Last night while in bed I decided to write up some new lines for my Western, the Lettered Men.
I’ll do that sometimes right before I go to bed. Got some good stuff done but had to rework some of em this morning. Many of these lines are spoken by Jerimiah Jereds, also known as “Wordy” (the only name his friends call him) because he will either invent words (neologisms) or will twist around old phrases and common sayings in new ways. Wordy sometimes acts as the comic-relief of the novel, which is pretty rough in parts, and sometimes acts as the de-facto Bard of the novel, being a sort of frontier’s poet and cowboy wordsmith.
Now not all of these snippets are by Wordy. But many are.
Anywho I gave my notes to my wife and daughter this morning (before the final rewrites) so that they could look over em and give me their opinion. I heard a lot of loud laughing coming from the kitchen table downstairs as I worked from my office so I reckon I did something right. They both seemed to like what they read.
Also I should not neglect that my mother came down to the house yesterday after lunch and she also reminded me of many of the old sayings and euphemisms of my grandparents and great-grandparents, which were in many ways the inspiration for Wordy.
So here are the final write ups for the Wordy Way. All from my novel The Lettered Men.
“He’d howl like an old hound dog if ya hung him with a new rope.”
“Ain’t really worth mentioning Word.”
“Oh yeah?” said Wordy. “Well half of not really worth mentioning still beats ever bit a nothing all day long. Specially in the middle a nowhere. So let’s just work around with what we got awhile and see where it leads us. Maybe tomorrow it still won’t be worth mentioning, but maybe in a week or two it will be. When we’re sitting our asses by the fire back home.”
“You can’t get there from here boys. But if we can just get over to there I bet we can.”
“He smells like he smothered a buzzard and kept it in his pants for a keepsake.”
All the boys laughed when they saw him come out of the barbers. All except Wordy. He just stared at Beau for awhile and then he stood up and circled him like a corvus round a scarecrow. “Hmmm-mmm,” he kept humming to himself as he circled.
“Well now, that’s a two bit shave and a haircut iffin I ever seen one,” he finally said. “Way I see it though she still owes ya a dollar in change just to make it even.”
“Dammit!” Beau said testily slapping his hat against his thigh. Dust and hair swirled everywhere. “I told her it didn’t look right to me.”
“Be alright Beau,” Wordy said. “You’re both new at this. She ain’t much of a judge a jug-heads and you ain’t much of a judge a women.”
“Oh, and you is you Wordy sumbitch!” Beau practically yelled.
“I didn’t say that,” said Wordy. “I just seen enough scalpings in my day to know the difference between a brave and a squaw cut.”
The boys all laughed again.
“That whore’s dumber than a plow mule, sure nuff, but she’s still twice as easy to ride. So if you’re gonna plow with her then just cut the reins and let her wander. Save ya both a lotta trouble.”
“He drunk up the sea and spit out Achilles.” (Wordy describing a cowboy that rode into town, got drunk, and started shooting and fighting.)
“He’s a one mare man. True enough. But he’ll go for any stallion what ain’t tied down.”
“Book learning ruined him for anything worth knowin. I wouldn’t trust him none.”
“The mare’s the better horse. He ain’t worth bad oats and barn rats.”
“There ain’t another man like him in the whole lot. Thank God. Can you imagine a whole herd a dem sumbitches?”
“She’s got a face like a sty-sow. But he’s a pot-bellied pig so who cares who slops who?”
“Ride her at your own peril kid. But don’t dismount till ya broke her.”
“Why, do you think she’ll foal on me?” he asked.
“Probably not,” said Wordy, “but she’s so rough you might.”
“Boy’s so slow that he’d hav’ta ride as hard as he could for a month just ta reach the county line.”
“Man knifed three Comanches and a Texas Ranger,” Sole said, “and lived to tell it. So you might just wanna shoot him. In the head. From behind. While he’s sleepin.”
“Maybe he’s just shot so many men by now that he’s plum forgot how to miss. Ever think a that?”
