October, 2021

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Issue #145

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!

Trapper Jake and the Lost Canyon
by Holly Seal Kunicki
On a hunting trip Trapper Jake discovers an ancient world filled with great wealth. He now has a decision to make: will he fall prey to greed or heed the taboo warnings of the Indian Spirits who have vowed a terrible retribution to all interlopers?

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Rogue Lawman
by Scott Howey
The polecats and owl hoots of Driftwood have had things their way for way too long—until a stranger comes to town. The stranger is challenged by Todd Griffin and his pardners. The winner will determine the future of Driftwood and its respectable citizens.

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A Westward Adventure
by Robert L. Nelis
Follow the movement westward, with a young man who indentures himself in order to reach America. Can he find a way to reach his goals of starting a family and building a better life for himself and his future children? The Indians have something to say about that.

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Dreaming of Pesach with the Last Bandito
by Peter Ullian
Acting on a tip in Yiddish, Detective Emil Harris, the only Jewish policeman in 1874 frontier Los Angeles, sets out to bring in the infamous bandito Tiburcio Vásquez. But when two more officers show up eyeing the reward money for themselves, things get complicated . . . and deadly.

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The Lone Rider
by Ralph S. Souders
A teenage boy working in a general store meets an unknown rider who is tying his horse to the hitching post outside. This chance encounter will have unexpected ramifications for both the boy and the town.

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by Russell Richardson
The robbery didn't go the way they'd planned. Now they were on foot, in the desert. They'd each started with a canteen of water, but Eduardo had lost his. Juarez was willing to share his water, but only for a price. Who says there's no honor among thieves?

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All the Tales

Trapper Jake and the Lost Canyon
by Holly Seal Kunicki

Trapper Jake, as folks liked to call him, would go hunting for game in the high country once a year. One day while on one of his forays he spotted a white-tail deer near a towering rock wall that seemed to go on for miles. As he pursued his prey, the deer suddenly ducked into the thick shrubbery along the cliffside. Not one to give up easily, Jake followed, parting the branches and stepping forward. He took a few uneasy strides amidst the tangled foliage when suddenly he lost the grip on his rifle and felt himself careening head over heels down a steep slope, landing at the bottom with a thud. A bit shook up but not hurt, Jake found himself in a small chamber which was connected to a narrow passageway. Too dark to see clearly he reached into his pocket and lit a match. Pictographs covering the walls with various Indian signs came into view. The most prominent of these was the evil eye. Because his wife was a descendant of a great Indian chief, he was well aware these signs were taboo and forewarned of a terrible retribution to anyone who revealed the location of the Indians' sacred canyon.

Jake had heard the old timers tell of a lost canyon that held great wealth and had been jealously guarded by the Indians, but like everyone else he figured the stories were just old folklore. One of Jake's favorite tales was of a colorful old prospector named Willie Banks who believed in the canyon's existence and vowed he would find it even if it took him a lifetime. When Willie would come down from the hills for supplies folks would buy him a drink in the local canteen while he would regale them of his many adventures and narrow escapes from the Indians. Year after year Willie continued his search with his mule, Matilda, as his only companion. According to the story, one day cavalry soldiers out on maneuvers came across Willie's mule wandering about aimlessly. Since then no one had ever seen hide or hair of the old man again and most people, including Jake, figured some terrible calamity had befallen him.

Now to his shock and surprise Jake realized he was standing in the entrance of the lost canyon, the same one that old Willie had been searching for all those long years ago. Jake had great respect for the Indians and, being somewhat superstitious, he felt the right thing to do was to turn back, but he was only human and curiosity got the best of him. He decided to follow the passageway to see where it would lead him. Being a resourceful man he made a crude torch from long branches and debris that had fallen from the opening above. He skillfully wrapped his bandana around the end of his torch and set it ablaze. Cautiously he ventured forward along the narrow passage that frequently twisted and turned. At some point the rock walls began to widen and bright light filtered in to reveal the lost canyon in all its glory. Jake extinguished his torch and stood at the threshold, awed by the sight before him. Streaks of copper ran the length of the canyon walls, shimmering in the sunlight and almost blinding him. There were turquoise nuggets of every size strewn across the canyon floor. He could see remnants of broken pottery, scattered animal bones and a large stockpile of obsidian rocks. Trapper Jake felt as if he had stepped through a time portal and into an ancient world. Except for a few Indian artifacts, he could only imagine the canyon itself had remained remarkably unchanged down through the centuries of time, all the way back to its very creation.

