Short Western Story Review - B M Bower - Bad Penny

Photo taken by me – my book cases
Preston, England
February 15, 2017 4:48pm CST
1933 – Argosy Press – Mammoth Press B M Bower grew up on the cattle ranches of Montana, and her stories are very much about the life and demanding work of real cowboys, as opposed to clichéd black-hatted villains taking on white hatted heroes, gun-slinging, and injun fightin’ rugged chinned heroes. Her yarns made her the first woman in the US to earn enough to write Westerns professionally. Many of her stories centre on the men of the Flying U ranch, led by Chip Bennett and his faithful second in command, Shorty. Bad Penny starts as a long arduous drive to lead 1,100 head of cattle across the plains to market is nearing completion. The men and their horses are exhausted and spread out along the vast length of the herd, keeping the cows in line. Everyone has given it their all, except for one workshy layabout, Penny, who is maddened by enforced sobriety. The good-natured Chip knows Penny is a bit of a character and a good man at heart but his misbehaviour is leading even Chip to think he is going to need to fire him this time out. As the men take what they hope will be their last night’s rest in the desert, they are kept on alert by an approaching thunderstorm, as the thunder and lightning could spook the herd into a stampede. Penny decides he has had enough and rides off in mid-duty to find whisky, just as the thunderstorm diverts to nearby mountains, and the cowboys think they got off lightly but they are dangerously wrong. Penny, now extremely drunk, rides back and shoots his guns to deliberately stampede the herd. The weary men struggle desperately to halt the herd in the darkness and then Shorty heads back to camp to deal with Penny once and for all. He is stunned however to find the camp flooded out where the mountain storm has sent down a major flash flood. Penny, who has broken his collar bone in the stampede, has seen the water approaching, heroically saved the herd and all Chip’s men too. Great story telling with such descriptive detail you can almost taste the desert dust. It is no wonder Bower’s work remains so highly regarded. Arthur Chappell
6 people like this
4 responses
@teamfreak16 (37062)
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
16 Feb
Definitely not spaghetti western material!
1 person likes this
• Preston, England
16 Feb
@teamfreak16 not at all, the body count is zero
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@JohnRoberts (42306)
• Los Angeles, California
15 Feb
Sounds like a solid western yarn. Could be a good movie.
1 person likes this
• Preston, England
15 Feb
@JohnRoberts Some Bower stories were filmed - don't think this one was though
1 person likes this
@Gillygirl (16066)
• Sutton, England
15 Feb
I'm not too keen on Western stories but your review makes this look as though it would be worth reading.
1 person likes this
• Preston, England
15 Feb
@Gillygirl it is well worth a look at Bower's stories
1 person likes this
@msiduri (5780)
• United States
15 Feb
Never got into westerns, but this sounds interesting. Good title, too.
1 person likes this