Greeting sports fans and welcome back to yet another thrilling episode of Vegas Valley Sports Beat; that irreverent little sports column that dares to poke the mainstream, pay for play propaganda media machine in the eye with a sharp stick. Or in this case with an ink pen.

The sun is just now coming up, promising another beautiful day in paradise, here in the Las Vegas Valley region. The winds are calm for a change, but the day is still young so get out there and enjoy it while you can. There is a slight chill in the air this morning so you will want to wear something light and warm until the sun warms up in about an hour.

Turning now to sports news, the Oakland Athletics are rumored to be eyeing a move to our fair city. An unsubstantiated rumor that I just started has it that they’re stalking the former Oakland Raiders who may or may not have left their long time, albeit part-time, home in Oakland, California in order to get away from the A’s and put some distance between them while they work things out. Speculation has it that the Las Vegas Raiders might seek a restraining order.

Haha! April fools.

I know it’s a month late but so what? It’s been a rough year, one must get one’s yucks where one can.

According to a recent report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Oakland A’s are eyeballing a property in Vegas where they think they might one day build a new ballpark. I for one think it’s straight aces if they do.

I’m sure all of their fans in Oakland must be miffed to say the least, but I can certainly understand how the A’s must feel. The last time I was in Oakland I couldn’t wait to leave either. It’s only to be expected when a once great city has deliberately turned itself into a third world shithole that wallows in its own filth like a mindless pig.

Yeah I said it, what about it? It wasn’t true you wouldn’t be mad would you? Nope.

As always please send all hate mail, death threats, marriage proposals, etc to my Editor-in-chief in Chief.

Do I digress? Nope. Not in the slightest. In fact that segues perfectly into the topic of the day which is a review of an exceptionally book titled ” Brutal Minds.” written by Dr Stanley K. Ridgley Ph.D. the following excerpt is from www.brutalminds.com and I think it speaks for itself.

Much of American academia constitutes a dark world.It is populated by subsidized paranoiacs, amateur psychotherapists, neo-Marxist totalitarians, “student affairs professionals” imbued with authoritarian mentality, and thought reformers who violate federal law against human subject experimentation as they assault young students in “workshops.” Their goal is to destroy family ties to clear the way for new relationships grounded in racialist ideology.These are the university’s “brutal minds.”The American university is a sanctuary where brutal minds find purpose, protection, camaraderie, subsidy, anonymity, and power.All of this occurs behind an educational façade that masks their activities and ideology. BRUTAL MINDS strips away the façade of the modern American university to reveal the power inside the institution — the largely anonymous authoritarians who constitute the coercive gears and cogs of the machine; they turn the crank on the ideological grinders that process young people into a prefab conception of the Good Citizen, a 21st century version of the Soviet-style “New Man,” who is transformed with the proper application of “education” and coercion.Brutal Minds calls us to action to halt this anti-intellectual takeover of higher education and to restore the greatness of one of Western civilization’s most brilliant creations, the American University.

This superlatively written, if not completely disturbing, work of nonfiction describes in detail the dark world of left-wing brainwashing that is currently going on in our American universities, and how they were subjugated by a small group of wannabe educators in the name of Communism for the implementation of totalitarianist rule.

My first takeaway from this book is that Dr Ridgley clearly knows his subject. He has laid it all bear within the confines of the book’s 247 pages, including the afterword, and he does so brilliantly, while firing on all cylinders.

My second takeaway from this book was how Dr Ridgley shows the parallel between sending your child to be brainwashed and indoctrinated into a cult, and sending them to a liberal run University. Clearly that is exactly what you’re doing if you enroll your child in the wrong University. He said I would be surprised and that was the one surprise that I found.

From the well thought out forward to the final conclusions, the admixture of AP writing style is exemplary enough to make “Brutal Minds” stand out like a sore thumb in a day and age when everybody and their brother is writing a tell-all book about the corruption of power and the power of corruption. The same power that is seeking to destroy every American institution from within and destroy America itself for the sake of the Chinese Communist Party.

For style points alone, “Brutal Minds” is an outstanding example of how to handcraft a work of well researched nonfiction on any subject. Fledgling writers and journalists as well as experienced ones would do very well to study this style and emulate it. Add to that the sharp, pithy, and concise narrative voice of a highly educated author who knows his subject well, and “Brutal Minds” stands alone in my estimation.

I was asked to read and review the book by Dr ridgely himself, and being somewhat knowledgeable of the subject already, I quickly agreed. Being as I was, curious to read his take on the indoctrination camps that we used to call Universities once upon a time. Before we all got played that is.

With the exception of my building code books I do not typically highlight or underline key phrases and paragraphs in any of my books because the librarians get really mad when I do that. But I underlined many paragraphs in “Brutal Minds” and I wrote down a large number of cliff notes in the margins of my personal copy. I did this because time after time, Professor Ridgley hits the nail squarely on the head, sharply and concisely. Driving cold steel facts, and inescapable truths into the heart of the matter. Specifically the manner in which a cadre of amateur psychologists and would be educators armed with master’s degrees in advanced frisbee theory have nearly succeeded in usurping the traditional role of the University professor all together for themselves.

He goes from what is happening, to how it’s happening, straight to the consequences this deliberate subversion will have on the American University’s only stock and store. The student body.

It’s one thing to know that something this evil is going on right under your nose, it’s quite another to read a book like “Brutal Minds” and see how it is being done, and by whom. The alarming rate at which this cancer of communist socialism is spreading throughout America’s universities is second only to the fact that these left-wing-nut lunatics have now spread their disease to all of America’s schools. The end result of allowing this policy to continue unchecked is completely unthinkable to any right thinking person.

You can’t fool all of the people all of the time as President Abraham Lincoln so famously warned the exact same liberal Democrats that have now sold us all down the river to their masters in China. And they don’t even try to deny it because they simply don’t care. That is how arrogant they are in their own ignorance.

Another virus straight out of Beijing is what it all amounts to. First it was Covid-19, and now we have a hivemind virus loose in America trying to infect everyone. If you don’t accept the infection then you are a subversive. You are a problem, you are resistance, you must be dealt with harshly. I think Brain Hives is a more a more appropriate name for it because socialism is in fact a contagious mental illness, and it is spreading like wildfire. Don’t you think it’s time to put that fire out once and for all? I do.

Socialism in every form and facet has failed miserably every single time and place that it has reared its ugly head. And everybody knows that including them. Regardless of what mask it wore at the time the only purpose of socialism has been to enslave rape rob pillage and plunder whatever nation fell under its spell. Including the mighty Roman empire. During world War II , socialism came back disguised as fascism, and now it is disguised as anti-fascism just as Winston Churchill predicted.

All one has to do is look at what they are doing to see who the true fascists are here. Those people who are yelling that everything is about racism and white supremacy are the biggest racists in the world.

How is it that the majority of people destroying things with their peaceful protests are white? Feel free to try to prove me wrong but it seems to me that those would be the white supremacists because they are trying to lord their philosophy over everyone through violence and social media intimidation. Clearly they are completely and irrevocably insane, or they think we are which is what crazy people do they project their insanity onto everyone else.

That is the very definition of insanity. To point at something evil and call it good, or to point at something good and call it evil when everyone knows better. They’re just too scared to say so. I however do not suffer from that affliction. I call bullshit.

Doing something so deliberately evil, to do it knowingly, and with such malicious intent aforethought however, makes it the single most egregious crime against humanity in all of human history. Second only to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.

For those of you who have failed to learn from history because your history teacher said it was racist, or you ditched history class to attend a peaceful protest. You know, the kind that resulted in an unspeakable amount of murder, property damage, retail theft, and outright evil being done to innocent people of all ethnicities? Specifically, to every last American citizen and every last person in the world?

Now hear this.

Adolph Hitler was a socialist. Who was he trained to be a socialist by? By Benito Mussolini, who was also a socialist. Look where they took their nation’s and the entire planet. Into the first nuclear war. Now they are trying to push us into total nuclear world war. The only thing that leads to is assured mutual destruction of the entire Earth. There will be no living through it. It will mean the end of everything.

The same evil people are now spewing the same tired old propaganda, the same tired old slogans, selling us the same tired old rehashed, redefined and rebranded whoop tickets. They are not only in control of Germany again now but they are also in control of most, if not all of the same nations that banded together and defeated them in 1944. At the cost of only 55 million lives. Mass murder is the hallmark of socialism. If they don’t have a common enemy they eat their own.

Here here they are back again, and they’re taking us right back down the same tired old garden path to the same old cattle cars waiting in the freight yards to take us to the showers for internment and “reeducation.” They want to take our children to separat re-education camps as well and I’m pretty sure we can all figure out what will happen to them there.

Pedophiles love this policy because it lets them have access to your children who are being brainwashed. They call themselves pedagogues and they’re their brand of pedophilia is called pedagogy. Now hear this too. For approximately 50 years the German government subsidized pedagogy knowing full well what it was. We covered that in a previous article.

