The Scalp Hunter. Featuring Breckinridge Elkins. Howard’s agent, Kline, received the story on January 29, 1934. It was accepted by Fiction House on February 21, 1934. The story was sold for $60 and after Kline Agencies got their share, Howard received $51.

Set in the rugged frontier where lawlessness prevails, and personal honor demands immediate justice, it revolves around a protagonist, Breckinridge Elkins, who is often misunderstood and falsely accused, showcasing a blend of humor, action, and a reflection on frontier justice.

This short story was altered slightly to become chapter 8 of the novel, A Gent From Bear Creek


Breckinridge Elkins begins his narrative by defending his actions in Grizzly Claw, refuting rumors that paint him as a town terrorizer. His account starts with a chance meeting with Tunk Willoughby, who is battered and bruised after a visit to Grizzly Claw. Tunk attempts to relay a message from Breckinridge’s cousin Jack Gordon about someone wronging their Uncle Jeppard Grimes but cannot recall the details due to his injuries.

Determined to uncover the truth, Breckinridge heads to Grizzly Claw, a notoriously lawless town. Upon arrival, he encounters various hostile townsfolk, including a man claiming he damaged his mule and a fake sheriff. Breckinridge’s attempts to seek information lead to confrontations, escalating violence, and false accusations, including a bar brawl where he is unjustly charged for passing counterfeit money.

In a twist of events, Breckinridge learns from two criminals, Bill and Jim, that they were involved in a crime related to his Uncle Jeppard. Eavesdropping on their conversation in a cave, he discovers they scalped his uncle to sell it as a souvenir to a collector. Enraged, Breckinridge attacks them but is interrupted by a federal detective and his posse who mistake him for a counterfeiter.

The detective arrests Bill and Jim, ignoring Breckinridge’s plea for frontier justice. Frustrated and vengeful, Breckinridge vows to follow the posse to exact his revenge. However, a chance meeting with Tunk Willoughby reveals the truth: Uncle Jeppard wasn’t scalped in an attack but sold a prized scalp he had taken from an Indian chief years ago. The counterfeit money was the real offense.

Realizing his error and feeling manipulated, Breckinridge’s anger shifts towards Tunk, whose poor memory caused the misunderstanding. The story concludes with Breckinridge reflecting on the events and the exaggerated rumors about his actions.


  • Breckinridge Elkins: The protagonist, a large, strong, and often misunderstood man from Bear Creek.
  • Tunk Willoughby: A somewhat foolish acquaintance of Breckinridge who delivers an incomplete message.
  • Uncle Jeppard Grimes: Breckinridge’s tough and seasoned uncle who was wronged by counterfeit money.
  • Jack Gordon: Breckinridge’s cousin who sends a message about the wrong done to Uncle Jeppard.
  • Bill Jackson: A criminal who scalped Uncle Jeppard for a collector.
  • Jim: Bill’s accomplice in their criminal activities.
  • Drooping-whiskers: The man who falsely accuses Breckinridge of attacking his mule.
  • Fake Sheriff: A corrupt figure in Grizzly Claw trying to exploit Breckinridge.
  • Federal Detective: The real lawman who mistakes Breckinridge for a counterfeiter.
  • Various townsfolk: Including the barman, restaurant owner, and the men in the mob who are all involved in the confrontations with Breckinridge.

Alternate Title:


Published in: