Sunday, June 26, 2016

More Short Stories from The Mammoth Book of Westerns

Trying to recall something you maybe read sixty year's ago puts my brain on "Heat." I'm talking about the Cisco Kid and O. Henry. O. Henry invented the Kid and Hollywood went on to make several movies with the Cisco Kid as the main character. My brainwaves never connected O. Henry and the Cisco Kid, and reading The Caballero's Way didn't put them together in my cranium either. It was explained in the short author's bio preceding the story, that it was the introduction of the Kid.

In the story, the Cisco Kid is up to his old tricks of rustling, killing, and having his way with the pretty women. The Texas Rangers send Lieutenant Sandridge to the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio River where Cisco hangs out at his girlfriends house. Sandridge and Cisco's pretty senorita, Tonia, set a trap to catch the bad man, and I'm sure most readers know what happens. The "Ceesco Keed" was one of the worst outlaws around and enjoyed his reputation as such and his way with the women. I was entertained by this story as I read it and enjoyed it. The movies were fine entertainment, too.

Stephen Crane, author of Red Badge of Courage, wrote some western stories, too, including The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky in this anthology. His short bio states "These stories introduced realism and irony into the Western form and in some ways Crane has been the most influential Western stylist." I can't argue with that. In the story, the Sheriff of Yellow Sky, Jack Potter, takes some time off and gets married. Scratchy Wilson is known to get drunk and become belligerent. When Jack and his bride return to Yellow Sky, a drunken Wilson is itching for a fight, but no one falls for it. Everyone knows he is dangerous when in his cups and avoids him. No one else available, Wilson calls out the sheriff when he hits town after his trip not knowing of the marriage. This leads to an interesting and exciting confrontation, making a fine story.

Willa Cather also wrote western stories and everyone pretty much knows that, and On the Divide is one of them. It is a story of large Norwegian named Canute Canuteson who lives alone in his shanty with the rattlesnake skins on the front door. He is a big and tall man and drinks his alcohol straight, and I don't mean whiskey, it's pure alcohol. He tells his neighbor one day that he is going to marry the neighbor's daughter. She doesn't want any part of marrying him, but things come to pass before the story ends. I thought the story was funny to an extent, but life is so tough it makes it difficult to laugh much.

And right after that story is another about a cowboy who likes to go on a "tear" now and then. This one is by the pioneer female writer, B. M. Bower, author of many early western novels and one of the few women at that time to write westerns. The name of the story is Bad Penny. Penny is a cowboy and he is one of the ranch hands on this trail drive. His boss calls him a terrific hand on the ranch because he knows how to cowboy and handle cattle and horses, but he doesn't want Penny to get drunk again and ruin the drive. Penny has been sober for a while, but it's getting near the end of the trail and he is hankerin' for a drop to wet his whistle. What happens is a great ending to the story, making it fun to read.

In my mind, the stories in the book make great entertainment and puts me in the mood to do some writing of my own. I will be commenting on more of the stories as time goes by. The book is 531 pages long.  


  1. Some great names. I've probably read some of these before but not all. Guess it would be useful to have them all in one place.

  2. A good variety of authors in there.

  3. This is sounding more and more like something I would like. Growing up in Nebraska we were forced to read much of Willa Cather and with Red Cloud not that far down the road we read even more. As an adult I came to appreciate her work. I discovered B.M. Bower just a year or so ago and have read two of her books. One about an old gold prospector who takes on a partner, don't remember the name, I really enjoyed.
    Oh by the way, the Cisco Kid's saddle is in a museum on campus at the University of Wyoming, it is really ornate, lots of silver, beautifully made.

    1. Most, if not all, of the early authors in the book were included in the late Ron Scheer's books, How the West was Written. I remember seeing the saddle in the movies, ornate is right!

  4. Read most of these and admire the talent gathered together in one collection.

  5. Oscar, I didn't know Stephen Crane had also written Western stories. I have only read "Red Badge of Courage" and it's time for a second reading of this classic.