"Bandera Bandits

Chapter One

A serialized WTR story, a “what if…?”

By Jim Griffin [keeneyanke@yahoo.com]

Captain Bill McGuire was in a ferocious mood, reading the report of trouble that had just landed on his desk. He realized that to stop the apparent trouble building outside of San Antonio near the cattle drive

town of Bandera, he would need his best Ranger.  Without hesitation, he sent for Cordell Walker, who soon appeared at the Captain's door.  "Cordell", called Capt McGuire, "come in here and read this report I just received.  There's big trouble down around Bandera.  It appears that there could be a range war coming, and we need to head it off"  After a

cursory reading of the report, Walker replied "You're right, Captain", I'd better get down there right away". "Walker", responded the Captain, "it's four days hard riding from Austin to Bandera.  I need a Ranger there in three, and you with that Amigo horse are the only one I know who could get there so quick."

The Captain was referring to Walker's magnificent Paint gelding, Amigo, who had carried the Ranger through many dangerous spots.  "We're on our way", replied Walker.  "Do you know anyone I could contact in Bandera?"   "Unfortunately, not really, replied the Captain.   The old sheriff was dry-gulched.  There's a new one, name of Trivette, but I don't know anything

about him." "Then I'll stay undercover for a while," Walker told the Captain.  With a quick farewell, Walker left Headquarters.  After a quick stop for trail supplies, Walker and Amigo were on their way Southwest from Austin.  (end of Chapter One)

Chapter 2

Walker and Amigo had set a blistering pace Southwest, and were just a day’s ride from Bandera. They had camped for the night near a spring, the first fresh water they had seen since leaving Austin.  After a quick supper, Walker turned in for the night, to get an early start the next day.  He crawled into his bedroll under a moonless Texas sky, which was

illuminated by millions of stars.  The coolness of the evening felt good after traveling though the heat and dust of the day.  Amigo was close by, gratefully cropping the grass that grew around the small oasis.

Walker fell into a sound but alert sleep, the kind of sleep a Ranger must have if he meant to stay alive in 1870’s Texas.  Sometime around 2:00 am, some instinct woke the Ranger.  Amigo was alert, staring at some

object in the dark and quivering.  Walker watched as the object moved and assumed human shape, trying to get to Amigo and lead him away.  At the same time, a gun flashed, and lead slammed into Walker’s bed.  But

Walker had alertly and quietly slipped out of his bunk, and quickly returned fire.  There was a yelp of pain, and the would-be horse thief quickly fled.  Walker ran over to check on Amigo, who nuzzled his chest softly.

"Well, boy" Walker said to his best friend "we'll have to find out what that was all about.  No one knows we're here yet, so it couldn't have been anyone looking to down a Ranger"   (End of Chapter 2)

Chapter 3

With sun up, Walker looked for any evidence of his ambusher, but there was nothing but a spent shell and some trampled grass.  After a cold breakfast, Walker and Amigo continued their journey, as Walker hoped to

make Bandera by nightfall.  Late in the afternoon, the pair was still about 6 or 8 miles from their destination.  The road was passing beside a small

ranch on their right.  The buildings appeared to be in need of repair and some paint.  The garden by the house appeared tired, and there didn't appear to be any livestock in sight.  As Walker and Amigo were both

dog-tired, dusty, and thirsty from the hard ride, Walker decided to stop for a drink of water for Amigo and himself.  Travelers in the West were almost always welcome to stop and refresh themselves, especially in the heat of the summer when waterholes and springs often became unreliable.  Walker turned Amigo into the small yard in front of the house, and led his faithful Paint up to the well, where they could both get a long, cool drink.  Suddenly, Walker felt eyes watching him from near the barn. 

Walker quickly spun, but too late, as a voice behind him yelled "Draw!"   Walker yanked his Colt, but the youngster he faced had already brought his gun up.

There was a loud report, and Walker grabbed his belly, doubled over, and fell face down in the dirt of the barnyard, to lie still as death. (End of Chapter 3)

Chapter 4

"I got ya’" shouted the gunman who had downed Cordell Walker.   He coolly walked up to where the Ranger lay face down in the dirt.  Walker rolled slowly onto his back, and looked up into the face of his adversary.

