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September Newsletter Member Spotlight: Jodie Martin

Member Spotlight: Jodie Martin

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Jodie Martin writes contemporary Western fiction, and is glad to wake up in Texas every morning.

Spotlight Feature Article by Jodie Martin

Clyde lifted his head up from the sun baked earth. As he did so, he could feel something clinging to his cheek and temple area of his head. He felt an empty hole in the recent past and wondered what had happened to him. With his right hand, he gingerly stroked his face to feel all the debris which seemed to have attached itself there.

Sensing what felt like open wounds, he traced the edge of the areas with his fingertips. In doing so, he realized that he must have been on the ground for quite some time as the blood from the open wounds aside his head had dried, and blended with the earth and small pebbles where he had just found himself. His head throbbed like a bass drum, being beaten by an over exuberant high school band member.

He checked his essentials. He could still see, so he still had his eyes. His arms and legs still worked, as best he could tell, and he could still hear the hot summer breeze whisper out of his left ear. He checked, sure enough, his right ear was full of dried blood and dirt. He’d live, he finally decided, as long as he got his wounds cleaned out and bandaged up. Out here, a feller was more than likely to die from an infection, than a snake bite, truck wreck, or falling into a gultch. Though some had died that way. Clyde knew he just needed to get back to his truck and clean up, then maybe he’d figure out what that hole in time should be filled up with.

Stumbling to his feet, Clyde scanned the horizon to find the sun, and get his bearings. Seeing the evening sun, he started walking in the opposite direction, only guessing that he’d find his truck somewhere in the distance. Luckily, the cab of his old Chevy soon loomed into his vison. Salvation was his if he could get to it before whatever had attacked him caught up. As he stumbled his way forward over greasewood, prickly-pear, and all sorts of desert flora, the “boom, sboom” throbbing in his head was, thankfully, lessening. The thought of that cold water in the can in the bed of his truck began to call out to him more and more as he trudged along. He felt as though someone had taken a dry cotton rag and used it to wipe out every ounce of spittle out of his mouth. Even the sweat that he should be drenched in was completely missing. He instinctively knew that was a bad sign; he needed water, and badly. He’d lost much water in the bleeding he’d obviously done, and the heat of the day had not done him any favors.

Reaching up from the draw he was now walking down, he grabbed the root of a wild persimmon tree to pull himself up and out of the draw. His arms screamed out in protest, as he was not a young man. In his youth, he’d have already been at the truck, enjoying a cool drink, but instead he strained against pain in his body as he pulled himself up the steep bank. Just as he cleared the edge of the draw, a couple of voices pierced the hot evening silence, and Clyde froze, hoping he hadn’t been seen and wanting to hear whatever he could from the mystery persons.

“You think he’s dead?”

“I don’t know, why don’t you go back and check see?”

“I don’t think so! What if he ain’t? I may have to hit him again. Don’t think I’ll be able to sneak up on him again, if he ain’t dead.”

“Well, if he’s dead, you should be able to sneak up real easy.”

“If he’s dead, I won’t need to whack him again, you big dummy!”

“Just shut-up and get in the truck!”

“Dang it; he took the keys!”

“Who in the Sam Hell takes their keys outta their truck when they’re out in the brush?”

“I don’t know, but one of us has to hot-foot it back and fish them out of his pocket.”

“And I guess you want me to do it?”

“It was your idea to steal the truck in the first place, so get to it!”

“This is more trouble than getting a job and just buying a truck!”

“Maybe you shoulda thought of that before now.”

Clyde lay under a cedar bush in the shade, listening to the two would be bandits, argue. He tried desperately to identify their voices. His thirst was growing, but he knew they’d not go anywhere, as his hand patted the keys in his pocket. He knew either one or both of them would return to the scene of the crime, to find him gone. If only one returned, he’d have to fight the other for his truck, and that cool, cool water.

