Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WHERE WERE YOU ON APRIL 19, 1995? by CHERYL PIERSON



Where were you when you heard that Elvis had died? Or John Lennon? Where were you when you found out JFK had been assassinated? Where were you nineteen years ago on April 19, 1995?

Many people won’t remember the date, but they remember what happened. This Saturday, April 19, is the anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building here in Oklahoma City. Up to that date, it was the largest number of deaths on U.S. soil caused by a terrorist act. That record was broken, of course, on September 11, 2001, with the destruction of the twin towers in New York City.

On the morning of April 19, 1995, I had gone to work. My job at McDonald’s Corporate Offices was located several miles from the downtown area. I was the “complaint person”—the one everyone called to report everything from an incorrect order to a pot hole in the drive-through on Forty-Ninth Street. We had just received a call from a man who was attempting to sue McDonald’s for a scratch on his car’s paint job. I’d transferred him to my supervisor, irritated at his persistence.

At 9:03, the building shook, and plaster fell from the ceiling onto my desk, and into my hair. We were on the seventh floor of the building, but were not panicked about the safety of the structure.

Someone hooked up the small TV that was used for videos in conferences and we all made our way into the conference room. The picture was grainy since the TV wasn’t on cable, but we were able to see the first reports as they began to come in.

In the beginning, the explosion was thought to be caused by natural gas. Within the hour, though, those initial reports were negated and the public was told the truth. Unbelievably, it had been some kind of bomb.

Another chilling fact was quickly disclosed. Since no one was sure of why the federal building had been targeted, federal and state employees were being sent home from offices in other locations.

My husband worked for the Federal Aviation Administration at the time. Normally, he would have been released. But since he was a former Navy man with extensive military training, he and some of the others with a military background were asked to stay and help do a bomb sweep of the FAA training facility.

The entire facility was on lockdown. This meant I couldn’t get on base to pick up our son, Casey, who attended the daycare there.

Within the next hour, I received a phone call from my mother-in-law, Esta, in West Virginia. You had to know Esta to know, when she put her mind to something, she got it done. In a world gone crazy, with telephone circuits busy and no hope of getting through, she somehow managed without even having my direct number. All she knew was that I worked at the corporate office for McDonald’s.

When I answered the phone on my desk, at the other end of the line was an operator that Esta had commandeered, explained what had happened, and talked into placing the call through as a person-to-person emergency call. I assured the operator that I was Cheryl Pierson and thanked her for placing the call. She sounded worried. “How bad is it?” she asked. “We aren’t sure,” I told her. There was silence for a moment before she turned the call over to my mother-in-law. “Take care, hon,” she said. “We’re all praying for you.” Her voice was gravelly with emotion. That brought tears to my eyes, too.

I didn’t tell my mother-in-law that Gary was still at the FAA, unable to leave. Or that Casey was there, and I couldn’t get on base to get him. I promised to call her when we knew more. I had to get Jessica from school.

You see, the fear was not knowing. Not knowing, at that point, who had done it, or why? How many people were involved? Were they going to target other federal or state agencies…or schools?

I drove to my daughter’s elementary school. The parking lot was full, even though it was not quite 11:30. I asked Jessica if she knew what had happened and was shocked to find out they had had the children in the auditorium with the television on for a big part of the morning…until things got too graphic.

“Are Dad and Casey home yet?”

I put on my best smile. “No, not yet. They’ll be along shortly.”

An hour or so later, prayers were answered and Gary pulled into the driveway with Casey. But our world was changed forever that day.

As the news coverage continued, it was a nightmare we dealt with every day for at least a year: The deaths, the images of loss that came from that day, and the anger.

But there was good that came from it, too. Oklahomans showed the pioneer spirit of those who came before us and rose to the occasion. Because of that tragedy in 1995, we learned the hard way that a terrorist can be home-grown, but we kept strong and showed the world where the bar of the “Oklahoma Standard” was set. When 9/11 happened, many of our first responders and medical trauma professionals rushed immediately to New York City. We were the only other state that had had anything remotely similar happen, and the experience to lend a hand.

Though, thankfully, no one in our family was hurt or killed in that tragedy of April 19, 1995, I don’t know anyone who didn’t know someone—however remotely—that it touched.

I had to quit my job. Casey began having nightmares, and believed his daycare was going to “blow up.” When he built a Lego “daycare” with part of the wall gone and the flag lying in a heap of Lego bricks, I knew I needed to be home with him. Eventually, his fears passed.

But the sadness will always remain for those who lost their lives in that senseless act of terrorism; for those since who have taken their own lives due to “survivor guilt;” for the end of the innocence we might have still harbored—the feeling that we were safe in the heartland of America.

As the years pass, we tend to forget. But as painful as those memories are, we cannot afford to lose the hard-won lessons.

