Quartz, Part 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

All, this is a continuation of my Zeke Stanford western story. The first part, Gold Dreams was posted in 2015, part 2, Ambush, was posted in April 2016, and the last part, Unexpected Guests, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, posted in July 2016. Part 1 of Quartz is here. I plan on putting the whole thing together with some editing, and publish it as a book. It’ll be a short book, less than 40,000 words as I see it. But that’s okay. It’ll be like the old dime thrillers of yesteryear. I hope you enjoy it.

Quartz, part 2

“Thank you! I was just going to see if there was some buttermilk and go sit on the front porch.”

“So you should. You’re thin as a rail. Pia!” she shouted.

Pia came running into the parlor.

“Get Zeke some buttermilk.”

Pia grinned and disappeared back into the kitchen.

“Now go on out there and have a seat. I’ll get your mail while Pia gets your milk.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Zeke gave her a bow, same as the dude did.

Mrs. Estrada laughed and shoo’d him out the front door. “Go on with you, then.”

He went out and selecting one of the rocking chairs, sat down and looked out over Mrs. Estrada’s little farm. He couldn’t hear the creek from here but the tree line revealed where it was. Her milk cows were in the pasture, between the house and the woods, slowly munching their way across the grass-covered lot.

Again he thought about the kind of ranch he wanted. Bigger than Mrs. Estrada’s five acres but not so big that parts of it were out of reach in a day’s ride. Turkeys, like she had, maybe ducks and geese, too, if there was a pond or something on the land. Horses, like his dad, that didn’t need to be driven to Flagstaff or Phoenix to be loaded on the train. Though that wasn’t far. He’d heard that in Texas, they were driving their herds all the way to St. Louis. No. Horses seemed much more sensible. Some nice spot with water for a garden. For Mary.

That was another worry. Mary’s folks were pressing her to marry some lawyer. That brought to mind his mine and the sale of it if Mr. Markum could find a buyer. He wondered how honest these mining companies were. If he’d get a good price. He’d need one if he were going to send for Mary. Even so, would she come?

Pia interrupted his thoughts when she came out onto the porch and handed him his buttermilk. “Dinner almost ready, Mr. Zeke. We all eating in the kitchen. Just like the old days.” She beamed with happiness.

He raised his glass to her. “Thank you, Pia. Can’t wait.”

She hurried back into the house. He’d only had a sip of the milk when Mrs. Estrada came out. “Here’s your mail, Zeke.”

He took it. Two envelopes. “Thank you.”

She nodded and went back inside. He appreciated that she always left him to read his letters by himself.

He opened the one from his father first.


We received your letter. Sounds like you just escaped with your life. Your ma begs you to be careful. Outlaws. I’ve had my run ins with them myself so I understand what you had to do. Not an easy thing, killing a man, but you had to do it. Don’t bother yourself with it. Everything is in God’s hands. Your ma and I pray for you every day.

Love, Pa

That was a fast answer, Zeke thought after he’d read it through a second time. His letter home and the answer back in just under a month. He shook his head in wonder.

Then it was time for Mary’s letter. Like every time, he smoothed the envelope as best he could, then carefully opened it with his knife.


A gunfight in the street! How awful! I’m so glad you are unharmed. It was very nice for the sheriff and the assayer to come to your aid. I pray to God for them and you each night. The news about your mine is quite welcome. Father, especially, took interest, even though Mother still invites Thomas Drew to Sunday dinner.

After last Sunday, I told Mother and Father both, that I was not interested in Mr. Drew and that I was planning to marry you, as soon as your finances are arranged. I know that was quite bold and brash, but I had to let them know.

So, now I am telling you. I plan on coming to Payson on the next stage. I hope to meet your dear Mrs. Estrada, Pia and Cesar. And thank in person Mr. Markum and Sheriff Colton, for your life. I hope you understand, Dear Zeke. I cannot wait any longer.

Love, Mary.

Zeke was so surprised that he leapt out of the rocking chair. He re-read the letter standing up. Mary coming here! He looked at the date on the letter. Why, that was two weeks ago!

“Mrs. Estrada!” He ran into the house, letter flapping in the breeze of his speed. “Mrs. Estrada!”

Both Pia and Mrs. Estrada rushed from the kitchen.

“Zeke! What is it?” Mrs. Estrada, her voice louder than he’d ever heard it, shouted.

“Mary’s coming!”

Both of the women stopped short, staring at him. “What?”

“Mary’s coming here!”


Words: 802

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Quartz, Part 1: Flash Fiction Friday Post

All, this is a continuation of my Zeke Stanford western story. The first part, Gold Dreams was posted in 2015, part 2, Ambush, was posted in April 2016, and the last part, Unexpected Guests, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, posted in July 2016. I plan on putting the whole thing together with some editing, and publish it as a book. It’ll be a short book, less than 40,000 words as I see it. But that’s okay. It’ll be like the old dime thrillers of yesteryear. I hope you enjoy it.




Zeke left Sheriff Colton’s office and after dropping the draft he’d been given off at the bank, went to Mrs. Estrada’s house. Cesar stood, wide-eyed at the string of horses Zeke had with him. Poor little Jenny at the tail end, covered in dust.

“Mr. Zeke! What’s this?”