Jake was deep in thought when suddenly a shadow from above caused him to look up to see one lone hawk circling the canyon. It was eerily silent now and Jake wondered just how long it had been since any human had been here. The original inhabitants that had once occupied this region were now gone and their descendants were mostly scattered or living on reservations. It was easy to see why they had wanted to keep their sacred canyon hidden. If the location had been known, greedy men would have come to plunder, kill and destroy. The wealth of the Indians would have been stolen and they would have been driven from their home. Here in this beautiful canyon they had everything they needed. The copper and turquoise would have been used to fashion jewelry for adornment or for trade with other tribes. Obsidian was of great value to the Indians for making arrow and spear heads, knives, hide scrapers and even mirrors. Jake also knew that obsidian was used as a form of money among the tribes. Religious ceremonies would have also taken place here.

Jake closed his eyes and envisioned the Indians in all their adornment dancing around the ancient fire pits, chanting as they called out to their gods for protection and guidance. The canyon itself would have made a wonderful hiding place in times of trouble.

Trapper Jake decided to explore further and walked to the far side of the canyon which was now in shadow. Abruptly he stopped and his mouth widened and gaped, for there before him was a human skeleton with an arrow protruding from its torso. It was obvious that some poor soul had never made it out of the canyon alive to tell his tale. Not too far from the skeleton Jake spotted a small pick ax. Always thinking ahead, he made the decision to put it in his backpack in case he might have need of it later. Still further on lay a tattered and weathered saddle bag half filled with turquoise nuggets. The rest of the stones had spilled out onto the canyon floor. Jake moved closer to inspect the saddle bag and could barely make out the crude initials WB scratched into the leather. So this is what had become of poor old Willie Banks. He had finally found the lost canyon that he had been searching for but he had lost his life in the bargain. Jake bowed his head and observed a moment of silence, for the old man had no one else to mourn for him.

Suddenly Jake felt like a trespasser and a cold chill went up his spine. He felt that eyes were watching him and although he wanted desperately to take a souvenir of his adventure, maybe a turquoise nugget, he knew it would be wrong to disturb this sacred place. Perhaps he would anger the Indian spirits and they would seek the retribution forewarned in the pictographs at the entrance of the canyon. Soon the sun would be setting and he must find his way out of the canyon before darkness fell. Anxious to be back at his campsite, he hurried towards the opening in the canyon wall. This time he used his matches as he navigated the passageway, staying close to the rock walls for guidance until he reached the small chamber. Before him was the slope that would lead him out of the canyon. The lower part was in shadow, but higher up he could still see the slightest glow of yellow and orange from the setting sun in the western sky. It was then he realized just how steep the slope was he had fallen down. The Indians must have used some sort of rope ladder to enter and exit the canyon. Willie's pick ax would come in handy now. Perspiration beaded across his forehead as he dropped to his knees and started to crawl. At some point the slope steepened even further which forced Jake to lie in a prone position and slowly inch his way upward towards the dwindling light. Half way up the slope the pick ax gave way in the loose earth causing small stones and debris to shower down upon him. Jake slid downward several feet before he could gain a foothold to stop his fall. Now for the first time real fear gripped him. He closed his eyes and silently prayed to the Indian spirits to allow him to escape the canyon with his life. With a renewed surge of energy Jake continued his upward climb. After what seemed like an eternity he finally reached the top, exhausted but grateful to be standing on solid ground. Jake then retrieved his rifle from a tangle of branches and emerged from the thick shrubbery just as the sun set.

Back at his campsite while sitting on his bedroll Jake made a silent vow never to tell a living soul of his discovery, not even his wife. The secret of the lost canyon and its location would die with him. He thought of Willie Banks and decided it was a fitting place for the old man to spend his eternity. It's what Willie would have wanted. The Indian spirits had been kind to him on this day and his hope was that their sacred canyon would remain untouched for all time. Suddenly Jake realized just how tired he was as he removed his soiled clothing in preparation for sleep. He began by shaking the sand out of his shirt pocket into a pile on the ground when he discovered a good sized turquoise nugget among the debris. Apparently it must have lodged in his pocket as he climbed up the slope. Jake had his souvenir after all! He figured it was a gift from the Indian spirits for keeping their secret. It would remain his lucky charm for the rest of his life. Years later Trapper Jake returned to the area on a hunting trip where he discovered a massive rock slide had sealed the entrance of the lost canyon forever.

The End

Hello Western fans, my name is Holly Seal kunicki. I currently live in Florida and was a former resident of New York in my formative years. I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1968 and worked in New York until my retirement. I love to write poems and short stories, many of my poems have been published. As a young girl my parents took the family to a dude ranch in upstate New York where we rode horses, square danced, canoed and even went mining for gemstones. Since then I've been hooked on everything Western.

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