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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Single Jack by Max Brand

Another story by the prolific author Max Brand, this edition published in 1966, the third printing by Pocket Books.

Andrew Apperly visits his lawyer brother, David, in New York City to convince David to return West with him..
Andrew brought with him a dog, or a wolf, or a wolf-dog to be trained by a man who handles tigers and other wild animals.
"The dog can't be trained," admits the wild animal trainer in so many words.
The dog, Comanche, saves a man from drowning in the East River. The man is running from the law.
Comanche is this man's dog.
This man is Jack Deems (Single Jack).
The Apperly bros head west with the dog, leaving Jack behind, but not for long. He shows up at the Apperly Ranch to get his dog. Apperly says he can have him for nothing but a little assistance in fighting off the big rancher who is stealing his cattle and running the town of Yeoville, Alex
It turns out that Jack is the fastest, slickest, gol-darndest gunman ever, and the best gol-darndest knifeman and ropeman and everythingman ever seen or heard of out West or back East or up North or down South.
And this Apperly lawyer feller, David Apperly, starts his lawyering in Yeoville, right in the midst of all the bad men of that portion of the country controlled by Alex Shodress, the biggest, gol-darndest cattleman outlaw, and crookedest town owner you ever met.    
 Single Jack is told to keep an eye on David, but David gets shot two or three times and is hauled away to a pretty girls' house, where she takes care of him, since he isn't dead.
And the plot thickens and thickens right up till Shodress and his men catch Jack and throw him in jail in leg irons, wrist irons, arm irons, hand irons, lead cannon balls and a twenty-four hour guard by the fasstest guinamn on Shodress' payroll and ole Shodress himself. Darn, what a pickle he's in.
But darn, this girl's brother, Steve, who works for Shodress and who David had locked up for extreme killing, and who Shodress busted out of jail, slips Jack a file. Jack goes to work right under the noses of his guards and at an opportune moment overcomes a guard and steals his guns, and you guessed it, is on his way to extreme freedom with his dog and new wife, the girl who was helping David.

I'm telling you, it was one of the gol-darndest, amusing, exciting stories right up to the very end. But the author changed the tone a couple of times like he was writing with his tongue planted firmly in cheek in my estimation which threw me for a loppy curve for an instant, but was soon back to the regular tone and style of writin', the Max Brand style. Max Brand is really Frederick Faust, which you already know.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

More Books

My computer has been off-OFF-OFF the last few days while we entertained relatives from Texas and Kansas, except for a brief time on one afternoon. On our quick visit to Scottsdale, I stopped in the antiquarian book store, Alcuin Books, and browsed partway through the Western and Arizona sections before the wife caught up with me and I quickly settled on three books:

1. Hands Up, True Stories of the Six-Gun Fighters of the Old Wild West, as told by Fred E. Sutton and written down by A. B. Mac Donald and printed by the A. L. Burt Company. On the inside front flap of the book cover it says "This popular priced edition is made possible by the author's acceptance of a reduced royalty." It was copyrighted in 1926 and 1927 by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. And that flap also states: "Here's REAL action for you. Over 300 pages of blood-curdling, thrilling Western, taken direct from the lips of one who participated." Can't wait to get started on it.

2. Deadly Dozen, Twelve Forgotten Gunfighters of the Old West, by Robert K. DeArment, and published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2003.  (Not an old book.) This one covers gunmen that I'm not familiar with, that is, I didn't recognize many names, except John Bull. I probably have seen their names in some book where they weren't the subject of the story.

3. Law West of Fort Smith, An authentic history of frontier justice in the old Indian Territory, by Glenn Shirley. This was published by Henry Holt & Company and copyrighted by  Glenn Shirley in 1957. On the front inner flap of the cover it states, among other things: "Replete with colorful anecdotes and full of the flavor of the Old West, this thrillingly authentic book puts Judge Parker in his proper place in American history and paints a vivid picture of the Indian Territory and the social changes that came in the wake of the pioneers.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Book Signing

Yesterday was the annual swap meet at the Methodist Church a couple blocks away. We took some books to sell and sign if anyone cared to buy, and the day turned out pretty darn good. The weather could have been a little better, starting out in the high 50's with a cold breeze blowing things around. It warmed up as the morning progressed and the people started showing up to have a look at all the tables and wares and a few nice people even stopped by our setup. Not everyone purchased a book (Darn!) but some were readers and bought a book or two. One nice couple from Moab, Utah, even bought four of my novels and took a photo of us standing at the end of the table. (Thanks, Moabians.)

