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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Confident (07/05/07)

TITLE: The Town Tamer
By Kenneth Bridge
07/11/07


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It was two hours since he broke camp, the persimmon and plum rock outcroppings of the mountain dawn had already faded through tangerine and dusty lemon to a uniform sandy brown. He paused and waited for the shimmering curtain of rising heat to part long enough to permit him a view of the town clinging to the splash of winding green vegetation that marked the dilatory course of Desolation River. It was still more creek than river at this elevation. The town was situated at the bottom of a shallow basin, ringed by peaks to which traces of last winter’s snows still clung. Given its reputation, a visitor might blame the wicked town for dragging the surrounding terrain downward from the lofty heights.

Notorious, the town was aptly named. It consisted of a livery stable, a few ramshackle stores selling dry goods and mining supplies, and a number of lively saloons fronting a street that he knew from experience would freeze solid every winter then after the spring meltoff and rains become a treacherous bog. Now in the July heat it would be ankle deep in dust. It was a town like so many others that had sprung up in the West like mushrooms around claim sites, enough promise of easy riches to attract desperate and lawless men, not enough real riches to bring civilization. A town like many others, but more so.

“Don’t go there!” his friends warned him. “It’s too crazy. They’re a rough lot, even for you.”

“Yup,” agreed another. “One minute yer enjoyin’ yer whiskey an’ the next, yer gittin’ yer jaw broke with an iron fist or throat cut with the broken bottle. And the men are even meaner!”

It would be his toughest challenge, he knew. His right hand reached down near his hip and stroked the leather object he found there. It was where he found his confidence.
He’d developed a preternatural skill with its use. It brought such clarity to a situation. A true peacemaker, visiting judgment on the wicked, and a new appreciation for mercy from those that obeyed.

He saw signs of activity as he descended to the main street. People were rushing into the biggest of the saloons. They knew he was coming and they’d be anxious to take his measure. He heard music from inside, someone banging on a piano with more energy than skill. He paused for a moment, mouthing a prayer, then strode briskly through the bat wing doors.

The music stopped, the sudden silence engulfing a few coughs and scraping chairs. Then the heels of his boots beat a tattoo on the wood floor, the jingling sound of his spurs playing ricochet to the gunshot sound of his steps. He felt every eye burning into his back as he strode purposefully to the front of the room, past the bar near where the card tables would have been spilling with coin and drink the night before.

He paused for a moment then turned around, his right hand reached down and drew his confidence holding it aloft for all to see and challenge. No one moved. His fingers flipped over a few pages and he said in his surprisingly rich voice, “Today I want to tell you about the toughest hombre who ever rode into a town. The story starts here, in Matthew 21.”


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This article has been read 549 times
Member Comments
Member Date
terri tiffany07/12/07
I'm glad I picked this one to read - first let me say your twist at the end was wonderful - I never saw it coming!:) I loved the line 'they were anxious to take his measure." You write very descriptive and vivid. The only suggestion I might offer is in the first paragraph where the use of colors and adjectives is abit more than really needed. Otherwise - terrific story telling!
Jan Ackerson 07/12/07
I can just hear the Western guitar in the background...loved the idea of this, but you almost lost me with the wordiness of the first few paragraphs. Once I got to the warnings of his friends, and the actual ride into town, I couldn't put it down. Great job with the misdirection!
Edy T Johnson 07/12/07
This is as rich a western as it gets! I like to listen to "Imagination Theater" on radio, and stories by Louis Lamour take their turn at the microphone. From your first sentence, I could almost hear the voice of the radio narrator, telling this story (had it been first person).

You write good!
Dee Yoder 07/12/07
Man! I like this story and I like the descriptions in the beginning, too. (All the fruity colored scenery is my favorite). I like the whole thing...and the ending is very cool.
Lynda Schultz 07/14/07
Really good, and I learned another new word — "preternatural." A job well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/15/07
This is a great story, complete with wonderful description (First paragraph is awesome), good suspense, and a twist at the end.
Beth LaBuff 07/15/07
I like in a town that sounds much like your description. It was called "a town too tough for women and churches".

You did a great job of writing this story!
Beth LaBuff 07/15/07
I meant "LIVE" in a town. (hmmm...those two letters "V" and "K" are nowhere near each other on the keyboard :)
dub W07/16/07
Okay, I'll be the nay sayer, sorry. First of all I liked the plot line, albeit somewhat predictable. However, my opinion is that the description was a bit overdone.
Joanne Sher 07/17/07
Enjoyed the atmosphere of this, but I also found the first few paragraphs overly "descripive." It was a bit distracting - good stuff once I got beyond them, though.
Kristen Hester07/18/07
This is wonderful. I agree with some of the other comments that it was a bit wordy at the beginning, but it got better and better as you picked up the pace. Great job. Wonderful twist at the end.