Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tommy by Diego Candia and yours truly

Here is the long-awaited picture of Tommy, artwork, color, and inks by Diego. I did the graphic myself.  I really like the fact that a dime novel is shoved into the top of his pants. Again, Diego really manages to capture the character.

Planned to do a post and a piece of artwork, but then I came down with some sort of creeping crud that made me so exhausted I couldn't stay up and write like I usually do. So I've been pretty much sleeping all week. But anyways, this is a good place to take a one week break. I kind of consider the last post the end of "Part One". So we'll start back up next week, Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

It's kind of appropriate that Tommy's picture is finally getting onto the site (I have one reader who I know is happy about know who you are...Kaci...), as he will be getting a little more airtime in "Part Two."

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, and if none of those fit, well, have a quiet, peaceful, enjoyable week of health and prosperity!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guest Post by Ellie: The Jailhouse

Saint sat silently in the jailhouse tossing a ball at the wall and letting it bounce back at him. He had several long cuts across his face as well as a deep bruise across his jaw; his hands seemed to be bruising across the knuckles as well. He glared at a large man sleeping in the cell next to him and listened to Blackie snoring. Sighing he sat back against the side of lower bunk tossing the ball against the wall and then catching it. It was dull that was for sure, the door opened and the sleeping Blackie stirred as the moon shone into the room. Wash walked in as Blackie woke and smirked at Saint. “Hear ya were here, whatd’ya do this time lad?”

“You wouldn’t believe it,” came another voice from the top bunk. Luis jumped down from the upper bunk. “It was a sight to be seen!” he smiled.

“Luis? I thought ya were on a run,” Wash eyed.

“I was, I got back in time to help Saint out! It was…” Luis started.

“None of your damn business,” Saint snapped at the boy. “Nothing happened, just got pissed off at that bastard over there,” Saint sighed indicating to the sleeping man.

“Yeah, right,” Luis smirked. “You should have been there Wash, tables went flying, girls screaming and Saint, pulled out a knife!” Luis exclaimed. “Look at the man’s face!” the man on the bed had a long bloody cut running down his face.

“What?” Wash asked. “What did that man do?”

“I don’t know!” Luis answered. “I came in late, but man it must have been going on for hours before Blackie showed up, he had to use his gun to break it up! More then once!” Luis added.

“Luis stop exaggerating it,” Saint muttered angrily.

“He was right Saint, I did have to use my gun several times, I wasted a good ten rounds to get you two to stop,” Blackie sighed. But this time the large man in the bunk next to him stirred and woke. “What started the fight anyways?”

“I’ll tell you,” grunted the man in the other cell. “That damn man spilled his bloody beer on me,” he spat in an English accent.

“Well,” Saint sneered. “I did say sorry didn’t I, it was an… accident,” Saint answered.

“Bloody damn right it wasn’t, you didn’t even mean it,” he spat back getting up and walking to the bars of the cell.

“Well, if you hadn’t been talking about the girls the way you were…” Saint added.

“Whoa lad, calm down, what did the man say about the girls?” Wash asked.

“He said that England, and Little Miss were worthless,” Saint responded.

“He didn’t!” Luis growled looking at the man. “I am now damn pleased I gave him that black eye…” he muttered.

“What?” Wash almost yelled. “When in hell did you meet the girls?”

“Just yesterday, I was on a run and I say the way that English girl looked at that Indian, no respectable English women would ever put herself in that place. She should be home and taking care of the family,” the man growled. “Not looking at a savage, or even caring for one.”

“Storm is also half French!” Luis snapped.

“All the more reason to make sure he doesn’t reproduce, the filthy French, I wouldn’t put it past them to mix with those savages,” he growled. Saint looked at Wash who looked ready to kill the arrogant man in front of them. Blackie too almost looked willing to sentence him to a hanging.

“And what about Lilly?” Luis growled.

“Hardly call that a women,” the man growled back.

“That’s it!” Saint yelled. “You know nothing of the girls!” suddenly a figure briskly over and slammed something over the Englishman’s head with such force he fell to the ground. The four men stood stunned.

“Fiona!” came Lilly’s startled voice. “Wha…”

“Well, I would hardly call that an Englishman,” Fiona hissed holding a dented pot of coffee. “I had quite enough of him,” Fiona answered. The pot seemed to be leaking coffee as she held it. “Oh, sorry! I have to get some more coffee, I’ll be back boys, Lilly come on,” Fiona led Lilly out of the jailhouse. “I’ll make sure to add some vanilla,” she added before she closed the door behind her.

“Damn,” Saint laughed as he sat back down against the bunk and started to toss the ball again. “How long had she been there?”

“Long enough I think,” Blackie answered.

“Well, if that isn't a woman, then I have no damn clue what is,” Saint snickered.

© 2010 Ellie

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Luis by Diego Candia

Trying to catch up a bit on the artwork, I feel like I'm way far behind on it. So, for Thanksgiving, here is a great picture of Luis Santana, who would have the distinction of being the most infuriating guy on the crew if it weren't for Saint.

Diego did a great job on him, as always. I love the smokes rolled up in his sleeve. Thanks again, Diego!

I'm going to go ahead and put this up tonight, as I'm probably not going to have internet connection for a couple days and this is at least ready to go now. Just in case I don't get back online for the rest of the week. Which may happen.

Anyways, however you spend it, have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wash by Diego Candia

Here is a fun picture of our favorite stagecoach gunner, George Washington Monahan. As always, Diego has done an amazing job of capturing the personality of the character. He has done the color as well.

The graphic is by me. I lucked out on the background map.

I like how jovial he looks, particularly since he's holding a shotgun like he means business. But then, I guess he might as well smile, he's a crack shot and holding a shotgun.

Thanks again for an awesome job, Diego!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I have a little writer's block. This month has kept me going so hard I am having trouble concentrating. My remedy for writer's block is to write something else. Another scene, another time, a bit of fluff, whatever it takes to kick myself out of the rut. Because Halloween is not the weekend to be leaving anyone without their treat.

So here's a stand alone "prequel" I hope you will enjoy.

Have a fun weekend, stay safe, and don't TP my house.

“Pshh. Why you got to bring that up again, Jesse?” Luis frowned, leaning back against the wall beside his bunk, his feet dangling over the side into space. “Why you wanna know about that, eh? Since it’s just a lie and I’m crazy and seeing things, I mean.” He reached over in the greasy light of an oil lamp with a missing chimney and picked up the terra-cotta devil that sat on the cross beam beside his head, rubbing it absently and gazing sullenly into the fire that sputtered in the fireplace across the bunkhouse.

It was a cold night, and the wind wailed around the sturdy walls of the bunkhouse, seemingly angry at being kept out. Saint eased his rangy frame against the wall near the fireplace, his chair tottering back on two legs. He familiarly hooked a bootheel over a burl in the rough hewn timber that supported the roof, like he rested here often and the burl was waiting for him. Looking up from his dogeared paperback, he scowled. “Jesse, why’r you getting him started on this again? Can we not just have a quiet night for once?”

“Jesse’s got the next run out there.” Storm pulled his striped wool coat more snugly around his shoulders and smirked. “He wants to know how big a gun to bring along.” He sat down on the stone hearth, his shoulders shivering as the warmth from the fire made it’s way through his clothing. “He was all big talk until he started thinking about it. Now he’s having second thoughts.”

Wash snorted with amusement. “Don’t tell me you’re worried now, laddie.”

“I ain’t worried.” Jesse snapped, hands on his hips. “I just wanna make sure I got the story straight. He came in saying he’s seen something that spooked his horse on the trail, I want to know what happened.”

“Oh.” Storm leaned into the heat and gave a self-satisfied smile. “Now he wants to know what happened.”

Luis had come in last week several terrifying hours after his horse did. Mercury had been in a lather, crazy eyed and wild. Bender had actually been so worried he spent the night in the barn with him. And they all were sure that something awful had happened to Luis. In fact, they were up all night and were all set to ride out looking for him when he’d come loping into the station yard on foot, mochilla slung over his shoulder. He had been stumbling with fatigue and nigh incoherent. He’d been in such an agitated state he came down with a fever later that night. Later, he managed to spit out that something scary had spooked his horse on the stretch between Ham's Fork and Green River. He didn’t elaborate much.

It was either a lie or the biggest understatement Saint had ever heard.

Jesse had made light of the idea that he’d run into any sort of major trouble. In fact, his bravado had annoyed the hell out of Saint. And now, here Jesse was, trying to figure out what he might be riding into later.

