For one month, the ebook of this amazing western about Charlie Russell will be on sale for only 99 cents. This is a series that does not have to be read in any order, so if you haven't read one of the West of the Big River novels, this is the perfect chance to start. It has ten 5 star reviews on Amazon.
Before he was a world-famous Western artist, Charles M. "Charlie" Russell was a horse wrangler on a ranch in Montana during the worst winter in that state's history. The danger of freezing to death while riding for the brand isn't the only threat Russell has to face, however. A ruthless band of rustlers is sweeping the range of cattle, and a beautiful but trouble-making rancher's daughter complicates Russell's life even more. He'll need more than his artistic ability to survive this deadly winter!
THE ARTIST is the third volume in the popular West of the Big River series from the Western Fictioneers. Acclaimed author Jackson Lowry spins as entertaining a tale as any of those from Charlie Russell himself in this superb new historical novel.
"Kin I have this here dance?"
I looked up at about the ugliest galoot I'd ever laid eyes on. He was more a scarecrow than a wrangler, but my opinion formed more because of his shabby clothes, which looked as if he had stripped them from said scarecrow out in some granger's cornfield. The red-and-black checked flannel shirt could have been used as a checkerboard, if you didn't mind the pieces getting greasy while they waited to be jumped around and turned into kings. His voice screeched above the tune the piano player hammered out with less skill than enthusiasm.
Nobody else in Gus' Watering Hole cared that the piano player missed every other note in The Boogaboo. For my part, I appreciated that he hit that many. In the past he had missed most notes 'til the song about the poor girl fearing a man's parts sounded more like a scalded cat dancing across the keys than a talented musician plying his trade. His voice had been sandpapered down to a hoarse croak easily drowned out by his piano work, which was likely a good thing. But I appreciated his sprightliness.
"I ain't much the dancin' sort." I watched his face cloud over at the insult. "Not sayin' you ain't my type, mind you, but you'd have to let me lead."
"Won't do that," he said, hitching up his gun belt, more to show off his brand spanking new .32 caliber Lemon Squeezer than to be menacing. He wore that double action Smith & Wesson high on his right hip in a soft leather holster. Not a shootist but a wrangler like me. Unfortunately I had left my iron back at the bunkhouse. All I had was a knife shoved into the broad rainbow colored nine-foot-long Hudson's Bay sash I wore wrapped around my middle.
"Aw, go on, Charlie," my partner said, reaching over to nudge me hard. "You jist sit and suck up Gus' tarantula juice scratchin' pitchers into the table. Have yerse'f some fun fer a change."
Rusty Rawlins brushed away some spilled foam from my beer that had hidden the latest effort I'd made with my knife point in the wood tabletop. Since I had lost my drawing pencil I had to make do with whatever came to hand. His stubby fingers traced over a carved likeness of the best looking whore in town. Or had been in town until a week ago Thursday when she climbed on the stagecoach. Most men in town had lined the streets, hats doffed and heads bowed like they were at a funeral. I was pining for Maggie something fierce myself, but she and most all of the other soiled doves had gone south for the winter because Montana winters could freeze the balls off a brass bull. She had asked me to go along with her, but I couldn't let down Jesse Phillips, the owner of the OH Ranch, who had been so good to me. As much as I longed to share Maggie's bed all winter long, loyalty to Mr. Phillips was greater than lust.
Ever since I'd got a job riding night herd from Horace Brewster, nothing but wrangling interested me. Well, not like Maggie interested me, but I don't talk about women much, even if I have a way with them. More than one of the whores in the same crib as Maggie showered their affections on me in exchange for a little drawing of them. I always was careful to make sure they showed up in fancy dresses. They liked that. Maggie, well, Maggie I did a few for her naked as a jaybird because she enjoyed showing them to other customers. Truth is, I didn't mind her posing for me like that one little bit.
But I was a tad ashamed of the etching I'd put into the table.
The drover who'd asked me to dance leaned over. His mouth fell open and a drop of chaw spattered onto the table. Rusty hastily wiped it away since it had fallen right on Maggie's likeness.
"You and her, you do that to her? She let you do that to her?" The wrangler moved closer and poked his S&W in my ear, crowding to get a better look. The new gun oil made my nostrils flare.
"Naw," I said, lying like an Indian rug. I wished I hadn't added the extra details — me — along with the scratching. "Wanted to but never did."
The wrangler stared hard at me, then stepped back and squared off, like he was fixing on throwing down.
"You're a liar. And you don't wanna dance with me."
The piano player had finished butchering The Boogaboo and moved on to the even raunchier The Keyhole in the Door. I'd always appreciated that one, having taken some pleasure myself spying on Maggie when she wasn't wearing even "a sky blue garter."
"You gonna dance with me? Or are you too consarned good for that, you who's done that with a woman?" He glanced toward the etching in the wood, then he shot a gob of tobacco juice in the direction of Gus' fine cherrywood bar.
The gob hit the corner and trickled down. I stood and pointed.
"See that brass turtle on the floor? That there's a cuspidor."
"What?" He looked confused at the way I'd gone from denying him the pleasure of a dance, our spurs clinking and our boots tromping on one another's toes, to the cuspidor.
"I designed that brass turtle for Gus." I stepped over, applied the toe of my boot on its tail and the shell stood upright to reveal a right fine spittoon. Gus hadn't bothered cleaning it out in a while, so even the brass was corroding. "You want to dance, you got to act polite."