"Yeah, kid", you beat me to the draw", grinned Walker to a sandy-haired boy of about  8 or 9, who was holding a rusty old frontier model Colt.  Just as Walker started to get up, he heard a woman's voice yell "Bobby, stop bothering that man, right this instant!".  Walker jumped up, and his heart gave a leap as he realized he was gazing at one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen.  She was tall and blonde, and even the faded gingham dress she wore failed to conceal the curves of

her feminine charms.  She walked over to Walker and the boy, and apologized to Walker, saying "Please forgive my son. He’s always playing sheriff and pretending to shoot or capture anybody who rides by" – Now, Bobby- tell this gentleman you're sorry" "I'm sorry, sir", the youngster mumbled to Walker, while hanging his head in embarrassment. "That's OK, son," replied Walker- "you really do have a fast draw- keep  practicing, and maybe you will be a sheriff, or a Texas Ranger, when you grow up"   Returning his gaze to the woman, Walker told her " I enjoy being around kids, but don't get much of a chance to see them.  I'm just on my way to Bandera." "It's not far, replied the woman- Oh, please

forgive my manners- My name is Alex, and this is my son Bobby" "Just call me Cord", replied Walker, remaining incognito.  At that moment, Amigo, who was still tired and thirsty, placed his soft muzzle in the small of Walker's back, and gave Walker a quick shove to remind his rider he still wanted a drink.  The Paint's timing and actions were perfect, for the shove sent Walker off balance and stumbling against Alex, who instinctively threw her arms around the Ranger to break his fall.  A surge of electricity flew through Walker's body as he brushed against Alex's womanly form.  Alex and Walker quickly broke apart, both of them blushing deeply.  "I'm sorry, ma'am, Walker stuttered.   This is Amigo- we just stopped to see if we could get a drink of water before we went onto

Bandera"."  You are more than welcome to", replied Alex, "and, again, please forgive Bobby for pestering you. He does get lonely out here since there's only the two of us" (end of Chapter 4)

"Bandera Bandits"  Chapters 5-8

 jim griffin <keeneyanke@yahoo.com>

Turning away from Alex and Bobby, Walker led his faithful horse toward the well.  He could hear the voices of Bobby and his mother in the background, but could not hear what they were saying.  Bobby was asking "Mom, can't we ask Cord and Amigo to stay

tonight?"  "Bobby, you know we don't have that much room", replied Alex. "  Besides, he said he was on his way to Bandera".  "But Mom,", pleaded Bobby" he can go to Bandera in the morning.  With Dad gone, what if those men come back?"  At this remark, a slight look of fear came into Alex's deep violet eyes. "Well, perhaps one night won't hurt", she told her son.

Calling to Walker, she asked , "Cord, would you do us the honor of staying here this evening?  Supper is just about ready, and Bobby and I would be pleased if you'd join us".  Walker replied, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I do need to get to Bandera and look for work"  Bobby then cried "Please, Mr. Cord, just one night- maybe you can show me how to work on my draw".  "I'm sorry, son," the Ranger replied, but it just wouldn't

be right".  At that, Bobby became downcast, clearly showing his disappointment.  However, Alex said. " It's only about an hour's ride to Bandera, so you can get a bright and early start in the morning.  Besides, you and Amigo both look like you can use a good meal and some rest. I don't have room in the house, but you're more than welcome to bunk in the barn."  Walker thought for a moment, and, looking into Bobby's eager face, made his decision. "All right, but Bobby has to promise not to try and ambush me again.   Plus, if he'd like, he can help me groom Amigo".  "Yippee",

yelled the boy, jumping up and down in his excitement, "we have company"  Turning to Alex, Walker told her.  "If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll just clean up a little"  He returned to the well, where Amigo had gotten a long, cool drink.  He turned the gelding out into the small pasture next to the barn, giving Bobby a curry to brush the Paint's shining coat.  While Amigo was a Ranger's horse, trained as a one-man

animal, he let Bobby go to work on him enthusiastically.  Seeing his horse settled in, Walker filled the water trough, and, removing his hat, bandanna, and shirt,  proceeded to start cleaning up for dinner.  For a moment, Alex, who had turned to go

back into the house and finish supper, stopped and stared transfixed at the sight of the muscular Ranger bathing in her yard.  Then, realizing she was starting to stare, she blushed and turned back into the house .

(end of chapter 5)

Chapter 6

When Walker had turned Amigo out in the small pasture, he had put his equipment in the barn.  After washing up, he got his spare shirt and bandanna from his saddlebags, and quickly changed into them.  When he emerged from the barn, Bobby had finished brushing Amigo.  While Walker hadn't seen any livestock at first, Alex did have an old brown farm horse, who was in the next corral.  He and Amigo was busy making acquaintances over the fence.  "Gee", Mr. Cord" Bobby told the Ranger" Amigo sure is a swell horse .  That's Teddy he's checking out- He's how me and Mom can get to

town once in a while"  Just then "Bobby- Cord, supper's on the table" called Alex. "Bet you can't beat me to the house" cried Bobby, as he took off on a dead run.  Walker followed him and entered the small cabin. It had a living room kitchen area, and two

small bedrooms  As he sat down, Bobby started to reach for the food, until his mother reminded him "Bobby, you know we always give thanks to the Lord first"  After saying grace, the threesome settled down to a delicious meal of fried steak, beans, mashed potatoes, followed by apple pie and coffee, with milk for Bobby.

