Thursday, July 16, 2009

Toomey's Rest, Nevada (1889) -- A "Theme Thursday" STAGE Post


I'm notorious for my long posts, but this one's longer than most, and for once, I must apologize. Usually when a story or article lasts too long, I split it up into two or more chapters. I didn't do that for this entry, for two reasons: 1. It'd almost feel like a bait-and-switch for the "Theme Thursday" followers who don't regularly visit my blog, and 2. There wasn't a really good place to end what would have become Chapter One. Best case scenario would have been the set-up for part one, and the "real" story for part two. I didn't like that.

And now, fellow babies, as I turn my blog over to the story's elderly narrator... You're on your own.

* * * * *


Gee, don't these old, sepia-toned photographs look
good against the background of this blog's template?


Lemme see if I can remember enough of this yarn -- one that my Grampy told me when I was a little sprout, maybe seventy years gone now -- to do it justice.

What's left of the once-booming Toomey's Rest, Nevada, has been a ghost town for pretty near a century. But in the late 1800s, its silver mine made more than a few town-folk financially well off... and made one man in particular mighty wealthy.

As it happens, that wealthy man, Mordecai Ohrne, is -- or maybe I oughtta say "was" -- this story's antagonist. Can't really call him an outright "villain," 'though he certainly had his faults.

Ohrne -- or as everybody called him, "Orn" -- owned the Toomey's Rest silver mine, and the better of the town's two hotels, and the local saloon (not to mention employing the "soiled doves" plying the world's oldest trade in the fancy rooms above the saloon). Mayor Jasper Cicero was mayor because he'd run for office with Orn's backing. (And Jasper had only earned that by marrying Orn's older sister!) Most of the townspeople owed Orn their livelihoods, and several of the miners "owed their souls to the company store," to paraphrase a line from the old song...

A lotta -- hell, most of -- the citizens of Toomey's Rest didn't even know Orn's full name. Rumor had it that "Orn" was short for "ornery," rather than just a misspelling of his real surname. Orn was a temperamental sort, you might say, but calling him ornery was about the worst you could say for someone as powerful as Orn was.

TV and movie Westerns seem to have one stereotype of the town's richest man, but outside of his "finger in every pie" aspect, Orn didn't fit it. He was fairly honest. He wasn't a bully (except for something I'm saving for a tiny bit later). In fact, he wasn't a violent man at all. Tough, sure. (In fact, if you took a swing at Orn, it's 'cause you were pretty drunk, or pretty stupid, or both.) But not violent.

Folks say that ol' Orn had come to prominence due to a mighty unique combination of horse sense and luck. No one had ever -- and I mean ever with a capital "E" -- gotten the best of him in any situation, business or personal.

Orn was tall, about six-and-a-half feet. He had long, jet-black hair, slicked back... and a beard like Abe Lincoln's, one that ran around his jawline and framed his face, but had no mustache attached.

When he spoke, Orn generally spoke so stiltedly as to sound like he was reading from a script. Hard to have a regular, down-to-earth conversation with him, or so they said. Maybe he was trying to seem more formally educated that he had been. Which is not to say that Orn was a stupid man. Not even close.

He was always flanked by two so-called bodyguards known only as Culhane and Micah. Having two bodyguards was a natural enough precaution for a feller who always wore a fully-stuffed money belt like Orn did, but as for the effectiveness of these two... well, folks could recall Orn saving one or the other of them from a scrape or two or three, rather than vice versa.

Orn had married a buxom Scot named Kate, whom he'd met and fallen in love with in San Francisco years earlier. Once he'd made his fortune, he'd sent for her. Now, ten or so years later, they had a five-year-old daughter named Lucy (not Lucille).

But enough about Orn for now. Lemme tell you about another feller, a feller named Werner Gunderman.

Gunderman was in his late twenties, about ten or twelve years younger than Orn, and he had been very well-educated, somewhere. He was almost six feet tall, and was skinny as a rail. He was clean-shaven, with light brown hair which he kept kinda short. He was never seen outdoors without a beat-up brown bowler hat and a brown leather buttoned-up vest.

Werner Gunderman had married a demure little gal everybody -- including Werner -- called "Peanut," years before he settled in Toomey's Rest. Pretty little thing, with blue eyes and blonde hair... always wore her hair in one long braid. No one ever seemed to use Peanut's real name, so whatever it was has been "lost" over the years, you might say. Anyway, Peanut had become Mrs. Gunderman when she and Werner were both just teenagers.

