The Last Cowboy

The stockings are hung but who cares,

Preserved for those no longer here,” – Peter Steele

As I creep closer to my 40th year on this planet, I’m now getting to the age where the number of family members no longer with us continues to grow.  With each passing year, a new, different milestone arrives.  Birthday’s no longer celebrated, now remembrances of how long ago they passed away.  Now, sadly, another member is gone.

William (Bill) Marshall passed from this earth yesterday, November 12, 2018.  But to all of us kids he was Poppa.  With Poppa passing away, I now find myself in the position of having no living grandparents and it’s a weird thought.  When you are a kid, you always believe your grandparents and parents will live forever.  How I wish that were true.

My Poppa, for me at least, was the last Cowboy that lived.

When I was born, we lived in a trailer down the main road from where my Poppa and Nanny’s house was.  When my mom and dad purchased our house and we moved, we lived even closer, just five houses away.

Most of my childhood was spent with my grandparents.  At least that’s how I remember it.

My Saturday morning’s (when not playing sports) consisted of waking up and immediately heading down to Poppa and Nanny’s.  My Poppa would have pancakes for us, or some breakfast ready to go, and always Tang to drink.  Those mornings still play out in my memories weekly.  On those mornings I was introduced to All Star Wrestling, WWF, and then Saturday morning cartoons.  You see, Poppa and Nanny had satellite TV (which was very rare, where we lived) and because of this we were able to watch ITV, based in Edmonton.  The odd serenity I find, now, thinking back to those moments, and now residing in Edmonton isn’t lost.  I don’t believe the channel changed that day.  Wrestling mornings, then cartoon afternoons.  Evenings were typically spent at our house or in Nakusp, and if it was in Nakusp it was at my Uncle Ron & Auntie Cherie’s.  My Uncle Ron has been gone for eight years as well now.  Funny how our memories intertwine.  How our childhood celebrations mingle with our older sadness.

My Poppa, for me, as the last living Cowboy, introduced me to so many amazing things.  He had a trap-line, which in the winter we would help with.  That’s where I saw my first and only living wolverine, which has a legendary story all on its own.  The trap-line exposed me to so many marvelous animals, and I believe directly influenced the mystique of the forest into my young mind.

Poppa would fill my head with stories of growing up, of hunting, logging and travelling through the unexplored wilderness near where we grew up.  The one that I still think about to this day, and I still wish to go to, was of Grizzly Basin.  Poppa would tell me about them travelling by horse caravan, loaded with supplies, as they would go up the mountain, having several Indian guides lead them to the area.  Grizzly Basin has a massive sheer cliff wall surrounding three sides of it, with the opening on the fourth.  Poppa would tell me that every time they would go there, they would see a half dozen Grizzly’s at least, foraging on the basin floor, or walking through the water.  Logging has now made it easier to travel into the area, but in some amazing mythical turn, every time my dad and I have tried to get into the area, we have encountered thick fog, deep snow, or some other obstacle like a downed tree blocking the path.  One day Poppa, I promise, I will make it there.

Poppa also had one of the most amazing gardens I have ever seen, which we would help tend, when I was little.  It was amazing to see all of the vegetables that he grew, and for many years, my mom and dad had a similar garden at our place.

With the close proximity of Poppa and Nanny’s place, we always knew someone was watching out for us.  You see, directly across the street from their front sunporch was the Burton park.  We spent many hours running around and playing there “unsupervised.”  This was far from the case, as the second we did something we shouldn’t, Poppa’s voice would bellow out from the porch and we would stop.  It also came in handy a few times, when someone was being mean to us, and I remember Poppa coming to my sister Jodi’s rescue one particular time.

Our bus stop for school was at the corner near their place, and when we came home we would walk by, Poppa always making some joke or teasing us about something.  I remember a number of times being embarrassed by him teasing me, wishing I could walk anywhere other than by their house.  Not anymore.  I really wish I would be teased just one more time.

I also came to learn that Poppa was a fantastic ball player and was one of the best pinch hitters in the area when he was younger.  I am privileged to be in possession of one of his bats from those days.  That is a connection I will be able to pass to my son.