Moab is a nice, friendly little town situated along the Colorado River in southeast Utah not too far from the Colorado Border. The place attracts a lot of tourists since it is not too far from the Monument Valley, where John Wayne and others have made movies, and Canyonlands. The Arches National Monument is on the outskirts as you head north out of town. A great stopping place for touring these national parks. Butch Cassidy and his gang hid out in the desolate rocks and hills to the northwest of Moab and south and east of the town of Hanksville.

Anyway, back to the sale. Springtime is the time around here when everyone wants to get outside and get rid of the old clutter that has collected over the wintertime, and it seems like anyone who has a bare spot in their yard or in a parking lot hold these "swap meets." So, the crowd was not as big as last year, but enough to call the sale a success in my book. Around 11:30 AM we packed up the remainders and toddled off home, with a sigh of relief and a hope we can make it next year. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bret Harte

I've forgotten everything I ever knew about Mr. Bret Harte, the subject of the sketch in the header, so I looked him up on Wikipedia to revive my memory somewhat. I do remember reading The Outcasts of Poker Flat when I was in high school and enjoyed it, although my mind is telling me that I don't remember anything about the story other than I liked it. And we did have a fairly long look at his life and some of his writings besides the aforementioned story in our class taught by our "Socialist" teacher at the time. I call the teacher "Socialist" because of his ravings about Marx in the class and I didn't understand what he doth talk about until later. It has nothing to do with Mr. Harte. 

Harte was born in 1836 and moved to California in 1853 where he received experience in the mining and camping world while working as a miner, teacher, and journalist in the Humboldt Bay area and from which he later wrote his stories, including The Luck of Roaring Camp. Mister Harte married Anna Griswold in 1862 in San Rafael, California and must have had a miserable life with her because she "was impossible to live with" said Henry C. Merwin an early biographer.

In school, I never learned the extent of his writings, which are considerable according to the bibliography on Project Gutenberg, which lists about 65 publications, including his poem written for Charles Dickens, Dickens in Camp. I hereby furnish the first stanza or two below to give you a taste of his poetic ability, which Frederick S. Myrtle says "Bret Hart has been generally accepted as the one American writer who possessed above all others the faculty of what may be called heart appeal, the power to give to his work that quality of human interest which enables the writer and his writings to  lie in the memory of the reading public for all time." (From the foreward to the poem.)

     "Above the pines the moon was slowly drifting
              The river sang below;
       The dim Sierras, far beyond, uplifting
               Their minarets of snow.

       The roaring camp fire, with rude humor, painted
               The ruddy tints of health
       On haggard face and form that drooped and fainted
               In the fierce race for wealth;"

And there you have it, and my thanks to Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg. I will read further of the works as time goes by for inspiration for my own simple writings.              

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Intro to "Trouble at Sagrado Ranch"

"Trouble at Sagrado Ranch" is the story of the Hawkins family in New Mexico Territory. Originally from Virginia, they moved to Texas to run a cattle ranch when the Civil War came along. The two older sons (Pete and Thaddeus) fought in the War on the side of the Confederates and came home to Texas find the family ranch had been lost to unscrupulous men and their father had moved the family to New Mexico to run a ranch at Sagrado (a fictional town near Socorro). And this is mainly their story of life in New Mexico Territory and the trials and tribulations of settling there. A couple of characters from "O'Shaughnessy's New Deputy" (Billy Kelly and the Navajo, Tohyil) play a big part in this story.