At the time of this here story, they had an eight-year-old daughter named Anika, who had her mom's looks and her dad's hair and eye color, both brown. Wore her hair in one long braid, just like Peanut, her mom. Anika had the prettiest voice in the whole church choir. She evidently got whatever musical talent she had from Werner, who played an instrument... sorta.

By "sorta," I mean... well... Werner Gunderman played the harp! Kinda girly, if you ask me. More than one feller or another whispered that if it wasn't for little Anika being proof that Werner was a real man, if you know what I mean... Well, let's not even get into it, okay?

Anyway, Werner Gunderman had lived in town about two years or so, and had started helping out at old Ben Butler's general store. Then Ben had a stroke which left him in a wheelchair, and Gunderman became the store's full-time manager. In short order, Ben hired another young man, Tom O'Malley, to help out, and in no time at all, either Gunderman or O'Malley could run the store alone if need be.

So, as you might have guessed, Orn didn't really have any enemies. And Gunderman hadn't made any enemies, either...

Except for Orn himself. He really didn't like Gunderman.

And no one was ever sure why.

Gunderman's soft way of speaking, his politeness, his harp-playing... a few people said he was what they called a "poof," and suggested that that's the real reason that Orn despised Werner. But those folks were usually answered by others pointing out the fact that Gunderman was married and had fathered a child. What more proof was there that a man was a man, right?

Things seemed so much simpler then...

Some people said that "Gunderman" was a Jewish name, and Orn probably didn't like Jews. I don't believe it. For one thing, Grampy himself told me that Gunderman and his family attended the Baptist church every single Sunday, so if there was any Jewish blood in their ancestry, they'd changed to Christian long before moving to Toomey's Rest. And for another thing, no one ever had any proof that Orn didn't like Jews anyway.

There was another rumor that made the rounds back then, and that was that Werner Gunderman (or his wife) had some African blood, maybe as much as a quarter. Grampy heard Anika called an "octoroon" a handful of times when they were friends as kids. (That's a feller or a gal that's one-eighth what polite folks back then would have called "Negro.")

I guess it's so that Orn wasn't all that crazy about Negroes, but I hate to say that a lotta white folks felt that way then. I'm sure not defending it, mind you, but sadly, that's the way it was.

So maybe that's it. Maybe Orn was one of those folks who felt that being a "little bit" Negro was the same thing as being all Negro, and here was this whole damned Gunderman family "posing" as white...!

But me, I like to think better of Orn than that.

Orn never did anything outright to hurt Werner's family. No "accidents" ever befell Ben Butler's store, and no suspicious fires ever threatened the Gunderman's house... but every time Orn and Wenrer happened to be in the same place, Orn would needle poor Gunderman until the younger feller had to walk away silently, with the sound of everybody present laughing at him as he skulked off.

Orn's attacks, for lack of a better word, were all verbal. Some were pretty clever, while others were kinda juvenile, like replacing "Werner" with "worm," dumb stuff like that.

Orn tried all sorts of insults to get a rise out of Gunderman, as if he thought that everything he'd done to the poor little sissy would be justified as long as Werner threw the first punch in a fight... or drew a knife first... or drew a gun first...

Orn was clearly ready to "meet" Gunderman any way that the younger feller wanted. If, that is, Werner ever got up the guts to make the fight a physical one.

I said that Werner had no real enemies except for Orn, but most of the townspeople avoided getting too friendly with any of the Gundermans. No sense taking chances and upsetting Orn, right? But my Grampy's mom and dad liked little Anika Gunderman and let my Grampy -- their son, Artemus -- hang around with her constantly. They didn't mind at all that the two youngsters seemed to be smitten with each other.

For lack of a better way to put it, "the beginning of the end" came one hot August day in 1889. Everything -- or, I should say, everyone -- came together at once.

Orn and his sidekick Micah were doing some kinda business in the town's lone bank. Culhane, his other crony, got bored and slipped across the wide and dusty Main Street to take advantage of the free whiskey available to him at Orn's saloon.

Meanwhile, Tom O'Malley was escorting Werner to the noon stage, leaving for God-knows-where in fifteen minutes or so. Peanut Gunderman was watching Butler's store while her husband and Tom discussed some last-minute business. My Grampy, Artemus, had accompanied the whole Gunderman family into town, and he and Anika were playing in the middle of Main Street.

