Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Wet Christmas?

The 17th day of December and I’m driving in rain
at 8ºC. (That’s 46º F for you metrically challenged folk.) I didn’t like it! The windows in the truck would allow a view for no more a few moments. We shouldn’t have muck for
I would be much happier with - 15º C ( 5º) until about March
5th when it should warm up and dry up in about a month.
Which also won’t happen.
Since one can’t do anything about the weather except grin
and bear it (or perhaps that should be grin and bare it.) I decided to construct a little rhyme as I was hauling fuel down the road.

The melody to “Jingle Bells” should work.

Racing through the rain
In a Razor Custom quad.
Goin’ to the neighbours place
For turkey, ham and grog.
From toddies smooth and rich
We wound up in the ditch
We’ll have to get the horses out
To pull us from this bog

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
There they come right now
The off horse is a little shy
They’re both as fat as sows.
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
They’ll do the job just fine
Back up to the shoulder there
And throw us out a line.

The team began to pull
The Razor made a roar,
The off horse made a mighty leap
The near horse took more load.
The double tree it broke
Pieces left and right
Man that team can really move
They just went out of sight.

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Will tell us where they are.
With hay and oats in the barn,
They won’t get too far.
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Relax and just sit back
I think I’ll have a little sip,
Will you pass me the flask?

D. M. McGowan

Monday, November 7, 2011

Daylight Savings Time

I was told that Daylight Saving Time was invented by a wise
old Indian who cut his blanket in half then had his woman sew the ends together
to make it longer.

Many years later I met the wise old Indian at a club where I
was playing in Vancouver. He said that
only a politician already established in some cushy government position would
come up with the idea that someone could cut a foot of his blanket and sew it
to the other end to make it longer.

Many years later I heard, because he was famous, that the wise
old Indian had passed away. While contemplating our visit many years before and
what he had said about the business of turning our clocks backward or forward I
had an epiphany;

Daylight Savings Time was invented by a very warped mind.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What We Need Is a Good Cattle Dog

I can't tell you how Alvin's doing. It's been a while since I seen him. You see, Alvin and I don't spend too much time together. Not like we used to. It goes back to that time we went up to Carter's to help them round up their cattle. Looking' back, I reckon I was a bit rough on him, but I thought he had a better sense of humor.
There was about ten of us who volunteered to help out. Neighbors rode over on horseback, and some hauled their horses in from as far as fifty miles away. I don't have a truck or trailer, so I rode with Alvin, our mounts in his two-horse trailer.
Most of us got there the night before, a Friday it was, so that we'd be ready t' get started early Saturday. 'Course, the early start was a bit rough on most of us since, once we got a place for our bedrolls, most of us spent the night over a few drinks, playing' cards and swapping yarns. But despite how tough a few felt that next morning we were all out there gathering' cattle in fairly decent time.
Along about two in the afternoon, we had quite a bunch of critters up by the loading pens. After turning about a dozen head into the herd, Alvin and I headed south into a low spot we hadn't checked out. Sure enough, there's twenty head or so, down in the brush.
Well, we pull up near the edge of that brush, and Alvin starts to get down.
"Where you goin'?" I asked him, though I pretty well knew what he had in mind.
"Well, horses’ll be no good in that brush," Alvin says. "We'll have to go in on foot."
I rode back up-slope a ways and had a look at that bush. It probably covered ten acres, and was as close as hair on a dog’s back.
"You're not gonna chase any cows outta that," I said. "Work like that, you need a good cattle dog."
"Well, we don't have a cattle dog," Alvin says, "so we'll have to do it on foot."
"We could also just leave the herd up where they are," I advised. "By tomorrow this bunch in the bush’ll be lonely, and come out of there on their own."
"Work don't get done by lettin' it lay," Alvin says.
I swung one leg around the saddlehorn, and proceeded to roll a smoke. "You get ‘em out here, I'll be sure to hold ‘em for you," I said, though I figured there wasn't much chance of me having to do anything.
Well, Alvin just glared at me, dropped the reins, and went waddling off into the willows.
He got four steers and a cow moving that first time out. Of course, when he got right up to the edge of the brush, the cow went left, and the steers right. Alvin was heaving pretty good and trying to figure out how five animals could go in ten directions.
He went back into the trees, picked up his hat, and carried it out and hung it on his saddlehorn. Then he glared at me, and headed back into the brush.
I pulled my hat down over my eyes and got comfortable.
During the next half hour, he kept trying to chase them cows out, and they'd just turn around and go back in the bush, as cows tend to do. Pretty soon his face began to look like a piece of raw meat, and everything he wore was soaked with sweat. I was beginning to worry that he was gonna have a heart attack, and I'd have to haul him out of there.
He was on the edge of the brush, legs spread, and hands on his knees, and just heaving. I was pretty sure there wasn't a bull on that place with a harder head than his.
I started to roll another smoke as I let my horse shuffle over toward him. "You know, Alvin," I said, "you're gonna have to cut a switch off one of those willows, and give yourself a lickin'. You're gettin' way behind!"
You know, I had to find somebody else to haul my horse home!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Over at they have a novel writing contest. You can see all the info there, but primarily it's write a 50000 word novel in any genre during the month of Nov.
I certainly plan to try and hope to be in FSJ on Nov. 1 for the "official" beginning. However, working 10 and 12 hours a day, often 7 days, I don't know how successful I'll be. Here's to effort.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chuck Wending over at terribleminds has asked for a short story of a 100 words or less. Therefore I’m posting the following. How Hennedy wound up on this wall and what he does about what he has found is up to you.
By the way, Chuck can be found at

Hennedy exited through the main door and trotted along the front wall to the North corner. After testing the strength of the ivy that climbed the church wall he began to climb.
At the third floor he looked in the window of the locked apartment. In the dim light from a table lamp he could see the Bishop standing over what appeared to be a body. In his left hand he held a chain of prayer beads and was rubbing the right hand fingers over what appeared to be a blister on the back of that left hand.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Where do you stand on digital publishing?

