July, 2024

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Issue #178

Welcome, Western Fans!

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!

My Birthday
by Richard L. Newman
When Jamie and his Pa go up into the mountains hunting bighorn for Jamie's birthday, things turn quickly—and violently—in an unforeseen direction.

* * *

Rebel Renegade, Johnny Grey
by James Burke
Johnny Grey thought he could forget the Civil War out on the frontier, but the war found him! Now he must run, hide, and fight with tooth and nail. Oh, and a whole lot of bullets if he hopes to shake his Red-Leg pursuers.

* * *

Excerpt from Boetticher's Official Guide to Gunslinging
by Jon Gluckman
A novice gunslinger devotes himself to following the guidelines of a manual on how to behave as a gunslinger, and he narrates his exploits.

* * *

Mountain Mail Runner, February 1859
by Moss Springmeyer
A loser in the Gold Rush, Jack has triumphed as a frontiersman on a hazardous mountain mail run. But when a blizzard strikes, will he have what it takes to survive?

* * *

Tales of Old Joe
by Phillip R. Eaton
Joe Bartholomew survived the Civil War only to return home to more tragedy. When he finds that his family and his home have been destroyed, he heads west. Every day he is faced with new challenges in his search for tranquility.

* * *

The Phantom Marksman
by Ralph S. Souders
The legend of a mysterious sharpshooter thrives within the town. Over time, he becomes a folk hero revered throughout the region. Everyone has an opinion as to his identity, but only one person is privy to the truth.

* * *

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

All the Tales

Excerpt from Boetticher's Official Guide to Gunslinging
by Jon Gluckman

1. Buy or rent a fine, coal-black stallion.

At Blaylock's Livery, I got me that glistening caballo negro I'd had my eye on for a while, now. There weren't flecks of white anywhere marring that sheen. He was one gorgeous animal: a gift from God.

2. Ride him until he's nearly dead, mouth foaming, rib cage heaving, eyes glaring like they're about to shoot straight from its skull.

And I rode him till he was nearly dead. His hooves bled something wicked.

3. Find the town saloon (This should not be difficult. You needn't be the Sherlock Holmes or the Watson. Every town has one; it usually sits smack in the middle of Main Street.).

After tying him off, and brushing the dust from my chaps, I took the stance, and bow-legged it into the Catawumpus Saloon, and spur-jangled my way through the double action doors, and the smoke you had to pry apart with a pair of Clydesdale gelding tongs, just to approach the bar.

4. Order a whiskey, even if you possess a distaste for whiskey; it's requisite that you have a whiskey, and tell the bartender to leave the bottle. It is imperative that you tell the bartender to leave the bottle. (See Appendix 6, Plate 11 on how to weaponize a whiskey bottle.)

I said, "Sam, do I gotta blow your horse to get a drink? And leave the bottle." (I almost forgot to tell Sam to leave the bottle.)

5. Insult the gunslinger on your left or right. Choose the side where the gunslinger is. If there is one on either side, let nature decide. Say something like,

EXAMPLE: "Your mother's a filthy pig-whore who's got the pelvic inflammatory disease so bad that she gave it to you, gave you the coquettish melissa too, because she's your mother, but that obviously didn't work since your nose has rotted from your fat, stupid, bloated face."

Or something similar, or shorter, but penetrating, anger-inducing.

I pulled Boetticher's Official Guide to Gunslinging from the saddle bag I'd brought in with me. You can't trust nobody these days. Leave it on the steaming caballo negro and you've written an invitation for any highwayman to purloin your treasured heirlooms and valuables. My memory ain't ironclad anymore since I got kicked in the head by that mule (seems like someone's always getting kicked in the head by a mule these days) like it got shot full of holes for the memories to leak out, like some kind of brainpan colander. So, I studied them pages and knew what I had to do. I shoved my elbow into that fella's rib cage, and let rip a destabilizing onslaught of verbiage, that I shan't repeat here, it not being decent for good, God-fearing people to hear.