Culhane knew not to stray too far from Orn, nor for very long. So he probably wasn't too drunk when he came out of the saloon.

Just drunk enough to make a rude comment to the little girl standing next to her friend Artemus.

"What did you say to me, mister?" demanded Anika, eyes flashing.

"Yeah!" said the boy who'd grow up to be my Grampy, "What did you say to her, mister?"

Culhane turned on my Grampy. "I called her a pickaninny! Not that it's any of your business, little Arthur!"

Anika kicked dirt in Culhane's direction. "His name isn't Arthur, it's Artemus!"

"Yeah!" Grampy repeated, "My name ain't Arthur, it's Artemus!"

Culhane laughed, his voice a high-pitched cackle. "You two little tadpoles say that like it's a better name than Arthur!"

Well! That little spitfire, Anika, wasn't gonna stand there and let someone insult her friend like that. Before Grampy or Culhane realized what she was doing, she'd bent down, grabbed a small stone from the dust, and thrown it at Culhane. It struck him in the lip, enough to sting and draw blood, and enough to really rile him! He drew his arm back, as if he were going to backhand her.

He didn't see the solid punch that knocked him backwards and off his feet. But he sure felt it.

Culhane looked up from his seated position in the dirt to see a glowering, wiry figure wearing a brown leather vest and a weather-beaten bowler hat.

"Gunderman?" exclaimed Culhane. "You hit me? You?"

"I'll do worse than that if you ever raise a hand to my child again, Culhane!" said Werner, in a soft voice somehow made ominous by its low tone. Werner looked over at Grampy, who was standing in front of Anika as if to protect her. "Or anyone's child, for that matter."

Culhane didn't even attempt to stand. His upper lip curled back in a sneer as he slowly and almost imperceptively reached for the .45 revolver resting snugly in the holster strapped to his right thigh. "Well, if I do raise my hand to any young'un, you sure ain't gonna be around to see it..."

Culhane's gun had scarcely cleared the holster before a shiny black boot crashed down on his forearm, pinning it to the ground.

The boot belonged to a very unhappy-looking Orn.

"What in the hell is going on here?" Orn demanded, using about as much profanity as anyone had ever heard him use.

"I struck your man Culhane," began Gunderman, totally without emotion, "because he was about to strike my Anika."

"She threw a rock at me, first!" protested Culhane, who was being helped to his feet by Orn's other stooge, Micah.

Orn's eyes flashed with anger as he turned to look at Culhane. "She is a child! And you sound like one as well!"

Culhane was rudely shoved from behind, by Micah. "Shut your damned mouth, you baboon!" hissed Micah. The two men walked away, toward Orn's hotel.

Now it was Orn and Werner Gunderman who faced each other alone. Well, "alone" if you don't count my Grampy, Anika, and Tom O'Malley, who was holding Werner's suitcase.

"Thank you, Orn," said Werner Gunderman, flatly.

Orn whirled around angrily and pointed an accusing finger in Gunderman's face. "Do not dare to thank me! Ever! As I see it, this entire situation is of your making!"

A slight rise to Werner's eyebrows was the only sign of emotion on his face. "My making? Your drunken henchman threatens my daughter, and you consider it my fault?"

"I do," said Orn, "in the sense that Culhane's frustration mirrors my own. His actions, however rash and misdirected, were merely the response to seeing myself grow increasingly weary of your cowardly reluctance to rebel against my disdain for you!"

(See? I told you Orn spoke kinda funny... certainly not like the average cowboy. Either that or Grampy's memory was a little warped.)

Gunderman's voice remained level, but his hands trembled a bit. "Orn, all along, ever since you first showed me this 'disdain' you speak of -- one which you won't even do me the courtesy of explaining! -- I've tried to keep things from escalating into a physical confrontation. And I could live with scorn, and ridicule, and humiliation, as long as it was mine alone! But now, Orn, you've involved my family, and this cannot continue! So I ask you: What will it take for you to cease your tiresome proddings?"

Orn thought for a long second. "This very moment is the first time you've ever truly stood up to me. Therefore, I entreat you to carry that through to its logical conclusion, and fight me. The weapons may be of your choosing." As he said that, however, Orn looked at Werner to see that the shorter, frailer man wore only one belt, the one which supported his pants. He carried no gun.

"Weapons? I don't want to kill you, Orn, nor do I think you truly want to kill me, or you would have allowed your man to shoot me."

