Saturday, September 22, 2018

Buck Moon Trail, Part 4

Note: This is the fourth part of a series of fan fiction. Please keep in mind that outside of the primary character, Tom Tyler, all others are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Screencaps are from Tom's movies and are used simply as visuals. With the usual disclaimer aside, if you would like to link back to this story and need help doing so, please contact me at Thank you and enjoy the story!

Was time speeding up? Or was it slowing down? Julie was so inebriated it was difficult to tell, after getting only two hours of sleep. She did however become more aware of her present surroundings, and as her senses heightened, could hear the rain as it bounced off the rocks which shielded her. When Julie turned on her side facing the hole where she crawled through, she could see a cluster of thistle and St. John's wort positioned to the right. She reached out her left hand and pinched off a yellow blossom, twirling it in her fingers. Pulling her green cotton wrap closely around her shoulders to stay warm, she settled back in, as far back as she could, to remain dry, and think about Tom.

“You're just like a sister to me.”

Julie heard his words echo in her mind, innocent as they were, innocent as only Tom could be. Confusion muddled her thoughts, maybe in a subconscious way to protect herself. In one way, she wanted to be able to survive on her own should Tom die, but could not bear the thought of losing him, either. But could she ever really lose him? Julie relished his physical presence in her life, but could he also exist as part of her mind and heart? It seemed like the rain was slowing down and finally stopped. The St. John's wort blossom dangled from between her index and ring fingers of her right hand. Thinking of Tom was a comfort though, and helped get her through a rough period of her life. Being an only child, both her parents were killed due to Indian attacks during their second sojourn out west, while she was back home attending a girls' boarding school in Troy, New York. When she received news of what happened, she went into shock. Wasn't her family more than comfortable, advocates of girls getting a good education and become strong women? Tom needed a strong woman, Julie thought to herself, especially with his illness.

Julie had difficulty falling asleep again, and closing her eyes, imagined she was walking back to the covered wagon where Tom and the other men slept for the night. The camp site was silent except for the singing of the toads, who were clearly delighted with the falling rain. Delight. Julie took delight in Tom, and as she imagined crawling into the covered wagon next to Tom, enjoyed his presence, his rock-hard solid muscles, his dewy skin, dark ringlets and chiseled features, found it impossible to worry about his illness. She had no time to think about his pain, but at the same time, wanting to removing his pain, and make him as comfortable as possible.

Tom stirred in his sleep and turned on his side in the direction that Julie usually slept. His eyes fluttered open and he was surprised to see her missing, yet had the feeling her presence was still there. “Tom. Tom darling.” Tom heard her voice and leaned his head back, thinking she got up and was sitting behind him, like she sometimes did. Julie was not there though.

“Julie?” Tom softly called out. “Julie? Where are you?” He leaned back on his elbows to prop himself up. “Julie?” He felt something warm pass in front of him, followed by the scent of white phlox, Julie's perfume. Fatigued, Tom snuggled down in his bed once again and thinking Julie was outside sleeping, did not worry about her. The only thing Tom really worried about was her drinking problem, but so did the other three men, especially Joe. They chalked Julie's alcoholism due to her having lost her parents and being pretty much on her own, as she had no siblings. Even though Tom thought Jule was still in the covered wagon, she remained under the outcropping of rocks, sound asleep.

Right before the sun began to rise the next morning, Joe awoke, followed by Tim and Bob. Joe started the campfire, while Tim poured some fresh water in the pot for coffee. Tom also awoke, smiled, and stretched. Of course he expected Julie to be by his side, so he was a little surprised to see she was not there. “Julie?” Tom called out. Joe heard Tom's voice so he walked to the rear of the covered wagon to see how he was doing.

“'Morning Tom. Coffee will be ready in about ten minutes. How are you feeling?” Joe noticed Tom sweated slightly more than usual from last night. “Need clean blankets or anything?” Julie suggested that they bring extra blankets on the trip for Tom to use. Tom looked at Joe, made a face, then looked at his surroundings. His body was moist from perspiration, as if he just finished a hard workout. Tom would also need some clean clothes, but what he really wanted was a bath in a pond or river. Joe raised his eyebrows at Tom's sweat. “Hey Bob! Bob!” Bob came running up to the wagon, his slight figure and shock of blond hair streaked with the dirt of the trail, peered inside the wagon.

“What's up?” he asked, blue eyes looking at Tom's present state, then at Joe. “Hey, where's Julie?” Bob asked.