From here to there, now just as then, that broad path is the road that leads straight to Hell. Back then it was the road to Auschwitz. Back then the Jewish people were the target of their hatred because their brand of insanity requires a common enemy. Now they want concentration camps for American political opposition and they don’t mind calling for it openly at all. If you voted for Donald Trump, or if you support him you belong in a concentration camp as far as they’re concerned. If you oppose their political agenda at all, then you belong in a concentration camp. If you believe in free speech then you are a white supremacist and you belong in a concentration camp. At least they are finally being honest about it, but they are are still stark raving, bug-eyed lunatics.

Their blind hatred based focus group now is white people, and an ambiguous specter they call white supremacy, when in reality, in the world they wish for, being a person of color and a dollar won’t even get you a decent cup of coffee.

In their world you are either a politician, a bureaucrat, or a slave. If you are a politician or a bureaucrat, then you are an indentured slave, but a slave nonetheless. Bought and paid for by the state that owns you.

In our case we have a would-be master whom I will not name here, but his initials are Xi.

Everybody knows it so give it up dude. A Communist takeover, or Chinese incursion into America is not going to happen in yours or anyone else’s lifetime so forget it. There are no snowflakes in the US Special forces and the U.S. Army stands ready to repel all boarders.

Do I digress?


That is the road we are on as a nation and as a species. The human race is racing headlong for a cliff. We (we being the subjective case), are blindly following a flock of Lemurs to our extinction with our eyes wide shut.

Dr Ridgley makes a number of great arguments in “Brutal Minds” and the greatest of these, in my opinion, is that this malignancy has now found its way “out of its petri dish.” For decades it has been growing, mostly unchecked in darkness, spreading its tentacles through federal, state, and local bureaucracies from the top down. Now that they are in control what do they want to do with this great nation of ours? They want to burn it all down. It does not belong to them and that’s not going to happen. Word to mother.

The power of the unelected over the educated is given to them with the blessings of the ignorant in Congress who are sworn not to do any such thing under penalty of death, so help them God.

Woke liberals and other mindless fools claim that they are all about love, social justice and, the love of so called social justice, but what they are doing has nothing that even remotely resembles love nor Justice for anyone but themselves to it. Not even that, because in the end they too become slaves of the state. In point of fact it is the polar opposite of Love or Justice. They know they are full of crap but as long as enough people are too scared to speak up they keep getting away with it.

As Professor Ridgley correctly points out in “Brutal Minds,” totalitarian control of America and subsequently the world, is the end game here.

If you are rich and down with the elite then ” Brutal Minds ” will probably delight your warped sense of humor to no end. If, however, you are one of the eight billion poor slobs like myself who are working two jobs and homeless anyway even with a college degree except unlike me you are working to put your children to college so they might have a better life for themselves, then I submit that you really need to read ” Brutal Minds ” before you put any more of your children onto cattle cars. Stop, look, and listen. See for yourself, and know thine enemy as well as you know thyself.

Caveat Emptor; Cav`e Canum. – Let the buyer beware, beware of wolves.


The Apprentice – Book 1 – The Calling Chapter 28

Early the next morning when Shane awoke the cloud cover was still overhead. At least the snow had stopped falling and the wind had blown itself out. It was still cold being so early, so he built his little fire back up from the smoldering cinders and fixed porridge. A nice bit of cured bacon that he wedged between two cold biscuits, and cup of hot tea made it a fine little breakfast to travel on. “The Moon will be full this evening” he said to the stallion.

Dark Star slowly nodded his head, and snorted loudly in agreement. Nobody had to explain to him what that portended. “We’ll be safe down there in the timber as long as we don’t show ourselves or make any light. Don’t you think so star?” Shane asked, the fear and hope in his voice made it rise an octave higher than normal. The brave stallion did not show the fear he held deep in his heart for the dragon could not agree more heartily. They would be safe indeed.

Dark Star had gone out during the night to determine the whereabouts of the outlaws, Brill, and Crandall. He followed their trail by the foot prints in the snow. To the mouth of Morloch’s cave and was immediately assaulted by the unmistakable stench of fire and brimstone.

Two of the primary ingredients necessary for making dragon fire. The key element was being a dragon. The stench of death that lay heavy within the cave told the horse the rest of the outlaw’s tale. They had unknowingly chosen to take shelter from the storm in the lair of the horse thieving man eater, Morlock the Terrible. They had met their fates in the form of the old dragon himself.

Without any further ado, Dark Star backed away from the cave entrance quickly, but quietly. Being careful lest he should arouse the evil old worm and share their fate on his plate. The old warhorse gave them no more thought save that it couldn’t have happened to two more deserving fellows than Brill and Crandall.

He couldn’t imagine how anyone would ever miss them, or that anybody would ever even think to come looking for them on the remote summit of Mount Thunder. Unless of course it was the local Sheriff, and a lynch mob or two.

Shane quickly finished his breakfast so he could brush Star, and the sisters down real good before he broke camp. He was eager to get an early start down the mountain. He was anxious to get down to the tree line where the horses could get grass and water. They’d had to go most of the previous day and night without either one. The rarefied mountain air was cold and brisk, but the wind was almost still as they picked their way slowly downhill.

The heavy white clouds over their heads soon gave way to blue skies and warm sunshine. By the time they reach the timberline again Shane had been forced to take off most of his heavy wool garments. Well before the noon hour arrived they came to a fertile glen that had an over abundance of grass growing there amidst the trees and shrubs. Shane stopped there for lunch to allow the horses to graze before they made their way down to the valley floor. They made excellent time due to the fact they were traveling down hill the whole way.

The valley between the mountains before them was many miles wide. That meant that they would have a nice gentle climb up into the foothills of the mountain ahead. Shane chose a campsite on the Northern side of a river that was shallow, but wide. he crossed first in case it rained during the night and kept them from crossing in the morning. That’s what he told Star anyway.

They were camped in a tiny clearing that had standing hay in it for the horses to feed on and they took right to it. Shane cooked his supper before the had sun fully set in the West. He then extinguished the little campfire and covered it completely with dirt. This in anticipation of the full moon when Morlock the Terrible would be on the prowl.

“He isn’t going to get us Star,” Shane said bravely. A lot more so than he actually felt just then. Even so, he believed they were safe enough hidden there in the darkness beneath the trees. To help ease Shane’s obvious anxiety, Dark Star agreed heartily with him. Secretly, he had his own doubts, but he would never allow any kind of fear to show in front of the boy. Night fell and they were lolling around doing nothing, when suddenly all three horses picked up their heads and perked up their ears. They were focused on a sound that was clearly well beyond the range of Shane’s hearing.

“What is it Star, what do you hear? Is it Morlock, is he coming?” He asked the stallion who shook his head, no, before he went back to listening to the keen wailing on the wind. “Whatever it is you hear, does it sound dangerous?” Sean scarcely more than whispered. But Star only snorted impatiently and returned to listening. He couldn’t tell what it was. Then with no more than a whinny, Star took off into the night at a dead run headed Southwest toward the river. All Shane could do was sit there in the dark and wait for the stallion to return. Hopefully he would find out what the big mystery was all about then. He didn’t have to wait more than an hour before Star returned and the big mystery was indeed finally cleared up.

When Dark Star finally did return, Shane was astonished to see three donkeys walking behind him, single-file. All three of the small, gray donkeys were trailing picket ropes from their halters, and they look like they had spent the night running blindly through dense underbrush with the devil hot on their heels. From what they told Dark Star when he found them hopelessly tangled up in thorn bushes where they’d been snared by their picket ropes that’s pretty much what happened.

After Star freed them by chewing through their ropes, the donkeys told Star how they’d come into the sad state of affairs he’d found them in from start to finish. They were able to fill the blanks in for him as to the fate of their last owners. Two brutish men whom they only described as ‘two smelly, nasty human beings.’ Star easily deduced that the two smelly, nasty humans could be none other than Brill and Crandall. They told Star about the white thunderstorm they’d been in on top of Mount Thunder. He was already familiar with that part, of course, and they told him how the smelly humans tried to drag them into Morloch’s cave where they could smell the overpowering stench of death emanating from somewhere deep inside the mountain, and how they’d refused to go in.

From their story, Dark Star was able to deduce they had been with Brill and Crandall atop Mount Thunder the night before. At times all three of the donkeys were trying to tell the story at once. They spoke animatedly of how they had been able to smell Morloch whose scent all horses learn to recognize very early on in their lives. They spoke in hushed tones about the terrible roar, and the wall of flames that had erupted from the mouth of the cave shortly after the two smelly humans had gone inside.

The remainder of their story was mainly about how they had run helter-skelter down the mountainside in the dark after they had broken their picket ropes. They’d gotten lost in the dense undergrowth on the valley floor and subsequently became hopelessly entangled in the thorn bush where they stayed until Star found. The rest of the story we all know as did the black stallion.

They said their names were Racer, Packer, and Bill but since all donkeys look nearly identical, Star had no idea which one was which so he decided to call all three of them Bill for the sake of convenience. The three were not closely related like Jenny and Vanna who were sisters. Donkeys have a peculiar way of tracing their family ties that defy human comprehension. Suffice it to say that Racer was Bill’s Uncle, Bill was Packers Niece (twice removed), and Packer was Racers grandfather on his mother’s side and leave it at that since it really makes no difference anyway. 