"No, I would not have allowed Culhane to shoot you, even if I did wish you dead. I fight my own battles, Gunderman."

"As you say. As it is... fisticuffs will do." Werner stepped closer to Orn. "But whether I win or lose, our confrontation must have the same outcome for me to agree to this."

"Outcome? Other than the victory of the match itself?"

"Yes. Either way this ends, it will also end your harassment of me. You have always said you cannot respect me for never defending myself physically against your verbal taunts. If I fight you, you must admit to at least enough respect for me as to leave me alone in the future!"

Orn thought for a long second once again. And almost smiled. "Done. Are you ready, then?"

"No. Not now!"

"What?"

Werner pointed to the noon stage, approximately fifty feet from where this small crowd was standing. "In only a couple of minutes, the stage leaves, and I must be on it."

"You are leaving town. I see. How convenient."

Werner shook his head, as if to brush off the implied insult, which he otherwise ignored. "Today is Monday. I shall return by one week from this coming Thursday, and at three o'clock on Thursday afternoon, I shall be on the stage. If you come to see me then, we shall have this ridiculous battle which you have been attempting to provoke for so long. But you must agree that three o'clock on Thursday will be the time we resolve our differences once and for all... and that is regardless of whether you come to meet me or not!"

"Rest assured, I shall come for you."

"And so you understand and agree to my conditions. I shall be on the stage at three o'clock next Thursday afternoon. If you come to see me then, we shall fight. And our animosity will be ended regardless of the fight's victor."

"Do not attempt to insult me by implying I do not understand your conditions. I agree to everything. One week from Thursday, at three o'clock, I shall finally have my opportunity to soundly and definitively thrash you!"

"Unless I thrash you," said Werner, with the slightest of smiles.

And as Orn walked away, they all heard a sound that few citizens of Toomey's Rest could ever recall hearing: Orn's booming laughter.

Grampy said that the next ten days was the longest ten days of his life, and there were plenty of townsfolk who'd probably have agreed with him.

By the time three p.m. on the appointed date arrived, there were pretty near thirty people gathered around waiting for the stagecoach. Little Artemus -- my Grampy -- was one of the people waiting there to see the big grudge match, even 'though his best friend Anika was in the Baptist church at the other end of town, rehearsing for a solo song she was gonna be singing the following Sunday. (He was a boy, so you gotta excuse him his priorities.)

Right up front of the crowd was Orn, of course, with Culhane and Micah on either side of him, although standing a bit behind him as well.

Orn was wearing a plain, white, collarless shirt with its sleeves rolled up. He was as ready as he was ever gonna get.

The stage approached, stopped, and the passengers started getting out. There were three. An old lady, a middle-aged feller (her son, somebody said), and a second man...

A second man who was not Werner Gunderman.

Something sounding like a snarl came from deep inside Orn, and someone standing close to him said he heard the term "that lily-livered..." hiss from between Orn's lips.

Micah and Culhane both rushed to the stagecoach and looked inside. Micah shouted, "He ain't in here, boss!"

"Obviously not!" Orn thundered. "I am hardly surprised. Once again, Gunderman has played the coward's role."

Culhane meekly walked up to Orn. "Why don't we go to the saloon and have a few? No action happenin' out here, I reckon."

Orn merely nodded.

As the three men walked away, one of the townspeople shouted, "Hey, Orn, this mean you an' th'kid are still enemies?"

Without looking back, Orn replied, "He did not keep his part of the bargain. I am not obligated to keep mine."

An hour... maybe more, maybe less... passed. Orn, Culhane, and Micah were still in the saloon when my Grampy -- who was playing in the middle of Main Street -- saw Anika and her dad approaching. They entered the saloon; Grampy followed.

Culhane saw Gunderman first. "Sweet mother of Jesus!" he said, under his breath.

"Orn," began Gunderman, as if he were already in the middle of a chat with the big man, "I'm only here to confirm that this mysterious and pointless feud between us is over."

Orn sipped at his whiskey, and didn't even bother turning to face Werner. "That is a poor jest, Gunderman. Nothing has changed. I was there, in accordance with our agreement, but you were not."

"Not true, Orn. You are the one who did not show."

Orn's eyes flashed angrily, and his voice raised slightly, but he still did not face Gunderman. "I have more than two dozen witnesses who would disagree. Let me repeat the conditions of our pact, sir! You claimed that you were leaving town, and would return today, on the three o'clock stage from..."