All through the meal, Bobby kept up a lively questioning of Walker, who was careful not to reveal his plans.  Walker did notice there did not appear to be any sign of a male around the house, nor had there been for quite some time.  After supper, Bobby was sent to bed, with much protesting on his part. 

"Bobby, if you go to bed and listen to you mom, maybe you can have a ride on Amigo before I leave," said Walker.  “Really?”, yelped Bobby with joy”, “Good Night, Mom, Good Night, Mr. Cord" as he raced off to bed  Walker helped Alex clear the supper table, and  they both went out and sat in the rockers on the porch, in the cool Texas evening.  "Walker, thank you for staying this evening", said Alex softly, "It's been good for Bobby" "No trouble, ma'am", replied Walker, " I am grateful to you for the place to stay."

He was dying with curiosity about how she, a woman apparently alone except for her small son, was managing to survive on her small ranch.  He was also wondering what had happened to her husband, but was too polite to question Alex.  The two of them sat on the porch for awhile,  until Walker said "Well, ma'am, I really do need to get an early start in the morning. I want to try and find work in Bandera, and maybe find

an old friend I heard was in the locale.  Good night, and thank you again. "  " Good night, Cord", responded Alex.  With that, Walker took his leave, and made a soft bed in the hay in the barn. (end of Chapter 6)

Chapter 7

The next morning, Bobby came flying into the barn, but Walker was already up and out.  Walker had fixed some corral fence, brought a load of stove wood up on the

porch, and had fed both horses and the milk cow, and gathered some eggs for breakfast.  Over pancakes and eggs, Alex gathered up her courage to ask Walker the

question that had kept her tossing and turning all night.  "Walker, my husband was killed by robbers a year and a half ago in San Antonio- I've been trying to hold on to this ranch for Bobby ever since.  You said you were looking for work.  Would you consider working here, for me?  I couldn't pay you, except for room and board right now, but later, when maybe you get me back on my feet, I could pay you" Walker replied " I'm sorry- it wouldn't be right- what would people say- besides, I've got a lead on a cowhands job outside Bandera, if I get there today."  Walker had to avert his eyes to avoid the look of despair on Alex's face, and the disappointment of Bobby.  He didn't dare tell them his true reason for being in Bandera.

Bravely, Alex replied "I understand".  "C'mon Bobby", if you want that ride on Amigo"  Walker called to the sandy-haired youngster.  But, just as they got up from the table, the threesome heard the sound of riders approaching, fast.  As they walked out on the porch, four men reined up in front.  Walker knew instantly that they were four of the hardest looking men he had seen in a long time.  And,  significantly, one of them had a bandaged arm.  Even more significantly, Amigo, who was already tied to the rail of the porch, ready to travel, had his ears pinned back in anger.  The apparent leader, a  tall, black haired, mean eyed hombre of about 35, growled at Alex. "Well, Mrs. Cahill, are you ready to sell?"  Lifting her head proudly, Alex spat back "Never, this is my home- and especially to you, Jack Clayton".  Walker stood quietly, watching this exchange.  Clayton, anger rising, yelled. "then I'll move you off myself" starting to dismount.  Suddenly, the four men found themselves staring into the barrel of Walker's Colt. 

They hadn't really paid any attention to the Ranger, which was a grave error. "Don't even think about it" growled Walker.  " And who are you?"  muttered Clayton "Name's Cord, and I don't like bullies who terrorize women and kids- now shuffle.  But, before you do, you with the bad arm, what's your name? "Hank Reynolds, if it's anything to you, the rider spat out".  "It is, if you were at Blue Spring last night- some buzzard tried to dry-gulch me and steal my horse- I winged him, and my horse there really seems to dislike you"  Reynolds then made a fatal mistake.  "Why you -----------------!!!!"  he cursed at Walker, as he yanked his gun.  Walker's Colt flashed once, and

Reynolds tumbled backwards off his horse, Walker's slug in his chest. "You killed my pard" screamed Clayton.  "Any of you want to be next?" spate back Walker" Now pick up that horse thief and get him out of here!!!!"  After the three remaining thugs left,

Walker turned to Alex and said "I think I will take that job, after all" (end of Chapter 7)

