October, 2015

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Issue #73

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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!

Courtship – Texas Style
by Nancy Peacock
Texas was a hard land, and it took hard men to tame it. But the lovely Miss Lucy could be just as hard as the men, and it took a special kind of toughness to break through her shell.

* * *

Mitchell and the Silver City Stage
by Dick Derham
Wells Fargo agent Mitchell knew that sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief, and he was one of the best. But now he was faced with a gang of murderers. Would it take a murderer to stop a murderer?

* * *

Saggy Pete
by Robert C. Yalden
Though Saggy Pete Lorton was the head of a vicious outlaw gang and as deadly as a snake, Sheriff King caught him with his pants down and locked him up. But King knew the gang would bust him out, sure as the world, if he didn't get Lorton on the 2:10 train to the Marshals'. Could he take them all on?

* * *

Sweet Potato Pie
by Steve Myers
The sheriff and his posse rode up to Granny Selden's house, looking for a fugitive—her grandnephew—who was wanted for murder. The posse tried to ride roughshod over Granny Selden but they were no match for the tiny, old woman.

* * *

Texas Roulette
by B. Craig Grafton
Leonard and Elmer fought over the saloon girl, but now she lay dead, and one of them was to blame. The only way to settle it was with a bullet, just one, in the cylinder of a Colt. Let the game begin.

* * *

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

All the Tales

Courtship Texas Style
by Nancy Peacock

The stout wooden door swung open. The owner of the saloon secured it to the side revealing the half doors. Fresh air flooded the interior. Sam surveyed the street, beginning to bustle in the early morning. He tied his black apron and began to sweep the boarded walk in front of his establishment. He nodded to a man trotting his horse down the middle of the street. Another hot day. What a country! What a good life!

Going inside, Sam looked down the expanse of dark wood that formed a barrier between the public area and the array of bottles and sale goods against the wall. Few customers at this time of day; business would pick up toward evening. He took a tiny hammer out of a drawer and opened two new boxes of cigars. Supplies were low, but the train should bring his tobacco order tomorrow.

The swinging half-doors slammed open and a dusty, bedraggled figure reeled in. "Mr. Sam, I need a drink." He slumped onto a barstool and threw his hat on the bar. Dust motes climbed up the shaft of sunlight piercing the front window but he didn't notice. "I done it again."

Chuckling, Sam poured a cup of coffee and set it in front of him. "On the house, Timmy. What did you try this time?" He lifted the young man's hat, mopped the dust under it and replaced it.

"I told her Pa I'd break that new mustang for him. I thought she'd see what a great hand I am. She didn't even come out to the porch. I wasted my time." He drank a sip of coffee and rubbed his aching head.

Sam had to ask, "Did you break the mustang?" His lush mustache hid the smile. He knew the answer to that.

"No sir, I sure didn't. All I broke was my backside. You know my problem: if I was called Tex or Pecos or, or anything but Timmy, I'll bet she'd take a shine to me."

"Wait, son, you got to use your head. Maybe fix up your house, make it look homey, dress up and go calling some Sunday after church."

"Now look here. I believe I done all that. Three Sundays ago I went by her house. She just smiled and shut the door in my face. Two weeks ago, I brought her wild roses from the fencerow alongside my house. She took them, said 'thank you' and shut the door in my face. Last week I took her a jar of honey from my bee hives and she took it, said 'thank you' and smiled at me for the first time—before she shut the door in my face. I'm out of ideas, Mr. Sam. I love that little gal and she won't even talk to me. I think today was the last straw." He sighed and finished his coffee. "I'll just go back home to my lonely life. Thanks for the coffee." He stumbled out the door, adjusting his hat against the West Texas sun.

Sam wiped the bar again as he shook his head. "Poor lad. We have to do something about him. I wonder . . . "

* * *

"Miss Lucy, may I come in?"

"Well, of course, Mr. Sam. Do you need to see Pa? He's over checking on some yearlings in the back pasture, but I'm sure he'll be home for dinner."

"No, Miss Lucy. I came to see you."

