June, 2022

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Issue #153

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 Rescue
by Ray Paltoo
Uncle Abner was the richest man in town. But when his only daughter runs off with a smooth-talking member of a clan of no-good outlaws, the law is unwilling and afraid to go after her. So he hires a half-Indian bounty hunter to get her back, with surprising results.

* * *

American Apostolic
by M.F. Robinson
A prophet searches for God during and after the Civil War, then tries to save a godless county from ruin.

* * *

Black Appaloosa
by Jason Crager
Lewis Bordeaux and his father live in far-off Montana, where they sift for gold in Snake Creek. When they're suddenly caught in the middle of the U.S. Army's campaign against native Nez Perce, their lives are in danger and Lewis discovers the power of his ancestry.

* * *

Prairie Wife
by Phillip R. Eaton
After the death of her new husband, Southern belle Annie is leery of spending the winter alone in Kansas. Her fears subside when a frozen stranger enters her life—until she discovers he is a wanted man.

* * *

Getting Swept Away
by Ginger Strivelli
The piano sometimes plays itself. They kick everyone out early every night. This is not your normal Wild West saloon. It is wilder.

* * *

Gallagher and Gaines
by Victor Kreuiter
Aaron Gallagher, a loner, isn't sure he wants to stay on his stake . . . but he won't be driven off by a greedy ex-employer.

* * *

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

All the Tales

Getting Swept Away
by Ginger Strivelli

"That saloon is haunted I tell you'ens!" The Cowboy was nearly seven feet tall with his ten gallon hat on. His arms were as big as lesser men's legs. He looked like he could wrestle a buffalo. "I'm not fooling with that place."

"Now Buck, you know there ain't no such thing as ghosts. There ain't nothing in Miss Darlene's Saloon but cancan dancers, drunks, gamblers, and the piano player, Long Winter.`" The undertaker looked up to the giant cowboy shaking his head at the brute of a man's cowardice.

"That piano playin' Hopi man doesn't always play. Sometimes he sits by the bar and lets the piano play itself."

"It's a player piano from back East. You can stick one of them rollers in it and it plays itself." The Undertaker said.

"I saw Long Winter walk away from it without putting a roll in it and it still played itself."

Miss Darlene heard the commotion outside but she was having to get into costume to dance herself, filling in for a sick dancer. She didn't have time or inclination to argue. That rumor of her place being haunted had cost her more business than watered down drinks would.

The undertaker left the big cowboy outside and went in alone. He sat at the bar and ordered a whiskey. He would have joined the card game but everyone thought he brought bad luck because he was the undertaker.

Buck sat outside by the feed store in one of their rocking chairs. He sipped from his own bottle of spirits, eyeing the saloon door for any wandering spirits of the other kind.

The town Barber, Tex came out to join him. He took up in the other rocking chair on the feed shop's porch. He didn't say dog in the way of an introduction, not so much as a howdy do. He just sat there rocking with Buck and watching the saloon doors with just as an uncomfortable look as Buck had.

"You from here?" Buck finally asked him.


"Saloon's haunted, ain't it?"


Just then, interrupting their chewing the fat so eloquently, a man came flying out the saloon's swinging doors on a broomstick, like a fairy tale witch. Both men came flying out of their rocking chairs like they were winged fairies from the same fairy tale. Buck landed on his feet in the middle of the road. He drew his gun like some highwayman had jumped him. He aimed the gun at the man who was getting himself up outta the dirt where he fell from the broomstick that laid a few feet from him on the ground. Buck would have bet his horse that the broomstick was still twitching like it wanted to fly.

Miss Darlene came out the swinging doors and threw a tattered brown hat at the man on the ground. "Get yourself outta here. Don't ever come in my saloon again, I tell ya. You are a cheat and I don't allow no cheating in here. That is why she's called The Justice Room." Miss Darlene said pointing to the fancy painted sign that hung above the swinging door. It surely did say; The Justice Room.

Buck had lowered but not holstered his gun and backed away back to his rocking chair. Tex was back in his but looking as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He waited till Miss Darlene went back inside the saloon before he spoke.

"It's called the Justice Room cause they used to use it for court, before we built the courthouse a couple years back, I heard tell." Buck said.


