I have often lamented that most of the weird western stories sent to me for the projects I edit are what I call "Walking Badge" stories. I coined that term as the central character is always some sheriff. He is not even remotely developed as a character. And the story goes downhill from there. It would be nice if they'd use an army provost marshal or something now and then--but no. It's always some sheriff.
So, here comes Dry Gulch, the new anthology I'm editing. This one's a little different in that the stories all take place in Dry Gulch, Colorado. There is a sheriff in two of the stories--one from the nearby town of Pronghorn who's sweet on the local school teacher. And a sheriff from New Mexico comes by looking for some bandits. Here's the thing that surprised me: Not only was the concept of some sheriff very limited, but the most popular character by far is Henry--the town drunk. I was very pleasantly surprised.
Now, back to sheriffs for a moment. Dry Gulch has a town marshal as most incorporated towns did. And that's what ticks me off with this sheriff crap. Sheriffs are usually elected and police unincorporated counties. Most towns were policed by town marshals hired by the mayor or town council. They're not the same thing. But twits writing these stories don't seem to know that. In Tombstone where an overrated gunfight was once fought, Virgil Earp was town MARSHAL. That's Virgil, not Wyatt Earp and marshal, not sheriff. Wyatt ran for sheriff and lost the election. He was deputized by his brother as a deputy marshal. But that's not how most people would re-tell the story if I had Tombstone Tales instead of Dry Gulch.
But rant and rave all I want, I doubt it'll make any difference.
Okay, so the town drunk is the most popular character. The second most popular character is Wendy, the owner of the saloon. She beat out an alien piano player. Yep, Dry Gulch is a happening place. And, right in the middle of all the action is Henry Steelman, the town drunk. I am so happy.
And there's no crooked rancher trying steal somebody's land, either. But we have an alien piano player.