Western Tales! is a new, ongoing anthology series from Western Trail Blazer. It will appear monthly, and probably a little more frequently than that. We have the first 6 issues in various stages of preparation, and will be showing you the covers not only of Volume 1 but a couple of others, as well.
Volume One features:
Wearing Out a Welcome by John D. Nesbitt
Shot for a Dog by Cheryl Pierson
Four Gold Coins by Frank Roderus
Man of Iron by Chuck Tyrell
Judah King by Troy D. Smith
Each volume will have five short stories. Here are comments from some of the first volume’s contributors, and a couple of short excerpts…
Western Trail Blazers is fast becoming one of the players in high quality e-books. I am delighted to be counted among their authors, the names of which are among the best in the business. I heartily recommend the Western Trail Blazer list of publications. Anyone who loves westerns, as I certainly do, will be in for hours of pleasure.
Four Gold Coins
“I got money. I got….” A burp interrupted him for a moment. “I got….” He reached into his pocket, ignoring the dampness in the cloth, and pulled out four coins.
When he laid them on the bar, Jason was as astonished as Pete, or more so, to see that they were gold. Four twenty-dollar double eagles, gleaming and beautiful.
“That’s…I can drink on that, can’t I?” Jason said, hiding another nasty tasting belch.
“Jesus!” Pete blurted. He raised his voice and shouted, “Boys, see what I found here.”
A partial hush spread through the crowd as men crowded even closer in an attempt to see.
“Damn you, Myers, where’d you get money like that?” Otis Riordan bawled. “You never had that much in your pocket since the day you was born.” It was a statement of fact, not an idle accusation. Jason indeed never had had so much money at one time in his whole miserable, useless life.
“All right, Jason, what gives? Where’d you get that money?” Burt Kyle wanted to know.
“I…I don’t know,” Jason said. It was the truth. He had no idea where those coins might have come from or why they were in his pocket now.
Wearing Out a Welcome is one of my most recent short stories. This story came about as a result of two ideas coming together. One idea was about the difficulty a person has in dealing with someone who is unduly interested in the person’s wife. I have seen this problem in other situations as well as in my own. People cross the line, and it is difficult for someone to say, “Look, I don’t care for you hanging around and ogling.”
The other idea I was working with was about people who point guns at one another. I just don’t like it. I know people do it in movies and in stories for purposes of suspense, but I don’t like the emphasis it receives, especially in television advertisements. So I thought I would write a story about a fellow who has to deal with someone taking interest in his wife and also pointing a gun at him. I conceived of this story, then, as being about civility, respecting other people’s privacy, and not having to resort to violence to solve a problem. It is not a conventional story with a gunfight at the end. Rather, it is a story that stretches the bounds of the genre a little, and I hope it seems real.
I am very happy to see this story produced by Western Trail Blazer. I have been working with WTB for a few years now, and I have had several different things published under this imprint—short stories, traditional western novels, a contemporary western mystery, and a collection of western poetry. I appreciate the courtesy and the honesty with which the WTB people have treated me, and I appreciate the distribution my work has enjoyed. I have more work scheduled to come out with WTB, and I look forward to continued success.
Wearing Out a Welcome
Decker worked at odd jobs in the barn the next morning. He expected Hayden to come out in his own good time and go on another ride, but the man stayed in the house. In the latter part of the morning, Rosalie came to the barn and watched without speaking as Decker finished splicing a rope.
“He’s getting on my nerves,” she said. “He just sits around reading a book, and I can feel his eyes on me. He’s worse than the grub line riders.”
Decker nodded. The first year he and Rosalie were together, their house had been a favorite stopping place. Word must have gotten around that Rosalie was easy on the eyes as well as a good cook, and a couple of the riders had been pretty shameless about sitting around and gawking and not even helping with chores. Then when Decker put them to work mucking stalls and had them sleep in the barn, word must have gotten around again.
“It shouldn’t be much longer,” he said. “This is his second day. If he doesn’t leave tomorrow, I can give him a hint.”
Shot for a Dog is the story of a teenage boy’s descent into madness. Is it from hydrophobia, or from his own sick jealousy of his younger brother? At sixteen, Lucas Marshal is eight years older than his younger half-brother, Jeremiah. His hatred and jealousy of Jeremiah is all-consuming, and though their mother is aware of it, she is passive about it until one dark day when it gets the best of him. Luke and Jeremiah are working in the corn patch and Jeremiah decides it’s time to quit. This makes Luke so angry he does the unthinkable, and decides to shoot the family dog, Shadow. But Jeremiah runs to prevent it and is shot, as well. Forced to leave home by what he has done, he tries to convince himself that he doesn’t care, and is not going for the doctor.
But as he journeys into the nearest town, he finds he has a companion he didn’t count on, and can’t get rid of. A river runs with blood, he hears voices, and starts to believe he has hydrophobia. He knows the doctor is his only chance. But when he gets to town, somehow, the townspeople already have learned what he’s done. Will they help him? The sheriff has a terrible secret of his own that may be the death of Lucas Marshal.
Shot for a Dog
It had been an accident—a trick of the relentless, shimmering heat—that had made Luke pull the trigger. At least, that had been the story he told, and the tale he stuck to in his own mind, until he had almost come to believe the fabrication himself.
He and his younger brother, Jeremiah, had been finishing up hoeing the corn. The late afternoon sun had begun to relent, and though this July day would never cool off enough to be comfortable, at least it was becoming tolerable.
“I’m hungry,” Jeremiah declared.
“We gotta finish,” Luke answered flatly. At sixteen, he was responsible for Jeremiah, who was only half his age—and with no more brains than a turtle.
After a moment, Jeremiah stopped hoeing. “I’m goin’ back to the house,” he stated, straightening to stretch his back muscles.
“You ain’t goin’ back ’til I say we’re done, brother,” Luke said mildly, but when his blue gaze met Jeremiah’s dark eyes, the animosity couldn’t be hidden, nor did he bother to try.
I never come right out and say so, but “Judah King” is actually Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar set as a western –just as the movies Boss of Texas and Jubal are western versions of King Lear and Othello. I think The Bard’s blend of action and passion would have been perfectly suited for westerns, actually.
My version is not about a Roman general who wants to become Emperor, and his trusted lieutenant who fears for the country if that happens- it’s about an outlaw leader who conspires to become a town marshal, and his loyal lieutenant-turned-deputy who fears for the town. It’s one of my favorites from among the short stories I’ve done.
No matter who they were or what they did, everyone loved Judah King. It was a certain air he had about him, I guess¾it was in the way he smiled at folks, the way his eyes looked straight into them. When Judah King grinned and looked at you¾whether you were man or woman¾it made you feel like the only person in the world, and you would do just about anything he asked of you.
People would just smile right back at him, and hand over their money and jewelry like they were doing a favor for their best friend. When Judah would shoot a man down for daring to stand up to him, most of the witnesses would conclude that he had it coming.
Man of Iron
God, I wish I hadn't shot that woman.
She was Chiricahua, plain as day, and that meant only one thing. She was one of Massai's people, and he'd sworn to kill me on sight. But there she was, down and bleeding from my bullet, and almighty weak from bearing a baby boy.
What in heaven could I do with an Apache girl and a new-born babe, only a stone's throw from Hell's Gate?
For a while, I just stood there, rifle cocked and pointed at her belly. She stared back, not about to let me see how scared she was, and clutched the newborn to her.
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