G'day all;
I've been giving serious consideration to releasing "Partners" and "Homesteader" as digital, or E books.
I personaly enjoy reading "real" books; I like the feel and I'm comfortable with the concept. What books have done for mankind in the last few centuries can not be understated. What the early books ... the papirus, the hand copied bibles, the early writings of scientific pioneers ... did for the development of man and his society is nothing short of a miracle. Because of my feeling for books, I'm finding the move to E books a difficult decision.
Perhaps it's simply another step forward in the evolution of the written word. We've had the progress as mentioned above from writing on plant leaves and animal skin to multiple copies of the same work. Perhaps not being able to feel the pages your reading will be a good thing.
So all you folks out there let me know what you think. I realy want your thoughts on the subject. Perhaps, after making digital copies of "Partners" and "Homesteader" available I'll then make my first novel, "The Great Liquor War" (the prequel to "Homesteader") available. And then follow it with a collection of short stories and the sequel to "Partners".
Dave McGowan

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Would You Care For Pie? By D.M. McGowan

Mrs. Smith was usually alone in management of their little country store, since the rest of the family was involved in construction. She also operated a lunch counter on the premises which attracted many travelers who could not resist her home cooked meals, pies and pastries. It was a wearing, seven day a week task made more difficult in a land of dust and mud.
On occasion, however, she would arrange to have someone take over, allowing her a few hours respite from the constant grind and perhaps a trip to town, thirty five miles away. On one such occasion her husband, Garner Smith, heavy equipment operator, mechanic, rascal and tease, was left in charge of the establishment.
He was sitting at the counter reading a paper and drinking coffee when a lone traveler entered and took a seat a few stools away.
Gar looked up from his paper and asked,” What can I get you?" He rose and moved around behind the counter.
"Coffee and maybe a piece of pie," was the reply.
"What kind o' pie would you like?" Gar asked, looking through the offerings his wife had prepared.
"Well, you got any pumpkin?"
"No. No pumpkin, but we have lemon, raisin and apple."
"Apple, I guess."
A twinkle appeared in Gar's eye, but he quickly hid the smile. He served the slice of apple pie and the coffee, and then returned to his seat down the counter. Sipping his own coffee, he allowed the customer time to become involved in the pie and appreciate just how good it was.
"We had to quite makin' the pumpkin," he observed, taking another sip of coffee.
The customer stopped his fork half way to his mouth, an inquiring look directed at Gar.
Returning his cup to the counter, Gar nodded sagely, no hint of a smile. "Mice kept leavin' tracks in it."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Another source for The Yearlings

For those of you who came here late and find you have no idea what "Historical mention in The Yearlings" means ,,, it's a short story I posted here in episodes. If you are interested in reading the whole thing, drop me a line at and I'll send you the whole thing.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Historical mentions in The Yearlings

As I mentioned, there are two historical mentions in “The Yearlings”. So why should you, or any one else, give a damn? Because what happened “back then” (when ever it was) helped create who we are and who our kids will be.
Fiction is entertainment, or at least good fiction should be. It doesn’t necessarily have to be literature, nor does it have to be a presentation of perfect English. If it is either of those things, that’s a great plus. If it is literature it will last. If it is understandable (in what ever language) it continues communication. First, it has to be entertaining so that someone will read it.
If it is entertaining as well as being informative, that’s even better because it gives the reader of any age an opportunity to grow.
I suspect everyone understands the first historical mention in “The Yearlings” is when Rolley says “there's a war gettin' under way over t' Europe,”. Of course, he is talking about the “War to End All Wars” or WWI. Many people, from all walks of life, all levels of society and in many countries thought the war would change politics and aggression throughout the world but would also be an opportunity for them to get rich. It proved to be an opportunity for hundreds of thousands to die.
It’s funny how people don’t learn from history. We have wars now, and somehow the folks back home are surprised when soldiers and civilians become casualties.
When Janet is thinking about the Yellowhead Trail and the new railroad that of course is the Canadian National. However, at the time it was the Grande Trunk Pacific Railway.
There were many supporting reasons for building the GTPR. The most important of those reasons, of course, was that customers of Canadian Pacific Railway needed another source for service. Partially to attain competitive pricing, but more important was a competitive attitude. The CPR thought they owned Canada and its citizens and could treat them any way they wanted.
There was an official ceremony at Fort William, Ontario (Thunder Bay) on September 11, 1905 and, after many delays the last spike was driven one mile east of Fort Frazer, BC on April 7, 1914. Most of the delays were due to a lack of funding, the same problems that had plagued the CPR during its construction more than 20 years earlier.
One of the great champions of the GTPR was its General Manger, Charles Melville Hayes. He made several trips to solicit funding for the venture and apparently was successful on his last trip. However Hayes’ returned passage was booked on RMS Titanic. The date of the world famous end of that voyage was April 15, 1912.
There are several firearms mentioned in the story. Janet leaves home with a rifle (which she forgets to load) for no one but an idiot would venture into a true wilderness without a weapon to protect themselves. The other weapons mentioned were a common thing in Canada's wilds ... at least until 1924.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

There's history in ... well, someplace.

