June, 2024

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Issue #177

Welcome, Western Fans!

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
You're at the right place.


Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

The Sergeant and the Irish Lass
by W. Wm. Mee
Mary is newly widowed, with two small children, and in the middle of the Great Plains in a Conestoga wagon. The Indians are on the warpath, the local minister is eager to get her married off, and a crude, drunken mountain man wants her. Can the cavalry rescue her in time?

* * *

Tricks of the Trade
by Sharon Frame Gay
A young stranger ambles into town and meets his match at the poker table. His stake gone, all seems lost—or is it? Sometimes the lamb hunts the wolf.

* * *

by Jennifer McMillan
Shiloh Hart arrives at the Platt River Ranch, Wyoming, after surviving a great blizzard, a pack of wolves, and the worst crime of all—being a Yankee in the post-Civil War West. But will he survive Confederate veteran John Stonewall?

* * *

Renegade Sheriff
by Tom Sheehan
The town was young and growing, but the Proulx ranch has taken up robbing and killing with impunity. Blackwater Carrigan is hired on to be the law, but the Proulx crew decide to show the town who is really in control. Will the law prevail against chaos?

* * *

The Truth About the Incident
by J. R. Lindermuth
An old man reveals the truth about a famous gunfight. Will his listener take his word for it?

* * *

More Good Luck and Less Good Faith
by Eric A. L. Axner
Being a recent arrival in Good Faith City isn't easy, as Elwood Erskine finds out the hard way. When a ruthless outlaw threatens to take both his money and his life, it is up to his only friend in town to help him. But will he be in time?

* * *

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

All the Tales

Tricks of the Trade
by Sharon Frame Gay

The moon's only a sliver tonight, slicin' through the sky. Stars poke through wispy clouds, riding a light wind. The desolate valley is painted in deep shadows.

The silence surprised me as I nudged my horse, Buck, through the brush. You'd think the whole desert would be singin' out, now that the sun was down and took its heat with it. Even under the cloak of a dim night, New Mexico was tired, and yearned to sleep it off, like some old drunk back at The Velvet Slipper.

It gives me the shivers to think about what happened there tonight. Why, that saloon wasn't fit for prairie dogs, much less to cater to people. It was bad enough that the women, although loose as a lope, were ugly, but the drinks were so watered down I could read through the glass they served it in. On top of that, some card sharp in the corner was doing his best to fleece every cowboy who walked in, including me.

I admit, I took to the shakedown easily enough. A brash blond with amber eyes sidled up in a cloud of perfume and smiled. To say she was homely would be a kindness. But I'd just spent three weeks on the trail. So, I figured a drink or two might make her pretty.

The fact that she kept pouring my favorite whiskey for free should have been my first clue somethin' was wrong. But I lapped it up like Buck does when he meets up with a cool stream on an August day.

I didn't realize rooms could spin and informed the entire saloon about my revelation. To stop the swirlin', I let the blond sit me down at the table with the card swindler. Even though my eyes were dancing in my head, I couldn't help but notice that his oily smile was jagged-toothed and eager, like a wolf stalking a lamb.

When he dealt the cards, I held 'em in one hand and sipped another drink with the other. Before you know it, I was squeezing some coins out of my pocket and tossing 'em on the table like a seasoned gambler, confident in my inebriation, and arrogant enough to believe in myself.

Then things got serious. It wasn't long before every single cent I possessed had found its way into the dealer's pocket, and all that was left were the stains on the table from my sweating glass, and a handful of marked cards splayed out like a fan.

That's when it appeared that I'd been taken. By the card sharp. By the woman. And by my lack of common sense, it seemed. I looked around the saloon and tried to get up, but tumbled across the table. It crashed to the floor, taking everything with it, including me.

I lurched to my feet, then reeled around the chairs, knocking into them and hollerin' that they needed to be hobbled to keep 'em from moving. But that wasn't enough, I suppose. My body decided that now was as good a time as any to just lie down altogether, right there in the middle of The Velvet Slipper.

I heard somebody mumbling and realized it was me. Peering up, I saw the glare of disgust on the swindler's face as he angled himself away from the broken table and clutched at the blond. I dragged myself over and held on to his legs for dear life.

"Help!" was all I could muster in a pitiful voice.

Sneering, he tried to shake me off, but I held on until he clocked me on the chin with his fist.

"Don't bring any more of these fools in here tonight, Lorna," he snarled, and spat on the floor. "It's too easy. I swear there's no challenge lately. I'm done!"

The scoundrel left in such a huff, he forgot his fallen bowler hat and silk handkerchief. He didn't even stoop to pick them up off the floor where I was now residing.

The rest of the folks in the saloon must have decided I didn't look half bad as a new rug, because they let me linger where I fell.

The swinging doors looked far away, like when you peer through the wrong end of a bottle. Squinting, I decided to wander over there without botherin' to stand until the bottom of the door smacked me on the forehead.

Somehow, I spilled out of the saloon and found Buck waiting patiently at his post. After a few good tries, I got my foot in the stirrup and hauled myself up. Buck groaned under my weight and tossed his head in complaint.

I slumped forward over his neck and nudged him with my heels, and we picked our ragged way down the street. Then I straightened and gave him his lead. He broke into a slow jog.

When we reached the edge of town, I tapped him with my spurs, and Buck launched into a gallop. I rode for what seemed like hours until I stopped behind a boulder and peered around. The desert was as empty as a nun's bed.

I got off and stretched, then took a big swig of water from the canteen. It slid down the throat cool and easy, just like the water I kept dribbling into my glass of whiskey when the blond wasn't lookin'.

Then I reached into my saddlebag and brought out all the money the card swindler made tonight off the cowboys and stuffed into his pants pocket.

The same pocket I picked when I grabbed his legs and pretended I was drunk.

I took another slug of water and smiled.

Sometimes the lamb fleeces the wolf.

Climbing back on Buck, I jammed the bowler hat on my head, and turned towards another goodbye town, the sliver moon pointing the way.

The End

Award winning author Sharon Frame Gay has been published in many anthologies and magazines, including Chicken Soup for The Soul, Typehouse, Fiction on the Web, Clarendon House, Lowestoft Chronicle, Thrice Fiction, Spillwords, Saddlebag Dispatches, Crannog, Owl Hollow Press and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and has won awards and nominations at The Writing District, Rope and Wire, Wow-Women on Writing, Texas Disabilities, Best of the Net, and The Peacemaker Award.

Sharon was awarded The Will Rogers Medallion Award for excellence in Western writing for 2021. Her collections of short stories, "Song of the Highway", "The Nomad Diner", and "The Wrong End Of A Bullet" by Clarendon House Publishing are available on Amazon.

Facebook: Sharon Frame Gay-Writer

Twitter: x.com/sharonframegay

Amazon Books: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01HN5AGXK

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