November, 2021

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Issue #146

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!

Bullets Don't Lie
by Bill Epps
Posing as another man can have its advantages and payouts. But when do the risks outweigh the rewards?

* * *

by Red Charles
The woman walking along the coach road needed a ride into town, and there was space in Heel's buckboard. But what if the woman wasn't quite what she seemed to be? What if she was a wanted murderer?

* * *

Ham's Fork—1834
by James A. Tweedie
As the trappers and mountain men gathered for the last great Rocky Mountain rendezvous, two supply trains raced to be the first to arrive with goods to trade. ButHudson's Bay Company had plans of their own—plans that would turn the history of the West in a new direction.

* * *

Hay-Headed Dummy
by Alexander J. Richardson
A troubled young man brags to his captive mother about his exploits with a notorious gang, unaware of events unfolding around him.

* * *

The Crossbow Incident
by Tom Sheehan
A simple crossbow, a favored weapon of real native American warriors, becomes the instrument connecting two people to each other, a woman and a young boy.

* * *

by Gary Kadlec
Who knows scripture better than the Reverend Clancy Bent? Who brings a gun to a baptism? Lyle Plagg is the answer to both questions as the crooked minister faces off with the hell-bound outlaw. Which one will receive the ultimate comeuppance?

* * *

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

All the Tales

Hay-Headed Dummy
by Alexander J. Richardson

Calm down. Stop it. Ain't no cause for squirmin'. You'll chafe your wrists somethin' fierce and still be tied good.

Pardon the dirty saddlebags on your floor. My horse's rode long and hard, and she needs a proper rest.

Oh, this is a real somethin' for me. My mama, daughter a' the famed Sheriff Poe hisself, tied up at my feet. What a day indeed this is. I think I will have myself a whiskey in celebration. Do you still keep it under the loose floorboard?

Well, that is vulgar talk for a lady. I won't be sharing a drop with you now.

Are you surprised to see me? A' course you is. What was your exact words when I left? Let me see if I recall.

You said—will you stop pickin' at them ropes? It does no cause but to upset me some. I'm no good to be upsettin' these days.

Where was I? Oh, yes. You said, and I do quote from the best a' my memory, that I was a no-good, hay-headed dummy who didn't hold the worth a' no mule and would be cursin' a child should I breed. That is what you said.

Yet here I am, with you tied up good at my feet, fresh off the heels a' a fame your daddy never knowed, And I am only just begun.

It is since I left that I have taken up with the Juan Rojas Gang.

That's right. Your hay-headed dummy son's been ridin' with the most-feareded outlaws this side a' Texas.

How do that make you feel, Mama?

Oh, those tears give me life, Mama! Perhaps I will cut my whiskey with them. What an idea that is. To drink a' your sadness would enliven my spirit.

Do you wonder how such a thing came to pass? It's quite the tale, I assure you.

Just hold still a moment.

Hold still, Mama.

Ha! As you will, then. There's more tears where those came from.

Where was I? Yes, I remember. It was just days after you cast me to the wind. The worry had me, Mama. I didn't know where I should hang my hat and lay my head. Other than the clothes on my back, the dollar in my pocket, I had nothing.

It did cross my mind that I might die.

I sat in the Hazleton saloon, thinking to drink that dollar away for its warmth, when who should sit next to me but Clay Delgado hisself.


Don't play the fool at me, Mama. How couldn't you know his name? He's the right-hand man a' the Juan Rojas Gang, and has a bounty a' twenty-five hundred dollars on his head alone! My God, the man is simply infamous!

And there he was, sittin' next to me sure as shit, orderin' a whiskey. He wore a poncho and had that signature eight gauge strapped to his back. I ain't never had been so glad to walk the Earth as I was in that moment.

When he left, I followed him out. And when that bounty hunter tried to get the jump on him as he was saddlin' up his horse, it was me who thumped him good over the back a' the head with a rock . . . oh, don't act so shocked, Mama. You, the woman who brang me into this world, is trussed up at my feet, but you think I wouldn't hit a stranger? C'mon now.

A lawman? Stop it, Mama. Being a bounty hunter didn't make him no lawman. You know the difference between bounty hunters and outlaws? One's paid a stack a' bills by the local sheriff for his trouble, and the other gets the rope. They're killers all the same.

Anyways, me and Clay Delgado ran off together and he introduced me to the gang. What a sight they was. Oliver Wright, Graham O'Grady, Dirty Debbie, the Andrews brothers. They took me back to their camp.

Hallowed ground, Mama.

They set upon me a task—goddamn this whiskey's good, Mama. Hits the spot.

You know who else drinks whiskey straight from the bottle? Clay Delgado. Me and him drink the same.