The story “The Yearlings” is purely a product of my weird imagination. However, within the story are two historical mentions. Did you pick them out? More about that on my next post.

Janet's cattle returned with extra treasure for her trouble


A half-hour later she stopped to fit the saddle to her shorter legs. The steers showed no inclination to veer from the trail home. As she shortened the stirrup leathers she noticed her heart rate and breathing had begun to slow their frantic pace.
"Now I'll have to listen to Mother go on and on about how I left her alone for a whole two days," she said to the horse as she pulled the lacing free. "Then she'll make Matt feel awful by telling him it's his fault that I was almost murdered over a few filthy animals." She finished on one stirrup and moved around to the other. "Then Matt won't ever want to leave the place again."
She was finishing up before she continued. "Which might not be all bad, at least I wouldn't have to listen to Mother's drivel all by myself."
She remounted and continued, liking the feel of what she was already coming to think of as her saddle. It was also a fine, smooth-gaited horse.
"That's not really fair," she continued. "It's not fair to make Matt have to put up with any of Mother's prattle when I can protect him from it. It's not fair to expect that she would be hard on him over this. She probably won't say a thing about it to him, thereby making me feel guilty because he doesn't know how much danger I was in, and because I have kept something from him."
The steers were beginning to tire and wander, looking to fill their stomachs with the old grass that was showing now in more places than were covered by snow. She drew her mount in a little and began pushing the yearlings along the trail.
"Yes, that would be more like Mother. Then she would think she had a new power and control over me."
She had also lost Ben, Matt's one remaining tie to his childhood. She knew that the sight of Ben had brought back many pleasant memories for her husband.
"And I don't want Matt to feel he's tied to us. He should be able to leave, but want to stay.
"Besides, for the next few years at least, we need that trapping money. Otherwise we'll never have our own life."
She looked at her mount and rigging with a critical eye. True, she had lost one of the light team but she now had an excellent saddle horse. She also had a fine saddle and bridle, an extra rifle and a pistol.
Holding her own rifle and the reins in one hand she slid Rolley's rifle from the scabbard far enough to identify it. It appeared to be similar to her Winchester '73, though both the lever and breech looked slightly different. It also had a saddle ring and appeared - though she didn't remove it all the way - to be shorter. She did remove it far enough to see the 44WCF stamped into the round barrel, making it the same caliber as her own octagonal barreled '73.
Next she removed the pistol from her pocket and studied it. The barrel was perhaps three inches long and, though the stamping was worn, she could make out "S & W" along the left side. She fiddled with what appeared to be a catch ahead of the hammer and finally tipped the barrel and cylinder down to reveal the bases of five cartridges all stamped ".32 S & W."
Closing the pistol again she placed it back in her pocket. "Well, I suppose, if we don't have the trapping money I could always rob somebody. I'm certainly armed to the teeth and well mounted."
After she had turned the steers back into their pasture and ensured the gate was shut, Janet rode toward the barn. On the other side of the house she could see another rider trailing a pack horse piled high with fur. Matt was home.
She met him by the house and they swung down together. As they embraced, Mark and Margaret came running from the house.
When the greetings had been completed, Matt turned back to his wife, holding his son in his arms and a twinkle in his eye. "You bin makin' a habit out o' feedin' the cows with a rifle. Must be hard to get the hay down the barrel."
Janet looked down at the Winchester in her hands then back to her husband. His eyes had gone beyond her to the strange horse and saddle and the twinkle had turned to puzzlement.
Janet stepped closer and put one hand on his shoulder. "Matt, I have some bad news. Ben died."

Later that summer, Joshua Casey's brother, Gabriel, rode up to a group in central Montana as they branded the latest batch of calves.
Joshua was busy with a knife when the horse came up, but it wasn't long before he realized someone was sitting a horse and not roping, or doing anything else to help with the work. Finished his latest cutting, he swung his attention around to the rider and saw his brother. The hair was very long and ten years had put some creases in the face, but it was definitely his brother.
He stood, the pocket knife down at his side, and nodded. "Afternoon, Gabe."
Gabe nodded in return. "Josh." He removed his hat and wiped his forehead with his sleeve. "Looks like you picked a hot one." He swung from the saddle.
"That we did," Josh acknowledged.
"Well, I'm not much with a rope, but I'm a crackerjack with a knife and a branding iron."
"We could use the help," Josh responded, turned the knife around and passed it to his brother. "You gonna be home for awhile?"
Gabe nodded, and then gazed off to the north. "Reckon I'll stay if you'll have me. I get out there I run the risk of gettin' into somethin' I won't be proud of."

After roundup that fall, Matt Kingsley went hunting for a few days. He trailed a moose back up into a draw where he shot it in a small clearing. In that same clearing he found what was left of a skeleton lying next to the remains of an old fire. There was a small, round hole, perhaps from a bullet on the right side of the skull and much of the left side was missing. The remains of what might have been a shirt and pants were also there. There was no sign of boots, belt, coat or hat.
With only an axe to work with it was difficult, but he managed to cover the bones and cloth in a shallow grave. During the fifty-eight years they were together, until her death in 1969, he never told Janet what he had found.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Episode 6 of The Yearlings. Where are Janet's Son and Husband?


