Tears of the Cowboy

Started a novella based on one of my songs.

Chapter 1
Death on the Range
December storm of 1929

Sheriff Charles Morgan was just about to dip the toast into his runny omelette at Carmel’s Diner when Bobby Schmidt came bursting through the front door. He was obviously excited, but that didn’t mean much. Bobby could get excited if a stray dog jaywalked on mainstreet. That’s why Charles always kept Bobby’s gun locked up.
“What’s got you rattled Bobby?”
“Frank Jackson found a couple of bodies Sherrif.”
Charles set his fork down. “Whereabouts?”
“He says the ridge on the north edge of the town.”
“Foul play?”
“Frank says it don’t look that way, more like they froze in the storm last night. He figures it might be his neighbour old Ned.”
The sheriff raised his eyebrows, Ned Baker would know better than to head out into the blizzard that had struck the area last night. Besides he lived alone.
“And the other body?”
“Oh, that was his horse.”
“Geez Bobby you come in here spoutin’ off about two bodies and one was a horse!”
“Sorry boss should’ve been more specific.”
“No shit! He pushed away from the plate of undercooked eggs and burnt bacon and stood up.
“I suppose we’d better go have a look. We’ll use the horses; the car won’t get a hundred yards in that snow. You go get them saddled up, and while you’re at it, ask Jimmy Hall to hitch up his sled and join us.”
“Sure thing boss. Say, seeing as this is a murder investigation and all, can you get me my gun?”
“No son, you won’t be needing that.” I don’t need any other dead bodies to deal with today. And who in tarnation said it’s a murder? Now git!”
The storm from the previous night had been an early season blizzard that caught many by surprise. Frank Jackson had discovered the body when he was out rounding up strays, worried about them freezing.
The temperature had plunged to minus 20 Charles Morgan thought it wouldn’t take long for anyone to freeze out here.
They approached what could easily have been mistaken as a snowdrift if it weren’t for the mare’s black tail protruding. The three men brushed away the snow to reveal the horse lying on it’s side. The dead man’s left arm was draped over her neck as if comforting the beast. The Sherrif noticed some stranges things right away.
“What the hell was he doing out here?” Charles muttered.
He gently brushed the snow from the old cowboy’s face.
“Is he smiling?” The deputy exclaimed.
“It sure appears that way, Bobby.”
You boys notice anything else that’s strange?
Bobby shook his head no. Their companion spoke up. “No saddle.”
That’s right Jimmy, why the hell is his saddle missing. Did somebody take it?
They pried the man away from the animal and gently turned him over.
The sheriff noticed something clutched in the right hand. He forced open the dead man’s grips and removed an old photograph. It displayed a beautiful young woman, a tall, handsome man, and a young boy.
“Who are they?” His companions asked.
“Not sure? But I’m guessing it’s Ned and his family. I know someone who can tell us for sure.”
The someone was Reverend Jim Parker. He had been around long enough to remember everyone in the territory, and usually their history as well. He was old, older than the fellow that lay before them, but the Reverend’s memory was sharp.
They carefully moved the body to the sled and headed back to town.
“I’ll have Doc check him over, but it sure looks like he just plumb froze out there. Maybe a heart attack, but then he was smiling, wasn’t he? The crazy old guy should’ve known better.”

Sheriff Morgan didn’t suspect foul play, but the lawman in him still wanted to know why?

The Tree (A Christmas Story) now Available

A Great childrens gift for middle grade aged 6 – 11
or bedtime reading to younger ones.
Available as Free Lending for Amazon Prime members
Kindle & Paperback versions can be purchased on Amazon.
Currently in production status with Ingram Spark for the Hard Copy Versions.

Stretching Exercises

Robert hits the nail on the head once again – Paul Hock

“Stretching exercises”

It is a day with more than a hint of fall in the air, a chill wind is blowing from the north, the lake is a darkish green and the air is filled with autumnal sunlight. Seagulls have begun congregating in dazzling white flocks on the beach and lake, a sure sign they are getting ready to migrate though many will make it no farther than the town dump a few miles east of here.

I have never gotten used to the fact that summer flies by like fine sand in the wind. No matter how often I tell myself to be prepared for it to end, it still always comes as a shock and disappointment. I feel like I have been shortchanged of time.

When I was a kid I had tricks to stretch time and ease the pain of summer winding down. Towards the end of August when September and school were clearly looming and there were no more thoughts of weeks and weeks of summer still to come, I would begin counting the days and hours that were left before school was to begin. I would also count the first day of school as the last day of summer because we would spend our time getting organized and be let out early. School did not really begin until the second day.

The end of summer has a special poignancy when you are north of 70 and headed towards 80. The thought crosses your mind that there are a limited number of summers left. You no longer say with the same confidence that there is always next summer and the summer after that. Maybe there will be and maybe not, and so I still perform my stretching exercises. Since retirement, I have stayed at the cottage until well after Labour Day and now count September as a summer month, and science is on my side. The autumnal equinox which marks the arrival of autumn in the northern hemisphere occurs about September 23. And so you see I have several weeks of summer left, and days and days and days.

