Noah Benton, a teenager with a great memory, a head for arithmetic, and dreams of excitement, is hired along with his older brother to help drive a herd of Texas longhorns to Abilene, Kansas. But Noah’s trail boss happens to be John Wesley Hardin, a notorious killer who thinks Texas lawmen won’t look for a fugitive in a crew of hardworking cowboys. After Hardin sees a profit in Noah’s ability to count and memorize cards in gambling dens, Noah’s dreams of excitement quickly turn into nightmares—for Hardin will kill with little provocation.
Earning the nicknames “Counting Boy,” “The Abilene Kid,” and “Abilene,” Noah survives the bloody journey to Kansas, only to learn that Abilene rightfully deserves its nickname as a Sodom or Gomorrah. In a town where anything goes, the marshal, legendary gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok, reluctantly forms a truce with Hardin—leaving Noah caught in the middle. As summer stretches into fall, Noah finds another friend, a special deputy named Mike Williams, who tries to keep Noah from stumbling on his way to manhood.
In this well-researched historical novel, eight-time Spur Award–winning author Johnny D. Boggs chronicles Abilene’s last year as a cattle town, 1871, while humanizing Hardin and Hickok and painting sobering portraits of a city undergoing rapid change, and the never-changing challenges teenagers face on their path to adulthood.