May 29, 2012


by Stephen Bly

1st Tip:
He turned to face Shorty and the others, then pulled a small notepad from his coat pocket. Rain water spotted his coat. He pulled off his hat and laid it, brim down, on the counter. "I'm looking for a Miss Diane Anderson. I was told that she works here."
Grandpa's hand clamped over my mouth.
(from Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon)

Brim down? He's no cowboy. Hang your hat on a rack or brim up and crown down. That's the code, to minimize stress on the brim, to prevent ruining the shape.  In addition, the cowboys of the Old West wore their hat brims flat, to keep out the sun. Rolled and folded brims came into fashion much later, when ranch workers had to pile into pickup trucks without taking up too much space.

2nd Tip:
"Pop, you ran a store down in Lordsburg. Did you ever get robbed?" Shorty asked.
"Only once. . .cold-cocked him with my Colt and tied him up with clothesline. I reckon wearin' a gun on my hip all the time dissuaded them a tad. It was durin' the depression and Katie was feedin' that ol' boy a baloney sandwich, cookies and milk by the time the sheriff showed. She invited him over for supper when he got out of jail."
"I reckon he was just a hungry hobo," Coosie said.
"We still get a Christmas card from him."
"But nowadays they are mean," Tad Brewer added. "They don't just want some food or money, they want to hurt someone."
"Did you ever run across Cutty Swearingen?" Quirt asked. "He was crazy like that. He tried to cut your face or neck to show off his handiwork."
(from Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon)

Pop. Shorty. Coosie. Cutty Swearingen. Nicknames of the Old West ... good or bad, they were earned in some way. Provided an instant ID of individuals and his or her character.

3rd Tip:
"I reckon there have always been idiots with a knife or gun," Shorty said. "The best way to stop 'em is to never let them pull that knife in the first place."
"That's right," Quirt Payton said. "You pin a knife man's shoulders to the wall and he can't reach his boot. . .or the back of his duckin's."
(from Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon)

A little cowboy philosophy pumped with wisdom. Idiots with a knife or gun. The Old West, like the modern one, had its share. It's not the weapon, it's the intent of the one who carries.

4th Tip:
Cowboy stories live on
Ol' Gabe was a good man, so I hear," Coosie said. "He died north of here when I was a little younger than you. He had some Mexican relatives that sold me a fine black stallion."
"Is that the one that ran off with the wild horses?" Shorty asked.
Coosie pulled the half-chewed cigar from his mouth. "No, that was a pinto that I traded a frying pan full of trout for."
"You traded a frying pan for a horse?" I asked.
"Not just a pan, Little Brother." Coosie flashed his toothless smile. "It was a pan full of fish."
"That doesn't seem like a good trade," I said.
"Never trade when you're hungry," Granddaddy cautioned.
(from Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon)

More cowboy wisdom. Hungry or desperate men can make some very lousy trades. Also, an allusion to the story of brothers Jacob & Esau (Genesis 25:29-32).

5th Tip:
I was surprised that it was still 1954 when I pushed out into the May cloudy day. Somehow I expected horses to be tied to the rail, instead of the dark green '49 Plymouth.
(from Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon)

Like a good movie or book, oral stories can so captivate that you forget time and location. True for a kid, a cowboy or anyone, for that matter. That's one of the delights for Little Brother, the narrator for Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon.


What one thing about cowboy culture resonates for your own life?

Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon

Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon (hardback)
by Stephen Bly
In 1954 a 10-year-old discovers he might not have been born 100 years too late. In the lobby of a run-down hotel in Albuquerque, he hears the stories from the real cowboys. Then lives out a real adventure of his own.

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot
Stuart Brannon's Final Shot (hardback, paperback & ebook)
by Stephen Bly (with Janet, Russell, Michael & Aaron Bly)
Finishing Dad's novel was a family affair.

It's 1905. Two orphans flee from Tillamook Head. One of them is branded a hero. Dare they tell the truth and risk the wrath of a dangerous man? Meanwhile, a retired lawman searches for his missing U.S. Marshal friend while he grapples to learn the game of golf on behalf of a celebrity tournament. 
Available at 

Hard Winter At Broken Arrow Crossing

Half-frozen, Stuart Brannon stumbles into an isolated stage station at the Crossing. There he finds a wounded prospector, an abused and pregnant girl and becomes the target of an outlaw band. Book #1 in the Stuart Brannon Series. In paperback & ebook format. Available at 


Susan Mires said...

Great tips! I learned a lot. Like all good cowboys, Stephen Bly could say a lot in a few words.

Molly Noble Bull said...

The books look fantastic. I love westerns, and I think it's so great that Stephen's family finished his last novel.