When she had the strips of bannock dough wrapped around sticks and propped over the fire, she began to slice slabs of meat from the venison haunch hanging from a limb on the edge of camp. As she was doing this, Squeak rose and went to the pack from which he drew another bottle of the dark, Hudson's Bay Trade Rum. Rolley continued to sip on his, but Squeak took the top quarter of his fresh bottle in one long drink.
When the meal was finished roasting, Janet said nothing but took one of the bannock-wrapped sticks, another holding a slice of meat, and moved away from the fire. She hunkered down across the fire from Rolley and Squeak.
"I take it we can all dig in?" Rolley said, carefully leaning his bottle against the log before rising and moving to the fire. Before he could get a portion of the meal for himself, Gabe took his portion and returned to where he had been standing, back from the fire and to Janet's right.
Squeak refused to move even after Rolley returned to his seat with his meal. He continued to sulk and pull at the rum bottle, now only half full.
As she ate, Janet took an unguarded moment to remove two of the rifle shells from her coat pocket, holding them in the palm of her hand with her thumb. Her meal finished, Janet returned to the fire, took up one of the cups sitting there and rinsed it out with some of the thick coffee. As she sat the pot back near the bed of coals she allowed the two shells to drop from her hand into the fire.
Rising, Janet moved over to stand near her rifle but facing Squeak. "Are you going to drink all of that, or can I have a cup of it?" she asked with a smile.
Behind her, Gabe turned and stepped into the trees toward the horses.
Looking up at her, Squeak smiled back then passed her the bottle.
With the cup in her right hand and bottle in her left, Janet began to pour rum. When the first shell exploded she dropped the cup and grabbed the barrel of her rifle. Swinging the rifle up and behind she spun with her entire body.
The first explosion had thrown small coals on Rolley. When the second cartridge went off he jumped back and right into Janet's rifle. The top edge of the stock struck his skull just under the brim of his hat.
Janet noted that Gabe was no longer in the clearing as she turned back and brought the bottle down on the top of Squeak's head.
Dropping down behind the log she began to feed shells into the rifle. Her frantic fingers were having difficulty holding the cartridges. The normally easy task of loading the Winchester had suddenly become difficult. When she had the first one inserted she levered it into the breech before filling the magazine.
A quick glance showed that she had done serious damage to Rolley. He lay near the fire, his sleeve beginning to smolder, but did not move. Squeak, on the other hand was only stunned, rocking back and forth on his knees, moaning and holding his head.
With the muzzle of the cocked weapon still pointing toward Squeak, she continued loading. She found that her chest was heaving and she couldn't get her breath. The pounding in her ears was not stampeding cattle but the sound of her own heartbeat.
Gabe called from behind the screen of trees. "You have done well, Janet. I suggest you take Rolley's horse. It is the better of the three, and his rigging is much better than Squeak's. From the way you hit him I doubt he will need the animal anytime soon. Besides, it was he who shot your horse."
Squeak flopped over on his side, still moaning and talking to himself.
"The pack horse is broken down" Gabe continued, "and anyway, it would be best if you left as soon as possible. For myself I will now mount and ride away. I ask that you not shoot me in the back."
Janet stayed down behind the log, her breath now coming in short hard gasps, and the rifle muzzle still in the general direction of Squeak. Occasionally she glanced behind her to see if Rolley's smoldering sleeve had burst into flame, and to ensure that Gabe was not coming up behind her. To her right and behind Squeek she heard a horse break through the brush. She only watched as Gabe rode around the camp on the far side of the draw.
When the sound of the hoof beats satisfied her that Gabe was really leaving, she stood and stepped over to Squeak. Resting the rifle muzzle behind his ear she reached down and removed a small pistol from his pocket and put it in her own. His rifle she took up and threw into the brush on the opposite side of the clearing to avoid frightening the unfamiliar horses. Stepping back and over Rolley, she grasped the collar of his coat and dragged him away from the fire. She considered rolling him over to get at his Colt but worried that he might come to. She thought a lot more of just getting out of there
Janet was not long in leaving the draw. She ignored the too-long stirrup leathers and swung into Rolley's saddle. The steers were hungry and more than ready to return to where they knew there would be hay. Once Janet had rode in behind them they took off at a trot down the trail, some of them running through the camp and over the two rustlers. She hesitated only long enough to retrieve the bridle from the cold body of Ben before swinging back in the saddle and pushing on down the hill.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Episode 5. Can Janet save herself? Can she save the yearlings?

