August, 2021

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Issue #143

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!

Funeral of a Brave Man
by Martin Suppo
It was a warm morning in Travis, Arizona, in the summer of 1876. The body of Jack Woodward, killed in a duel against "Rocky" Jackson, was carried by his friends, his wife, and his only daughter to the local cemetery, where the gravedigger, shovel in hand, was waiting to do his work.

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The Preacher
by Al Matlock
The short black jack scrubs helped slow his downward plunge on the rocky slope but also bruised his six- foot frame. Shot from ambush by the two Hatcher brothers. The Preacher had tracked them out of Kansas into the Indian Territory. The people they murdered were his friends.

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White Feather
by Martin de Brouwer, MSc
Love strikes at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. To be together, the two lovers, a soldier and a young Indian woman, are forced to escape their colliding worlds. Will war catch up and tear them apart?

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Medicine Girl
by Raymond Paltoo
A young Indian brave heads North looking for his Medicine, but is attacked and left for dead. A white girl is heading West for Oregon on a wagon train with her father. She finds the brave and rescues him. But he is a Comanche. How can this end well?

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Blanchard County
by Robert Gilbert
Marshal Brothers discovers Doss Troyer in Clay River, shot in the back. Troyer and the nasty Tibbins brothers are feuding over land in a neighboring county, not a friendly place to live. In the middle of this county is Meredosia Springs, where the marshal finds answers and locates the ruthless brothers.

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The Livery is Short a Horse
by Pamela Ryder
The lockup in Lincoln couldn't hold him, but the young desperado Billy Bonney needs a horse to get out of town. But the Choctaw pony that comes his way bears a history forever chronicled in the annals of hardship, heartbreak, and grief.

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

All the Tales

The Livery is Short a Horse
by Pamela Ryder


A local youth held in the courthouse lockup broke out sometime last night. William Antrim, who also goes by William Henry McCarty and William Bonney, had been accused of stealing food from the Cave-In Café. Sheriff Whitehill accepted responsibility for Antrim's departure up the chimney. "I should have figured it," said the sheriff. "He was just a little feller." In addition, Sheriff Whitehill reports a set of six-shooters is missing, and the livery is short a horse.

- Silver City Sentinel, Sept 25, 1875

The horse was a Choctaw piebald, the great-grandson of a brindle mare called Ofunlo—the Owl. She was named for her owlish eyes and her wise ways by the family Shakcuckla in the clan of the Beloved Crayfish People.

In the fall of 1831, the brindle mare wore tiny bells that the family Shakcuckla tied to her mane so they would hear music as they trudged the thousand miles in silence, and the bells tinkled as she walked with the other Choctaw horses the pintos and the buckskins and the yellow duns—and the other families of Choctaws—the clans of the Reed People and the Divided People as they passed through the groves of cherrybark oak and palmetto and touched the trees and told the sweet gum and tupelo goodbye, there at the beginning of the long Trail of Tears on the flat-topped Mississippi ridge between the Petickfa Creek and the Creek of Black Water.

For a while, they went along a barely trampled path, but by the final trek of the Choctaw thousands—the tens of thousands—it was worn away to shoulder deep and deeper still, so that settlers of the countryside sitting on their porches or tilling the fields or hunting in the wildwoods would hear the faint tinkling of bells and the footfall of the multitudes, but would see only the heads of horses passing by on that tunnel of a trail.

For a while, the brindle mare had carried what little the family Shakcuckla had been permitted to bring: parched corn and dried pumpkin and smoked strips of flatfish and chub, and they shared the corn with her, and they drank as she did from the streams and springs. And when all they had carried was gone, the brindle mare showed the family Shakcuckla the sprigs of peppergrass and the hogweed trailside and the family clans of the Beloved Crayfish people and the Reed People and the Divided People went into the meadows as far as the soldiers allowed them to go. And they fell to all fours and pulled at the peppergrass and the hogweed with their mouths like horses.

For a while, the brindle mare carried the lame grandmother called Pokes With Her Little Finger until they reached the border of the Arkansas Territory. There the old woman climbed down and sat herself in the dust and decided to die.

For a while, the brindle mare carried the young boy called Plays Where Tadpoles Live, and as the boy rode he remembered the pools along the Creek of Black Water where the tadpoles wriggled through his fingers, and he saw them in his mind before he died in a fever. The mother of the boy was called Sits In Pretty Places and she put a bit of peppergrass and a pumpkin seed in his slack mouth and she wound his body in strips of blanket. The father of the boy was called Drinks The Juice Of Stones, and he asked the soldiers if he might stop and build the illi a shol—the high bier—for the body of the boy so it would return to the power of the sun. But the soldiers put their hands on their rifles and said there was no time, no time, you must go on, and the father of the boy tied the body as high as he was able to a limb of a loblolly pine. And with the brindle mare Ofunlo beside them and the tiny bells in her mane tinkling, the mother and the father of the boy they left tied to the loblolly pine walked on.

For a while, the woman called Sits In Pretty Places walked beside the brindle mare and beside the man called Drinks The Juice Of Stones until she could walk no more.