“That's what we're trying to figure out. But Tom's asking to bathe.” Joe turned his face to cough, knowing full well that Tom was not supposed to move around too much if possible. “If Julie was here she could give Tom a sponge bath.” Tom smiled, remembering the first time Julie gave him a sponge bath on the trip. If there was a lake or river nearby, the water would make it possible, but since there wasn't... “Bob, how far is it to North Fork Finney Creek from here? I can use some freshening up too.”

“Two and a quarter miles. Tom, if you want, take off your clothes, wipe your body down with a damp towel, Joe and I will get coffee for you, then we'll have to find Julie. Here,” Bob grabbed a clean towel from the covered wagon, and poured some water from a jug onto it, making it damp. He tossed the towel to Tom, who already had his shirt off. Tom caught the towel and ran it over his muscular arms and torso. Bob turned away and joined Tim while Joe stayed with Tom, wondering if he knew anything about Julie's disappearance. Tom recounted his experience from the night before, since he really thought Julie was still in the covered wagon. Joe believed him then gave his attention to the coffee being poured into the cups by Bob. Joe handed Tom a cup of hot, strong coffee.

“Obviously we need to find that girl before we start traveling again. Anyone have any ideas where she could have taken off to?” Joe was feeling annoyed that Julie was holding up the trip, since time was working against them when it came to Tom's failing health. “Tom?” Joe's green eyes stared at Tom's face, thinking he knew where she was. Tom sipped the coffee, savoring the delicious brew.

“What, Joe?” Tom felt much better after the damp towel, and still bare chested, leaned back against his pillow, resembling a Greek god.

“Where is she?”

“You're kidding me. How would I know where Julie is?” Tom took another sip of coffee.

“I thought maybe you did.” Joe's serious expression suddenly softened with a smile and a laugh. “Well, it's just that I know the kind of connection you two have together, and – well, now that you told me about your somewhat strange experience last night while we were all asleep – or at least we were, outside.”

Tom squinted his eyes. “Exactly what are you accusing me of, Joe.” Bob and Tim overheard the two men arguing and looked in their direction while they finished their coffee.

Joe backed off a bit before continuing. “I'm not accusing you of anything, Tom. Finish your coffee partner, and we'll start looking for her. I can stay with you, and Bob and Tim will search in the area. She could not have gone far.” Joe glanced up at the sky. Dawn arrived and the light meant it would be easier to find Julie. “I'm sorry, Tom. It's just that I miss Julie and I know you do too. I'll get you another cup of coffee.” Tom thanked the man for his apology and kindness. Tom thought he should worry about Julie but something told him she was in a safe place. Besides, Tom could not go out looking for Julie – he had to remain in the wagon, but did not want to be alone. Bob and Tim finished their coffee and joined Joe with Tom.  The men standing by the wagon started talking about which direction to go, while Tom fished around in Julie's personal belongings, hoping to find a clue of where she went to.

“Does that girl collect a lot of rocks or what?” Tom asked, holding a chunk of tumbled quartz in his left fingertips. The men looked at each other.

“You don't suppose she went rock hunting do you?” Bob asked, frowning.

“At night?” Joe replied. Bob and Tim agreed that nighttime was an odd time to look for rocks. Then Tom saw her rifle. He picked it up in his strong hands. Julie's rifle had mother-of-pearl set in the handles.

“Julie left without taking her rifle for protection? I'm sure she did not forget to take her flask with her though.” Joe shook his head. “I worry about that girl. Okay, Tim, Bob, you head east looking for her, while Tom and I stay here in case she gets back. Maybe...I don't know. Look out for...”

“An outcropping of rocks”, Tom finished. The three men glanced at him in amazement. Tom finished his second cup of coffee. “Is there anything to eat?”

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The National Film Registry

With the deadline to submit film nominations for this year's National Film Registry list is coming up fast – the date is September 15, 2018 -– I thought it might be worth taking the time to create a list of movies in this registry that Tom Tyler appeared in, regardless of the size of his role. There are a total of five movies, and I have included the year they were inducted into the National Film Registry.

The Grapes of Wrath 1940 – Inducted in 1989
Gone with the Wind 1939 – Inducted in 1989
Red River 1948 – Inducted in 1990
Stagecoach 1939 – Inducted in 1995
Ben Hur 1925 – Inducted in 1997

“Gone with the Wind” is probably the most famous movie in this list, with “Stagecoach” setting the standard for the modern western. “Ben Hur” was just one of a a few silent films where Tom was a stuntman chariot driver, and not even known as Tom Tyler yet. Of course, of these five movies, “Stagecoach” has Tom in front of the camera the longest, where he turns in a stellar performance as Luke Plummer. Should the National Film Registry and Tom Tyler's name ever pop up at the same time at a dinner or cocktail party, there is not only enough to discuss but also impress.