“Man smells like a Mississippi pole-cat, but he tracks like an Arkansas wild dog. Just make sure to keep him downwind and you’ll run em all to ground.”
“He’s slicker than a cold-creek water snake, but not near as warm-blooded. So keep him ahead of ya, but always in sight. Safe plays are always the safest.”
“Sir, your coffee tastes like chickpeas and boll-weevils. Without the chickpeas.”
“Damn Word! It smells like you shit a dead possum and then lit it on fire with pine tar!”
“Yeah,” Wordy said. “I ain’t feeling too well right now.”
“Fine,” Mason said. “But did ya have to spread it around to everybody else like that? You made the local skunks puke.”
Hart Thomas snorted, spit out his chaw, and then laughed out loud.
“Hell Hart,” Mason said, “you was the skunk I was referring to!”
“He’s cotton-brained and toe-headed. You walk a mile in his moccasins and you’ll end up Boot-hilled.”
“Oh, he went to war alright. He just never met a battle worth sitting through or a man his equal at a foot chase.”
“Ah hell Bill, iffin you gave him a new bull and three pregnant cows then in five years time he’d still be a sheep farmer.”
Hope you enjoyed em…
ARE YOU NECESSITY?
He stood up all wrong to be neighborly.
I looked up at him with a pacific expression to give him a chance to reconsider but he didn’t seem particular to my gentlemanly solicitations. So I followed suit by rising to my feet and placing my hand on the handle of my longknife.
“You know, maybe its age, or maybe its wisdom,” I explained. “Hell, I don’t know, could be a little bit of both at this point I reckon. But I’ve learned over time boy not to push myself any harder than I can stand at any given time, or to act more recklessly than I can endure at any given moment. Unless, of course, necessity dictates elsewise.
So the question I got for you son is this right here: ‘Are you necessity? Do you think of yourself as truly necessary?’
‘Cause iffin you do then I’m certainly prepared to listen to ya proposition, if you’re prepared for my considered reply.”
When he suddenly seemed uncertain and wavering in his deliberations I swung the table out from between us and took to hitting him as hard in the mouth as either one of us could stand. Until he wasn’t no more.
Then I stepped on his face turning it sideways and put the cold, clean, sharp tip of my longknife into his earhole.
“Can you make out precisely what I’m saying to ya now kid, or do I gotta keep pushing my point?”
From my Western: the Lettermen
“Sometimes kid the well really does run dry. And when that happens there ain’t no sense in pumpin the handle til your palm bleeds or in dipping in a different bucket.
You just let the well fill fast as the well will fill.
The Truth of it is that everything else is purty much beyond your powers of persuasion anyhow. That’s just the way it works in this world. Learn that and even the hard stuff will likely soften after awhile. Even if it don’t, you will.”
From my Western, the Lettermen
“Monk, I don’t expect there’s a man of honor among us. That ain’t even the question the way I sees it.
The question is, ‘Is there a man of courage among us?’
Cause if we got that much we at least got a chance. Otherwise all this whining and moaning and bitching and complaining don’t mean shit to me. And it won’t mean shit to the rest of the world neither.
Eventually every man has gotta decide for himself, “Am I talking my manhood up, or am I just talking it away?'”
An argument among the Lettermen concerning what really makes a difference in this world.
Awhile back I took Sam for a walk in the woods. While we were out I had what to me was a very good idea for a short story – a Western.
The story is basically this. A bounty hunter goes out looking for a small gang of outlaws. His dog finds a young boy, about 15, who has been taken in by the two outlaws. One of the outlaws shoots the bounty hunter’s dog and the bounty hunter kills the two outlaws, and then makes the boy help him rescue and save his dog from dying of the gunshot. (Which they do at the time.)
The bounty hunter decides to himself that as they’re saving the dog that he will sort of adopt the boy and turn him from his previous life of outlawry.
Though he never really comes out and legally adopts the boy or gives him his name. He does give the boy an alias that was his grandfather’s name, the same grandfather who had raised him, though the boy doesn’t know that until much later.
