Sunday, May 4, 2014


By Mike Long

Author Richard Prosch and I are fortunate to have short stories in the new Western anthology from High Hill Press, namely Rough Country. Richard asked me for a brief look back on how my piece, “Choteau's Crossing,” came to be.

It all started when Brett Cogburn invited me to have a drink at the Western Writers of America Convention in Las Vegas in 2013. We talked some (drank more), and some time later he called. He said he'd read my first novel, No Good Like It Is, and that there was a scene in there that he especially liked. In it, some unlucky Texan bandits attack a lonely trading post on the Canadian River up in Indian Territory and find out there are some irritable buffalo runners inside.

Brett went on to say that he was putting together an anthology of maybe 15 stories, and that he kind of liked my style, and that if I could turn that scene into a stand-alone short story, and if it well pleased him, he might include it. He said he was "pretty daggone picky," but I was welcome to try. Now, I'd like to tell you he was just being cute and precious, maybe exaggerating a little, but that would be a Black Lie.

He was being the dark soul of understatement. I understand that some authors stood up to him and wrote whatever the hell they pleased, but I'm old and small and feeble, not to mention trying to get noticed. The result was that over the next several months Brett twisted and squeezed me like a wash rag until he got that story the way he wanted it. I'd be home, feeling “pretty daggone” good about what I'd just sent him, and the phone would ring. Here'd come this loud Oklahoma twang saying, "Hey- you got your big boy pants on?"

I put him on hold, poured myself a stiff one, and bent over. See, I didn't have a real editor for my two novels, so it was a new and sometimes painful experience for me. Thank goodness for scotch. Merely remembering it gave me a chill, so I just now went and fixed myself a delicious Rob Roy -- three kinds of liquor but it does have ice. I will never lose weight if I keep writing.

Anyhow, he encouraged me to try 'first person,' and I found I liked it. I put myself into the head of a simple sixteen-year-old poor boy from Weatherford, Texas, out on a lark with some other dumb-assed teenagers who run into reality and ensuing trouble. That wasn't too hard to imagine for a former eighteen-year-old, who was afraid of heights, went to parachute school, then Viet Nam and never advanced much mentally. Finally we came up with a story we could live with, and I was ”pretty daggone” proud. Try it and let us know what you think. 

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Len Lawson said...

This story sounds like it comes straight from the autobiography of Ernest Hemingway, Mike! Your stories are quite entertaining. I know you have your own autobiography brewing...

WritePersona said...

Mike, those quotes around "pretty doggone" won't gentrify them, not that they need it. Your tone is a wonderful departure from the ordinary. I love "Got your big pants on..."

Leigh Stevenson said...

Mike, one thing I love about your writing is it puts me right there. I could see you pouring that drink and bending over...

Very funny. That's how editors are supposed to make us feel, I suppose!