Zeke gave Cesar a wave, brought the parade to a halt and got off of Butters. “Hey, Cesar. It’s a tale, I’ll give you that. I’ve got three horses for sale. Should I take them to the livery or does Mrs. Estrada want to sell them? I’d have to pay a commission to the livery. I thought I’d give Mrs. Estrada a chance first.”

Cesar nodded. “I ask her, Mr. Zeke.” He went around to the horses and untied the string from Zeke’s saddle. He patted first one, then the others. Running his hand along their flanks and backs as he looked them over. “They look good. Little skinny though.”

Zeke untied Jenny from the last horse. “Yeah. They were owned by outlaws. Probably not cared for as well as you would have.”

Cesar nodded. “I put them in the corral. You put Jenny and Butters in the back stall. Same as always.”

Zeke did that, putting their tack away then bringing them out to the currying pole. He’d already started on Butters when Cesar joined him and began to curry Jenny. Cesar’s wife, Pia, came out to the yard, a mug of something in her hand. “Mister Zeke! I didn’t know you was here!” She hurried over and gave him the mug. “Coffee. I get you some too, Cesar,” she said to her husband. “Why didn’t you say Mr. Zeke was here?” She hurried off to the house.

“Sorry, Cesar,” Zeke said, grinning. “I think this was yours.” He held up the mug.

“That’s fine, Mr. Zeke. You drink it. She bring me one soon.”

It was soon after that Pia came back, another mug in hand. “You have same room, Mr. Zeke. You’re back early.”

Zeke handed her the now empty mug. “A little earlier than I had planned, Pia. I had some trouble.”

Both husband and wife looked at each other, then Zeke. Concern filled their faces. “It’s a long story. I’ll come out tomorrow and tell you all about it. How’s that?”

Pia nodded. “That’s fine. Mrs. Estrada will want to hear too. You’re fine? No hurts?”

“No.” Zeke laughed. “No hurts. Not counting the scratches from cat’s claw.” He gave Butters a few last strokes, then patted her on the rump. “Good girl.”

Pia grinned. “That’s good. Dinner at six. I’ll start your bath water.” She hustled back to the house.

Cesar grinned at Zeke. “Now you’ll have to tell. She’ll have Mrs. Estrada all worked up.”

Zeke didn’t want that. But he didn’t want to share the story with a house full of boarders. “How many here right now?”

Cesar looked at him, confused.

“Sorry. How many boarders?”

Cesar shook his head. “Just one. A gambler.”

Zeke’s eyebrows rose. “Really? Mrs. Estrada is fine with that?”

Cesar shrugged. “He pays good. Mostly he’s at the Oxbow. Comes home in the morning and sleeps all day. Makes it hard on Pia. She has to clean his room after supper.”

“That’s a shame. But makes it easy. I’ll see if Mrs. Estrada wouldn’t mind having dinner in the kitchen, since it’s just us, and I can tell you all about it then.”

A grin stretched across Cesar’s face. “That would be good. Like the old days with Mr. Estrada.”

It was after five when Zeke came out of his room. Bathed and in his town clothes, he was headed to the kitchen to see if there was some cold buttermilk and to sit on the porch in the shade. He ran into the gambler, coming out of his room. Zeke nodded and started to pass him by.

“Hey there. Good to see someone else staying here.”

“Hey.” Zeke eyed the man’s clothing. A fancy black suit with a snowy white shirt, ruffles down the front and lace at the sleeve cuffs with a gold chain leading to the man’s vest watch pocket.

The man stuck out his hand. “Red Talbot.”

“Zeke Stanford.” Zeke shook his hand.

“Dinner’s not till six,” Red said.

“I know. I’m headed to the porch.”

The two men walked together along the hall and to the stairs. “Passing through?” Red asked.

Zeke hated these kinds of questions. What was it to this man? “I’ve got some business in town.”

Red laughed. “Me too. I’m headed for the Oxbow. You play cards Mr. Stanford?”

“Not really.”

“Probably a good thing. Too many cowboys with their pay in their pocket come to a sad end by the end of the night.” They reached the bottom of the stairs.

Mrs. Estrada was in the parlor, knitting by the window. “Zeke! Good to see you.” She got up and gave Zeke a hug. “Welcome back.”

Red eyed him. “Mrs. Estrada.”

Her looked told Zeke that she wasn’t all that impressed with her boarder. “Mr. Talbot. Off to the Oxbow?”

He gave her a bow. “I am indeed, good lady. I’m afraid I’ll have to miss your wonderful dinner again this evening.” Red turned to Zeke. “I take my supper at the Oxbow most nights. Not as good as here, but, alas,” he shrugged, “it gives me time to assess my competition.” He headed to the back door. “I’ll get my horse and bid you all, good-night.”

After he was gone, Mrs. Estrada snorted. “Good riddance.” Then she smiled. “I have mail for you.”


Words: 936

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Mystery at the Reunion, National Novel Writing Month, Shout Out: Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

My cozy, Mystery at the Reunion, might be a good fit for you. The InkShares site is new to me and I’m still learning how to use it. I’ve put chapters from the story up over there as well as some alternative chapters that may bring the story even more to life. Since the story is in a contest, I can win the contest by getting people to read the story. Here’s the link. https://www.inkshares.com/books/mystery-at-the-reunion. I’d appreciate it if you’d go over and have a read. The book is open for comments, so if you like something, don’t like something, let me know!

