Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of
The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!
by Elliott Capon
There are worse things in the Southwest than sidewinders and scorpions . . .
* * *
* * *
by Steve Carr
Hannah Carson's family returns to the town of High Winds to find her murderers. But
surprises are in store for the killers because when it comes to Hannah's daughters, nothing is
what it seems to be.
* * *
by R. J. Gahen
A woman is killed and a bank is robbed. It's Sheriff Josiah Steele's job to bring the
criminals in and see they're dealt with correctly. But this time, it's personal. The
lines of the law get fuzzy when people don't stand up for what's right. Can he truly
Jed the Giant and the Fancy Dan
* * *
by Ben Fine
The fancy Dan liked to gamble. Each night he sat at a poker table in the Brown Boot and won
much more than he lost. This dandy was not one to be trifled with.
Bert and the Bruin
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by Mickey Bellman
Bert was not looking for trouble but trouble found him anyway. Clubfoot had killed once
and was now coming for Bert!
Dead Man's Dust
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by Chris Darlington
Jake Strong, a soon-to-retire gunman, seeks to right a wrong from the past AND
avoid the bullets of people out for revenge and the prize for killing him. Will he survive
until he retires?
* * *
A novella, serialized!
Mixed Blood, part 2 of 6
by Abe Dancer
Mel Cody, a Cree half-breed, journeys more than a thousand miles to visit his father's Arizona
homeland. After intervening in a cruel street fight, he meets a young woman and learns of a mutual
enemy. With odds stacked against them, they decide to fight together for their land and each other.
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All the Tales
Jed the Giant and the Fancy Dan
by Ben Fine
The fancy dan liked to gamble. Each night he sat at a poker table in the Brown Boot and won much more than he lost, The fancy dan was not one to be trifled with.
I saw the fancy dan kill with a gun and I saw him kill with a knife. Killing seemed to mean nothing to him and each time I saw him kill he hardly broke a sweat. Rowdy Cooper was a drunk cowboy who tried to palm an ace on the fancy dan, who then called him out as a cheater. Calling someone a cheater, even if he's caught dead to rights, was no small thing here in Blue Mesa and Rowdy jumped to his feet at the fancy dan's words. His hand went down to his gun belt. As quick as lightning the fancy dan's rattlesnake arms drew his beautiful colt revolver and fired before Rowdy could even move his own gun. The fancy dan's bullet caught Rowdy in the throat and Rowdy was dead by the time he hit the ground. The fancy dan then sat down back at his seat and waited for his game to restart while Marshall Smith was left to scrape up the cowboy's body.
Hector Montoya was a wild ass Mexican who didn't appreciate that the fancy dan had relieved him of two week's wages. In a rage he pulled a large Bowie knife from his boot and lunged at the fancy dan. Again as slick as a snake protecting itself, the fancy dan pulled out the short saber that he carried on his left hip and sliced so deeply into Hector's arm that the blood started to spurt up. Despite the blood and the pain Hector kept coming at the fancy dan with the bowie knife until the fancy dan sliced his throat from ear to ear with that saber. The fancy dan calmly just sat down to keep playing while again Marshall Smith had to clean up the damage.
If anyone did challenge the fancy dan it was with a gun or a knife. No one would attempt to go after the gambler with just his fists. Not after what they had seen the fancy dan do to Jed the Giant.
Jedidiah Stone was the biggest man in the territory; in fact he was the biggest man I've ever seen. He stood six foot six and weighed over three hundred fat-free pounds. He had thick black hair that sat on top of a huge square head; his shoulders seemed to stretch a mile wide and his arms were like tree trunks finished off by scarred hands that looked like sledge hammers. Jeddie worked at Bill Foster's ranch and his coworkers marveled when he routinely tossed five hundred pound bales of hay all by himself onto a wagon. When Jed took off his shirt, his body and chest were covered by thick black hair and shirtless it was easy to mistake him for a small grizzly bear. Around Blue Mesa everyone called him Jed the Giant or Jeddie the Tree.
Jed was no gentle giant though. He was mean as an angry bear and loved to fight. Few challenged him though and no one had ever seen him even come close to losing a fight. If he got in close enough he could snap an opponent's arm like it was the branch of a young tree and if he hit someone with one of his hammock hands very few got up. Often he let an opponent hit him once or twice just to see their reaction as their fists bounced off his rock head or hard body. Clay Silverpool was a tough cowpoke from Texas who got into an argument with the giant. Clay hit Jeddie twice with everything he had and the Giant didn't budge. Jeddie then sent a huge right hand into Clay's head and Silverpool was down with his legs twitching. The next time Silverpool woke up was in the promised land.
Jeddie played cards each night at the Brown Boot and despite the impression that he was just a huge stupid oaf, he was a good card player and more than held his own.
No one thought much of the fancy dan when he walked into the Brown Boot. He impressed no one at first. He was too well dressed in a fancy jacket and polished boots. He was freshly shaved like he came right from the barber and he even smelled of witch hazel. When he sat down, he slipped off his jacket and one could see that he was heavily muscled. His arms were bent and not just hanging by his side. He was wearing a nice colt 45 slung low around his hips which told everyone that he knew how to draw and shoot. Around his other hip was a strange small saber announcing that he was no one to trifle with but there was nothing in his appearance to scare anyone.
The fancy dan sat down at a poker table with Jed the Giant and the Giant's boss, the rancher Bill Foster. Cyrus Pelt who ran the newspaper in Blue Mesa was also there, together with a neighbor of Foster, another rancher Dan Webber.
All of them looked skeptically at the fancy dan. Many professional gamblers passed through Blue Mesa hoping to take a bundle from the local yokels. Yet the players in Blue Mesa took cards and gambling very seriously and several of the professional gamblers never made it out of town alive and were now residing in our version of Boot Hill.
