Ride a Crooked Trail: The Westerns of William Burgdorf
December 8, 2017
The Bierman brothers follow a hard trail ridden by hard men across a hard land. The only thing that comes easy is dying.
When I was a boy, the cowboy was King.
The rugged road west was the great American journey.
Willing to fight for the land they would never tame and never own.
But it was land worth fighting for.
My mother’s church preached it was a sin to go to the movies.
Her church preached the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
When my mother was out of town one Saturday afternoon, my father stuck me in out pickup truck, and we snuck off to Overton to watch Roy Rogers, the king of the cowboys, ride across the movie screen. I could smell the dust and feel the desert heat.
That day remains my fondest moment of childhood.
My grandfather lived in a dugout in New Mexico, one large room carved beneath the earth with a tin roof and a stove pipe breaking through the ground. I spent my summers there.
He had the whole collection of Zane Gray Novels.
The west was wild.
The good guys shot straight.
The bad guys shot you in the back.
The good prevailed.
By the end of the summer, I knew Zane Gray must have written at least one of the four gospels, maybe more.
I consumed everything that Luke Short and Max Brand wrote. Now I’m addicted to the Western sagas of Gene Shelton and Daniel C. Chamberlain.
But a new voice in the western genre has emerged and stormed its way into literature.
William Burgdorf may have a different style of writing, but his stories are tough and gritty. They capture the spirit of the Old West through the eyes of the Bierman Brothers who blazed their own trails across a treacherous and unforgiving landscape.
Burgdorf is a storyteller in the finest tradition of Zane Gray.
His language at times is pure poetry: Night drops around them like a dark blanket, and aside from coyote calls, the evening is quiet as they are bombarded with light from the millions of stars overhead.
As one reviewer wrote: “Author William Burgdorf transforms his reader back in time to the 1880s. From cattle drives to cattle rustlers, the gun-toting Bierman brothers use every trick in the book to survive in this God-forsaken country. If you like Westerns, you won’t be disappointed in this uniquely written tale.”
I am proud to introduce you to his new western trilogy. The Bierman brothers follow a hard trail ridden by hard men across a hard land. The only thing that comes easy is dying.
Zepaniah Bierman, a mustanger turned hunter, lies on the top of the rocky sandy arroyo. Sweat trickles down his face and stains the shirt across his back as the sun beats daggers of heat on the Chihuahuan desert.
Out there is a scout for three riders that torched his ranch in Mesilla. The only way out of this eternal furnace is back to New Mexico; Zep will track them there encountering Mexican cavalry, Apaches, outlaws, and a strong-willed young woman that wait for him.
His trail carries him from Old Mexico to Santa Fe, surviving the Jornada del Muerto, and covering the length of 1858 New Mexico Territory discovering deception, heartbreak, ambush, friendship, love, and a resolution at the end of his odyssey that is terrifying.
Wait, patience, it can’t be long now. Take the bait dammit, Zep thinks. He notices the yellow chevrons on the sleeve of his gray shirt that mark him as the leader of the Arizona Rangers crouching quietly concealed beside him. The next move belongs to the Apaches.
The Civil War crashes into New Mexico Territory forcing Zep, Allie, Guillo, and Miguel to make drastic changes. The tumultuous times don’t end with the war but carry over into lives that will be forever altered.
“Sarge, Sarge, Yankees. They’re comin’ into the brush riding single file. I bet they smelt McIlhenny’s cookin’.” Jenkins points into the thick growth.
“Kill the fire, dump the grub, Collins and Smith collect our horses and hold them.”
“What do you want us to do, Sarge?” asks Jenkins.
“Corporal, spread our men along the trail. Make sure they’re well hidden. Seguin, go find them Yankees. Lead them to where we’ll spring an ambush. Y’all watch me for hand signals. Go.”
“What’ll we do with this huckleberry?” asks the Cowboy whose Winchester presses again Byron’s belt buckle.
“We take ’em to the boss. He’ll figure out what to do with him,” answers the Segundo.
The Bierman brothers deal with characters the likes of which only the West breeds and nurturers: the Earp brothers, Texas John Slaughter, Governor F.A. Tritle, Ike Clanton, Curly Bill Brocius, Al Sieber, and La Araña.
“If there are those who can’t defend themselves and wind up vulnerable, then Arizona Territory ain’t the place for them to stay,” says Byron. “It is what it is.”
Arizona Territory, 1880s, is enough to challenge anyone, but little do Byron and Braxton Bierman know that every turn on the trail brings them to defining moments. From Tombstone to Prescott, and Springerville to Phoenix, they face friends, foes, and nature. Braxton’s last line in the story is, “Brother, have I got a lot to tell you.”
Reader, The Arizonan has a lot to tell you too.