Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Hell Bent Kid, a Novel by Charles O. Locke

This story takes place in North Texas and New Mexico. It seems this hell bent kid is boxed in. He is called "Tot", but his real name is Tate, Tate Lohman, and he has been working for a while on the Restow ranch and thinking about leaving for Socorro, New Mexico, to be with his father. His father and he were the only family members left, except for his brother Harley and who knew where he was and what he was doing. "Tot" was hired by Henry Restow because "Tot" killed Shorty Boyd and was on probation. The murder was self defense, but the Boyd family thought otherwise.

Restow warned the young kid that if he left the ranch, the Boyds would chase him down and kill him, but he left for Socorro anyway figuring to outsmart the Boyds or miss them altogether. He didn't, he ran smack dab into 'em and ended up afoot, but still alive. And his journey to Socorro gets interesting and I didn't know if he was going to make it or not. After a horrible trip, he finally makes it and finds his brother Harley,but the meeting doesn't last long after he finds his father no longer among the living.

"Tot" turns back to Texas but stays at the ranch of Amos Bradley in Santa Clara, New Mexico, and falls for a daughter, Juanita. The story ends as he is under surveillance by the Boyds again. I won't reveal the ending, but I will say this was a terrific tale by the author. Mister Locke peppered the story with local idioms and dialogue which took a little getting used to, but by the end it was just part of the story, became less noticeable, and adds to it. I give this story a five-star rating. The author's bio says the novel "was one of the top twenty-five western novels of all time [states] the Western Writers of America . . . [and made into a movie, From Hell to Texas.]"

(I reviewed the book at the request of Open Road Media and will share it on Facebook, Twitter, and maybe other places where it shows up.)

NOTE: The header picture is the old Prescott (AZ) Courthouse seen through the trees from Gurley Street.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ten Shoes Up, a Novel by Gary L. Stuart

This story takes place in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico in the high country. “Angus” is a ridge rider, that is, he likes the mountains and is perfectly at home living at 12,000 feet in a self-built log cabin and only visits a town out of necessity. But A Captain Standard H. Plumb, railroad detective, thinks he has been robbing trains and is out to get him dead or alive. Plumb gets together a posse and lights out on the trail of Angus. The story has several points of view as each chapter is devoted to one of the characters and his situation as he tells it. The story moves along as each one picks up where the previous leaves off or simultaneously explains what went on or what his plans are.

Plumb and his posse nearly catch Angus as  posse member Branson fires his Hawken that barely misses Angus and puts a long gash in his horse’s thigh. Angus escapes by riding through the Ute Cut, a narrow opening in the cliffs on top of Ten Shoes Up, the name of the mountain.

The story continues with a few twists and turns and Angus meets Addie Morton in Montclair, Colorado, and falls for her. Her brother, Robert owns the bank there and Angus has business with him which he takes care of and heads back into the mountains on a new horse.

Well, it turns out that this Angus gent is not who he was made out to be and one of the former posse members, Bo String, who was nearly shot by a member of the new posse, holes up with Angus in his cabin on the mountain. The new posse finds the hidden cabin and Angus captures Under Sheriff Joe Pete. Angus gets the drop on the two remaining posse members, Plumb and Branson, and they both end up dead.

That part is over and Angus is on the hunt for a Tom Emmet and gang, more train robbers, who are rumored to be in the Cimarron, New Mexico, area. After some more tracking, shooting, and killing, Angus settles that round and the story is over.

This story of Angus Esparrazza was fun, interesting, exciting, and comes to an end with a surprise in store for the reader. The one thing I thought was a little overdone was the internal descriptive additions that explained too much unnecessary information, but I enjoyed the tale in spite of that. The use of the various POV’s didn’t interfere with the narrative, but moved it right along. An action-packed and thrilling tale of the old west.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer Events in AZ

You would think that there wouldn't be much going on in the desert heat in summer, but there are a few events taking place:

Today is the last day of the Annual Pleasant Valley Days in Young. Features a parade and historic site tours of the 1887 Pleasant Valley War, and other exciting things.

Jul 24-25: National Day of the Cowboy Celebration and Cowboy Artists of America in Sedona. WOW! This will be fun with gunfights, roping, and such, to celebrate the Cowboys. A whole lot of storytelling and I wouldn't be surprised there will be some tall tales among them and poetry, too. And some tall cowboys on horses.

Jul 25: First Annual Book Festival in Payson at Gila Community College. 60 authors available to sign and sell their books plus classes, etc., for writers and readers. I'm betting that this will be even bigger next year and the next.

Jul 25 - Grape Train Escape, Clarkdale. Wine tasting on the Verde Canyon Railroad, a great ride through the canyon and return to Clarkdale. You start out sober and return somewhat inebriated. YAHOOO!