“Probably fell asleep in the saddle and fell off.” Jesse said, his casual tone failing to disguise his nerves. “Wouldn’t be the first time one of us did.”

“Horseshit.” Saint spat. “You’re spooked an’ you know it, you lying stronza...”

“Fine.” Luis glared at Jesse reproachfully. “Everybody is thinking, Luis, he’s full of horseshit, he’s making up stories again. Well. Tha’s allright by me. ‘Sgonna be a big laugh when somebody else gets knocked on their ass.” He set the devil back onto it’s perch with a dull thump of clay striking wood. “Ha! An I didn’t even lose the mailbags, either.” His lips curled into a defiant smirk that dimpled his brown cheek, and the fire reflected in his dark eyes. “Well, I ain’t making it up, and I don’t give any damn who believes me or not.”

He dropped lightly to the floor, scrounging a pouch and a paper out of the pocket in his worn trousers and deftly producing a well-rolled quirley. He lit it in the lamp flame with a practiced hand and stuck it between his lips, taking a deep drag. “Do me a favor an’ don’ tell Miz Lily I’m smokin’. She don’ like it. The thing I saw. Allright. I was coming back from Salt Lake City at night. I keep hearing this...I dunno, some kinda sound. I thought at first maybe it was an owl...they can make some weird whistle sounds, you know. Or maybe an elk. Didn't sound like either, but I didn't know what else it could be. ”

Saint watched Storm’s eye narrow. He said nothing, listening. Storm had been pretty irritated at the reception Luis got when he finally came in, Saint remembered. Nobody had really believed Luis. But Storm did. He wasn’t sure if the chill he felt was from the cold or from the creepy feeling that was crawling over his skin.

“I’m thinkin’ I swear I hear something along the trail, in the brushy sections, you know. Mercury was real bad nervous the whole time. I’m moving pretty fast, so I started gettin’ scared I had a cougar on my tail.”

“Happened to me.” Tommy breathed. “One started stalking me just out of Needle Rock. I was on War Bonnet. Thank goodness that horse can run.”

“It wasn’t no cougar.” Luis whispered unsteadily. “I come ‘round this stand of cottonwoods and here’s this man standin’ in the road in the moonlight, lookin’ at me. ‘Cept….” He took in another drag on his smoke and held it before releasing it slowly. His slender hand had begun to shake almost imperceptibly. “ ‘Cept the son of a bitch was ‘bout as tall as the top of the barn door and had shoulders like an ox yoke.” He took a shaking breath. “An’ this thing smells like death and brimstone, and the worst part? You want to know the worst part?”

Saint really didn’t want to know the worst part. He shifted in his seat, realizing he was gripping his book so hard a damp spot had started to form under his thumb. The bunkhouse had gone silent.

“It was completely covered with hair, and had a man’s face.”

Saint felt irresistible prickling creeping over his arms. He shivered. “Luis...” he said quietly, not knowing if he wanted Luis to shut up to spare him telling it or to spare himself from hearing it. On the other hand, Jesse was hearing it, too. Good. Serves him right, bringing this shit back up.

The wind screamed around the side of the cabin, causing the fire to sway violently in the fireplace and the shutters to rattle. They all jumped, and Jesse's face had gone pale.

Saint started tapping a line of tobacco into a square of paper, fumbled it into a roll, and stuck it between his lips. His hand was shaking. There’s no way that kid is lying...he’s gone white in the face and is sweating like a racehorse. He lit the quirly in the lamp and took in a deep pull of smoke, holding it for a moment before letting it out through his nose in steady blue streams. So, maybe he is lyin’... mean, it sure as hell wouldn’t be the first time...and maybe he ain’t…. but hell. As much as he might deserve it I sure don’t believe the boogieman came for the little bastard,…but he’s seen something.

“So my horse spooks and rears up, and I’m so spooked, too, I fell off and landed on my ass, draggin’ the mochila with me. Damn horse runs off and there I am sitting in the road with this…this thing…lookin’ down on me. Oh, did I say that was the worst part? That wasn’t the worst part. This is the worst part: the damn thing screams at me.”

He closed his eyes and took a desperate pull on his quirley, gooseflesh standing on his arms like coarse sandpaper. His voice cracked. “So I start in with Hail Mary full of grace, you know, an’ the thing goes crashin’ away towards the river. I ran all the way back to here. With the mochila, too. I didn’t stop once.” He pinched out the stub of his smoke and stuck it into his pocket, then crossed himself, muttering in Spanish. “An if you think I made this up, then I guess you won’t be worried about it next time you’re out around Ham's place.”

“You saw the Elder Brother?” Storm’s eyes were wide, staring at Luis.

“ got a name for the sunovabitch?” Saint blurted, incredulous.

“Yeah.” Storm nodded. “If that’s what he saw. Hey, Jesse...”

Hearing his name snapped Jesse out of his stunned, open mouthed stupor. He’d gone pale and Saint could tell he was thoroughly unnerved. “W..What?”

“I think it’s your turn to go outside and get some more firewood.” He tossed the canvas carrying sling at Jesse, smiling smugly. “Make sure you close the door behind you good and tight. Wouldn’t want get in.”

Jesse caught the sling and stood frozen in place, his mouth hanging open.

Storm's eyes were wicked, his voice a low, forboding whisper. "Watch out for the rugaru."

© 2010 Regina Shelley

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jenna Reid Wins Write Chapter Eleven Contest!

Congratulations to Jenna Reid, who won the Write Chapter Eleven contest with her entry, Crook.

I want to thank everyone who entered, I thought everyone did a fantastic job on their stories. I hope you all had as much fun writing them as I did reading them.

You all really do rock!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chapter 11 Entries!

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: I would really rather not put a post up here just now because it would sort of bury the contest entries. Since I just put them up I would rather not do that. I may post this week's post early next week to make up for it not going up on Friday. Sorry about that. Jim talked me into doing it that way, so blame him.

First of all, to everyone who entered, thank you! I had more fun reading these entries than should be legal. I hope the rest of you enjoy these awesome stories, and please vote on your favorite. You can only vote once, so read them over and give it some thought. The poll is up there in the upper right corner.

Thanks for writing, thanks for voting, and thanks everyone for reading! Have fun!

Crook by Jenna Reid

Luis' Plot by Ellie

In The Bag by Martin Ross

Chapter 11 by Martin Ross: In The Bag

Copperspots blamed himself for his current predicament.

It had been a cold morning, so he had decided to sun himself on a rather large rock. The stone had been much warmer than the sand and soothed his aching bones quite a bit. Unfortunately his midmorning slumber had also kept him from hearing the two legs until it was too late. Before he knew what was going on, Copperspots had found himself scooped up and thrown into a heavy burlap bag. This of course made him quite angry and he let the two legs know of his displeasure with much shaking of his rattle. However, despite his best efforts, the two legs ignored his threats.

"I'm getting old," Copperspots thought.

It was harder to catch mice than it used to be.

Harder to slither unseen in the rocks.

Harder to avoid the two legs when they went poking about in their clumsy bounce-stepping way.

Although, he could at least ease his mind with the thought that the two legs which had caught him this morning was much quieter than the ones that normally came clodding into his domain.

Yes. This two legs seemed to move with a more natural grace than the ones Copperspots had seen on previous occasions. Like this one was more at home with the great land.

The bag was dark and warm. Copperspots could tell the two legs was traveling by horse now, as the bag rocked at bit in a slow rhythm that two legs were incapable of. Copperspots could also smell the horse. A warm scent which reminded him of the summer he had spent hunting mice in a barn. Horses were not so bad, if one was careful to avoid their huge tramping feet. All in all, Copperspots had to admit, it wasn’t the most unpleasant place to be confined. In time, he found himself falling asleep.

He awoke with a thud.

The bag had been thrown loose onto the ground. Carefully, Copperspots slithered out of the burlap. Once out, he regretted leaving the bag instantly. He was now in some sort of shed. The foulest smelling place Copperspots had ever encountered. It pained him every time he flicked his tongue. This place was dark, with wood walls and the smallest hole of to let light in. Behind him he heard a surprising sound. It was a snake’s chuckle.

“Ssssoo! They got you too!”

Copperspots twisted around and saw old Redstrips, his longtime friend from the southern side. Beside Redstrips was several other snakes he knew: Longtail, Sundots, Quicktongue and the ever beautiful Roseback. She was an older snake like himself, who lived on the farthest side of the Great Rocks. They had met once when he was young and he had always regretted not choosing her as a mate. Since then, he had gone mateless all his life. From what he had heard, she had never chosen a mate either. Seeing Roseback gave Copperspots a bit of inspiration to pretend to be more confident than he actually felt.

