Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of
The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!
A Killing in Coyote Junction
* * *
by Victoria Randall
Alex Winter's brother Jake is in jail, accused of murdering the Yates, a young couple homesteading
near Coyote Junction. Jake swears he didn't do it, but the townsfolk are thirsty for vengeance.
Alex is searching for proof of Jake's innocence, but time is short, and the gallows nearly finished.
Blood of Abilene
by Samuel Kennedy
Civil war veterans return home, changed forever by their experiences. And a young boy grows
into a man, learning to hold his own in the quickly-changing Wild West. But when the time
comes for him to put his skills to the test, he finds the results aren't what he expected.
* * *
The Plains in Winter
* * *
by Arnold Johnston
Travelers inevitably bump up against those who stay put. The results aren't always pleasant.
In this story, a tinker encounters the lone remaining citizen of a dying town. And that sets
off events that lead to more death. A US Army troop picks up the pieces of the puzzle.
* * *
by Dawn DeBraal
In 1848 men outnumbered women, two hundred to one. Hadley Whittman's farm is two days ride
from Grass Valley. He has chosen a wife from a photo in a mail-order bride magazine. Ulyana
from Ukraine, who doesn't speak English. Will she be able to survive the rigors of frontier life?
* * *
by Larry Flewin
Rufus and Abner were two old railroaders who thought they'd seen and done it all, until a
baby put them to the test. Was there a doctor anywhere along the line?
The Damned of Bovee Draw
* * *
by Joe Jackson
Robbin' the Three Mile Ranch sounded like a good idea. "A whole wall full of cash," the Colonel
said. But they find more than riches lurking at Three Mile. The rumors were a lie and their past
resurfaces to remind them of the darkest of truths: The greedy are damned.
Want all of this month's Western stories at once? Click here –
All the Tales
by Dawn DeBraal
Hadley Whittman first laid eyes on his future wife in a magazine advertising mail-order brides. He thought Ulyana was so beautiful that he put his pen to paper writing a heartfelt letter telling her all about the life of a frontiersman living near Grass Valley in 1848. He made this life sound grander than it was, deciding no intelligent well-bred woman would want to come to America to work as a slave from sun up to sun down on a farm.
It was several months before he heard from Ulyana. She found a woman in Ukraine who translated Hadley's letter and helped her write a letter back to him. Excited by his stories, she said she dreamed of coming to America to be a pioneer woman. She was learning English from the same friend so she could understand him if they ever met.
Hadley was filled with joy at the possibility of finding a wife, a woman willing to come out to the unsettled territory. He wrote back to Ulyana adding a little more about himself. He told her how he built his own cabin, and his farm—a two-day ride from Grass Valley—would support them both. He let her know how lonely he was and that he longed for the company of a fine woman such as she.
For a year the letters went back and forth, leading to Hadley proposing to her. He told her he would send tickets for transportation and a little money for travel expenses if she'd agree to be his wife. Ulyana accepted.
It was a leap of faith for Hadley who booked her passage on a ship, a train, and finally, a stagecoach. Grass Valley was her final destination, where he would meet her with his wagon.
Hadley dressed in his finest suit the day she was to arrive. The stagecoach was expected at noon. Standing on the street waiting for its arrival, Hadley checked his pocket watch. Bat Bowdry came by asking him why he was dressed so finely?
"I am meeting my future wife," Hadley told him.
"Wife? You found a woman to come to this God-forsaken land?" Bat asked incredulously. "Where did you find such a person?"
"Magazine," Hadley told him. "We've been conversing for a year, she agreed to be my wife." Bat stopped what he was doing.
"I think I will wait with you and find out what kind of woman comes from a magazine!" he chuckled. They could see the stagecoach in the distance. Hadley's heart pounded in excitement.
Ulyana stepped off the stage with the help of the driver, wearing her best dress, Hadley felt. She looked around the dusty town. There wasn't much to see. A dry goods store, a tavern, livery, hotel, and many, many men.
Ulyana was a bit intimidated by the number of men. They stopped in the street, seeing a woman in their town, and impolitely stared. Hadley took out his handkerchief and waved it in the air calling her name. Ulyana's smile blossomed. She thought Hadley was just as handsome as his picture. They came together with a handshake.
"Welcome!" Hadley bowed to her in honor. Ulyana smiled brightly.
"Tak, Hello." She said hesitantly. Bat Bowdry started to laugh.
"A dream come true, a woman who can't speak English." He laughed. Hadley gave him a withering look and took Ulyana's bag from her, carrying it to his wagon. Ulyana walked around his horses, checking their stature. They were good horses and well cared for. She was relieved to see that. A man who treated his animals well would treat his family better.
Ulyana spoke very little English. Hadley had no other language skills than English. The conversation between them did not flow. He asked if she were willing to get married and she answered yes. He took Ulyana down to the Justice of the Peace office where they signed a marriage agreement and became man and wife.
Hadley suggested to his new wife to change out of her good clothes into something more comfortable. They had a two-day ride to his farm. She understood and got her suitcase from the wagon. Hadley changed out of his suit and waited for his wife. When she did not appear, he made his way back to the Justice of the Peace office. Ulyana was trying to move around Bat Bowdry who had forced himself in front of her. He could see the look on his new wife's face, she was very uncomfortable.