Anyways, they tasked me with holdin' up a stagecoach all on my lonesome. Easy as pie with a little plannin'. It's the small details that make all the difference. I wore my purple coat and vest—the ones you made for Pa—and that purple hankie with his name embroidered on the inside covered my face. Without so much as no warning shot, I held up that stage and took their cash. I—oh.

Oh, you're gettin' it. I can see it in your eyes. That dawn a' realization you read about in dime novels.

You're afraid you've figured it out, and you're right.

I'm the man from the papers, Mama.

I'm the man from the wanted posters.

I'm the Purple-Boy Bandit.

I have to tell you, Mama, that I—stop it. Oh, you stop that right this moment, Mama. This homestead a' yours may be well off the beaten path, but you're hurtin' my ears somethin' fierce with all that wailin'.

Anyways, I robbed that stagecoach good, and Clay Delgado was mighty pleased. They gived me a thirds share a' the cut, and I bought myself a fine horse. Named her Gentleman's Fancy, and many-a weary traveler's heard the beat a' her hooves comin' near 'fore they was robbed for all they got. She's hitched up outside, but you won't see her, Mama.

Outside a' this room, you won't be seein' nothin' ever again.

Oh, don't give me no shocked look. How could you? All the things you ever done, and you look at me that way. Callin' me dumb and short-sighted and lazy. Lazy? Me, the Purple-Boy Bandit? Was I lazy when I pistol-whipped that miner upriver to death and took his nuggets? Was I lazy when I robbed the rich patrons a' the Orchard Express? Do that sound like a lazy boy to you, Mama?

I done so many things, and I been a man. A man, Mama. Rougher and tougher than anybody you even knowed, including your goddamn, fool-head daddy. Why, he—

So help me Jesus, Mama. Quiet your screams, or I'll take some a' your under things and cram them down your fool throat.

Now, your daddy took such pride in stopping the Wolf Creek Bandits all those years ago, when they tried to rob the Susanville bank. Remember? Ha! I know you remember. You wouldn't shut up about it. The paper wouldn't shut up about it. He wouldn't shut up about it.

Think if he were here today, Mama. Think if he knowed a' his great failure. Think if—what?

What do you mean, what am I talking about?


Oh, hell, Mama! I ain't told you.

We done it, Mama.

The Juan Rojas Gang done robbed the Susanville bank!

We took it this mornin'. The Andrews brothers blew the vault open with dynamite while me and Clay held everybody at gunpoint.

The gang made off with ten-thousand dollars. Clay said I done so good, my cut's gonna be twenty-five percent! That's what your hay-headed dummy son's earned today, Mama. The hell have you done?

We gotta lay low for a bit, a' course. There was a bit a' shootin' as we made our way out a' town. Couple deputies got dead. Sheriff's spittin' mad and lookin' to give us the rope. Ha! He don't even know who I am. He don't stand a ch—

Oh, Mama.

How I love them tears.

The company's been delightful, Mama—though it ain't nothin' compared to this fine whiskey—but I must be gettin' on my way.

I'm afraid livin' ain't gonna suit you good, but shootin' you like a goddamn dog don't sit right.

After all, bullets ain't free.

You know, I believe I got the perfect fix! You miss Pa so much, how 'bout I cram his bandana right down your throat?

That's an idea if I ever had one, Mama. Hold still while I—


Where's the bandana?

Where's Pa's monogrammed bandana?

It slipped off once me and Clay had ditched them deputies, but he picked it up and put it right in the saddlebag. He said so while I took a piss!

Why can't I—

Hold on.

Do you hear that ruckus outside?


I'm gonna check the window. Don't you make so much as a goddamn peep, Mama.

Oh, Christ.

Jesus Christ.

It's the goddamn sheriff and his goddamn posse.


I gotta get—don't you fiddle with them ropes, Mama!


That's right. Walk in front a' me. This here's what they call a hostage situation, Mama.

Move to the door.

Oh, those goddamn fools. Yellin' up a storm about me comin' quiet. Like they can drop no dime on me. I'm the sharpest shot south a' Laramie. Clay Delgado said it hisself!

'Sides, any shootin' from them's gonna catch you first and proper.

You wanna live, Mama?

Do as I say. Get us through that door and to my horse.

You manage that, I won't shoot you like no goddamn dog in the dirt. You got a son's promise on that, Mama.

Boy, that whiskey's hittin' hard.


I'm countin' to three, Mama. When I get there, you open the door.





You yellow bastards best step back 'fore I—

The End

Alexander J. Richardson is a writer of speculative fiction, crime fiction, and westerns, with thirteen stories published. His work's been distributed on five different websites, both long-standing (Fiction on the Web) and newer (96th of October). Outside of his short stories, Alexander's working to have his debut novel published. He currently resides in New Jersey.

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