As he thought it over, he was a little surprised to find that he was sharing the evening shade with a Chicken snake; a black non venomous snake known all over the southwest United States. An idea occurred to Clyde as he thought out his dilemma, and an impish grin spread across his bloodied, crusty face. His idea almost made him laugh out loud. With surprising speed, Clyde grabbed the chicken snake just below the head and allowed the snake to wind around his arm. Knowing the snake was non-venomous made him somewhat braver.

Now Clyde couldn’t wait to get either one of these desperados alone. Soon, the loser of the straw draw headed back to get the keys. Just as he got out of earshot, Clyde leapt from his hiding place, screaming about rattlesnakes and flung the chicken snake at the remaining thief. It hit his chest, and wrapped around his neck, like a clinging vine. The young man passed out, and fell to the ground. Clyde now slowly walked up to his truck and got a piece of rope out of the bed and tied the young feller’s feet and hands. After a nice cool drink of water, he loaded him in the bed and started back to town. It was coffee time, and the sheriff would be there. No use wasting time hunting down the other desperado. The sheriff loved that type of thing; besides, Clyde was all out of snakes.

Member Spotlight

August Newsletter Member Spotlight: Darlene Sanchez

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Member Spotlight: Darlene Sanchez

Darlene Sanchez is a mother of three, grandmother of two, who returned to Fort Stockton in 2011. She writes science fiction and children’s books, and is a Star Trek fan forever.

 

 

Spotlight Feature Article by Darlene Sanchez

Macha’s Day ~ How a pet goes through one day in her life.

Macha stretched her 30 pounds of German Shepherd body awake. The Mistress was awake and moving about. It was time to wake the kids for school. Fully awake, she leaped to the side of her Mistress as she headed for the first bed room.

“Okay, girl. Wake them!” the Mistress commanded as the door opened and the lights came on. The little Mistress squealed as Macha landed on her. Though she was only six-months old, Macha was big for the twin bed.

“Time to get up!” said the Mistress. “Get dressed.” She turned and called. “Macha, let’s get him.” Macha jumped from the bed and ran to the young master’s door. The Mistress opened it and turned on the lights. “Time for school!” She shouted as Macha leaped on this bed. The young master grabbed her and laughed as Macha licked his face.

“Macha, outside,” called the Mistress. Macha ran toward the back door that the Mistress held. She did need to go do her business. After, she started sniffing around the fenced-in back yard. She stopped as tantalizing smells came over the fence. Her mouth watered as she smelled someone’s breakfast cooking.

     “Macha!” The young master!

     Macha pulled herself away from the scents and trotted back inside. Her food and water bowls were now filled and the family was seated at the table eating. She watched for a moment.

     “You have your own, go,” commanded the Mistress.

Macha, dejected, headed for her bowl and started eating. Soon, everyone was running back and forth. Macha watched as the young master put books into his bag and headed for the door.

“Stay, girl.” He said at the door. “I’ll see you after school.”

     Macha whined as the door closed behind all that went out. Her head tilted as the car started and pulled away. She waited by the door for a while longer then headed for the young master’s room. She sniffed the made bed, as if to make sure he wasn’t hiding. Then, as she had begun when she arrived, she made her rounds of the house. Starting with the young master’s, she checked every bedroom in the house. She gave the bathroom a wide berth. She remembered the baths they gave her in that room. Her last stop was the back door. After making sure nothing was amiss, she went to her cushioned bed and lay down to wait for the Mistress. Her wait was satisfied when she heard the car pull up and the engine stop. Macha eagerly waited by the front door. After the mistress had entered, greeted the pup, and put up purse and keys, she began to clean. Macha sat and watched as she had when she arrived those many months ago.

     “You know, girl,” began the mistress. “I’m glad I don’t have to spend my days alone anymore.”

     Macha wagged her tail. She knew the mistress was talking to her.

     “Okay. Let’s go and see what we have to do today.” The mistress headed for a room that Macha found kind of crowded. Macha watched as the mistress made the funny smelling thing on the desk hum. It smelled of electrical current and, she learned when she licked it one time, it was funny cleaning stuff.

     “I’m going to work now. You can stay if you want, but no barking.”

