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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rescue is a Beautiful Word - A Joyous Adoption Story

This post by Gayle M. Irwin



Nearly two months ago a 4-year-old Shih Tzu found a new home: MINE! His name was Stormy and he spent the first three years in a Midwestern puppy mill. He was used for breeding and though he had some interaction with people, his life wasn’t filled with much compassion, love, or care. Then, in September 2016, he was brought to an animal rescue sanctuary in southern Nebraska. At Hearts United for Animals, Stormy learned people could be kind and they could be trusted. And though he had veterinary care (sadly, losing 28 of his 42 teeth) and caring interaction with people, he still had no experience living in a home and consistent, compassionate care. That all changed on September 10 when my husband and I drove back to Casper from Nebraska with the little guy in the back seat of our car next to our 2013 rescued springer/cocker named Mary.
 
He and Mary had opportunity to meet at HUA’s play yard. They spent more time together at the hotel where we overnight and during the long drive back to Wyoming. They are now attached, especially him to her. Renamed Jeremiah, our little adoptee follows Mary everywhere and cuddles with her on the couch, on the floor, on the bed – she is his big sister and best friend. He’s already learned a great deal from her, including walks on the leash can bring grand sniffing adventures; running through the back yard is great fun; and going outside to potty gets you treats. He’s also learned how fun toys can be. He still needs to learn to share with his canine housemate, though!

Jeremiah is a sweet companion. When I’m home working in my office, both he and Mary come and lay either on the futon beside my desk or on the floor near my feet (although Jeremiah much prefers to lay on a soft-blanketed doggie bed than the hardwood floor!) When I return home from my day job, gone about eight or nine hours, Jeremiah is usually waiting at the door, and the joy he portrays, dancing on his hind legs a move for which Shih Tzus are famous, raising his little feet up toward me to be held, hugged, and cuddled melts my heart. My blind dog Sage used to come through the house after hearing the lock turn in the doorway, welcoming me home with springer songs of AHOO, AHOO!! I love the devoted, loving way dogs (and cats) oftentimes greet us when we come through the door!

As I watch Jeremiah settling in and coming out of his shell, revealing his precious, somewhat precocious personality, I am thankful my husband and I adopted him. There are challenges to pet adoption, particularly when bringing home a puppy mill/kitten mill animal; however, watching them blossom under loving tutelage is very rewarding and observing them overcome their fears and mistrust is joyous! That joy is contagious. The first time I watched Jeremiah flat-out boogie across the back yard and witness him grabbing the stuffed toy, shaking it, then running through the house with it in his small, somewhat toothless mouth made me both laugh and cry. Knowing he might never have enjoyed such freedom, pleasure and joy was like an arrow to my heart. Rescue is a beautiful word. I’m grateful to the staff and volunteers at HUA for saving Stormy/Jeremiah and the countless other animals they’ve rescued in the 30 years of operation. I’m also grateful to the other puppy mill rescues, such as National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, and the thousands of animal shelters and rescue groups across the country.

November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month. Although Jeremiah was by no means a senior, when I inquired as to why this small dog had not yet been adopted, the staff member responded, “Likely his age – most people want puppies or 1-year-olds.” That shocked me – by no means is Jeremiah “old,” unlike the cocker spaniel my husband and I adopted in 2008, who was then 10 years of age. Cody lived to be almost 18, possibly because of the love and care we gave him. I hope Jeremiah lives to such a ripe old age!

During this special month of Adopt-a-Senior Pet, I hope you will take time to help rescue animals in some way: by adopting or fostering; by volunteering at your local shelter/rescue; donating necessary items; helping to promote adoption; helping at an event put on by your local rescue organization.

November is also Thanksgiving. If you have pets, take time to be thankful for the joy and companionship they provideas and for the numerous rescue groups who unite people and pets. Also consider being grateful for the many thousands of animals who provide not only companionship, but also necessary help for their humans, such as service dogs, therapy cats, and K9 and military animals. We are blessed by having animals in our lives, in our communities, and in service to our country.

Hugs to you and your pets from me and mine, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 
Gayle M. Irwin is a freelance writer, author and speaker. She is part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul family, having published seven short stories in seven of the internationally-acclaimed books, including a rescue story in the August release "The Dog Really Did That?" She also has a story in "Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart" from Sundown Press. She maintains a pet blog on her website, found at www.gaylemirwin.com.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Release — BEST OF THE WEST— Fourteen Western Stories



Grab a cup of coffee and settle down into your easy chair to ride the range with some of the most exciting tales of the Old West you’ll find anywhere! This collection is called BEST OF THE WEST for a very good reason—IT IS!

These fourteen stories will have you standing beside lawmen and outlaws as the bullets fly, saddling up some of the best horseflesh to be found West of the Mississippi, and wagering your livelihood on the turn of a card. Tales that include savvy swindles, gunfights, loves lost (and found!), the making of an outlaw and the secret protection of a president will draw you in and hang on tight.

This anthology is bustin’ with acclaimed Western authors such as James Reasoner, Livia J. Washburn, Jackson Lowry, Kit Prate, Charlie Steel, Richard Prosch, Big Jim Williams, Cheryl Pierson, J.L. Guin, Clay More, and David Amendola.

What are you waitin’ for, pardner? You’re burnin’ daylight! Happy trails!

     

Monday, October 23, 2017

BEST OF THE BAD MEN #1

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive wide acclaim already for my Sundown Press novel THE PEACEMAKER, including 5 star reviews from 2 of the most successful western authors in the business. Spur award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author ROBERT VAUGHAN describes it as ‘a great book’. Meanwhile RALPH COTTON (also a Pulitzer-prize nominated novelist) writes: ‘For pure writing style, McBride’s gritty prose nails the time and place of his story with bold authority. …this relatively new author has thoroughly, and rightly so, claimed his place among the top Old West storytellers.’ I’m very grateful to both Robert & Ralph for their fantastic support.


Like many of the western writers I’ve corresponded with, I didn’t get into westerns from reading the kind of novels I’d eventually write. I was initially hooked by what I watched, on the cinema and on TV, during my boyhood in the 1960s. And entering the world of the screen western was like joining a family, peopled by familiar faces. Actors re-occurred in the same roles – the same leading men, from A-listers like John Wayne and Gary Cooper to ‘lower-birth’ leads like Audie Murphy and Rory Calhoun. The same leading ladies – either the ‘good girls’ who the hero should marry or the ‘bad girls’ (who often worked in saloons) who he definitely shouldn’t! The same ‘sidekicks’ – one thinks of Noah Beery Jr. and Slim Pickens. A wonderful roster of character actors – Ward Bond, John McIntire, Walter Brennan, Ben Johnson and many more. Some even seemed to corner the market in particular supporting roles – if the town doctor or storekeeper wasn’t played by Frank Ferguson, it was usually Vaughn Taylor. All of whom deserve recognition and blogs of their own.

Vaughn Taylor the eternal store keeper
But perhaps most enjoyable of all were the villains.
Westerns are of course morality plays and if the hero represented the best in people, they needed a foil, an opponent, to represent the very worst; worthy opponents against whom the hero has to be tested. And there were plenty of very capable actors who regularly stepped up to the plate to do just that. They were often as enjoyable, and quite often more enjoyable, than the heroes.
One of the misconception about the western, held against it by its detractors, is that it’s too simplistic, 100% pure heroes up against villains without a single redeeming feature. Anyone who thinks that has obviously never watched many westerns! Western heroes are often flawed, vulnerable or conflicted – one thinks of James Stewart in ‘The Naked Spur,’ Van Heflin in the original ‘3.10 for Yuma’ or John Wayne in ‘The Searchers.’ As for the villains, sometimes they’re clearly good men gone bad, or bad men who have their saving graces – for example Glenn Ford as the outlaw leader in the original ‘3.10 for Yuma.’ Sometimes they’re just irredeemably villainous and loving it! Even then, however, they have their likable aspects.

Glenn Ford in the original ‘3.10 for Yuma.’
The best fictional villains – in westerns or anything – are, in my opinion, almost never petty or cowardly. They are often almost as competent, resourceful, charismatic and intelligent as the heroes they’re up against. Sometimes they could almost be the hero’s evil twin, the flip side of the same coin, and often possess dangerous charm and humour. The difference between them is, usually when the chips are down, when they have to choose between serving themselves or the interests of others, the hero chooses the greater good, the villain cynically chooses himself.
There are so many splendid western bad guys that I realised one blog could never do them justice. So I decided to do two. Next time I’ll discuss ‘the hateful eight’ – the eight very best western villains, in my opinion. Meanwhile here’s a brief canter through the ranks of wrong-doers who didn’t make my final ‘worst of the west’ cut, but gave excellent villain none the less. It’s selective and doesn’t claim to be exhaustive, or else this would be the longest blog in history!
I’m not discussing bad girls – that should be a blog all to itself. Nor would I include Native American chiefs. For a long time Native American leaders were routinely characterised as villains – Chief Scar in ‘The Searchers’ for one. Attitudes changed however, and they began to be depicted as patriots and even heroes fighting to save their peoples, for example in the 50s biopics of Indian leaders from Cochise to Crazy Horse.
Nor would I include military opponents.  General Santa Anna became the ultimate hate figure on the Texas frontier after the slaughters he ordered in 1836 at The Alamo and Goliad. His defenders, however, would argue he was a patriot trying to preserve his nation against foreign aggression. I’m not going to go there!

Ruben Padilla as General Santa Anna in ‘THE ALAMO’ (1960.)
‘Outriders’ on my list of villains would be actors who more normally played good guys who made surprisingly successful forays into villainy. Audiences gasped at the sight of Henry Fonda, ruthlessly gunning down women and children in ‘Once Upon a Time in the West.’ The same man who’d played the stalwart and incorruptible Wyatt Earp in ‘My Darling Clementine!’
Burt Lancaster gave a tremendous turn as a ‘laughing villain’ in 'Vera Cruz', even dying with his trademark grin on his lips! Lancaster illustrates a characteristic of the bad guy that makes them fun to write – their unpredictability. They do what they like, therefore you never know what they’re going to do next. One minute Lancaster is siding Gary Cooper, the next he’s treacherously conspiring against him.

Slim Pickens, usually a likable side-kick, makes a highly effective slimy villain in ‘One Eyed Jacks.’

And Rory Calhoun seems to be enjoying his turn as a bad guy in ‘River of No Return.’ Like a number of western villains he has a girlfriend (in this case Marilyn Monroe) who believes he’s capable of reforming from his wicked ways. She persuades him to talk to his enemy (Robert Mitchum) the next time they meet, instead of trying to kill him. Rory agrees. “All right.” he says, “I’ll talk to him.” He then takes out his gun and checks if it’s loaded. Monroe asks “What do you need that for?” To which Rory replies: “In case he’s hard of hearing!”
Bad guys often got the best lines!

Rory Calhoun and Marilyn Monroe
Amongst the many memorable western villains on screen were: Walter Brennan as the evil Old Man Clanton in ‘My Darling Clementine’; Robert Duvall as the outlaw John Wayne hunts in ‘True Grit’; Gene Hackman as the corrupt lawman in ‘Unforgiven’; Karl Malden as another villainous lawman in ‘One Eyed Jacks’; Warren Oates and John Anderson as two homicidal brothers in ‘Ride the High Country’; Skip Homeier as the sly back-shooter in ‘The Gunfighter;’ Henry Silva as the cold-eyed and clearly unstable killer in ‘The Tall T’; and Jack Elam, Claude Akins, John Dehner, Gene Evans, Alex Montoya, Ernest Borgnine, Leo Gordon, Robert J. Wilke and Victor Jory in many film and TV appearances. And many more!
I always found the lean-faced James Anderson a particularly villainous-looking villain. He was effective as the brutal cavalryman in ‘Little Big Man’ although perhaps his best depiction of evil was in a non-western ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

James Anderson in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’
Two actors who almost made it onto my ‘hateful eight’ list were Lee Marvin and Donald Pleasance.
British actor Donald Pleasance was an unusual choice to play a western villain but proved to be inspired casting. He’s Charlton Heston’s nemesis in ‘Will Penny,’ a fire-and- brimstone preacher with a brood of sons as psychopathic as he is. Pleasance manages the trick of playing an over-the-top character without (quite) going over the top.

Lee Marvin frequently played western bad guys but capped it all with his performance in ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance.’ In a film which is an allegory for the passing of the frontier, his Valance is more than a villain; he represents the flamboyance, savagery and unrestrained violence of the Wild West. When he’s felled by a bullet, it marks the end of an era. He’s an equally enjoyable bad guy in ‘The Comancheros’ where he again shows great chemistry with John Wayne.

If your favourite western wrong-doer isn’t here, don’t worry. Come along to my next blog on the subject – BEST OF THE BAD MEN #2 - and you may find them among ‘the hateful eight’, my eight most favourite western villains!
BLURB for THE PEACEMAKER:
Eighteen-year-old scout Calvin 'Choctaw' Taylor believes he can handle whatever life throws his way. He’s been on his own for several years, and he only wants to make his mark in the world. When he is asked to guide peace emissary Sean Brennan and his adopted Apache daughter, Nahlin, into a Chiricahua Apache stronghold, he agrees—but then has second thoughts. He’s heard plenty about the many ways the Apache can kill a man. But Mr. Brennan sways him, and they begin the long journey to find Cochise—and to try to forge a peace and an end to the Indian Wars that have raged for so long. During the journey, Choctaw begins to understand that there are some things about himself he doesn’t like—but he’s not sure what to do about it. Falling in love with Nahlin is something he never expected—and finds hard to live with. The death and violence, love for Nahlin and respect for both Cochise and Mr. Brennan, have a gradual effect on Choctaw that change him. But is that change for the better? Can he live with the things he’s done to survive in the name of peace?
 
EXTRACT:
Choctaw blinked sweat and sunspots out of his eyes and began to lower the field glasses; then he glimpsed movement.

He used the glasses again, scanning nearer ground, the white sands. He saw nothing.

And then two black specks were there suddenly, framed against the dazzling white. They might have dropped from the sky.

They grew bigger. Two horsebackers coming this way, walking their mounts. As he watched they spurted into rapid movement, whipping their ponies into a hard run towards him.

The specks swelled to the size of horses and men. Men in faded smocks maybe once of bright colour, their long hair bound by rags at the temple. They had rifles in their hands.

Breath caught in Choctaw’s throat. Fear made him dizzy. His arms started to tremble. He knew who was coming at him so fast.

Apaches.

And you killed them or they killed you.
**** 


To buy THE PEACEMAKER visit Amazon.com:
or Amazon.co.uk:

Monday, September 25, 2017

ANDREW McBRIDE in praise of… THE HIGH CHAPARRAL

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive wide acclaim already for my Sundown Press novel THE PEACEMAKER, including 5 star reviews from 2 of the most successful western authors in the business. Spur award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author ROBERT VAUGHAN describes it as ‘a great book’. Meanwhile RALPH COTTON (also a Pulitzer-prize nominated novelist) writes: ‘For pure writing style, McBride’s gritty prose nails the time and place of his story with bold authority. …this relatively new author has thoroughly, and rightly so, claimed his place among the top Old West storytellers.’ I’m very grateful to both Robert & Ralph for their fantastic support.

As a boy growing up in England in the 1960s, TV Westerns were a staple of my viewing. I only caught the tail end of shows like ‘Maverick’ ‘Cheyenne’ and ‘Rawhide,’ and, oddly enough, can’t ever remember watching the longest-running of all TV Westerns, ‘Gunsmoke’ although I’m sure it was shown in the UK. The ones I remember are ‘Bonanza’ and ‘The Virginian’ and some short-lived series like ‘The Loner.’
I would catch these quite often and usually found them entertaining, but not essential viewing. I always thought the TV Western the ‘poor relation’ of western movies. My taste in westerns has always run to the outdoor and the primitive. The production values of TV westerns, many of them being filmed on familiar Hollywood backlots or sound stages, meant they made little of what is a key western element in my opinion – the landscape, and its physical magnificence.
That all changed in 1967 with the appearance of ‘The High Chaparral’ which became a ‘must watch’ show for me.

Whilst other shows had occasionally ventured to Old Tucson, Arizona, the HC location shooting was mainly there, and in other sites around Southern Arizona. For us Brits, living on an island which is, alas, sometimes rainy and grey, the Arizona we viewed each week was literally dazzling; I knew people who watched the show who didn’t even like westerns but fell in love with the landscapes. All of which gave the HC not only physical beauty but authenticity – the sweat and dust were real!

The premise of the HC is this: ‘Big’ John Cannon brings his family – wife, son Blue, brother Buck – to the Arizona Territory of the early 1870s, to set up a ranch, the High Chaparral. But the country he enters is lawless and riven with conflict, another key element in the show. Bandits – American and Mexican – abound, and hostile Apaches raid, particularly the Chiricahuas under their chief Cochise.
Almost immediately Cannon’s wife is killed by an Apache arrow. Unwilling to fight both the Apaches and a rival Mexican landowner, Don Sebastian Montoya, Cannon comes to terms with Montoya. But to seal the deal, Don Sebastian insists Cannon marries his daughter, Victoria, much younger than him. Cannon reluctantly agrees, and Victoria returns with him to the ranch, along with her brother Manolito.
Whereas ‘Bonanza’ featured a rather idealised family, the HC clan are often more like a family at war, grafted together over a marriage of convenience! That’s because high quality HC scripts gave us leading characters we could like and admire but were also flawed, edgy and vulnerable, cast to perfection.
Ok, a caveat here. It would be nice to say that the HC maintained its high standards over its 4 seasons. Sadly, season 3 fell foul of the trend to ‘tone down’ violence in westerns at the end of the 60s which meant this season was disappointing, with only a scattering of good - mostly light-hearted - episodes. As for season 4… let’s not go there! Whoever was producing this season seemed determined to change everything that made the original show great, from cutting back on location photography to speeding up (and ruining) the wonderful theme tune. Add to that one main character – Blue – left without explanation and was air-brushed out of the series. This was compounded by tragedy when Frank Silvera died in a household accident.
Most of my favourite episodes are from seasons 1 and 2, when the HC was, in my opinion, as good as the TV Western ever got.     
The dominant figure, JOHN CANNON is portrayed by LEIF ERICKSON.

I believe Erickson deserves credit for being unafraid to present Cannon as a sometimes unsympathetic figure. On the plus side he’s a man with a vision for transforming Arizona from a wilderness and living at peace with the Apaches. But at times he’s a ranting bully, initially cold and awkward towards his new wife, and deliberately harsh in his treatment of his 20-year-old son BLUE (MARK SLADE.)

Blue in turn can be petulant and thoughtless, and takes a long time to accept his new mother-in-law. He does a lot of growing up in the course of the show!
BUCK CANNON (CAMERON MITCHELL) is another multi-faceted character.

He’s often looked down on by his brother for his drinking and irresponsibility. He’s an under-achiever; whilst his brother is clearly intent on making his mark on the land, Buck describes himself simply as ‘a drifter.’ That doesn’t mean he can’t find steely courage when he has to, e.g. when he has to stand up to his old confederate army captain who comes to seize Don Sebastian’s land (‘The Filibusteros’.)
VICTORIA (LINDA CRISTAL) remains one of the strongest female characters in the TV western, 

particularly in episodes like ‘Ghost of Chaparral’ where she not only stands up to a domineering husband but asserts her independence from her father. She often exemplifies poise and grace but ‘North to Tucson’ shows she can hack it outdoors too!
My favourite HC character is MANOLITO (HENRY DARROW) a fascinating study in contradictions.

Although raised in a wealthy, cultured family he’s a friend of bandits and a pursuer of saloon girls; somewhere in a past we never find too much about, he’s become a dangerous gunfighter; most intriguingly he’s also knowledgeable, and sympathetic to, Apaches and their ways. He’s a ‘Zorro’ like character (and Henry Darrow later played Zorro) in that he can be an irresponsible drunkard, a source of endless disappointment to his father; but he’s also quietly heroic – he braves torture to rescue a girl captive of the Apaches, (‘Ride the Savage Land’) and saves future-president of Mexico Benito Juarez from assassination (‘The Terrorist’) even though it means killing a good friend.
The casting was rounded off by first-rate supporting players, such as FRANK SILVERA as Don Sebastian,

and RODOLFO ACOSTA as the cook Vaquero. 

