Saturday, March 12, 2022

Strangers are welcomed to the wild and wooly west


The men shook hands, the Irishman enthusiastically, the New Yorker somewhat hesitatingly, and the girl just nodded politely and examined the two deputies with obvious curiosity. Her father explained that the whole family had come to San Francisco by train; then he and his daughter had come down to Mojave, and by stage to Los Angeles to take a look at the real estate opportunities he had read so much about back in Chicago.

Mr. Levitz explained vaguely that he was on his way to join his brothers who were in some sort of financial business in Los Angeles.

Wonderful, thought Cal. Just what we needed: another real estate sharp and another shylock. But he gave them all his Welcome to California smile, especially Miss Peggy Brannigan.

Then the coach lurched forward and the guard leaned down and shouted through the window on Clyde’s side. “I put an old poncho on your friend up here. I know you boys wouldn’t want him to catch cold.”

“Thank you,” said Clyde. “Much appreciated.” He started to add something, then thought better of it and smiled innocently.

The realtor pointed towards the roof. “Who’s the bad man?”

Cal said, “Ah just another Calabasas hard case tryin’ to discourage real estate sales around here.”

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Union Vets and Rebs in the Old Pueblo

 Brannigan nodded appreciatively. “Hard lines for you boys out there in Tennessee and Georgia.” Pausing a moment, he added, “I was on the East Coast, in the Irish Brigade. Quartermaster Department. Did my share of dodging shot and shell and whizzing rifle balls, but can’t claim I did any actual fighting. Never fired a shot in anger or otherwise.”

Cal laughed. “Well, when you get to the Pueblo you may get to fight after all. Still lots of Rebs and Reb sympathizers around town. When I first got there in ‘67, Union vets weren’t real popular. You could get a fight most anytime— and you didn’t have to be whistlin’ ‘Marchin’ Through Georgia’ to get it.”


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Up the Old Road with Prisoner in Tow.


Clouds were rolling up along the Sierra Pelona, like big piles of wet cotton; and a cold wind had picked up, raising swirls of dust along the road where they now rode slowly alongside Amargosa Creek.

At the wooden bridge two large ravens rose suddenly, squawking and flapping their wide wings and sailing up the valley as the small procession clattered over the stream. On the other side a small group was watching silently. Cal looked them over as he rode past. It looked like maybe two sheep herders and three Mexican or Indian vaqueros, sombreros pulled down and ponchos flapping in the wind. None of them looked like a threat, but no one spoke or smiled. They had that familiar We don’t know nothing look on their faces.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

“Goodness,” she said shivering a little and wrapping her arms around herself. “I never knew California had such cold Spring times.”

Cal wanted to reach out and cuddle her up to him, but he resisted the urge and looked over at the kindling and wood already stacked in the fireplace. “How about I light a fire to warm you up?”

“That would be nice,” she said softly.

He walked over, knelt down, and picking a match out of the small brass holder, lit up the kindling. Then he sat back down closer to her on the couch.

She smiled at him, then stood up and turned to the large globed light beside her. “It’s so gloomy in here,” she said, bending forward slightly and lighting the lamp. Then she sat back down, sipped her sherry and said, “The fireplace makes it so cozy.”

“Yep,” he agreed, thinking, I’d like to light a fire inside you, sweetheart.

She drained her glass then set it down carefully. “Did you notice the song I was playing when you rode up? It’s the one called ‘My Home in the West.’”

“Yes,” he said, draining his glass also and setting it beside hers, and thinking that maybe he should just pull her over and kiss her. “‘Home on the Range’, the boys call it. We were all singin’ it the other night over at the Silver Spur. Loud, but not too good.”

“I think it’s very appropriate for our new little home here in the West.”

“Absolutely. And I hope you all decide to stay here permanently.” He picked up her left hand, kissed it and placed it back in her lap, still holding it.

Even in the dim light he could see she was blushing, a gleam of excitement in her eyes

(on Kindle Books)

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Sanchez warns the two deputies


He looked at Cal, a glint of humor in his eyes. “A leetle bird told me that the Beeg Basque ees not happy weeth you two boys.”

“Yeah,” Cal said, sipping his coffee. “I saw him the other night at the Pico House, and he looked over at me plumb hateful-like.”

Laughing, Sanchez said, “You look out for that S.O.B. A couple of those cabrons working for him could plug you two and take off for Yuma or the Border before anybody even knew about it.”

Nodding, Cal said, “Yep, it’s possible. But we’re on the qui vive, and Alexander’s got us kinda layin’ low for a while, switchin’ patrol areas and so forth.”

Bueno. But keep your eyes open, amigos. Maybe he should put you two out in the desert for a while.”

Cal smiled, thinking of blue-eyed, blond-haired Mrs. Rezi Schmidt all alone at the ranch. He decided that it might be a good idea to mention Don Tomas's suggestion to the Sheriff.

(from Bad Men and Angels, available on Kindle now)

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Hot and Stormy in Little Egypt


"Mom and Dad told me again how good it was to have me home; then we headed for our newly fan-equipped bedrooms and some much-needed shut-eye. Which didn’t last too long in my case— for about midnight I woke up with the curtains blowing in and a rumble of thunder not too far off. I lowered the window half-way, turned off the fan, then lay there knowing what was coming, and concentrating on ignoring it, glad that at least I wasn’t on the wet rolling deck of a ship in a Pacific storm.

I fell asleep again, thinking about Pearl-- with rain drumming against the side of the house, thunder-claps shaking the old place to its foundations and lightning flashes turning the room electric white."


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Outlaw Confessions in Old California


Sanchez laughed. “Well, lucky for him it wasn’t the Army. But they suffered plenty from the jeers and sneers of the rest of the posse. For a proud, tough bunch of boys like them, it hurt plenty. So, anyway, parties were sent to watch San Gorgonio Pass, and another went to San Diego. And the rest galloped far and wide searching for Flores and Daniels.”

He smiled, a wicked glint in his eyes. “Meanwhile, somebody had noticed that General Pico’s prisoners were also missing. When asked about it, Andres just said he had “confessed” them and sent them on their way. One old American frontiersman was curious about these “confessions,” and took a ride up the canyon for a look around. After a while he came riding back with a big grin on his face and a necklace of ears around his throat.”

Clyde sat up straight. “Well, bueno,” he laughed. “They say confession is good for the soul.”

Sanchez and Cal looked at him with approval, and Sanchez said, “Believe me, these cutthroat cabrons had plenty to confess.”