"Wrong. My precise words were 'I shall return by one week from this coming Thursday, and at three o'clock on Thursday afternoon, I shall be on the stage.' Those were my exact words, Orn!"

"I fail to see a palpable difference."

"I said I would return to town on or before Thursday. As it happened, the eldest son of the sick friend whom I'd gone to visit returned me to my home late Wednesday evening... a fact I admittedly did not think prudent to share with you."

"That does not matter. You still promised to be there when that stage arrived!"

"Again, Orn, you are mistaken. At three this afternoon, my daughter Anika and I were alone in the Baptist church, where she practiced her solo song for this Sunday's service. I accompanied her... on my harp, of course, which is a fitting instrument of accompaniment for one with such an angelic voice."

Orn turned to face Werner. The two men locked eyes.

Werner finished his explanation. "As I played for Anika, three o'clock came and went. And I maintain that it was your job to find me... there... sitting at my harp on the cleared-off choir loft which shall be Anika's stage this Sunday!"

From somewhere deep within Orn it began... a low, rumbling kinda growl which turned into an even louder laugh than Grampy and the others had heard ten days earlier. Still laughing, Orn stood there, looking with new-found respect at the only man who'd ever gotten the best of him. He grasped Werner's arm, and gently tugged Werner toward the bar. "Gunderman... Werner... Have yourself a drink! On the house!"

"I'm afraid I don't drink, Orn."

Orn's eyes narrowed. "I insist. No friend of Mordecai Ohrne's can refuse a drink!" Orn laughed his bellowing laugh once more, even as Werner considered the bestowal of the word "friend" upon him. "So... be it milk, water, or root beer, sir... You shall have a drink!"

And for those of you wondering if Grampy -- Artemus -- stayed friends (or more) with Anika Gunderman... Theirs was a life-long friendship, you might say!

In fact, thirteen years later, Anika was the maid of honor when Grampy Artemus married Orn's daughter Lucy!

* * * * *

So, did I cheat, or not?

Hope it was worth the extra wait, fellow babies.

Thanks for your time.

20 comments:

  1. A devious way to avoid a physical confrontation indeed. By not stating which stage he would be on, he avoided the fight, gained respect and a friend (not to mention future in-law. Congratulations.

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  2. wonderful yarn silver fox. i really was looking for a shoot out, but your end was just as satisfying. i guess i have seen too many westerns.

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  3. Hi! Silver Fox,
    I read your Theme Thurday "stage" post earlier, but I was waiting for others TT members, to response who posted under your
    Watch This Space post...since they were here before me.

    Now...to discuss your post...
    ...all I can say is what a very interesting post or like B.M., said, "yarn" that you spinned or "tale" that you related?!?

    To me it read more like a scene from a television western on
    a cable western network channel.
    I have to agree that the ending of this "tale" was a big surprise for me too!...because I didn't know what to expect next?!?

    Thanks, for sharing!
    Silver Fox,

    DeeDee ;-D

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  4. Hi, Had to come back when I knew I could have a sit and read it all. Time well spent! Well done. Big, big Thanks. -Jayne

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  5. No you did not cheat!Really good mister,like a really good western!Have a nice day :)

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  6. Well, I figured that it could be considered a cheat because the illustration on the Theme Thursday blog was of a performance-type stage, but I used a photo of a stagecoach (a/k/a "stage"), and my story talked about that kind of stage, but at the end it turns out that the important stage in the story was really a performance-type stage...

    Ummm... where was I?

    Never mind...

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  7. Stage the story and tying it in with a stage photo very very good!

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  8. Riveting from beginning to end!

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  9. Kurt, I hope you weren't too disappointed when you read all the way through a Western story without seeing a single mention of Johnny Ringo! (And only Kurt and the readers of his blog will get that one!)

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  10. I really enjoyed that! One of the few long blogs I was able to read the whole way through ;)

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  11. I am trying to figure out who Clint Eastwood would play! LOL! Great story! Yes, it was worth the wait!

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  12. Siobhan: Most of my posts are lengthy, which is why I have "Thanks for your time" as a sign-off; I really do appreciate it whenever anyone invests enough time to read my stuff. I'm glad you made it all the way through. (And by the way, your blogs are pretty enjoyable, too.)

    Otin: Okay, I'll play!

    Now that I think of it, this works out perfectly!