“Yesssss, but it doesssssn’t ssssurprise me that he caught you firssst.” Copperspots chuckled back.

At this Roseback’s mouth curved into a shape that only a snake would recognize as a smile.

Copperspots could feel boldness rising in him. He wanted to show Roseback that he still had enough speed and courage to be a good mate for her. However, in this wretched smelling place, there wasn’t much opportunity to prove his mettle.

Just then the door swung open letting in a blinding blast of morning sun. All of the snakes moved back nervously as a large, oafish two-legs walked into the shed. He shut the door and proceeded to pull down his pants.

“Opportunity,” thought Copperspots “has presented itself.”

© 2010 Martin Ross

Contest Guidelines

Chapter 11 by Jenna Reid: Crook

Hellbender Hungerford had seen men beaten up before. Life on the stations of the Flinders Ranges, where he had spent the early part of his life, could be rough. Hundreds of miles had separated those homesteads from the civilization of Adelaide, so law and order was as thin on the ground as it ever was here in Green River. Storm’s condition wasn’t the worst he’d ever been witness to, but nevertheless he knew it was bad. Storm’s insistence on leaving immediately had lasted as far as the boardwalk, and he had slumped, trembling and ghost pale, on the bench outside the jail. Bender knew that even if he tied Storm on to his pinto mare and hitched her reins to Swagman he’d never manage to get Storm back to the station alone. Trying would only make Storm’s injuries worse, so they were stuck where they were, forced to be content with waiting for Lynch to arrive and hoping he had the sense to bring a wagon. At least the boardwalk was shaded. It could get hot here in this season, hot in a dusty way that reminded him of home.

For years the Flinders Ranges had enjoyed what was, for the very outer hem of the Australian Outback, a wealth of rainfall. The valleys were greened and comparably lush, and the sheep and cattle men had prospered. Plenty of work for a horse doctor, although he’d ended up tending sheep more often than not. Bender didn’t like sheep much, but sheep were the lifeblood of the region. Or so he’d once imagined. He had been wrong, of course. The lifeblood of the Ranges, of the whole continent, was water. Towns were blossoming like wildflowers around the largest stations…and then the drought had come. First the rain had ceased, and then the small creeks dried up, until even the largest rivers had vanished into dust, leaving nothing to show that they had ever existed save lines of skeletal gum trees pointing accusingly at the searing blue sky. All across the ranges homesteads stood lonely and abandoned, with neat rows of graves in the yard and a skeleton or two strewn somewhere, the remains of the last poor unfortunates to die with no one to see to their eternal rest but the dingoes and the wedge-tailed eagles. Many had waited too long for a miracle and paid for it with their lives when the horses that were their only hope for escape had succumbed to the punishing aridity.

Storm’s rasping voice jerked him out of his reverie. “You ever been beaten up, Bender?” he croaked. “A couple of times, yeah,” Bender replied, remembering. “What happened?” Storm was looking at him intently, probably trying to keep his mind off the pain. “Well, one time I was just in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with too much money in me pocket.” “And the other?” Bender smiled slightly. “The other…was about a girl.”

Storm’s split and swollen lips tugged sideways in a tiny smile. “Tell me about it,” he said. Bender grinned. “She was the prettiest little thing in the whole of South Australia, and I loved her with all me silly young heart. I wasn’t the only one with an eye on her, though. She was the daughter of the blacksmith, and he had an apprentice who wanted to be a son-in-law. He wanted to pound me into my boots, and he did. He was a great strapping bloke, and pounding out horseshoes all day builds bigger muscles than dosing sheep and trimming hooves.” He paused, and his eyes grew unfocused, looking back on that distant day. “I was a sorry sight, but I won, in the end. Me darling girl picked me.” He glanced again at Storm and was surprised to see a look of aching sorrow on his face. Bender had the strangest feeling that that expression had nothing to do with Storm’s battered ribs, but the next second the twisted, despairing look had faded, and Bender wasn’t sure he hadn’t imagined it.

In the silence that settled between them, Bender stood and stepped down into the dusty street beside Swagman. A thought had occurred to him, and he felt slightly ashamed for not thinking of it sooner. He pulled a flask of water from his saddlebag and brought it back up to Storm. Storm took a swig and spat, rinsing dust and blood out of his mouth. “Oh God,” he hissed, clutching at his left side, “I’ve felt better.” “Don’t you worry, mate, you’ll be apples once we get ya back to the station and Miss Lewis-Smythe’s tender care.” Storm groaned. “Fiona. She’s going to be furious. I hate upsetting her…” Storm’s voice trailed off, and Bender saw again that pained expression. He thought he understood it a little better this time, but he was distracted by the unhealthy flush rising in Storm’s pale face. Lynch had better get here soon. Damn Holt for a sheep-buggering fool. Storm had slumped back again, eyes closed and head resting against the rough wooden wall behind him. Bender looked away up the street, in the direction of the Green River Station, waiting.

“What happened to her?” The question was barely more than a whispering scrape of sound. “What’s that, mate?” Storm cleared his throat. “What happened to your girl? Where is she?” Though clearer, his voice was barely louder and he hadn’t opened his eyes. Bender had the sense that he was barely clinging to consciousness. “She died.” Storm’s brow creased faintly. “I’m sorry,” he breathed. “Nah, mate, it was a long time ago.” Years and half a world ago, and his heart was still as sore as the day he’d buried her under a still-green gum tree next to their small son. He had left the Ranges the next day, along with the few families who had remained, down to the coast and Adelaide. Bender had fled farther than most, across the wide Pacific, running from that pair of graves as much as the terrible drought. He was profoundly grateful when the jingling rattle of a team and wagon interrupted his thoughts. He gazed up the street again, squinting against the intense afternoon light, and relaxed when he recognized the slouched figure on the seat.

“Come on mate, up you get,” he said, carefully hoisting the injured man to his feet and supporting him, “Saint Peter’s here for you.”

© 2010  Jenna Reid

Contest Guidlines

Chapter 11 by Ellie: Luis’ Plot

“Merda!” Saint gasped standing up as he and Wash sat in the barn.

“What lad?” Wash asked blinking in surprise.

“Merda! Look!” Saint growled pointing. “Luis… Only he would do this…” he sighed rubbing his forehead.

“What Sa... Jaysus! What the Hell?” Wash exclaimed jumping up and standing next to Saint as he saw what Saint pointed to. “Luis!” he growled in agreement.

“Why in Hell are these things in here?” Saint asked Wash slowly backing up.

“I have no idea lad, but why even bring them in here?” Wash responded backing up with Saint.

“I am going to kill that little bas…” but before Saint could finish his sentence he jumped back a bit.

“Saint, we can’t just leave them here lad, we have to get them out or something,” Wash suddenly jumped back a bit too.

“Merda, Hell no!” Saint snapped at Wash quickly. Wash slowly turned around and looked up at Saint with fear.

"We're surrounded lad..." Wash whispered silently. Saint looked around to and growled.

"Merda, merda, merda! How many of these basterds are there?" Saint wondered allowed.

"How did the lad get them all? What the Hell is he planning on doing with these things?" Wash responded while jumping towards Saint. "We can't leave these things here, it would be bad for the horses and what would Bender do if he found out we did nothing?" Wash added.

"Wash, you are absolutely right, but I need a cup of coffee," Saint patted Wash on the shoulder yawning actually tired and then ran a hand through his hair pulling out a piece of hay.

"Saint, don't you dare use that excuse!" Wash eyed at Saint extremely annoyed.

"Good luck!" Saint smiled at Wash and then slowly made his way to the barn doors.

"Saint, Saint, please don't leave me!" Wash pleaded helplessly.

"Good luck Wash, by the way it was your idea," Saint added pushing the doors open his back to them.

"Saint! If one of these things feckn' bite me, I will kill you!" Wash yelled after him with at that a stick flew in the air hitting Saint's head. Saint left the doors open for Wash and walked back to the station. Walking to the door to the kitchen a sweet sent washed over him. The girls must be cooking, he thought absently. I’ll yell at Luis later, or if Wash is bitten, Sorry to leave you to the rattlers Wash.

© 2010 Ellie

Contest Guidelines

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tinder Kit

I just came back from Pennsic War in western Pennsylvania this past Sunday. Pennsic War is the Society for Creative Anachronism's biggest event of the year. I was there for a week.

