- Watcherby Brett Matthew West
This work has reached the exceptional level
John Shelton contemplates cattle rustling
Pecos Valley
: Watcher by Brett Matthew West
Artwork by Paul G. at

A Western full of calamity and a wistful but prevailing human spirit.

Cast of Characters:

Wyatt - young cowboy for the Bar JS ranch and narrator of this tale

Mr. Shelton and Verne Alexander - co-owners of the Bar JS ranch

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

Abigail Fiona - piano player in the Silver Cent saloon

Isabell Netty - whore in the Silver Cent saloon


BACKGROUND: The Bar JS ranch in the Arizona Territory is the setting as this tale unfolds. It is full of calamity and a wistful but prevailing human spirit.

Verne Alexander is the laissez faire half owner of the ranch. He prefers to enjoy life and let the wranglers do the labor. The tough, hardnosed, John Shelton is the other half-owner of the ranch and the leader. The narrator is a young cowboy named Wyatt who is seeking his own identity.

Strong, and richly, developed characters, as would befit cowboys of the Old West, is the intention of Chapters One, Two, and Three.

In Chapter Four, Verne and the wranglers are sitting around after dinner conversing while John Shelton walks the Gila River, an old habit from his injun fighting days. His mind on rustling cattle.

Penned in Old West jargon, the tale is my first attempt at writing in the Western genre. Therefore, all input welcome.


As was his habit, Mr. Shelton walked the Gila River for an hour. Every night he got away from camp. There he could sharpen his leadership intuitions. He liked listenin' to the country and believed just 'cause trouble descended don't mean you gotta offer it a place to sit down.

In a locale serene as Pecos Valley, where the night was still, there was little threat to search for. The worst that might happen was a coyote sidle in unnoticed and snag a free range chicken. Outlaws tended to traverse 'round Pecos Valley cause Mr. Shelton and Verne's reputations with six-shooters kept them distant.

Near a salt lick, Mr. Shelton crossed the Gila and sat on a bluff. He knowed renegade injuns would never come to Pecos Valley again. Most of his life he'd fought Apache, Comanche, and other warriors...but no mas. Mr. Shelton knowed Pecos Valley quit needin' guardin' many moons ago.

The ranch boss knowed his men relied on him through whatever they encountered. Physical work never bothered Mr. Shelton. Lately, he'd felt bound by the constant needs of others. Never a woolgatherer, Mr. Shelton attempted not to recall the memories of his past. They only galled him. He wondered was he growin' old?

Back at the Bar JS, Verne, Charlie, Tad, Gunther, and me retreated to the porch. The pigs searched for food. They always did. Bein' the possessor of an admirable Bowie knife, Tad held an appreciation for such things. He plucked his out of the frayed leather sheath it was in on his side and flicked its sharp blade with his thumb.

"Whose throat you gonna cut with that, half-pint?" Charlie asked him.

Tad claimed the sixteen-incher had been won from a buffalo hunter in a card game in the Dakotas. I never seed Tad use the Bowie to butcher animals, or for much of anything else. He was always aloof. You couldn't pinned him down to much of nothin'.

"It'd cut your head clean off," Tad told Charlie.

After examinin' the knife Tad placed it back in its sheath. Verne held a dim view of fancy knives, particularly as fightin' weapons. He preferred a good skinnin' knife for wild game. The Colt .45 he weared was all the weaponry Verne needed. He liked to listen to the clicks of a twirled chamber.

On the peaceful night we heared the piano from the Silver Cent saloon as Abigail Fiona played it. Scantily dressed in her upstairs room, Isabell Netty listened to the music. On rare occasions when I had errands that drawed me near the saloon, I waited for the proper thing to say to her. Sociable and uninhibited, Isabell'd only been in town a few weeks, but from what I heared a lot of carrots was gettin' wet.