     Macha wagged her tail at the sounds the mistress made toward her. She picked out a spot where all the mistress did was seen. Macha had learned when the mistress said ‘no barking’, she meant it. Time passed and soon Macha was dozing in her spot. The mistress worked on the thing and moved around the room. Sometimes the telephone would ring and the mistress would talk. Macha had gotten used to those things now.

     Soon, Macha woke up. She needed to go out and she let the Mistress know by slowly going to the door and, as she had been taught, scratching. The Mistress said, “Good, girl,” as she opened the door. Macha did her business and started exploring the back yard again. She suddenly stopped as a scent came to her. The cat from the alley. Macha slowly stalked toward the shed in the very back. The scent came from there. She put her head close to the ground and made her way until she saw him. The alley cat was a large battle-scarred, orange tabby. He had gotten the best of Macha when she first arrived, but she was bigger now. She growled a warning that sent him flying, hissing and spitting over the fence. Macha gave him a huffing snort as he returned a growling spat. Macha heard laughing coming from the house.

     “Macha, one of these days, you are going to get scratched again,” the Mistress said, still laughing. Head high, Macha walked back into the house, did her rounds before heading back to her place in the Mistress’ work room.

     “Macha, you are a good dog,” the Mistress said as she sat down.

     Macha wagged her tail in response. She laid her head on her paws. She was happy here and she was very comfortable. This was her home.

Member Spotlight

July Member Spotlight: Kirby Warnock

Screen Shot 2019-07-23 at 2.33.19 PMMember Spotlight: Kirby Warnock

Kirby Warnock is a 1974 graduate of Baylor University where he earned a degree in history. He wrote for newspapers and magazines before settling in to a 16-year career as a proposal writer for EDS, ACS, Deloitte and Information Services Group. His freelance articles have been published in Texas Monthly, D Magazine, The Dallas Morning News and Southwest Airlines magazine. He is an independent filmmaker who has produced four documentaries, Return to Giant, about the Marfa location filming of Giant, Border Bandits, When Dallas Rocked, and his most recent production, From Nowhere: The Story of the Vaughan Brothers.

He lives in Fort Stockton with his wife, Diann. They are the parents of three children, Travis, Roland and Hallie.

Spotlight Feature Article by Kirby Warnock

Roundup

“We’re burning daylight. Let’s get on our horses and start moving.”

Warren was enjoying his coffee, but Derek had other ideas. They had to ride out through the canyon country to find some missing sheep for shearing. It was February and the shearers would be arriving tomorrow, and Derek wanted the missing ones in the pens so they would be clipped, too.

Warren wasn’t as agitated about it as Derek, mainly because he really did not care about sheep ranching, or sheep in general. “The only thing dumber than a sheep is the man who raises them,” he liked to crack. But Derek was paying him for a day’s work along with a meal or two, so he had headed out in the country to stay the night with Derek and Annie at the old ranch house then get up the next morning to find about 200 sheep and reunite them with the 2,300 others in the pens at the old ranch headquarters.

They were saddling up in the corral with three Mexican workers Derek had hired. Warren tied the “Texas T” knot on his cinch then crawled up into the saddle. Once atop his horse he scanned the Pecos County landscape. “It used to be dangerous to ride a horse out into this country,” he thought. “If the Comanches caught you out in the open, you were a dead man. Now all we worry about is getting back in time for supper.”

Derek and the three Mexicans were riding up behind him as they climbed out of the canyon. In the distance they could see a patch of white, indicating a group of sheep huddled up against the morning chill.

“Typical,” said Warren. “A sheep is born looking for a place to die.”

In many ways he felt a bit sorry for Derek because the man had no choice. He had inherited the sprawling Pecos County sheep ranch back in 1936 when his father, Harley, was thrown from his horse and landed head first on a mesquite grub. His grandfather, Price, had come out here in the 1800s and homesteaded four sections at a time until he amassed a fairly large spread. It was made easier by building a “house” about the size of a phone booth on wooden skids so they could hitch up a mule to it and drag it to another four sections every four years. (The state of Texas required a “dwelling” to be built at the epicenter of the four sections, and you had to “live’ there for four years.) It was a novel approach to the letter of the law.