The others looked at the fancy dan as another one of these professional card players passing through and looked at each other with the knowing looks that we know how to handle him.
On the third hand sitting there, the deal passed to the fancy dan who did some impressive shuffling. Jed looked at Foster and rolled his eyes as if to say "here we go again." The fancy dan won more hands than he lost and after an hour he had a large pile of cash in front of him. Jed looked at him, pushed up to his huge size and said to him, "Stranger I hope you're on the level and not planning on cheating a bunch of yokels. We don't stand for that."
The fancy dan didn't look up at him but loud as day, so that everyone could hear, said "Mind what you say son or I'll have to thrash you."
There was an audible gasp from the crowd watching the game. Jed was clearly enraged as much by the threat of a thrashing as being called son like he was small boy.
Cyrus Pelt thought to warn the fancy dan. "You better not talk to him like that, stranger, That's Jed the Giant the toughest man in the territory."
The fancy dan shook his head and spoke up "I don't give a horse's behind who he is. If he keeps speaking I'll beat him senseless."
The angry Jed now pushed his chair away from the table and stood up to his full bear-like height. "Stranger you just signed your death warrant."
The fancy dan stood up at least eight inches shorter than the Giant. He had rolled up his sleeves exposing veiny arms that looked like cables. He stood up in a funny posture eye to eye looking up at Jed. Jed looked down at the gun that he wore and the saber on the other side. "I'm not armed," Jed said to the fancy dan. The fancy dan very calmly took off his gun belt and his saber and placed them on the poker table.
From his posture we thought that maybe the fancy dan was a ring fighter. We had seen many of these passing through Blue Mesa. They were strong and could fight. But they stood straight up with their big arms straight out. You couldn't charge a ring fighter; they would throw a straight punch with one of their powerful arms and usually hit you in the head. They trained their fists so they could hit your head without hurting their hands and one shot from a ring fighter usually dropped his opponent. In the ring a knockdown ended the round. If one did get inside, the ring fighters had a way of slipping away. Maybe the fancy dan was a ring fighter but that didn't worry the Giant. Some years before, the Giant got into a scrape with a ring fighter. A troop of them passed through Blue Mesa putting on exhibitions and one of them got into an argument with Jed. The ring fighter took the standard ring fighter's position while the Giant stood in front of him. Two straight punches from the ring fighter cracked into Jeddie's rock head and he didn't flinch. The Giant stepped inside grabbed the ring fighter by the wrist and then snapped his arm like a small piece of wood. So Jeddie was not concerned with anything the fancy dan did.
The fancy dan stood differently though than a standard ring fighter. His arms were placed at his sides and he stood on the balls of his feet and danced back and forth from left to right. As he moved Jeddie started to laugh "This ain't no dance you sissy. What are you, some sort of girl?"
The fancy dan continued his strange dance and took a step into the Giant. His right arm shot out like a bolt of lightning; like a rattlesnake shooting at his prey. The fancy dan's right fist crashed into the left side of the Giant's face and we heard the unmistakable sound of bone cracking. It was a sound we all knew well from rider's falling off a horse or someone getting kicked by a bull. Jed's cheek turned black and blue almost immediately and for the first time ever he backed up.
We all thought just wait until the Giant gets inside and gets a hold of the fancy dan. The Giant regrouped and stepped forward. His huge hand then caught the fancy dan by his forearm. Now it's over for the fancy dan, we all thought. The fancy dan though dipped low to his left and his left arm as fast as the right crashed into the Giant's ribcage. Jed gasped and to our common surprise, we heard the crack of bone again and a grimace of pain on the big man's face. A second shot from the fancy dan's left caught Jed in the throat and he immediately gasped for air and let go of the fancy dan's arms. As he backed up, the fancy dan's right arm crashed into Jed's nose and the nose exploded and blood spurted out. The fancy dan again moved to his left and fired a right just below the Giants' heart. To our amazement Jed doubled over and his knees seemed to be buckling. Before he could fall, the fancy dan hit him with a left hook square to the nose and the Giant toppled over onto his knees. A right hook followed and we heard that sickening sound of broken bone again as the Giant fell to the floor gasping for air.
"Better quit big fellow before you get hurt worse" the fancy dan told him.
Jed tried to get to his feet but fell over again and two of his friends held him down. The fancy dan calmly walked back to the poker table and sat down. He looked at Foster and the others "Are we still playing gentlemen?"
That was two years ago. The fancy dan moved into the Blue Mesa Hotel and plays every night at the Brown Boot. No one has the courage to ask him his story. He speaks very little and talks to almost no one. Occasionally he enjoys one of the fancy girls at the Brown Boot.
Jeddie's mystique was over. He didn't fight much after that and just went his own way. About a year later he moved up to Yuma where we hear that he's working and fighting again.
Dr. Ben Fine is a mathematician and professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut in the United States.
He is a graduate of the MFA program at Fairfield University and is the author of sixteen books (twelve in
mathematics, one on chess, one a political thriller and one a swashbuckler about pirates in 1560) as well
over 140 research articles, twenty-five short stories and a novella about Pirates. His story August 18,1969
published in the Green Silk Journal was nominated for a Pushcart prize. His story From the Dambovitsa to
Coney Island was an honorable mention winner in the Glimmer Train Literary Contest. He has completed a
memoir told in interwoven stories called Tales from Brighton Beach: A Boy Grows in Brooklyn. The stories
detail his growing up in Brighton Beach, a seaside neighborhood on the southern tip of Brooklyn, during
the 1950's and 1960's. Brighton Beach was unique and set apart from the rest of New York City both in
character and in time. His latest novel Out of Granada was released in 2017. His author website is
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