Bob Miller
September 3, 2017

A Close Call – This one might save your life.

My good friend Robert Miller recently went through a harrowing experience on the shores of Lake Huron. He wrote a short piece on the whole affair and I am sharing it here.

“A dangerous place”

In one of my recent little pieces I wrote of the joy of swimming. I mentioned the wonderful sensation of gliding through the water and the happy discovery that swimming remains a pleasure into old age. However I neglected to mention a downside of swimming, particularly open lake swimming. I was reminded of it on the long August weekend. I refer to the risk of drowning.

Saturday August 5 was one of those days when Lake Huron rages and roars. Waves steamed ashore and crashed on the sand. Less obvious were the powerful undertows being generated as the water of the broken waves was sucked back out into the lake. Into these dangerous conditions, two swimmers, a father and a son, launched themselves, breast stroking straight out through wave after wave, heading towards Donald Trump’s America on the far shore.

As I watched them go out, I thought “silly buggers” but I did nothing to stop them. I turned my attention to Cooper the dog digging holes in the sand. Not long afterwards the first loud frightened cries for help were heard on the beach. The sounds came from an area on the lake fifty yards off shore where two heads rose and fell in the brownish water. HELP. I’M EXHAUSTED. HELP. As these shocking sounds reached our ears, all of us ran through the same mental drill. Is this a joke? No. This is for real. Now what?

Two of us decided to go into the water. I knew not to make physical contact for fear of being pulled under by a terrified swimmer but I am a strong swimmer and I felt that the tired desperate voices needed help as quickly as possible. As I headed into the surf I stripped myself of all clothing, except for the bare minimum required by Victorian standards of decency, while my son Christopher, who was using his noggin, tried to hand me a life jacket that could be used as a rescue tool when I reached the men. But I was in action mode and waved it off, thus violating the first rule of life saving – first, think you silly bugger.

What happened during the next ten minutes or so in the water is a blur. A young woman and I reached the two men and found that it was the father who was in trouble. As the waves rushed over us and pushed us forwards and backwards, towards the shore then away from shore, the father kept saying in a low mournful voice “I’m exhausted, What was I thinking?” and it occurred to me that the situation could turn out badly. But the man remained calm and we managed to make our way to a rescue line that had been formed by the people on shore, and we were pulled onto the shore. The father lay in an in exhausted heap on the sand while I, lifted by a large wave, landed on top of him.

Later, after a hot shower, I lay on the couch thinking “what if” and realizing we had been lucky. Next time we needed to be better equipped and better prepared and better educated. Those exciting waves rolling into shore and the calmest of waters can be deadly. The lake for all its beauty is a dangerous place.

Bob Miller
August 8, 2017

“Just Because It’s Fun” From Robert Miller – North of 70

“Just because it’s fun”

When I put up the tent in the front yard on the lake side of the cottage and start sleeping in it, people ask me, “why do you sleep in the tent when you have a nice old cottage with five bedrooms and nobody but yourself in it most of the time? I explain that I can hear the sound of the waves better in the tent than in the cottage and that the evening breezes meander through the tent more easily. Of course, I don’t tell them the real reason I sleep in the tent is just because it’s fun.

It’s fun to drag the tent down from the attic and put it up, and make the same mistakes in putting it up I did every other year. It’s fun to inflate the king-sized inflatable mattress with the little pump and then squeeze it through the front door flap of the tent. It’s fun to drag blankets and pillows and sheets out of the cottage and across the dirt of the front yard and shove the whole pile into the tent and then struggle to arrange it all on the big inflatable mattress in the small space. It’s fun to lay my head down on the damp pillow in that dim cozy place and remember building tents with blankets when I was a kid, and to see the magic show shadows of the trees and the leaves moving on the tent walls, and to hear teenagers laughing on the beach. And it’s fun to fall into a deep sleep and be awakened just before the first light by the sweet noise of the birds gossiping and shouting at each other from the trees over my head. Everything about the tent is fun, even having the damn thing collapse on me in the middle of the night during a storm that suddenly arrives from the great lake that is only fifty yards away.

Of course I don’t tell people the real reason I sleep in the tent is just because it’s fun, and I am enjoying my second childhood. One of the best uses of old age is to rediscover the simple magic of childhood, and to use the magic to cast sunlight on the dark shadows of life.

Bob Miller
July 14, 2017

The Child In Me – Paul Hock

The Child In Me – Paul Hock – #grayquill

I love puddle jumping
Running naked in the rain
Building dams and castles on the beach
The adults stare, smile, point, and laugh
They would love to join in, but they won’t
Maybe tomorrow I’ll change, be more serious, but that’s unlikely
At sixty-seven, the child in me prevails

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