“Mountain Man” is a humor-filled adventure that continues the exploits of Breckinridge Elkins, a character whose physical strength is only matched by his naivety and good-heartedness. In this chapter, Elkins embarks on a journey to the town of Tomahawk to retrieve a letter for his father, leading to a series of misadventures that further entangle him in the complexities of the civilized world.

Received by Howard’s agent, Kline on July 1, 1933. First published in Actions Stories March-April, 1934. Kline Agency sold the story for $55 and Howard earned $46.75. The story was slightly edited to become chapter 2 in the novel “A Gent From Bear Creek“.

Through mistaken identities, brawls, and the pursuit of a misaddressed letter, “Mountain Man” humorously explores themes of heroism, masculinity, and the clash between the rugged individualism of the frontier and the social contracts of civilized society.

The story

As the story begins, Elkins is determined to prove his worth and show Glory McGraw, his love interest from the previous tale, that he is a man of significance. However, his journey quickly takes a turn for the absurd when a misunderstanding leads him to be mistaken for a professional boxer, Bruiser McGoorty of San Francisco. Unaware of the mix-up, Elkins finds himself in the middle of a prizefight against Bat O’Tool, a renowned fighter from Gunstock.

The fight scene is a comedic highlight, showcasing Elkins’ brute strength and utter lack of boxing knowledge. He approaches the fight with the same straightforwardness that he does everything else, leading to chaos in the ring and ultimately winning the fight in a manner as unconventional as it is hilarious.

The resolution of the boxing match only further complicates Elkins’ situation, as the real Bruiser McGoorty shows up, revealing the mix-up and leading to a gunfight between the townsfolk of Tomahawk, Gunstock, and men from Perdition. In the chaos, Elkins’ main concern remains retrieving the letter for his father, a task that ultimately proves fruitless when he discovers the letter was not meant for his father after all.

The story concludes with Elkins making a hasty retreat from Tomahawk, reflecting on the challenges of making a name for himself in the civilized world, and nursing wounds both physical and to his pride.


  • Breckinridge Elkins: The protagonist, whose quest to retrieve a letter leads him into a series of humorous and violent encounters.
  • Alexander: Elkins’ faithful mule, which plays a significant role in the story’s events.
  • Buffalo Rogers: A character mentioned in passing, who informs Elkins’ family of the letter in Tomahawk.
  • Pap (Roaring Bill Elkins): Elkins’ father, for whom he mistakenly believes the letter is intended.
  • Bat O’Tool: A professional boxer from Gunstock, mistaken as Elkins’ opponent in the prizefight.
  • Bruiser McGoorty: The real boxer from San Francisco, whose identity Elkins unknowingly assumes.
  • Yucca Blaine: The referee of the boxing match, caught between the expectations of the crowd and his own safety.
  • McVey, Kirby, and Richards: Townsmen of Tomahawk who mistakenly recruit Elkins to fight as McGoorty and support him during the bout.
  • Old Man Brenton: Runs the store and post office in Tomahawk, where Elkins seeks the letter.
  • Comanche Santry and his gang: Outlaws attempting to steal gold, leading to a shootout with Elkins and Brenton.

Published in:

This short story was altered slightly to become Chapter 2 of A Gent From Bear Creek novel.