For a while more, the woman rode on the back of the brindle mare until they neared the end of the Trail of Tears, and there the snow began, and her pains came on. The brindle mare stamped and pawed the earth at the woman's cries and at the smell of birth waters that seeped out of her. The soldiers lowered their rifles, and the woman climbed down from the brindle mare leaving a circle of blood where she had sat, and the last of the family Shakcuckla in the clan of the Beloved Crayfish People were permitted to stop, to build a fire, to take shelter under the brindle mare. The snow blew hard around them and the water in the hollow hoofprints of the horse became cups of ice, and in the night the baby they named Brought To The World In A Blizzard was born. The woman called Sits In Pretty Places held the child to her body but come morning they both were the color of the snow. The man called Drinks The Juice Of Stones tied them together. He threw the rope that bound them over the limb of a honey locust and the snow on the limb filtered down in a small separate storm as he hoisted the two of them hand over hand as high as he could to the power of the morning sun. The sky had cleared. The wind had stilled. Small stars, little flames in the bright fallen snow. A nuthatch circled down the trunk of the honey locust. A tree creeper crept. A crow and his consorts alighted beside the bodies. Somewhere beyond lay the land of Indian Resettlement. The brindle mare nickered and stamped and the snow that had settled in her mane flew around her. And with the brindle mare beside him and the last of her tiny bells tinkling, the man called Drinks The Juice Of Stones went on.

He did not look back to see the crows in the honey locust. He knew the crows would come as that is what crows do. He knew they would take the meat of the woman and the child into their mouths and their stomachs and fly away higher than the highest limbs of the honey locust that he could ever reach.

And he walked on.

The man called Drinks The Juice Of Stones of the clan of the Beloved Crayfish People, and the families of the Reed People and the Divided people walked on. Come dusk, each took their turnip and spoonful of parched corn from the soldiers and they ate sheltered under their horses and looked out into the night where the small cold lights of fireflies flashed and the glowing heart of Hashok Okwa Huiga rose from the swamp smoke and floated on the forest mist. Come dawn, they lifted the dead into the trees, and they walked on.

They walked on. The brindle mare called Ofula and the piebalds and the buckskins and the yellow duns all walked on to confluence of the Red and Kiamichi Rivers where whooping cranes foraged in the shallows, but at the arrival of those thousands of the displaced and dying, the cranes rose together in a great wave of white on their black-fringed wings with the tangles of wet river-reed dripping from their strange back-jointed legs. The brindle mare and the other Choctaw horses trembled and shied at the sight of it and the cranes circled above the river in the shape of a bright cloud for as long as their wings would hold them in the air and finally the birds turned and rode the north wind away from the river, away from the dying and the nearly dead, there at the new Territory of Indian Resettlement at the end of the Trail of Tears

The man called Drinks The Juice Of Stones—of the Family Shakcuckla in the clan of the Beloved Crayfish People—lived. The mare called Ofunlo lived. She had never been saddled. She had never worn a bridle or harness. She had never pulled a plow. He fitted her with a breast collar and withers strap. He backed her into the traces, then hitched her to the whipple and the whipple to the plough. He stood behind her at the edge of the field he had cleared and he talked to the mare and told her what must be done, what they must do. What she must do. Then he walked behind her and placed his hands on the handles of the plow. Ofunlo, he called, and she turned to look at him. He called again and flapped the reins onto her rump. Ai! Ofunlo, he said, Ai! But she stood waiting for him to climb on her back or lead her forward as he had always done. Drinks The Juice Of Stones dropped the reins. He went to the row of wet ditches along the length of the field and cut a wand of willow switch. He took up the handles of the plough and called Ai Ofunlo and snapped the switch to her rump. She had never been struck. She lunged forward at the pain of it and turned around in her traces to look at him. Ai! he called. She pulled against the breast collar and the withers strap, and the plough blade made its furrow-cut as she went on. She went on.

In 1845, at the age of fifteen, the brindle mare Ofunlo was bred and bore a filly. The man's new wife named her Fichik—Star—for the mark on her forehead.

In 1860, Fichik was bred, and she too bore a filly. The man's daughter named her Shapo—Hat—for the white patch between her ears.

In 1870, Shapo bore a colt. The man's son named him Bakoa—Piebald—for his color, and in 1875 sold him to a cavalry officer who was passing though the Land of Indian Resettlement near the Kiamichi River, on his way to the Territory of New Mexico. And who, upon his arrival in Silver City, boarded his Choctaw piebald in the City Livery while he had a bath at the Bedrock Bath & Spirits, a hot meal at the Cave-In Café, and a woman at the Half Moon Dance Hall. That evening, a local youth by the name of Billy Antrim—also known as William Henry McCarty and Billy Bonney—who had been arrested for thievery and held in the courthouse lockup, escaped by ascending the chimney, scrambling down from roof to ledge, entering the livery and finding there among the stalls of boarded horses a fine Choctaw pony, a piebald. The air was sweet and rich with the smell of hay and their droppings. Billy stood listening. No sound but the flit and flutter of barn swallows in the roof beams. The soft nickering of the horses at his presence. The grinding of grain in their mouths. The piebald Indian pony stopped chewing and looked at the squirrely boy standing in his stall.

Hurry up there and finish your dinner, said Billy. We ain't got much time.

The End

Pamela Ryder is the author of two novels in stories and a short story collection. Her website is

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