December- Week 4

January 2, 2013

Scents of Christmas

Remembering briefly the scents which pervaded the Christmas Season so many years ago in our one-room sod home back in the Sandhills of Nebraska.

The scents of Christmas filled the air…
the smell of pumpkin pie,
a turkey roasting on the hearth…
with mama standing by.

‘Twas a Christmas to remember,
and enjoy once again
the many scents of Christmas past,
remem’bring way back then!

Clark Crouch
is a self-proclaimed Poet Lariat and a prize-winning western and cowboy poet, author, lyricist, and performing artist. He admits to a bias toward traditional cowboy poetic forms.

The author of eight books poetry, six of which are devoted to western and cowboy verse, he is a two-time winner of the prestigious Will Rogers Medallion Award for Cowboy Poetry and a five-time finalist in the annual Western Music Associations book award competitions. He wrote his first prize-winning poem at age eleven but never got around to writing more until 2001 when he was 73. Shortly thereafter he started writing and performing professionally.

He was inspired by three individuals: Will Rogers who was his hero during the early 1930s; Charles Badger Clark, the classic cowboy poet, with whom he was acquainted in the early 1940s; and Sherman Alexie, a Native American poet, novelist, screen-writer and performer who, in 2001, encouraged him to write his western tales in poetic form.

His poem ‘The Guardian’ was published in CPP’s October 2012 Issue- Week 2



It was late Fall when Pete and I found five dead Herefords on the bank of the Ranch’s main irrigation ditch. They were gutted.

I remarked to Pete, “There’s only one animal, besides man, that kills for pleasure—the Grizzly bear. “We’ll shoot him tonight.”

We built a shelter, downwind, with a good view of the bear’s most likely path to his victims. I had borrowed a Steyr Mannlicher eqipped with a night sight and Pete, as back up shooter, had his Dad’s thirty-aught-six.

It was not a long wait. Pete spotted him—about 200 yards out—cantering towards us. My first shot was in his gut. He let out a high pitched grunt and in spite of his condition he closed on us fast. He was less than thirty yards away. On the second shot I remembered my grandfather’s dictum—lie still, bring the animal into the cross hairs, hold your breath and squeeze the trigger.

It was a perfect shot through the heart. The Grizz rose up on his hind legs, barked a piercing death rattle and keeled over. He measured out at over 10 feet and weighed we estimated, about1,000 lbs.

After he was dressed out, I visited the Forest Service to fill out a report.

Chief Ranger Bill Burns admonished, “Mike, you’re supposed to obtain permission before you kill an endangered species.”

“Bill, I know, but he’s made endangered species already of five of our cattle.” I did not say what I was thinking: we Wyoming ranchers shoot first and talk about it later. “Here are your bear steaks. I’m returning the Grizz slightly modified into Forest Service custody.”

Bill shook his head and smiled, “You do pretty good dealing with us Smokeys.”

We named the bearskin Jerome and he was placed before the fireplace. For Mary and me the pleasure of his company endured for years.

I reckon that Jerome’s second life was warmer and more stimulating than his first.

Michael J. Keyser in his formative years spent summers and other free time at the family ranch, the Diamond k located in southeastern Idaho.  He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in English.  While there, he won the John B. Wanamaker Prize for Excellence in English Composition.

Mr. Keyser served as the President of the American Cancer Society, Cuyahoga County Unit.  He was also a Park Commissioner in Hudson, Ohio.  For several years he served on the Board of the Summit-Portage County Health Systems Agency.

Mr. Keyser has published four works of fiction.  His hobbies are writing, walking and woodworking.  Mr. Keyser is very active in his church with outreach ministries serving senior health facilities.

June 2012- Week 4

June 25, 2012

Steve Cartwright “It’s well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so I’m typing this with one hand while pummeling my head with a frozen mackerel with the other. I’ve done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling – but mostly drooling – on tavern napkins.” He has also created art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. I was awarded the 2004 James Award for my cover art for Champagne Shivers. I recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery:



your father had given you the blood and last name of
Thomas More and your mother what had taken a breast
from you and hidden with it but you were not remiss
trying meditation and catholicism and
sweat lodge anything to wash you rid of it that you
not have to have a next appointment
             you were only
coming a bit weakened out of the last when we met
and I from a night of my own we both emergent
into entire day on the plateau
             I wanting
fire time in the high desert had taken to trails
had joined and begun to love a shadowy woman
friend of yours there who invited me to hike with you
and another in Abineau Canyon and Bear Jaw
on the north flank of the peaks
             June heat and drought
did not reach where we went dancing up with you
a quick and intent slight woman of laughter that knew
which boots to wear and the way to achieve a mountain
did psychotherapy for a living knew how to
talk and would talk of it too
             we got to quakenasp
every other leaf on them in direct sun and
you called
                          thank you god
             in joy it had to have been
you and I would revisit on our own later to
hold colloquy about metempsychosis and young
Everett Reuss who had fused with the nature he loved
and you thought of the holied ones saying goodbye to
vivid earth in the knowledge they would not come round
again and we did not mention Edward Abbey’s or
any name
            when I was looking you had and did not
rent a room to me which sort of educated my
liking and you had had reconstruction and worried
what a man would think but we took hikes together in
the hardpan country often on the Weatherford road
to Doyle Saddle
             keeping up with you I would write was
like chasing fritillaries you were that good on the
vivid earth we inhabited at our one time
and could see from such height 
             you had me to dinner on
Thanksgiving and the two children you had left in New
Mexico on running away with your profession
             two other
men at the table to rival me I 
thought but you gave me the head of it refilling my
glass with wine you did not drink anymore letting the
children know how you wanted them to vote
             nothing would
come of you and me however beyond a hug and
a long impromptu monsoon-evening talk when I
worked on the Navajo Nation every thirteen-
hour day a lifetime I needed of red dirt of
Indian chatter anglo country on kay-tee-en-
             maybe like the holied ones on their goodbye round
we had a knowledge we did not have to say only
act on and I might even have been fearing night as 
I got in with a redhead saltimbanque whom you
had seen and warned me of whom I enjoyed and suffered
in the only more time on earth that would have remained
to you and me
              might have been cathexis not fear when
I heard it had come to you again I wanted day
so much that kept me not with you
              we did meet in a 
hospital waiting room and one afternoon you had
a turban on were puffy I took you to the mesa
walking rather than hiking but we hiked on the south
Wilson Mountain trail with a group
              you and your nurse
not making it to first bench the autumn under way in
Verde Valley and later you in the restaurant
drove to the agency every day
to talk with clientele
              I ran into you out on
the avenue and said we ought to get together
                       averted nod
                       at the car door
                       no talking or look
              but on another
street in February a honk
a wave a smile from the same car moving and in a 
week the word you had had to go in had said you were
tired of this
              they were not letting nonfamily
visit I tried to get to you one evening the
next morning and another day could not
              late night a
ting-ringing in my ear might have prepared me for the
news to come Marilyn but I have not been knowing
of such am not 
              your children and brother were taking
your ashes to the mountain
                       we would have known where to
                       find her anyway
I wrote to our circle
we got out of your memorial meeting it hailed