Anywho I liked the story so well that I came home and spent most of the afternoon working it when I wasn’t having to do other things. It will be sort of a long story; I’m to fifteen hundred words already.
It doesn’t run from beginning to end yet, I can see the whole thing in my head but I’ve been writing down the scenes as they come to me. The lines are scene break points. Like I said it’s not woven together yet, just scene parts. Some in order, some not. It’s told form the point of view of the main character, Thomas Hodgkins.
If you wanna comment then you’re welcome to.
There’s some cussing in a good cause at a few points, nothing gratuitous. It’s man-cussing, out of anger. But I’ve warned ya, so you know it’s there.
It’s called, A Man, His Horse, His Dog, and a Boy.
Have a good one folks. I’ve got a lot to do today, but hope you enjoy it.
* * *
A MAN, HIS HORSE, HIS DOG, AND A BOY
“Oh, a little Irish tow-head, huh?” he said. “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“What’s your name boy?”
“Thomas,” I told him. “Thomas Clancey.”
“Well, Thomas Clancey, just by fortuitous accident my grandfather’s name was also Thomas. So I kind of fancy you keeping that part. As for the Clancey you’re gonna lose that.”
“In case that name is attached to any robberies or other outlawry.”
I thought about that awhile as we walked.
“What’s gonna be my last name then?”
“Well, let’s see… my grandfather’s last name was Hodgkins. So you can be a Hodgkins from now on.”
Thomas Hodgkins. It seemed okay.
“What’s your last name?”
“Wellford,” he said. “But you don’t want my last name.”
“Why is that?”
He stopped moving. The question seemed to surprise him.
I could see him thinking a bit and then he seemed to catch himself. So he clicked his tongue and set his horse back to walking again.
“You just don’t kid. You just don’t,” he finally said.
“I hate you!” I said. “They mightna been much but they was all I had, and they were partners with my pa, and you killed em.”
He turned on me like a copperhead and for the very first time I saw a black fury rise up in him that froze my blood.
“Tough shit!” he hissed, and his hiss was louder than a close wolf howl. “Those two was outlaws and murderers and horse-thieves and train robbers and I’m glad I killed them and if you turn out like that boy I’ll gladly kill you too.
Shoot my dog, threaten me, kill women, raise a little boy to be a piece of shit like them. Goddamnit!” He reached out and grabbed me by the collar and yanked me almost off my feet, then threw me to the ground like a dead, skint hare.
Then he pulled out his gun and pointed it straight at my chest.
“Boy, you learn one thing and you learn it right now – this very second. You ain’t gonna be like that. You ain’t gonna be no damned outlaw, not anymore, not never again. Or I’ll kill you right now and save us both the trouble.”
He trembled at the trigger for a moment as if considering whether I was really worth killing. I closed my eyes and waited.
Then he exhaled loudly and seemed to get ahold of himself again. At least for the moment. I opened my eyes to see him look at the gun, then at me, then back at the gun. He raised his pistol into the air and fired three times in quick succession. I flinched at each shot
“Goddamnit!” he shouted. “Do you want me to shoot you right now because I can do it and leave your body for the buzzards and scorpions? They gotta eat too.”
When I didn’t reply he almost whispered, “Well, do ya?”
“No…” I said tightly. I was furious inside as well but too afraid to show it.
He holstered his gun, kicked sand in my direction, and then lowered himself to stare straight in my face.
“From now on boy you’re not gonna be no outlaw. You’re not gonna be like those two bandits I killed and you’re not gonna be like your robbing, murdering old man. You’re gonna be something different. Very different. Now git off the ground and stand up like a man afore I decide to beat you senseless.”
I stood up unsurely and he raised himself to his full height but didn’t threaten me anymore.
“Now repeat after me,” he said. His sense of calm was returning, and for some stupid reason my sense of defiance kicked back in.
“And what if I don’t care to repeat after you old man?” I said.
He shook his head slowly and then slapped me so hard across the face that I fell to the ground again.
“Let’s keep up this bullshit til one of us gets tired of it boy. Wanna lay odds on who that will be?”
