The Laughter of Slim Malone (1919)
by Max Brand
Time has little to do with reputation in the far West, and accordingly the name of Slim Malone grew old in the region of Appleton, and yet the owner of the name was still young.
Appleton was somewhat of a misnomer, for the region had never known anything save imported apples or any other sort of fruit since the time of its birth into the history of whisky and revolvers. But a misguided pioneer in the old days had raised a few scrubby trees and had named the town forever. The dreams of the early agriculturalists had died long ago, but the name remained to pique the curiosity of travelers and furnish jokes for inhabitants.
The town lay at the conjunction of three gorges in the heart of the Rockies, and the little plain where it nestled was crowded with orchards which bore everything but apples. The six original trees which had given the town its name now stood in the back yard of Sandy Orton’s saloon—old trees with knotted and mossy limbs which suggested a venerable age due to the hard climate rather than to the passage of years. They were pointed out to casual travelers with great pride, and they were the established toast of Sandy’s place. But Sandy’s was frequented by a loud-voiced and spendthrift crowd not usual to agricultural towns.
In the old days, when Appleton was a name rather than a fact, the hilarity had been as absent as the men; but after gold was discovered in the three gorges which led from the settlement into the heart of the mountains, the little town became a rendezvous of a thousand adventurers. The stages to and from the railroad thirty miles away, were crowded with men eager to face the hardships of the climate and the great adventure of the gold-fields.
It was then that Slim Malone appeared.…