Friday, August 16, 2013

Writing a Western in 30 Working Days -- thirteen and fourteen

Please pardon the tardiness of this report. First, the problem with Endeavor's outboard was hardly a problem. I thought it was condensation in the fuel tank. But no. If I had been more cool headed and not just sitting there jerking on a starter pull rod, I would have noticed that the stop switch lanyard was lying on the bottom of the cockpit. Of course the outboard would not start. The stop switch was engaged. All I had to do was slip the stop switch gap thingy into place and the trusty outboard started up like it had never caused me all those new wrinkles. When emergency calls, remember to be calm, and remember to tick off all the reasons why such an emergency should or could happen. Lesson for life.

Now. Back to the Western--Stryker's Bounty.

When Matt Stryker goes after a man (professional that he is), he's prepared. Look at this.

Matt Stryker rode after a man much like drovers on the Goodnight-Loving rode after beeves. No ground cloth other than his saddle blanket, no cover other than his black oilskin slicker. An octagonal barreled long ’76 Winchester in the saddle boot, chambered for .45-70 center-fire cartridges. At his side, a Remington Army ’76 in .45 caliber. His onside saddlebag held hardtack and jerked beef as trail rations, a pound bag of Arbuckle’s coffee, a little four-cup coffee pot, and a pair of handmade moccasins. In the offside saddlebag, ammunition—five boxes of twenty heavy ones for the Winchester, three boxes of smaller ones for the Remington, and fifty 12-guage shotgun shells, loaded with buckshot. Where a Texas drover would have a rawhide lariat coiled and tied to the saddle horn, Stryker carried a double-barreled Parker 12-gauge with its barrel shortened by six inches, hanging by a strap in the same place. He’d changed his wear, too. Instead of the usual gray Stetson, he wore a sand-colored kepi with a neck protector flap that hung to his shoulders. His shirt fit loosely with bloused long sleeves. It, too, was the color of desert sand. Instead of Saif, his big black Arabian stud, Stryker rode a palomino paint pony no more than fifteen hands high. Its white and tan coat gave the pony a near-perfect desert camouflage. Stryker wore round-toed rough-out Wellington boots with no spurs. Once his canvas trousers had been brown, but now showed faded spots and irregular patterns that would be nearly invisible among desert brush and cacti.

And he's not afraid to call for help.

Two hours outside Tucson, Stryker stopped on a hogback and built a fire. When it was going well, he added greasewood to make smoke. The fire was small and the smoke rose almost vertically in the hot still air. Stryker used his big bandana, stretching it out with both hands, to create a series of five breaks in the column of smoke. He let the little fire burn for another five minutes or so, then snuffed it out, scattering the greasewood and stomping the embers until no spark showed. Just to make sure, he covered everything with a layer of dry sandy soil.

“Who you bringing in?” Carpenter asked.

“We’ll see.”

“Heard about that sashay down into Mexico.”


Carpenter said no more. Stryker remounted the palomino paint and rode east. Carpenter followed.

Norrosso showed up just before sundown. One minute Stryker and Carpenter rode across the flanks of the Rincons toward Sierra Colorado, the next minute an Apache with a thick dirty white headband and a faded blue cavalry shirt with sergeant’s stripes stood in their path. There was no sign of a horse.

“His name’s Norrosso,” Stryker said. “No better scout around, unless it’s Wolf Wilder, and he’s retired to that ranch in Lone Pine Canyon.”

“What?” Norrosso said when Stryker and Carpenter reined their horses to a halt some dozen feet away.

However, things are not all right with the Dents. Remember that Finn went to Alamo and he had a good full glass of rotgut, which often contains significant amounts of kerosene. That can kill a man over time.

During prohibition, rotgut and
other kinds of whiskey got
poured down the drain.
Finn’s guts cramped and he made for a bush to get behind. He hardly had time to lower his pants and squat before the contents of his large intestine splattered on the ground. Even after he’d voided everything, Finn’s body kept trying to get something out of his system.

At last he was able to close his sphincter, and bumbling around with one hand, found a rock that would do to wipe with. When he stood to pull his pants up, he staggered a step and nearly put a foot in what he left behind. He didn’t look at his stool, but if he had’ve examined it, the amount of blood, fresh blood, would have shocked him.

Old man Dent, though, had his own problems. See if you can feel his frustration. 

Lester Dent watched. The boys’d never been to war. They didn’t really understand the need to watch. Oh, they stayed awake during their shifts, believe the Good Lord, they stayed awake. But they didn’t watch. Lester Dent watched.

These could be the Dent boys.
Probably not, but could be.
He heard Finn get up and go off behind that tree. He heard the boy voiding his guts on the dry ground. He heard the little groans Finn made as he tried and tried but nothing came. He heard the night sounds of crickets and katydids resume after Finn lay back down.

The woman never moved. It was hard for Lester to tell if she was sleeping or awake, but it didn’t matter. She never moved. She did the cooking and she cleaned up. She never said a thing, and when one of the boys wanted to hump, she bent over like a bitch in heat. Lester didn’t watch the boys hump but it ded seem that they got the urge a little too often. Finn got the supplies. Tomorrow they’d pony up and move out through Hell’s Gate and east on Hell’s Trail. Wouldn’t no one follow them on Hell’s Trail. Not many, anyway. A line of gray showed atop the Chiricauas to the east, and cactus wrens began to twitter. Lester Dent kept watching.

Word Count 22,888

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