The first chapter lays the ground work for what follows, and I hope it's a good introduction in setting the scene and plot. Here is Chapter One:

      "Sound Retreat!" my brother, Sergeant Peter Hawkins, yelled to the bugler. The noise was deafening with the shells exploding like thunder all around and the chatter of the rifles adding to the cacophony of the battle. I looked around, wiped the cold sweat from my brow, and Pete yelled at me, "Let's get out of here before we're overrun. It's every man for himself. Come on, follow me."
     Zebediah Stewart, the bugler, bravely ignored the flying bullets and brought the horn to his lips, but no sound came out. He fell in a heap, killed by a Minie ball that nicked the mouthpiece of the trumpet and continued through the mouth and out the back of the neck shattering the spine.
     "Dammit, why did he stand up to blow his tooter? Dammit to Hell!" said Sergeant Hawkins. "Fall back, men, and stay close. Stay low and hide if you can."
     He dropped to a prone position and fired his Hawken rifle in the direction of the Yankee sounds. The brief flashes of fire in the dark from the Union rifles in the distance didn't give much of a target. He crawled on his belly into a thicket on the river bank.
     "Pete! Pete! Is that you?" I said from my concealment in the bushes, my eyes squinting and drawn tight trying to see any movement in the darkness.
     Pete, hearing my anxious voice coming from a few feet away where I was crawling further into the bushes, said, "Sh-sh, quiet. Let them Yankees get on past. We'll just lie here until daylight and hope they go around us.
     I saw his jaws tighten as he looked around to get a better view of his surroundings. We whispered encouraging words to each other as we changed positions on the rocky earth. I drifted in a restless
sleep as the night wore on, tired and hungry from the days' prolonged activity. Waking up at times, I could see and feel a heavy fog settling in, hiding the outline of the trees and hills and everything else more than a few feet away.
     Dawn was breaking, barely discernible at first through the fog. Pete sat up and looked around, seeing me sitting on the earth with a hand to my head.
     "Are you hurt? Why you holdin' yer head?" he said, staring at me.
     "Just got a slight headache, nothing serious," I said, staring back.
     "We'll stay here until the sun burns off enough fog to see a good distance. We don't want to stumble into a company of them Yanks," said Pete, now smiling and still watching me.
      We sat silently listening for sounds, but everything was quiet.
      "I guess we're alone, Pete. Do y'all suppose any of our soldiers got away or are they prisoners by now?" I said.
     "Well, we ain't prisoners," said Pete. "We can be thankful for that. We'll take a look around for any survivors. Them Yankees have moved on south and we'll have to be careful and not get caught by their rear guard."
     The battle for Newtonia was over for all intents and purposes and the Confederate soldiers were on the run for Arkansas, those that remained in the Army. The others, the many deserters and me and Pete, headed for Indian Territory and home. The war was nearing an end for us.
     We stuck together with a small group of southern sympathizers we found hiding in a barn. They said they had been fighting alongside us in one company or another. They told us they were part of Quantrill's Raiders, and they could have been for all we knew. They didn't stay with us very long before they went hunting for Quantrill.
     Pete and I lived on squirrels, rabbits, a stray chicken, and managed to catch a possum or two as we hiked through the country heading in the general direction of Texas.
     "We ain't deserters, but I can't see no reason for tryin' to join up again with Old Pap's troops. Who knows where they are and what they're up to now," said Pete. "Look at us. Our clothes are ragged, shoes are worn out, and we ain't got no more Minie balls. We might as well throw our rifles away, too. I'm headin' home to Texas. Y'all comin' with me or are you goin' lookin' for Genera Price?"
     "I'm sick of this war and all the fightin' and noise and killin' and everything else about it. I'm goin' home, too," I, Thaddeus Hawkins, said, staring at my brother and smiling like a dog that had a 'coon treed. "You look like you been pulled out of the poorest house in the poorest neighborhood in the poorest town in Missouri, brother. You look like the poorest tramp I ever did see. Hahaha," I laughed.
     "I guess you think you look better than I do," said Pete, "but, you don't. You're just as darn raggedy as me if not a good deal worse," and he laughed hard, too.
     Taking our time and hoping the war would end, we made our way down to Fort Smith where we found jobs clearing trees from farmland. We worked for almost four months and were able to regain some of the weight lost in the fighting and purchase new clothes and shoes that would last until we reached home.
     On April 9, 1865, we arrived in Austin. It was the same day that General Lee surrendered to the Union Army and the war was over.
      No longer obligated to fight for the south we set out the next day by shank's mare for the old homestead a few miles north of Austin. Our spirits livened up seeing familiar objects like the old waterhole, the old oak tree, and other landmarks as we came nearer home.
     "I'm goin' to drink a whole gallon of milk and eat a loaf of Ma's fresh-baked bread with honey and butter," I said, rubbing my left hand across my flat and empty abdomen, thinking I would soon be filling it up.