By now they had approached the missing sheep, several ewes and their lambs, and were pushing them towards the pens. Old Juan and his team of shearers would be driving into the ranch in their converted school bus the next day. They had phoned Annie that the group would be leaving the Puckett ranch that evening.

Warren was always struck by how much dust 2,500 sheep could churn up. Whenever he got home, Lois, his wife, had to turn all of his pockets inside out to get his clothes clean. He headed up to the ranch house to eat the lunch that Annie had pre- pared: Pinto beans with bacon, flour tortillas and some poblano chiles.

As they sat down to eat, Warren was struck by how old Derek looked.

“This country takes a lot out of a man,” Derek said, as if he had read Warren’s mind. “The sun and the dry air cracks your skin, and the isolation is rough on women.” He trailed off as he looked out the window, pulling his iced tea up to his lips.

Pecos County may have been dry and rugged, but it was pretty good sheep country. The old maxim was that a man could make money off of sheep twice, when he sheared them and when he sold them. Now it was 1962, and a lot hadn’t changed much, except the advent of television and better phone service.

And women.

There still weren’t many women west of the Pecos, but there were more than in 1936. Warren had met Lois on a trip to Houston for the 1951 Bluebonnet Bowl. She was waitressing in the restaurant where he dined and he was “struck by the thunder- bolt,” at the sight of her. A long-distance romance went on for only three months until neither of them could stand it any longer, so they got married. She rode in his car to his place outside of Fort Stockton and they settled in, as best they could.

But for an attractive girl from the big city, there were certain things that Pecos County and good Mexican food couldn’t fill, and Lois was getting restless. Warren was going to have a lot more on his plate than just pinto beans in the coming weeks.

Member Spotlight

June Member Spotlight: Jessica Ontiveros

Member Spotlight: Jessica Ontiveros

 

15871898_10154001010861396_3273813506491432816_nJessica Ontiveros writes Historical Fiction. She’s currently an “invisible” member (folks who for one reason or another can’t make meetings, but are still a participating member) who spends her days taking care of four children.

She has been known to kick off her shoes at any given moment, and then not be able to find them later. She’s auntie to thirteen nieces and nephews, a singer on the worship team for her church, and is a designer for KEEP Collective jewelry.

Jessica is a big fan of Twenty-One Pilots and keeps the road hot between Fort Stockton and wherever their next concert is happening.

 

 

Spotlight Feature Article by Jessica Ontiveros

~ Excerpt from The Storm in Her Eyes ~ Chapter One

The crashing of the waves at the bottom of the cliff did nothing to deter the young woman hovering over the edge.

The wind raged strong enough to blow her over, but still she stood, taking no notice. She stared below as if to see something other than the ocean.

Not long past girlhood, her face once shone with enticing beauty and an ever present expression of joy. All of this now clouded with a shadow of anguish.

Her black hair hung loose and wisped about her shoulders in the wind. A wild look stormed in her dark green eyes nearly as fierce as the one brewing above her head.

Suddenly she closed her eyes, and with a determined look she opened her arms out wide and took a deep breath.

“You won’t find him down there, Mrs. Strong”.

The woman blew out her breath and opened one eye to look for the voice that interrupted her.

 

     “Leave me alone, Ian,” she said to the tall figure beside her.

She silently cursed her senses for betraying her; she hadn’t even heard him approach.

“It is true, though,” he said.

“He’s in there somewhere and I must go to him.”

Ian sat down on a pile of rocks and began rolling a cigarette.

“You know what he would say to that?”

She didn’t answer.

     “He would say that while the water may contain his body, his soul is definitely elsewhere.” Ian tried to strike a match on a rock. “And if there’s anyone capable of making it to heaven, I firmly believe it’s Grant.”

     Mrs. Strong softened at the sound of her husband’s name. She lowered her arms to her side and placed them instead on her hips.

     “Confounded wind,” Ian muttered when he was unsuccessful in lighting the match.