When Star return to camp leading the three donkeys, Shane was flabbergasted. “More animals!? He cried. “I swear, you must be a horse thief, Star.” Shane admonished the old warhorse, but Star denied all charges with a shake of his great head until Shane agreed to let the donkeys stay.

“But only until we can find their real owners.” Shane warned the stallion. Star tossed his head in vigorous agreement. “And don’t go ‘finding’ any more horses for the duration of this journey, okay?” He pleaded, but the stallion chose to pretend he hadn’t heard a word of it. He walked off to rejoin the donkeys and lead them to the meadow where they could feed. They hadn’t eaten during the long hours spent climbing Mount Thunder, nor at any time since they had escaped from Brill and Crandall. Shane set up late into the night keeping a wary eye on the full moon as it crossed the Heavens overhead. He was looking for any signs of the dragon, but since the Morlock family had already been well fed by the two plump turkeys that had conveniently perched themselves upon their very doorstep, there was no reason for the evil old worm to leave the snug confines of his lair. Morloch The Terrible was nowhere to be seen that night.

As soon as he awoke the next morning Shane had a light breakfast, and saddled the horses. Moving quickly because he wanted to make up some of the time they had lost due to him sleeping in that day. He’d stayed awake most of the night watching the sky for Morlock, and had overslept.

“Having a blanket pulled over my head so I couldn’t tell the sun was up didn’t help anything either, STAR!” Shane said, accusingly. Dark Star gave him an almost credible version of the classic who, me look. A look perfected by small children and other miscreants of that nature over many centuries.

“Yeah you,” Shane growled your guilty face doesn’t keep your secrets very well, Star. “With a long face like that I’d say your days as an actor and as a criminal are numbered at best. Shane thought the stallion was going to continue following the overland route through the mountains, but when he set his face to climb the next mountain, The stallion surprised him and took them Eastward along the riverbank.

“Sometimes I wish you could talk, Star so you could tell me what the devil you are thinking.” Shane told the horse. “At least then I would not feel like a will-of-the-wisp caught up in a whirlwind all the time.” Dark Star merely looked back at him with one coal black eye but said not a single word. A short knicker was all he got. The equestrian equivalent of a chuckle.

Shane discovered the reason for the change of direction just after taking a break for lunch. Shane had decided to unsaddle Star and the sisters and let them have a roll in the grass. He wanted to give them some time to splash around in the river and wash the accumulated sweat and dirt from their hides. Shane brushed them down and let them dry in the warm sunshine before re-saddling them and resuming the journey. Around 2:30 that afternoon they emerged from the thick forest and found themselves back on the road. The same one they had left ten days before on account of Brill and Crandall.

“Ah, now I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.” Shane quipped as the light of comprehension dawned on his brain. Star snorted loudly, otherwise he said nothing more concerning his opinion on that subject. The little party traveled North on the highway for the remainder of the day, and by sunset they were high above the foothills of Mount Baldy. So named because it’s treeless domed peak resembled the rounded pate of a bald man. Normally, Shane would have stopped much sooner, but with six grazing animals to feed in his little troupe he was forced to find a spot with grass and water. He figured it would mean he’d have to spend another night without a fire, but the moon would still be full, and bright enough to see by. It wasn’t cold so Shane didn’t mind the thought of a cold camp. He was dog tired so he would just go to bed early.

And so on they went searching for a meadow close-by the roadside. It was just past sunset when Shane spied a light flickering through the trees just ahead of them. Hey, Star, he said to the horse, “it looks like we might have some company tonight. If that’s not those two clowns, Brill and Crandall that is. He added darkly. The stallion shook his black mane as if to say he rather doubted it.

“Oh.” Said Shane who kind of got the message. “I sure hope we don’t run into those two characters again don’t you?” He asked and the black stallion had to agree on principle if nothing else. When they got to the next turn in the road the thick forest opened out on both sides of the roadway where it ran through a large, grassy meadow. A burbling stream ran through it and cross the road on its way down the mountain.

In the valley it would eventually join the river they had camped beside that very morning. The campfire Shane had seen flickering through the trees was clearly visible now, being so close to the road. Shane saw that the fire was built on the closer bank of the stream itself. In the soft light of the setting sun, the boy could see that there were two men seated beside the fire. As he got closer he saw to his alarm that both of the men were wearing the long brown robes of Friars, and both of them had large wooden crosses hung around their necks. At first glance Shane thought they were Brill and Crandall and he pulled up sharply on Star’s reins. “Whoa, boy.” He whispered. “That is Brill and Crandall there! Look, Star!” He whispered softly in the stallions ear, but the war horse snickered and began walking towards the two men unbiddden. The northeasterly wind was blowing their scent directly into Dark Star’s keen nostrils. Given his first-hand knowledge of Brill, and Crandall’s final moments on Earth, and the fact he knew that they were currently touring the digestive system of one very nasty old dragon it meant that the two men before them were definitely not the same malodorous pair of miscreants as before. The men were complete strangers to his eyes. Shane tried to get the horse to stop but I’m sure you can imagine how that turned out. When the stallion got it into his mind to do something he did it regardless of what anyone thought about it. The two strangers had long-since heard them coming. As if they could help but hear 24 hooves striking the road at the same time even from a mile away. They’d both risen from the stones upon which they were seated o see who was coming up the road at such a late hour.

“Hello there strangers!” One of the men called out to Shane, who could tell by then that the men were definitely not Brill and Crandall.

“Hello yourselves strangers, but there is only one stranger here I’m afraid.” Shane replied.

“Well, stranger, you can’t ride all night long you know. Come down from there and share our fire with us friend.” The other man said, warmly.

“Thank you, sir, I believe I will,” Shane said, returning the smiles and warmth in equal measure. Just then, Bill, the real, Bill not Bill the second, or Bill the Third, began braying quite loudly at the rear of the little procession. He’d recognized the voice of his master, Brother Leo.

“I declare, that surely does sound like the voice of old Bill himself doesn’t it, Brother George?” Brother Leo asked his companion.

“Aye, and for certain it does at that, Brother Leo.” Brother George admitted with no little astonishment.

“I think I would know the sound of my own ass after all these years, wouldn’t you Brother George?” Brother Leo asked Brother George who confessed that, “one might certainly hope so,” as Shane and his long line of wayward livestock came to a halt right in front of them. Brother Leo rushed over to the little gray donkey named Bill and looked at him for a moment in the Silvery moonlight. His features were simultaneously hidden and highlighted by the golden glow of the light of the campfire. Suddenly he threw his arms around the little donkey’s neck and began shouting tearfully. “Bill! You’ve come back to us! It’s a miracle! The Lord be praised our Bill has come back to us! And look here, Brother George, there’s Racer and now here’s Packer too!” he exclaimed with great wonder resonating in his voice.

“I’m guessing those two know each other already, Star.” Sean whispered to the black stallion who tossed his head in agreement. Then is when it all began coming back to Shane, and he recalled the story Brill had related to him the night before just before Shane put the monkey spell on him and let him go. He hadn’t believed even half of what the thief had told him, but now here was living proof that at least some of the story had been truthful.

Before Shane could dismount, Brother Leo walked up to him leading Bill the Donkey. Pray thee tell us lad” he asked, looking up into , Shane’s eyes with unhidden suspicion. “How, and where did you come into the position of these three donkeys?”

“To tell you the truth I didn’t really.” Shane replied. “It was Star here who found them somewhere down in the valley below. He found them somewhere last night but under what circumstances I could not imagine, for I honestly don’t know. All I really do know about them is what the man who tried to rob and murder me on top of Mount Thunder told me about inheriting three donkeys from two Friars in Gallows Gap. Wherever that is,” Shane explained.

“The two men said they inherited them did they? Brother Leo snorted derisively. Aye, and sure enough they stole them from us is the truth of that matter, lad.” Brother George told Shane.

“Yes, well that’s about what I figured the truth of it was where those two men were concerned. Shane assured the monks.

“Aye, tis sooth,” Brother George stated firmly. “Well then lad, light down from your saddle and we’ll help you get the livestock settled in for the night. Then you can join us by the fire for some freshly-caught and roasted Speckled Trout on a stick.” Brother Leo told Shane with a lopsided grin.

“Speckled trout on a stick?” Shane wondered aloud.

“Yes, it’s all we have to cook with since those men stole everything we had.” Brother Leo explained.

“I see,” said Shane as he dismounted and begin removing Star’s saddle. Brothers Leo and George helped by unburdening Vanna and Jenny of their pack saddles. In short order, Star lead his loyal following out into the meadow for some long overdue grazing In the standing hay there. Meanwhile the humans sat down at the campfire to graze on some piping hot Speckled Trout-on-a-stick.

“My this is pretty tasty,” Shane said after testing his portion. “I’ve eaten nothing but trail rations ever since I left the Pig and Whistle Inn back in Northam.”

“Aye, did you hear that then, brother Leo? It seems that your opinion of my culinary skills are not shared by our young benefactor here,” brother George stated with a hearty chuckle.

“Sure, and that can only be because he has yet to taste your beastly rutabaga stew yet, brother George,” Brother Leo assured him before they all shared a rollicking laugh at the cook’s expense.