The biggest thing I will ever have learned from my Poppa is dedication.  You see, my Nanny lived with Multiple Sclerosis for close to 40 years.  Might be even more.  I have one memory of her walking, but as I recently told somebody else, I can’t be certain I actually remember that or if it’s a memory of a memory.  Something I want to hold onto and so I keep making it up again in my head.  Poppa retired early to take care of her, and as the MS progressed he fed her all her meals, drove her to all of her appointments, bathed her and clothed her.  He devoted on her.  Now I loved my Nanny to bits, and will always love her in my heart, but she was not an easy lady.  In fact she could be downright mean.  But Poppa would tell her to snap out of it and would keep on taking care of her.

When the day came that Nanny needed to be admitted to extended care, Poppa started making the thirty minute drive to continue feeding her and would spend hours playing cards.  Eventually Poppa sold their family home and moved into Nakusp, now living only a few minute drive away.

Now, just a head’s up, this next paragraph is a bit dark, so skip it if you want.

As the MS progressed and progressed and Nanny had trouble communicating and was completely bedridden, a number of us family members hoped she would pass away sooner, for two reasons.  We wanted her to not be in pain anymore.  But we also wanted Poppa to still have some quality of life left.  He had devoted so many years to taking care of her, we just wanted him to be able to travel, see his grandkids and great grandkids and enjoy his last years.

When Nanny finally passed away, the years of dedicated care had taken its toll on Poppa.  He was unable to travel, and due to health issues, it was only a short time before he himself ended up moving into extended care.

I will never know how truly hard that move was on Poppa, but I know this; I will experience it one day.  Poppa went from a strong, fix-anything, move-anything, hunting, fire wood-chopping, garden-growing, snow-plowing, grandkid-guarding, wife-taking-care-of Cowboy, who had all of his photographs and memories in his house, to living in a single room with a TV at the hospital.  He lost all of his independence in a single move and the hurt he must have felt would be immeasurable.

I know I look at his devotion to Nanny in my own life.  Having a kid has been incredibly hard on the relationship with my wife.  But you know what, I know we can work through anything.  Poppa showed me that.

I know without a doubt Poppa was always proud of me and of all his grandkids (and kids), and as the years went by, the distance grew.  I spent less time with him, visiting sporadically on weekends when I was back from school, then only seeing him at Christmas time, then every couple of years as life became busy and priorities stacked up.  I wish I would have seen him more.  When we did get back to Nakusp to visit, we would always make sure to spend a good chunk of time with him.  The last time we saw him, this summer, he was tired.  He was confused.  But he was Poppa.  His hug was the same, his face was scratchy like it always was, and to have Auryn meet him once again was priceless.  I wish I would have been there with him at the end.  He always called me Butch (my Uncle’s name) and I never once cared.  I wouldn’t have cared then either.  We would have talked about Jake the Snake Roberts, and how he had the best DDT ever.  We would have talked about Koko-B-Ware and Junkyard Dog.  We would have talked about how Axe and Smash were the best tag team ever.  He would have asked where I was living and how Amanda was doing, and I would have had him tell me about Grizzly Basin again.

I don’t believe in Heaven.  I don’t believe we die and we go somewhere like that.  I’m one of those folks who believe that our body stops and that’s it.  But if I am wrong, I wish that Poppa gets to come back.  He is born into the world again, 90 years ago, and things are slightly different.  He meets Marion Hopp and they fall in love.  They get married, have Richard (Butch), Lisa, Cheryl and my mom.  Marion though, doesn’t get sick.  Cheryl, (God I miss you Auntie) doesn’t get Cancer and pass away over a decade ago.  They get to travel, get to visit the grandkids and great grandkids and then leave this world together.

You see, as I have said before, my Poppa was the last living Cowboy, and he deserved for that ending. For him to ride off into the sunset.  He didn’t deserve to be confused, in pain, not able to speak, wishing for it to be over.  I’m forever thankful that my Uncle Butch made it out to see him.  I hope Poppa knew who he was.

