March, 2024

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Issue #174

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!

Slater's Choice
by Robert Collins
He was out-gunned, but Slater would do whatever was needed to save Victoria's ranch. He owed her much, and would see the debt paid.

* * *

The Mountain Man's Testimony
by Richard L. Newman
A Mountain Man tells about his surpising encounter in the high country—and its aftermath.

* * *

The Vaquero
by Ralph S. Souders
A young vaquero visits a saloon to wait while his stagecoach gets fresh horses. A cowboy begins to aggravate him. Will he try to ignore the cowboy and leave town on the stage, or defend his honor and risk the local jail?

* * *

A Bullet for Christmas
by Jason Crager
A ne'er do well ex-convict is determined to finally become the husband and father his family deserves. He's made a Christmas promise that he intends to deliver on, by any means necessary.

* * *

West of Eminence
by J. Daniel Camacho
In the Old West, a sheriff faces down a marshal, his country, and an offer he can't refuse.

* * *

A Ghost, A Jezebel, and a Bank Manager
by Michael Shawyer
As a trailherder wakes by the campfire, a spooky message arrives from his long-gone mother. Why does she want him to compose a story about a picture of three people?

* * *

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

All the Tales

A Ghost, A Jezebel, and a Bank Manager
by Michael Shawyer

The camp fire spluttered and sparked. Loose Limbed Larry (Big Loose to his friends) lay alongside, tucked up in his bedroll. One eye popped open. Loose Limbed Larry looked around. Cagey, wondering if the fire woke him or something else.

Injuns mebbe?

Big Loose eased his trusty Colt 45 out and looked around. The only movement from Squint, his one-eyed horse.

One eye Big Loose thought, but dang good ears. Lookit him, chompin' calm as you like. Sure nuff caint be no injuns. If'n they about Squint's one eye'd be rolling like he chewed some a that molasses grass 'n' gone nutty. The 'Shoot me in the head' kinda nutty.

Loose Limbed Larry sat up. Itchin' 'n' scratchin'. Dang bed bugs. Gonna give this bedroll a beatin' come sun up.

"Hey Cowboy."

Holy malolley! Big Loose spun around, his gun up and ready to start blasting. Where'd that come from? Who sayed that?

A picture like a leaf falling from a tree settled on his lap.

Wat in tarnation . . .  The picture like nothing he'd ever seen.

"Cowboy, what do these people say to you? Tell me their story."

The same voice and Loose Limbed Larry was flummoxed. He looked at Squint and shook his head. Dang hoss as much use as a three-legged donkey. Munchin', happy as you like.

The voice played back in his head and Loose-limbed Larry nodded. That's sure nuff long-gone Ma.

That explained why Squint was happy. He rolled a cigarette.

Ma, howza ordinary cowherd laik me s'posed tell a story from a dang picture? Three folks a'kissin' while I'm herdin' thousands o' ornery, stubborn, mule-headed longhorns to market? You want me to fickshunalize?

"Cowboy, there'd be plenty time in the saddle for thinkin' Looking for in-spy-ration."

Cowboy, she allus calls me Cowboy. Didn't laik it when the boys come 'round askin' for Big Loose. He grinned. In-spy-ration? Best kinda in-spy-ration comes from Kentucky's finest amber gold. Coupla noggins that 'n' I can spin a yarn right enuf.

Loose Limbed Larry was generally quiet as a possum without inspiration. Then he would hold a glass up to the sky, pause a moment and swallow it down. Slam the glass on the counter.

"Fillerup agin Jimbo. Aaah what the heck, leave the dang bottle."

Thinkin' o' amber gold always fired up Loose Limbed Larry.

Better do wat Ma says. Make up some story 'bout them three folks in that dang pichoor. Don't noways want her a'haunting me.

He'd become Big Runnin' in no time at all.

Sure as aigs is aigs there somint 'bout that grey ghostie woman in the pichoor. Standin', watchin', a'pouting behind other two that's lining up a smooch. She suggesting somint with that there pout? Dang if she don't have the look o' somun he knew. Daisy from down Denver way?

Daisy from down Denver way could make the grass grow in a desert that hadn't seen rain in a hundred days.

Nope this'un way too skinny for Denver Daisy. Loose Limbed Larry chuckled. Ah seen more meat on a trail herder's whip.

"Waitup! Waitup a hog-tying minute! Tie me to a waggon wheel ifen it ain't Jesse, that schemin' Jezebel from Juniper Crossin'!"

He scrutinised the picture. Eyebrows, eyes. Shore nuff fit Jesse, straight from Satan's locker.

One look from her could make a trail-weary cowherd fandango the night away. Come mornin' Jesse would be all fan-dan-go-ed out and heading for the hills. A lonely cowherd left behind with nothing but a headache the size of Tennessee, pockets wrong way out and money belt emptier than her cold, cold heart.