Janet almost smiled. Perhaps there was a way.
The fire was still burning, though down to a few coals when they rode up to the rustler’s camp. Gabe picked her up by the waist, leaned over and set her on the ground. "I'll see to the horses," he said.
Rolley and Squeak dismounted and handed him their reins. Gabe rode off into the brush.
"Why, you must be real hungry, Ma'am," Squeak said. "We was just about to make up some bannock an' we got some deer left that Gabe shot. You just set over there on that log an' I'll whip it up." He was all nervous gestures and toothless grin.
Inwardly, Janet shuddered over the filth of the man, but she smiled back and said, "That would be very nice."
"Squeak, go an' sit down an' shut up," Rolley said gruffly. "You're makin' a fool o' yerself. This little filly's gonna be our cook from now on."
Sulking, Squeak dropped down onto the opposite end of the log from where Rolley stood.
From behind the brush where he was tying the horses, Gabe called, "Is it wise to have a stranger cook your food until you know something about that person?"
As he leaned her rifle against a log, Rolley stared at Janet, his eyes on fire. "Yeah, it is. I know all I need to know about this little lady." He reached down and untied a canvas wrapped bundle laying at the edge of the clearing and removed a bottle. "Except her name. What's yer name, little lady?" He pulled the cork from the bottle and took a long pull from the neck.
"Janet," she responded then stopped and thought about the Slash K brand on the steers. "Janet Lawrence," she continued, reverting to her maiden name. She looked up to see Gabe emerge from the brush behind Rolley. The nod he directed toward her seemed to confirm that she had done the right thing. Did that mean he knew she was from the ranch they had raided?
"Well, that's good, Jan honey," Rolley said, taking a seat on the log next to where he had leaned Janet's rifle. "We got us a grub-stake back up the draw here." He gestured over his shoulder with his thumb. "Spect yuh can hear 'em bawlin' and carryin' on."
"They're raising a fuss because they are becoming hungry," Gabe commented as he dropped to his haunches beside the fire. "We should be moving them away from here today and to a market." He poured himself a cup of coffee from the thick brew that had been simmering by the fire all morning then rose and stood off to one side of the camp.
Rolley shrugged as he finished another sip of rum. "No hurry. They can't get out of here without goin' by us. 'Sides, we need to spend some time today changin' that Slash K to a Rafter B." He leered at Janet. "Couldn't ask fer better company."
As she worked around the fire preparing a breakfast, Janet considered the appearance of each of her captors in hopes that it would supply some indication of their weaknesses and the treatment she could expect from each of them.
Squeak, for instance, did not demonstrate by his appearance that he cared about anything. On his feet he wore mukluks which appeared to be stuffed with something to improve warmth. Over these he had tied an outer layer of thicker leather to extend the life of his footwear, but it was all a soggy mess. His pants, also wet past the knees, were of homespun wool, perhaps made for a child since they were too short for Squeak despite his size. One leg had been torn and repaired with a long loop stitch of string. He wore no shirt, displaying the dirty red of his long underwear under an old and poorly patched wool coat that may have started life as military wear. One pocket of this coat hung low from what Janet thought might be a small pistol. On his head he wore a beaver fur cap with the ear lugs tied over the top. His greasy brown-and-gray hair hung to his shoulders.
"Yuh see, little lady, there's a war gettin' under way over t' Europe," Rolley explained. "Ain't no better way fer a fella to make his self a killin' than a good war." He giggled at his own wit, took a good pull from the bottle and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
Rolley was much better dressed but equally as dirty as Squeak. He wore well-oiled and well-used, flat-heeled, lace-up miner's boots. His trousers were of homespun wool, but of more recent make than Squeak's and protected by heavy leather chaps. His coat was of sheepskin, the matted and greasy wool turned in against a dark blue shield-style cotton shirt, and his hat was a dented and torn derby. It appeared that he sometimes shaved all but his upper lip, but had not done so for at least a week. Blonde hair just covering his ears may well have been hacked off with a knife. A holster was slung round his hips and held a pistol which appeared similar to her husbands .44-40 Colt. His boots, holster and pistol showed evidence of special care not evident in the rest of his appearance.
"Spread a few dollars 'round in the right places," Rolley continued, "an' a man can come out of a war with a mighty fine nest egg." He gestured over his shoulder toward the sound of the steers. "Them critters back there is the beginnin' of a kingdom. Pretty little thing like you plays her cards right, yuh might be a part o' that kingdom."
Gabe wore a dented and stained, but still serviceable Stetson over collar length black hair which may have been washed in the past few days. He was usually clean–shaven, but appeared to have avoided his razor for the past day or two. His plaid wool shirt was still relatively clean and covered by a Hudson's Bay blanket coat that showed signs of bunkhouse repair of some talent. His boots were of the high-heeled riders variety, well cared for but in need of replacement. What she had first thought were fringed buckskin leggings proved instead to be pants. Behind his belt she could see the handle of a pistol that appeared to be of the same size as Rolley's Colt but of a different make.
Janet's inventory of her camp-mates supplied little comfort. Only Gabe appeared to care about himself or life, and he had made it obvious that he would or could do little to help. However he had expressed some sympathy for her position. Would he interfere on behalf of his riding partners?
As she worked around the fire, Janet passed several times within reach of her rifle. As he sipped from the bottle and blathered on, Rolley watched her movements and grinned. Finally, after one of her passes, he placed the bottle down, lifted the rifle and levered the chamber open. Upon inspecting it he cursed, closed the bolt and set the weapon down again. It was only then that Janet realized she had not loaded the weapon. The cartridges she had taken from the house still rested in her coat pocket.
From the corner of her eye Janet saw Rolley leering at her again. "Yessiree, I can see where this empire buildin' could be a right comfor'ble experience," he observed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Fourth Episode in Janet's search for The Yearlings and survival.