Gulliver Station box set for Smashwords is live. I’ve included links to all of the ebook spots where I sell my books at the bottom of this page. I’m still working on the paperback version. I’m having a fight with Amazon on the cover, a technical glitch of some sort. And in the formatting, I’ve run into a weird hurdle that puts the last page of every chapter in the middle of the page. I thought I had the pagination error beat but no. That’s not working either. At any rate, you can now get it in ebook for a very nice price. Enjoy.


National Novel Writing Month, NaNo for short, has begun and I’m over 7k into my first book, Gold Dreams. I need to finish it up, then start on my All About Bob series. Lots to do there as well.

A reminder that I’ve finished my 2019 calendar. Arizona is such a beautiful place and a calendar of pictures from central AZ fits in so well with my Jean Hays series, I really just can’t resist sharing. Now that it’s completed, you can find the calendar on Lulu. Just click on the link and purchase as many copies as you want for yourself, friends and family. Feel free to share the link, and this post!

Next appearance is in December, the Mesa Book Festival. That’s December 8th. You can find all of the details at https://mesabookfestival.com/.

Shout Out

I want to say a big hi to my author friend Anne R. Tan, also a mystery author. She’s promoting her new book, Smoldering Flames and Secrets, a Raina Sun mystery over on the Books2Read site at https://books2read.com/RainaSun7. Really! Go check it out.


The 2018 Halloween giveaway is now closed. There’s $80+ as a Grand Prize Paypal cash, plus books and other prizes and as soon as I get the info, I’ll tell you who won! A Christmas one is coming out soon, so stay tuned for that.

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

The Gulliver Station ebook box set released July 30th, 2018. It is finally up on all of my other retailers in ebook format. You can buy it at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords today. You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.


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Published!: Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

The Arrastra by Jay Richmond

Last week I mentioned that my western story, Gold Dream, was going to be published in Frontier Tales. Well, it happened. You can find it here: http://frontiertales.com/2017/05May/gold_dream_1.php. Part II will be in the magazine in June. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, go to the home page of the site and please vote for it as your favorite. Winning will get the story in the Frontier Tales anthology. Thank you in advance.

I’m just about done with the edits of Mystery at the Book Festival. I have a few more things to check and then I’ll send it back to the editor for a final review. That should happen this week. After that it will come back to me and I can do the formatting and finalize the cover.

Sahara Sunrise by djluke9 via DeviantArt

I’ve been enjoying the writing of Slave Elf. I’m totally winging it (called pantsing (for writing without a plan, by the seat of my pants)) so I have no idea where I’m taking the story. It could go on for a while.

First strawberries

Gardening: I bought marigolds to fill the one pot by my sidewalk to replace the pansies the javelina ate. The pot with the daffodil bulbs looks like the bulbs won’t sprout. That makes me sad. I guess I’ll have to buy something, more marigolds, perhaps, to go in there. I picked my first strawberries Saturday. Yummy. That’s them above. I attended this last weekend’s garden club plant sale. I got there an hour and a half after opening and nearly all the vegetable plants were gone. I did get 2 cherry tomatoes and 2 Early Girl tomato plants and 2 serrano chili pepper plants and put them in the garden on Sunday. I also planted seeds for straight neck yellow squash, Black Beauty zucchini, bush green beans, pole green beans (both Blue Lake) as well as peas and yellow wax beans. Have you ever noticed how you cannot get yellow beans in the freezer section? Very odd. Anyway, it wasn’t ideal weather to plant the tomatoes and peppers. We’re having a cold snap and the wind is blowing like crazy, but I put the plants in anyway. They’ll have to tough it out.


My multi-author giveaway is called Spring into Reading: Easter Giveaway is now on. If you missed out on the last one, this is your chance to win.

Shout Out:

I’ve joined an author group that’s gotten together to help support each other. This group is focused on mystery/thriller/suspense stories but some of us are going to form up a separate group for other genres. I’ll be posting here about their books and freebies and contests as we go along. For example, until the 12th of May, you can get 14 free mysteries at http://www.abbyvandiver.com/blog/go/free-books/

Where Will I Be?

Check my website, https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/where-will-i-be/ for my next engagements.

The Phoenix ComiCon is coming up the end of this month, May 25 – 28th and you can find details for tickets, events, special guests, at http://phoenixcomicon.com/. I would be so excited to see you in the Exhibits Hall in the Four Carat Press booth number 1797.

July 22nd is the Payson Book Festival. I have to say, this festival has turned into quite a thing. Over 600 people came to it last year. The tables have already been filled with authors. You can find out who is attending at www.PaysonBookFestival.org. The event is free to visitors and starts at 9am and runs until 3:30pm. Details about the location, video from last year, and more, can be found on the site.

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on both the regular and the Brown Rain newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

Mystery in the Woods released on December 24th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, today! You can also see all my books on https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

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Unexpected Guests Part III: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Gold Mining Area

Gold Mining Area

You can find Part II here: http://wp.me/p6LAko-IQ

Part III

They spoke just low enough so he could hear mumbles. Nate in particular kept looking over at Zeke’s tent. Zeke didn’t like it but he didn’t know what else to do. Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe they’re really just passin’ through.

He watched as they passed a small bottle around. Then talked more. Zeke stood up to relieve his legs from the prickles and let the blood flow again. The three went back to their bedrolls, at least he thought they did. Their camp was out of sight of his tent door. It sounded like they were going to bed. He pushed the flap open and peeked out. No fire at their site meant he couldn’t see them.

He slipped out of the tent and eased around the corner out of sight of the others. The fire had died down to embers so didn’t give out much light. He could hear Butter and Jenny stamping in the dark. As quietly as he could, he headed for the creek. Not too far along the trail he’d made, there was a pile of boulders. He climbed up them and down into the middle. Still high, he could watch the whole camp in the dark. The moon would be up soon.

Zeke’s head jerked up at a sound. The half-moon lit the camp just enough for Zeke to see two dark shapes approaching his tent. His hands began to sweat and worse, his legs had fallen asleep. He needed to get the blood flowing before he had to run or fall flat on his face. Where’s the third man? Zeke watched two men stand beside the tent flap. They pulled their guns and while one pulled the flap, the other shot inside the tent.

The loud reports echoed through the night air. The flashes from the barrels were blinding. While they rushed in, Zeke could hear Butter whinny. Murderers!

The men came out of the tent. “He’s not here, Dan’l.”

That sounded like Earl.

“Shut up, stupid! Find him,” came from over by Butter and Jenny.

Zeke watched the two men at the tent split up. One went toward the animals. The other man came in his direction. Should he shoot? His sweaty hands slid on the rifle. He dried them on his pants and waited. Yes, one of them was coming this way. Zeke took a deep breath and as the man neared, Zeke fired. The man cried out and fell, then dragged himself off of the trail.

“Ned! Ned?”

So now he knew who he’d shot he had to move. The brothers would be here any second. He jumped down from the rocks and headed to the creek turning right to circle around to where Butter and Jenny were. At least he hoped they were still there. He could hear the sound of boots running up to his last spot.

“Nate! Where are you?”

Zeke heard a groan. So Nate wasn’t dead. At least not yet. He hurried up the slope doing his best to be quiet. The animals were where he left them. Good. He hurried to the camp and sheltered behind a scrawny tree beside his tent. Zeke could hear them coming back. All three from the sound of it.

“Zeke! Come out, boy. There’s been a misunderstanding.”

That was Daniel’s voice. Lying, murderous thieves. They must think I’m stupid. He waited, rifle raised and steadied on the tree trunk. When the three reached the camp, Nate supported by the other two, Zeke fired at the one on the right. The man screamed and fell to his left, pulling Nate down with him. “Earl!”

The man on the left must be Daniel. Zeke took aim but it was too late. Daniel did a diving roll to his right and was out of sight. Earl and Nate were both shrieking, calling Daniel’s name and screaming curses and threats at Zeke. The noise set Zeke’s teeth on edge. He eased back, toward the stranger’s camp, missing most of the acacia. Zeke could hear Daniel cursing the bushes as they snagged and tore at his clothes.

“Go away,” Zeke called before he moved to a new spot.

“You shot my brother.”

Zeke could hear him crashing through the brush but it was hard to tell where he was with the caterwauling from the wounded men. “You tried to shoot me.” He moved again.

Daniel was getting frustrated. Zeke could tell by the thrashing through the brush. Zeke edged up the hillside. Maybe he could see better up higher. There, as Zeke looked downhill, the moon came out from behind a cloud and he could see Daniel, gun extended in front of him, crossing the camp near the fire. Zeke took aim and fired. Daniel fell, just missing the fire and lay still.

Hurrying down the hill, rifle trained on the man, Zeke kicked Daniel’s foot. No movement. He grabbed some rope hanging from the tree nearby and tied Daniel up. Then he took the rope and headed for the two wounded men, still shouting obscenities at him. Zeke circled around to come up behind them.

The two were struggling to their feet, leaning on each other. Zeke walked up behind them. “Drop the guns.”

The two started to turn. “I said drop the guns.”

Wobbling, they complied, leaning on each other. “Tie Nate up, Earl.”

“I’m not…”

“Yes, you are. Or I’m gonna blow your head clean off.”

Earl swore under his breath but picked up the rope Zeke had tossed. With Nate tied, Zeke came to tie up Earl.

Four days later he was at the Sherriff’s desk, the unexpected guests in the cell behind him. The Sherriff was sorting through wanted posters. “Daniel Thomas, $2000. Brother Earl, $2000 and Nate Bartholomew, $3000. That’s quite a haul, Zeke.”

Zeke nodded and took the voucher the Sherriff handed him. He wasn’t against the money, but again, he had to shoot people for it. Not the way he wanted to do things.


End of Part III.



Thank You!

999 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html


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Unexpected Guests Part II: Flash Fiction Friday Post



Part I of this story was published last week. You can read it here. http://wp.me/p6LAko-IJ

Part II

While the three men walked their horses over to the spot Zeke had pointed out, he stirred the fire, pulling the now black potato out of the fire. Did they see it? He picked up the harness and carefully used it to pick up the potato, doing his best to look normal.

He walked to his tent, one eye on his guests, and slipped inside. He dropped the harness and potato on the ground. The wire holding the potato together hadn’t been covered and a spot on the heel of his hand was burned. He poured a little water from his canteen onto his neckerchief and wrapped it around the burn. Hand dealt with he examined the harness for damage. Some scorching but nothing serious. That was good. All he needed was for the harness to be irreparable. Zeke kicked the potato in a corner of the tent where other provisions were stored and pulled stuff around it to hide it from view then stepped out of the tent, harness in hand.

Nate was walking by on the way to the creek, canteens hung around him and in hand. Zeke nodded and went to the horses. Hanging the harness in its usual spot, Zeke decided to keep watch on the men. He needed to look busy though. This is where he’d go up to the mine but not now. Now he wanted to keep watch. Butter nuzzled him, bumping his arm. He reached an arm around her neck and gave her a scratch. “No treats today, greedy girl. How about a curry, though.

Butter nickered. Zeke picked up the brush and began to work on the horse.

Daniel and Earl were laying out bedrolls. Nate was out of sight down the creek bank. They’re gonna want to eat their supper at my fire. If I tell them no, they’ll make their move soon. If I invite them, it’ll look like I’m not suspicious. Zeke could feel Butter stretching her back with the brush. He was just grabbing the comb to do Butter’s mane and tail when Nate came back through the camp. Zeke nodded again. Nate spit.

That didn’t make Zeke feel any better. He didn’t like the way Nate was looking at him. He finished with Butter as the three strangers sat on their rolls. They were all looking his way and talking. He could hear the murmur but they were keeping it quiet. Were they making plans about him?

“How about you, Jenny. Ready for your curry?” He picked up both brushes and his rifle and walked to where the donkey was staked. The little gray donkey shook, clouds of dust rising in the air. “I guess so.”

Zeke curried the donkey, again keeping the men in view. He found a cut on the animal’s back left leg. He went to the tent for some ointment and applied it to the cut. The whole time the men watched him. Grooming finished, he led the horse and donkey to a new spot and staked them where there was some fresh grazing. Not having anything else to do after he put the ointment away he took the buckets to the creek and filled them then emptied them into the barrel he kept near the fire.

Daniel, Earl and Nate came back to the fire with arms full of wood. “We saw the pile was low, Zeke.” First Daniel, then the others, dropped the wood in Zeke’s pile.

“Appreciate it. Since you’re stayin’ the night, you’re welcome to cook your dinner here. You brought the wood, after all.”

“Kind of you, friend.” Daniel was all smiles.

Zeke didn’t like the look of the brother or Nate, though. They were studying him. Looking for weaknesses. If he had any sense he’d shoot these three right now and be done with it. “I don’t have much to share. I’m gettin’ ready to pack up. Thought I’d get supplies before I move on.”

“We have food, no worry there.” Daniel hunkered down next to the fire. “Spent a lot of time on those animals.”

Zeke shrugged. “Yeah, well, I don’t groom them often enough. Today seemed like the day.”

“Where you gonna go?” Earl pulled a dry stem of grass and began to pick his teeth with it.

“I don’t know. Thought I’d check in town for news.”

Nate pulled his gun out of the holster and began checking the works. Zeke’s heart sped up. “Maybe California. I heard the gold country there is a lot prettier than here. Greener.”

Earl pulled his gun and began to wipe it down. Zeke’s hand hovered over his rifle but left it alone. They were just cleaning their weapons, right? He stood up. “I’ve got some bacon, that’ll help stretch your beans.”

“Mighty nice of you, Zeke.”

Zeke went and got the bacon and the cast iron pan, then some flour, lard and salt and in his makeshift kitchen, a stump he’d cut tall, he mixed biscuit dough while the pan sat over the campfire cooking the bacon. None of his guests offered to help though they did go get their food and began heating it, still in the cans, in the fire.

“Not Mother’s cookin’ but it’ll do,” Zeke said as he passed around bacon and biscuits.

The men nodded as they crumbled bacon into their beans. Zeke spooned bacon grease onto a split biscuit and put bacon slices between the halves. He ate. The others ate. No one spoke though they watched each other intently.

While Zeke cleaned the pan and bowl, Daniel told tales of Chicago, where they were from. After dark, Zeke announced he was going to bed and thanked them for the company. He dropped the tent flap, something he didn’t usually do, then sat cross-legged in front of the flap and watched, rifle in his lap.


End of Part II, next week, Part III.


Thank You!

975 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html


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Unexpected Guests Part 1: Flash Fiction Friday

The Arrastra by Jay Richmond

The Arrastra by Jay Richmond

http://www.panoramio.com/photo_explorer#view=photo&position=195&with_photo_id=27388762&order=date_desc&user=321523 by Jay

A while back I posted a story, Ambush (http://wp.me/p6LAko-GA), about Zeke and his gold mining adventure. This story takes place shortly after Ambush.

Part I

Zeke was hardly any better than the horse. Jumping at every sound, distracted by any leaf blown across his path, he hardly blamed the horse. The Apache had left, as far as he could tell. That left him with the worry about the Indians coming back, but more so about the gold he was finally getting out of the ground. For such an out in the middle of nowhere spot, there seemed to be a lot of people around.

The ore he was having the donkey and horse crush generally came out of the quartz in fair sized nuggets that could be easily handled. Once he had the arrastra cleaned out, the quartz tossed to the side, he swept the hard floor for the gold dust. Tinning, the man told him the process was called. This was new for him and he only had an old miner’s word that it would work.

On his last trip into town, he acquired two items, potatoes and mercury. Mr. Burell, the grocery owner, cautioned him on the shining silver in the three bottles he bought. “It’s dangerous stuff, mercury, son. They used to use this in making hats. It’s poisonous, and the old saw, mad as a hatter, came from the worker’s exposure to it. Don’t get it on your hands or skin, if you can help it.”

He pulled one of the vials he’d purchased out of his pocket and poured a few drops of the silver toxin into the pan, rubbing it all around the inside. Then he panned the dust, separating the dirt from the gold. The gold stuck to the mercury, leaving little nuggets and put the pan to dry while he prepared the next step.

Now, next to the campfire, Zeke cut one of his potatoes in half. He scraped the amalgam of gold and mercury into the hollowed out potato and wired it back together. He tossed the potato into the fire. “Wait until that tater is black as sin,” the old-timer told him. Zeke took a deep breath. This was going to take a while. He got up and fetched Butter’s harness. If he wasn’t digging, he could at least fix her harness while he waited.

He was just finishing his repair when he heard horses. Laying the harness to the side, he picked up his rifle. After the Apache attack, always at hand. Butter and the donkey’s head rose and the animals looked toward the noise.

Three men rode into camp, dusty and bearded. Zeke’s stomach clenched. He didn’t want any trouble. “Hello, the camp!” The center man called out. “You mind if we rest a bit, get some water from the stream?”

Zeke wanted to tell them to move along but that was just rude. “Water ain’t mine. Take what you need.”

The men tied their horses to Zeke’s picket line and walked over to the fire. Zeke could see them eyeing the little arrastra he’d built. They know what I’m doing. Will they move along?

“I’m Dan’l Thomas. Appreciate the kindness.” He pointed at the man to his left. “My brother Earl, and this here’s, Nate.” The three men squatted down around the fire. They eyed the rifle still in Zeke’s hands.

“Had much trouble?” Daniel asked.

“Some Apache not long ago.” Zeke nodded. “I ran them off.”

Earl spat to the side. “Kill any?”

“No bodies left behind, so probably not. I know I hit at least one. There was blood.”

Nate rubbed his beard. “I don’t know why the Army doesn’t kill them all.”

Zeke nodded out of politeness. He didn’t care as long as the Indians didn’t bother him. It was their home first, after all. “Travelin’ far?” He hoped they’d get the hint to move along.

Daniel chuckled. “We’re takin’ it slow. Heard there was gold around here. Looks like you found some.”

“Not much,” Zeke said. “I’m about to move on. Last haul was barely enough for supplies and a beer.” His hands were sweaty on the rifle.

“That’s too bad.” Daniel looked around Zeke’s camp. “Nice little set up.”

“Yeah. But like I said, not much return. I heard there was big gold in California.”

Daniel nodded as he pulled a wrapper of tobacco from his inner coat pocket. He offered the packet to Zeke. “Chaw?”

“No, thank you. Never picked up the habit.”

Daniel pulled some tobacco from the packet and passed it to his brother. “Probably best. Nasty habit.” He stood up. “So you won’t mind if we set up camp for the night.”

Zeke’s heart sank. “Suit yourself. There’s a flat spot over there,” he pointed a hundred feet away. “Mind the rocks. The whole country is nothin’ but sharp rock.”

The others stood. Daniel tipped his hat. “Much obliged.”

They walked to their horses and led them to the spot Zeke had pointed out. Not good. I’ll have to watch all night.

End of Part 1, next week, Part II.


Thank You!

856 Words

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Ambush: Flash Fiction Friday Post

The Arrestra by Jay Richmond at http://bit.ly/1SsjrfT

The Arrestra by Jay Richmond at http://bit.ly/1SsjrfT

Zeke wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his wrist. The grit scratched like a rasp. He would have used his bandana but it was caked with the mud of his sweat and the dust. The donkey plodded around the arrastra, crushing the gold bearing quartz so he could get at the gold ore.

It seemed like it had taken forever to build the thing. He had to level the ground then water it heavily until he could smooth the caliches into a cement-like floor. Hauling water from the creek took more than a week with nothing but empty gunpowder casks to use as barrels, and that was using both donkey and horse to move the water.

Finding the wood to use for the arms and center of the arrastra was another problem. He’d had to cut, trim and haul the right sized trees to his site. The central pivot and the rock crusher pole had to be installed and assembled. He decided to attach the donkey to the rock crusher pole as best he could. Fitting it all together was a nightmare, especially as he should have put the center pole in the ground before he made it hard as cement and he’d only had some old-timer’s word on how it went together. Zeke had wanted to bash his own skull in with the pickaxe before he managed to get the set-up to work.

The crusher was the final problem. It didn’t seem possible to move, let alone carve rocks big enough to be useful. He walked around and around the empty arrastra trying to come up with a plan. The old miner told him he needed two flat-bottomed drag stones, one at the end of each arm. He had the chain. But finding rocks in the creek, then dragging them to the camp, then drilling holes in them drove him to distraction. After a long search he found two rocks, about the right size, beggars couldn’t be choosers, and with his mismatched pair of haulers, dragged the rocks to camp, drilled them out and hooked them to the newly assembled arms. It was easier to dig the damn quartz than to build the arrastra. When it was done he sank to his knees, and wept.

Three nights later a noise penetrated Zeke’s exhausted sleep. He heard his horse, Butter, whinny—it seemed wrong. Too far away.

He tossed off his wool blanket and rolled to his feet. If that horse has broken free again I’m going to shoot it. This is the fourth time in a month. He pulled on his boots without bothering with socks and grabbed his rifle.

Zeke stepped into the night. A half-moon in a star-studded sky provided a little light. At the picket line the donkey stood, looking to the west. “Damn horse.” Zeke patted the donkey to reassure it before moving in the direction the donkey was pointing.

He whistled softly then called, “Butter, Butter,” in a low voice. He didn’t want to spook her. Zeke stubbed the toe of his boot on a rock. I’m gonna trip and break an arm out here in the dark. If I had any sense I’d go back to my bedroll till daybreak.

Just as he decided to go back to his tent he heard Butter nicker. He followed the sound, grazing a prickly pear cactus in the dark. The thorns stabbed him in the shin and despite wanting to catch the horse, had to stop and pull the spines from his leg. Butter whinnied. She sounded close.

“Butter?” Zeke heard the horse stamping. “Come on girl. She’s close. He followed the noise and in a moment was at the horse’s side. “Hush, hush,” he whispered to her as he stroked her neck. Butter shivered. “Let me untangle your lead.” Zeke struggled in the dark to remove the reins from an acacia. “You couldn’t have got tangled in a shrub oak?” he asked the horse as the acacia thorns caught in the skin of his hands.

Something whizzed past his head. He dropped the lead and hit the ground. Butter danced around him. Zeke hoped he wouldn’t die by trampling from his own horse. More whizzing. Something hit the ground a foot away from him. He reached out and grabbed it. An arrow! The Apache were on him. The old timer’s stories raced through his mind.

“They take your horse in the night, boy. You think your stock has wandered off and you go out, barefoot and unarmed. That’s how they get you, sonny!” The old coot cackled at his bad joke.

Zeke tried to swallow around his dry mouth. Not so funny, old timer. But he had his rifle and a handful of rounds in his pocket. Please Lord. Let it be enough. Leaving Butter to her own chances, he rolled behind the acacia not knowing if the Apache were all in front of him or he was surrounded. He fired a shot into the dark where he thought the arrows came from.

He was rewarded with the sounds of scrambling. “There’s more where that came from.”

More arrows fell around him. The thickness of the acacia main branch saved him from one. Zeke fired again. More scrambling and a hoot. Did he hit someone? He fired toward the sounds and hoped, his heart beating out of his chest. Was he going to die?

Butter pranced left, then right, rearing and snorting. It was the distraction Zeke needed. He rolled to his left and crab walked on hands and feet what seemed a long distance ignoring the cactus spines that stuck in his hands. Butter ran off into the dark.

Sounds of running, then more horses, then horses running off. Was it over?

Zeke hid behind a boulder, rising with the sun to a deserted landscape. He swiped a dirty sleeve across his forehead and limped back to camp. He hoped Butter would be there but he called it a wash. He was alive and that’s all that counted.



Thank You!

1008 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Copper Dance

Quarry by Alex Malyon via www.DeviantArt.com

Quarry by Alex Malyon via www.DeviantArt.com

Salvatore Petrovici wiped the sweat from his brow, the dust and stone grit like sandpaper. The sun beat down on him fiercely as he worked the rock face, hotter than he ever remembered the sun in his native Italy to shine. A stonemason, he and many others had been hired by the Heartstone Mining Company to come to the Arizona Territory and cut rock.

The task for the last week was to large pieces to use at mine entrances. It was always a danger with these. A stone half the size he just finished cutting would crush a man to death if it wasn’t removed from the quarry wall with care. He finished attaching the cables to the stone and waved to the crane operator. The rock channeler, now blessedly silent, sat behind him. The crane sitting on the quarry floor made enough noise all by itself. Sal, as the American’s called him, stood back ten feet, out of the way, but close enough to see the rock as it was lifted from the track.

The crane operator waved back. Sal watched the tension increase on the cables while the rock groaned, cracked and popped, clearly heard over the whine of the crane engines. The cut stone rose one inch, then two. Higher the crane took it, then swung slowly to the right, away from Sal. Wait! The operator hadn’t raised the stone far enough, it was going to hit the quarry face.

Sal waved wildly, but the operator wasn’t looking at him. Shouting was useless—he was too far away to be heard over the roar of the crane engine. CRACK! The stone hit the rock face. It bounced back toward Sal, swinging now, out of control. He had little room to run—the channeler took up the whole width of the ledge behind him. The cables groaned as the crane operator tried to control the stone, now a pendulum, heading straight for Sal. He dived for the ledge floor, hoping the groaning cables would continue to hold the stone the three feet off of the ledge. He flattened himself and whispered prayers to Jesus and the Mother Mary as the stone passed six inches over his head.

The crane operator jerked the stone both up and back and just missed crushing the channeler. The stone swung back, higher than the first pass though Sal felt the breeze of it passing on his cheek. This time it cleared the rock face and the crane operator got the swinging stone back under control. Lying on the ledge, Sal watched as the stone was lowered to the waiting wagon and waited for his heart to slow its panicked beating.