I was still angry, but didn’t particularly favor my odds.
I stood up.
“Now repeat after me boy.”
“Okay,” I said.
“I will not be no murdering outlaw like my old man and his no count cutthroats. I don’t have to hate my natural father but I sure as hell ain’t gonna become him.”
I repeated what he said, word for word.
“I’m gonna become something different. Very, very different.”
I repeated it back to him. He seemed satisfied.
“Now boy, you’re gonna keep repeating that to yourself, every day and night until you actually mean it. Until it sinks in. Until it sticks. And then you’ll actually be different.”
I thought about that a second and then said coldly, “Different how? You mean I’m gonna become a lawman or a bounty hunter like you?”
He looked down at me.
“Hell if I know boy, and damned if I care. But you are gonna be different. You can be a cowboy, or a ranch hand or businessman, or a mayor, or a sheriff, or a doctor, or a priest, or a teacher or a circuit riding preacher for all it matters to me. But from now on you’re gonna be different from anything you’ve ever been before. From now on you’re gonna be a real man. We’re both gonna see to it.”
He walked over to his horse, cinched his saddle tight, and adjusted his rifle.
“Now mount up. We’ve got a lotta work to do.”
While he mounted I walked over to my horse, cinched my own saddle, tested it, and swung myself up. When I was set I looked over at him and said, “I’m ready.”
He looked at me, spat, wiped his mouth, and then almost smiled. He reined north and turned away at a trot.
“We’ll see boy, we’ll see,” he said to himself.
And that drifted back to me and kinda stuck in my craw.
“You gotta kid of your own?” I asked
“Nope,” he said flatly.
“Nope to that too boy.” He paused a moment to rest, took off his hat, and swiped his brow. He looked out over the long horizon. He was quiet awhile and then he spoke again.
“Maybe one day I will, maybe not, but iffin I do then she’ll just have to understand that you’re part of the package now. She’ll have to get used to that.”
I didn’t know what to say, but he seemed awful serious. I looked at the ground speculating on what he might mean exactly and then I heard him continue on. I looked up to see him moving away from me and so I started walking again to catch up to him. It didn’t take long, he was lingering for me.
“That was the best damn dog I ever seen.” I said.
“Don’t cuss about old Pete,” he answered. “He deserves your respect.”
I didn’t mean anything by it, nothing bad anyway, but didn’t know if he knew that.
I looked in his direction to see if he was mad and he turned to face me. I swear I saw a tear in one eye, but then it disappeared faster than a foxfire.
He looked at me hard for a long time after that and then he reached out and wrapped both his hands around my shoulders and pulled me in close and hugged me like I imagined an old bear would. Then he pushed me back and let me go, looking away at something only he could see.
“I know son. I know exactly what you meant. That was the most fetching dog I ever had.” His voice almost choked, but he wouldn’t let it.”
Then he looked right at me. “And you were the best thing he ever fetched me. So to hell with it all, you’re right as rain. Don’t pay me no heed. He was a helluvah dog, wadn’t he, and he’d have much appreciated your comment.”
He smiled at me and maybe for the first time ever I saw inside him. Right inside him. And he didn’t bother to look away.
“Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna go bury Pete deep enough the coyotes can’t get at him, shallow enough God can raise him anytime he wants to.”
I didn’t know what to say so I asked him, “Do you want me to go with ya?”
“No,” he said. “This is my job. I was there when he was born, I’ll bury him now.”
He picked up his working hat, rolled up his sleeves, and then went to closet and took out his shovel. Then he walked to the door and opened it, but before he stepped out he half looked over his shoulder back at me.
“My job is to bury Pete. Your job will be to bury me.”
Then he shut the door and left.
I walked to the window and through the dusty and uneven glass I saw him wrap the blanket tight around old Pete, lift him gently into the wheelbarrow, place the shovel over his body and start off towards the desert. With the sun running down towards twilight the dark took him quick.
So I oiled a lantern and left it lit on the table for when he returned. With any luck he’d be back before it died.