So as I wrap up my thoughts on this giant of a man in my life, one whose influence reaches in every aspect of everything I do, I’m going to close with a funny story.  Because Poppa loved to make jokes, loved to laugh, and did so often.

So for this story, picture yourself on his front sunporch.  Poppa on your left, Nanny on your right, two cold glasses of alcohol on their wooden table between them.  Nanny is wearing a flowered blouse and slacks, wheelchair folded up beside her.  Poppa is wearing his black Dickie pants, a dress shirt with the top buttons undone, full thatch of silver chest hair exploding from the opening.  The black case for his glasses tucked into his left breast pocket.  On his head is his hat, perched high, brim straight, a logging company’s patch on the front.

And someone says, “Poppa, tell us the time Steve drove the ski-doo into the side of the house.”

Everyone chuckles, and he takes a sip before starting.

“Ohhh, well.  We went for a rip around the back yard there.  I was sitting in the back, Steve and Jodi in front.  Steve was steering, his hand turning the throttle, when we came around towards the house quickly.  Steve, instead of squeezing the brakes, turned the throttle and bam!  We hit the corner of the house.  Hit it hard enough to stop us dead and take a chunk from the siding.”

We would all laugh, my face would flush with embarrassment, and I would remember the throbbing sting of the impact.  But you know what, it was worth it.  Every damn minute I ever spent with Poppa was worth it, and man how I wish I would have a million more.

But such is the finality of life.  So now I get to continue on, holding all of those memories in my heart forever.  I will do my best to share with my son, just how much Poppa meant to me, to us kids growing up.  I will try but I will never be able to do it justice.

So Poppa.  Here’s to you.  My last Cowboy.  Thank you for everything.  For all the lessons, for all the laughs and for all of the memories.  You were ALWAYS there for us.  ALWAYS.  I hope you know how much we loved you, how much I loved you.

And I hope you know I will make it a point of always visiting the Mount Marshall plaque when I visit Burton.

The world is a lesser place without in it, the lightbulb glowing dimmer.  Just know us kids will do our best to brighten it again, every time we think about you, laugh about a memory we had with you, or shed a tear wishing you were around.

Love forever and always.

Steve.

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A few things!

Hey all!  Man alive I have been junk at keeping up to date here for  you!

So coles notes, a few things;

  1. Contest happening at my twitter until friday! (twitter.com/stevestred)
  2. Contest happening at my instagram until friday! (stevestred)
  3. New review of The Switch House up at Kendall Reviews!

http://kendallreviews.com/the-switch-house-tim-meyer-kendall-review/

4. New review of Greener Pastures up at Kendall Reviews!

http://kendallreviews.com/greener-pastures-michael-wehunt-kendall-review/

I visited with my buddy Rob Derman on the weekend and we filmed for a vlog to be released soon discussing Dim the Sun, how we met and some words on following your passion!

Cheers!

Steve

Dim the Sun Release Announcement!

Hey all!  So that exciting teaser I had yesterday was for this: Dim the Sun.  14 dark poems and 1 dark short story.  This collection will be released December 1st, with pre-orders starting soon!

The collection will be an Ebook only release for now and will be $0.99 Canadian!  All proceeds will be going towards Rob Derman’s pursuit to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games!

For full details and a behind the scenes look, check out the official release announcement at Kendall Reviews!

http://kendallreviews.com/release-announcement-steve-stred-unleashes-an-exciting-new-poetry-collection-dim-the-sun-with-proceeds-going-to-an-olympic-cause/

Dim the Sun Cover

LEFT HAND PATH ANNOUNCEMENT

LEFT HAND PATH: 13 More Tales of Black Magick ANNOUNCEMENT!!

Ok!  Are you ready for the big massive, amazing announcement!??

IS IT AN AWARD!? – nope.

IS IT MOVIE OR TV NEWS!? – nope.

WELL?? WHAT IS IT!?

Sorry to disappoint, but it’s not as massive as most will expect.

So tag line – LEFT HAND PATH is an amazing collection of stories people love, but very poorly edited.

