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On the High Plains of Wyoming


Merkin

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Thanks, guys. A lot of work went into this, and it's great to be appreciated.

I had a lot of technical help on this, which was very forthcoming from those whom I asked for help. I owe them a great debt. My editors again did a yeoman's job; the writing always sparkles when they get done with it. It's the difference between an old nag with a shaggy coat, a dull cast to its eyes and a pronounced limp, compared to a sleek steed shining in the sun, ears cocked and and eager and a challenging glint in its imperious glare.

Now I have to think of something else to write about. That's always the hardest part.

C

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a truly amazing story - more a novella than a short story - and I can only imagine the amount of work Cole put into this. I happened to be up and checking AD about an hour or two after it was posted and, well, to hell with sleep - I read it in one sitting. I then rushed out and posted my thoughts to the forum with a large warning that there were spoilers. Personally, I think that anyone who even looks at the forum entry on a story before reading the story deserves whatever loss of pleasure they get. A spoiler alert should be enough of a warning to keep people away, but then I know there are people who absolutely have to read the forum first, and a spoiler alert only serves to make them more curious. Therefore, when Cole asked me to remove my forum entry on this story, I respected his wishes and did so.

What I said initially, however, sparked a bit of an argument between Cole and me and I probably should have taken the story more at face value, although I did make it clear that I loved the story overall. My concern, and it's pretty lame in retrospect, was that most people wouldn't hesitate to kill the perpetrator of a rape. No one wants to take another life, but rape is a very violent and potentially deadly act. A lot of people might hesitate to act because they're paralyzed by fear, but that clearly wasn't Mason's case. He wasn't sure what to do, which is natural for anyone, particularly one so young, and we should probably take that at face value, which I didn't on first read. My initial impression was that he had a clear shot at the rapist when he first stumbled on the scene, but chose not to take it. He was nearly the same distance from the perp at that point as he ended up being from the rifle when he shot at it. So his not taking a shot at the perp when the perp was away from Elan and dropping his pants didn't make sense to me.

Sorry to be so analytical, Cole - it's in my nature. All-in-all, you did a great job with this story.

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I think the answer to the debate is in the words of Elam's father:

Killing someone should be something that affects you. No matter the reason you did it, it shouldn?t be something trivial, something that?s easy to overlook. That it?s bothering you means you?re a sensitive young man who cares about other people and how you deal with them.

In other words, the way that Mason acted was integral to his development as a person.

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I think the answer to the debate is in the words of Elam's father:

Killing someone should be something that affects you. No matter the reason you did it, it shouldn?t be something trivial, something that?s easy to overlook. That it?s bothering you means you?re a sensitive young man who cares about other people and how you deal with them.

In other words, the way that Mason acted was integral to his development as a person.

I don't disagree with this or with what Cole said at all. In my profession, I have seen a number of people die but, thankfully, that is not common. The hardest thing I have ever done was to sit with a quadriplegic man after he asked to be removed from his ventilator. I had nightmares in the weeks leading up to the day he was granted his wish. I cannot imagine how horrible it must be to deliberately take a life.

I do know, thankfully not from personal experience but from reading research articles on the subject and talking to victims, that it is equally traumatic to watch someone be brutalized. This is only magnified when one knows the victim and particularly if they are a friend or loved one. Mason was twice traumatized in the story (three times if you consider his original outing). He will always remember watching helplessly as his former best friend was brutally raped, and he will of course always remember killing a man. The only difference between being sixteen and being an adult is that an adult has more life experience. No matter how young or old someone is, taking another life is and should be traumatic.

What would any of us do under the circumstances? No one can ever know how they'll react until it happens to them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think short stories can be every bit as worthwhile and satisfying as lengthy novels. They allow an author to focus on fewer issues, but to develop the ones he's writing about as fully as he wishes.

I actually intended to write OTHPOW in considerably fewer words than I ended up with. It resisted my efforts to shorten or condense it. I tried to do that with every edit I gave it, and in every case, it ended up getting longer instead. The issues that were covered in the story seemed to take on a life of their own, and the need to have more, not less, written about them became manifest.

But short stories as a genre can be wondrous. Think of Breakfast at Tifffany's, which is classified as a short story. Or Twain's Extracts From Adam's Diary, or O. Henry's The Ransom of Red Chief and The Gift of the Magi, for only a very, very few of the great works that have been written in this form.

Denying yourself the pleasure of some great literature simply because you prefer stories of many chapters is like denying yourself foreplay and post-coital languor and only going for the home run itself. Why limit yourself like that?

C

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I do see the difference in our culture's with the way your Police are armed and the way so many of them are actual fat asshole psycopaths themselves and outright bullies, too.

I would disagree only in that I don't think you have enough experience with U.S. policemen to know for sure how they act.

I've dealt with a few policemen in my time, and to me, they're just people like everybody else. They have good days and bad days; there's good cops and bad cops, and even psycho cops. But I think most of them are decent people. Whether or not they have a gun doesn't make them bullies. And I'm speaking as a guy who's lived in LA for more than 30 years.

