(A Short Story from the Old West)
© 2018 Michael Leonard Jewell


Since the snow and cold had settled in, the men had been generally quiet and withdrawn, spending the long hours on their horses while the herd was on the move. When in camp, they took their turns standing four-hour watches with an almost mechanical routine. When not on a horse, they gathered close to the fire, setting their backs strategically against the bite of the cold prairie winds to eat their grub and nurse their steaming tin cups. Then crawling into their bedrolls exhausted, they dreamed dreams of being elsewhere, only to be roused again in a little while to saddle a fresh horse from the *remuda and begin their watches all over again.
Now in addition to their already grueling labors, Mr. Swinson had ordered the men to make “rakes” out of whatever they could find, clearing enough snow to allow the cattle to forage on the frozen grass underneath. A cowboy always worked best from his “office”, that is to say, his saddle, but this task would require him to be mostly afoot, sometimes standing in the cold, wet snow for hours.
One enterprising cowboy being careful not to startle the herd, got the bright idea of making a “drag” out of a heavy tree branch to pull behind his horse. Seeing that it worked rather well, Swinson ordered the men to abandon their rakes and do the same. If the snows persisted, this tedious procedure must needs be repeated every time they made camp, consequently causing the horses to wear down quickly, requiring them to be swapped out even more frequently from the remuda.
Hans, the Swedish cook, feeling empathy for the weary, miserable cowboys, ordered Juan, his helper, to unpack the long heavy tarpaulin from the “pup”, a short wagon that was towed behind, and to stretch it from the top of the chuck wagon to the ground. Treated with linseed oil to make it shed moisture, it gave the men a measure of shelter out of the cold wind, to eat their meals and lay out their bedrolls.
A hot fire was kept going around the clock and there was always a pot of thick, black coffee, sometimes called “six-shooter” because it was said that one might float a pistol on it.
Mr. Swinson, a tough, battle-hardened trail boss with many years experience, tolerated very little in the way of mischief or slackers on his cattle drives. His virtue, however, was that he truly cared for his men and their welfare, willing to do almost anything for an honest cowboy who worked hard and was loyal to him, albeit, he might not always show it on the outside.

*  Remuda:  A herd of saddle horses from which cowboys on a cattle drive would choose their mounts, sometimes changing them several times a day.

(Part III coming next week)


Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  Psalms 37:1

     The mid-term elections are finally over and it will be at least two years until we can repair the breech. Changes in the House of Representatives have opened opportunities for great mischief against our traditional American and Christian values. How we grieve as God’s Children, sometimes wringing our hands in despair over the wickedness taking place before us.  God has admonished us, though, to “fret not . . . because of evildoers.”
I was reminded recently of the truth and comfort of Psalms 37. As I watch the few remaining leaves falling in the woods across the street, I realize just how short and bleak the days are, and that Our Lord may return again before we know it.
I encourage you to read Psalm 37 all the way through in the King James Bible and understand that if you know Christ and are relying on Him for Eternal Life, you are indeed on the winning side! If you don’t know Him, I ask you to click on the Sugar Maple on the lower right of my blog site and see how to make that happen in your life.
I leave you with the last verse of the great comforting hymn CHRIST RETURNETH—MLJ

                                   Oh, joy! Oh, delight! Should we go without dying,
                                   No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying.
                                   Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
                                   When Jesus receives His own.

(A Short Story from the Old West)
© 2018 Michael Leonard Jewell



“It’s cold! Blamed cold!” said Mr. Swinson, the salty trail boss as he gazed out across the sea of cattle on either side of the creek in the snow-covered vale that stretched before him. He marveled at how unusually quiet and settled the herd was under the silent, moonless sky. Huddled closely together, the cows moved only when necessary to extract more heat from the bodies of their fellows.
The herd appeared ghostly and surreal against the starlight that shone through the hovering cloud of the herd’s collective breaths. The setting was silent and motionless, interrupted occasionally by a muffled cough, or a drover’s burning cigarette as he sat on his horse, working among the beeves. Now and then, a cowboy could be heard singing softly and low, partly to keep the herd calm, and partly to cheer himself.
Christmas was the day after tomorrow and the nearest town and rail head, their final destination, was every bit of seventy miles to the north. Swinson had hoped to have met the train there by now, to have his men paid off and on their paths homeward, enjoying their holiday cheer with family.
He knew he had taken a gamble driving the herd this late in the season. The men also understood the risky venture, a chance to make some extra money for Christmas, but had signed on for it all the same. The request from the buyer had been urgent and the promised bonus hard to turn down. However, an early snow and cold snap had brought his drive to a crawl. Now it seems he might have lost his bet and perhaps, the bonus.
Fifteen hundred head of Longhorns, more accustomed to hot, dusty Texas weather and terrain, were struggling to move along in the blowing snow that hid the prairie grass, making the cattle work extra hard to graze, and keep their footing. Every day that the cattle had to struggle, lumbering through the deep snow to find sustenance, was more fat burned and weight lost before getting them to market.
On a good day in fair weather, the herd could be driven ten miles or more. Now, only moving a mile or two, if that, would be a struggle.