Quick to talk 'bout my problems with Verne, Charlie, and Tad, I never uttered Isabell's name. The thought of her occupied my mind no matter what chore Mr. Shelton gived me to do. The Bar JS wranglers was no respecters of feelin's.

Abandoned in Pecos Valley by a hooligan, I knowed Isabell was a whore who'd come by her profession as unexpected as I'd come by mine. We can't say what fate has in store for us. We just gotta deal with the cards we're given. I had no doubt Isabell's was the prettiest face that ever been seed in Pecos Valley. Her nature was too. Since I had no family, this weren't a thought to be taken lightly.

Sittin' on the upper step of the porch, I asked the same question every night Mr. Shelton wandered off for his walk down the Gila. Verne smiled at me. I wanted Mr. Shelton close by.

"He's playin' injun fighter," Verne told me when I asked.

I didn't believe him. Mr. Shelton never done nothin' triflin'. If he done something, it needed doin'.

"Mr. Shelton heads off 'cause he don't wanna hear our yappin'," Tad stated. "He ain't amicable, Wyatt. You couldn't keep him in camp iffen you tried.'

"Aye, God, Tad," Verne remarked, "John's gotta be the one to out suffer all of us."

Charlie was never fond of Verne's critcizin' Mr. Shelton. There was a pause. He weren't exactly sure how to handle them.

All he said was, "Someone's gotta take the lead."

I seed Mr. Shelton return and was relieved. Somethin' always eased inside me when Mr. Shelton was around. Somewhere in my mind was the notion some night he wouldn't come back. Maybe he'd saddle up his mount and leave us to our own accords. Me, Charlie, and Tad done our best to pull our weight around the Bar JS. Verne never done nothin' of the sort to oblige Mr. Shelton's wishes, and Gunther was just a coosie.

Some nights I dreamed Mr. Shelton left and took me with him to the high plains or the Oregon timber country. But, I knowed those was dreams. If Mr. Shelton left, he'd probably only take Charlie with him. They'd rode together fifteen years.

"This would have been a good night for crossin' stock," Mr. Shelton commented upon his return.

"Cross some stock and do what with 'em?" Verne asked.

"Drive 'em to buyers," Mr. Shelton replied, then he added, "it's been done before."

"Can I go next time you cross stock?" I eagerly asked Mr. Shelton.

He hesitated. It weren't really fair to me. I knowed Mr. Shelton would have to say yes sometime.

"There's plenty of work to be done tomorrow. You'll only grow old if you sit up all night. Best you go to bed," Mr. Shelton told me.

Dejected by bein' put off again, I immediately went.

"Night, son," Verne said as I departed.

Mr. Shelton didn't speak. Verne looked hard at him. The music from the piano at the Silver Cent saloon echoed up to the Bar JS. Verne stretched and got up out of his chair. Far as he was concerned, the night was young although the hour was late.

"You ought not be so mule-headed about Wyatt," he told Mr. Shelton. Headed for the Silver Cent, Verne remarked, "I'm gonna go scare up a card game. See ya for lunch."

Deep in thought, Mr. Shelton remained on the porch.

***Most FanStorians don't, but read the notes.


Author Notes
-This tale is written in 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.

-Other chapters still under promotion are:

Ridin' For the Brand - Chapter 1 (Continued)
Ridin' For the Brand - Chapter 1 (Conclusion)

These can be located in my portfolio.

-As I am writing this tale, I plan to keep more than one chapter under promotion. Enticement to get members to read my tale? Why not?

-I have been told Westerns don't play well on FanStory. I'm not sure I agree with that statement.

-because of limited daily online writing time, I can only offer reciprocal reviews. If you review one of mine, I will review one of yours. This may take me a little time, however, I always do.

mas - Spanish word for more
woolgatherer - daydreamer
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.


© Copyright 2018. Brett Matthew West All rights reserved.
Brett Matthew West has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

Be sure to go online at to comment on this.
© 2000-2018., Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms under which this service is provided to you. Privacy Statement