     “Of course he is in heaven,” she whispered. “Yet the water is so inviting. How am I to live without him?”

     “Inviting?” Ian laughed. “Certainly, if you fancy freezing to death, but no, you’d die before you ever touched the water.”

     “Oh?”

     “You’d likely hit your head on one of those jagged rocks first.”

     Ian looked up from his useless cigarette, his brown eyes trying to assess what effect, if any, his words had on her.

     “I could make a run for it from a few yards back, if I jump as hard as I can I could miss the rocks altogether.”

     “Unlikely.”

     “Well I don’t really care what happens, I have to go to him,” and with that she spread her arms out again and took a step forward.

     “Audra!” Ian jumped up, startling her to a halt. The sound of her name on his lips was enough to cause her to pause; he’d never called her by her first name in all the years she’d known him.

     She stared at him for a moment and was surprised at the almost desperate look of concern on his face. She even thought she saw his chest rising and falling faster than it should have.

     “What difference does it make to you, Mr. Eldin, you’ve never cared an inch what happens to me.” The foreign look on his face disappeared as quickly as it came.

     “And I don’t now, but I know someone who does.”

     He again tried striking the match on a rock, then his trousers.

     Audra knew he was talking about her mother-in-law. She had been trying to put the kind woman out of her mind when making the decision to jump.

     “Ellie would understand my grief, she’s lost a husband.”

     Ian tossed the match on the ground and pulled out another.

     “And now a son, you would cause her to also suffer the loss of someone she considers a daughter?”

     Audra let this thought simmer for a minute before Ian spoke again.

     “And then there’s the matter of the promise I made to Grant, to protect you should anything ever happen to him.”

     Audra’s heartache became visible in her eyes, but she was careful not to let the tears fall in front of Ian Eldin.

     “I can’t fulfill my promise if you make this cowardly choice.”

     “Very well then, you win,” she said with a sniff.

     Ian moved the match down to his boot where a flame finally ignited. He quickly touched it to the cigarette, just as a fierce gust of wind blew over them.

     “Blast!” He cried as the flame was extinguished.

     Audra turned on her heels, picked up her skirts and began her journey away from the edge of the cliff.

     Ian sat down on the rocks and watched her disappear, just as the clouds above him finally released their threatened raindrops.

 

Member Spotlight

April Newsletter Member Spotlight: Renee Gaylor

Member Spotlight: Renee Gaylor

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53360242_10156848672210450_7795804742516473856_nRenee is the “invisible” member of Critique Cafe. When she’s not making coffee or serving coffee, she can usually be found working on some piece of technology gone awry somewhere in town. She is usually drinking coffee while doing it.

Renee was born somewhere, and raised somewhere, and then “life stuff” happened here and there, as stuff is wont to do. Schools and colleges were attended, but the important stuff started happening when she finally found her way to Fort Stockton in 1998, where she and her husband Brian raised 6 gorgeous daughters. Renee was the Director of the public library until 2006, when she decided that having 6 teenage girls at home merited a bit more attention than she was offering. That lasted less than a year, because having 6 teenage girls at home was a nightmare and she needed a job to keep her sanity. So she became a systems engineer for an oil and gas company, and retired in 2014 to open a family business with her husband and two of their daughters. Now she, and they, pour all of their time and energy (and money!) into running a family-friendly coffee shop and music/ event venue, where Renee has added “tour manager”, “booking agent”, “sound engineer”, “special event coordinator” and “coffee mechanic” to her already too-large collection of hats. If you ask her, she will just say she “works at The Garage”.

Although a prolific writer in her 20s and 30s, she found she wrote less over the years, and worked more. Then she discovered NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) in 2007, and takes great joy in November of each year when she actually completes a writing project. She enjoys critiquing, and takes an undue amount of pleasure in wielding a red pen.

When not working, Renee enjoys reading and music. She plays saxophone, but ensures us no one wants to hear her play it. She loves all things tech, and is usually the first person to try out new gadgets. She’s involved in various community and business organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary International.