Chapter 2

Something pulled at Janet and she came awake with a start. A stiff, dead branch caught her hat as she moved, knocking it from her head.
"Well Billy-be-damn if it ain't a woman," a strange, but at the same time familiar voice said.
Janet looked up to see a scrawny little man with bulging eyes and a scraggly beard grinning toothlessly at her as he held up the spruce branches. Behind him she could see that a new day had arrived and, looking into her den stood a square, better-dressed but equally dirty man holding her rifle. It was their pulling the rifle from her arms that had awakened her.
The second man turned his gaze off to the side and spit tobacco juice. "Better come have a look at this, Gabe." He turned back to smile at Janet as a third man rode his horse over and leaned down to look at her. This third man's clothes were also dirty, but it appeared he had both shaved and washed in the not too distant past.
The second man gestured with Janet's rifle. "Might as well come on out o' there, little lady. Reckon you'll find it a sight more comfor'ble over t' camp."
Janet rolled out from under the spruce on her knees but quickly stood and replaced her hat.
"What cha figure we should do, Rolley?" the thin man asked.
"Squeak, you ask too many dumb questions. You he'p the little lady back to camp. Gabe an' I'll foller yuh."
"This horse will ride double," Gabe said. "It will be better if she rides with me." Without waiting for a response he reached down and grabbed Janet's upper arms.
She was almost in the saddle before she thought to resist. Before she could do very much, however, Gabe grabbed her wrists and imprisoned them in his right hand.
"It is better to ride with me than walk with them," he said softly.
Janet stopped and looked around into his face. He did not smirk, nor was there the fire of lust in his eyes as she had seen in Rolley's gaze. She looked to the faces of the two men still standing by the tree and settled down.
Gabe slid back over the cantle allowing her to sit in the saddle, then urged his horse along the side of the hill, angling south, back toward the draw where Ben had been shot. While the other two men caught their horses and mounted, they gained several yards on them.
Gabe glanced over his shoulder, and then said, "Ma'am, you are in much trouble. I would not bother a lady, but they are not the same. Squeak is stupid, but not a killer. Rolley is a very bad man. He will shoot me – and perhaps you – with very little reason."
Janet looked over her shoulder at him. "Are you not one of them?"
Gabe nodded. "I am a cow thief. I have done many things to live. I do not murder. Or bother women."
"I am glad to hear you have such high morals," Janet said sarcastically.
"You do not show much gratitude."
"So far you've given me a ride," Janet noted. "I haven't seen you refuse to take your turn with me yet."
"That is true," was all Gabe was able to manage before the others came within earshot.
They stopped talking, but the other two, not realizing how well their voices carried continued.
"Whatcha figure she's doin’ here, Rolley," Squeak asked in his whiney voice.
"You sure are some dumb, Squeak," Rolley responded. "Ain't no woman's gonna foller a bunch a cows. I 'spect she's runnin' from sumpin’. Pro'ly lookin' fer a good man to look after her."
"Well, I could look after her. She could ride with us."
There was a short pause, then Rolley spit and said, "Shut the hell up."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Episode 3 in Janet's cold, lonely night in the foothill looking for cattle.

At the barn she put a bridle on Ben. He was fifteen years old, a horse Mat had raised, trained, and brought with him from his father's D-bar-K. He was the easiest to handle of the four horses Janet had available to her – an important consideration, since she did not have a saddle. At fifteen hundred pounds he was also the smallest of the four and the easiest for a twenty-year-old, one-hundred-and-twenty-pound woman to mount and sit on.
As she turned to leave the barn, Janet thought about how unpredictable the spring weather could be and grabbed a saddle blanket - an old wool blanket folded into a square - and put it on Ben. She certainly didn't need anything to improve the comfort of Ben's wide back, but if the weather should turn, the blanket might help to keep her warm until she could make it home.
At the house she told her mother that she would be gone looking for the steers. Her mother was flabbergasted.
"You can't leave us here by ourselves!"
Janet sighed. "I won't be gone long, Mother. There's nothing out there for them to eat yet, so I'm sure they won't go far."
"Well, if there is nothing for them to eat, leave them alone and they will come home. It's just irresponsible to leave a little baby - your baby - and an old woman by themselves in this wilderness."
"We need every one of those steers, Mother. They mean money to pay off our loan. You have been spoiling my baby quite well with me on the place. I'm sure you can continue just as well by yourself for a few hours." Janet reached behind the door and picked up the Winchester. From the shelf above it she took a box of shells and dumped a few in her hand which she dropped in the pocket of her father's old coat.
"Well! That certainly doesn't sound like gratitude! And why do you need to take that awful gun."
"Because it would not be very bright to go off by myself in this country without one. And you certainly won't use it." Janet leaned down and kissed her son. "Try not to take Grandma too seriously, Mark." She stood and turned to the door. "Bye, you two."
As she followed the trail of the yearlings, Janet thought once more about leaving their pasture that morning. She was sure she had closed the gate, but perhaps she was remembering one of the many other mornings when she had done exactly the same job. If she had not put so much of her attention into recreating the earlier events, or in condemning herself for her stupidity, she may have paid closer attention to the trail.
When she had been on the trail for more than an hour, she began to look closer at the tracks. The steers were still moving in a bunch, but should have been wandering, some of them heading back to the ranch where they had been receiving regular feed through the winter.
It was then that she saw the tracks of a horse. And then more. At least two, and possibly three or four horses. The steers were not wandering because they were being driven. They had not gone through a gate she had left open. They had been stolen.
She brought Ben to an abrupt halt and looked around. She was already well up into the hills and the sun had disappeared. As she thought about how she should proceed she buttoned her coat. For her to follow and return wandering steers was one thing. To follow rustlers was something else again, and not something she believed she could handle.
There was no reason for the rustlers to go west and north as they had been traveling. They would want to sell the animals, and there was nothing in the direction they were traveling except higher and higher mountains. Therefore, they would have to turn north toward the Yellowhead Trail and the new railroad, or perhaps turn back east and toward one of the larger settlements.
Janet decided to follow a little longer and find out which direction they would turn. Matt would be home from his trap line soon and perhaps he could discover where the animals had been sold if Janet could tell him the best places to look. They needed those steers. She urged Ben forward, but now they traveled much slower.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

And so here is episode 2 of Janet's attempt to find The Yearlings.