Eventually the conversation turned, as it was bound to sooner or later, to Brill, and Crandall, and how they had each come upon the grave misfortune of having met them. First the brothers listened in rapt attention, as only a monk can, while Shane told them about his journey. Beginning with his trip to the Mayre Woods and his meeting with the wizard, Choralys the White. He wrapped up his long tale with an account of the eleven days he’d just spent in the backcountry. A tale that began with the harrowing climb out of Spirit Horse canyon. He concluded with the telling of the violent white thunderstorm and his close encounter with Brill, and Crandall on the summit of Mount Thunder.

Shane even pulled out the broadsword Crandall had left behind after Dark Star had knocked backward him into the fire. He showed them the shattered remains of Brill’s sword as well. The two Friars wanted to know what had destroyed the sword so devastatingly, but since Shane had not seen the bolt of lightning that struck the Wizards old staff,, the best he could do was guess.

“Maybe it was forged from cheap steel or something. I really don’t have any idea what happened to it,” he confessed.

Next, it was brother George and Leo’s turn to relate how they had encountered the two Highwaymen. Starting from where they had been riding South through the narrow confines of Gallows Gap when the two men had literally fallen out of the sky and landed in the mud at their feet. From that point on the telling got a bit whimsical. The three travel-weary sojourners collapsed on the ground shaking all over from unstoppable fits of laughter when Brother Leo told Shane how they had thought the robbers were possessed by evil spirits and how they had made Holy mud with which to dispossess them.

By the time Brother George got to the part where Brill had tripped over his own buckler and fell face-down in the mud, the three of them were laughing so hard that the horses stopped grazing and stared at them like they had lost their minds. The only one of the animals that understood the humans was of course Dark Star, and he translated their stories into Equestrus. As the stallion related the human’s stories they listened with ears perked up in rapt attention.

“When you found our asses you didn’t also find any of the packs that were with them did you, my son?” Brother Leo asked when all tales of the now deceased highwaymen they’d all had the great misfortune to encounter were exhausted.

“No I wasn’t there when Star found them so I couldn’t tell you where he found them or if they had pack saddles when he did.” Shane said. “I don’t know if they escaped from Brill and Crandall on top of Mount Thunder, or if they escaped down in the valley. But, I do know that Star stole your donkeys away from them. We were on our way to a monastery in Branstead which is south of Shropshire, but we took a notion in our heads to come back this way looking for our asses and our belongings.” Brother Leo explained. Well at least we got our asses back anyway. Brother George sighed. “Aye, Brother George,” Brother Leo agreed. “We shall just have to trust in the good Lord to provide us with our sustenance and shelter until we get to the monastery then won’t we? He added.

“Aye,” Brother George agreed.

“No, I think not.” Shane chimed in suddenly as an idea occurred to him. What do you mean my son? Brother Leo and George asked, puzzled by Shane’s unclear meaning.

“Do you mean that the Lord will not provide for us?”

No, it’s not that at all, brother George.” Shane replied. “In fact, I believe that the Lord has already provided for you. You see, when Brill and Crandall left Northam they packed enough food to hold them over for a month or more.”

“Is that right?” Brother Leo asked thoughtfully.

“Yes,” Shane assured him. “I figure since they took all of your things and since I don’t need them I think you should take the mules and their packs and do with them as you will.”

” Are you serious, my son?”

“Very much so,” Shane assured him.

” Why God bless you my son, you are a true Saint!” Brother George exclaimed.

Aye, verily so! Brother Leo agreed. Verily so.

That being decided, Shane broke into the stores of the pack saddles and made tea for all of them in his tiny copper kettle. They sat up all night talking and laughing as the full moon sailed across the sky above.

Shane was dog tired and barely conscious near the end, but it had been two and a half weeks since he had spoken to another human being. He forced his eyelids to stay open well into the wee hours of the morning before they finally collapsed under their own weight. He nearly fell backward off of his rock from having fallen sound asleep so many times. All three men slept very late the next morning so it was closer to noon when Shane opened his eyes and found himself staring up at the underside of his own blanket.

“One of these days horse! One of these days,” He said to no one at all. But of course, he of the long black ears oh-so-keen was well within ear radar distance, and he gave Shane a short horsey laugh to let the boy know he’d heard him.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t call him a stupid horse this time,” Shane thought to himself. He’d already had more than his fill of being tossed into ice-cold creeks while he was sleeping. He was much too sound of a sleeper to have any chance of escaping the stallions wrath. He knew he would have to be careful of what he said, and how he said it in the future. Shane decided to lay there a while longer underneath the blanket with his eyes closed. That is, until he heard the heavy hoof falls of a big horse coming directly toward him. They stopped next to the palette where Shane lay.

“Go away star,” Shane muttered sleepily. He was beginning to contemplate going back to sleep, and perhaps even spending the whole day there fishing for speckled trout in the stream.

“Sorry, but, Shane doesn’t live here anymore, go away and try again tomorrow please. Thank you,” He said to the stallion he knew was standing directly over him. Of course Star had no intentions of going away, and trying again tomorrow.

Shane felt something nuzzling at his stomach and laughed out loud as he touched upon a ticklish spot. Stop it, you crazy horse!” He laughed. Then star took Shane’s his blanket between his teeth and yanked it off of him. Shane tried to hold onto the blanket but the thick ropy muscles of the big warhorses neck were nearly equal to the strength of Shane’s entire body combined.

“Ha ha!” Shane could hear, Brother George laughing at him. “Verily, your trusty steed thinks thee a slugabed, my son.” he observed as Dark star easily won the lopsided tug-of-war match and stripped Shane of his blanket.

“Aye, Brother George!” Shane laughed. If I want to rise early, he covers up my head with the blanket so I cannot see the sun come up. But if I wish to sleep in, he comes along and takes it from me.”

“Tis but as well that we should arise now, lad, for I see Brother Leo returning from his foraging expedition and it appears to mine eyes as though he had success finding our breakfast.” Shane set up in his palette lazily rubbing the sluggishness from his brain, and the lingering remnants of sleep from his eyes. 

“I see him brother George,” Shane said, “it looks like he found a lot of food too, whatever it might be.”

Meanwhile, Brother George had set to coaxing the fire back to life. To the sassy black stallion standing beside him with his blanket still in his teeth Shane said, menacingly, “I just hope you’re aware that this my friend means war?”

To which the war horse tossed his great head up and down vigorously causing his coal black mane to fly around along with Shane’s flailing blanket.

“Hey! You give me back my blanket!” Shane cried as he watched his blanket getting horse slobber all over it.

Dark Star whinnied, and tossed his head one last time before he let go of the blanket. It flew up like a magic carpet and then down it came settling over Shane’s head. It made him look like a ghost that had lost its sheet and been forced to haunt the meadow under an old saddle blanket.

“Oh yeah,” Shane said from beneath the blanket. “You had better believe that this means war indeed, Mister Dark Star.

The sound of the stallion prancing away and whinnying that all-too-familiar horse laugh rang defiantly in his ears as the stallion tried it away to rejoin the rest of the herd animals.

When Brother Leo returned to camp, Shane, and Brother George discovered he was carrying a big bunch of juicy ripe blueberries basketed in the folds of his robe. They were ripe and bursting with flavor.

“By the Lord, Brother Leo!” Brother George exclaimed. “Pray tell, where did you find these wonderful blueberries?”

“Seek and ye shall find, Brother George,” Brother Leo said cryptically, “seek and ye shall find.”

“Verily so Brother,” Shane agreed while brother George made it unanimous. The three men feasted on biscuits with honey butter and fresh blueberries, and Shane added some smoked bacon from his own meager food stores.

When they had eaten their fill, Brother Leo recited passages from the Bible that he had memorized. By the time Shane got back on his feet and took a bath in the cold mountain stream it was 2:30 in the afternoon. He decided along with, Brothers George, and Leo to stay there in the roadside meadow and rest for the remainder of the day.

That night was spent quite pleasantly in good company, and the following sunrise saw Shane and the Friars parting company to go their separate ways. They parted quickly with many prayers, and fond fare thee well wishes.

“It looks like it’s just you and me again now Star,” Shane told the warhorse.

Going the opposite direction, Brother George suddenly turned to his companion and said, “I could be wrong, Brother Leo, but methinks both of these mules are in a family way.”

“Aye,” Brother George said as they rode South. “I believe thou art rightly spoken, Brother Leo.”

Vanna and Jenny already knew it, of course. Both mules threw occasional glasses back along their trail at the now receding figure of the handsome black stallion. They watched him as best they could until the horse and rider were finally lost from their sight.

It took five more days of steady traveling before Shane and Dark Star finally descended the northern slope of the Thieron mountains on the 21st day of August. After two and a half weeks of climbing up and over the high reaches of that great mountain range.

That evening Shane rode into a tiny Hamlet called Vinton where he discovered that they had a very fine inn that featured hot baths in each room, and the stables were almost comfortable enough for the riders to lodge in. The place was called the Dewcome Inn, and they made such a complete fuss over Shane and Dark Star that, Shane told the Innkeeper, a short round jolly old soul named, Cerrol, that he’d decided to stay an extra day to rest up himself and his horse. Star had done all of the hard work carrying him safely over the treacherous mountain passes.