"Haunted by men that were sentenced to hang, I reckoned,"Buck said. "But I heard there were two women sentenced to be burned at the stake too." He turned and spit into the dirt. "Witches?" Buck whispered.

"Yup." Tex looked around and saw the streets clear before he said "She's one too, I heard tell."

"Miss Darlene?"


In The Justice Room Saloon, Miss Darlene was changing out of the dancing girl outfit and back into a proper lady's black and lilac colored shirtwaist and skirt. She wore a bit more makeup and jewelry than the average storekeeper's wife but she was no soiled dove. Oh she had a couple in her employ in the saloon. The men came looking for that service too but she mostly employed dancing girls, card dealers, and Long Winter, the Hopi musician who played the piano some and played some big skin drums from his village other times. She served as hostess and read tea leaves or tarot cards for people who knew to ask her for that service.

It made for an entertaining place for people to come drink, gamble, and have fun. Miss Darlene made good money and it had let her make her own way after her husband died on their way out West. If only the dann locals would stop telling everyone it was haunted. It was haunted though.

Buck and Tex sat till about midnight drinking from their own bottles outside. The gamblers and drinkers inside all drank from Miss Darlene's fancy french crystal glasses till about midnight. Then she started shooing them out into the street, even if they couldn't walk right from being drunk. They had to get out. It was almost midnight.

Miss Darlene got all her customers out, then rushed her dancers, and bartender out right after them. She looked around to be sure everyone was out except her and Old Long Winter. They were so she locked up for the night, shutting the full doors that closed behind the swinging doors.

"Are you ready, Long Winter?" She whispered.

Outside, Tex told Buck that the real show was about to begin and had got him to creep up the alley beside the saloon to look in a window. It was stained glass from England, made to look like a Queen of Coins tarot card. Tex showed Buck where you could peek through the Queen's white shoes and see pretty clearly what was going on inside the saloon. So there they both stood, eyes up to the two shoes of the Queen on the card.

"I'm ready." Long Winter told Miss Darlene.

"Okay, ladies. You can come out now and get your fill of screaming and hollering." Miss Darlene said, opening the player piano's cabinet.

Two women started hollering. They were wearing only white petticoats and corsets. They came flying out. They were solid looking, not the translucent ghosts that Buck was expecting. He pressed his face right against the glass shoe piece of the stained glass window.

"Are they ghosts? They look as real as you and me." Buck whispered.

"Yup." Tex said.

Long Winter pulled his drum from under one of the saloon tables and started playing a heartbeat like rhythm. The girls swirled in midair like vultures circling fresh carion in the desert. Their petticoats swirled around them and the air turned ice cold in the saloon as they danced.

"What in tarnation are they doing?" Buck asked Tex though he still didn't know Tex was his name.

"Devil's work, I reckon. Yup, that's what they are doing."

Miss Darlene pulled her shawl from the coat rack by the door as the room got colder and colder still. The ghost sisters danced on above Long Winter as he played his drum.

"Aren't they 'bout done?" Miss Darlene asked the Hopi man.

He just shook his head, keeping up the heartbeat rhythm on his drum. She sat down at a nearby table and watched as the spell lingered on for longer than usual that night. Finally Long Winter started to slow the heartbeat down. He slowed it and slowed it till he was only striking the drum once per breath. The two ghost sisters slowed their circling above him and were almost just hovering still. Then they did start to turn translucent and fade away. Miss Darlene jumped up to open the piano cabinet back open and with a broom she swept the fading spirits back into the piano and latched it securely shut.

"What took so long tonight, Long Winter?"

"They had more negativity to banish tonight with the uproar over the poker cheat and Miss Anne the dancing girl, she didn't have fever, she has a broken heart. She hid from us. The sisters of course sensed it and had to clear all that darkness from the Justice Room tonight too." He said.

She took the same broom she'd swept the ghosts into the piano with and swept off the drum's rawhide top and said; "Be off with any darkness, I sweep away any sadness. I banish any madness, all the good I do harness!"

"She is a witch," Buck said, still glued to the stained glass window watching.


The End

Ginger Strivelli has written for Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Third Flatiron, Jokes Review, The New Accelerator, Cabinet of Heed Literary Journal, and several other publications. Her most recent story was published in Frontier Tales' 2021 July issue. She has a forthcoming story coming out in Sci Fi Lampoon.

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