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Stephen Lodge

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Nickel-Plated Dream
by Stephen Lodge   


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Books by Stephen Lodge - View all
· Shadows of Eagles
· And .... Action!
· Charley Sunday's Texas Outfit!


Category: 

Western

Publisher:  Behler Publications ISBN-10:  1933016302 Type:  Fiction
Pages: 

182

Copyright:  2005


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Behler Publications

Return to the thrilling days of yesteryear where traditional western values embrace the Code of the West.
This exciting adventure yarn blends teenage restlessness with cowboy thrills while paying tribute to the Western stars and movie sets of the late 1950's.

It wasn’t that long before several-hundred tourists — the paying customers — had crowded up behind the ropes the threesome had strung, waiting for something to happen. A few of them were still finishing up their breakfasts of hot-dogs, popcorn, soda pop and cotton candy. Others sported newly purchased straw ‘dude’ hats, and We Tamed the Cowboys at Corriganville T-shirts.
The strategically located loudspeakers hit, exactly as they had in Old Tucson, with practically the same kind of overbearing Western theme music. Charley was a professional musician, and the background orchestrations for the Corriganville acts were ninety-percent his originals. Plus the tapes themselves had been prepared and mixed on a much more advanced level than they had been at Old Tucson.
All cast members who were not assigned principal parts in these events were required to walk the street portraying townspeople. This is what Ed, Tawnie, the Indian and The Kid were doing as the tape recording began – moving back and forth, nodding to others like themselves, playing townspeople while entering and exiting storefronts. Basically, nodding and walking.
Like Skelton in Arizona, Charley doubled as narrator on the event tapes. His pleasing, mellow, Oklahoma drawl echoed over the speaker system, engulfing the entire street, overriding the music completely. “The year was 1881. The place, Tombstone, Arizona,” the narration began.
At first The Kid thought he was experiencing deja vu. Then it dawned on him that this is where Skelton must have appropriated his ideas for the Old Tucson Western Shows in the first place, since Corriganville’s Western Shows pre-dated Old Tucson’s by a decade.
The music dropped – heavier violins and oboes. Several Corriganville gunfighters, Jerry, LeBowe, Stan and Dick, stepped out of the barn. LeBowe lit a roll-your-own cigarette and carried a half-empty, prop whiskey bottle containing tea. All of the men wore side arms. They exchanged rowdy adlibs between themselves. Charley’s narration continued. “Ike Clanton (LeBowe) and Frank McLaury (Jerry) had been in town earlier that day when Ike had a run in with Virgil Earp, the town marshal. Virgil arrested Ike for public drunkenness. Later on, Frank had bailed Ike out of jail. When young Billy Clanton (Dick) and Tom McLaury (Stan) rode in to join them, Ike talked them all into baiting the Earps into a confrontation ... a significant challenge that would go down in Western annals as The Gunfight at the OK Corral.”
The music leapt into a fusillade of horns. From the opposite end of the street, the Earp Brothers, Virgil (High-Pockets), Wyatt (Wheeler), and Morgan (Spider), along with their friend, Doc Holliday (Tex Number Two), stepped out of an alley and moved to meet their adversaries head on. The crowd watched in silence, every single one of them in total awe of this live-action, in-the-flesh, historical, Western drama that was taking place right before their eyes. The music tingled in the background, making the scene all the more thrilling.
Then Cappie appeared. He ran across the street in an attempt to stop the Earps. All five men began talking in adlibs. “Sheriff Johnny Behan,” as Charley’s voice identified Cappie, “a good friend of the Clantons and McLaurys, begged the Earps and Holliday to call it off. He told Virgil that he personally would go to the livery stable and talk the Clantons and McLaurys into giving up their guns.”
On cue, Cappie ran down the street to the men by the barn. On his way, he passed Ed, Tawnie, the Indian, and The Kid. They were on the sheriff’s office porch where they were pretending to be curious onlookers. The Kid whispered through his teeth so the audience wouldn’t see he was talking. “Boy,” he said to Ed and the others. “These guys are really professionals, aren’t they? Sure ain’t anything like Old Tucson.” To the Corriganville audience, this little conversation was never noticed. They were much too busy watching the foreground action.
Cappie was still talking to the group of cowboys, trying to convince them to lay down their arms. The Earps and Holliday watched from the far end of the street. At that moment the bad guys were violently disagreeing with Cappie. Charley’s pre-recorded voice on the tape set everyone straight. “Sheriff Johnny Behan’s appeal to his friends had no effect on the cowboys, all of whom had been drinking heavily. So, Behan, the cowardly man that he was, headed off to find cover before the shooting began.” And that’s exactly what Cappie did. He took refuge – out of sight inside the blacksmith’s shop.
That was the visual cue for the Earps and Holliday to begin their gradual advance down the street toward the barn. Resonant French horns tickled the neck-hairs of the audience, raising some real goose bumps. Cast members, playing townspeople sensing the impending danger, ran, seeking protection. Ed, Tawnie, the Indian, and The Kid, ducked down behind a watering trough where they could still see what was going on. Others continued to scramble for safe harbor, hiding in doorways, alleys, between buildings, and behind benches. There wasn’t a peep from the crowd. They were completely immersed in the performance.