Two days later, on the morning of the 23rd, Shane ate a hearty breakfast in the cozy dining room, and after purchasing supplies he settled his bill, saddled Dark Star and they continued north toward Darvonshire. That night they made camp in a wooded spot near the roadway. Shane set up camp and fixed himself a hot meal complete with tea for dinner, then he took out his copy of The Apprentices Handbook Volume 1 and read some of it by firelight before he went to bed.

Shane was just putting the book back into his saddlebags when Dark Star’s head rose from the clover he was grazing on and he snorted loudly in alarm.

“What is it, Star?” Shane asked so quietly that only the horse could hear him. “What do you hear? Is there someone coming?” To the last question the warhorse nodded his head.

No sooner had he confirmed it than Shane heard the tramping of heavy booted feet approaching him. Suddenly a deep bass voice called out from the darkness,

“Hello there at the fire!” Before he could reply a literal giant of a man stepped into the light of the tiny campfire with the biggest hat held in the biggest hands, and he wore the biggest smile on the biggest face Shane had ever seen in his entire 13 years on the planet Earth.

The giant had a great unruly shock of red hair growing wild atop his massive head, and matching red beetle eyebrows. A massive red mustache covered his upper lip all the way down to his chin where he was successfully growing a very long, shaggy red beard. He was dressed quite curiously in an outfit comprised entirely of animal furs that were mainly wolf hides by the looks of them. On the Giants back there was slung a great crossbow that looked to be exceptionally lethal by dint of its size alone. The bolt was the size of a Roman spear, and it could easily take down even the largest grizzly bear. 

“Hello there, lad!” The red bearded giant hailed from the edge of the firelight where he stood. “Have ye got room for one more travel weary soul at your fire there my friend?” Shane was too stunned by the sudden appearance of the giant to properly process the information in his brain at first but then instincts took over. When a giant approaches you with a smile on his face do as the Romans do. Smile back at him and make him feel at home. The man’s voice, although it was deep and rough, sounded so good-natured that in spite of his initial weariness Shane heard himself saying to the big man, “Sure we do. Come on over and pull up a rock.” He said, idicating a small stone beside the fire.

“Ho ho ho!” The giant laughed, “I’m afraid my tender backside prefers the softer cushion of good old Mother Earth to a hard stone seat my young friend but thank you just the same. He added as he sat down upon the grass on the other side of the fire. He took off the heavy pack that he was carrying and laid it on the ground beside himself. “Ah! He sighed long, and loud as his big feet were relieved of their enormous burden. “My poor dogs have really taken a beating today I can tell you lad.” The giant laughed as he massaged his feet through the leather of his heavy boots.

“Why don’t you take your boots off then?” Shane wondered aloud.

“If I did that then my poor feet would swell up so big that I not be able to get my boots back on again,” the red giant explained.

“Oh, I see,” Shane said not at all sure that he did. He’d long since grown accustomed to riding the horse and so did not have such problems as sore feet at the end of the day. He only had a sore backside from the long hours that he spent in Dark Star’s saddle.

“Can I offer you something to eat mister, uh, what do I call you?”

” My friends call me Tim,” the giant said, “And no, thank you, lad I have my own supply of grub with me.” As though to prove it, the giant pulled a full leg of lamb from the pack and held it over the campfire for several minutes to warm it up before he attacked it like a starving bear. Which, Shane noted with no small amusement, he resembled very closely. Shane said very little, but he watched in fascination while the big man devoured the entire leg of mutton clean down to the bone. Then he sucked the marrow from it for good measure. Then he tossed the clean white bone over his shoulder where it landed far back in the woods behind him. “That’s for the Wolves to gnaw on lad,” he said with a laugh. “So lad,” he asked Sane next, “what brings you to such a lonely, far away spot as this?”

“I’m traveling to the home of my new master in Darvonshire where I will serve him as his Apprentice for a term of four years.” Shane replied.

“As his Apprentice, doing what, lad? As a knight’s Squire, a blacksmith, a farrier? The giant asked. No sir as a wizard. Shane replied. Tim’s bushy red eyebrows raised to their full height in wide-eyed wonder at the boys statement.

“Is that a fact, lad?” He asked quietly. “Is that the reason you’re carrying that staff there? He said indicating the staff lying beside Dark Star’s saddle.

“Sort of,” Shane replied. It once belonged to a wizard I once knew briefly named, Choralys The White.”

“You say you got it from the wizard Choralys, lad?”

“Yes, sir, that’s the one.”

“I knew Choralys from a time that was long ago and far, far away. How is it that you are carrying his staff now?” The red giant asked, leaning forward to hear the answer better.

“I found it near the site of his tomb, sir.” Shane replied gravely.

“His tomb you say?

“Yes, sir. He’s somehow caused a great and terrible blast that destroyed his home and his lab. The blast sealed it up forever inside the cave.”

“I see,” the Giant said, forlornly. “Indeed that is a shame, indeed it is, lad.” the Giant whispered softly as he bowed his head for a moment. With a great sigh he straightened up and pulled a great leather wine flask from his backpack. “He was a wise man and a great warrior, lad,” he said as he uncorked the wine skin. “Come now,” the big man said, “let us share a toast to the memory of that great wizard, Choralys the White.” That said the Giant took the wineskin in both hands and put it to his lips. He took a long great draft from its contents before he lowered it again. A satisfied sigh whistled gently through his lips. “Here you are then lad,” big Tim said recapping the wineskin and tossing it across the fire to Shane.

 Sean put up his hands to catch the wineskin flying at his face, and he caught it. But the prodigious weight of the giant wineskin hit him in the chest like a ton of bricks and sent him flying head over heels. He flew off of his rock seat and landed in the tall grass behind it. This, very much to the amusement of both the giant and the black stallion who had joined him in fits of raucous laughter. Shane’s somewhat strained voice came weekly back from somewhere in the tall weeds a moment later saying, “Got it!”

“Aye, and I’d say it got you too lad!” The giant laughed so hard he shook the trees around them to their roots.

“Yes, well, you forgot to mention that you keep 40 gallons of wine in here, Tim.” Shane pointed out as he picked himself up out of the grass and made his way back to the stone upon which he had been sitting.

“Do you need some help with that, lad?” Tim offered, seeing that Shane was struggling with it.

“No no. I think I can handle it okay,” Shane assured the giant as he uncorked the wine skin, and attempted to hoist it to his lips as the giant had done. The weight of the wine proved to be a bit too much for him to handle, However, and to Shane’s dismay he ended up wearing more wine than he drank.

“That there is what we call alcohol abuse laddie,” big Tim said, rising to give the boy a hand. “Here then, allow me to assist you before you drown yourself in my good wine.” The giant then held the wineskin aloft for Shane while he guided it to his lips himself. He drank a mighty draught that nearly matched that of the red giant.

By the time he pushed the wineskin away he could already feel the warm soft glow of the strong wine beginning to spread down into his belly like a slowly smoldering fire. “That’s wine?” He asked, with no small doubts.

“Well, yeah, for the most part it is, lad. It’s my own concoction of French wine and a well-aged Welsh Brandy thrown in to give it a little extra kick. Do you not like it, lad?” He asked, placing the spout to his own lips once more.

He took a second huge draught that Shane was sure would have been more than enough to put him out of commission for the evening. As unaccustomed as he was to drinking any sort of alcohol even at the ripe old age of 16. An age when most young men were already drinking.

“Ahhhh!” Big Tim sighed, happily smacking his lips as he lowered the now much lighter wineskin. “Now that is some good stuff there lad!” He boomed as he replaced the cork and returned the wineskin to his backpack.

From a side pouch the giant pulled out a much smaller bag that appeared to be made from a silver wolf’s hide. Had an intricately carved ivory pipe of giantish proportions inside of it, and he filled it with tobacco from the pouch. Taking a burning stick out of the fire, Tim placed it over the bowl and began puffing away at it with gusto.

“Now then,” he said settling down on the grass again. “What could be better for the soul than a good fire, good company, good wine, and a pipe in the cool of the evening?” He wondered aloud as he blew several large bluish gray smoke rings that flew out and over the campfire where they vanished in the smoke.

Shane was half in the bag by then from all of the fortified wine he had drank, and he allowed that he could not imagine anything better. Even though he did not smoke tobacco. Not since that one disastrous experiment that he and Tavian had made with a little bit of tobacco and a borrowed pipe out behind his father’s barn one fine day.

Shane had taken one big long drag from the pipe and inhaled it as Tavian had instructed him. He’d nearly choked to death while simultaneously attempting to vomit up his socks. He had turned eighteen colorful shades of green according to Tayvian. To make a bad situation far worse, his father had caught them when he heard Shane coughing and gagging out behind his barn and went to investigate. Tavian had gotten off easily with nothing but a stern reprimand. Shane was not quite so lucky.

Not only had his father not whipped him like he had expected, he had not even yelled at him. Instead he gave Shane his own pipe, and his tobacco pouch and he told him to smoke it. Shane made a feeble attempt to decline the offer but, Rande insisted. He filled the bowl for him and Shane knew he had no choice but to do as he was told so he lit it up and began puffing on it.