     "I'm goin' to sleep for a week in my old bed before I start herdin' steers again," said Pete, taking off his new cowboy hat he purchased in Austin. "By the way, where are the cattle? I don't see any around. They always used to be some drinkin' at the waterhole."
     He looked inside the new hat and rubbed his fingers around the sweatband before he put it back on his head.
     "Pa's probably got them rounded up to take to market," I said, watching my brother. "You need to get yourself a haircut, if that hat's too tight on your big head."
     "Yer pretty shaggy yerself, you little cricket," said Pete, who was bigger and heavier than me, but we both had brown hair and greenish-blue eyes.
     Our old house was empty when we reached it, dark and abandoned. We searched all through it, but couldn't find a sign of anybody living here for some time.
     "What do you think happened? There ain't nothin' left belonging to the family," I said, looking at my brother, dejected.
     "Mister Blain will know. Let's go over there in the morning," said Pete, dropping his poke to the floor. "We'll make ourselves to home here tonight. At least we got shelter if it starts raining."
     We found the Blain house after a six-mile trek over the rolling hills, arriving just before noon. Missus Blain and a girl that looked like our younger sister Lila, were on the front porch peeling potatoes.
     Lila, now fourteen, slim, with light brown hair, saw us first and watched us as we made our way down the nearest hill, jumping a small stream and walking toward the house. She studied our faces, dark from the sun, and said, "I think that's Pete and Thaddeus back from the war," her voice carrying through the air to our ears.
     She jumped up and ran to meet us. Missus Blain stood up and watched as the young girl let out a yell and greeted each of us with a big, strong hug. We walked to the porch with Lila between us, talking a mile a minute. We greeted Missus Blain and sat down on the steps.
     "You fellers are a sight for sore eyes," said Lila, smiling with a tear in her eye. "My gosh, it's been two years at least. I'm glad to see y'all made it home from the war safe and sound. Ma and Pa gave me a letter for you when they left for New Mexico Territory, but I told them I was goin' to stay in Texas. I wasn't goin' to no godforsaken place in the middle of nowhere where there ain't no schools or nothin' for a young girl. I'm goin' to stay here and go to school in Austin and become a school teacher. And Mister and Missus Blain said they would take care of me and they been awful good to me. Did y'all ever get that letter that Pa wrote about Pappy dying?"
     "We didn't get no letter," said Pete, disappointment in his eyes.
     That news upset me. "Pappy's dead? I can't believe it. I was looking forward to seeing that old cuss again. I always liked Pappy Fisher and the stories he told. He was always there when I wanted to talk about something or other. I'm sure goin' to miss him."
     "He was helpin' Pa round up some cattle and just keeled over and fell right off ole Brownie, and he was in Heaven before he hit the ground. Pa said he must've had a heart attack, poor ole feller. Pa buried him on a hill overlooking the house under that big oak tree. We all miss him." She eyed both men with concern and said, "I'll go get that letter Pa left."
     "That Lila, just talky as ever, ain't she, Pete?" I said, smiling. "How y'all been Missus Blain. I see you and Mister Blain got quite a herd of cattle. We counted a lot of them on the way over here."
     "Fine, fine. Mister Blain and I are doing fine, and I think Lila is, too. She's a peach of a gal," said Missus Blain, a blue-eyed, matronly woman with black hair starting to turn gray.
     Lila came back with the letter and handed it to me. "I don't know what it says. It's sealed up," she said, taking her former seat between us.
     "Here you read it, Pete," I said, handing him the envelope.
     "All right," and he tore it open. "It reads, 'Dere suns Ma and I hop you are in good helth wen you reed this leter. We lost the ranch to the bank last yere, wen sum crukid cattle byers took our catle and left the contry without payin' us. We coldent afford to mak eny more paymen on the morgij, so the bank tuk it back. we are goin to Sagrado New Mexco whair Ill be runnin a ranch fer a Mr Woolensack, a rich Englshmun. He sed it was a butaful layout along the Rio Grand River. You and Thad cumon to Sagrado and bring Lila with you. She's livin with the Blains Adam ran of and got maried and livs in San Antone. Ma sez be gud and carfle on the trail Yers Ma and Pa and Willie and LeGrand.'"
     "Lost the ranch, huh? We oughta go after those crooked cattlemen and get Pa's money back," I said, angry on hearing that.
     "Maybe we'll run across 'em over there in New Mexico," said Pete, but not believing it. Sighing, he continued, "We'll stay here a few days, if it's all right with Mister and Missus Blain." He eyed Missus Blain.
     "I'm sure Bert won't mind. He's been holding a couple of horses that Mister Hawkins left behind in case you boys showed up and some of your old clothes. You can just make yourselves comfortable in the bunkhouse and then come on back here for dinner. Lila is turned into a wonderful cook and is a big help. She can stay here as long as she likes," said Missus Blain."
And that's the first chapter. Comments are more than welcome.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