Chapter 8

After Walker told Alex he would stay, Alex looked at him with a mixture of gratitude and relief. "Thank you, Cord" was all she could manage to say. Bobby yelled "yippee!", at the top of his lungs, and then raced to the gate, where he proceeded to pretend that he shot the remaining three hard cases out of their saddles.  "Alex, I will have to go into Bandera this evening to see if I can find that acquaintance I mentioned.  And I may have to stay there a day or two. But I promise you, I will be back in three days at

the most.  Are you sure you'll be OK while I'm gone?  Clayton seems like the type who won't stop at anything to get what he wants".  I've been holding Clayton off for better than six months now", replied Alex, "three more days won't make a difference" "  Who is Clayton, anyway?" Walker asked Alex.  "He's the biggest rancher in the area, and is trying to buy out whatever small ranchers and farmers are in trouble.  I won't give in

to him, though- I want this ranch for Bobby, and to keep my husband's dream." "OK, then", replied Walker, "I'll check out the ranch today, and head into Bandera this evening."  He called "Bobby, if you want that ride on Amigo, get yourself over here".  Bobby charged back to the porch.  Walker put him up on Amigo, and then mounted behind the excited boy.  "Alex, we'll be back as soon as I see your whole place- Bobby, it's up to you to show me everything here."  Moving Amigo out a fast walk, Walker proceeded to survey the Cahill ranch.  He had already seen the two main buildings,

the barn and the cabin.  There was also a chicken coop, the corrals, and enough pasturage to raise a small herd, enough to support a family.  There was a small spring, and Bobby pointed out to Walker the river that cut through the back pasture. 

"This is where me and my Dad used to swim and fish" Bobby told Walker.  It was indeed a pleasant spot, lined with cottonwoods, and with a nice deep swimming hole.  "Can you fish and swim with me?"  Bobby asked Walker. "I promise, once I get settled in, we'll go swimming and fishing, and I'll try to teach you some riding and shooting pointers, too" Walker told the boy.  "First, though, I do have some things to do in town, plus help your mom fix up the place a little- right now , I want you to take the reins and get us back home"  Bobby's eyes grew wide with excitement "Oh boy, giddy up, Amigo".  Man, boy, and horse galloped back to the house, where Alex stood on the porch, watching them with great anticipation and a smile as wide as Texas (end of Chapter 8)

BANDERA BANDITS,   Chapters 9 and 10

Late that afternoon, Walker took his leave of the Cahill ranch.  As he headed for Bandera, Alex and Bobby stood on the porch, waving farewell "Vaya con Dios" called Alex, while Bobby yelled "Hurry Back!"  Walker

turned slightly in his saddle and touched his hand to his hat brim in a fond goodbye salute.  Then, he and Amigo trotted off in the direction of town.   On the way, Walker kept trying to concentrate on the problem at hand, but his mind kept turning back to Alex and Bobby.  He had met many tough pioneer women, but very few who would attempt to hold on to a ranch with just a young son for help.  He was intrigued by her.  Forcing himself to concentrate on his assignment, he thought over the clues he had already received.  Jack Clayton obviously hired a tough gang, men who would not hesitate to ride roughshod over anyone who got in their way.  Clayton himself seemed ruthless, and Walker was suspicious that the small ranchers’ and Farmers’ problems in the area were part of a land-grab scheme.  The report he had read in Austin indicated that the Ranger was riding into a very dangerous situation.                                            

Walker had purposely timed his ride into Bandera so he would arrive after dark.  That way, as a stranger in town, he would not attract quite as  much attention.  Plus, the kind of men he was looking for would be out at night, frequenting the saloons and gambling halls, after most honest citizens had retired for the evening.                         

Riding into Bandera, Walker noticed it looked like any of a dozen cow towns in Texas, with a couple of exceptions.  Most of the businesses seemed to belong to individuals of Polish extraction, as indicated by the names on the storefronts.  Another unusual building for that part of Texas was a large church, with a sign indicating it was St. Stanislaus Catholic Church.  No one seemed to pay particular attention to Walker as he reined in at the livery stable.  He instructed the boy in charge, a

Mexican teenager of about 15, to give Amigo a good feed and rubdown.  Then Walker headed for the largest saloon on the dusty main street, a place with a gaudy sign indicating it was "C.D.’s". (end of Chapter 9)

