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post Focus on Fan Fiction

March 13th, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:40 pm

Fan Fiction has a long history – it dates at least as far back as the tales of Chaucer. Charlotte Bronte wrote it, as did fans of Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes   The High Chaparral has many fan writers and stories.  

What A Tangled Web

by Penny McQueen

A black-haired Irishman, starving when potatoes died in the field, brought his fiddle to America in 1846. He serenaded the hazy mountains of Appalachia and sent haunting melodies westward with his children. Miles and years twisted the heavy brogue from the notes, but an aching hint of yearning and loneliness remained. A cowboy, trampled by a rank bronc, remembered the Celtic tune as he argued with his doctor. Legs and arms broken, collar bone fractured, face criss-crossed with scars, he stayed behind when his pardners left town. To soothe his pain, he sang to his pretty nurse. Weep all you little rains, wail, winds, wail, all along, along along, the Colorado trail.

Reno didn’t know the romantic history of the song he sang. Work finished, heat easing, breeze kicking up across the valley, his hands picked familiar chords on the guitar. Watching Buck Cannon lean against a post at the ranch-house porch, Reno considered a bawdy number he’d learned in Tucson, but decided against it. Mrs. Cannon might hear through the open dining room door. Instead he fingered Dixie and nudged Joe Butler with his boot. “Buck’s got himself a hair-trigger temper these days. What’s got into him?”

Chair tilted against the adobe bunkhouse wall, the muscular wrangler’s eyes were closed, hat pulled low. Opening one eye, he muttered, “He ain’t been to town since Polly and Bess skinned off half his hide. I never knew a woman to fight fair.”

His tall frame slouched, elbows on the low divider, Sam Butler cleaned his fingernails with a Bowie knife and snorted. “That ain’t the first time Buck’s tangled with painted cats.” Sheathing the knife, he straightened and tapped his pocket. “He’s been losing poker money to me for the past month, ain’t even got drinking money.”

“Maybe.” The music stopped as Reno tuned his guitar. Satisfied, he picked out the melody to Little Brown Jug. “You and Joe been here five years, ever know Buck to go thirsty?” he said as the subject of their gossip stomped for the barn. “Unless Buck changed his habits while me and Ira was in Montana, he’s got a bottle stashed.”

Joe peered from underneath his hat brim toward open stalls at the corral edge where two shadowed figures were in cozy conversation. “Yeah, and I got five dollars says he’s headed straight for that bottle of redeye in the hayloft.”

“If you had five dollars, which you don’t, you’d lose it.” Sam kicked a loose corner brick away from the barbecue pit and groped inside the open cavity, then withdrew a dusty bottle. He uncorked it and shrugged. “You ain’t the only one who loses bets to me, Joe. You two want a drink?”

*****

A cow’s grand stupidity lets man eat beef without remorse. Adoring canine eyes fill hearts with guilt, cats make him believe in Egyptian gods, but cows are meat wrapped in thick-headed dullness, erasing regret and inviting appetite. Long-lashed eyes may remind a tired cowpuncher of a saloon dolly he proposed to six months ago, but from dainty hooves to swivel hips, cows are portable larder, shoe leather, and soup stock.

To John Cannon, cattle were rows of dollar signs and debits, marching through ledger books after dinner. Thanking Victoria for the coffee she sat beside him, he pushed papers across the dining table and plucked a delivery sheet from the pile. “Ah ha, there you are!”

“Mas café, Buck?” Victoria held the silver urn toward her brother-in-law, who shoveled a third piece of pie into his mouth.

“Yes ma’am, thank you.” Victoria poured the coffee, left the urn, kissed her husband, and retreated to the living room. Crust and apple traces clinging to his mouth, Buck poured coffee into his saucer, blew on it, and slurped it down. Leaning back in his chair, he patted his stomach and offered, “Thought I’d head down to Tubac in the morning. Things been quiet around here.”

“Nope, I don’t think so. We’ve got that bunch of steers coming in from Stephenson tomorrow.”

Fork half-way to his lips, Buck stopped and stared at his brother’s bowed head. John’s pen continued to scratch at the ledgers when Buck clattered his fork against the plate. He said through tight lips, “Them’s from El Paso.”

“That’s right.” John Cannon’s rows of dollar signs, cheap cattle from Texas, were a gamble. Grizzled cowhands, swapping tales around the campfire, swore the Texas herds were plague cattle, breathing fever and death on Arizona beeves. Old-time ranchers re-lit cold pipes and speculated they bled infected fluid from cut hooves. John Cannon looked for answers.

When El Paso short-horns came on the market dirt cheap, frugal Big John paced the floor, long arms swinging in frustration. If a rancher found a way to safely mix Texas cattle with his own beef, he stood to make a small fortune, but the risks werehigh. Once a cow showed symptoms, it was time to rip up the tally sheet. Whole herds died in less than a month, leaving empty ranches and dreams behind with the carcasses.

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