Category Archives: Western Tales

Llorona on TPT

I’ve long enjoyed writing Joaquin Murrieta stories for middle schoolers. I completed “Llorona”, the tenth such, this year and was greatly honored when it won the recent Who’s Afraid of the Dark contest on Scribophile. I’ve since created reading fluency activities for it and put them up on TPT. I encourage all you teachers out there to take a peek:

“Llorona” was recently honored by being included in the Bewildering Stories 3rd Quarterly Review of best stories. 

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Llorona is in Bewildering Stories!

Central California historical anecdotes and local legends have inspired and informed many of my stories, especially those including Joaquin Murrieta. The Los Burros gold mining area has many ghostly tales and it is the setting for this story. Joaquin rides in to Manchester, a mining camp in the Santa Lucia, to search for a missing woman. He finds her and a treasure, as well.

P.S. A spoiler – Manchester really did burn down, but no one knows the true cause.

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My Darling Clementine

Bob & Phoebe

Phoebe Cheney and I before the 4th graders arrived – Photo by Joan Ungs

San Lorenzo County Park near King City is an underappreciated (at least by many) treasure and the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum is its crown jewel. The museum took a really big hit on May15th, literally so. A hundred year old, seven feet in diameter eucalyptus tree tried to take the roof off the barn at about six in the evening. It failed – by a little – and nobody was around to be hurt. The folks at MCARLM had scheduled a big, three-day historical event for local kids beginning on the 16th. Everyone pulled up their bootstraps and we went ahead with the presentations. Local 4th graders put their hands (tongues, ears, stomachs, feet and everything else!) on the history of our gold rush. I got to be a 49er and introduce them to Clementine’s boyfriend. You know the guy: “How I missed her! Until I kissed her little sister!”

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Ghosts at San Lorenzo Park

The MCARLM campfire and story-telling event down at San Lorenzo Park on October 25th  was great fun. Thanks to Raye Ann and Motoko for helping me present Amanda Miller’s spooky poem! I also got to share “Black Maggie’s Secret” around the campfire – the best home for any ghost story! Joaquin Murrieta rides again!559515_10201843624932139_715108151907976268_n

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Joaquin’s Gold is on TPT


“Joaquin’s Gold” is a western adventure set in 19th Century California. Its main character is Joaquin Murrieta, the famous bandit. It’s based on Central California legends and is set in Pinnacles National Park. I wrote it for my 8th grade students thirty years ago and have rewritten it many times since.  Beryl Belsky kindly published the story on her Writer’s Drawer website, but the link is no longer available

I’ve made both the story’s text and a common core short story unit for “Joaquin” available on the TPT site:

Joaquin has become one of my favorite characters.  I’ve written eight stories for him and for California long before freeways.  I hope to make them all available for teachers in the next few years!

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Joaquin Murrieta Rides Again

As you folks know by now, I have an abiding interest in historical fiction.  One of my ongoing projects (just entering its fourth decade!) centers on Joaquin Murrieta.  The legendary bandit is one of my favorite characters and I’ve put him back in the saddle three times this year.  One of those stories, “The Wreck of the Annabelle Lee”, was awarded second place in Moonlight Mesa’s annual Cowboy Up western fiction contest.  Becky Coffield is the editor and publisher of Moonlight Mesa and I very much appreciate her work in organizing this contest.  It affords me a yearly opportunity to send Joaquin back into the California night.  Of course, I’ve hoped for more than thirty years now that I can interest someone in publishing a collection of his adventures.  I’ve written a quite respectable number of them and I even enjoy reading them myself!  That’s not something a writer can always say.


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Joaquin Murrieta

Two short stories of mine appear in a new book, Award-Winning Tales, complied by R.L. Coffield. The collection was recently mentioned in the Salinas Californian. With permission from Robert Walch, the commentary appears below.

> Local connection: King City resident Robert Walton, a community columnist for The Salinas Californian, contributed two short stories for this anthology of Western short fiction. Walton’s fiction has been published by the Sierra Club’s Ascent and his poetry has appeared in High magazine, Loose Scree and in The Climbing Art.

> Content: Both of Walton’s short stories in this collection of Western fiction feature legendary bandit Joaquin Murrieta. In the first tale, “Indio,” Murrieta takes it upon himself to deal with a Ute renegade named Indio who has been on a rampage.

When Murrieta discovers a family whom Indio has butchered, the bandit buries the victims and then mutters to himself, “Indio, it is time we met.”

What follows is the account of how the clever but aged outlaw lures Indio into an ambush. Unfortunately, the renegade is as wily as Murrieta and both men pay a price when the lead begins to fly.

Walton shuns a pat ending and leaves a little room for doubt at the conclusion of the story. One man is seriously wounded and the other — well, we aren’t quite sure what will ultimately happen to him. As Murrieta says, “The desert will finish Indio. Or it won’t. We’ve done what we could.”

In the second story, “Navidad,” Walton portrays his aging protagonist in a totally different light. Murrieta meets a young couple and their baby on the trail one evening and discovers the child is deathly ill.

Realizing they need assistance, he takes them to the cabin of a man he just met and the two men are able to lend the couple a hand with bringing down the infant’s fever.

The total opposite of “Indio,” this story shows a completely different side to Murrieta and it underscores his ability to quickly and accurately judge individuals he encounters on his journeys.

In this case, it is the accidental meeting with the man who owns the isolated cabin who is the individual Murrieta “connects” with. The need to assist the young couple just shows how well the two men understand one another.

> Audience: Anyone who enjoys Western fiction will enjoy the selections in this anthology. Walton’s work is excellent and it’s no wonder Walton, a very gifted writer, has won a few awards for his stories.

> Robert Walch of Monterey writes about Central Coast Authors for the Arts & Books page Saturday in The Salinas Californian. Contact him in care of Central Coast Authors, The Salinas Californian, 123 W. Alisal St., Salinas 93901; fax to 754-4293; or e-mail to

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