We begin this installment of the Retro-Review of Startling Comics with the Masked Rider, one of the many Lone Ranger imitators, featuring the art of John Daly. The tale begins as Shep Hogan and his gang ride towards Burro Junction. On the way, they discover a cattle drive herding sick steers to be made into glue. Shep tells the owner of the steers that he'll be lucky to get a buck a head, but he'll offer that plus an extra $50. The guy figures Shep is loco, but goes along with it. Later that day, the Masked Rider enters town. He figures that he'll be able to get a job as assistant to Lynes, the cattle inspector, because there's been a rash of blackleg (some form of illness, the same as the drive's steers had that Hogan bought) in the steers. When he goes to see the sheriff, he's told that the inspector has left to look over Jack Deering's stock. The Rider heads out to find him.
As the Rider approaches Deering's ranch on Dry Fork, he figures he'll run into Lynes there. At that moment, Hogan's gang arrives at the same ranch ahead of the Rider, noticing that Lynes isn't alone! The gang attacks and takes Lynes captive, and then ties up Deering, intending to drag him by a rope while shooting at him. Fortunately for Deering, the Rider arrives and starts shooting at the gang, sending them fleeing.
The Rider stays with Deering, who's been shot. He carries Deering in to the ranch, where he meets Claire Deering, Jack's daughter, who tells him where the nearest doctor can be found. The Rider heads out to fetch him, and then heads for the sheriff's office. Passing through the saloon (why? I don't know), the Rider encounters Chuck, who's loaded with cash and telling his friends if they have steers with blackleg, he's got a market for them. As the Rider tries to get more information, the sheriff entes the saloon, saying that Lynes' horse just came into town without Lynes, and the sheriff figures the Rider has something to do with it. The Rider does some fancy (nonlethal) shooting to cover his escape from the saloon!
The Rider escapes, naturally. At Hogan's hideout, Lynes has agreed to sign off on Hogan's herd, certifying it as safe, only to be shot by Hogan in return. The next morning, at the Burro Junction cattle auction, Hogan offers 400 steers at $17 a head. Then Clair offers hers at $16 a head! She's only offering hers so cheap because she needs to hire a specialist to operate on her father. One of Hogan's men overhears this, and he and another of the men start to head out of town, because they know if Deering talks, it'll mean the hangman's noose for them! The Masked Rider spots them as he sneaks into town, and recognize them. He follows, and catches up to the men shortly after they capture Clair, but can't stop Clair from going over a cliff! The Rider saves Clair, but the crooks aren't so lucky. The Masked Rider and Clair head to the Deering corral, where they find Hogan and one of his men giving the steers blackleg! The Rider takes them out, and Hogan decides to confess to his crimes.
Well, I have to say I've read better western stories... Let's see, if Hogan paid $450 for the sick herd in the first place (a buck each plus an extra $50), and he had been able to sell the herd at $17 each, that would've been $6,800... not a bad return on his investment. What's odd about this story is, I did a quick check, and blackleg is a highly fatal disease of young cattle, and is caused by a bacteria, the spores of which can live in the soil for many years. The disease isn't transmitted between animals by contact. The animal usually dies in 12 to 48 hours, so Hogan must've figured he needed to move fast! Of course, it's likely the writer of this story didn't do much more research than discovering blackleg was a disease that cattle could get.
Next: Ace Buckley, time traveler, in his last appearance!