Filled with previously published tales as well as new ones Desert Heat, Desert Cold And Other Tales Of The West by Charlie Steel takes you back to the old days of the west. Before society theoretically “evolved” and decided to do better by orphan children and the down trodden. Back when it behooved the young folks to listen to the hard won wisdom of their elders who had been lucky and good enough to survive to an old age. Back when a man lived by his gun, his skills on a horse, and how well he could survive after being beaten and left for dead.
That is exactly what happens in the signature story, “Desert Heat, Desert Cold” that leads off the collection from Condor Publishing. Beaten, robbed, and left to die in the Mexican desert, the narrator must put years of wisdom passed down from Old Bill to survive.
Mike Pardee has had enough and walks out of his marriage in “Mountain Man Comes Home.” He leaves the small city of Trinidad and goes home to the mountain cabin he had before he married the town spinster. He is looking for peace.
The wagon train took the wrong path on its way to California. Now, everybody is dead except for one survivor in “Boy On The Desert.” Little Willie is by himself. Then the coyotes came to feed.
Sam Cook is a lone rancher with few plans on this Sunday in “Death Comes In The Afternoon.” A little fishing, some reading from the Bible, and a late lunch before he heads to the nearest general store for supplies. Home after the war, he is glad for every day above ground and does his best to get along with others while not surrendering his principals. No matter how pretty the Front Range is, life is never peaceful for very long.
The War Between the States just ended and it is a cold day in November in St. Louis. Young Otis Sutter is homeless, an orphan, and coming down with some sort of respiratory infection. That was before his few possessions were destroyed in “Kid On The Run.”
“The Lad From Norway” is a remarkable specimen of male vitality. How he wound up out west and very far from Norway is the point of this tale.
Winter had been brutal, but the spring meant the thaw and getting out of the cabin. It also meant a trip to town, a couple of purchases, and far too much drinking. At least when he woke up he still had his dog, Nuisance. He copes as best as he can with the aftermath in “Nuisance And The Girl.”
The old man came to town knowing his days were numbered. He has been places and done a quite a few things over the years. He has a lot of knowledge to pass on. He found a receptive audience for his memories in “Old Man In A Rocking Chair.”
Eight year old Sammy Tucker knows the town like the back of his hand. He had explored it all. He also knows everyone in town. So, he knows trouble has come calling in “Little Sammy Tucker And The Strangers.”
The old man has stories to share with his grandson. Life lessons he means to impart no matter what his son has to say about him. A boy needs to know the truth about life and more in “The Dust Still Rising.”
Frances Stevens did not make eighty-two years of age by being soft. “Grandma Gives No Quarter” and she isn’t about to now when the fate of those she cares about is at stake.
“Hot Desert, Hot Rock, Hot Snake” is pretty much self-explanatory. It all leads to a really bad day on the trail.
The plight of orphan children is a frequent theme in many of the stories of this collection. Such is the case in “Hard Times For Billy O’Reilly.” Being fourteen and poor is bad enough. Being beaten is worse. Then he gets thrown in the local jail before being thrown on the orphan train and shipped out of New York to be a problem for somebody else to deal with at the end of the line.
Being the youngest in the bunkhouse means the nastiest jobs fall to Leonard. He doesn’t know ranch life and yet “The Rain Pours On.” He has a plan.
Zeke and Art are old men playing checkers at their small homestead near the town of Walsenburg, Colorado. They are both cranky old guys, but they get along okay. That is until events start to happen in “Something In The Wood Pile.”
The horse is fine, but the rider hanging on the edge of the cliff is in a world of trouble. Six hundred feet below is certain death in “On The Edge.”
Bobby Carter was traveling alone when the warriors attacked. They have him pinned down in the rocks against Badito Cone. It is a matter of time before he is dead. In “Dead Man’s Song” he makes one final stand the only way he knows how.
The seventeen tales that make up Desert Heat, Desert Cold And Other Tales Of The West. Each tale is accompanied at least once and often twice with a black and white illustration of the story. The illustrations by Gail Heath are a nice touch in the book. As is the detailed “Acknowledgements” page that gives background on the various sites and publications that have published many of these tales.
Whether new for this book or previously published in print or online, all the tales in this collection share a common theme of survival and acceptance. Survival as long as one can and acceptance of when the work is done and it is time to go. Desert Heat, Desert Cold And Other Tales Of The West by Charlie Steel is a good read and worth your time.
Desert Heat, Desert Cold And Other Tales Of The West
Paperback (also available in eBook)
Material supplied by the author with no expectation of a review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2018