It was the hottest Pennsic anyone can remember. It's a sad state of affairs when you go to western PA and it's actually hotter there than it is is South Carolina. I felt pretty damn cheated.

Anyways, although the historical focus of the event is pre-Renaissance, there are all kind of merchants at this thing, and a bit of crossover in time periods with the buckskinners and Civil War folks. So I went to Smoke and Fire, one of the sutlers there, and bought a tinder kit. This is how people used to start fires before Bic lighters and strike-anywhere matches were invented. The choice of matches at the time were either extremely stinky or hideously dangerous. So if you could manage to get a light going without one, good for you.

Our tinder kit was one of a couple ways to go about getting a fire started. You see here, from left to right, a tin of char cloth, a striking steel, a tin of jute fiber, and the directions, which incidentally proved to be fairly useless. I say this because in the following hour or so after this picture was taken, about a dozen people (who are, I should mention, all from an SCA household known for accidentally setting themselves, each other, and inanimate objects on fire) tried and failed to start a fire with this thing. The flint is not pictured because someone was holding it and I didn't realize it wasn't in the shot at the time.

Here is Robin taking a turn at it. She's got the flint and steel in her hands. The object is to strike the flint with the steel so that sparks land on the charcloth (which is cotton fabric burnt in an anaerobic environment, such as a sealed tin). The spark is then folded into the jute tinder and blown on till it combusts. The directions say this can be done in ten seconds or so.

You know what? My entire ass.

See the cut on my knuckle there? We all had a variation of that same cut on our hands when we were through. Not only do we totally suck at starting fires when we mean to, but we also evidently lack the ability to learn from other people's mistakes. So like lemmings, each and every one of us messed around with this thing till we got hurt.

But hey, now we know firsthand why flint made such a good thing to kill things with.

Pam did not get a cut on her knuckle. She got one on her thumb.
Her husband David there in the green tunic cut his knuckles the way I did.

Saint most likely does not use one of these to light his smokes. Although if he did, his asthma would probably clear up. No, he probably uses a tinder tube, and I wish I had seen one of those while I was up at the sutler. 
One of the guys insisted that since the humidity was hovering around eighty percent, and the air was so thick we were all slowly suffocating trying to breathe it, and because our camp is in an area of Pennsic known as "The Swamp", it was too damp and wet to make a fire this way. Yeah, dude. It must've been that. Otherwise, we would have totally started a bonfire. Probably within ten seconds, too. No doubt. No way it was our own pitiful incompetence.

Here's Dave in the yellow tunic (yeah, we have two Davids.) failing while Becky and Manuel look on. Actually, Manuel was the only person in camp that evening that who didn't give this a shot. He probably noticed everyone else had bloody knuckles and took the hint. I should mention that Manuel is a pretty intelligent guy.

Becky got the best showers of sparks with the flint and steel. Plenty of sparks were falling onto the charcloth and tinder, but not a one of them caught long enough to do anything with. They just kept bouncing right off and going out.

 Gwen had a go at it, too. Her brother Drake is pretty amused by the whole thing, but he didn't save us all from ice and darkness, either.

Well, looking on the bright side, who knew a fifteen dollar bag of burnt rags, dried plant fiber, and a rock would provide a whole crowd of mostly sober people so much entertainment? Hell, I shoulda picked one of these suckers up for our last party.

Good thing one of the women in our group is a nurse. She quite literally had a suitcase full of bandaids in her tent.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Butter Churn

This is a stoneware butter churn jar. My parents used to keep it on the the fireplace hearth and use it to store fatwood. I have never seen the lid to it, nor the dasher (the part used to churn butter), most likely because they were probably made of wood and eventually rotted away. The lid would have been a circular disc with a hole in it, and the dasher would have been a stick like a broom handle with an "x" shaped crosspiece attached to the business end.

I have no idea how old this thing is...about all I can say is old. It was an antique the first time I ever saw it, and the first time I ever saw it, I was a toddler.

I ain't gonna say how old I am, but suffice it to say that the birthday cake presented to me yesterday did not have any candles on it due to fire code regulations. Lets just say I was a toddler a long ass time ago and leave it at that.

Anyways, see that "2" stamped on there? I am guessing that means it holds two gallons.

I noticed  that this churn has a perfectly round hollow in the bottom of it. I cleaned it up and looked at it closely and realized that the hollow had no glaze in it, while the rest of the churn did.  (it is shiny in the picture down below because it got wet when I washed it out and there is water in the hole) I am thinking that hollow was worn down by whatever was holding the crosspiece on the dasher. It does not look like it was part of the deliberate design of the jar, so I am thinking it was worn there by years of use.

The way this thing worked was you simply dumped some cold cream in there, dropped in the dasher, fitted the lid, and then sat down for a long session of whipping the dasher around in the cream. That's it. You just froth the cream around and it will turn into whipped cream, getting harder and harder to churn. The whipped cream will get stiffer and stiffer and then all of a sudden it will start liquefying again and start sloshing around as the milkfat starts separating from the whey. Keep going and what you will have is clots of butter sticking to the crock and the dasher and floating in the remaining buttermilk.

There is no mystery here. You can do this, as I do, in the kitchen with a bread machine (should have a butter function or simply a knead function. Either should work.). You can use a mixer (I tried using a blender once, results not awesome with that.). My dad used to make butter using an old mason jar. Just put the cream in and shake till it throws the milkfat.

Then you pour strain out the buttermilk and rinse the butter in cold water. Rinse well, as the remaining buttermilk can make it go rancid more quickly. Blot dry and maybe mix it up with a little salt, if you like salted butter.

You can then press the butter into a mold (I even have a pretty stamp to put on mine) or just scoop it into a bowl.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


So, yeah. The pacing of this thing.

Here is the problem: some people read this thing all at once. They sit down, and rip through it all at once. And some people read it weekly, in thousand word (more or less) bites.

It seems like the time from the start of the story has been forever, but really, it hasn't. Only a couple weeks have passed, really. Granted, they are busy weeks, but there you go.

So I am constantly torn between feeling like time is passing too quickly to feeling like it is dragging.

Not a problem you have with a normal, printed type book. Nor something I foresaw when I started this thing.

Anyways, I would love some of you to chime in with your thoughts on this since you are the ones reading it. Stories, after all, are as much about how they are interpreted as how they are told.

In other news, the Zuda thing. Kaput. No Five Dollar Mail comic, at least at this time. Evidently, DC Comics pulled the rug out from under the thing, leaving some of the creative teams involved high and dry. I am frankly sick and horribly disappointed about this development. However, as sick as I am over it, I can't even begin to imagine how bad the creative teams that have actual submissions in the works over there feel. To have all that work and money invested in a project and then have it all evaporate like must really, really suck.

The good news is that it looks like we will be doing an illustrated stand alone short story about a particular coach run involving Saint and Wash, so I will keep you posted on that. The story is the same one we were going to use for the Zuda competition, and is written by myself and guest poster Evelyn. It will be illustrated by the wonderful Diego.

And, on a completely different and off topic note, for those of you who will be at a certain very large campground in western Pennsylvania later this summer, I will be there for War Week and if you find yourself there too, I would love to meet you.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Write Chapter 11 Contest!

It has come to my attention that I am not very good at numbering my chapters. In fact, I suck at it.

So much so that I am sure most of you know by now that there is no Chapter 11.

A friend suggested I write the scene where Luis booby traps the crapper over at the Yarl's place, but I think we've come up with something a little less predictable: have one of you talented and creative readers write it. And it does not have to be the story of Luis and the outhouse.

I am currently in the process of putting together a Cafe Press storefront. As of now, the prize will be a choice of items from the merchandise collection. I am at the moment limited in what I can put up there for sale, but I am NOT so limited in what I can create on the fly and just order myself. (they only let you make one of each item, otherwise there would be a mug with each character on it, for instance.) So if you would like an item with a picture you don't see available, contact me and I can probably make you up a custom piece.


1. It does not have to be the scene with the outhouse unless you want it to be. It can be anything taking place before or during chapter twelve.

2. It does not have to be any of the established characters here, but it can be.

3. It must take place at any location between Salt Lake House and Three Crossings (Green River Station being between those).

4. It can be Alternate Universe, if you like, or not. Be as creative as you like.

5. Please keep it "PG 13" enough that I can post it on this site without an adult content warning. I have no problem with adult content stories, or even adult fanfic about my characters, but I do not wish to have to go to a mature content label for this site. So keep that in mind if you want to see it posted here.