Rodney Nelson work began appearing in mainstream journals long ago; but he turned to fiction and did not write a poem for twenty-two years, restarting in the 2000s. So he is both older and “new.” See his page in the Poets & Writers directory
for a notion of the publishing  history. He has worked as a copy editor in the Southwest and now lives in the northern Great Plains. Recently, his poem “One Winter” won a Poetry Kit Award for 2011 (U.K.); it had appeared in Symmetry Pebbles. His “Upstream in Idaho” received a Best of Issue Award at the late Neon Beam (also England). The chapbook Metacowboy was published in 2011, and another title, In Wait, is due this year.



He called himself THE INLAW. Rolled from town to town in either a beat-up Buick or a crippled brown mare, depending on which version of the legend you believed. Road up and down the streets, pilfering possessions and identities out of mailboxes.

He was Bigfoot. Never fully captured on film, little variations in all the descriptions. A man of such infamy should’ve been apprehended. We were talking millions of federal offenses.

One day I heard the clomp clomp clomp down my street. There he was, on a crippled brown mare, tattered white sack overflowing from his shoulder. The horse moved slowly, but THE INLAW was practically a flash. Hand in and out of each mailbox before you could even recognize he’d taken anything.

He was on the other side of the street, but I knew he’d make his way over to my house. I figured I had plenty of time to plan my action since he probably did a big loop, but I didn’t think it was as simple as running and grabbing the mail before he got there. Sure, that would prevent him from grabbing my bills or the nude mags that usually came on that day, but didn’t I also have a duty to my fellow citizens?

I shuddered on the porch as I watched him slink from box to box. Even though there was nothing singularly terrifying about the man, the whole situation creeped me out. No matter how many boxes he visited, the sack never grew, but I watched him put countless items in it.

I stepped off the porch and marched past rows of daisies to my own mailbox. Just as I was planning my big intervention, my citizen’s arrest, THE INLAW pulled a quick U-turn and called out, “Hold on there, partner.” I tried to avoid eye contact, hoping he was talking to the horse, but curiosity eventually got the best of me. It always does. THE INLAW was staring straight at me, surprising warmth on his smiling face.

“Just stay right where you are,” he said with a policeman’s “stop” gesture.

I bolted for the mailbox. It was the boldest move I’d ever made, and I hoped it wouldn’t be my last. Somehow THE INLAW and his sloth of a horse beat me there, almost like they teleported. The horse bit at my reaching hand.

“I told you to hold on,” THE INLAW said, smile still covering his face.

I pissed myself right in front of them. There was nothing else I could’ve done. They had me and I knew I was a goner. I deserved that final moment of relief.

While I was soaking my lower half, THE INLAW reached in his hand and dropped a handful in the sack.

“The rest is yours,” he said. “And if you ever tell anyone about this…” he warned before riding the mare to the next mailbox. When I looked to my left, sure enough, they were riding off into the sunset.

Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His story “The Oaten Hands” was named one of 190 notable stories by storySouth’s Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, is was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing, and his first novella, Hallways and Handguns, is due out this spring. Visit him at



A lariat, some lines and rope kinda frayed,
Was discussin’ their uses, how they was played,
When out of collection of some tack in a bin
Another voice piped up, “I don’t mean to butt in,
But fellas , don’t forget the handy piggin.
For ropin’ to tie down, say at brandin’ time,
Aint nothing better you could ever find
Than seven short feet of good piggin string
Tossed round them hooves for a mighty tight sling.
Straighten’ a post that’s been set in soft sand?
Piggin’s as good as another cowhand.
Five miles out and your bridle reign snaps?
Just reach for that piggin tied to your chaps.
He aint long like a lariat, nor strong like a bull,
But the piggin’s always good for a short quick pull.
And a quick mend on the range for plenty of things
Like chokers and chinches, breechins and reigns.
So when dishin’ out praises to long braided things
Remember those handy sweet piggin strings.

Gary Ives is a retired Navy chief- lives in the Ozarks with his wife and two big dogs where he writes and grows apples. His short stories have recently appeared in Frontier Tales, Tales of Old, Hisstories, The Rusty Nail, Efiction, and Freedom Fiction.

Dine With Pat

Food & Dining in the Garden State


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