A soft, steady breeze, with no puff to it, lifted over the edge of Horseshoe Creek and carried with it the sooty odor of a dead fire, a dank, drifting smell that came like the death of an animal a man has long known, perhaps a favorite horse, like a black stallion unseen at night but a dark star in the sunlight. Another person might say the odor was of an old market in a corner of town or an old home left to rot in the wake of a hundred battles that raged around it, the inhabitants, a man and his whole family, gone to dust in one of those fierce battles, so that their essence alone remained of them. One could almost see the house as it stood decorated with gardens, pet animals, and lusty children bouncing with life. Yet the odor, despite various images passersby would have, remained the cold, dank ashes of a fire long gone into night’s realm, thus it came back each and every nightfall thereafter.Continue reading “The Ghosts at Horseshoe Creek by Tom Sheehan”
In the heart of Chicago’s new butchering center, in a ramshackle apartment in a ramshackle house, a truly destined cowboy was born to a hard-working Scots-born butcher and his wife. The year was 1864 and the Scotsman had just got a job with the newly formed Union Stock Yards. Ralston Condor was a meat cutter, one of many that came with the swelling herds in the yards. Eventually, after 7 years on the job, he’d come home at night and tell his wife and son all the stories he heard during the day, at work, at the tavern on the way home, from friends on the corner … all about the great herds of the west, the cowboys and drovers and ramrods and trail bosses and the Indians along the way as cattle headed for Chicago and the stockyards and the butcher plants. For all those years he longed for the open country again, like the land he had known on the moors of Scotland with Angus cattle, a distinguished and hardy breed.Continue reading “The Broomstick Cowboy by Tom Sheehan”
He was in the sparse land between shifting sands of the great desert and the last tree bearing green when he saw the vultures descending from their high flight. Breward Chandler, “Brew” to friends back in the mountains where breathing was much easier than here in the midst of little life, sat bareback on an Indian pony he had freed from a natural corral behind a blow-down. Chandler had learned that the horse would obey pulls on his mane and in this manner he had escaped from sure capture by heading into the desert, with his pistols loaded and a lariat and a canteen he had grabbed on the run. He was not sure who was after him, either renegade Indians or renegade whites out for the kill, looking for guns, clothes, saddles, anything for free. He was hoping that they’d measure the little he might have against the rigors of a chase in the desert. Perhaps, he also hoped, they were smarter than he thought they were.Continue reading “A Saddle in the Desert by Tom Sheehan”
Hobart Bridgewater, Hobie to most folks, was a freighter who promised delivery of whiskey to several saloons along the Snake River. “I go get it for you and bring it back, and then you pay me. If you don’t pay me, you don’t get the load and I don’t bring you no more. That’s all easy for you gents and tough for me. Some days out there on the trail I have to keep my rifle leveled and ready, that’s why I have the best shot in all the territory riding up there with me. Burke Molton ain’t never missed a target he took aim at, and that includes those three scallywags who tried us on for size on the river road just last week and he knocked two of them right off their mounts with two shots and them riding hard at us all the while and trying to get the best whiskey in the west from us at the point of their guns.”Continue reading “Hobie’s Sugar Still by Tom Sheehan”
He tossed a noose of thin wire over the head of the jailer when the jailer leaned too close to the bars of the cell. Moments earlier he’d unwound the wire from the heel of his boot, pulled it taught at the jailer’s throat, demanded the key to the cell, got it, unlocked the door and brought the jailer into the cell. Pulling the wire tighter until the jailer was dead, he walked off into the night taking his own weapons with him.Continue reading “Scrawleg and the Turban Man by Tom Sheehan”
The wind shifted slightly to the northwest, and Bill “Lone Dog” Bevans smelled horse traces in the air. He supposed that the horse smell came first on the air (there were other signs) because he hadn’t ridden a horse in a year, since about mid 1840 he thought at a guess. But he caught awed aromas riding on those same air waves … and a variety of sounds placing him on alert.
“Though curious, be you kind to yourself, and leave here now, lest you ….”
Anton Chalkov thought he chased only a dream out of Siberia, a dream and nothing more. He boated across the Bering Strait, with divine intervention on few occasions, and into Alaskan waters. Once ashore in Alaska it was obvious he had not gone far enough and set out, overland for a portion of his journey and then back on coastal waters in the company of fishermen, for the New World of America. All this travel in pursuit of the dream. The dogs he bought for the overland portions of his trip were masterful, they too having good blood in them, born for the snow and the task. The dogs got him all the way through a few of Canada’s territories, before he swapped them for one horse in Montana territory of America, where he had been headed all the time.
He’d been a Cossack, now he wanted to be a cowboy.
This Story is Dedicated to the Memory of Buster Dunlap
It was the summer of 1974, after I got out of high school. We were getting the machinery ready for harvest, and my dad was always in a hurry when it came to the process. Get the grain cut as soon as it was ripe, get it in the bin or hauled to town, out of the field, out of harm’s way before the wind or hail, wiped out an entire year’s work.
As with every other sequence ours has moved onto week 188.
Coincidentally, Nik has 188 sequins hand sewn into a shirt that he only wears in private, well, he calls it a shirt.
And he has a very liberal idea about Fishnets being trousers.
The Dreamtime, a series of Aboriginal legends, celebrates shapeshifting giants that once roamed Australia. The giants forged paths—songlines—which marked the mountains, the rivers, the stars. Their spirits still linger today. Continue reading “The Outback (a novel excerpt) by James Hanna”