And now, the March installment of WOLF CREEK DAY, wherein we spotlight a different character each month from our collaborative novel series.
Billy is a young cowboy who rides for whatever brand is hiring. He most often works for old Tobias Breedlove, though. Billy is often seen in the company of his close friend Jimmy Spotted Owl, a Cherokee cowboy.
Billy was one of the posse members in Book 1: Bloody Trail. He made cameo appearances in Books 2 and 3, and is one of the featured players in Book 4: The Taylor County War (coming soon.)
Here is Tyrell's description of him:
No one knows his real name (or cares.) On the trail, everyone knows him as Billy Below, and he pulls top-hand wages. By the time he hits Wolf Creek after driving a herd north from San Antone, he's got money in his pockets and a thirst that knows no end--for luck, women, and knock-down-drag-out fights. He was at the Lucky Break the night Zeke Brannon went into the game with $30,000 in his pocket, lost $20,000, then put all his money and luck on one hand. Zeke walked out of the Lucky Break with $40,000. To Billy Below, lucky breaks were not myth. They happened to cowboys all the time.
“Billy's a bit of a ladies’ man (only doves, though), and he prefers being ‘below’ which is how he got his nickname. I'd put his age at about 20 and he's been on the trail since he was 15. Not a big man, probably about 5'7'' tall and maybe 130# in weight. Big men didn't ride the trails much because it wore out horses too quickly. One walnut-handled pistol. Depending on the timing, it can be an SAA Peacemaker or a converted Rigdon & Ansley .36 caliber. Not a gunman, but not afraid of much either. The men who came up the trail were avid Yankee haters and most lawmen in the cow towns were northerners (and gunmen).”
And now, Chuck Tyrell answers a few questions about his character...
1. What is your favorite scene you've written for Billy?
At this point, here’s the tail end of the one I like best.
She left Billy standing there bleeding, with his pants down around his ankles. Brandy opened the cedar chest and pulled out a pair of scissors. “Hope you’ve got another union suit,” she said. “That one’s coming off.” And she proceeded to slice around his middle so the bottom half of his union suit would fall down.
“Stand still,” she said. “God, you’re bleeding.”
“Know that,” Billy said. “Can you stop it?”
Brandy nodded. “Yes. It’ll cost you a sheet, though.”
“You owe me a dollar, then.”
“Just do it. Gotta go to see the sheriff. Spent enough time here already.”
Mumbling and spitting, Brandy pulled a sheet off her bed and attacked it with her scissors. She brought a pad, a length of flannel, and a bottle of Jameson’s.
“How come you got Mick whiskey?” Billy asked, jealousy showing in his voice.
Brandy ducked her head and grinned. “None of your business, Billy . . . Below. What kind of name is that? Below.”
“Got it on a trail drive. Man gets his name on the drive. Pards called me Billy Below. I like it.”
“I know how you like it,” she said. She pulled the cork from the Jameson’s and took a mouthful, then spewed it all over the bullet furrow on Billy’s butt.
Billy jumped. “Jaysus!”
“Hold still.” She slapped the pad on the furrow. “Hold it there. Tight.”
Billy complied. “Damn. Mick whiskey stings like hell.”
Brandy wrapped a length of sheeting around Billy’s hips three times. Four. Then tied it off. Blood showed through the wrapping but didn’t drip. She took another length and wrapped again. The sheeting stayed clean. “There,” she said. “You’re not bleeding any more.” She stumbled over to the bed and sat down. Her hair hung down over her face. Her hands made fists in her lap.
She looked up at Billy, tears leaking from her eyes.
2. What is Billy's biggest strong point?
Billy Below is a cowman, and proud of it. He comes from down Matamoros way, and made his first drive to Kansas in 1868. He’s been up the Chisholm Trail three times now. Billy’s not a big man. Probably stands about five six, weighing 120 lbs. soaking wet. He’s not a troublemaker, but he’ll not back down from any man, even one standing six inches over his own height. That said, he doesn’t fight fair. It’s knockdown drag out from the word go. Kicking and scratching, biting and bashing, fists and knees and elbows and his own good hard head.
Riding for the brand is a point of honor with Billy Below, and he looks askance at those who are loose with their loyalties. While he’s no gun sharp, he’s not afraid to use his six-gun. Here’s what he does with Wesley Quaid when Ira Breedlove sends Quaid over to help guard the T-Bar-B.
“You, and me, and a shit-kicking Injun?”
“And Mr. Breedlove. He may be old, but he shoots awful straight with that Sharps.”
“You any good with them guns, Quaid?”
“I get paid to use ‘em.”
Billy went to the trash pile and got an empty can. He set it on a fence post and came back. “Whatta we got? Thirty feet? ‘Bout as far as a man can hit with a short gun.” He pulled his Colt’s and lined it up on the tin can. The gun bucked and the can jumped into the air.
Before it could hit the ground, Quaid’s gun was out and his shots kept the can jumping three times. “About that good,” he said as he shoved the spent cartridges from the shiny .45 and reloaded.
“You’ll do, Quaid. Don’t know what Ira pays you, but it probably ain’t enough.”
Quaid grinned and patted his lean stomach. “Man can’t be too choosy,” he said, “if he wants to eat.”
Billy grinned. “Chuck’s good here,” he said. “And it don’t come outta your pay. Put your horse in the corral and throw your saddle over the rail.” Billy let the raggedy brown into the corral, removed the saddle and bridle, which he put on the corral’s top rail. “I’ll get some hay.”
3. Can you tell us what might be coming up in the future for Billy?
If no one kills him off in the Taylor County War, I could see Billy become the foreman of the T-Bar-B, especially as Tobias is getting older and Ira’s not interested in running cows. In fact, he might just do something for Tobias that gets him in with the old man and earns him a chance to buy the ranch. Terms would be something like fifteen dollars a month for as long as Tobias lives, plus letting the old man live on the ranch until he dies. That’d work good.