Featuring Breckinridge Elkins. This short story was altered slightly to become Chapter 7 of the novel, A Gent From Bear Creek. Howard’s agent, Kline, received the story on March 19, 1934. The story sold for $50 and after Kline Agency got paid, Howard earned $42.50.

“The Road to Bear Creek” is a rollicking tale of misadventure, mistaken identity, and the wild escapades of Breckinridge Elkins, a towering and naive mountain man with a heart of gold and fists of iron.

The tale blends slapstick humor, the ruggedness of frontier life, and the warmth of family ties into a story that highlights the misunderstandings and mishaps that can arise from the best intentions. Breckinridge’s adventures underscore his unmatched strength, his naivety, and his unwavering commitment to family—even when he’s not entirely sure who that family is. Through it all, Howard crafts a tale that is as much a parody of the Western genre as it is an affectionate homage, with Breckinridge Elkins at the heart of the chaos, always fighting for what he believes is right, no matter how mixed up he might get along the way.

The story

The story unfolds with Breckinridge’s attempt to avoid an encounter with Glory McGraw, a woman whose opinion he both fears and values. Despite his efforts, Glory intercepts him, teasing him about his nonexistent sweetheart from War Paint, which spurs Breckinridge into a headstrong quest to actually find such a woman to prove Glory wrong.

The narrative quickly turns into a comedy of errors when Breckinridge, tasked by his father to fetch Uncle Esau Grimes from War Paint and reconcile their differences, mistakenly kidnaps Badger Chisom, a bank robber mistaken for the uncle. The confusion is compounded by a series of chaotic events involving multiple parties: a posse believing to rescue Chisom from Breckinridge, whom they mistake for a kidnapper; the notorious Grizzly Hawkins and his gang, aiming to capture Chisom for his hidden loot; and another gang with similar intentions.

Through a series of brawls, mistaken identities, and wild chases through the mountainous terrain, Breckinridge inadvertently dismantles two of the most dangerous outlaw gangs in the West while trying to fulfill his family duty and personal vendetta. The story reaches its peak in a frantic melee, with Breckinridge fighting off both gangs in a bid to save the man he believes to be his uncle, only to discover his real Uncle Esau has been following the chaos from the sidelines.


  • Breckinridge Elkins: The protagonist, a physically imposing yet simple-minded mountain man with a penchant for finding trouble.
  • Glory McGraw: A woman from Bear Creek, whose mockery drives Breckinridge to prove himself by finding a sweetheart in War Paint.
  • Uncle Esau Grimes: Breckinridge’s actual uncle, a cranky old man with a complicated past, who Breckinridge is supposed to bring back to Bear Creek.
  • Badger Chisom: A bank robber mistaken by Breckinridge for his Uncle Esau, leading to a wild goose chase across the mountains.
  • Grizzly Hawkins: A notorious outlaw who captures Chisom, mistaking him for a wealthy captive worth a ransom.
  • Dolly Rixby: The belle of War Paint, whom Breckinridge momentarily considers courting to spite Glory McGraw.

Published in: