From the magnificent archive…
previously published tales as well as new ones, Desert Heat, Desert Cold
And Other Tales Of The West by Charlie Steel takes you back to the old
days of the west. Before society theoretically “evolved” and decided to do
better by orphan children and the down trodden. Back when it behooved the young
folks to listen to the hard won wisdom of their elders who had been lucky and
good enough to survive to an old age. Back when a man lived by his gun, his
skills on a horse, and how well he could survive after being beaten and left
That is exactly
what happens in the signature story, “Desert Heat, Desert Cold” that leads off
the collection from Condor Publishing. Beaten, robbed, and left to die in the
Mexican desert, the narrator must put years of wisdom passed down from Old Bill
Mike Pardee has
had enough and walks out of his marriage in “Mountain Man Comes Home.” He
leaves the small city of Trinidad and goes home to the mountain cabin he had
before he married the town spinster. He is looking for peace.
The wagon train
took the wrong path on its way to California. Now, everybody is dead except for
one survivor in “Boy On The Desert.” Little Willie is by himself. Then the
coyotes came to feed.
Sam Cook is a
lone rancher with few plans on this Sunday in “Death Comes In The Afternoon.” A
little fishing, some reading from the Bible, and a late lunch before he heads
to the nearest general store for supplies. Home after the war, he is glad for
every day above ground and does his best to get along with others while not
surrendering his principals. No matter how pretty the Front Range is, life is
never peaceful for very long.
The War Between
the States just ended and it is a cold day in November in St. Louis. Young Otis
Sutter is homeless, an orphan, and coming down with some sort of respiratory
infection. That was before his few possessions were destroyed in “Kid On The
“The Lad From
Norway” is a remarkable specimen of male vitality. How he wound up out west and
very far from Norway is the point of this tale.
Winter had been
brutal, but the spring meant the thaw and getting out of the cabin. It also
meant a trip to town, a couple of purchases, and far too much drinking. At
least when he woke up he still had his dog, Nuisance. He copes as best as he
can with the aftermath in “Nuisance And The Girl.”
The old man came
to town knowing his days were numbered. He has been places and done a quite a
few things over the years. He has a lot of knowledge to pass on. He found a
receptive audience for his memories in “Old Man In A Rocking Chair.”
Eight year old
Sammy Tucker knows the town like the back of his hand. He had explored it all.
He also knows everyone in town. So, he knows trouble has come calling in
“Little Sammy Tucker And The Strangers.”
The old man has
stories to share with his grandson. Life lessons he means to impart no matter
what his son has to say about him. A boy needs to know the truth about life and
more in “The Dust Still Rising.”
did not make eighty-two years of age by being soft. “Grandma Gives No Quarter”
and she isn’t about to now when the fate of those she cares about is at stake.
“Hot Desert, Hot
Rock, Hot Snake” is pretty much self-explanatory. It all leads to a really bad
day on the trail.
The plight of
orphan children is a frequent theme in many of the stories of this collection.
Such is the case in “Hard Times For Billy O’Reilly.” Being fourteen and poor is
bad enough. Being beaten is worse. Then he gets thrown in the local jail before
being thrown on the orphan train and shipped out of New York to be a problem
for somebody else to deal with at the end of the line.
youngest in the bunkhouse means the nastiest jobs fall to Leonard. He doesn’t
know ranch life and yet “The Rain Pours On.” He has a plan.
Zeke and Art are
old men playing checkers at their small homestead near the town of Walsenburg,
Colorado. They are both cranky old guys, but they get along okay. That is until
events start to happen in “Something In The Wood Pile.”
The horse is
fine, but the rider hanging on the edge of the cliff is in a world of trouble.
Six hundred feet below is certain death in “On The Edge.”
Bobby Carter was
traveling alone when the warriors attacked. They have him pinned down in the
rocks against Badito Cone. It is a matter of time before he is dead. In “Dead
Man’s Song” he makes one final stand the only way he knows how.
tales that make up Desert Heat, Desert Cold And Other Tales Of The West are
all good ones. Each tale is accompanied at least once and often twice with a
black and white illustration of the story. The illustrations by Gail Heath are
a nice touch in the book. As is the detailed “Acknowledgements” page that gives
background on the various sites and publications that have published many of
Whether new for
this book or previously published in print or online, all the tales in this
collection share a common theme of survival and acceptance. Survival as long as
one can and acceptance of when the work is done and it is time to go. Desert
Heat, Desert Cold And Other Tales Of The West by Charlie Steel is a
good read and worth your time.
supplied by the author with no expectation of a review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2018, 2023