This 'n That

Spring training is about over in Phoenix and all the "boobs" will be leaving town, but for the last two days we've had "haboobs" coming into town, that is, dust storms, clouds of dust. This morning the wind is still blowing but not as hard as yesterday when it reached 30-35 miles per hour. There is plenty of dust hanging in the air with the warning "asthma sufferers stay inside,." Yuma County is moving to the Valley of the Sun.

Speaking of enjoyment, I certainly had a good time going through the "Old Photos" edition of  True West Magazine (Jan 2014). There was Geronimo looking as happy as always with a rifle in his hands, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill Cody, Pearl Hart, Annie Oakley, Butch Cassidy and gang, General Custer, and all the others, alive or dead. It also had the best bookstores and western books, too. A great edition for the library.

Just received a notice of the Taos Summer Writers' Conference to be held in Taos, New Mexico, July 13-20, 2014. Workshops, Editors and Agents with registration until July 19, 2014 at, telephone 505-277-5572, Email,
Sharon Oard Warner, Founding Director. Haven't been to Taos for a while, who knows?

We've had a couple of telephone calls the past week from Tumbuctoo warning me that my computer has viruses and I should ....... I hung up on 'em before they could finish. The day after the last call my PC was not working correctly...duh and duh. Did they mess it up? Or did I? duh? A coinkydink? Er, what?  I'll never know, but I finally fixed it and it is workin' just fine this morn. My new virus program found 10 PUPs on it though.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Otherwise Occupied

Today, I'm watching March Madness and rooting for Stanford, Wichita State, and Mercer. I love upsets when they don't include my team, Utah, who was in the NIT. I don't care if Wichita State gets beat, though. It'll be like Frank and Jesse taking on the Younger brothers.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Indian Battles and The War of 1812

I've been reading about a young Baptist who wants to be a preacher. He moves to Mississippi from Kentucky later in the book, a biographical novel, and the author mentions a battle at Fort Mims in Alabama where the Creek Indians killed over 500 people in the Fort. This took place during the War of 1812 so it isn't exactly a traditional western story. Anyway, my brain inquisitive as it is, immediately thought of the massacre in 1637 in Mystic, Connecticut, of the Pequots, and I said to myself, "Aha!, the Indians are getting even with the whites. That wasn't exactly the case as the Creeks (the faction called Red Sticks) were attacked by U.S. Forces as they were returning from Florida where they had acquired arms. The Red Sticks escaped, but the soldiers plundered the leftovers. This upset the Red Sticks and they went after those dumb Americanos and plundered, looted, and defeated them. This became known as the Battle of Burnt Corn. I don't know why, maybe the popcorn got too hot or something. This meant that the Creeks, who were in their own Civil War because the other Creeks had a disliking for the Red Sticks, had now made the war bigger by their action against the evil land-grabbing Americans. And the War widened to even include the one and only Andrew Jackson. After Fort Mims, the Americans failed to make a difference between the good Creeks and the Bad Creeks. And those dirty low-down Red Sticks began attacking the forts around there, which included Fort Sinquefield of all things.