    If this story had been filmed as an episode in some TV drama anthology in the 1950s -- say, 1957 or 1958 -- I would have cast the relatively unknown Clint as Gunderman.

    From my story: "Gunderman was in his late twenties... He was almost six feet tall, and was skinny as a rail. He was clean-shaven, with light brown hair which he kept kinda short." In 1957-58, a pre-Rawhide Eastwood was 27-28, and was doing commercials and TV episodes after a stalled movie career. Eastwood's height is generally listed between 6'2" and 6'4", so if they hired a tall enough dude to play Orn, no problem there.

    I also stated that Werner spoke "in a soft voice somehow made ominous by its low tone." Yeah, that'd work!

    From www.clinteastwood.net: "Rowdy [Yates of Rawhide] was like most everyone else Clint played in those years--a nice young man, politely spoken and highly principled, but to [Clint], not very interesting." Substitute "Werner Gunderman" for "Rowdy," and... there you go!

    However, let's say this story was being filmed now. Clint would be what they call "stunt-casted" as the narrator, the unnamed man telling us the story "that my Grampy told me when I was a little sprout, maybe seventy years gone now." The narrator would therefore be in his mid-70s to early 80s now... approximately the same age as Eastwood!

    Wow, this couldn't have worked out better if I'd planned it!

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  13. HA! I had to go back and re-read that part, just to confirm it, myself! "stage" not "stagecoach". Fun tale and yes, the photo works well with your bloggo background!

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  14. ha! i enjoyed this. cheating? i don't see why...

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  15. Lettuce: As I explain in another, earlier comment, the "cheat" was the bait-and-switch as far as what kind of stage I was really writing about. Kinda like my "Tell-Tale Timex" a few weeks back.

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  16. Whole wit trumps a half-wit. I had to come back three times to get it read, but it was worth the wait.

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  17. To Ronda, and everyone else patient enough to wade through "Toomey's Rest": I just updated the post with an intro, which I've also reproduced (in part) below.

    Usually when a story or article lasts too long, I split it up into two or more chapters. I didn't do that for this entry, for two reasons: 1. It'd almost feel like a bait-and-switch for the "Theme Thursday" followers who don't regularly visit my blog, and 2. There wasn't a really good place to end what would have become Chapter One. Best case scenario would have been the set-up for part one, and the "real" story for part two. I didn't like that.

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  18. Late as usual in providing you feedback on this story, David, but better late than never, right?

    Overall, this was great work. I found the story truly riveting - as in, I didn't want to put the book down / turn my head away because I wanted to see what happened.

    Compliments:
    - I liked the "tone of voice" you used for the narrator telling the story. I felt like someone was telling me a story about his grandpa.
    - I liked the way you developed the characters and helped me to understand who Orn and Gunderman were.
    - I liked your description of the action in the street when Orn's bodyguard got into the fight with Anika.

    Criticism:
    - I was disappointed with the ending. It seemed very anti-climatic to me, after such a build-up, I somehow expected a more spectacular ending. For Orn to just laugh and say it's all good and agree to be friends now just left me feeling like, "that's it???"

    Anyway, those are my two cents (or twenty). Keep up the good work.

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  19. Blunoz: Your in-depth comments, as always, are welcome.

    Glad you liked the narration. At least one person missed the age of the story-teller -- he's 20 to 25 years older than I -- and thought that Artemus ("Grampy") was my grandfather, and that the story was true.

    As far as the ending goes, sorry if you felt it was a bit of a let-down, but I really wanted to avoid the classic shoot-out. Also -- and I admit this could have weakened the story's thrust to a non-"Theme Thursday" participant such as yourself -- I was trying to play with the readers by goofing around with the "stage[coach]" and performance "stage" terms. Style over substance? Perhaps.

    One thing I honestly had considered was mentioning here and there that Orn had been successful in fights, business, love, and virtually anything else he'd put his mind or hands to all his life. That may have given Gunderman's victory more meaning, and might have made the readers feel he was more deserving of Orn's immediate respect as the first man who'd ever bested Orn at anything. Unfortunately, as I explained in the intro, I felt the story was already too long for one post, and didn't want to mess with it.

    One of my admitted weaknesses is that I sometimes omit a detail or two which only I know, as my characters' creator.

    Oh, well, there you have it. A lengthy answer to a lengthy critique of a lengthy post!!!

    Thanks for your comments, one and all.

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