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”
She’d tell the newcomers she was from California, the blond haired Madame of the Diamondback Saloon. She’d tell ’em the same jokes she’d told a thousand nights: she’d say she got the name of the place after her man got bit by a diamondback. And if they had enough fun, she’d point to three crosses in the back and say that’s where lie the last people who had too much fun.Continue reading “Madame by Matthew Senn”
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.
Everso, Nevada must have seen McKenzie Dodds, newly quit of the Great War, coming all the way, all the time, sitting as it did on a rise with a splendid view of the river and the grass running for miles beside it dotted with cattle. It could have been termed a welcome in some quarters the way the town hummed, had bustle in the streets, doors opened and closed, hellos and good mornings and halleluiahs blending in Dodds’s hearing. It was all saluted by a group of boys in an old game of tossing slender sticks at the side of the livery where leaners were yelped up to victory; “Huzzah. Magnificent! Numere uno!.” Or “Attaboy, Vinnie! Attaboy!” Or “Do it again, Carlo!” coming as “Lo hace otra vez, Carlo!”
“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.
The Texas evening carried grace and expectation as the sun moved on its last legs; soft shadows fell from all heights as though they were cotton balls shaped into vague contours, and a hush moved across the land the way mystery crawls, unknown, unsure of where to put down its feet, looking for contestants in the arena where life is lived a good part of the time. In Trinity Cove, Texas, it was The Wild Eye Saloon, a catch-all for what the west brings to dry throats, hungry cowpokes, desperate criminals, sneaky card players, and a few ladies lost in the game of life.
The cowman Oliver Weddle sat his horse on a small hillock, looking out over his ranch, the grass running off to the hills, Texas itself stiffening his backbone as it always had. He tried again to count the help he’d need to get the ranch back in prime order after his return from the war, wishing that some of his command had come along with him when he separated from the service. They were good soldiers, good riders, and courageous and loyal to the duties; but had their own visions of search. Three foremen in a row had failed him and their mission, one or two of them he suspected had complicated issues on purpose. So glaring were the failures that they cost him a good deal of his money. Now he was contemplating what would happen if he did not get a good man for the job.