Jackson's mission was to defeat the Creeks, but, alas, he finally reached Fort Strother of all things and had to dismiss his troops since they had only ten days remaining on their terms of service. He was down to 103 men and General Coffee, of all things, whose men had abandoned him (that will teach him). Well, shucks, Jackson's forces engaged in two battles at Emuckfaw and Enotachopo Creek which were indecisive, he couldn't decide if he won or lost and returned to Fort Strother of all things.

North of Fort Stoddert, that Claiborne gent established Fort Claiborne. Imagine that. And he ran into a small force at the Holy Ground and burned 260 houses to the ground, so there. Because of supply problems Claiborne high-tailed it for Fort St. Stephens. Another day, another fort.

That Andrew Jackson feller didn't give up, though. The Treaty of Fort Jackson of all things, and the Creek Nation had to sign it, gave up 21,086,793 acres of ground, half of Alabama and part of southern Georgia and three cooking pots, four fence posts, and a partridge in a pear tree to the U.S. Government!! And on top of that Jackson forced the Creek to give up 1.9 million acres that was claimed by the Cherokee Nation, who had fought alongside the forces of Jackson and other Generals.
That Jackson was something else.

And Andrew Jackson became the seventh President of the U.S. in 1829. And that ain't the end of the story, but it is the end of this post and if I ever bring it up again, you have my permission to turn off my computer.

My thanks to Wikipedia for all the facts and information in the above, even for the Pequots, which name was banned after the massacre. So, why am I using it?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Re-Visit to Katie Lee

In November 2009, I wrote a blog about the book Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle by Katie Lee, which is a history of the American cowboy in song. And now I would like to mention her website again,, at which I just took a glance. You may want to take a look at Katy's Writing Blog  and the on-line store.

I just read her article about magpies, the bird, not a pie. and it reminded me of my childhood home in northeast Utah where there were a lot of magpies in the 1930's. She was dead-on about the bird being a thief and a loner. I don't recall ever seeing two of them sitting side by side on the fence. But, as she says, they didn't need a companion to talk and chatter away. They must be neurotic birds.

Ms. Lee has some more books out that are for sale in her store along with her music items.

Anyway, just thought I would post a short article and let people know about her site and stuff, and I'm adding it to my reading list as soon as I post this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Louis L'Amour's Rivers West

Rivers West was in the 51st printing, if I understand it correctly, a Bantam Book paperback. It starts out in the Eastern U.S. in Maine where Jean Daniel Talon comes upon a wounded man in the woods on his journey to Pittsburgh to find work as a shipwright. As he travels along, he picks up friends and enemies and a beautiful woman, some may be connected with the injured man, a soldier carrying a message, who dies after being found by Talon, and some are hired to kill Mister Talon. It all boils around a feller named Torville who is planning to take over the lands bought by the Louisiana Purchase, at least that's what Talon has learned, and the pretty female is in grave danger unbeknownst to her. Jean Daniel's new traveling companion is a man named "Jambe de Bois" a former sea-going pirate or sailor of some sort who's tagging along for some unknown reason and has a wooden leg.

Being a shipwright and handling all that heavy wood has made Jean Daniel a very sturdy-built feller who just happens to know how to fight or box, with a knife or gun or sword, traits he has learned in his earlier life in Canada and his travels there.  Jambe de Bois and Talon land in St. Louis after some attempts on their lives, and another gent named Butlin has joined up with them. He tells Choteaux his problems and the pretty girl buys a sternwheel boat with a serpent on the prow to take her West to find her long lost brother. The boat is captained by the infamous Torville under the name of Colonel (or Captain) Macklem. Talon, Jambe de Bois, Butlin, and another gent named McQuarrie make plans to capture the boat and the big fight is on.

This isn't exactly a western story, although everyone is heading in that direction, but it takes place in the times when people are heading west to get the free land they've heard about. These characters only get as far as the Missouri River before it ends. It is another good story by the "foremost storyteller of the authentic West, L'Amour" it says on the back cover and I found it to be interesting and fun, even if it had some violence. Only 151 pages, it was a fairly fast read for me while waiting in the car for the "boss lady."