Jul 25: Aquamoto Watercraft Race Series, Lake Havasu. Obstacle courses, bikini contests (Woot, woot!), flyboard contests, etc., etc., etc. 

Jul 25 - Sep 27: West of Center - A Community-Curated Event in Wickenburg. Media works by the Wickenburg Art Club, demonstrations, lectures, etc. at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum.

Aug 1-2: Antique Auto Show, Prescott. All makes and models of the old automobile. Fun, fun, fun.

Aug 6-8: Arizona Cowboy Poet Gathering, Prescott at Yavapai College. Perpetuating the culture, traditions, history of cowboy poetry. EEE-YAI!

And that be a few of the exciting events this summer in Arizona. Thanks to AAA's Magazine Highroads.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Short Introduction

We were in Sedona, Arizona, last week on a mini-vacation and when we returned Saturday evening around 4:00 PM, there was some difficulty with the garage door - again. It stuck about a third of the way open. Being fairly late in the day and on a weekend, it took a while to find someone to make a service call. The man showed up around 6:30-7:00 and proceeded to replace parts and give the door an overhaul, which took an hour or an hour-and-half. I finally pulled the car in around 8:30 after the serviceman wrang me dry of funds.

Anyway, while we were in Sedona, we took advantage of a jeep tour through the red rocks and pines. Our tour guide and jeep driver was "Rocky" Sullivan, pictured below:

"Rocky" is a genuine cowboy who had done plenty of ranch work and cattle herding and tending and in addition, is a cowboy poet. On our trip back into town he recited a couple of his poems and we all thought they were great. He said he will be attending a cowboy poet get-together in Abilene, Kansas, in a short while and afterward will be moving on to another one, where he will have audiences to hear his version of the genre. He said he hadn't published anything yet, but he is thinking about doing that before long. I told him he should get right on to it and also start writing short stories of which he has plenty to tell.

"Rocky" was funny, intelligent, and had a lot to say. He took us to an old ranch over a very rough road and told us its history and the ghost that supposedly shows himself occasionally and gives bad information to lost tourists. The six of us thought he was a real character and enjoyed the trip immensely.  Here is another pic of him with my great-grandsons and son-in-law:

So, that's "Rocky" Sullivan, and if you ever get the chance to see him at a poetry gathering, I'm sure you will enjoy his company as much as we did. He told us he was going to move to New Mexico in the near future and I'm sure you will hear much more of him. I wish him good luck!   

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Fifth of July

I've experienced some great Independence Days and regretted them on the fifth of July. I usually woke up with a terrible headache and half-sick with a wonderful hangover. AAAGH! Those days included mostly beer among the champagne, cognac, wine, sangria, Kentucky whiskey, Scotch whiskey, gin, rum, vodka, saki, and other drinks that happened to appear ready for consumption. Some included women of low reputation, high reputation, or no reputation and others did not. But the result was usually the same - a grandiose hangover that left me wondering if I would make it through the day.

Well, those  days are gone forever and have been for the last twenty or so years and I don't miss them a bit, not one single little bit. But I do miss the good times I supposedly had but can't remember much of. Were they really that good? Yes, and the hangovers were terrific!

So, here's wishing everyone a Happy and Clear-headed Fifth of July!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Wild Pitch" by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.

I can't recall from memory all of an author's works, but I do know that I had never heard of Wild Pitch by Mr, Guthrie. I ran across it at an estate sale and violated my order about buying more books. It is a hard-backed pocket book published by Popular Library Editions in 1973 and is a murder mystery that takes place in a small town in Montana. We see the tale through the eyes of a 17-year-old boy who carries a baseball with him most of the time and is the pitcher for the town's baseball team.

There are two murders to be solved, the first one takes place at night at the annual town picnic where a prominent resident is shot by a rifle. The second one comes later on where another resident is shot by his mailbox on a road out of town and over a hill from the house where he lived. The teenager gets involved because he is always hanging out at the Sheriff's Office and runs errands for the sheriff. He has a fingerprint kit that he practices with at home and at the office. He is always squeezing the baseball to build up the muscles in his pitching arm and he is a fine pitcher. He goes along with the sheriff as they interview about everyone that has associated with the murder victims to get a clue who killed them.There are the usual town characters, including the half-wit and an old spinster with dementia and two residents who are medical professionals, plus the local doctor. Also, there is a big- city detective assigned to assist the sheriff who knows it all, but is out-witted by the easy-going sheriff.

All-in-all, I give the book four stars. It is not in the class of The Big Sky or The Way West in my estimation, but it is an entertaining read of 224 pages.