He rose from the ledge, covered in rock dust, and crossed himself as he offered a second prayer of thanks. The quitting whistle sounded and Sal was glad. He was too shaken to work after that close call.

In the bar that night, the crane operator apologized. “I’m so sorry, Sal. The gears jammed. I had all I could do to get that damned rock under control.”

Sal clapped the man on the shoulder, a fellow immigrant from the north of Italy. “You did fine. I’m still here, you’re still here. It’s good.”

The man bought Sal a glass of wine shipped it in from the mother country by the mining company just for the Italian workers. Both men were toasting when the mining supervisor burst through the door. “Drinks on us, boys. We found another vein of copper!”

Cheers went up all around the room. Several of the miners broke into dance at the news. A new mine meant more work for all of them. Sal sighed as he sipped his dark red wine and watched the copper dance. He missed his wife and children. It was time to bring them over from the old country. It looked as though there would be work here for a long time.


The End

658 Words

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Monday Blog Post: County Fair, Story Submissions, and Event Jitters

Quartz Rocks by Connie Cockrell

Quartz Rocks by Connie Cockrell

Gardening has picked back up. The Early Girl and Roma tomatoes are producing like crazy. The trellis is leaning way over due to the weight of the plants and fruit. I’ve had to do emergency tie-offs to keep everything upright. I harvested two more cantaloupes and took them to my daughter. We just can’t eat everything fast enough. Pears are still being harvested. The zucchini is slowing down. A good thing as I still have two giant ones in my fridge to use up.

Author Friend Boost! Lazette Gifford. She has just released her newest book, In the Shadow of Giants. Here’s a description.

In a future filled with starships, a gathering of Norse sail far wider oceans than they had in the ancient past. When members of the Chinese pantheon abduct one of the Norse, it will take all of Odin’s skills to convince an estranged Loki to help get her back.

You can find more at: http://www.lazette.net/

The Northern Gila County Fair is September 11- 13th. We’re in the ramp up. Tuesday starts the major lifting. I’ve been posting like crazy on the Facebook page: Northern Gila County Fair. There were four articles in Friday’s paper. Monday starts the KRIM radio spots. We’re all scurrying to tie up those last minute details. If you don’t hear from me next week, you’ll know why.

I received my editor’s edits this morning and finished my final corrections of Gold Dream. (The post picture is meant to represent this story.) I wanted to send this story to a particular contest. Don’t know what I was thinking but I overshot the wordcount by 4X. Sigh. I thought I could pull up a story I’ve already written. I found one I liked, edited it to a good place and realized that I had posted that on my blog. Since it’s been “published” I couldn’t submit that one either. The deadline for the contest is September 15th. I don’t feel that I can write and edit a good short story in seven days. So! I sent Gold Dream to a western fiction story magazine and I’ve saved the edited version of the second story, a scifi, to a file for a collection to release next year. Yay! No work wasted. I’ll try and get my act together for the contest next year.

Did something fun last Friday. Hubby, me and Mom took a ride up to Flagstaff. We had to get the car a service for some sort of computer update. Afterward picked up the daughter and her friend and went to the Pioneer Museum. Housed in what was once the Indigent Hospital, we learned a lot about early Flagstaff history and of the homeless population problem. If you’re ever in Flagstaff, this is a great place to visit.

The Pioneer Museum in Flagstaff is located in the historic Coconino County Hospital for the Indigent. The Hospital was built in 1908 using purniceous dacite from the Mount Elden Explosive Eruption about 500,000 years ago. The building was used as a hospital until 1938 and was considered a Poor Farm. The exhibits within the museum reflect the history of Flagstaff and northern Arizona. Visitors will learn of the local history of ranching, logging, transportation and life in Pioneer Flagstaff. Festivals and events are also held on the grounds including the annual Wool and Fiber Festival, the Folk Festival and the Heritage Festival.

2340 N. Fort Valley Road

Flagstaff AZ 86001

Phone 928-774-6272

Email: wpeterson@azhs.gov


The week after the Fair I’m at the InD’Scribe conference in Palm Springs, CA. http://indtale.com/indscribe-con-information  This is my first conference and I’m more than a little nervous. I want so much to learn a lot of stuff from all of the experienced authors that will be there. I want to connect with the readers that are attending and, obviously, sell a lot of books. If you’re around the Palm Springs area September 18th and 19th, stop on by. I’d love to chat with you.

On September 24th, I’ll be in Strawberry, AZ, speaking to the writing group there about CreateSpace. I’d love to see you there.

I’m totally up on conniesrandomthoughts.com.  I’ve put a notice up on my WordPress blog so my readers can find me. Be sure to follow me at my new website. I stopped posting to the WordPress site (www.conniesrandomthoughts.wordpress.com) after Friday August 7th.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

I put a special offer up in my July newsletter. Did you miss it? Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I make special offers to my newsletter people that I do not make on the website blogs. If you like the content, please encourage your friends to sign up, too. Don’t delay. The September newsletter is coming out soon. Sign up now so you don’t miss out.

Mystery at the Fair released July 15th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today! You can also see all of my books on www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com, Books tab. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a review on the site where you bought it. It’s a big help to me in the book rankings each vendor uses to promote the books on their sites. Thanks in advance.

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