Western Fiction posted February 2, 2018 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 4... 

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Chapter 1 (Conclusion)

A chapter in the book Pecos Valley

Ridin' For The Brand

by Brett Matthew West

Cast of Characters:

Wyatt - young cowhand on the Bar JS ranch and narrator of this tale.

John Shelton and Verne Alexander - co-owners of the Bar JS ranch in the Arizona Territory.

Gunther McCune, Tad Holder, Choc'late Charlie - hired hands on the Bar JS ranch.


The mouse-colored cayuse that attacked Mr. Shelton had been rounded up in Skeleton Canyon, in the Peloncillo Mountains. Although his disposition indicated he once belonged to the Iroquois, Verne swore he was too tall for an injun pony. Choc'late Charlie claimed he was worthy of the plantations where he'd picked cotton as a slave. I never been there. I don't knowed.

Everybody in Pecos Valley wanted the grulla with it's tiger striped legs and white ear tips. Mr. Shelton wouldn't hear any bids on him. The outlaw once kicked Tad into the barn. After that, he wouldn't go near the horse.

Seein' me round the far corner of the barn, and comin' up from the holdin' pen, Verne asked, "Where you been?"

"Chuckin' rocks at the widow maker that chomped a hole in Mr. Shelton" I told him.

'You plumb loco, Wyatt?" Verne asked me, "You want Mr. Shelton to quirt your young hide?"

"You gonna rat me out?" I wanted to know.

Verne considered the prospect and said, "Nope. I'd a-did the same 'cept for this sore back."

He paused and I knowed one of his pieces of sage advice would follow.

"When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter don't be surprised if they learnt their lesson."

The warnin' issued, he said," You best go up and git some of Gunther's Sonofagun stew 'fore he slops the pigs with it."

Passin' the woodshed, I remembered Mr. Shelton weren't my pa, but I knowed he treated me special from the other hands.

'Bout that time, Gunther laid into his dinner bell and sent it clangin'. None of us was deaf, but when Gunther rung his bell it echoed ten miles the other side of Pecos Valley. It also sent vibrations off the hills surroundin' the Bar JS.

None of us knowed why Gunther banged his bell so loud. There weren't no need for the racket but he done so for his own reason. Even Mr. Shelton couldn't quiet Gunther in that regard. Once Gunther's loud bell clangin' gave Mr. Shelton such a bad headache he considered shootin' him.

The silence of the sunset was drowned out by Gunther's bell. Once the ringin' stopped, we approached the house. Again a yearnin' crossed my face.

Verne read the unspoken words my expression said and remarked, "Mr. Shelton ain't gonna let you wear no gun, Wyatt. For iffen you did wear a gun some caballero would mistake you for a gunfighter. It ain't worth gittin' massacred over."

"That old coosie can't barely cook," Tad stated joinin' Verne, Charlie, and me.

Verne didn't really believe a caballero would gun me down. He only meant to stimulate me, and Charlie. Verne knowed my imagination runned wild. I often fantasized what happened on certain nights when Mr. Shelton, Verne, Tad, and Charlie mounted up their horses and rode into Mexico? Come sunup they had a herd of cattle with 'em that weren't on the ranch when they left. I longed for the day I'd be old enough to ride along on those excursions.

All Mr. Shelton ever told me was, "You can ride with us when you're growed. Until then you stay."

There weren't no need for me to argue with him about it any further. Only Verne could get away with debating Mr. Shelton. Upon entering the house, Verne noticed Mr. Shelton was in the kitchen with his shirt off. He treated the bite he'd received from the stallion with a mixture Gunther concocted.

"John, as long as you've worked around horses you should know not to turn your back on a high-spirited stallion," Verne chastised him.

I had come to the conclusion two things was certain. One was that Mr. Shelton would come up with more chores to do than we could get did. The other was rabbit or snake would be served with every meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Mr. Shelton put his shirt back on and came to the table. Verne reached for a second heapin' helpin'. His appetite was ferocious. Mr. Shelton had observed it with wonder for twenty-five years. In their sheriffin' days their deputies were amazed by Verne's eatin' prowess.

Verne scooped up a big ladle of stew. Before he could plop it down on his plate. Mr. Shelton stuck his plate under the ladle.

"Much obliged, amigo," he told Verne.

I thought Mr. Shelton's move was slick and laughed. So did Charlie and Tad.

"Verne, if you ever grow tired of bein' lazy, I'll get you a job at the Silver Cent saloon waitin' tables," Mr. Shelton said.

"I waited tables on a riverboat outta New Orleans. Weren't no older than Wyatt," Verne responded.

"How come you quit the riverboat?" I asked him.

"Cause like you, son, I was too young and purty. The whores wouldn't leave me be," Verne replied.

Mr. Shelton didn't like idle chatter 'bout whores at the dinner table or in front of me. Verne had no compunction when it came to talkin' 'bout whores. Table talk between the two of them seldom lead to much good.

Verne decided he wanted an argument. Arguing with Mr. Shelton occupied much of his time. Even in their days as injun fighters, Verne seized the opportunity for a good dispute with Mr. Shelton whenever it came along. Never havin' been nowhere, I gobbled up Verne's tales about whores and riverboats with youthful fascination.

"Hearin' you brag about your accomplishments with whores don't improve the taste of Gunther's cookin'," Mr. Shelton responded.

"Then shoot Gunther and put him outta all of our mis'ry," Verne remarked.

The stew revived Mr. Shelton. However, he weren't about to sit around and argue whores with Verne after a hard day's work. He pushed his chair back away from the table and rose to his feet. Then, he grabbed his Stetson and Winchester rifle. With nothin' more said, Mr. Shelton walked out the door, his mind on the rustler's moon that was risin'.

The time was about right for another stock raid. Several cattlemen would arrive in Pecos Valley within the next week. Some had begun gettin' trail crews together. The Bar JS needed more cattle.


-This tale is written using Old West jargon so these words are not nits or errors. They are used to help create the setting.

-This is my first attempt at writing in the Western genre.

-As I am writing this tale, I plan to keep additional chapters under promotion.

Other chapters still under promotion:

Ridin' For the Brand - Chapter 1 (Continued)
Chapter 4 - Watcher

These chapters can be located in my portfolio.

widow maker - a rank, or badly behaved, horse
cayuse - horse
grulla - sub-breed of a dun horse
Sonfoagun stew - stew made mostly from the organs of a calf
caballero - an elderly Spanish knight or gentleman
coosie - one who cooks food

Symmetrical Motion, by Paul G., selected to complement my tale.

So, thanks Paul G., for the use of your picture. it goes so nicely with my tale.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Paul G. at FanArtReview.com

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© Copyright 2018. Brett Matthew West All rights reserved.
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