Sunday, September 22, 2013

Writing a Western Novel in 30 Working Days--continued

Today was Sunday. I don't write much fiction on Sunday, but I do many other things. In fact, I was just making the program for our 15th annual high school English speech contest, of which I am the steering committee chair.

Sorry it's in Japanese, but you can see the subject of the speeches will be Family.
But I have another chapter of Stryker's Bounty that I've said nothing about. You see, Lester Dent (may have to change this name, considering the famous 10 Rules of Writing by Lester Dent--What do you all think?) hid the gold in almost plain sight. Of course, Wee Willy knew where it was, but no one asked a simple man like him.

“Will they find the gold, Matt?”

“I don’t know. John Walker’s a good tracker, but who knows if he can find where Dent cached the gold.”

I think of Boo Radley when I think
of Wee Willy Dent.
“Missus,” called Wee Willy. “Something here.”

“That’s good, Willy. Can you bring it here?”

“Yes, missus.” Wee Willy shambled into the cavern with Stryker’s rifle in his left hand and something else in his right. He handed the rifle to Stryker, then turned to give the other thing to Molly.

“Wha . . .” Molly, for once, was completely wordless.

“What is it?” Stryker asked.

Molly held the gold ingot so Stryker could see. “Gold,” she said, almost reverently.

“Where’d you find the gold, Willy?” Stryker said.

“Right where Pa put it,” Wee Willy replied.

So, naturally, when the Walker-led men realize that Dent didn't hide the gold on the way to the cavern, they'll be back. But Stryker's had a load of rock dumped on him, His arm is broken. His legs are a mass of bruises. His ribs are cracked, at least, but lack of blood in his lungs seems to mean they are not broken. 
An arm needed have a wooden splint
when one of the two bones in the
forearm is broken.

“Cain’t find no sticks, only three little pieces, missus.” Wee Willy’s voice caught, as if he were going to cry.

Stryker chuckled, then grimaced. Tears furrowed tracks through the dust on his cheek. “Makes sense. No water. Nothing for trees to grow with. No decent sticks. Well. I’ll just have to do without.”

Molly stood and went back around the curve in the cavern. She came back with her ragged dress and petticoat. “I’m gonna cut a slice off your saddle blanket,” she said. “Willy, help, please.”

They moved Stryker to one side and Molly cut a foot-wide strip from the saddle blanket. She folded it, then folded it again, and again, until she had a pad six layers deep and a little over six inches wide. She placed the pad under Stryker’s broken forearm and tied it firmly in place with strips torn from her old petticoat. Whenever Stryker flinched, Molly clicked her tongue and said, “Be strong, now, Matthew Stryker. Your arm will feel better when its all trussed up.”

And it did.

Bruises can be painful, too.

Problem is, there is no water in the cavern. Walker and the Alamo men took the horses and supplies. So Stryker, Molly, and Wee Willy are left, not only injured, but also without food or water. So they have 250 pounds of gold. So which is most important?

No food. No water. No horses. Nothing but 250 pounds of gold. Stryker couldn’t see a way out no matter which way he looked at their predicament.

Molly and Wee Willy sat in the cavern, their backs against the rock wall. They said nothing, but Stryker knew they expected him to find a way out. He rubbed his left hand against the trickle of tears that always wet his left cheek.

The gold just sat there, mocking him, or so it seemed. Molly was there. He’d found her. That’s what he’d told Dodge Miller he would do. Maybe if he let the gold lie. Maybe if he just walked away with Molly and Wee Willy. Maybe. Stryker’s head got so full of maybes that he found it hard to think straight.

And what would happen when John Walker led those gold-hungry men back into this canyon? And he would; that white Pima would bring them back.


Stryker didn’t answer at first.


Stryker opened his eyes like he was just waking up. “What?” he said.

“We ain’t got no water, mister. I’m all right. I’m not worth nothing. But the missus. She needs water, mister. Real bad.”

Word Count 34,286


  1. You're always good at putting your heroes through the mill, Charlie, and Stryker's had more than his fair share of bodily damage. And it all seems so real, we can almost feel the pain he endures. Thirsting for more...

  2. Heroes need to hurt. They need to face death. They need to make life and death decisions when the going gets hard. They need to cry and bleed and lose as well as laugh and win and come through with flying colors. It's a hard land. Only the tough, in all the meanings of the term, survive. Stryker must survive, though, he's got a whole series of books waiting for him.