“No no, lad. You have to inhale the smoke like a man if you want to smoke like a man.” Rande had scolded him, so Shane inhaled it again. At first he was coughing and gagging, but, he soon got used to it, and found it to be somewhat agreeable. He even made a comment or two about the quality of the tobacco and how well the pipe smoked. When he had finished smoking that bowl his father filled the pipe up again and told him to smoke that too. His tone made it very clear that this was also an order, not a request.

Shane smoked that pipe load of tobacco, and by the time he was finished he was beginning to feel a little woozy. Rande, however, was not through teaching the boy his lesson yet. He filled up a third bowl and handed it to Shane to smoke. By the time he got to the fifth pipe load, poor young Shane was beginning to turn a ghastly shade of green around the gills. His father could see that he’d learned his lesson, and he was getting through to the boy.

“Have you had your fill of smoking yet son?” His father asked, but Shane’s only answer was the sudden need to run and find a nice private spot to throw up for the next hour or two.

When big Tim offered Shane his wolf skin tobacco pouch he politely declined, saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke anymore. I had to quit.”

They sat across the fire from one another talking about where they were from, and what they had seen , and done with their lives so far. Tim told Shane that he was on his way to Lorraine which was far to the east of Shane’s village back home. He was going there to attend a family reunion he said.

“Are all of the people in your family as big as you are?” Shane asked the giant who laughed and said, No, lad, certainly not. I’m the youngest one of the litter and the smallest one of them all.”

” But, but you’re a giant!” Shane cried. He was astonished that anybody could call the Giant in front of him a runt. Sure, lad, that I am. But my older brother’s, of which there are six, are even bigger than I am. Though not by a great deal.” he added with emphasis.

“Shoot!” Shane gasped. Trying to wrap his brain around the idea of a man that was even bigger than the giant sitting across the fire from him.

The giant was happily blowing huge smoke rings into the night air.

“You’re almost as big as my horse!” He exclaimed.

“That I am,” replied big Tim. He laughed at the boy’s reaction to his size but that was something the giant was quite used to as one might imagine.

“By the way, speaking of your magnificent stallion I meant to ask you. Where in the world did a poor shepherd boy ever come by an animal such as this? You didn’t go and steal him now did you lad?”

” Steal him? Oh, no sir, I can assure you I am no horse thief!” Shane assured the red giant that was eyeing him rather suspiciously. “I got him on my 16th birthday which was only last month.”

“Your father gave him to you then did he?”

“No sir, he was a gift from my new master Sheldrake the Elder, along with the saddle and the tack that you see here.” Shane said pointing to the tack.

“Aye, I see them lad, and fine they are for sure, but I am almost positive that I’ve seen this same animal somewhere before in the past. What is he called?” The giant asked.

“His name is Dark Star, but I call him Star for short.” Shane replied.

“Oh yes I do know this brave, and noble steed. He’s a war horse.” The giant said, eyeing the stallion who was grazing nearby like he could not hear their conversation a stone’s throw away.

“You do? From where?”

“From the time he carried the valiant Prince Ragnar into battle against the Savage forces of King Rohond when their armies fought on the bloody planes of Morin. Before that I saw him when he carried the brave, Sir Gilland, also known as the White Knight, into battle twice against the Huns in the battle of the freemen of 37 and 39.”

” Wow! Really?!” Shane whistled appreciatively. He had heard a great many stories about those now famous battles fought against his country’s most fearsome enemies, and won by its most legendary heroes.

“Certainly. It is the very same stallion or I’ll pluck my beard out one whisker at a time.” The giant assured Shane who was looking at the horse with new found respect.

“He must be a lot older than he looks,” Shane ventured.

“Aye, that he is, lad. That he is. This one is a very old veteran war horse indeed. It’s said that he was enchanted by a wizard that used to own him a long time ago. The wizard only rode him into battle once. That was against the Troll Army back in 66 when he was killed in action. Just then Dark Star wandered over to the fire and laid his big black muzzle on the red giants shoulder, and allowed the big man to scratch him between the ears. A definite sign of respect for that particular horse. “You see, lad? Tim said, “He remembers me sure enough.” the giant laughed as Dark Star stuck his cool wet nose in the big warrior’s ear giving him an equine wet willy.

“Sure and he hasn’t changed one bit either have you you old plow horse you?” The black stallion enjoyed the attention and tossed his great black mane by shaking his head. Causing Shane and the giant to burst into laughter. Shane was about to say something funny when the spell was broken suddenly by the sharp crack of a twig broken underfoot. It had come from the woods directly behind them.

Dark Star’s head snapped up at the sound, and both men started, looking in the direction the noise had come from. The direction in which the stallion was staring, but the dark night beyond the little circle of light from the campfire meant the two of them couldn’t see a thing. Especially since their eyes had become fully accustomed to the light from the fire.

Big Tim reached behind his back and unslung his massive crossbow faster than Shane would have believed possible. Then a sinister voice from out of the darkness warned, “No no no! I wouldn’t do that if I were you giant, for my own crossbow is already trained upon you. And since I can see you and you cannot see me, I think it would be quite unwise to challenge me.”

Big Tim paused as though he were debating both sides of the argument against the possibility of getting off a lucky shot before he was shot himself. In the end he decided that the intruder was right. To resist would be foolish indeed. “What do you want from us you bloody scoundrel?” Big Tim growled any voice that would have scared a hungry polar bear away from a freshly killed seal. It didn’t seem to faze the intruder the least bit, however.

“I only want whatever you choose to give me giant,” the sinister voice sneered from the darkness.

“We don’t want to give you anything you stinking sneak-thief!” Big Tim snapped back.

“Yeah! You heard what the man said. Be gone, thief!” A half drunk, Shane interjected as he reached to get a chunk of firewood to toss on the campfire. A low twhip sounded from the darkness followed by a dull thud as a fletched black bolt fired from a crossbow buried itself in the firewood a few inches from Shane’s outstretched hand. Shane held it up for Big Tim to see while he himself stared at it like it had appeared there by magic.

“There are plenty more where that one came from, lad.” The sinister voice warned them with yet another audible sneer. “And there’s already another one aimed at your heart. So unless you want to feel its sting, I would suggest that you give me everything of value you have. Starting with that horse and saddle. You can add to that whatever gold or silver you might have on you as well.”

” I have no gold or silver, sir. I am but a poor Shepherd boy,” Shane lied, hoping he would not be searched.

“Nor do I you filthy scoundrel!” The giant growled menacingly.

“Fine I’ll just take the horse and tack and I’ll be on my way.” the thief said merrily.

“You can’t take my horse! Please sir I beg of you!” Shane pleaded, “he’s all I have in this world.”

But the evil Intruder was unmoved.

“You mean he is all that you used to have in this world, lad. Now saddle him up quickly and don’t try any funny business or I’ll put a bolt through your hide for sure if you do.”

“Yes sir, Shane said as he rose up on unsteady legs to wobble over and begin saddling the black stallion.

The horse was quivering with rage, as was the Giant warrior from being helpless to thwart their unseen enemy. Shane attempted to stall for time, but the thief warned him to, “hurry it up or else!”

He hardly needed to explain to Shane what ‘or else’ entailed. When Dark Star was saddled the still unseen thief ordered Shane to place his gilded saddlebags along with both of their packs on the stallion’s back. This he did, but with great reluctance.

The thief then ordered both of them to empty out their pockets but that search turned up nothing of any real value. Both Shane and the giant kept their money hidden away, and not in their pockets either.

At long last the sinister voice commanded Shane to take Dark Star and lead him over to the trees where he was waiting. “Do it nice and slow and don’t you even think about trying anything funny, boy or I’ll drop you in your tracks.” The voice warned.

“Yes sir. I, I mean, no sir.” Shane said, as he took the stallion’s reins and told him, “come on, Star.” He led the old war horse over to the trees to hand him over to a sneak thief.

“Stop right there lad,” The voice ordered when they reached the edge of the trees. Shane stopped where he was, and awaited further instructions. He could tell the thief was very close from the sound of his voice when he again ordered Shane to stop. When the man moved out of the shelter of the trees he was almost directly in front of them. In the pitch darkness with his eyes still not fully adjusted to the dark due to the firelight that had dilated them, so Shane could not make out any of the man’s features. All he could see was a pasty white weasel-like face, and the loaded crossbow in his right hand that was pointed directly at Shane’s chest.

“Hold his reins for me while I mount up boy, and don’t you even twitch.”

“No sir, Shane assured him as the thief mounted his horse and sat down in his saddle.

“Here now boy. Give me his reins and step away from my beautiful new horse. He and I are going for a late night ride in the Moonlight.” the thief stated with a cruel laugh.

“Please sir, I beg of you. Please don’t take him away from me, please! Shane pleaded one last time but the black heart of the thief held no pity for any of his victims. “Sorry, lad, but in this world it’s only the strong that survive. Someday you will understand that,” the thief said with an evil laugh.

“Yes sir, Shane said as he lowered his head and said goodbye to his horse. Goodbye, old friend, I sure am going to miss you,” he said.

