hill from where the wedding will take place, in New Mexico Territory. The men met in Dallas when Mackinnon, suffering from a toothache, sought Ten Keough's aid, only to find out later that his friend did everything well except dentistry. This is an entertaining western in the classic mold. The characters possess enough human frailty to be believable, the author includes interesting stuff on the weaponry of the times, and there is enough gunplay to satisfy genre purists. --Budd Arthur

Publisher's Weekly Review

Like the "double-dimer" thrillers of the Old West, Boggs's second novel (after Hannah and the Horseman) comes complete with a generic fast-moving plot, "cliffhanger" chapter endings and a burgeoning cast of villainous characters. The guileless narrator and protagonist of this miniature epic is Jack Mackinnon. A failed postwar farming effort sends Jack to Texas, where a terrible toothache puts him in the way of a consumptive dentist, Tenedore Keough, "Ten." The pair eventually join the Texas Rangers, then lapse into outlawry before finally becoming peace officers again. Their exploits are publicized by the lovely and innocent hack writer Robin Hunter in a series of "penny dreadfuls" featuring "Ranger Jack" and his intrepid companion, "Ten." The immense popularity of the books makes the "pards" famous, but it also exposes them to dangerous challenges from envious gunmen. Through it all, Jack always stands up for justice, while Ten flirts with the seamier side of life. Romantic liaisons between Ten and Robin and between Ranger Jack and a ranger's beautiful daughter keep the tale moving in the gaps between explosive scenes of gunplay and vicious struggles involving the forces of good and evil in the Old West. Informed by accurate detail in almost every regard, the tale only rarely slips into anachronism or error. Boggs's narrative voice captures the old-fashioned style of the past and reminds a reader of the derring-do of western legends of yesteryear. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Part One, Texas 1878-1879 I stepped off the train in Dallas, having left a thirty-two-acre farm outside Florence, South Carolina, to my greedy creditors. In the South after the War, land-hungry carpetbaggers seemed as thick as pond scum in a drought. I held on as long as I could before declaring if they were that excited to own my miserable swamp land, then they could have it. So I carved out "G.T.T." on my front door and was "Gone To Texas."     That had been in '75. Three years later, I arrived in Dallas. You see, I seldom bought tickets. I would hop a freight from time to time, and get thrown off every now and then. I worked, helping out farmers in Alabama and Tennessee ... sweating on the Mississippi River docks in Vicksburg for eighteen months ... serving as an apprentice gunsmith in Louisiana. Tired of New Orleans, I bought a ticket to Dallas and rode into Texas in a Pullman sleeper. I thought somebody was shooting off fireworks, when I stepped onto the Houston and Texas Central platform that spring evening. That's how green I was, a twenty-eight-year-old farm boy with only a few dollars to my name after splurging on a ticket by rail. I owned the clothes on my back, boots on my feet and hat on my head, plus a haversack stuffed with long johns and extra socks, a .36-caliber Spiller and Burr revolver that would practically bust your thumb just trying to cock the piece, and one miserable toothache. The noise came from a tough-looking lot standing in the middle of the street, firing pistols in the air and passing a bottle of amber liquor.     "What's that commotion?" a whiskey drummer asked a porter.     "They're a bunch of Yanks celebratin' Lee's surrender. It's the twelfth of April."     The drummer spit. "News must be a little slow in these parts," he said. "The War ended thirteen years ago."     I would have smiled at the joke, but my tooth hurt too much, so I took my belongings and walked through town, stopping only to buy a copy of the Dallas Weekly Herald to see if a body might find work in this town. Dallas was bustling. I watched a couple of boys put up a stucco-walled house, one of those made-to-order contraptions from Chicago, and debated if I should eat or find somebody who could fix my tooth. I entered a red-front building named The Trinity River Saloon instead.     Two whiskeys dwindled my financial state by a full dollar--I guess rent was steep in a town like Dallas so the Trinity had to overcharge for watered-down rotgut--but did little to help my aching tooth. I moved on outside, wandered down Main Street, past saloons, dance halls and one opium den until I reached the business district. A dentist had an office in a bank, but both were closed, so I turned left and walked several more blocks until I saw a shingle hanging above a shanty: T. Keough, D.D.S.     He was open, so I walked in. There was no wait.     Rather puny and pale, with thin lips and lifeless blue eyes, Dr. Keough directed me into a chair, and turned to wash his hands in a blue-enamel basin. That's when I saw the butt of a pocket pistol stuck in his back waistband. I wondered how many Dallas dentists went around armed but kept my mouth shut--until Keough turned around and told me to open wide.     He stuck some kind of probe into my mouth and bounced it off my uppers and lowers, mumbling a "Where you from, mister?" I told him, as best I could with his torture device and bony fingers in my mouth, and he nodded. I don't know how he understood a word I said, but he did.     "I'm from South Carolina myself. Charleston. I left immediately after the War, though. Don't know how you managed to stay ten years with carpetbaggers everywhere."     "Dallas don't seem a whole lot better," I managed to say and tried to tell him about the celebration I had witnessed earlier that day when his metal poker banged on my bum tooth.     I screamed.     "So that's the one," he commented easily. Keough pulled a pewter flask from his coat pocket, unscrewed the cap and offered me his whiskey. When I saw the pliers he planned to use, I drank greedily. Next, he jammed the device into my mouth and jammed his left forearm across my chest, pushing down until the chair almost toppled over. I figured I had five inches and forty pounds on the dentist, but he sure was feisty and strong. The pliers cracked my tooth as the dentist grunted and pulled. Me? I yelled, squirmed and tried to light a shuck out the door, but Keough had me pinned pretty good. He grunted and breathed heavily in my face, his eyes flaming with determination. Suddenly, he started heaving, withdrew the pliers with my tooth still relatively intact in my mouth, and moved to the wash basin, coughing painfully. I sat up, rubbed my sore jaw and looked as Keough turned around, holding a white handkerchief to his mouth. The coughing spell had subsided, but from the dim yellow light of the lantern, I saw specks of blood on Keough's lips and handkerchief.     I jumped out of the chair and screamed: "You're a consumptive!" With both hands, I wiped my face savagely where he had coughed and breathed. Keough returned the bloody rag to his pocket and withdrew his whiskey. I remembered drinking from the same flask. At first, I felt sick. Then my anger got the better of me. I cursed, and stomped my boots. Keough drained the flask and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as I headed for the door.     "You owe me two dollars," he said in a rasping voice.     I turned, glaring, and informed him that he had not pulled my tooth and I had no intention of paying a doctor with consumption for coughing in my face. Keough drew his pocket revolver I had forgotten about.     "One way or the other, mister," he said icily, "you're paying me."     He lurched forward suddenly. For a moment, I thought he was running after me, but he stumbled, coughing horribly again, and dropped the revolver. I looked at the pathetic little man, sitting on the floor, his hands gripping the arm of the chair with his head bowed as he hacked, coughed and groaned. My right hand found the doorknob, but I didn't leave.     Back in Florence, when I was fourteen, I found myself serving in the Confederate States of America Army. A prisoner of war camp had been established there, and I was a guard. The miserable stockade in the pines held plenty of Yankees as 1864 dragged on into 1865. The Yanks there, many of them transferred from the death trap in Andersonville, Georgia, were mere skeletons, and we didn't help them except for the rice, cornmeal and a handful of peas we gave them each day. Pretty soon, all they got was cornmeal. Few of them ever tried to escape. Mostly, they just died.     You watch men like that, it affects you. Sometimes, I would give Yankees my biscuit or a piece of bacon. It seemed the Christian thing to do. By the end of the war, us guards weren't eating much ourselves. Food was scarce throughout the Carolinas; Sherman had seen to that. I felt helpless watching those poor soldiers succumb to smallpox, scurvy, dysentery, or just exhaustion. I couldn't do much for them, but I promised myself I wouldn't let the sick die needlessly again. Fourteen years later, the thought of those Yankees made me release my grip on the doorknob. I helped Dr. Keough into the chair and waited until the coughing spell passed.     "Can I get you anything?" I asked.     He shook his head. I tried to make conversation.     "What's the `T' stand for, Doc?"     "Tenedore," he answered. "May I have your name?"     "John Lindsay Mackinnon, but most folks call me Jack."     "Jack." He sounded so weak I thought he would die. "You're the first patient I've had in weeks. Sorry I didn't get your tooth pulled." He tried to catch his breath, and a few minutes passed before he could talk again. "You come back tomorrow."     "No thanks, Doc." I felt bad about that, but the last thing I needed was consumption. I looked away, ashamed.     "It's all right, Jack. I understand. Sorry I pulled a gun on you."     I sighed. "You probably should get another line of work, Doc."     "Call me Ten."     I did. He smiled, suppressed another cough, and motioned weakly to the rolltop desk in a corner. "Top drawer," he said. "Left side." I walked across the room, opened the drawer and returned with a bottle of rye. He took a long pull and sighed. "I'll be all right, Jack Mackinnon," he said. "Am pleased to make the acquaintance of a fellow South Carolinian. Go on. Find another dentist to take care of that tooth."     Before I left, though, I put two dollars on the top of his desk. Two days later, when I walked down that same street, a sign advertised the office space for rent. Dr. Tenedore Keough had pulled out of Dallas. I didn't see him again for four months.     My toothache passed, without me ever seeing another dentist. Meanwhile, I found gainful employment putting up those Chicago buildings. You couldn't actually call what I did carpentry. Those shacks went up in three hours with nothing more than two men using screwdrivers. But I was good at it, and at night I found I was even better at something else.     Poker had been a way to pass time before, gambling with my fellow guards at the Florence prison camp or with friends in New Orleans. In Dallas, it was a way to make money. I had to face reality. I didn't want to stay here, but I needed Yankee greenbacks to take me places, and even though I slept in the wagon yard to save money, I wasn't earning much putting up those readymade houses.     I took leave of Dallas shortly after winning more than three hundred dollars in one night. A fellow named Fulton Fyfe and I were the only ones still in a game of five-card stud, and the betting got out of hand. Fyfe had two kings, a jack and a seven showing. I had two kings, a queen and a nine. He raised. I raised. He raised again. So did I. Finally he raised and I called. Smiling, he turned over an ace. I never would bet that much on a pair, even with an ace kicker. I turned over a matching queen.     Fyfe took exception, stood up, cursing, and reached for a giant bowie knife. I whipped out my .36, cracked his head open with the barrel and collected my winnings as two gents hauled the unconscious loser to the back alley.     "You shouldn't have done that, Jack," one of the card players informed me.     "Well, I wasn't about to let him gut me like a catfish."     "Do you know who Fulton Fyfe is?"     "Nope."     "He's wanted for murder among other things."     My mouth went drier than a lime burner's hat. "Well, how come nobody's taking him to jail?"     "Because he isn't wanted in Dallas. And nobody wants Fulton, Fraser and Forbes after him."     "Who are they?"     "Fraser and Forbes are his brothers. They're also wanted, Jack, and those fellows are going to kill you." Copyright © 1999 Johnny D. Boggs. All rights reserved.