Chapter 10

As Walker entered the saloon, he peered through the smoke-filled atmosphere.  Gauche, large red glass and crystal oil  chandeliers lit the large room.  Drinkers lined up at the bar, and gamblers played poker.  In

the background was the noise of a tinny piano and the click-clack of roulette wheels and faro cages. Dance-hall girls with painted faces and low cut gowns hung on cowboys’ arms, offering drinks and other favors.  The Ranger worked his way to the bar. "I'm C.D.", boomed the man behind the bar, "what'll you have?" "Whiskey, and leave the bottle," replied Walker.  He didn't drink much, but had to appear as if he did to maintain his image as a trail drifter.   C.D. was a garrulous, heavy set man with a mustache and spectacles, and, as Walker hoped, proved to be a

valuable source of information. "Yup, railroad'll  come through here in a few years, but even now the trail drives make this mighty valuable land around here", he told Cordell. "Jack Clayton will get it all, mark my words- if you plan to find work around here, he's the man to see."  Walker just grunted in reply, for he had already noticed two of Clayton's men

that he had seen at Alex's enter the bar, along with several others.   Walker, wanting to avoid trouble this early in the game, tried to stay in the corner until he could leave quietly, but fate was against him.  He was spotted by Burley, one of the men from Alex's, and the group quickly surrounded him.  "This is the hombre that downed Hank," yelled Burley." let's give him what's coming to him!"  Burley aimed a vicious right at Walker's chin, but the Ranger ducked the punch and slammed a hard fist into Burley's belly.  The cowpoke folded like a jackknife, and Walker knocked him out with a swift uppercut to the jaw.  Two of the other  riders from Clayton's ranch grabbed Walker from behind and pinned his arms.  The other three still standing went to work on Walker, alternating punches to the Ranger’s face and midsection.  Walker worked free by stomping on the foot of one outlaw holding him and kicking the lead attacker in the groin.  Wary now, the others backed away, waiting for an opening.  Suddenly Burley, who had come to, cried out "You're dead, Mister," and yanked his gun.  Walker spun, drew, and fired, his bullet catching Burley in the stomach.  Burley fell back against the bar, and sagged slowly to the floor.  Before he even finished falling, a slug

whizzed by Walker's ear, to bury itself in a table.  Walker reacted quickly, and fired at the figure who had tried to get the Ranger from the balcony.  The man staggered backward, hit the wall, and  then fell forward over the railing, smashing a card table where he landed.  Suddenly, the roar of a shotgun sounded over the noise of the fight.  "Hold everything right there!" yelled the man holding the shotgun. “The next barrel won't be aimed at the ceiling!"  Walker, along with everyone at the bar, turned to look at the door.  The man with the shotgun was wearing a badge.  He was tall, athletic, and, unheard of in that part of Texas, a black man. "Now," roared the sheriff, "Who started this?"  Several witnesses pointed out Walker as the instigator. "You- give me those guns and come with me," ordered the sheriff. “I don't know who you are, but Jack Clayton has sworn out a complaint that you killed one of his men this afternoon, and now you're in town less than one night and I have two more dead men for the undertaker." “Real bad record, cowboy.”

Walker knew he was in no position to argue.  He fixed the sheriff with a steely glance. "I'll come with you quietly," he stated. "But I'll keep my guns until we get to the jail."  Something in Walker's eyes told the town lawman he'd better leave the issue alone, and that the drifter’s word was good. (end of Chapter 10)

“Bandera Bandits"  Chapters 11-12

Hands raised high, Walker was marched over to the jail, with the sheriff's shotgun digging in his back.  Once inside the office, the sheriff ordered Walker once again to give up his guns. Not yet willing to give up his cover, Walker was forced to comply. After he was locked in a cell, Walker asked "Sheriff, I  never did catch your name. "Trivette" was the curt response. "Not from Texas, either," Walker observed.
"No, Baltimore, but what difference does it make to you? Where you're going, the end of a rope, it doesn't matter where the hangman comes from" "Don't be too sure of that" Walker replied, settling onto the sparse cot. If he were to be stuck here for awhile, he might as well get some sleep. But, after only a few minutes, there was a knock on the door. "Who's there?" Trivette barked. "C.D." was the swift response.
The door opened to reveal the saloon owner and one of his dance-hall girls, a girl with hair so red it could not possibly be her own color. "Doggone it, Sheriff", C.D. sputtered, "I tried to get your eye over at the saloon, but you were so all -fired busy listening to
Clayton's men you never once looked my way. Ginger here and I saw the whole thing. That hombre you've got behind bars didn't start anything. Me and him were just talking, when Burley and the rest of that Bar C crew just started beatin' on him. Never saw anything like it. He took them all on, and they just backed away, until Burley yanked his gun. Then Moss tried to get him in the back from upstairs, but this jasper
just plugged him slick as a whistle. You got to turn him loose" Trivette turned to Walker "Is this true?"