Ahma givin' up thinkin' 'bout pictures 'n' dang Jezebels.

Loose Limbed Larry changed track. Time I was a 'searchin' out four-legged critters a'munchin' when they shud be a' marchin'.

He rounded them up with a few 'Yee haws' and 'Yip, Yip, Yips.' Quick Draw Charley McGraw drew up alongside and they dropped to the back of the herd, eating trail dust.

Quick Draw, fastest gun this side a' Pecos, according to Quick Draw.

Loose Limbed Larry had a picture playing on his mind and studied the male wearing a suit. He shore was sum kinda fancy dan. Maybe he booted-up rodeo style. Cain't see no clodhoppers.

Loose Limbed Larry moved on to the blonde facing the 'Fancy Dan'. Holy schmoley she look like sum kinda nun. Dang eyes closed. Shame. Kin read a lot from eyes . . . 

He twisted the picture to one side and his breath quickened. Shore nuff somint strange as strange can be 'bout her face, eyelashes longer'n a pole cat's. Sly, schemin', upta no good. Defnit so.

He turned to the final face of the three. A grey-faced female watching the other two.

They don't know she a'watchin! Ah plumb gotcha! Ain't Denver Daisy, ain't Jesse the Juniper Crossing Jezebel! She a night-time, day-time, anytime you like time gen-you-wine heebie-jeebies spook!

Loose Limbed Larry shivered. Wat a spook at spyin' on would-be smoochers? What fer? She a Pinkerton spook? Or wanna mix in with that kissy-kissy stuff?

A heifer was straying from the herd and he nudged his horse off to the side. "Yeehaw, yip, yip."

Naa nunna that. Polterghosts get plenty socialisin', gotta be whole lot of them wandrin' 'bout. He nodded. Anyways get up close with a ghost whats gonna happen? Reach out 'n touch um . . . Goddam hand go straight thru!

Loose Limbed Larry smiled. Mebbe's she lost? How in tarnation a polterghost git lost? Don't seem right nohow. They'n just up and walk thru' walls. Wunder if they'n see through 'em an'all?

"I'ma gittin' there, workin' this picture out. Guessin' what these three muffins at."

His brain buzzed like a swarm of hornets.

She musta plumb wandered in. 'Splains the poutin'. She a rootin' tootin' ghost of a Wild West jezebel? One that done turned her toes up? Must be, only answer. Mebbe's made a fool a' some lonely cowherd 'n' he catched her up, long the trail outaways from nowhere. Reclaim his possessions, his hoss. Give her the old heave ho. The non-wake-up kinda heave ho.

Loose Limbed Larry chuckled. Now she a grey ghostie in a picture.

"Hey Big Loose."

He looked around, Quick Draw Charley McGraw, "I'll git these 'uns back in line."

Loose Limbed Larry nodded, his mind busy on suited maybe booted. He just a dope, bin hornswoggled by that there polecat nun. Bringing me a remind tho', Jimbo Fancy Pants Jackson. That bank manager down Kansas way. Him of the fancy cigar, fancier women and the biggest Stetson hat in all of the wild west.

"Hey Cowboy."

"Ma?" He looked at the sky.

"Keep your mind on telling me this story."

"Yes Ma." He touched the brim of his Stetson.

"You're doing OK so far."

He nodded. Last up, that there Blondie. Sly. A butter wouldn't melt, closed eye polecat of a nun. Cud be a whole lot more'n wat I see, mebbe a spell-making fire-breathing crank-pot witch?

His brain buzzed like a swarm a hornets.

Mixing up them herbs, leave's 'n twigs, bones. Chanting, 'Hoomagooley-gim-umchalla-cacannyah-cacallachoo.' All that rubbish. Abracadabry work just as well. She'd done magicked up Mr. suited maybe booted. Potioned him a bit. That's how I see it Ma. I gotta a Ghost, a Jezebel 'n' a Bank Manager.

"Well done Cowboy. Good story, I'll send another picture soon."

Loose Limbed Larry was pleased he'd made Ma happy. It was time to stop sleuthing faces in pictures, story-telling. Pick up the pace, might make Abilene first thing in the morning.

Git paid up 'n go visit Mr Kentucky Gold.

The End

Despite early signs of penmanship Mick's journey through life showed little sign of story-telling and it wasn't until 2018, whilst in South Africa, that he started punching the keys on his laptop. He hit some mid-table success with competitions and magazines started publishing his work. Lit eZine Magazine, Ariel Chart, Secret Attic, Neurological Magazine, Apricot Press, Shorts Magazine, Revolutionary Press, Fictionette Magazine, A Thousand Lives & More Magazine.

In December 2021 he moved to a Township in Kwa Zulu Natal. The only white person in a self-governing Zulu community. He is currently homeless in the UK.

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