6. It should only be one chapter long (it is, after all, the lost Chapter 11.). However, there is no rule on how long or short that chapter has to be.

The winner will be reader's choice. I will put up a poll, post the stories here, and we can all vote.

I have decided to let it run until September 14. I may be talked into extending it, but no promises. This is to accomodate the various vacations we all seem to take over the late summer season.

Have fun and good luck!

Send submissions to paintedwheel(at)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Coffee Grinder

 This old coffee grinder has been sitting around my mom's house for literally my entire life. I ain't gonna say how long that is, but suffice it to say, long enough. I have no idea how old it is, but after a small amount of research, I think it is safe to say it was probably made sometime during the 1800's, and may even predate that.

It worked pretty much like the ones nowdays do, only instead of pushing a button and activating a motor driven steel blade, you just turned a crank. Ironically, I do not remember ever actually seeing this one in action. Probably should have demonstrated it, but the top is coming loose and I don't want to damage it further.

You just put the beans into the that little bowl on top, turn the crank, and the ground coffee sifts down into the drawer below. The drawer comes completely out, allowing Wash to dump the grounds directly into the coffee pot instead of into the percolator basket, where they belong.

I actually did clean it up a bit, that white haze is not dust. I think the wax finish is so old it now looks white and chalky. Probably need to hit it with a little lemon oil.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Aladdin Stove

Here it is: the contraption the girls use to keep the food hot in the kitchen. It is called an "Aladdin Stove" and also the "Atkinson Cooker." It has been in my family longer than I have. I actually used to think it was for just keeping food hot, but then I did a little research on it and discovered that you could actually cook with the thing. It is basically a slow cooker. You put hot stones inside it, put your pots on top of them, pack some insulation in there, and several hours later you got some hot, cooked food coming out of here. When you consider how low tech this thing is, that's pretty awesome.

I'll be perfectly honest here...I do not know exactly when the thing was invented and patented. So it might be period to the story or not, I can't exactly say. Usually, I am pretty religious about trying to make sure everything is period for the time, but c'mon, look at the thing. They woulda used one if they woulda had one. Plus, the natives cooked by dropping hot stones into a skin bag with their food in it, I don't think this thing is too much of a stretch. Humor me.

My mom has the stones around the house somewhere, I just couldn't find them. They look like flat stone discs the width of large serving plates and a couple inches thick, made of what looks like some fine-grained gray soapstone. If I can find them, I will post them.

I left the stuff on it to give you a sense of scale. Also, I didn't want to mess around with my mom's tv.

Here in this second picture, you can see a little vent hole in the top of the middle panel. The way I understand it, this hole allowed food to brown better. Slow cooking does not brown food, and evidently this stove is no different. However, someone along the way go the idea that letting out a little steam would help brown the food. There is supposed to be a lid for the vent that is missing here and that I have never seen.

Also, you can see the latches that hold the lid down. They give a little snap when you open and close them, putting pressure on the lids to hold them down tightly.

In this third picture, you can see what my mom uses the stove for these days. She stores linens in it, which is a great way to utilize a large, clunky antique rather than letting it moulder in some storage building somewhere, with dirt daubers making nests all over it.

Anyways, you can see the tin lining still in the lid. It is missing out of the rest of the stove for some reason, and I personally have never seen this thing with the full lining in it. I am not sure of why the lids have those large, circular protrusions on them. I am gonna guess that maybe they fit down snugly on top of the pots when they were inside. That one there in the picture you can see has a piercing where the vent is. The other two to either side are not vented like this.

Here the thing is at least a hundred or more years after it was made and still solid enough to have a second life as a sturdy trunk and tv stand (I find that ironic...this thing being used to hold up a flat screen tv. I bet it could tell some tales.) I challenge you to find a piece of modern anything built this well. Put it this way...I would not want to drop it on my toe.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Write Chapter 11 Contest In The Works

It has come to my attention that I am not very good at numbering my chapters. In fact, I suck at it.

So much so that I am sure most of you know by now that there is no Chapter 11.

A friend suggested I write the scene where Luis booby traps the crapper over at the Yarl's place, but I think we've come up with something a little less predictable: have one of you talented and creative readers write it.

The contest will start when I think of a suitable prize. I have a few ideas, but if you have any, I would love to hear them.

Here is the criteria Jim and I came up with. Again, suggestions welcome:

1. It does not have to be the scene with the outhouse unless you want it to be. It can be anything taking place before or during chapter twelve.

2. It does not have to be any of the established characters here, but it can be.

3. It must take place at any location between Salt Lake House and Three Crossings (Green River Station being between those).

4. It can be Alternate Universe, if you like, or not. Be as creative as you like.

5. Please keep it "PG 13" enough that I can post it on this site without an adult content warning. I have no problem with adult content stories, or even adult fanfic about my characters, but I do not wish to have to go to a mature content label for this site. So keep that in mind if you want to see it posted here.

6. It should only be one chapter long (it is, after all, the lost Chapter 11.). However, there is no rule on how long or short that chapter has to be.

The winner will be reader's choice. I will put up a poll and we can all vote.

Contest has not started yet, so please don't send anything in quite yet. Let me iron out the details first. But at least you can be thinking about it, if you are interested in participating.

See you Friday (or, for those of you who have figured out I usually post last Thursday sometime so it will be up bright and early on Friday, see you in the wee hours Thursday night.)!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hallelujah! : Guest Post by Evelyn

Bullets pounded the dirt, sending up spits of dusty soil into the air. The atmosphere hummed around the two dark forms of men as lead screamed like hornets. The ground was devoid of any protection aside from shrubs, the one exception being the hulking black form of a tipped over stage coach.

The two men huddled against the wooden paneling of the stagecoach’s side, taking advantage of where they had almost none. Gunshots rebounded off invisible canyon walls, creating an acoustics nightmare for any man trying to pinpoint the sound of an enemy. Rifles and revolvers fired into the darkness, blindly seeking out their quarry. The heavy scent of gun smoke intoxicated the dense air, choking the night. After a few quiet seconds, the gunshots faded into an uneasy silence. The taller of the two men got to his knees, moving quickly and quietly.

"Saint, what the hell do ye’ think you’re doing?" The second man hissed, jerking down on his colleague’s shoulder.

"Saving our asses. I want to know who the hell just tried to raid us. Shut up for a moment," Saint muttered back, taking advantage of the moment to reload his revolver.

"Saint..." The other man warned, keeping his hand on his peer’s shoulder.

"Just... watch my back, alright Wash? Just stay put for once." Wash grimaced but nodded, his eyebrows furrowing.

"Not once have I ever had a problem holdin’ still... it’s ye I’m worried about."

Saint didn’t wait for any more confirmation, nor did he pause to make a retort. He slunk into the blackness, crouching down low. He was well aware he was leaving behind the only bit of protection offered in this open expanse of dirt and sand, and he could already feel himself regretting it. His luck held- no further gunshots or cries of alarm rebounded when he reached the rocky walls of the canyon.

The day had started well enough. He’d woken up the way he always did, suffered through a cup of his trail mate’s coffee, and harnessed the horses before the sun had risen. Now the horses where dead or had run, his cargo had been raided, and it sounded as if they were outnumbered almost five to one by the sounds of their guns. Washington Monahan might’ve been a good shot, but his friend was nowhere near close enough to help him now, assuming he could still find him. He traveled silently for a few minutes, swearing occasionally as he tripped on some unseen features on the ground.

Saint darted along the wall of rock, letting it guide him until he found what he was looking for. He followed the curve of the sheetrock until it turned sharply, surprising him until he stumbled out... directly into open territory, a little too close to his quarry for his comfort. The soft glow of a fire sent long shadows dancing on the sheet of rock, causing Saint to swear and lower himself to the ground. The exposed backs of two blue-coated men sat not thirty feet away, murmuring silently. Saint froze. If one of the men thought so much as to just glance behind, it would all be over.

"Just leave them there... they won’t do much good anyway. We got the spoils, didn’ we? They should last us a while. ‘Sides, we got supplies, let’s just get out of here. If we can’t find ‘em, there’s no point wasting time. I just wanna get back to the rest of the camp before we’re declared deserters. I ain’t no deserter, and I sure as hell don’t wanna die as one," The first man murmured, the wind carrying his words to a frozen Saint.

The second man shook his head, glowering at his colleague. He bent his head, returning to cleaning something in his lap. Fire reflected off metal, briefly illuminating an army issued Springfield rifle for a second before it faded into the shadows again. Saint grimaced again, and began a very careful and entirely too slow journey backwards, keeping his exposed back to the rock. A horse whickered, causing Saint’s black head of curls to snap upwards in alarm.

It was then he noticed what was beyond the fire. It hadn’t been just the two men- a total of perhaps ten lay sprawled around the clearing, in various phases of contentment, all dressed in a union blue. The closest to Saint was drinking something that looked suspiciously like it had come from the stagecoach’s shipment of liquor- another was busy digging through a waterproof pouch of what had contained military documents. Saint stiffened and walked quicker now, concentrating less on silence and more on making it back to his trail partner alive. He breathed a sigh of relief when he cleared the corner.

His journey back seemed to take twice as long as it had to arrive, and he found himself worrying. The night was too silent, too still. Dawn was approaching, but still no living thing moved. The hulking shadow of the stagecoach loomed ahead now, sending a worried Saint into a trot.

"Wash?" He called hoarsely, suddenly afraid. It had been stupid to leave his colleague behind, he saw now. The move had left both of them unprotected and weak.

"Right here, where ye’ ditched me," came the none too-happy sounding reply. Saint breathed a sigh of relief and joined his trail mate in the shadow of the stagecoach.

"Sorry about that."

"It’s nothin’," He murmured gruffly, rubbing the back of his ragged blond head. "Just don’t be doin’ it again. What’d ye find?"

"A couple of Yankees swindling away their paycheck," Saint growled. "Last I saw they were divvying up the liquor. Two of ‘em were arguing about coming back and erasing the evidence- probably burning the stagecoach and finishing us off. They got the military documents though- what the hell are we gonna do about that?"

"They are the military," Wash grimaced. "Let ‘em keep ‘em. Were they deserters?" Saint shook his head. "How many?"

"Ten, maybe more. I wasn’t looking too closely." Wash swore. "Should we wait them out?"

"We can’t do that anymore lad, not if they’re intent on leaving no trace."

"We can’t fight either! We’re outnumbered five to one!" Saint argued, disbelieving.

"Got any better ideas?" Wash asked grimly, raising one sand-colored thick eyebrow.

"Besides running?"

"I ain’t runnin’."

"Of course you’re not," Saint groaned, massaging his temples as he leaned back against the wooden boards. Wash frowned as he stared out onto the lightening canyon. The sun was the barest slit over the edge of the world, letting long rays spill across the land. The rocky walls around them were already dropping deep shadows onto the reddish-brown ground.

"..Why are we still doing this Wash?" Saint broke the silence, his brow furrowed. "There’s a war out there. We won’t have a job much longer."

"I don’t know about ye, but I’m having enough time trying to stay alive here, let alone in a war. We’ll just have to wait this one out."

"The war? You want to wait the war out?" Saint asked, startled enough to move his back from the wooden paneling of the stagecoach.

"Why sure," Wash shrugged, pulling a smoke out of his jacket pocket. "It should burn itself out quick enough, shouldn’t it? Six months, I betcha," He said wisely. "It’ll glow a little, shoot off sparks, and the whole thing’ll be done and over with. Sooner or later people will realize it’s pointless to fight among ourselves and we’ll live like we always have. The south’ll have their farms ‘n the north’ll get their factories. For now, our job is to wait."

"For our enemies or the war?" Saint asked, grimacing.

"Both," Wash sighed, laying his gun down on the ground beside him.

"So we’re supposed to wait for them to come to us?" Saint frowned again, his jaw pulled tight. The Italian didn’t like the idea of waiting for the enemy to come to them any more than his trail mate did. It was like painstakingly waiting for a judge to announce the verdict.

"Did ye’ wanna go meet ‘em?" Came the sarcastic reply.

"Merda Wash, I don’t want to just wait around here until they decide to come back and-" Click.

The two men froze as a cold barrel kissed the back of Saint’s tanned neck.

"Turn around." Saint didn’t hesitate in obeying. Holding his empty hands level with his head, he turned slowly, consciously aware of the sweat beading on his forehead. Three men stood behind them, the tallest being the one with the gun on Saint. Steel gray eyes narrowed behind a pair of glasses, and tight lips folded into a disgusted grimace. Dusty blond hair lay like a mop upon his head, framing a young- far too young- face that couldn’t have been older than sixteen.

"What’s a lad like yourself doin’ with that thing?" Wash croaked before he could hold his tongue. He recoiled as a leather boot collided with his chin, knocking the older man to the dirty ground. Blood welled up from the exposed skin.

"Shuttup!" The boy snarled, spitting on the Irishman. "Goddamn cat-licks and Dagos overrunning this place. America used to be American, immigrants," The youth sneered, prodding Wash with the toe of his boot. Saint hissed, rage coloring his olive-toned features.

"Bastardo, come hai alcun diritto di-"

"Saint!" Wash barked, wincing as one of the boy’s followers delivered a powerful backhand to Saint’s cheekbone. Saint shook his head, struggling to control his hands as not to return the favor. He was vaguely aware of the three men dressed in union blue conversing, arguing over their fate. Wash sat silently, his blue eyes worried under his brow.

"Do we take ‘em back or do we just kill ‘em here?"

"Daniel just said we needed to eliminate anything left over."

"So we kill ‘em right here?"

"What’s the matter- no stomach for blood? We’re in goddamn war, boy."

"They weren’t doin’ anything. They’re just doing their job," The smallest of the boys argued, biting his lip.

"They’re sodbusters, kid. No one’ll give a damn anyway. They’re not even citizens. The Irish one probably just came just came to sober up, and the Italian’s just here to actually be worth something." The youth’s last words were the last words he would ever speak. Tension and rage had been building up in the Italian since he’d first laid eyes on the swarthy youths. And the odds of two and three where highly preferable than to two and thirteen.

Before Wash could warn him otherwise, Saint’s fist was swinging toward the boy’s face. The boy’s spectacles cracked from acting as a barrier, blood smearing off of Saint’s knuckles, but the damage had been done. The boy stumbled backward, crying out as another blow from Saint barreled into his diaphragm, effectively knocking him out. Wash lunged for his abandoned colt, taking advantage of the moment of shock Saint had provided to recover Saint’s revolver as well. The Irishman’s foot lashed out, tangling into the second boy’s legs until the two crashed to the ground, leaving the smallest boy to Saint.

The shortest youth swore, and cocked his own revolver on Saint’s chest. He never had the chance, having forgotten about Wash. The sound of two revolvers’ bullets tearing through the still canyon sent chills up and down Saint’s spine as he watched the form of the boy crumple to the ground in front of them.

Wash dusted himself off as he clambered to his feet stiffly, disengaging himself from his own unconscious opponent. Saint stood still, unable to tear his eyes away from the smallest boy, his boyish face shocked, a jarring contradiction to the crimson rapidly spreading across the blue cloth.

"Bari?" Wash asked gently, placing a comforting hand on his frozen friend’s shoulder.

"...They were just boys," Saint murmured, his shoulders limp. Wash wordlessly shook his head, his weary eyes saying a thousand words.

"Saint, we have te’ go. We have te’ go now." Saint obeyed numbly, recollecting his revolver from Wash and following his trail mate sluggishly, his mind still replaying the boy’s crumpling form.

They jogged in silence along the borders of the canyon shadows’, saying nothing even as cries and angry yells echoed from far behind. They traveled until they left the rocky expanses for a secluded and craggy clearing, slightly sheltered by a lone, weathered tree. Wash sighed and dropped his lanky body to the ground, looking older than Saint had ever seen him. Saint himself silently knelt down, working on building a fire out of a few dry bits of debris.

"Wash, listen..."

"It couldn’ be helped, Saint. They were gonna kill us any other way."

"I know, it’s just... they were so young. I hope you’re right and this thing does burn itself out. His face as he died..." Saint trailed off, his face abnormally pale. "I never should’ve started that fight. I should’ve just waited to see how it would play out. And he’s not the first man I’ve killed- why should I feel so bad?"

"He was justa’ lad, I... well...." Wash’s voice was strangely muffled, alarming Saint enough to cause him to glance at his collapsed trail mate. The man was almost sleeping already. He started to say something else, but trailed off, incoherent beyond an exhausted murmur.

"Wash, you’re sleeping on your guns."

"Mmm... okay..." Blue eyes fluttered shut as a yawn took over his sleazy grin.

"Christ, Wash, no, not okay," Saint snorted. There was no response from his trail mate. Bending down, he found the level headed gunman was already asleep.

With a sigh, the Italian pulled off his dusty buckskin and draped it over his sleeping companion. Standing up again, Saint couldn’t help but smile. Wash mumbled something incoherent again, and curled around until his slight body was just another lump in the night. If the fire had not been burning, Saint could have sworn his friend was just a rock. A snoring rock, but still a rock.

Saint couldn’t help but chuckle as he sat down beside his Irish friend, focusing only at the moment on the humor of the situation and the problems at hand. It felt good to laugh, like a weight had just been lifted off his broad shoulders. He chuckled again, the movement turning into a deep laugh. Whether from hysterics or from actual amusement, Saint laughed.

The war was coming, of that there wasn’t a doubt- but they were alive, unscathed and unharmed, and they would both be coming home to a warm meal and a family. He would see Lily again, and he would hold nothing back. He’d seen the dangers and he’s seen the bright side, and know there was nothing left to do but tell her just how he loved her. Life was good. He would face this war side by side of his family and friends, and they would live. Together.

© 2010 by Evelyn and the Five Dollar Mail

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jesse by Diego Candia

Once again, Diego comes through with another awesome pic. I'm doing the coloring now, since Jim got me a Bamboo tablet for Christmas. So the sketch is by Diego, the colors are by me with help from Diego, and the graphic is by me.

Jim took one look at this pic and said "Looks like Eric." Eric is a guy who used to hang out with us in the bad old Metal days of the eighties. He was so damn good looking it was fun to watch people watch him when we were all out somewhere.

Anyways, I love the expression on Jesse's face here. I imagine he wore the exact same expression on his face when he uttered the line quoted here. It's amazing to me how well Diego manages to capture these characters. Seriously, guy, mind blown. Thank you so much.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Guest Post by Ellie: Dancer, Part Five

Here is another guest post by Ellie. I have to say, I am having quite a bit of fun reading these guest posts.

You guys rock. Thanks.

Bender was stunned he had never seen this before. What was this all about? He walked out of the young rider's room after the rattler had tried to take a bite out of him. He walked down the stairs towards the rest of the boys. He saw Saint with the "illegal" whiskey bottle and grabbed it from him and started to drink from it.

"What the.." Saint demanded as Bender drank from the bottle. "Never mind... is the boy going to make it?" Saint asked chancing the subject.

"I thought I had seen it all..." Bender muttered not paying attention to the group looking at him. He took a long swig of the whiskey and muttered curses under his breath.

"Seen what?" Luis asked. "Bender? BENDER!" Louis snapped. Fiona walked over and snatched the bottle from Bender before he could take another swig and slapped him across the head.

"Mr. Bender!" Fiona snapped. Bender looked up and sighed.

"Nothing, an he's going to make it," he answered. The group nodded and looked back to the distant Bender.

"So who was that?" Storm asked.

"Dancer," Bender answered back looking at the whiskey bottle in Fiona's hand. "Miss please could I have that back?" he asked. Fiona slapped him again.

"No!" she almost yelled. "So who is Dancer?" she added. Bender thought for a moment.

"New rider took Luis's run as a test got back in a good time too," Bender explained. Luis growled.

"So he took my run..." he muttered under his breath.

"Anyways Dancer came and got a job he was convincing too he is an orphan, he doesn't cuss he told me to use heck," Bender told them. "He threatened to wash my mouth out with soap," he added. The group seemed to laugh and he shoot them a look. "And, and... well nevermind," he stood up.

"Wait that little shimp threatened to wash your mouth," Saint asked a smirk crossed his face.

"Whatever anyways watch what you say to the runt," Bender muttered.

"I heard that..." came Dancers weak voice. Bender looked at Dancer.

"You idiot!" Bender yelled. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" Bender snapped.

"Watch your language!" Dancee coughed. Saint laughed.

"I like the runt," Saint smiled. "You tell him runt," Saint added. Dancer growled and stumbled forward Bender growled and walked up to Dancer.

"Well now that you met the idiot I am taking him back to the room and if you so much as visit him until he is fully better I will see to it his pet rattler takes a good chunk from the place that makes you a man," Bender growled.

© 2009 Ellie S. and The Five Dollar Mail

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Guest Post by Evelyn: School Project, A+

This is a school project that our reader and guest writer Evelyn did. She made an A+ on it. I enjoyed reading it so much I asked her if I could post it here. Thanks so much for sharing this, Evelyn, and congrats on your good grade!


“Wanted, young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week.” Charles Winston read, frowning slightly. “Huh. I’ll be. $25 a week?” A smile crept across his features, pulling chapped lips into a weary grin.

“A man can get rich that way,” Winston chuckled, talking to no one in particular. He was still young, probably no older than nineteen. Blond hair rested over dark eyes, denying any attempt to be tamed by a brush. He rubbed his chin, feeling the roughness of unkept stubble. He sighed, dropping his hand. “I could do with a little extra money...” Winston glanced back at the poster tacked on the station door, debating with himself.

“Awww, what the hell,” Winston groaned, pushing open the pony express station’s door. Dust swirled as the door swung open, cloaking his boots and lower pant legs in a dusky brown film. A tall, dark haired man looked up as Winston stepped inside, his head bent over a cup of coffee.

“I’m here for employment. You’re hiring?” Winston smiled. The man nodded, took a long sip, and set down his now-empty cup on a wooden table with a sigh. He leant back on a cupboard, his arms crossed over his chest with an easy grin.

“Most people are- we don’t get a lot of business. Five dollars is a lot to pay for a scrap of a letter.” the man chuckled. “I’m Buck Jenson, one of the riders here. And you are?” Buck offered his hand to shake, appraising Winston with an inquisitive look.

“Charles Winston,” Winston smiled, taking his hand. His hand was callused- a working man’s hand, and a worker who worked hard.

“Charles. Or do you prefer something else?”

“Call me Winston- Charles just reminds me of more than I need to remember,” Winston smiled sheepishly, running a hand through his wayward strands of hair.

“Winston then,” Buck smiled. “I know that look. As long as you’re not running from the law, you’re good and I won’t ask anything more. Well, make yourself at home. Mr. Howell’s off to God knows where, but he’s bound to be back soon. I’m not the one hiring- he is.”

Winston nodded, looking around the room. A series of steps led up from the kitchen, probably leading up to a bunking room. From a window, Winston could see a stable and a beaten path leading off, presumably the trail to be taken out during a mail run.

“Here- coffee?” Buck asked, raising the half-empty pot.

“Yeah, thanks,” Winston nodded, taking a cup. The dark liquid swirled, forming abstract designs among the grounds. He took a tentative sip, noting either an obvious preference for coffee grounds or a solid lack of taste buds.

“Who else..?” Winston began.

“Works here?” Buck grinned, finishing his sentence. “Kelley Hoffman, he’s out on a run, Chad Wilson, and Sam McKay. If you join, there’ll be five of us. ‘Cept for Mr. Howell, but then, he doesn’t really count-”

“Oh I don’t, do I?” Came a voice from the doorway. A brisk, pale man stood at the door, taking in Winston with piercing blue eyes. He could have been a rider, though his clothes were well cut and clean. Buck grinned wolfishly and lowered his head, avoiding the stationmaster’s direct gaze.

“Winston, you said, was it?” Mr. Howell, asked watching Winston with an uncomfortably sharp gaze.

“Yessir,” Winston shifted his weight, but didn’t break the man’s look. Howell just looked at him for a few more moments, before sighing and turning around to pull open a drawer on a close cabinet. He withdrew a sheet of paper and a pen, putting the paper on a desk and tapping it. “Can you read? You don’t have to read well, just enough to get around.”

“Yessir, well enough to get the idea,” Winston replied.

“Well,” Howell sighed. “Do you hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during your engagement, and while you are an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, you will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that you will drink no intoxicating liquors, that you will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect you will conduct yourself honestly, be faithful to your duties, and so direct all your acts as to win the confidence of your employers, so help you God?” He said this all in two breaths. Winston nodded, raising his right hand.

“I do,” he said. Howell surveyed Winston again, nodded once, and slapped an aged and beaten bible on the desk in front of him.

“You’re hired then. You’re issued one Navy Colt- don’t use it unless you need to. You’ve got two cylinders in case of an emergency. Of course, if you have your own revolver you can use that too, but keep it light. Your pony will be your main defense against an attack. If your pony dies or is wounded, you carry the mochila -mail pouch- and walk to the nearest station. Got that?” Winston nodded again. Howell sighed, and walked back towards the doorway.

“Your first ride is tomorrow, to Horse Creek. If you do your job well, I can trust you to carry military documents. The boys will keep an eye on you if you need help, but you’re likely to catch on fast.” Buck grinned like a jackal over his refilled coffee cup, one thick eyebrow hitching above the other.

“Buck, quit scaring the kid,” Howell sighed, and closed the door behind him as he left. There was a moment of silence as Winston looked around, feeling awkward and out of place.

“Well, let’s get you upstairs and all moved in. You can meet Sam and Will as well. They’re good old boys, you’ll be fine,” Buck smiled encouragingly, and started up the stairs. Winston followed slower, suddenly nervous about what they’d think of him. But before he had any time to reconsider, he was in the bunk and standing in the doorway with Buck Jensen, meeting his new colleagues.

Two men playing cards over a table placed between two rows of bunk beds, looked up, startled. They both were rough men, though small, the bigger man even sporting a black eye. The slighter man looked up appraisingly, small mouth tight.

“Boys, this is Winston,” Buck gestured, leaning casually against the door. “The impish one is Sam McKay, and the one who looked like he just crawled out of a pub is Chad Wilson.” Buck smirked, motioning to the man with the black eye. Chad smiled and ducked his head. Despite the black eye, he seemed fairly easy going.

“Impish? Should I list off your traits?” Sam glared.

“No, no,” Buck rushed, looking alarmed. “Let’s not get into this right now.” Sam shot one last seething look at Buck and returned to his cards, completely ignoring Winston. That was fine by him. Chad was more inquisitive, but then, he seemed to be easier to get along with.

“Don’t get too polite Sam, or you’ll scare ‘im off,” Buck commented dryly. “You’ve still got the rest of the team to meet.”

“Our better half,” Chad chuckled.

“Women?” Winston joked.

“Oh, don’t we wish,” Chad grinned. “Horses. We could do with a woman around here though- I don’t think this room has seen a broom in a few months.”

“Horses or women, we still have to put up with a load of crap,” Sam grumbled over his hand.

“Ten dollars he fancies men,” Buck murmured, startling a laugh out of Winston.

“I’ll pass, thanks,” Winston grinned. Before Sam could make a retort, Buck was pulling him down the stairs again, and out a side door.

“Don’t worry about Sam- his bark is worse than his bite. He’s not always like that. Sometimes he’s asleep,” Buck winked, talking casually as they paced across the backyard.

“That’s comforting,” Winston grinned back. As soon as they stepped in the barn, Winston was immediately assaulted by the fresh and comforting scent of new hay, grain, and horse flesh.

“These are our other partners,” Buck smiled, walking over to the nearest stall. A long, starred nose pressed against Buck’s shirt, snorting at the smells that must have been harbored there. “We get new ones occasionally, and of course we always have to switch out, but the same faces somehow always wind up coming back. This is Tanner.”

He was a long legged chestnut, with large liquid eyes. Turning to Winston, he snuffled around his hand, before settling on nibbling his pant pocket. Chuckling at the feeling, Winston pulled from his pocket an aged dried piece of fruit. Probably a slice of apple at some point, but it was gone before Buck could look any closer. Satisfied, Tanner backed up, turning in his stall to wander to an outside corral.

“He’s Chad’s horse- try not to get too attached.” Buck chuckled.

“I’ll try. Who’s this?” Winston smiled, gesturing to a stocky strawberry roan. The horse eyed him warily, ears flat against his skull.

“Benton. Stay away from him. He’s Sam’s. Not all that hard to guess, I’m sure.” Buck smirked. He walked past the roan, ignoring the horse’s evident effort to knock down the stall door. They stopped at the stall of a bay gelding, who tossed his head before butting Buck with obvious affection.

“Now this is Ike. Personally I’d say he’s the best, but that’s what we all say about our own ponies. The one in the stall to your right is Ace- Kelley’s- the black one.” A restless stallion who’d been inching closer to Winston’s exposed back stilled, huffing a breath of warm horse breath in Buck’s face.

“Keep an eye on him. Kelley won him at a card game- it’s how he got his name. If that’s not an indication on Kelley himself, I don’t know what is.” Buck winced. “As for you...” Buck eyed him thoughtfully. “Come look at Felix. You should be a good match.”

The older man led him down past another stall, stopping at one containing a buckskin stallion. The horse hung back for a moment before snuffling closer, curiosity getting the better of him. Whiskers tickled Winston’ face as Felix lipped his hair, causing him to laugh. Buck watched with a smile.

“Well? Take a look at him,” Buck raised an eyebrow, unhooking the stall door. Winston slipped inside, smiling as Felix whinnied. He checked his teeth, his hoofs, and brushed down his coat with his hands. After a few minutes getting to know the horse, Winston looked up, grinning.

“He’ll do nicely. Thank you.”

“I thought he would,” Buck admitted, bracing his frame against the stall door. “I’m glad we’ve got some new blood in the mix. Welcome to the pony express kid.”

I can now easily say that I do not own any of the Young Riders’ characters, and the fact that Buck Jenson’s first name was the same as another fictional pony express rider was purely coincidental. Buck Jenson isn’t even Native American- he’s from Missouri. (I didn’t quite know where I could fit that in...) I only watched Young Riders after I’d written that particular section. Honest.

I will, however, admit that Ike’s name was not as unintentional as Buck’s was. I couldn’t resist. ;p If you have any expressions of distaste, allow me to point out that Ike was a human, not a horse in the TV series. Also, I owe a good bit to ‘Gina Shelley, the talented and creative genius behind the blog Five Dollar Mail. Thank you for your time and helpful information.


© 2010 Evelyn

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fiona by Diego Candia and yours truly

Drawing by Diego
Colors and graphic by me

I love Diego's rendition of Fiona! Look at that dress! And the expression on her face is perfect. Just wonderful.

I swear the man can see straight into my imagination. Seriously.

Thanks again, Diego!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Guest Post by Ellie: Dancer, Part 4

Bender sat at the table in the kitchen as he watched everyone around him eating. He rolled his eyes and looked out the window to see a horse without a rider walking by it. Bender stood up suddenly and walked over to the door. "What's wrong Bender?" came Saint's voice.

Bender looked at Saint and put a finger to his lips. He grabbed the rifle sitting next to the door and walked outside. He saw a small figure laying on the ground with his wrist close to his chest. Bender ran over to him and picked up his light body. "Dancer?" he asked stunned. He stood there and looked down at the figure.

"Hey," Dancer muttered to Bender. "How are you?" he asked.

"What happened to you?" Bender asked looking at him. Then came his answer, a soft hiss was heard and he looked on Dancer's chest to see a snake hissing at him. "A rattle snake!" he almost yelled.

"He is a good boy," Dancer smiled. "He bites, though, careful," he added weakly.

"Really? I wouldn't have guessed," Bender snapped back. "What the hell are you doing with this thing?" he demanded.

"Heck, you mean heck, I'll have to wash your mouth out with soap," Dancer muttered back.

"Heck, whatever," Bender growled. "What the heck happened?"

"He bit me... I will be fine... just a bit too much venom in me," Dancer answered back. Bender looked at Dancer his eyes wide. "I used to take it... in small amounts... worked... my way up," Dancer added.

"You are a stupid boy," Bender hissed. He walked towards the station and opened the door. "Miss. Fiona, could you get me some whisky, and a room ready for this boy?" he asked. Fiona turned to look at Dancer cradled in Bender's arms. She nodded and ran off.

"Who is this?" Saint asked pointing at Dancer.

"Dancer, and he we figure he should make friends with this rattler," Bender motioned to the snake on Dancer. Saint took a quick step back.

"I have a room ready!" Fiona called. Bender sighed and walked off. He walked into the room and placed Dancer down on the bed.

"I got it from here," Bender nodded towards Fiona. Fiona nodded and walked out of the room. The snake slithered to the side of the bed and curled up and watched Bender work. Bender took off Dancer's hat and put it on the bed side table and took a look at the patch work Dancer had done. He untied the piece of shirt and washed the wound and carefully poured whisky over it. Dancer hissed and glared at Bender.

"Not my fault you wanted to make this snake a pet!" Bender growled at him.

"He is not a pet, just a friend that can leave whenever he chooses!" Dancer snapped back and hissed in pain.

"Watch yourself boy," Bender looked at him and set a hand on Dancer's forehead. "You're running a fever," Bender commented. "Let's get your shirt off."

"No..." Dancer muttered. But Bender slowly unbuttoned Dancer's shirt and took it off and then looked down at him.

"What the hell!?!" Bender yelled.

© 2009 Ellie S. and The Five Dollar Mail