She decided it would be best to wait for daylight. The temperature was close to freezing, but her long coat and blanket should keep her warm enough to survive. The slight southwest wind still blew and the sky was overcast so perhaps the temperature would not drop too much during the night. Spring had been a long drawn-out affair, though pleasant and not too cold, and it was long past time for warmer weather.
She saw a large dark shape uphill to her right and approached it. It was a big spruce, its branches sweeping the snow. She crawled under and next to the trunk. The needles under the tree were dry, and the tree itself protected her from the wind.
Returning to the snow she took some in her mouth, sucking on it while she washed her face and hands. Removing the bandana from around her ears she used it to dry her self, then crawled back into her haven. She leaned the rifle against a limb close to hand, wrapped herself in the blanket, and leaned back against the trunk.
She worried about the rustlers, as anyone should worry about people who would shoot someone from ambush. But she worried also about her mother and son, Mark, waiting at the ranch house for her return. Neither of them knew that rustlers were involved, but they knew it was dangerous for anyone alone in the mountains, particularly during questionable weather conditions. Mark was only three and needed his mother around, and Janet's mother was not comfortable in anything but a city.
Margaret Lawrence had been raised in New Westminster. Her husband, Janet's father, had been Area Supervisor for the Transcontinental Railroad, and later the Canadian Pacific Railway. Margaret had been used to social events, shopping when she felt like it, and being in a financial position to feel like it often.
Janet, on the other hand, had found the life boring. When her father was transferred to Calgary, she could not have been happier.
At the age of sixteen, Janet was forced by her mother to go to one of Calgary's social gatherings. Not only did Janet not like such events, but she knew she would have to listen to her mother complain about how it was not "up to proper standards" and would "never be tolerated on the coast." But her mother insisted that she was now a young woman and it was time for her to make her place in social circles.
It was at that social that she met her knight in shining armor. It did not matter that his armor was a pair of freshly washed work jeans and an old suit jacket, or that his helmet was a wide-brimmed, high-crowned hat - not new but freshly brushed. It also didn't matter that none of his horses were white chargers. She had seen her dream and its name was Mathew Kingsley.
Matt and Janet had been married almost a year when her father died. On their small ranch northwest of Red Deer they didn't get the news in time to make the funeral, but they did go down to Calgary.
Learning that Janet was pregnant, Margaret insisted on returning to the ranch to help with the birth. Actually, it was the only course open for her since she could not afford to live in the city. During his life she had lived to the fullest extent of her husband’s income. Now that he was gone she could not afford even the essentials, and would rather run and hide than allow her friends to see her predicament.
Matt was pleased to accept his mother-in-law's offer. He had helped in the delivery of countless calves and foals, but was more than concerned about the arrival of his own offspring. True, Janet could spend a few weeks at neighbors twelve miles east, but what if something unexpected should happen?
Janet was not pleased with the arrangement. She had reluctantly followed her mother's directions for life in the past, did not want to hear any more of them, and certainly wouldn't follow them again. She also knew that with no place to go, her mother would be with them for far longer than it would take to have the child.
Mark was now three, and Margaret was still part of the Slash K.
"Janet, dear, I don't know why you insist on wearing men's clothing. It will give Markus an improper perception of how things should be." It was one of Margaret's favorite topics. She sat in the rocking chair doing needlepoint while Mark spun a small top on the floor.
"Because it's impractical to feed cattle in a dress, particularly in the winter time," Janet responded calmly and with little thought as she ate her soup. She had responded the same way to the same subject a thousand times.
"Well, I don't see why your husband isn't here to feed those filthy animals. That is a man's job, after all. Besides, Markus needs his father."
Janet sighed. "Matt isn't here because we are trying to make a life for ourselves. He's trapping."
"I still don't understand why he can't trap closer to home," Margaret continued with her usual line.
"Because someone else had this area already and we can't afford to buy it. Besides, Matt would still have to go up in the mountains and he wouldn't be home much anyway." Janet stopped a spoonful of soup half way to her mouth. Why did she continue to repeat the same things over and over? Her mother had been there the autumn Matt first rode away and for every trapping season since.
"If you need money, why not sell some of those beasts out there," Margaret advised. Janet was sorry she had paused, giving her mother an opening. "I mean, if you can't make any money from them, why have them?"
"We borrowed money to buy them and we have to pay that off before we can make any money from them," Janet responded, her anger rising. "You see, Mother, unlike some people, Matt and I pay our debts. And we don't spend money we don't have." She dropped her spoon in the bowl and stood.
Going to the door she sat on the bench and donned her mukluks. Now, in addition to frustration, she also felt guilty for having made such a remark to her mother.
"Janet, you've not finished your lunch," Margaret noticed, with more than a little disapproval.
"I have two more cows that still haven't calved," Janet responded. "I'll finish later." At the same time she thought, "Why do I feel guilty? I can't even insult her!"
"I would have thought it was warm enough for them to look after themselves," Margaret noted. "Your lunch will be cold. Besides, I would think a mother would want to spend more time with her son than with a group of cows."
"That was what I planned when I came in," Janet said. "And it's a herd of cows, not a group." She pointed across the room at her son who appeared to be paying no attention to the usual prattling of the two women. "And that is Mark. Not Markus, just Mark." Actually the boy's name was Markham - after his paternal grandfather - but that was another argument Janet didn't want to start with her mother.
Intent on the spinning top, his back to his grandmother, Mark almost allowed a smile to slip out.
One of the cows had already dropped its calf and the other was about to. Before going in for lunch, Janet had put fresh straw in what she called her 'baby pen', so she only needed to gently herd the cow and new calf into it.
The second cow stood with its back arched, tail raised, and a far-away look in her eyes. Janet expected it would not be too much longer, but was slightly fearful of expecting too much. From sixty cows she had sixty-one calves - two sets of twins - with nothing more serious than some frostbite to two sets of young ears. Things had gone especially well so far and she didn't want to jinx anything on this last calf.
After several minutes the cow relieved herself. She looked around at Janet then walked over near the horse corral, lay down and began to chew her cud. Margaret would have been impressed by the string of verbal abuse her daughter aimed at the cow – but not favorably.
Janet had no desire to return to the house, and another argument with her mother, so she decided to take a turn around the small pasture holding the twenty yearling steers. Perhaps by the time she had checked the fence the tardy cow would be ready to begin a birthing.
The small pasture was empty! The wire gate lay flat beside the trail of hoof prints in the mud. For different reasons Janet and her husband shared a dream of future independence. It was a dream she could see and touch every day in the small herd of steers. Now the dream – and the herd – had evaporated.
Immediately, Janet blamed herself. She had brought a wagonload of hay to them that morning on the still frozen ground and must have left the gate open when she left. As she hurried back to the buildings, she tried to remember the events surrounding her leaving the yearling pasture and going through the gate.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Short Story Collection 1