6. Defend yourself. (See Appendix 6, Plate 11 again.)

Before he reacted (actually, I can't be sure he'd heard me. He'd said, "Wha—?" And Mr. A.O. Babel tickled—rather, hammered—them ivories back into the pie-ana' frame like he was fit to bury them so's they'd never rise again in the afterlife) I shattered the left side of his face, so that his jaw hung in a non-operational manner, swinging back and forth like a breach cloth between the legs of one of them Kiawah fellas. The upper hand is imperative. One time, back in my feckless youth, I'd let a guy finish his sentence, and that's why my eyebrows won't never grow back now.

7. Go upstairs and see Candy (there's always a Candy) if you're not bleeding too badly.

I consulted the Boetticher for my next steps while my drinking partner slithered like a copperhead over the edge of the bar, more liquid than solid, down to the piss gutter, kinda like he was a dollop of mercury. Sam stood, bar towel in hand, staring with his mouth hung open, too. I didn't have a scratch on me. Of course, I never do. With my forefinger anchored to the passage in the manual, I traced the words, so I wouldn't miss a-one. I said, "I'll-see-Candy-now."

8. Relieve the rest of your tension playing with Candy.

I don't think I really got to tell you about Step 8, now do I? In fact, I'd lay money on it, that your imagination can drum up images of what Candy (her name was, actually Melody) and I would do up in her room for 20 minutes. Actually, it only took about ten minutes. She only said, "Leave it on the vanity" but I'd made Melody sing: eyes glazed—the way she couldn't look at me for fear of bursting into flames. Some say I misread signs, but I am a scholar of mythology; she was my Semele, and I, her Zeus. I was a god in the ways and methods of amorous love-making, and in just ten minutes.

9. The next morning, when the sheriff and his three deputies burst through Candy's door, (See Appendix 1, Plates, 1, 2, 3, 3a, and 7 on Gun Handling While Pulling on Your Britches; it's somewhat complicated, but with a little practice, a child could do it.) defend yourself, again.

Well, I didn't have to wait until the next morning. My britches were already in place, barn door shut, and everything put away, proper. I killed two of the three deputies with my revolver. Shot the stocky one with the gimp leg, and the one arm through the tonsils, so after he fell to the floor, he gurgled like when water pulls away from an oyster bed. The other one just leaked through his belly as his mind leaked into unconsciousness. Astonished by the sounds the stout man made while dying, I gawked at him and didn't see the third deputy, who snuck up behind me. The sheriff and his remaining deputy threw me to the floor, hog-tied me, and kicked me stupid. Then they hauled me to a holding cell behind the sheriff's desk in the county courthouse. This all happened about seven minutes after playtime with Candy . . . ahh, Melody, I mean. That gunslinger I'd demolished regained consciousness. He told his daddy, who was the sheriff. He had to write it all out, his jaw being all out of commission. Then they derail my euphoric peace of post-coital bliss by unleashing this rain of violence upon my body and my freedom.

10. See Appendix 11, Appropriate Behaviors while Incarcerated.

I didn't cry for my mama or nothing, seeing that she'd abandoned me as a child. One day she left with a bible salesman, (someone's mom always left with a bible salesman). She never came back. Why'd she never come back? She'd said, "Honey, I'll be right back."

11. See Appendix 12, Post-Hanging Manifestations: How to Avoid Embarrassing Post-Mortem Bodily Functions

12. See Appendix 13, Coping with Feelings of God's Abandonment and General Nihilistic Malaise, from the Infinite Anonymity of an Unmarked Grave.

 . . . and these steps, 11 and 12, I can't comment on, because I am beyond words now. Anyone would be. Boetticher includes them, but God knows why. Seems kind of pointless, if you ask me.

The End

Retired veteran English teacher Jon Gluckman writes in a small southern New Jersey town just outside Philadelphia, PA, with his beautiful and brilliant (also retired) curator wife and two rascally rescue puppies, Arthur and Bella. He has published work in Micro-Fiction Monday Magazine, 101 Words Weekly, Mystery Magazine, Grim & Gilded, Frontier Tales, and Mobius Boulevard.

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