(Part II coming next week)

Tomorrow,  Sunday,  November 4th,  I will begin publishing an eight-part Christmas Short Story on my blog that takes place in the Old West. I will post a new episode each week with the final one just before Christmas. If you are interested, and would like the episodes sent directly to your email, go to my blog site and log in at the FOLLOW button. If you have already done that, you have my sincere thanks.

Remember, no matter what happens with the midterm elections, Christmas is still going to come—they can’t take that away from us!
Log in at www.firstschoolpress.com

   ‘This is going on my favorite time of the year!’ I heard my father say one late Autumn afternoon. The air was translucent with smoky haze as the children next door made a game of jumping into the neighbor’s freshly raked piles of leaves. The sun gave evermore sparingly of its light and the yellow jackets drowsed on the sticky sweet bushels of grapes and pears. There would surely be ice on the mud puddles in the morning to seal the bleakness of death as the leaves were fallen to the ground to be settled by cold November’s rain and buried under December’s snow.
Death! Everything has its own given season of demise and must die. Oh but what great beauty there can be in death! A fire is at its most lovely just before the bright orange embers fade with plumes of blue flame among the white ashes. David lamented the death of Saul and Jonathan and somehow found great beauty there:
   “The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places: how are the mighty fallen!”
   II Samuel 1:19
   There is something so wonderful, beautiful and unique about a child of God who has served and loved His Savior all his days, and then is called Home. We weep and lament at the impending death of a loved one, but as the Lord draws near to the bed of sorrows and counts the labored breaths and the withering beats of the heart, He smiles and in some mysterious way, is pleased at that precious moment of death!
   “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
   Psalms 116:15
   Perhaps He is happy that our suffering can finally be over. Maybe the Lord just loves to see the expressions on our faces when the instant transformation from death to eternal life takes away our pain and we see Him and Heaven for the first time. Possibly the Father is anxious to show us all He has for us because we chose to love and trust His dear Son:
   “That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2:7
   Great beauty in death! Let’s thank Him that even at this somber time, we are under His watchful eye and interest if we indeed know and trust Him as Our Savior. –M. Jewell

Starting the first week of November, I am going to begin publishing an eight-part Christmas short story on my blog with a new episode featured each week. The final episode will appear just before Christmas. If you like cowboys and the Old West, you will probably like this one.
I hope you will not miss it. There is no charge. It will be my Christmas Gift to you. If you would like the episodes automatically sent to your email, go to my blog site and click on the FOLLOW button at the top of the right hand column. The site address is www.firstschoolpress.com. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Michael Leonard Jewell
Indie Author and Publisher
Author of the OLD SODUS and PRAIRIE MARSHAL series
Paperback and Kindle available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble et al.
Visit www.firstschoolpress.com
Member: Western Writers of America


The one-roomed schoolhouse was like a small beehive that windy, chilly Friday in late November. Teacher had already begun calling the students up front by their particular grades to take their places around the long low table by the slate chalkboard. Teacher then taught them their lessons for each particular subject. This was how it was done in those days at First School.
The morning recess had come and gone with no one venturing outside. At noon hour, most of the students leisurely ate their lunches at their desks, cheerfully chatting about the coming Thanksgiving holiday. Dale First and Johnny Schilling who lived just across Black Lake Road went home for their dinners. When Johnny returned, he had a package he received in the mail that was a kit to sell Christmas cards door to door. He was trying to decide whether to keep it or send it back when Teacher asked Mike to pull the bell rope at one o’clock. Everyone soon settled down to a quiet, uneventful afternoon of classes and study.
Sometime after 2:00 in the afternoon, as the room stood in its lazy silence, the front door burst open and slammed hard. Perhaps the wind had caught it away, but it was Mrs. Jarvis, Richard’s mother, who came puffing into the room to speak with Teacher.
“The President has been shot!” she blurted out frantically.
The class looked up from their books with mouths wide open. The teacher, Mrs. Rosenberg, caught off guard and not knowing how to respond, frowned and said, “I don’t think that is funny!” Mrs. Jarvis assured her that it was true and not some bad joke.
Teacher hurried over to the old black radio on her desk and turned it on. It buzzed and growled with static as its tubes glowed and heated up. She turned the dial around, but on every channel the news was the same—the president had indeed been shot!
The boys sat stunned and some of the older girls began to weep.
“How could this happen in this day and age?” Mary Wolf said angrily!
Then the news finally came. The man on the radio had confirmed it—John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States, was dead!
Everyone sat quietly for a while, attempting to make sense of it all. Mrs. Rosenberg spoke with them and tried to comfort them but she was in need of comforting herself.
School was dismissed early and that night, Mike’s dad said that they should all pray for Mrs. Kennedy and her children. Mike kneeled to pray and asked the Lord to comfort her and be with her during this terrible time. He thought that the whole nation needed God’s comfort and wondered what this would all mean. The television said that the vice-president, Mr. Johnson, had been sworn in as the new President and Mike prayed for him too.
Mike remembered how another president, Abraham Lincoln, had also been slain almost one hundred years before. He wondered what would become of a nation where evil men thought it was a fine thing to kill their leaders.
(from a pending work © 2018 by Michael Leonard Jewell)