As the Earps and Holliday continued their impassive walk toward the barn, the Clantons and McLaurys slowly began to spread out, preparing for battle. When the two groups were about fifteen feet apart, the Earps and Holliday stopped. The two factions were now facing one another across a small expanse of sand and dirt. “There would be no backing off,” echoed the narration. “It was the final showdown ... Four against four.”
The gunfighters began adlibbing. “Hand over your guns and there won’t be any trouble,” Hi-Pickets yelled to LeBowe and the others.
LeBowe hollered back, “If you Earps think we’re going to do that, you’re crazy. If it’s gun-play you want, we’re prepared to give you some.”
“There was a long moment,” Charley’s taped voice announced, “then Frank McLaury went for his gun.”
Jerry drew. So did all the others.
Spider blasted first. Then all hell broke loose.
Gunfire echoed from everywhere. Some of the performers slapped blood pellets on their shirts and took falls. Tex’s shotgun roared — both barrels at once. The crowd shrieked. They plugged their ears to block out the noise of the shooting. Some of the smaller children peed their shorts.
Black-powder smoke, with its distinctive smell, obscured the action. Even so, the eight men continued firing. In moments, when the haze lifted slightly, Jerry, Stan and Dick lay ‘dying’ on the ground. LeBowe, as Ike, could be seen departing through the rear of the barn. With Charley’s narration garbled by the gunshots and music, Dick began to get to his feet. Historically, his character was the last to die, and he intended to milk the bit to its fullest.
Behind the watering trough, The Kid’s face broke into a grin. He had an idea. He crouched low and began edging away from Tawnie and the others. Ed called after him, “Hey Kid, just where in the hell do you think you’re going?” The Kid turned on his elbows and winked. Then he continued on, finally ducking out of sight behind a structure.
“Leave him be,” said the Indian. “When The Kid makes up his mind to do something, ain’t nothing can change his mind.”
The street action was far from over. Dick was still staggering around, feigning a lingering, exaggerated death. He kept the audience on edge by attempting to point his gun at the Earps, dramatizing his ‘terrible injuries’ by making grotesque, spasmodic movements. “Don’t try it, Billy,” warned Wheeler, cocking his own weapon.
Dick raised his gun anyway, aimed it as well as a mortally wounded man could aim. When his pistol was eye-level with his opponents, every single Earp and Holliday let go with their Colts – fanning and firing simultaneously – blasting Dick to kingdom come. Dick slammed himself back against the barn wall. At the same time he let loose with the food coloring he was holding in his mouth, spewing forth what appeared to be two lungs-full of scarlet-red blood. It splattered and ran down the barn’s siding, causing the crowd to “Ooooh” and “Ahhhh.” After that, they began to cheer wildly. And of course, Dick milked his final breath to the limit, eventually collapsing in a heap beside Jerry and Stan.
Charley’s taped narrative began to sum it all up. Suddenly, The Kid appeared on the top of the barn in silhouette, rising up from behind a small cupola at the peak of the roof. He had his Ruger in his hand, and he was pointing it down in the direction of the Earps and Holliday. “Those were friends of mine you killed,” his voice echoed out. “Now I’m going to have to revenge their deaths.”
All eyes were raised to the barn’s rooftop. Every head tilted. The Earps and Holliday exchanged puzzled looks. This was definitely not part of the act. Spider turned to Hi-Pockets. “Who in the hell is that, for chrissake?” he asked.
Hi-Pockets squinted into the sun, shielding his eyes. “Beats me,” he answered. “It could be that newcomer Charley introduced us to this morning. I can’t be positive.”
Ed was positive. Still hiding behind the watering trough with the Indian and Tawnie, he slapped his forehead. “Ohhh, Geeeze,” he howled.
The Indian hunched his shoulders, turning up his palms in a helpless shrug. “Like I told you,” he said. “When The Kid makes up his mind to do something, he makes up his mind.”
In the street’s center, Tex Number Two turned to the others, whispering through his teeth. “That sonofabitch, whoever he is, is messing up our act, goddamnit.”
“Then screw the act,” bellowed Spider. “Shoot the shit out of the bastard.” On that note, all four men emptied every single one of their leftover full-load, black-powder blanks at The Kid. It sounded like a machine-gun’s battlefield clatter.
On the rooftop, The Kid stood to his full height. He retched and twisted as he simulated being hit by every one of the make-believe ‘slugs.’ He stumbled forward to the roof’s edge, and as if in slow motion, took what appeared to be a casual twenty-five foot header into the ground below, where he landed flat on his back in what could only be described as a whooping cloud of dust.
The audience went berserk. They cheered. They jumped up and down. They squealed. They applauded with delight. They had never, ever, in their entire lives on earth, seen anything quite like what had only moments earlier taken place before them.
When the Indian finally had the courage to open his eyes — Tawnie wouldn’t open hers, and Ed had looked away entirely — he could see that The Kid’s eyes were closed. He also detected a peaceful aura about The Kid, and couldn’t help imagining him with a lily in his folded hands. “That was special, Kid,” he heard himself say softly. “You can bet your goddamn ass that was special.”
 