"I tried to tell you Sheriff, but you were too stubborn to listen" was the curt response. "Jimmy" cooed Ginger to the local lawman' "have I ever lied to you yet?" "Plenty of times" replied Trivette, but this time I believe you. Still can't turn him loose,
though. What about Hank Reynolds?"

"Shucks, " replied C.D., " his pals were talking all the time about how this Cord character had killed Reynolds for trying to dry-gulch him, and how they got revenge by getting him arrested. Why don't you ever think once in a while?"

And why do you talk so much, C.D.?" was Trivette's response. Don't you ever shut up?"

All right, I'm gone, replied C.D., "but don't expect any more free chili if you don't do your job and turn this man loose" To which Ginger added, "and no more lovin'
from me, either, so there".

After they left, Trivette turned to Walker and said "I don't like Clayton any more than they do, but it's C.D. and Ginger's word against his crews" "Sheriff, come here where we can talk softly", the Ranger called. Walker had always been a shrewd judge of character, and felt that the sheriff, Trivette, was basically honest, but just inexperienced. He decided to take a chance. When Trivette approached the cell door, Walker reached into a special pocket he had sewn in the back of his belt, and withdrew his badge. "A Ranger", yelped Trivette. He joyfully opened the cell door. "Here's you guns back"

"Thanks, but we've still got work to do" replied Walker.

"Your right-how do we explain that I let you out"?

"Just let the word out that you rode over to the Cahill ranch, and the widow Cahill verified my story that Reynolds drew first. That and C.D.s and Gingers testimony is enough to give you reason to let me out on bail, at least. Let it known I posted $1000. bail."

Trivette then asked "What's your real name?"

"Cordell Walker."

"Walker, I've heard of you - always hoped I'd meet you some day".

Thanks, replied Walker, "but we've lots of work to do. And, whatever you do, don't let anyone know I'm a Ranger, especially not C.D.. That man does run on".

Don't I know it" , replied Trivette. I've gotten many an earache listening to him." What excuse can I use for your hanging around?"

Walker replied' "well, I did have to post bail, plus I did take a ranch hands job at the
widow Cahill's. Now, what can you tell me about the problems here?"

"Jack Clayton appears to be behind it all, but I can't get any proof. There's only a handful of small ranchers and farmers left. You've already met Alex Cahill, and there's the Johnson's, the Creamer's, the Heaphy's, and a handful of others. Oh, and there's
Francis Gage and his sister Sydney. They control a lot of the water in the valley, even though their spread is small".

"Gage- they're the reason I'm here- they wired Ranger headquarters, asking for help- where's their spread- I'll ride out there first thing in the morning? "

You can't miss it- take the west road out of town, left at the first fork, then about a mile down the first draw on the right"

"OK, Trivette, let's get some rest, said Walker' "but I am curious about one thing- You're obviously a Yankee, and black at that- how'd you end up a Texas sheriff?"

"Long story, but I'll make it short, was Trivette's answer. "When the war ended, I was in Louisiana with the 7th Maryland Volunteers. I've got no family, and no reason to return to the North, so I struck out West. Had a cowpoke's job with Joe Cullen, but he was murdered and Clayton bought out his spread. Jeb Palmer was sheriff, and him and me always got along, so he gave me a deputy's star. When Jeb was ambushed,
shot in the back behind C.D.s, no one else wanted the sheriff's job, so I ended up with it."

"OK,", replied Walker, "let's get some shut-eye- I'll leave before dawn for Gage's. Can you handle any trouble from Clayton's end?"

"Sure, cause Clayton doesn't want to tip his hand- He won't do anything direct".

OK, but remember, whatever you do, don't let anyone know I'm a Ranger until I tell you".

Shaking Walker's hand gratefully, Trivette replied "It's a deal" "and between Ginger and C.D., I get wind of almost anything going on in this town. I'll get word to you if I need to" (end of Chapter 11)