(NOTE: The photo in the header is part of a series of the Sonoran Desert a couple of miles north of Wickenburg, AZ, in the springtime taken by my nephew, Russ Case. I will be showing more in the header as we go along.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Whoopee! It's Father's Day/A Monument in South Dakota

First of all, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

Second of all, if you're going to be in South Dakota in August, stop in Lemmon and watch the grand opening of the Hugh Glass Monument and Rendezvous Park to commemorate the famous grizzly encounter that nearly killed Hugh Glass. The attack occurred in August 1823 near the Shadehill Reservoir near Lemmon, South Dakota. In December, the movie The Revenant will be released starring none other than Leonard DiCaprio, telling the story of Hugh Glass, an early fur trapper.

For more info on the fur trade and Glass, pick up a copy of Win Blevins' Give Your Heart to the Hawks reviewed in my post of  June 4, 2015.

(Ref: An article from the June 18th Sun City Daily News, Grizzly tale inspires South Dakota festival.)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Jerked Me Away

Well, I was working on my book when I was dragged out of the chair with barely enough time to turn off the computer and unceremoniously thrown into the car to go shopping - again. So, for the last couple of weeks no words were added to my story. Had to go shopping for groceries for my relatives who were coming to pay a visit.

They showed up as scheduled and we got down to the serious business of entertaining, you know, SHOPPING!, eating out, laughing and joking or joking and laughing over some senseless thing that happened years ago, and playing poker. About all of our pennies were ripped from our piggy banks never to be seen again, we were such good poker players.

They had no sooner gone that more relatives appeared on our doorstep, and we had another round of practically the same. But don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it all except for the part that kept me from writing. The latter visitors had a vicious dog with them, one of those half-pint vicious miniature chihuahuas that wouldn't let me touch his food without getting a finger gnawed off. It was the only dog I've seen that never barked, he just growled in a low, threatening grr-rr, and his name was Pancho Villa, a far cry from the original.

No poker-playing this time, though. It was only SHOPPING!, eating out, and joking and laughing about old times growing up, etc., and a good time was had by all.

Maybe next week I can get back to writing.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Give Your Heart to the Hawks by Winfred Blevins

I started reading this book, Give Your Heart to the Hawks, and right away I knew that it was one of the best books I've read on the fur trade in the Rocky Mountains. Mister Blevins covers all the main characters involved, Jedediah Smith, General Ashley, Tom "Three Fingers" Fitzpatrick, Jim Bridger, John Colter, Hugh Glass, Pierre Chouteau, to name a few. He writes from the trapper point of view and makes it  personal by using their language to tell about themselves and the trapping trade, the rendezvous, and the battles with the Indians, mainly the Blackfoot tribe. Some didn't survive the battles or the life on the prairie and in the mountains. Most of the winters were tough and if they didn't have enough to eat, they went hungry. If they lived to age 40 or so, they changed lives and settled down to a more normal life with a squaw or went back to the settlements on the eastern bank of the Missouri. A few lived with the Indians and adopted the Indian ways, one became a tribal chief, Jim Beckwourth, the only black man.

The book also covers the competition between the fur companies, including the British in the Northwest, the grizzly bear attack on Hugh Glass and its aftermath, and the story-telling of the various trappers, the heavy drinking and fights at rendezvous time, other moral and immoral happenings The book includes a Glossary, Chronology of the Fur Trade, Notes, Index, and Bibliography.The edition I read is the First Avon Printing, 1976.

Win Blevins is a Spur Award Winner for his novels, Stone Song and So Wild a Dream.  He is the 2015 Owen Wister Award Winner for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. Congratulations are in order!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day

On 10 April 1963, the USS THRESHER (SSN-593) sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean with 129 people on board while testing its deep-dive capacity. One of those people was a good friend, having served on the USS NEPTUNE (ARC-2) together in 1956, name of Romeo Constantino from the Philippines. After he left the NEPTUNE, I heard nothing of him until 1967 when a young swabby from the Philippines checked aboard the USS CLAUDE V. RICKETTS (DDG-5). His name was Jose Constantino and out of curiosity, I asked him if he knew a sailor named Romeo Constantino to which he replied, "Yes, he was my uncle. He was on the THRESHER when it sunk."

I couldn't believe it, and it's still hard for me to know that he died at the bottom of the sea, but his name is on the list of casualties. So I'm dedicating this Memorial Day to his memory and the good times we had on the NEPTUNE. My condolences go out again to Jose and the rest of the family. 

 My wishes go out to everyone to have a nice Memorial Day or Decoration Day as my parents used to call it as they prepared flowers to decorate the relatives' graves in the local cemetery.