I have a collection of 17 short stories that I'm hoping to have published in the near future. Since I seem to be having trouble maintaining my schedule of posts at the present time, I believe I'll post one of those stories in a serielized version on this blog.
I've been a little more busy than I like over the past few months and expected a slight slow down in the fuel distribution business this spring, which has transpired. However, even though I'm home a little bit earlier these past few days, now there are all those things to do around here that where not done when there was several feet of snow on the ground.
So here is the first instalment of "The Yearlings" which I originally constructed in 2005 and is the sole property of David M. McGowan.

The Yearlings

By D.M. McGowan

The horse and rider came through the deep cut in the hill, following the trail of the yearling steers. It wasn't a difficult task, the cloven hooves having left a well-marked path in the late-season, crystallized snow. The tracker slowed, partly to try to hear any sounds the cattle might be making, and partly because each step took them farther from the safetly of home. It didn't help that night was closing in fast.
The rider wore an old pair of coveralls, the cuffs of which were turned up and held in place by the mukluk laces tied around them. The coat was of heavy, brown wool that had become dark and shiny over the years. The outfit was topped off by an old, round-top hat, the brim of which had long since given up any resistance to the yearly attacks of sun and wind. Under the hat a bandana was tied around under the jaw to protect the ears, for although the sun had been warm, the breeze had been crisp and had turned to chilling cold with the coming dark. The barrel of a '73 Winchester carbine was nestled in the crook of an elbow, a homemade rawhide sling hanging under it. There was no saddle on the horse, but rather an old wool blanket folded to make a riding pad. From a distance it was impossible to tell that the rider was not a teenage boy but a woman.
She felt the horse, Ben, stop in mid stride and grunt. Almost at the same instant she heard the shot. Ben began to shudder and she jumped to her right - toward the closest cover - landing on a wall of young, fozen willow branches.
Looking back through the willows she saw Ben fall, breathe leaving him in an explosion. As he fell the blanket slid from his back and fell near the willows. She reached out and drew it toward her then rolled on through the willows to land in the icy snow.
She heard voices just close enough to understand in the crisp evening air.
"Dang it, Rolley, yuh done killed him! I come t' hep with a few cows. Didn't plan on no killin'."
"Shut up," a second voice responded.
Janet looked for a way out. Back down the draw a few young poplar had formed the beginnings of a grove which would probably not survive the next heavy spring run-off. Up hill from these young trees stood a few spruce.
With the willows screening her from her attackers she walked slowly to the poplars, trying not to make any noise in the wet snow. When she reached the first sapling she swung the rifle over her shoulder by the leather strap then stuffed the folded blanket between stock and makeshift sling. She shinnied a few feet up the limbless trunk then looked over her shoulder to see if she might be visible from where she had heard the voices. Reassured, she climbed a few more feet until the young tree began to bend. Reaching out with one hand she grasped the limb of the next tree and drew it toward her. Going from tree to tree in this manner she came to the edge of the grove and slid back to the ground fifty feet from where she started. It wouldn't hide her trail forever, but it should - with the help of dark - give her a good lead.
She paused before turning up the slope, attempting to hear something more from her ambushers. Hearing nothing she started up toward the spruce trees. Near the top of the slope she stopped again and listened. By then it was fully dark.
"Ain't nobody here" the first voice observed. "Yuh done killed a horse."
"I told you t' shut up!" the second voice responded.
Janet Kingsley continued over the ridge and into the next gully. This wash was much less steep than the one she had just left and, with the bottom filled with brush, she stayed on the slope and turned to her right, heading back down toward the ranch.
She had gone only a short distance when her heart rate began to slow and she began to think. She wondered what the rustlers would do. It wouldn't be difficult for them to figure out that she would want to back home. Would they ride down the trail and attempt to cut her off?
It would be easy, she decided, for them to outdistance her and wait for her where the draws all met and came out of the hills. In the dark she could easily blunder into them. That is, if they managed to shut up as ordered.

Monday, May 2, 2011

He's gone!

I'm disappointed!
Oh yes, he was one of the most despicable animals on the planet and did more to damage Islam than anyone else, but I would have enjoyed collecting the reward posted by GW Bush. I could have used it to retire and spend all my time writing and publishing more novels.
Oh, well, I'll be writing anyway.
Truthfully, the world is a better place without bin Laden.