"Get away from my wife, Bowdry!" shouted Hadley, his hand on his gun.
"She ain't your wife Hadley, she's a whore from Ukraine posing as your wife." Hadley ran into the man and knocked him to the ground. Bat was up in seconds ready to fight. Ulyana shouted, "No," dragging Hadley by the arm. Bat didn't want to fight the man. He watched as they walked back to the wagon. Bat admired her spunk, getting in between two fighting men. She would need that spunk to live in this backward town. He walked off, leaving Hadley and his bride alone. Hadley realized because of the shortage of women in Grass Valley he would have to defend this woman for the rest of his days. He was up for the challenge.
Ulyana was exhausted after weeks of travel. She fell asleep in the bed Hadley made for her in the back of the wagon. She didn't wake up when he camped that night. The next day they arrived at his farm.
Her face fell when she saw the cabin. The farm was not as grand as Hadley portrayed in his letters and the house was even more disappointing. Hadley scratched his beard when he saw the look on her face, admitting that he might have exaggerated a little on the size of the farm but that they would be well off and comfortable and they could always add onto the house, especially if they had young'uns.
She didn't understand much of what he said. Hadley carried his bride over the threshold and let her get her bearings in her new home while he went out to unhitch the wagon and care for the livestock.
Ulyana looked around the cabin, moving back to the kitchen. Hadley had enough supplies for her to make some biscuits. She started a fire with kindling in a bucket at the base of the stove. She had the dough rising and a pot of water set to boil when she went out into the yard catching a chicken. With a quick whip of her wrist, its neck was broken.
Ulyana carried the chicken to the wood stump and cut its head off. All the while, Hadley peeked through the barn door. What an amazing woman! There was no time to pluck the chicken, so she pulled a filet knife out of the porch post. After she expertly skinned the chicken, she threw it into the pot of water she had set to boil on the stove. She rolled out the biscuits, making circles with a cup she twisted back and forth in the dough. She put them on a pan sliding them into the oven, she found herself humming a song from her beloved country.
When Hadley came into the house, dinner was almost ready. Ulyana handed him a pan of warm water and a bar of soap and motioned to him to take the pan outside and clean himself up before dinner. Hadley laughed at her at first, then remembered the quick work she made of the chicken. He obeyed his wife and went outside, giving himself a sponge bath. He threw out the water and walked into the house.
Ulyana pulled out his chair for him to be seated. She folded her hands and bowed her head in prayer. Hadley quickly adapted. He hadn't prayed since he was a boy under the direction of his mother. She prayed simply. Hadley did not know what she said but was put at peace by her comfortable demeanor.
He waited for her to begin dinner. Now was a crucial time to set the patterns they would follow in their married life. He wanted her to direct how she wanted things. If he didn't like it, he would change. So far it was going well, he thought.
Ulyana dished up his dinner and then hers. They ate their first meal together in their home. Hadley was relieved, it was a good dinner. He gazed over the table at Ulyana's fair face. He looked forward to the time when they could converse back and forth. He pointed to the chair and exaggeratedly said, "Chair." Then he motioned to her. Ulyana nodded her head that she understood.
Hadley was trying to break the ice. "Chair," she repeated tapping the chair and looked at Hadley, "stilets," Ulyana offered. Hadley repeated "stilets." Then tapping with both hands on the table he said, "table." Ulyana repeated "table" and then said "stil," as she tapped the table.
Hadley was quite taken with her looks, he asked her, "How do you say beautiful?" He pointed at her. Ulyana looked confused for a second and then a smile came over her face. "Ulyana!" she shouted.
"Yes, Yes!" Hadley smiled agreeing with her. It was a start. They were communicating. Hadley made a makeshift bed in front of the fireplace. He would give Ulyana her privacy. He wanted his wife to come to him when she was ready to be his wife. He would not force her.
When evening fell, Hadley showed Ulyana to the bedroom. Bowing as he closed the door. He poked at the fire in the fireplace and stripped down to his long johns before laying on the hard floor with a quilt. He was nearly asleep when he heard the bedroom door open.
Hadley thought he should have shown Ulyana the thunder jug under the bed so she wouldn't need to go out in the cold evening to use the outhouse. Ulyana did not go out to the outhouse, she stood in front of Hadley at the fireplace. He looked at her face, trying to figure out what she wanted. Then it dawned on him. He opened his blanket allowing Ulyana to crawl in next to him. They snuggled. Despite the hard floor beneath him, Hadley Whittman had the best night of sleep he'd had in a long time.
Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband Red, two rat terriers, and a cat. She has discovered that her
love of telling a good story can be written. She has published stories with Palm-sized Press, Spillwords, Mercurial
Stories, Potato Soup Journal, Edify Fiction, Zimbell House Publishing, Clarendon House Publishing, Blood Song Books,
Black Hare Press, Fantasia Divinity, Cafelit, Reanimated Writers, Guilty Pleasures, Unholy Trinity, The World of Myth,
Dastaan World, Vamp Cat, Runcible Spoon, Siren's Call, and is the Falling Star Magazine 2019 Pushcart Nominee. You can
find her work at https://www.amazon.com/Dawn-DeBraal/e/B07STL8DLX
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