Amigo was well-rested, and Walker was on his way as the first rays of the sun lit the eastern horizon. He was not long in reaching the Gage ranch. The brand was a Circle G. The ranch house itself was whitewashed adobe, and sat at the head of a draw, pleasantly surrounded by pastures, green grass, and cottonwoods. Walker knew there was a rifle trained on him as he rode up to the front veranda. He rode up with hands
raised, as a female voice ordered "get down stranger, and no funny business" "No, ma'am" was the reply. The door opened, to reveal a short dark-haired dark eyed
beauty. At the same time, another person carrying a rifle emerged from the barn. This was a tall, blonde man, who appeared to have a ready smile, but who right
now had his eyes fixed on the Ranger. "State your business, then get", ordered the woman. Walker responded "Are you Sydney Gage?" " if it's any of your business, yes, I am- and this is my brother Francis" "Well, if you'll let me reach into my shirt pocket, I have a letter you folks wrote." With that, Walker withdrew the letter Capt. McGuire had given him and handed it to Sydney. "A Ranger- we didn't think we'd ever see you - come in and sit down" Over coffee and biscuits, the siblings told Walker in great detail
all the trouble that had come to their range. "and we're sure Jack Clayton's behind it" stated Gage emphatically. " So am I " replied Walker. On his ride over to the ranch, a germ of an idea had formed in his head. "And with you and Sydney's help, I think
I can get the proof we need to send him to the gallows. But first, don't let anyone know I'm a Ranger. Do you know Alex Cahill?" "We sure do- fine woman- sure had it hard since her husband died", replied Gage. "Well, as far as anyone knows, I took a
job as a hand for her, and that's part of my plan now" Walker also told them about the trouble he had already had with Clayton and his men. "Now, I need to ask if I can buy about 10 head of your steers for the Cahill ranch. She needs them to start again anyway, and I can use them as bait if need be" "Anything you need, Ranger, just ask" was the enthusiastic response from the brother and sister. "Ok, I'll be back in a
couple of days to pick up the stock. Now, though, I've got to get back to the Cahill place." After finalizing plans, the Ranger mounted Amigo and headed back toward his temporary home.

It was an extremely hot Texas day, and Walker had been forced to travel in the
heat of the day in order to get back to the Cahill ranch. As he approached the place, he remembered the stream and swimming hole Bobby had shown him. Hot, dirty, and tired as the Ranger was, he decided to water Amigo and take a swim before heading to the house. Dismounting at the stream, he removed his boots, and led, after Amigo had a long drink, led the Paint shoulder deep into the water to cool his partner.
Then, leaving the horse in a grassy glade, Walker removed all his clothing, and plunged into the cool, refreshing water. He found a spot where he could just
stay seated on an underwater rock and let the current relax and refresh him. He was so enjoying this refreshing break that at first he didn't hear the slight sounds coming from the opposite bank. When he looked up, it was too late, for, entering the water
was the undeniably feminine form of Alex Cahill. For the first time in his life, Walker was completely confounded. He had no idea what to do. If he moved, Alex was sure to see, him, and be sure to think he was spying on her. In addition, he couldn't very well get out of the water in front of her totally undressed.  But, if he stayed where he was, she would probably see him. He had no choice but to stay very still, and
hope she would stay around the slight bend in the stream that temporarily hid Walker from Alex's sight. Despite the chill water, Walker was aware of an increase in his pulse, and a warmth unlike any other he had known was suffusing his body. He didn't want to be discovered, yet some small voice in the back of his mind kept saying "yes, Alex, come closer". As if in answer, Alex, leaning back with eyes half-closed,
came drifting slowly around the bend. The water's ripples hid most of her charms from Walker's view, but he was acutely aware of what the waves concealed, and
there was an aching, a pleasant aching and yearning deep in the Ranger's body.. An eddy in the stream turned Alex slowly toward Walker. As her head came around, she gave a gasp as she realized she was observed. Her one hand went to her mouth, and the other instinctively covered her bosom, though it was still under water. Suddenly, she recognized the Ranger "Cord," she managed to get out, "what are you doing here?" Her initial fright had been replaced by relief, at least for the moment. Walker's face had turned bright red. "I was dirty and hot after riding all day, so I stopped for a swim- I was half-asleep in the water, and didn't hear you until you were in here
too. I couldn't leave, so I was hoping you'd leave before you came around this bend." Alex's relief was now replaced by indignity "Cord- you were spying on me", she yelled at the hapless Ranger. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Cahill, but this was purely an accident", mumbled Walker. Despite her anger, Alex knew this was true. "If you'll just turn your back, I'll climb that bank there where my clothes are, and you can finish your
bath" he continued. "That would be best", Alex replied. She was trembling, not from the chill of the stream, but with excitement and a longing she had not felt since her marriage. Despite her anger and embarrassment, a part of her didn't want Walker to
leave. Then, as she started to turn her back to the big Ranger, she lost her footing on the slippery rocks on which she had braced herself. As she groaned in fear and anticipation, the current slowly but inexorably pulled her toward Cordell Walker. (end of Chapter 12)