And then there were the bunkhouse boys, led by Sam (DON COLLIER)

Sam (DON COLLIER) has Apache trouble
and his brother Joe (BOB HOY.)

And occasional characters re-occurred, such as El Lobo, a bandit who could be villainous and also strangely likable (ANTHONY CARUSO)

and Perlita (MARIE GOMEZ) a saloon girl Manolito pursues in a number of comic adventures.



The HC was a ground-breaking show in that 2 of the 5 main characters were Hispanics – played by Hispanics. This was part of the thrust for authenticity that also had Indians played by Indians, most notably Cochise, who was played by NIÑO COCHISE – who may, or may not, have been his 93-year old grandson! And the HC also dealt with the black man’s place in the American West in the episodes Ride the Savage Land, The Buffalo Soldiers and Sea of Enemies, featuring a memorable performance by PAUL WINFIELD.


PAUL WINFIELD and MARK SLADE
There are too many other outstanding HC episodes to list, but they include ‘Mark of the Turtle’ and ‘The Covey’ where the HC crew do battle with El Lobo, and comic episodes like ‘Champion of the Western World’ and ‘For What We Are About to Receive’ – there was plenty of humour in the HC to leaven the grittiness. I have to mention ‘The Peacemaker’ as my Sundown Press novel is partly based on that, (although you won’t find any HC characters in it) but there’s also ‘Gold is Where You Leave it,’ ‘Bad Day for a Thirst,’ etc., many more. A particular favourite is ‘Shadow of the Wind,’ a strange and brilliant episode bringing in historical figures like Johnny Ringo (a tremendous performance by LUKE ASKEW.)



Finally I’d single out two for special mention: ‘Best Man for the Job’ may have the best 5 minute sequence in any TV western, when Apaches attack a cavalry detail riding out of the ranch.



Best Man for the Job’

And ‘Ride the Savage Land’ as, arguably, the very best HC episode and the best TV western episode ever made. In an episode that scores highly on every level, Henry Darrow is particularly impressive. 




Ride the Savage Land’ 
Last word on the High Chaparral is not from me, but a comment I found on the internet: ‘It was the greatest western television series ever made. Its gritty realism, high production values, location shooting and superb cast made it the very best the genre had to offer.’
BLURB for THE PEACEMAKER:
Eighteen-year-old scout Calvin 'Choctaw' Taylor believes he can handle whatever life throws his way. He’s been on his own for several years, and he only wants to make his mark in the world. When he is asked to guide peace emissary Sean Brennan and his adopted Apache daughter, Nahlin, into a Chiricahua Apache stronghold, he agrees—but then has second thoughts. He’s heard plenty about the many ways the Apache can kill a man. But Mr. Brennan sways him, and they begin the long journey to find Cochise—and to try to forge a peace and an end to the Indian Wars that have raged for so long. During the journey, Choctaw begins to understand that there are some things about himself he doesn’t like—but he’s not sure what to do about it. Falling in love with Nahlin is something he never expected—and finds hard to live with. The death and violence, love for Nahlin and respect for both Cochise and Mr. Brennan, have a gradual effect on Choctaw that change him. But is that change for the better? Can he live with the things he’s done to survive in the name of peace?
 
EXTRACT:
Choctaw blinked sweat and sunspots out of his eyes and began to lower the field glasses; then he glimpsed movement.

He used the glasses again, scanning nearer ground, the white sands. He saw nothing.

And then two black specks were there suddenly, framed against the dazzling white. They might have dropped from the sky.

They grew bigger. Two horsebackers coming this way, walking their mounts. As he watched they spurted into rapid movement, whipping their ponies into a hard run towards him.

The specks swelled to the size of horses and men. Men in faded smocks maybe once of bright colour, their long hair bound by rags at the temple. They had rifles in their hands.

Breath caught in Choctaw’s throat. Fear made him dizzy. His arms started to tremble. He knew who was coming at him so fast.

Apaches.

And you killed them or they killed you.
**** 


To buy THE PEACEMAKER visit Amazon.com: 
or Amazon.co.uk