Dark Star knickered softly in reply and nuzzled Shane with his great black muzzle. 

End of Chapter.

Places To Go, And People To See.

And welcome back to yet another grilling edition of Vegas Valley Sports Beat that quirky little sports column preferred by four out of five sports fans who chew sugarless gum. Exactly what that has to do with the price of tea in China the world may never know.

But I digress.

The thermometer on the barn wall says oh my God it’s hot in here, and I do believe it’s right. It is hot, but as any seasoned Las Vegas resident knows, it’s not even nearly as hot as it will be soon enough. The 4th of July is just 2 days away and it will really be hot by then. Fortunately most of us are used to the heat and we are able to thrive in it. Or are at least able to stand it even for long periods of time. Please remember to drink lots of water and stay hydrated. You can very quickly become dehydrated and lose consciousness and die. Before you even know that you’re in trouble it’s already too late, and you may never wake up again. I don’t know about you but that’s something I can definitely live without.

I think we can all agree that it’s really great to have Nevada back open for business again. We here at Vegas Valley News would ask you all to get out even if just a little bit and help support your local businesses during these trying times if you can. I’m still somewhat haunted by the images in my mind of riding my bike once down the Strip when it was bustling with people and alive one night, and the next time riding down the main street of a ghost town all by myself. Eerie doesn’t even begin to describe it with the Strip all torn up, barricades all down the street from Charleston all the way down to Flaming-O. There was a police car at every light with their lights flashing non-stop and not a soul to be seen anywhere the whole length of the Strip that I saw.

My last visit to an eating establishment (Timbers – Stephanie) for sustenance and a subsequent review was an unmitigated disaster. For Timbers that is, not for this kid. Incredibly their manager sent me an email saying they dropped the ball and offered me two $25 gift cards. They dropped both balls as far as I’m concerned. I told her I don’t give out my address to hateful people like them and that I tried to eat there once I have since lost my appetite and to give the cards to the SPCA. Hopefully not in my name, though I failed to say so specifically. I’m sure they have enough animus left over from before to take credit for the donation anyway. They have yet to reply.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. They were rude and openly dismissive the first time so I’m supposed to walk back in there after HR reams them out and cash in my gift cards like they won’t know who I am and take a shit in my food? Who wants to be the first person in history to say out loud, or put it in writing and sign an affidavit saying that such is not the mentality of any vindictive food service worker that had a messed up attitude toward the customer to begin with? They do it in prisons, and jails especially just for spite in many cases, and they do it at all public eateries as well.

She’s lost her mind if she thinks $50 worth of their food is even worth the effort to go back there to get considering I live 75 miles away. The way I see it, there’s nothing to be learned from being kicked by a mule a second time. No thank you Timbers, I honestly do not care for forced hospitality.

Which brings us to the subject. I was once again in town on an inspection assignment this past week when I happened to find myself in front of a wonderful little establishment called Village Pub and Poker. Located at 10420 Bermuda road this location is but one of a dozen similar locations scattered in and about the greater Las Vegas Valley area.

From the moment I walked in off the street where it was at least 107 degrees it was cool, and inviting inside, and I was greeted warmly by Florida the bartender. Unlike some places, TImbers, that I could name I did not have to sit there for an hour humiliated waiting for her to deign to serve me, she was on the spot and smoking hot if I may say so. Jaw-dropper yes, ball dropper. Most definitely not. She was on the ball as far as service goes. She was funny, very warm, and quite genuine in my opinion. All the good food and atmosphere in the world won’t undo the damage one rude waiter can do to a restaurant.

I was immediately drawn to the 10 ounce Sirloin steak dinner special for $11.99 and ordered that with salad, crispy seasoned steak fries, and mixed garden vegetables with a cola back, no ice. I did not have to wait all day to order nor for my food. It was brought to me hot, and delicious in no time flat. Every condiment one could ever ask for was right there at my fingertips from salt, to A-1 Steak Sauce.

Photo of Village Pub & Poker - Las Vegas, NV, United States. Looks good especially the potato. How does the steak look?

This column, this news agency, Vegas Valley News is dedicated to whatever is good for Las Vegas and those who live, work, and or play here. So this column is not about me. When I do a review it’s 100% voluntary. I don’t get paid to write the review nor do I get reimbursed a cent for the meal. So when I go into an establishment whether it’s to review it or not it is ALL about ME, Not them, ME. It’s all about fulfilling my immediate needs immediately. I found just such instant gratification at Village Pub and Poker. Service with such a lovely smile as Florida’s is always a welcome respite from the plastic Stepford staff as I encountered at Timbers.

I related to her, and to nearby patrons within earshot at the bar my experience at Timbers and they all agreed that Timbers sucks. I paraphrase a bit, but that’s the gist of it. Compared to Village Pub and Poker they suck rotten eggs.

(702) 407-0219 is the number to the location I went to on Bermuda, but you can easily obtain the locations of the other 11 pubs at villagepubvegas.com Village Pub and Poker is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week for your dining pleasure, or if you’re in the mood to try your luck at Gambler’s Bonus poker on the bar. I took advantage of my visit to sign up with their Gambler’s Bonus players reward program that I have been hearing so much about on the radio for years but never had the opportunity to sign up for in the past.

With a small, but broad menu filled with culinary taste treats, even root beer floats, Village Pub and Poker serves so many good items that there simply has to be something on there that you’re sure to find delectable enough to fully satisfy your breakfast, lunch or dinner cravings every time.

Photo of Village Pub & Poker - Las Vegas, NV, United States. Veggie omelet with sausage
Photo of Village Pub & Poker - Las Vegas, NV, United States. Chef salad!
Photo of Village Pub & Poker - Las Vegas, NV, United States. Nachos!

I wrote a five-star review for them on YELP as I promised Florida I would, and now I reiterate that same review grade here and give them 5 of 5 stars in review. This grade is more than justified due to the fact that overall it was a great, time, a great meal at a great price, and it was a very refreshing change from the pointed hatred I received from Timbers.

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Thank you so much to Florida and to Village Pub and Poker for everything. May you live long and prosper much.

What A Difference A Day Makes.

“Now Even Medina Spirit Is A Junkie.” – President Donald J. Trump.

From the Desk of President Trump:


“So now even our Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, is a junky. This is emblematic of what is happening to our Country. The whole world is laughing at us as we go to hell on our Borders, our fake Presidential Election, and everywhere else!” UnQuote.

The article below is the one I published shortly after Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby. And then I hear through the news that Bob Baffert had been suspended by Churchill Downs, and on Sunday On Sunday, Baffert says that Medina Spirit had tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone. For clarification that’s an anti-inflammatory drug that “otherwise is legal but results in a positive when found in the blood on race day.” He said.

He also says he thinks that’s harsh punishment without a split result. “We live in a different world now,” Baffert said while appearing on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom With Bell Hemmer & Dana Perino.” “This America is different. It was like a cancel culture kind of a thing.”

Uh huh, sure, Bob. Let’s forget about all that for a minute, Bob, and let’s back the truck up to the part where you said it was in the horses blood when it should not have been in the horses blood on race day because that would tend to make a horse that you claimed couldn’t run with that field run away from them from post to post. Would it not? Yep. Isn’t that the same thing as what got Lance Armstrong in so much trouble? Yep. That was it.

A Pharmacist told me this before I knew it was an anti-inflammatory Medina Spirit had tested positive for. Not a Veterinarian, a Pharmacologist who owns horses, and has for a very long time. I’m going to have to lean toward strong disbelief on this one, Bob.

The fact that the drug was in his blood is the entire issue. What effect that level of it would have is a matter for the Veterinary Board to assess and as a livestock Judge of many years I feel they should do just that and make it public. There’s no cancel culture here. I bet on Medina Spirit and I love the Derby and the horses, I love horse racing, and I love everything about Churchill Downs more than eating. I love the thrill of hoping for a Triple Crown winner every year when they run for the roses. More than anything else I believed in you as a trainer. To me it’s a dishonor to oneself to cheat at anything but to dope a horse is really low.

How do you explain this, Bob? https://www.espn.com/horse-racing/story/_/id/29468696/trainer-bob-baffert-suspended-15-days-horses-test-positive

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended for 15 days by the Arkansas Racing Commission after two of his horses tested positive for a banned substance.

The stewards said in a ruling announced Wednesday that the suspension will run Aug. 1-15. The Oaklawn Park stewards found Baffert violated Rule 1233, which states that a trainer shall ultimately be responsible for the condition of any horse that is entered regardless of the acts of any third parties.

His horses Charlatan and Gamine each tested positive for lidocaine in two rounds of testing after winning races at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, track on May 2.

The commission disqualified both horses and stripped them of their purse earnings. Charlatan’s owners lost $300,000 in purse money; Gamine’s owners forfeited $36,000.

According to the Kentucky Equine Research, it’s a man-made steroid that resembles cortisol – a natural hormone produced by the adrenal gland. Officials said corticosteroid drugs are administered into the joints which can give horses relief from discomfort or inflammation.

Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate,” the track said in a statement. “Churchill Downs will not tolerate it.” This is not the first time Baffert has been suspended due to failed drug tests. In the past year alone, the seven-time Derby winner has had to answer for five failed tests.


That story’s getting harder and harder to swallow every time I hear it, Bob. I heard about the incident in Arkansas right before I went to place a bet on Medina Spirit. I guess it’s kismet that I was given the wrong race because I lost anyway. A positive test from incidental contact rising to twice the legal level allowable at Churchill Downs is not even slightly believable. If this is to be believed, and it’s honestly not from my perspective, then it’s an ongoing pattern of behavior you’re aware of and still it continues to plague your horses. Why you is a great question, Bob.


Why do your horses keep getting disqualified for “incidental doping”? And now this just came in three hours ago from Yahoo News and NBC Sports: https://sports.yahoo.com/medina-spirit-heads-preakness-minus-191910519.html

Medina Spirit heads to Preakness, minus trainer Bob Baffert

I am not even going to apologize because I have to call bullshit on that. Is that how cheating becomes a viable option? You run a doped horse, you win of course, and then you tie the ultimate decision up in court until the cows come home. Nice legal ploy but it’s still horseshit no matter how you slice it. If a horse is that high then the trainer should bear the burden of proof to show why and should rightfully be suspended until they do so to the satisfaction of the State. It’s unthinkable that the racing boards in every state Bob chooses to run in now is going to be facing this same situation, and Bob has no idea why. I have a pretty good idea why and as much as it pains me to say it because I truly believed in you, Bob. When does someone with the reins of common sense still in their grip step up and say, whoa. That’s a bunch of bullshit! When? Next time, or will it be the time after that? After a horse dies? When?

You keep blaming it on another man who wears pain patches being in contact with the horses. Let’s look at that logically. If an employee is in a lot of pain that’s cause enough for concern to any employer. It certainly should be, shouldn’t it? I think so. But if this man gets 5 horses disqualified, one of those being the winner of the Kentucky Derby of all things, doesn’t that problem point itself out? Yep. To me it also spells complicity, Bob.

The last time something like this happened it took years to resolve. That’s an unacceptable loophole that Bob seems to enjoy exploiting. And low and behold he has a lawyer who thinks he can pull wool over everyone’s eyes. If this practice was fair and just then why isn’t everybody doing it? My best guess would be integrity probably got the better of them. But that’s just my learned guess. You can make up your own minds. The original sample is now going to be re-tested. If the violation is upheld, Medina Spirit could be disqualified, and the runner-up, Mandaloun would then be the winner. In the meantime Bob’s horses continue to run unchallenged?

In my professional opinion this stinks worse than last weeks bait left out in the sun.

Greetings sports fans and welcome back to yet another thrilling adventure called Vegas Valley Sports Beat. That tasty little meatball of a column that goes great with Fava beans, and a nice Chianti. It’s a beautiful Sunday evening here in the Las Vegas Valley region leave thermometer on the barn wall says it’s 62 degrees at 7:30 p.m. much hotter days are coming soon so enjoy the cool weather while you can.

Yesterday was the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby and yours truly had a bet on a horse to win for the first time ever. I woke up yesterday morning and turned on my work computer to find an article on the news wire to the effect that renowned horse trainer, Bob Baffert was saying that his horse, number 8 Medina Spirit wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the favorites in the race. I knew right away that Bob Baffert was probably full of baloney as did the author of the article. So, determined WAS I to put some money on Medina Spirit to win. I got up and went straight away by means of various detours to the William Hill sports book at the Pahrump Nugget and I got there just in the nick of time to put $20 on #8 Medina Spirit to win.

I wandered around the casino playing keno and what not so I didn’t actually see the race but many people throughout the day agreed with my assessment including the writer of that article previously mentioned that Bob Baffert was probably full of baloney. Nobody believed it. Well, nobody but the fool that reportedly wagered $2.5 million dollars of the favorite to win. When I got to the Sportsbook to see who won the bookie was talking about it with two customers and I asked who won sure enough Bob Baffert’s horse had just won the Kentucky Derby again. I was like WOOHOO! So I handed the bookie my ticket and he ran it through machine and informed me they had give me the 10th race not the 8th. I specifically stated I wanted to bet on number eight to win the Kentucky Derby and the woman gave me the wrong race. I learned a very hard lesson that she has to be watched because she apparently doesn’t understand English, or doesn’t know how to do her job. Whatever it was it was my fault for not checking the ticket before I picked it up. There was nothing I could do about it and the number eight horse whoever it was, did not win the 10th race. Number 8 won the eighth race though. To say I was incredulous and pissed is an extreme understatement but what could I do? Nothing.

It’s nice to know that I picked the winning horse my first time ever betting on the Kentucky Derby, but it was a painful lesson in personal responsibility at the hands Sportsbook for me. I didn’t think to check it because I didn’t think I had to check it. I thought I made myself perfectly clear, but obviously I did not. I hope William Hill is very proud of himself he got me for a hot smoking twenty bucks and saved himself from having to pay me over $300 for the win. That’s a pretty janky business practice if you ask me. I wonder how many other people they got that way. If you screw up it’s your fault if they screw up it’s your fault too. No wonder the house never loses.

Again the operating catchphrase here is caveat emptor, or, let the buyer beware. Before you put your hand on a sports bet ticket look at it carefully and make sure it is exactly what you ordered or you too could get pencil whipped this way. I’m just glad I didn’t go balls out and bet a thousand dollars on Bob’s horse to win. I don’t mind losing and honest bet I’ve lost that much on the Super Bowl when the Broncos threw it away, and blatantly I might add, to the Seattle Seahawks. But to be cheated out of it like that by an incompetent, or unscrupulous licensed bookie is really foul in my book. That’s all I have to say about it.

Congratulations are in order for Robert Baffert on his historic 7th record -breaking Kentucky Derby win. It’s astounding but I think I know how he gets his horses to win. That is not by any means to imply cheating of any kind. Long before I ever heard of Bob Baffert, I wrote to my Nephew Luke that if I ever had the money I’d buy a decent Thoroughbred and train it to go the distance at Belmont. I said I would also train my horse to love winning races. To live for post time and the roar of the crowd as the gates drop and the track announcer cries, aaand, they’re off! I said I’d teach my horse to never let another horse get ahead of him, to get up front and stay up front to the wire. Once I felt he was ready, I’d call him Bob’s Your Uncle, and I’d win the Triple Crown with him.

It almost has to be or certainly should be a law that says if you win the Kentucky Derby you have to make a run at the Triple Crown. Otherwise what’s the point of running in the Derby? I personally have all faith in Bob’s ability to produce a third Triple Crown winner, and I think Medina Spirit has as good a chance as anyone else does and he deserves a shot at the title.. Let him run Bob. Please?

Here’s Bob’s take on Medina Spirit making a run at the Triple Crown, and recap of the derby from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

“Can he win the Triple Crown? I don’t know. But he’s the Derby winner, and that’s all that matters,” Baffert said Sunday morning at Barn 33. “I was coming in here, thinking, I wasn’t sure (if Medina Spirit could win the Derby), everything had to go perfect for him. We were going to go to the lead, and see what happened. What if they challenged him? He made the lead pretty easily, for him, and the other speed horse didn’t break (Rock Your World). That’s what it’s like in the Derby: You have to get the trip; the other speed horse didn’t get the trip. 

“Going down the backside, he was doing it easy, you could tell he was enjoying himself. His ears were forward. And turning for home, they came for him, and he just dug in. I didn’t know if he was going to do it. He fought hard, and ran sort of the same race that he did at Santa Anita when he won the Robert Lewis. They came to him, and he fended them all off. 

“I couldn’t believe it, at the sixteenth pole he was fighting and fighting. It was just a thrill to watch him do it, and fight on.  

“And he came back, he’s handling it quite well. He wasn’t as tired as I thought he might be. A big race like that, but he handled it quite well.” 

“When they turned for home, I was still not convinced,” Baffert said. “We didn’t start screaming and yelling until about the sixteenth pole, when it looked like it was do-able. In that last hundred yards, we all were screaming and yelling like it was my first Derby. We were like crazy, crazy. That’s what the Derby does to you. There’s no other race like it. The seven hasn’t quite sunk in yet. And to do it with a $35,000 horse. It gives people hope, keeps their dreams alive. Actually he was the cheapest yearling, since he cost $1,000. But he’s a beautiful horse, a good-looking horse.  

The obvious question following the Derby triumph is the Pimlico question: on to the Preakness? 

“He came out of it well. It takes about a week to determine, so I’m going to come back next weekend and see,” Baffert said. “But I don’t see anything discouraging right now.  Concert Tour worked well this morning (five furlongs in 1:00.60 at 5:50), I’ll sit down and talk to Mr. (GaryWest. He wants that horse to develop and we’re not rushing things. We know he’s a good horse, so we’ll see next week how he is. The thing is how they’re training. They both would have to be training well.” 


Congratulations also to the owners, Zedan Racing and to Medina Spirit for winning the Kentucky Derby. Good luck in the Preakness, and then let’s hope Medina Spirit will go on to Belmont and chase history.

Baffert's Seventh Win at Churchill Downs