BTW, the cops in Italy carry submachine guns, and they were always pretty nice to me when I briefly lived and worked in Rome.

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Quote; "Denying yourself the pleasure of some great literature simply because you prefer stories of many chapters is like denying yourself foreplay and post-coital languor and only going for the home run itself. Why limit yourself like that?"

As I pretty much said in my email to you Cole this short story surprised the hell out me. After reading it I read several more and fully appreciate what you are saying. I realize, too, that had it been longer, i.e. a serialisation, then its tremendous impact would have probably been diminished. Without brown nosing, I think I just got so wrapped up and in the grip of it, in the detail and the general power of it, that I was dissapointed it was over when I finished reading it.

Rick

Rick that is the only flaw I have ever found in Cole's writing. You just don't want it to stop. Consider it to be a kind of literary orgasm. :icon_geek:

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  • 5 years later...

How nice that this terrific story is a Dude's Pick from the Past. I recently re-read it and continue to admire its elegance and its penetrating intelligence.

On the faint chance that anyone reading this post hasn't experienced this tale, go here: http://www.awesomedude.com/cole-parker/on-the-high-plains-of-wyoming/on-the-high-plains-of-wyoming.htm

The lead character (Mason) is a remarkable young man in a number of respects. We should all have such class.

Highly recommended.

R

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I'll go further. This story is perhaps the best short story I've read, of any genre. I read it twice when it first appeared, and that is a rare complement in itself. Since then I've certainly re-read it again once if not twice, and will re-read it another time too.

If I was going to nominate the best short story here, this would be it. And there is some mighty fine competition.

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I have just read this for the first time, though I am sure I am going to read it again and again. It is certainly amongst the finest short stories that I have read anywhere, not just here, and one which is well worth reading. This is great story telling with high quality writing and a strong message all combined in one. Without doubt some of the best writing going.

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I have just read this for the first time, though I am sure I am going to read it again and again. It is certainly amongst the finest short stories that I have read anywhere, not just here, and one which is well worth reading. This is great story telling with high quality writing and a strong message all combined in one. Without doubt some of the best writing going.

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I think you writers are often too much like English teachers, you over analyze everything. I read the story and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Whether Mason should have killed the rapist to start with or not is immaterial, no one knows how others will react to a situation. Most people don't really know how they will react until given situation occurs. I think that Cole has done an excellent job in portraying Mason and the thought process that he went through. It just gives the reader a better insight into the character of Mason.

I will never forget a freshmen English class where we were a assigned a story to read and then discussed it in class. When the professor gave his interpretation of the story, the only thing that I thought was "You have got to be shitting me". I think most stories are written for the pleasure of both the writer and the reader and rarely contain some deep hidden meaning.

I always enjoy reading Cole's stories and this was no exception. It was very well done. I have no doubt that of all the characters in the story that Mason and his integrity were head and shoulders over all of the rest.

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I think you writers are often too much like English teachers, you over analyze everything. I read the story and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Whether Mason should have killed the rapist to start with or not is immaterial, no one knows how others will react to a situation. Most people don't really know how they will react until given situation occurs. I think that Cole has done an excellent job in portraying Mason and the thought process that he went through. It just gives the reader a better insight into the character of Mason.

I will never forget a freshmen English class where we were a assigned a story to read and then discussed it in class. When the professor gave his interpretation of the story, the only thing that I thought was "You have got to be shitting me". I think most stories are written for the pleasure of both the writer and the reader and rarely contain some deep hidden meaning.

I always enjoy reading Cole's stories and this was no exception. It was very well done. I have no doubt that of all the characters in the story that Mason and his integrity were head and shoulders over all of the rest.

There is always a danger of over analysing a story, or most other things for that matter. I when I get close to doing it I try to remember a story I was told years ago by a friend who at one time shared a flat with the author John Wyndham in the 1950s. John had enrolled under his real name ( John Benyon Harris) with an English Lit group, I don't know if this was a formal class or just a discussion group. One day they discussed Day of the Triffids, when John returned to the flat he told my friend Paul that (a) he had never written what they were talking about and (b) he did not understand how they had got to their understanding from what he had written.

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I think that's all very true. Some blurbs explaining some books actually cause me to laugh. And back in school, sometimes when teachers would explain the underlying themes of a stories I'd just read, I often wanted to ask them whose heads had been up whose asses to come up with that, that that wasn't the story I'd read at all.

Critics like to show they're smarter than the people they're analyzing. Sometimes a story is just a story. And if anyone has to ask what it's about, if they can't figure that out themselves, the writer would be a good one to ask.

C

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Sometimes it can be rather dangerous to ask the writer. Some years ago I had my godson living with me and one evening he was stuck on some English Lit homework in which he was asked to explain the meaning of a poem. It happened I knew the poet in question quite well so phoned them to ask what the poem was about. My godson listened to the explanation and said it made sense and wrote an essay explaining what he had been told. He failed the assignment - what he had written, which was very close to what the poet had said in no way fitted with the experts opinion as to what the poem was about.

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