RICK BURGESS PHOTOGRAPHY

A beautiful memorial museum stands on the site today. There is a chain link fence surrounding part of the grounds where visitors come to leave remembrances and mementos. In nineteen years, I still have not been able to bring myself to visit the museum. I’m glad we have it, and that people come to pay their respects. I don’t need to see it, though. I lived it. And I will never, ever forget.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Peacemaker Award Finalists

Western Fictioneers is proud to announce the finalists for the 2014 Peacemaker Awards for the best in Western fiction.

BEST WESTERN NOVEL
THE OLD WOLVES, Peter Brandvold
MUNDY'S LAW, Monty McCord
THE AVENGING ANGEL, Michael Newton
THE HARDEST RIDE, Gordon Rottman
LEAVING YUMA, Michael Zimmer

BEST FIRST WESTERN NOVEL
SHOTGUN, C. Courtney Joyner
DEAD MAN'S LAMENT, Linell Jeppsen
DEADWOOD DEAD MEN, Bill Markley
MUNDY'S LAW, Monty McCord
THE HARDEST RIDE, Gordon Rottman

BEST INDEPENDENTLY PUBLISHED WESTERN NOVEL
SONGBIRD, Bill Crider writing as Colby Jackson
WEST FROM YESTERDAY, Randolph Carter Harrison
RETRIBUTION, Tammy Hinton
WEST: JOURNEY ACROSS THE PLAINS, David S. Larson
PASSING THROUGH KANSAS, Kenneth Newton

BEST SHORT FICTION
"Doc Holliday Redux", Matt Braun (in WESTERN LORE)
"Cabin Fever", Brett Cogburn (in CACTUS COUNTRY, VOL. III)
"It Takes a Man", Cheryl Pierson (in WOLF CREEK: HELL ON THE PRAIRIE)
"The Last Free Trapper", Jory Sherman (in A WOLF CREEK CHRISTMAS)
"Charlie's Pie", Livia J. Washburn (in WISHING FOR A COWBOY)

Congratulations to all the finalists! Winners of this year's awards will be announced on June 1.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review Roundup: The Mysteries Continue


Double or Nothing
By Meg Mims
Blue Oyster Press, March 2013
$29.66 hardcover, ISBN 1611738989
$8.99 paperback, ISBN 1491081910
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B00BUCU0DY
$2.99 most other e-formats, ISBN 9781301509751
259 pages

Lily Granville adored her uncle from afar for most of her life…until she became his ward following her father’s death. Now the old tyrant keeps her a virtual prisoner in his California mansion, using her as a pawn in a political power struggle. Before her uncle can force her into an arranged marriage, Lily elopes with the Texas rake her uncle forbade her to see again. When her husband is arrested and charged with murder on their wedding night, Lily sets out to prove his innocence…even if she must destroy her uncle and his cronies to do so.

Double or Nothing is the sequel to author Meg Mims’s Spur Award-winning first novel, Double Crossing (Astrea Press, 2011). Texan drifter Ace Diamond, with whom Lily fell in love in the first novel, accepts a payoff from Lily’s uncle to disappear—only to sneak back into Lily’s life after investing his windfall in a dynamite factory. The investment increases Ace’s wealth and social cachet; nevertheless, Lily’s overbearing uncle is not about to let an outsider come between him and the quicksilver mine his niece inherited or the political clout to be gained by Lily’s marriage to the scion of a wealthy, powerful Californio dynasty.

That Lily’s unwelcome fiancé happens to be Ace’s business partner—whose social standing puts him above suspicion in a deadly anarchist plot involving their dynamite—is only the tip of the iceberg in this tightly plotted mystery-thriller. Bad guys abound, and even the good guys don’t look all that savory…but that’s what makes the story spellbinding.

One always holds one’s breath when reading a sequel. Second books sometimes don’t live up to expectations, especially when the previous volume was incredibly strong. Double or Nothing doesn’t suffer from “disappointing sequel syndrome.” While the sexual tension between Lily and Ace is necessarily missing for most of the second book—due to Lily’s inopportune separation from the roguish Ace—the pacing, twists, turns, and surprises in the sequel are as good as, or better than, those that made the first story such a success.

Honestly, if Mims hadn’t segued into writing a more “mainstream” mystery series, she could have forged an entire career around Lily and Ace. The characters and their adventures are reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles in the classic The Thin Man. (Note: Though Hammett never wrote a Thin Man sequel in novel form, he did create the screenplays for two of the 1934 movie’s five sequels.)

Come home to the Old West, Meg, and bring Lily and Ace with you.




Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and an author. She received a review copy of Double or Nothing from the author. Her opinions are her own and are neither endorsed nor necessarily supported by Western Fictioneers or individual members of the organization. Links in the review are for convenience only; they do not produce affiliate revenue.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

LAST OF THE NAVAJO CODE TALKERS by Cheryl Pierson




I saw this picture and short paragraph on Facebook yesterday and wanted to share it here on the blog today. This group of people were so underappreciated through the years, but thank goodness many of them were able to live to see the accolades they rightly deserved for their part in winning WWII.

This is the last of them.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Chester Nez receives an American flag from Pfc. Tiffany Boyd, at Code Talker Hall, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., April 4, 2014. The flag was flown over the Marine Corps War Memorial, on the first day of spring in honor of Cpl. Nez's attendance at the Platoon 382 Hall rededication. Cpl. Nez is the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kathryn K. Bynum/Released)

My heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to Chester Nez and all the other men who served in this capacity.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Git Along, Old Paint

(Appearance and Breeding A-M)

The horse was as ubiquitous in the Old West as the automobile is today. Everybody who could afford one had a horse, and the affluent usually kept several. A handsome "turnout," or carriage and team, was a must when the wealthy wished to be seen out and about town, and even the lowly cowboy had a Sunday horse treasured for its fine appearance and behavior.


This will be Part 1 of a two-part column.



Alice Ann: a sorrel horse, probably a corruption of the Spanish alazan
Appaloosa, Palouse: a strain of spotted horses whose spots can be felt with the fingertips; considered to have great stamina
Apron-faced, Bald-faced: a horse with a white face and forehead
Bang-tail, Fuzz-tail, Fuzzy or Fizzy: there is a debate about whether these terms indicate a range horse, with plucked tail, or a mustang or wild horse instead
Bay: a deep rich chestnut red-brown color, usually with a black mane, tail and points (ears, muzzle and lower legs)
     Blood bay: the brown coat has a very deep red tone
     Golden bay: the brown coat has a yellowish tone
     Light bay: having a light brown coat
     Mahogany bay: the brown coat has a dark purple tone, usually sooty
     Standard bay: the coat is "flat" without a red tinge


Bayo: a faded bay or dun horse
     Bayo azafranado: a saffron color, between dun and sorrel
     Bayo blanco: a pale dun
     Bayo cebruno: a dun faded to smoky tones
     Bayo coyote, Coyote dun: a dun with a black dorsal stripe
     Bayo naranjado: a dun of an orange hue
     Bayo tigre, Gateado, Zebra Dun: a dun with stripes around the legs or on the shoulders
Black: a true black horse will have black eyes, points, hooves, and skin; check the hairs around the muzzle and lips to tell the difference between a very dark brown horse and a black one
Blaze, Stripe: an elongated white mark on a horse's forehead
Broom-tail, Broomie: a wild horse or mustang, with a long bushy tail
Buckskin: a light brown horse (colors range from cream to dark bronze) with a black mane and tail
Calico: a pinto or paint horse or, more rarely, a dappled one
California sorrel: a palomino
Canelo: a Spanish (or California) horse of a cinnamon color; a red roan
Cayuse, Kiuse: originally a wild horse of the Northwest, the term came to mean a cow horse of mustang descent, possibly an Indian pony or scrub horse
Chestnut: a horse with a red coat, with mane and tale of a similar color and no black hairs; a liver chestnut is a very dark red

Claybank: a horse of yellowish-brown color
Cold-blooded: horses of northern descent, as opposed to Arabs and Barbs; in the West, this term could mean a cow or horse lacking good breeding
Dun: a grayish-brown color; a bay of faded, dull-brown color with black mane, tail and points, frequently with a dorsal stripe; the dun horse has a reputation for endurance
Fantail: a wild horse with an ungroomed tail; the opposite of a shave-tail
Flea-bitten: a white horse with brownish-yellowish spots
Grade-horse: mustang stock crossed with quarter horse to upgrade it, thus acquiring the ability for quick starts while retaining stamina and endurance
Gray: may look white, but skin is dark and there is dark pigmentation around the eyes, ears and nose; a dapple gray is a gray horse with darker speckles
Grullo, Grulla: dark gray color like a dove; mouse or slate-colored with black points and sometimes zebra stripes on the legs and a dorsal stripe
Hot-blood: an Arab or Barb horse; a horse with breeding
Indian pony: a small, hardy animal bred or caught wild by Indians, especially a paint or pinto pony
Line-back: a horse with a dorsal stripe


Morgan: an Eastern breed descended from Justin Morgan's stallion; a strong, lively breed which crossed well with the mustang and Spanish horse
Moro: a horse of bluish cast
Mustang: a horse descended from the original Spanish stock in Mexico; mostly small and multi-colored (not to be confused with the Spanish Horse, which was bred true)


Sources:

A Dictionary of the Old West, Peter Watts, 1977
Dictionary of the American West, Win Blevins, 1993
Equusite (www.equusite.com)


J.E.S. Hays
www.jeshays.com
hays.jes@gmail.com