Her eyes widened. She was used to every eligible male for miles around trying to court her, but not a man of this age who was securely married with several children. Her mind raced as she tried to fathom what his visit was all about. "Won't you sit down?"

Sam could see the puzzlement on her pretty face. His wife would laugh when he told her about this visit. "Miss Lucy, a young man came into my saloon this morning. He had a sad story to tell."

She narrowed her eyes. She knew exactly who that young man was.

Sam continued, "He seems to value your opinion." His mind scrambled for the perfect words to impress this young woman. "He called for a drink. I gave him a cup of coffee because he doesn't believe in drinking hard liquor. He said that he believes his problem is his name. That folks don't take him seriously because he's called Timmy. I think that's silly. My folks called me Sammy until I was near grown and it didn't stunt my growth." Now was the time to get to the point. "Do you think you could start calling him, oh, maybe just Tim? You know, at church or when you run into him at the market. It would mean the world to him. Other folks might hear you and it'd catch on."

"Why me?"

Was this the time to let go with both barrels? "Folks look up to you, Miss Lucy. If they heard you being nice to Timmy, er, I mean Tim, then they might follow suit. He's a fine rancher, a good man and a credit to the community. I hate to see him so depressed." Had he said enough? Should he stop now and let her mull over what he said?

"I appreciate you coming here on his behalf, Mr. Sam. I'll see what I can do." She rose and led the way to the door. "I think he's a fine man, too."

Sam looked into her twinkling eyes and knew for a fact that he hadn't fooled her for a minute. He bid her good day and rode back to town. Should he tell Tim what he had done? Of course not. That young man had no idea what he was in for. She would make a wonderful rancher's wife and mother to his children.

* * *

The day lengthened. Sam's saloon filled up with tired cowboys, ranchers and businessmen who stopped for a little drink before they went home for supper. Sam saw Tim come in and make his way to the bar.

"I'm gonna give her one more chance. I'm going out there right now and ask her to marry me. If I have to shout through the door, then I'll just shout through the door. I can't think, I can't work, I can't do nothing worthwhile. Oh, Mr. Sam, pray for me. I never been so scared in my life."

Sam was amazed. Gone was the tentative young person of the morning. Here was a man on a quest. Scared to death—but on a quest. He hoped Tim would stop by on his way home and tell him what happened.

* * *

Sam was disappointed when he didn't see Tim. Had he lost his nerve? Did Lucy's Pa shoot him? Did Lucy shoot him? He wondered what could have happened?

The next morning he was again sweeping the walk in front of his saloon when he spied a buggy coming, driven by Lucy herself. She stopped and greeted Sam.

"Mr. Sam. Good morning. I need to talk to you. Right now."

"Why, good morning, Miss Lucy. Whatever could you want to talk to me about?"

He leaned against the hitching post and smiled at the pretty woman.

"I got to studying about your visit yesterday. Wondered why you came all the way out to my home to see me? I thought over every word you said and I decided that you were there for that rapscallion, Tim. Is that true?"

"Of course, it's true. I believe I asked you to call him Tim instead of Timmy, and here you are already doing just that."

Lucy narrowed her eyes. "Did you see him last night?"

Ah, now Sam had to decide whether to tell her the truth or maybe hedge a bit. The truth was always better. He just hoped he didn't ruin Tim's chances. "Yes, ma'am. He came by here on the way to see you." He thought he'd see what she was going to say before he added more.

"He told me that. He also asked me to marry him."

"And what did you say, Miss Lucy?" He held his breath awaiting her answer.

She threw her head back and smiled. "Of course I'm going to marry him. Don't you look so shocked. He's a fine man and a persistent one, too." Her face gentled. "Thank you for being his friend, Mr. Sam. We're going to be married Sunday after preaching. We hoped you'd stand up with him. Now I have to buy a new bonnet. I've had my wedding dress made for months. Just waiting for the right man to ask the right question."

Sam shook his head as Lucy urged her horse farther down the street to the dry goods store. Maybe he should be a matchmaker like they had in the old country. He wasn't sure what he said, but it sure did the trick. The right man and the right question . . . that made sense.

The End

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