Hopefully, with the 2019 release of the movie “Shazam!”, “Adventures of Captain Marvel” (1941) will be one of the inducted titles in the National Film Registry.

Tom Tyler in "Stagecoach", 1929

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Poem: Sundown Saunders

This poem is titled "Sundown Saunders" and originally appeared in Rope and Wire, April 25, 2015. Inspired by the 1935 film by RKO, "Powdersmoke Range", this poem has been reprinted by kind permission from its poet, Miss Julie Kovacs.

Sundown Saunders

He was the ally of the Three Mesquiteers
Out of the blue when they needed a friend
who was always honest and never broke a promise
(He looked a lot like Tom Tyler)
Always a gentleman even with his steely gaze
and ready hand on his pistol.

He was the fastest shooter in town
always at sundown
never turning back
yet always hopeful
to rendezvous one day with his long-distance gal
wearing her favorite green plaid shirt just for him.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Lost in translation: How “Tyrant of Red Gulch” became “The Sorcerer” across the pond

From Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, January 24, 1930
A number of blog articles here have explored the subject of Tom Tyler film titles and translations into other languages: Spanish, French, German, Polish, and Dutch. What has not been explored, are Tom's western films released under different titles in other English-majority speaking nations, such as the United Kingdom. Indeed, it would seem unusual for one of Tom's B-westerns to be released under a much different title, but that is what happened to his silent film “Tyrant of Red Gulch” (1928); across the pond, it was released as “The Sorcerer”. This title seems to be peculiar at first glance; by itself without any mention of who stars in it, suggests a non-western, perhaps something that might bring to mind a scene or two from “Jack the Giant Killer” (1962) or“Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” (1958), which have sorcerers in them. Tom Tyler however is not like Torin Thatcher
in these films which are best known for their Claymation special effects and fantasy themes. What should be mentioned about “The Sorcerer” is this particular title aligns closely with the original title for “Tyrant of Red Gulch”, which was “Valley of Superstition”. In Spain, the movie was released as “El Valle del Misterio”. Another interesting note about “The Sorcerer” is the following: it is listed in Tom Tyler's filmography in the 2003 comic book, Tom Tyler Tales by Calvin Castine, Sid Couchey, and Art Monaco but not as an alternative title to “Tyrant of Red Gulch”.

Like other movies which undergo a title release change, the first thing that is looked at is the plot. In “Tyrant of Red Gulch”, the story takes
place in the foothills of the Rockies, with Tom as the itinerant cowboy in search of a friend who meets up with a young lady named Mitza (Josephine Borio), and her brother, Tip (Frankie Darro). The actual tyrant of the region is named Ivan Petrovitch (Harry Woods), and Tom first encounters this foreigner when he catches the man beating a small boy, rescues the child then pummels Ivan. Ivan acknowledges to having met his physical match, and invites Tom with Tip and Mitza for a horseback ride through the mountains. Tom however gets ambushed, is separated from his new friends and must rescue them after they are taken in by Ivan and his henchman, Boris Kosloff (Serge Temoff). Held prisoner in a cave in the mountains, Tom manages to free himself, and risks his life in order to set his friends free, including the one he originally set out to look for. In addition to that, Tom also discovers the gold mine that Ivan was hoarding, and returns the stolen wealth to the small community. As “The Sorcerer”, Ivan is a diabolical terror, sinister, and very manipulative, leading our hero into an unexpected trap from which lies an uncertain escape.

There are a few interesting factors that come into play here: the heavy has an obvious Russian sounding name, while two members of the cast were foreign born: Josephine Borio was born in Turin, Italy, and Serge (Sergei) Temoff was born in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China. A cinema ad from Palladium Item, Richmond, IN, September 6, 1929 provides the tagline for “Tyrant of Red Gulch”, "A story of a mysterious terror - of unseen death and unerring vengeance". While Ivan appears to have the upper hand in the story, Tom and Frankie have just as many tricks up their sleeve in order to counter the forces they are up against. Magic themes aside, the battle between good and evil continues in this western mystery, whether it is known as “Valley of Superstition”, “Tyrant of Red Gulch” - or “The Sorcerer.”