Now a few things up front;

I am an indie author.  I have no backing (like a publisher) etc.  So it is all on me.  I write the stories, I get the covers set up (I don’t create them but work with someone to create them), I set up my own marketing plan, I try and create any sort of ads and I try and get folks to review them.  I have had so much amazing help in the past it has been very, very humbling.

I completely self-released my first collection, The Fence: and Other Sordid Tales.  (Same with my novel Invisible).  I designed the cover and formatted etc etc.  I also edited that myself.  It was pretty bad.  After fantastic feedback by author JZ Foster, I had it actually edited by David Sodergren (who also edited Wagon Buddy and YURI), had the cover revamped of For Balder Walks and re-released The Fence as Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery.  The feedback since has been outstanding.  From the cover that my friend Lee Orr created to the stories themselves.  A number of folks have said it completely changed the reading experience.

With Left Hand Path, I keep getting such amazing feedback about the stories.  So I had someone edit it who didn`t want any credit, just wanted to help, and it came back.  (This was not my sister Jodi, FYI.  I give her thanks in the afterword, but she wasn’t the editor.)  I sent it off to JZ (who formats the projects for me and creates the file types needed for publication) without really re-reading it.  Then some feedback started to come back after it was released.  The cover was fantastic!  The stories are great, BUT, the editing sucks.  Poor grammar.  Incorrect use of too versus to.  But the most common thing I heard was this;

“Do you say shake your head for an agreement?”

That was the question I was asked most frequently.  I never thought about it.  I do say ‘shake your head.’  But in the literary world, that is incorrect.  You say ‘nod your head.’  David filled me in when editing Frostbitten, YURI, and Wagon Buddy.

Now why am I bringing this up?  Well for several reasons.

  • People pay some money to read my stuff. It’s not a lot, but I pride myself on putting out really good content.  To hear someone didn’t enjoy it because I didn’t take that extra step of re-reading the work before sending it to be formatted is my fault.  Not the readers.  I am a busy guy, but that’s no excuse.  I was excited and couldn’t wait for it to be released.
  • People won some copies. I said in the emails that some of the winners were receiving pre-release uncorrected copies.  But still – you won a contest.  I don’t like to disappoint folks.
  • I don’t want to be a massive hypocrite. I have started doing some reviews for the fantastic Kendall Reviews site.  How can I possible review someone’s work and comment on poor editing when I have that hanging over me?  Not fair at all to the other author and makes me look like a tool bag.  “Why should I believe him when he doesn’t edit his stuff?”
  • I am actively trying to gain fans. I want to release stuff people can’t wait to read.  Things people getting excited about.  I write some crazy, dark, sad, horrific stuff.  I have a messed up imagination.  There are folks who enjoy that.  I want them to be proud to be a fan and be a reader of my work.

So what now?

Well, I try to be a stand-up guy.  I am not trying to rip anyone off.  I think there really is only a few things that can be done.

  1. Left Hand Path will be re-edited ASAP. I have a number of works in progress, but nothing planned as an official release until next year.  So this will be prioritized.
  2. If you downloaded the book for free from my various promos or purchased the eBook (thank you so much!) when the book is re-uploaded you will be able to update the file. You can go to Manage Content and Devices and go to that file, click update.  I will update folks when that will happen.
  3. If you bought a physical copy (again thank you!) or have a physical copy for review, please message me through any of the various channels and I will send you a new Mobi copy as a thank you. I do apologize, I just simply do not have the money to replace everyone’s physical copies.
  4. If you won a copy of Left Hand Path in any of the contests I have had, message me and I will resend you an updated copy once it is ready.

 

I hope that sounds fair, and I hope that you will all stick with me and continue to support me!  I try hard and want to put out fantastic stuff!  And, as I said before, I can assure you, Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery, Wagon Buddy and YURI are all high quality, highly edited works!

Cheers.

Steve

New short story

Hey all!  You may have noticed a couple new tabs on the main menu here!

The first is Kendall Reviews, which will compile all of the reviews that is published over at the fantastic Kendall Reviews site.  The second is simply titled Eaten.  I have a number of works in progress, and one of those is the next batch of short stories.  This will be one of them!  So enjoy Eaten!

Cheers

https://stevestredauthor.wordpress.com/eaten/