Professional Reviews
- Leo Pando - chief reviewer for The Old Cowboy Picture Show newsletter
"Nickel-Plated Dream" is
better served by noting the author's credibility, experience, and
passion for western movies and television than a detailed review of
his book. I will say this, Lodge writes in a friendly, vivid style,
constantly making references that only a diehard western fan could.
"Nickel-Plated Dream" is a heartfelt ode to time, a place and even a
state of mind that is embodied in the glorious B-westerns we grew up
loving.
Set in the 1950s, "Nickel-Plated Dream" follows a young
Hollywood hopeful in his quest for fame and fortune. It is best
described as "an impressionable look back in time to an era that no
longer exists, when a young person could still grow up believing in
traditional Western Values." From the first page "Nickel-Plated
Dream" grabs you because you know who the protagonist is. The Kid, as
he's called, is all of us. He's the proverbial "duck out of water"
living in the wrong century and wishing he'd been born a 19th Century
gunfighter. He gets close to his dream at the Corriganville Movie
Ranch, acting out famous historical gunfights for tourists.
The 182 page soft cover "Nickel-Plated Dream" trade
paperback will be released by Behler Publications and may be ordered
through their Web site at www.behlerpublications.com for $14.95 plus
postage. It's my pleasure to recommend it. Lodge is "one of us" and a
little more, that's what makes "Nickel-Plated Dream" resonate so
well.



Reader Reviews for "Nickel-Plated Dream"


Reviewed by Phillip Hardy 4/15/2006
Stephen Lodge's excerpt from "Nickel Plated Dream" can stand alone as a short story. The writer's homage to western reenactments staged at Corriganville Movie Ranch and Old Tucson Studios captures the atmosphere of the Eisenhower era. Having been to Tombstone and Old Tucson I have an appreciation for the reverence for this material and originality of this storyline.
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 4/7/2006
sounds an interesting read

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Stephen Lodge



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Nickel-Plated Dream

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