The Diablos Trail, featuring Pike Bearfield.

From the letters

Howard wrote a letter (#346) to Jack Byrne on April 21, 1936 including a draft for a story. The story ends in the middle of the page and seems to be a part of the letter so it’s probably never sent. Howard began writing this story but did not finish it; Glenn Lord assigned the unfinished, untitled draft the title “The Diablos Trail.”

Mr. Jack Byrne,
Editor Munsey Publications,
New York City.

Dear Mr. Byrne:
My agent, O.A. Kline, tells me that you have suggested that I try my hand at a series of humorous yarns for Argosy, on the general type of the Breckinridge Elkins stories.
I have in mind a new character, Pike Bearfield, of Wolf Mountain, Texas, about as big, dumb, and ludicrous as B. Elkins. Here is an outline of the first yarn of the series, as I have conceived it. It begins in the form of a letter written by Bearfield to his boss, William Westphal.

You can read the rest of the incomplete letter in The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard Volume 3.

The story

“The Diablos Trail” is an unfinished humorous yarn by Robert E. Howard, featuring the character Pike Bearfield from Wolf Mountain, Texas. In a letter to William Westphal, Bearfield explains his unconventional journey from San Antonio to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, with a herd of cattle. The story is filled with humor, absurd situations, and Bearfield’s unique personality.

Pike Bearfield, a large and ludicrous character similar to Breckinridge Elkins, begins his letter to William Westphal with an explanation of why he ended up in Fort Sumner instead of Dodge City, Kansas, as initially planned. Bearfield acknowledges Westphal’s notorious temper and urges him to remain patient and open-minded.

The story unfolds with Bearfield recounting their journey from San Antonio. He mentions an altercation with a special policeman and sends the fine bill to Westphal, hinting at his confrontational nature. While en route to Dodge City, they meet a trader returning from Santa Fe, who informs Bearfield about Apaches near Fort Sumner in need of beef. Bearfield decides to divert the cattle there, against the objections of the hired trail boss.

A confrontation between Bearfield and the trail boss ensues, resulting in Bearfield taking charge of the cattle drive despite his lack of experience. Displaying his rugged individualism, Bearfield decides to abandon the regular Goodnight-Loving trail in favor of blazing his own path through unexplored territory. This decision leads to various humorous misadventures along the way.

The story ends abruptly, with Bearfield entering a settled region frequented by cattle drives from the south. However, the narrative remains incomplete, leaving readers without a resolution.


  • Pike Bearfield – The main character, a big, dumb, and ludicrous individual from Wolf Mountain, Texas.
  • William Westphal – Bearfield’s boss, who hired him for the cattle drive.
  • Trail Boss – Initially in charge of the cattle drive but temporarily disabled after a confrontation with Bearfield.
  • Special Policeman – An individual Bearfield had an altercation with in San Antonio.
  • Trader – A person they encounter on their journey, who informs Bearfield about the situation near Fort Sumner.
  • Apaches – Mentioned as being in the area near Fort Sumner.
  • Doc Kirby – Referred to as the one who had to put seventeen stitches in William Westphal’s carcass after a previous incident.

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