Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Young Riders: The True Fictional Account, Chapter 1

I have a little early-in-the-week treat for you this week. This is a fanfic of the TV show, The Young Riders, that aired from 1989-1992, by Kristan and Crisandra Billups. It was written some years ago, when they were in their early teens.

I (predictably) loved this show, and clearly, it had some influence over my own work. When I discovered these authors on Wattpad, I had to ask if I might feature their story here, as I thought you all might enjoy it, too. So with permission, here is the first chapter of their story, The Young Riders: The True Fictional Account. You can read the rest of the story here, on Wattpad. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Disclaimer thingy: Based on a show owned by MGM. No copyright infringement intended, no money is involved, just some fans having a little fun. No need to get all excited and send lawyers after us.

Kid and Jimmy
The hot sun beamed down on the Arizona desert. At noon, the sun was at its hottest, and not a cloud in the sky to offer shade. Two Pony Express Riders, Kid and Jimmy, loped along slowly on their way back from town. Kid looked up and nudged Jimmy who was nodding off, who woke with a snort and had his gun pointed at Kid's face in an instant. Once he saw he was in no immediate danger he put his gun away. ''What?''

Kid pointed to a scrap of trees along the hillside where a small cloud of smoke had gathered. ''Campfire? Out here?''

Jimmy nodded to Kid and they reined their horses to the left, at a faster pace.

''Might be a traveler just camping for the evening.'' Kid said.

''Might be an outlaw lookin to blow off your head too.'' Jimmy said.

Kid shrugged and they checked their guns to make sure they were loaded and ready.

Jimmy slowed his horse to a stop and Kid did likewise. They dismounted and tied their horses to trees. Quietly they crept forward into a small forest, leaves cracked underfoot, branches slapped their faces.

Finally close enough they knelt behind a boulder and peered over.

''Camp's empty.'' Kid whispered. ''But it hasn't been for long.''

An unsaddled horse was tied to a long rope, grazing on grass and brush. It was a powerfully built mustang, blue roan with a black mane and tail. Strong hindquarters and nimble legs, it looked like it could run for miles. Rippling muscles beneath a dusty hide, it was a majestic animal. There was a fire built not far from a bedroll. A cup on the ground.

Suddenly a low growl behind them made them spin around, but before Jimmy could pull his gun, there was already one trained on them both.

Kid felt uncomfortable having the cold metal of a 30-30 staring him in the face, but the eyes of the owner was more unsettling. Cold and hard, they were an incredible shade of green. Black hat low on the head, bandana over his face, it was hard to tell anything about this person. Except that he rode a lot. Black riding boots with dulled silver spurs, blue jeans and a shirt, he looked like anyone you’d see on the street.

''Don't move!'' The person commanded, ''You forgot to watch your back.'' He added.

The dog was a wolf. His blue eyes, his blue eyes?, flashed as he stood his ground beside his master.

''Watch em.'' He commanded the wolf, as he moved forward and slid their guns out of their holsters. Moving them towards camp, he questioned them.

''What are you doin' here?'' he asked.

Kid stumbled. ''We was riding home, thought we'd see who was camping here.’’

The man laughed. ''You expect me to believe that? Yeah right.'' He tied them up, sitting down, opposite of each other. Slinging the rifle over his shoulder, he slid off their boots.

''Hey!'' Jimmy protested. ''You can't take our boots!''

The man stopped. ''Your right.'' Spinning around he threw them into the stream, they landed with a slight splash. Dowsing the fire, he gathered up his things and swung up on the mustang.

''You're just gonna leave us like this?'' Jimmy griped.

The man called the wolf to him. ''Better than being dead.'' The man tipped his hat, then was gone. Minutes later Jimmy's horse and Katie thundered by, scattered by the rider.

Jimmy wriggled, but the ropes were tight. ''You just had to be the detective, didn't ya Kid?''

''Shut up and help with the ropes!'' Kid snapped.

~ ~ ~

Morgan rode away from them on Blue. The mustang was glad to be on the move again and Lewis totted beside them, stopping every now and then to smell the wind.

''That was close.'' She told the mustang, who snorted and shook his thick mane.

''Oh I know they were telling the truth! But you can't trust people.''

Lewis barked. They trotted on.

Half an hour later, maybe 45 minutes, she caught sight of the pony express station, it would be her new job, at least until they had to go on the run again.

As Morgan rode in, three people gathered in front of the house. She halted her horse and slid down, removing her gloves, she asked, ''Which one of ya is the station manager?''

An older man stepped up. ''That‘d be me.'' Shaking hands, he said. ''Teaspoon Hunter. And you are?''

Morgan glanced sideways and hesitated. ''Morgan.'' she finally said.

A young man shook her hand, blonde straw colored hair stuck out from beneath his hat and he wore dusty buckskins, his smile splashed across his face from one ear to the next. ''Cody.'' He stated. ''What brings you here?''

Morgan’s horse neighed and the others in the paddock answered. ''I'm the new pony express rider you sent for.''

Teaspoon scratched his head. ''Ah, don't mean to be rude, but didn't the letter say there'd be, ah, two riders?''

''Oh yeah, the other's a day behind me, something held her up.''

''Well you put up your horse and come on in for supper.'' Emma, the cook, invited and motioned with her hands. Leading her horse to the barn, Morgan tied him up and drew him a bucket of water.

While Blue drank, she brushed his coat. With each stroke came a cloud of dust, but soon his coat shown like a silver dollar.

Morgan put him up in the stall, and was closing the door when a stranger walked in. They caught sight of each other at the same time. Quickly she slid a knife out of her boot and hid it in her hand.

''Who are you?'' Buck inquired, a knife hidden in his hand.

''Names Morgan. New rider.'' Buck nodded.

''Name's Buck. You are Indian.''

Morgan nodded. ''So are you.''

After a minute, Buck said ''Kiowa.''

''Cherokee.'' She answered. ''Our tribes are enemies.''

Buck shifted closer to the wall. ''Is that going to be a problem?'' Buck tensed.

Her piercing eyes seemed to look right through him. ''No.''

Quickly, they both sheathed their knives, unknown to the other that they had even been out.

They walked together to the house, Lewis, who had found a comfortable spot in the shade, raised his head and growled.

Buck stepped back. ''Your wolf?'' he asked.

Morgan snapped her fingers and Lewis turned from growling menacing dog with flashing teeth to friendly cow dog. Wagging his tail, he greeted Buck as an old friend.

They went in to see everyone else was already seated at the table with bread, meat, and potatoes on plates in front of them.

''Please remove your hat and weapons.'' Teaspoon said.  

Morgan questioned him with her gaze.

''It's so's you don't shoot one another over Emma's good food.'' Teaspoon added.

Morgan stepped over to the hat rack and hung her 30-30 on one of the hooks. Everyone staring, she pulled off her hat. Dark blond hair tumbled down to just acouple inches below her neck. Morgan heard Cody choke and cough. ''You’re a girl!'' He said, spraying mashed potatoes all over the table and the people sitting at it.

Buck, who was wiping Cody's spit off his face, lightened the tension a bit by saying ''Say it, don't spray it Cody.''

''But he's a girl!'' Cody argued.

''We can all see that now Cody, so why don't ya eat?'' Teaspoon said, nodding towards an empty seat for Morgan to sit in.

Several seconds passed with no one moving before Emma commanded everyone to eat, and everyone slowly started eating.

So Morgan sat down to the table.

''There's an empty bed in the bunkhouse for ya to use.'' Teaspoon said.

''Thanks, but I'll sleep in the barn.'' Morgan said, scooping up a bite of potatoes.

Teaspoon set his cup down. ''Now that you’re a rider for the pony express, you'll sleep like a rider for the pony express.''

Morgan nodded her head, but everyone could see she wasn't willing to obey by that.

''Wonder when Kid and Jimmy's comin' back?'' Cody wondered out loud, mouth full of pie.

At that moment, several things happened. The door flew open, revealing two very tired, very annoyed guys. Morgan spun around, at the same time spotting them, she jumped up, chair falling to the ground.

''You!'' Morgan, Jimmy, and Kid yelled at the same time. Jimmy went for his gun, but realized his holsters were empty.  

Morgan jumped up on the table and sprang at them both, knocking them on the ground. On her feet in a flash she flew to the hat rack, grabbing her gun and hat, she ran out the door. Morgan ran to the barn while chucking a shell up into the chamber. She did not know how they'd found her, she had certainly left a confusing trail. Lewis was beside her now, she had Blue out of the stall.

Grabbing her bedroll, she swung up on Blue the same instance he burst into a gallop. They swept past the bunkhouse and the main house, were everyone stood. No one had a gun on her, that was good.

She cursed herself for not dealing with those two before. Blue's long strides made the ground between the house and them grow fast. They headed to the river were she knew they could leave without making a trail.

They traveled fast for hours. A normal horse would not have been able to to keep up, but Blue was hardened to running hard and fast. When she was pretty sure no one was following, Lewis had not growled, then she decided to find somewhere to sleep for the night. Morgan found a clearing, and made a quick camp. No fire, no cooked food.

Morgan and Lewis ate dried beef, while Blue ate some grass and grain. She leaned up against the tree so no knife or bullet could kill her from behind. She slept.

Lewis woofed, softly and Morgan awoke. Looking at him, she knew he had caught the scent of someone that was close by, maybe a mile or two. They were on her trail. But why wasn't Lewis growing instead of wagging his tail? Whistling softly, Blue came right awake.

Swinging aboard, she turned him back towards the way they'd come. Gun in hand, they walked softly. She would deal with this once and for all.

~ ~ ~

Buck sat on the ground. He was cold. His horse was tired. He had forgotten that trailing someone who did not want to be caught was hard work. After Kid and Jimmy had told them what happened, it had all been clear why Morgan had high tailed out of there. Maybe she was wanted? Or being hunted? Or just careful?

Kid seemed to be all right that she was a new rider. Jimmy on the other hand, was not, and was mad that someone had got the drop on him.

Buck didn't really believe it himself, but Jimmy's missing guns where proof enough. Buck laughed aloud, he could still hear Kid's and Jimmy's boots squishing with water as they walked.

Buck heard a crack behind him, he listened… nothing.

Just to be sure, he unsheathed his knife and stood up.

From out of nowhere, Morgan came at him and had him pinned to the ground in seconds. His knife now in her hand, was pressing firmly against his throat, her eyes were cold and hard, light from the fire made them dance. "Why are you following me?" Morgan barked.

"Trying to save you from losing your job!" Buck growled back.

That unsettled her for a moment, long enough for Buck to throw her off.

Morgan rolled and landed upright in the ready stance, ready to fight him.

"Who were those two?" She asked.

Buck rubbed his neck "Your co-workers."

Morgan’s eyes widened a bit. "Pony express riders?"

Buck nodded.

"How do I know your not lying?" Morgan asked him.

"You don't."

They stared at each other this way for quite some time, finally as if she had decided something, she stood. Handing him back his knife, which he sheathed, she called her dog. Lewis went over to her, then to Buck.

"He doesn't take to most people.” Morgan said.

Buck ran his hand over Lewis's back.

"Neither do you.” That brought a smile to their faces. "Can we get some sleep now?” Buck asked.

Morgan nodded.

Buck wondered what had happened to her to make her so distrustful of people. He slept on one side of the fire, her on the other. Buck was about to doze off when he saw a flash of metal, looking up he saw, stuck in the dirt beside Morgan was a snake, now with a knife in its brain.

"Night." Morgan said.  

And they slept.

~ ~ ~

Buck woke just as the sun come over the horizon, and rolled over and watched her sleep, noticing the snake from last night was gone. Probably a possum or something had gotten it.

Buck stared at Morgan sleeping, until with a jolt he realized she was awake.

"How long you been staring at me?” Morgan asked, pulling on her boots.

All Buck could muster, was a couple "Uh's.”

Swinging up on Blue, she nudged him to a trot, Buck soon followed.

"Where did ya get such a horse?" Buck finally asked, breaking the silence.

Morgan told him the story of a wee little colt at an auction she had bought, and raised to a horse. This was of course, was not true. The story was true enough, but that was her last horse, Dusty.

That story seemed a little more believable than how she had really got Blue. No one would believe he was a wild stallion. No one would believe she was a horse tamer. For now, she rode for the pony express.

~ ~ ~

Two days later Morgan settled into a schedule, she rode for the Pony Express Monday evenings, Wednesday mornings and Sunday mid-day. Everyday they all did chores of mucking out stalls, and doing odd chores. Today was a Tuesday so she had no ride.

Jimmy wasn't so mad at Morgan since she had given him back his revolvers, and Kid was just relieved that she had found their horses.

Everything seemed to be going well, though Morgan knew, with her luck, that good things never last long.

Morgan walked out towards the barn and saw Kid and Jimmy saddling their horses.

Kid, upon seeing her said, “Hey Morgan, do you want to go to town with us?”

Morgan thought for a moment before nodding.

Awhile later, Cody, Jimmy and Morgan rode into town, excitement buzzed in the air, everyone was talking.

They all weaved their horses through the crowd of people to were talking in the middle of the street.

"Looks like somethin' happened." Cody said.

"Yeah, It sure looks that way." Jimmy asked a man who was standing somewhere near Jimmy‘s horse.  "What happened?"

"You don't know?” The man slapped his knee. "Some kid just about got ran over by a stagecoach! And a GIRL." This word he fairly screamed, "She just rode up there and saved him.” The man nodded. ''Fine piece of ridin' she did to, never saw nothin' like it.''

Morgan was grinning. ''Where is she?''

The man pointed towards the saloon.

Morgan nodded her thanks and rode towards the saloon, Kid and Jimmy riding along with her.

''You know her?'' Jimmy asked as he dismounted.

''Yep.'' She ground tied Blue. ''And your gonna get to know her real well.'' At the unspoken questions in their eyes, she walked up the stairs. ''Boyz, let's go meet the newest pony express rider, who just happens to be a trick roper and rider, Kris.''

They went in.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Like A Girl

Howdy, folks,


While drinking the obligatory cuppa this morning, I came across this article and  was moved to drag this essay I wrote out of mothballs and share it with you.


I wrote this post some years ago, but this is subject matter that, unfortunately, does not become irrelevant. Whether you watch the Superbowl or not, it’s impossible to not know what ads get run on that Sunday, as they shape the course of conversation for weeks to come. I thought it was beyond great that this particular ad was run, and that so many people saw it. It was also crushingly disappointing (but not at all surprising) that it was considered “controversial”, and that it caused so much ugly backlash.

Anyways, you all know posting commentary on news is not something I do here. But this is a subject...maybe the subject...that I am the most passionate about of all. So I thought that seeing how the water cooler talk this week seems to include this subject, I might share my thoughts and observations. So please indulge me this, and I will see you all again on Thursday. Have a good week!


Here’s an observation from the Field Day I volunteered to help out at my  kid's school. I was in charge of organizing and supervising the kids on the giant bouncy slide. The protocol was “one kid up the ladder while one is coming down”.

Well, the ladder leading up to the top was a steep, slippery incline with barely-there toeholds and ropes on each side to use to haul yourself up. It was not an easy climb, and we spent a lot of time yelling encouragement and cheering when a kid made it to the top. It was fun but challenging. Each class would cycle through the slide as many times as they could before the timer went off and they moved on to the next game.

While I was there sending class after class after class of first graders through this thing, I noticed a few things.

The first thing I noticed was that the girls consistently out-performed the boys. Now, at this age, nobody’s really got a ton of upper body strength, and everyone’s roughly the same size, more or less. But the girls, in most cases, managed to make it to the top in a fraction of the time it took for the boys to do it. I even had one girl with her arm in a sling, who went up the thing like a squirrel going up a tree.

After a while, I realized it had nothing to with athletic aptitude and everything to do with mindset. The girls were simply trying to quickly and efficiently get to the top. An overwhelming number of the boys were more interested in showing off. In their defense, it looked easier than it actually was. And when they failed to show the world that they were, in fact, Spiderman, they became flustered so that they then were focused more on saving face than they were on solving the problem.

As a dweeb with two left feet and no athletic ability whatsoever, I’m not gloating or laughing at this ineptitude. Nor am I sitting here making any sort of commentary about what gender is more athletic. “Girls rule” is not the punchline to this. I’m simply giving you a little backstory as to what came next.

Cue the moms coming along with each class shouting encouragement to their flailing, floundering sons.  Do I have to tell you what a large number of moms were saying? I bet I don’t. I bet you know.

“Oh, come on. Even the girls can do it.”

Now, let’s pick that apart apart a bit. This wasn’t dads saying it. It was consistently the moms.

I may have made a few snarky comments along the way, such as “Oh, don’t feel bad, he’s no worse than any of the rest of the boys.” or “He’s not climbing like a girl. If he was, he’d be up there already.” I might have said those things, because I am an insufferable smartass...but my memory’s not the best.  I digress. First of all, really, Moms? You’re a woman, and you were, presumably, a girl...and now you’re teaching your little boy that girls are inferior and that he ought to be able to beat their time simply by merit of the fact that he’s got a penis (which, interestingly enough, nobody thought to use as a climbing appendage that day, anyways)? Really?

Furthermore, nearly the entire female half of the class was consistently outperforming the boys, and we’re all witnessing this all morning; and you’re still going to relegate the performance of girls to the absolute bottom rung of what is considered competent? Because they’re, you know, girls? And regardless of what we’re all seeing, regardless of what’s happening around us under a bright and illuminating sun on a clear day, regardless of cold, hard evidence, your boy still ought to be able to do better than a girl because hey, he’s got a dick (which I can’t stress enough is not an appendage one uses for climbing)?

“Even the girls can do it”? I think that’s what offends me the most, you know? The inclusion of the word “even.” Because I know what you mean when you say it, moms. Do you know what you’re saying? If you don’t, I’ll translate it for you: “Hey, girls, nobody cares htat you’re better at this. You’re still the worst of the worst, because you’re a girl.” and “Hey, boys, girls are inferior, and any skill level they show is a baseline you ought to be able to easily beat. And if you can’t, there’s something wrong with you.”

Ladies. You’re trying to shame your sons by saying they’re less athletic than a girl. First off, it shouldn’t be an insult to be called less than an athletic girl. any more than it should be an insult to be called less than an athletic boy. We are what we are.  Are you telling me you were okay with idiots saying things like “stop acting like a girl” or “you throw like a girl” or “even girls can do it” when you were a kid? How did that not make you incandescent with rage as a child? How can it be coming out of your own mouths now?

Secondly, lay off. Some people are more athletic than others. Little boys trying to have fun don’t need to have their manhood called into question in front of their peers, least of all by their mothers. The last thing we need is more misogynists with mommy issues out there, so stop trying to turn your kid into one. Maybe if he wasn’t being pressured by this sort of horseshit, he’d be spending more time tackling his challenges and learning how to excel than he does trying to show off and prove his superiority and what an Olympian he is. Maybe if he was allowed to simply fall down a slippery incline, bouncing and laughing, for as many times as it took for him to figure out his own way, he wouldn’t have to save face with his ears burning with embarrassment that his own mother just emasculated him in front of his entire class. Maybe he’d be more inclined to think out problems if he wasn’t terrified of failing.

So I guess what I’m saying is for heaven’s sake think about what you’re teaching boys...and girls. Do not think they don’t hear it and internalize it. Yes, it was offhanded comments, from people meaning no harm. But you know what? It’s the little things. The little tiny chips and dents. It ain’t the big things. It’s the things that nobody notices, that “don’t mean anything.”

Language means something. Especially when it’s coming out of the mouth of the most important person in the world.