 

Spotlight Feature Article

Dinner Time, a novel by R Gaylor

Excerpt—Chapter 1

Steam momentarily blocked David’s face as he poured the pot of pasta over the colander, but Stephanie knew he was still glaring at her. As the steam dissipated, David slammed the pot down, placing his hands on the counter on either side of it, giving Stephanie the most angry look he could muster. An act he found more difficult than he anticipated with the heat of the steaming pasta making his eyes sting. He squared his shoulders – he wouldn’t back down, not this time. After a few seconds of stare-down, Stephanie finally sighed, rolled her eyes, and turned to leave the kitchen.

“At least think about it!” David yelled at her retreating backside. She lifted a hand dismissively as the swinging kitchen doors closed behind her.

“Dammit “ David growled as he slammed his palm on the marble counter, then looked around at the people in the kitchen watching him intently. “What the hell are you looking at it? Get that sauce off the burner and start plating.“

The waitress that had been standing in the corner gave Chris, the sous chef, a knowing look and left through the swinging doors as Chris stirred the sauce one more time. Not taking his eyes off the sauce, he spoke, “Why do you keep pushing her? You have this argument with her every year.”

“That attitude is why you will always be a sous chef, Chris, and never a chef. This restaurant will never be anything more than it is now without getting some sort of recognition.”

Chris took the plate that David had arranged the ravioli on and began to drizzle the sauce carefully over them. “The restaurant, or you?”, he muttered under his breath.

David glared at Chris but didn’t mention his comment. “Just get the bread onto these plates and get them to Carla.” He looked around then bellowed “where the hell is Carla?” Chris shook his head. It was going to be a very long week at the Fairview Cafe.

Carla came back through the swinging door. “Are you done with your tantrum yet?” she said with a smirk.

David picked up the two plates of ravioli and held them out to her. “Just do your damn job and get these out to the customers before they get cold.”

Carla bowed theatrically to David. “Yes, your highness, anything you say, your highness.“ She giggled and took both plates from him then backed out the door grinning as David’s face reddened even more.

He turned back to Chris. “Last straw, Chris. That little punk has to GO.”

Chris shrugged and turned to the resting cabinet to pull out the meatloaf. “Not your call, man. Stephanie hasn’t had a single problem with her. It’s only been a month and she caught on quick. Might be the best waitress we’ve had.”

David

snorted. “Best?? She’s a snotty immature brat with no respect. I don’t know why Emma had to go and quit on us.”

Chris laughed as he cut thick generous slices of the meatloaf. “Damn man, she was 73, give her a break! The day Emma turned 70 she told us she was going to retire and move to Oklahoma to be near her GREAT grandkids. We all sat out there in that dining room eating strawberry pie and drinking champagne to celebrate her birthday AND her getting to move close to family. The only reason she stayed so long after that was because you kept running off all the new waitresses.“

“Yeah yeah, I remember. But I still don’t know WHY she has to retire.” He punctuated ‘retire’ with his fingers making air quotes. “She can still run circles around these kids.”

 

“Not everyone’s lives revolve around their work, man. Some of us have other things that are important to us, too.”

“More important than your career? And that there is yet another reason why you will always be a SOUS chef, Chris. You have no drive. No ambition.”

“You always say that like it’s an insult. Have you never once thought to yourself ‘hey, I wonder why Chris never takes any of my advice. I wonder why he doesn’t get upset when I call him ‘only’ a sous chef?’. You haven’t, have you? Has it never crossed your mind that all I ever WANTED to be was a sous chef? Hmm?”

David shook his head in bewilderment. “You’re talking nonsense. No one ever goes to culinary school with the goal of being a sous chef, it’s just a stepping stone to being CHEF.” He threw the colander into the sink with more force than he meant to, caus
ing a huge clang to reverberate across the kitchen. “Then again, not that any of that matters HERE. HERE we aren’t chefs. HERE we might as well be prepping for a hot dog eating contest, because 90% of our menu …”

“OH,” Chris cut him off and ran back to the stove, “thanks for reminding me, man! Don’t want to burn our chili!”