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post Focus on FanFiction

January 13th, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:35 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.  

Southern Cross

by Penny McQueen

That were a real bad year, don’t care what nobody says. Big John scared the life outa all ‘a us. Total ee-ex-austion, Doc Plant said. Plain as anything, almost three years worryin’ this ranch nearly worried him to death.

Mano was set to go live with his Daddy and marry that Mercedes girl, ‘cept comancheros done killed her. He didn’t laugh so much after that, seemed like.

Trece Burnette took a bite outa Blue, she’s one woulda been em-proved by the caboose of a train. Onliest thing she done was show Blue Boy they’s some women you best trust like a Chinese faro deck. She were her Daddy’s daughter, and the good Lord knows Gar Burnette was a low-down rattlesnake.

But Blue weren’t hisself even before her. When a boy don’t eat good food, sumpin’ ain’t right. I tole my brother, but did he listen?

“Brother John, you best ease up on that boy a mite.” It makes him mad as fire when I bother him in his office, but I don’t care worth owl spit.

“Buck, will you and Victoria stop worrying?” John Boy tossed his brand new Eagle pencil plumb off his desk. You’d think he’d learnone ‘a these days when he throws things, they don’t walk back to him, don’t matter how hard he gives ‘em the evil eye. We both stared at his pencil a-laying on the floor until he shoved back them ledger books and grumped, “Why is it when a boy grows up and shows some gumption, everyone on this ranch thinks he’s running a fever?”

“Fever?” Why I try with that hard-headed, mule-stubborn, bone-stupid brother of mine beats me. “He ain’t got no fever. What he got is a real bad case of Big John Cannon.” Like usual, I headed out the door and didn’t stop ‘til I hit the saloon in Tucson. Which jist goes to show you, my brother ain’t the only bone-stupid Cannon in the family.
*****
Dead meat turns rancid fast under a hot sun. The bloated bodies of three reddish Hereford-Angus heifers lay at the lip of an arroyo, blowflies swarming their coyote-torn flesh. Nose wrinkled against the stench, Blue knelt, examining a carcass. He nudged the head with a boot toe, stepped back as flies poured out. “Looks to me like they died of thirst.”

“Yep, makes six this month.” Reed Carey, hands on hips and banty legs planted firmly in the rocky sand, spit tobacco juice and cocked a head westward. “Sixteen all told. I told Missus Campbell we gotta buy more. You reckon your Pa’ll sell?” Wiping away brown from his mouth he continued, “South waterhole’s getting’ kinda greasy, but it oughta hold out until end of summer.”

Leaving the decaying cattle, Blue walked upwind and faced the stocky foreman. “Reed, this ranch’s always been short on water. You can’t keep this many head, you either gotta lease water or sell off stock in the summer.” If he’s foreman, no wonder the place is losing money. Pointing at the carcasses, he said firmly, “You bring in more, they’ll wind up coyote food.”

“Missus put me in charge, I kin buy all the beef I want.” Jaw thrust forward and hands on hips, Carey stepped close and snapped, “How you supposed to have a ranch with no cows?” He hitched his pants along his expansive waistline and spat a brown stream of juice.

“Be reasonable, dead beef don’t help nobody,” Blue spoke through clenched teeth. He sure ain’t too dumb to feed himself, but that’s all I can say for him. “You buy all you want, I’m going to Jeff Patterson, see if we can lease summer water.”

“That’s my job!” Stepping closer, he edged Blue with a meaty hand.

“Then why ain’t you doing it?” Blue shoved back quickly, held up a gloved palm in warning. Anger surged through him but he answered slowly and precisely, “You deal with them dead heifers. I’m going for water.” Back straight as a poker, he marched to his horse and galloped off.
*****
Victoria set an elegant table and served food a man would pay to eat. After a day overseeing his men pull heifers out of mud holes, chase cows through brush, fight barb-wire onto fence posts, dig ditches and muck stalls, sitting down to white linen, slim candles, polished silver and good china was a gift from heaven. John expected the entire family at the supper table, ready to appreciate the meal and discuss the day.

Blue split a biscuit in half, buttered it, and watched his father. Big John tackled food like he tackled life, determined to wrestle it to a draw. He sawed a thick slab of beef until the knife rasped against porcelain, then chewed rapidly, his teeth jarring with each bite. Nodding briskly, he smiled toward his wife and said, “Excellent dinner, Victoria.”

“Thank you, John.” Pleased, Victoria looked across the table, a small frown puckering her forehead. “Buck, would you prefer a clean napkin?”

“No ma’am.” Chewing noisily, he smiled around a mouthful of food and exclaimed, “Yore cooking gets better ‘n better, Victoria. Ever time I eat it I think it cain’t get no better, then it do.” His napkin, tucked in at the chin, was soaked with gravy; he swiped it across his face, leaving a trail of brown grease behind. Shaking his head, he upended a bowl of potatoes, added corn, and mixed them together with enthusiasm.

“I am glad you are enjoying the meal,” Victoria said weakly, returning to her food.

Grinning to himself, Blue nibbled the biscuit and pushed potatoes around on his plate. Coughing, he patted his mouth with a napkin and said, “Pa? Uh, I been thinking about Red Rock. Could be you oughta buy it.” Resting his forearms on the table and ducking his head, he peered across the table.

“Blue Boy, that ain’t a bad idea.” Pointing at his brother with a fork, Buck gestured wildly. Beef quivered on the end of the utensil, drippings scattering like rain. “Ain’t bad land, John. You could aye-void neighbors.”

“Yeah Uncle Buck. You worked it once, you know it, right?” Gesturing toward his father, he continued, “Then Collee..uh, Mrs. Campbell could go back east.”

“Buck, you know I don’t have cash for land deals right now.” John buttered a biscuit so hard it broke in two.

“Pa, you said yourself this’s the best year we ever had. Biggest round up ever, and you closed your best deal with the army, too.”

“That’s right, son, I did. And I turned right around and reinvested it in the best breeding stock I could get my hands on.” Sighing heavily, John frowned as he picked up his knife and fork. “Maybe two years from now I’ll be ready to think about more land. Not now.”

Blue toyed with the food on his plate, cast a sour glance at his uncle. Stuffing mashed potatoes and corn into his mouth, Buck grinned, cheeks puffed like a squirrel storing nuts. Random chunks of food fell off his plate; he scooped up leavings from the tablecloth with his fingers and pushed them in his mouth. Tossing down the fork, Blue argued, “Well, what if I went to the bank, got money on my own?”

“What?” Eyes popping, hands flat on the table, voice raising with every word, his father barked, “Absolutely not! What’s got into you, boy? You know better. It’s not how much a man owns, it’s how much he can control. We’ve got our hands full with Chaparral land.”

“Yessir.” Stiffly, Blue tossed his napkin, nodded to Victoria, “Excuse me,” grabbing his hat on the way outside.

Chewing thoughtfully, Buck watched his nephew leave, then turned to the table. “John, you cain’t tell me ain’t nothin’ wrong with that boy, not when he don’t eat.” He shrugged, reached for Blue’s plate and upended the contents on his own.   click to read the rest

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