December, 2020

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Issue #135

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
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Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

Standing in a Dead Man's Boots
by Dave Crerand
He had tried to live right, now it was time to live wrong.

* * *

The Boy
by John Jones
He was at the age where he thought that he knew everything—rebelliousness was in him. He would go his own way and ignore his father's advice. Would it lead him to adventure and a good time or to a hangman's noose?

* * *

Run No More
by Robert Gilbert
Receiving a telegram from Sheriff Mays in Grover about three outlaws, Marshal Brothers heads to that town only to be told that Mays was killed earlier by the same trio in a bank robbery. Searching the Pawnee Buttes, Brothers finds one of the villains. But what about the other two?

* * *

Mitchell and the Po8
by Dick Derham
The most prolific highwaymen in Wells, Fargo history had eluded all efforts to apprehend him for eight years. Could Collins and Mitchell succeed where others had failed?

* * *

Horseshoe Nail Stew
by VT Dorchester
As the Civil War ends, five soldiers set out on a shortcut home, only to discover the way back is longer and less friendly than hoped. Short on rations, their de facto leader, John Aughtenbright, must devise a plan to fill their bellies without resorting to violence.

* * *

Double Jeopardy
by Dave Barr
Drifter Al Ramsey rode into Marimont, Texas, looking for a cool drink and some free lunch only to find himself locked up for another man's crimes! How can Al convince the town he isn't the outlaw they think he is?

* * *

Want all of this month's Western stories at once? Click here –

All the Tales

Standing in a Dead Man's Boots
by Dave Crerand

The unforgiving sun bore down on the lone figure sprawled behind a small pile of rocks at the edge of the dried-out creek bed. He had assumed there would be more traffic on the trail than there was. He had arrived just before dawn and the sun had since arced past it's mid- day point. Using water from his canteen he had coated the barrel of the rifle with mud, so there would be no warning reflection. He was down to one swallow left in the canteen and he only had the one bullet. It ended today.

Amos Whitley was tired of having nothing. Seems he'd had nothing for more years than he could remember. When a man has nothing for so long, well, he starts to feel like nothing.

His wife and son died ages ago, succumbing to fever on the hard trail west. They were buried side-by-side beneath an anonymous stone cairn somewhere on the Great Plains. Once they were gone Amos just drifted where life took him. Town to town, job to job, but lately, mostly just from saloon to saloon.

He had tried mining, but had no luck and no friends to teach him the things he didn't know. He tried working the herds, driving cattle, eating dust from the mountains of Montana to the Rio Grande. But the vastness of the land made him feel too tiny. It had gotten inside of him. He had felt compelled to retreat to the more secure villages and towns springing up across the territories.

But town type jobs were for town type folks, and Amos could never fit that mold. He had no skill with numbers to work in a bank or a store. He wasn't clever or skilled with his hands. So, he sold the strength of his back, and with so many younger men around his rates had to be cheap.

But his very first try at thieving had gone quite well. A few days back, while mucking stalls in some barn for a meal and a bed, he'd found an old buffalo rifle. The gun was worn and rusty but all the parts were there so he'd cleaned it up and made it work. The previous owner would never miss it. He bought one shell with his last three cents.

Amos didn't have to look into the face of the man he'd killed since the powerful rifle had taken the rider's head clean off. The young cowboy's boots amazed Amos. The stitching was good, they had obviously cost plenty, and the tooling was nicely detailed, remarkable in its complex patterns. But the truly amazing thing was that the boot leather had been dyed the same bright blue of a clear Texan sky. They were beautiful, and the condition of their upkeep showed how proud the young cowboy had been of them. He kept them clean, polished and his spur straps were cinched neatly. The heel of the right boot was worn much more than the left. Amos figured that some injury had caused the cowboy to drag his foot when he walked. Sure enough, minutes later as he stripped the clothing from the unfortunate lad, he found the scar, mid-thigh, where a steer's horn was most likely to catch a rider.

Amos was pleased by the take. He had a new pair of pistols, horse and saddle, some gold coins that had been buried deep in the saddlebag. He had a 'new' pair of trousers, and a coat and vest that he had found with the coins. He couldn't salvage the shirt and left it in bloody tatters, fluttering on the headless corpse. He had a shiny pocket watch on a chain and a key to a lock that he would never find. He kept the key anyway. He had some money in his pocket and for the first time in a long time, he had hope for a fresh start.

Before mounting up, Amos, using some sticks, scratched out a shallow grave for the unknown cowboy. The boy didn't deserve buzzards. As Amos dragged the body into its final resting place, he thanked the stranger. He hadn't prayed in a long, long time, so he stood silently, awkwardly fiddling with his hat, before returning it to his head. It was a shame that this young man had to die for Amos to be re-born, but nothing came easy in the west.

As he rode, Amos pondered his new situation. Dozens of men were cutting back and forth across the territories, making names for themselves by taking what they wanted at the end of a gun. Why couldn't he? Who's to say he couldn't do some taking of his own? He'd have to practice with the new pistols and he'd have to learn how to stare a man down. He would probably have to kill some more. Well, this time had gone alright he guessed. He might get himself killed but it wasn't like he'd been doing much living anyway.

There was a new town up ahead. What better place to celebrate a new life? He'd have a bath, a steak and a bottle of the good stuff. He'd have a fine cigar, a game of cards and even a whore. Tonight, he was going to kick up his heels, speaking of which, he'd have to find a cobbler to repair the heel on his new boots. They made him walk funny.

In a saloon up ahead, a gunslinger sat alone at the table furthest from the door. He twirled a shiny five-dollar gold piece. A single shot of whiskey was sitting on the table before him, patiently waiting. When people hired him, they wrongly thought he cared why someone had to die. But it never mattered to him. This was just easy money. This particular job even easier than most. After all, how many cowboys wore blue boots and walked with a limp.

The End

Dave Crerand has enjoyed telling tales and writing stories for a long time, dating back to his childhood. Now that he's retired, he has the time to share them.

Previous credits:

"Little Eddy's Dark Friend"—Lost Worlds, March 1997, Vol. 9 No. 5

"Trailblazers"—Crossroads, June 1997, Vol. 6 No. 18

"Pick of the Litter"—Dogwood Tales, Jan./Feb. 1998, Vol. 5 Issue 3

"The Village: Part One - The Squire"—The Dark Sire, Issue 1, Fall 2019

"The Village: Part Two - The Apprentices"—The Dark Sire, Issue 2, Winter 2019

"The Village: Part Three - The Baroness"—The Dark Sire, Issue 3, Spring 2020 https//

"The Village: Part Four - The Orphan"—The Dark Sire, Issue 4, Summer 2020

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