Chapter 13                         

The gentle current of the stream continued to pull Alex toward Walker.  She gained her footing just before she reached him, and Walker instinctively reached out to steady her.  He held her at arm's length, both of them feeling a deep yearning, hearts pounding, warm with excitement and anticipation, yet hesitant.  Finally, Walker slowly started to draw Alex toward him.  Her eyes closed, and her lips parted ever so slightly.  Then, Amigo appeared on the bank, nickering a frantic warning to Walker. "Someone's coming"  he told Alex. "Hide behind the brush overhanging the bank here".  He no sooner had gotten the words out when a rifle bullet flew over their heads, then another.  "Stay under the brush, while I deal with this," he ordered Alex.  "I'll be back, don't you worry."   With that, he quickly swam underwater across the stream, to emerge on the bank opposite Alex.  Despite her fear, she couldn't help sneaking a glance at the bare-chested Ranger as he emerged from the water and carefully snaked his way up the bank.  After Walker disappeared, two more shots rang out, but Alex didn't dare move.  Meanwhile, Walker had made his way up the bank, only to be met by Sheriff Trivette, who was standing over the body of a dead cowpoke.  "Trivette, what are you doing here," queried Walker. "I might ask you the same thing," was the sheriff's quick response.  "I was on my way back to the Cahill ranch, and stopped for a quick swim and clean-up,  when someone started firing at me."  "That would explain your outfit, or should I say lack thereof," replied Trivette, sardonically.  "Actually, I was on my way over to Mrs. Cahill to try to get word to you that I need to see you at my office in the morning.  I have some interesting information for you.  Anyway, I saw this jasper shooting toward the river.  I yelled for him to stop, and he tried to plug me, so I drilled him first.”

"Recognize him?", Walker asked. "Yep, he's Clancy Delaney, another one of Clayton's riders." "Well", Walker admitted, " I'm dang glad you came along when you did.

I owe you one."  Trivette responded, "Better get dressed and back to the ranch.  I'll take this body in. There’s no need to mention where I found him."  Trivette turned,

mount his horse and prepared to leave, then turned back to Walker, and with a grin said, "And by the way, I didn't see a beautiful woman in the water with you , either."

Walker just turned beet-red and muttered, "Go to Blazes".  When Walker returned to the stream bank, he was fully clothed, and just called out. "I'm on my way back to the house. I’ll see you later."  (end of chapter 13)

Walker discreetly allowed Alex plenty of time to get back to the ranch.  When he arrived, Bobby yelped with joy, and ran out of the yard to meet the big Ranger.

Walker pulled the boy up on Amigo, and they raced back to the house.  Supper was a quiet affair, except for Bobby's excited talk.  Somehow, Walker and Alex knew things between them would never be the same.  Walker knew he could be headed into a situation more dangerous than any he had ever faced as a Ranger.

After supper he told Alex and Bobby, "I need to go into town to check with the sheriff tomorrow, so you might as well make a list of supplies, and we'll hitch up Teddy to the buckboard. We'll need to get an early start."  Alex looked at the Ranger gratefully. "That's wonderful, Cord, thank you."  She hadn't been to town for quite

some time, and looked forward to the change of scenery.  It would also take her out of Walker's distracting  presence, for the moment.  Bobby asked, " May I get a

sarsaparilla?"  Alex told him, If you go to bed on time, with no complaining, yes."  I may have another surprise or two for both of you, while we’re in town." Walker informed them.                          

The next morning dawned sunny and pleasant.  Alex drove Teddy, while Walker followed on Amigo.  Bobby happily rode along in the back of the buckboard.  When they arrived in town Walker told mother and son, " I have to check in with Sheriff

Trivette. It’s part of my bail conditions. I'll meet you at Jensen's store in an hour."  Striding to the sheriff's office, Walker quickly entered.  Trivette greeted him warmly. "Here, Walker, look at these papers. I went to the county records office. They show everything Jack Clayton's bought up, and every one of the owners was either shot or driven off their land."  "Great work, Trivette," replied Walker, but we need more

Proof than this." "I know, and I'm working on it, replied Trivette"   Plus, C.D. and Ginger are pumping every one of Clayton's men that goes into C.D.’s saloon for information.  Sooner or later, one of them is bound to spill something." "Well, I also have a plan that may force Clayton, or whoever is behind this trouble, into the open."  With that, Walker told Trivette most of the details of what he hoped would force the outlaw's

hand. "By the way, any trouble over Delaney?" 

"Nah," replied Trivette, "I convinced Clayton he was drunk and drew on me."  Then, leaving the sheriff, Walker went to the livery stable.  He had spotted a gentle, palomino and white, Paint there, which he purchased as a surprise for Bobby.  He quietly tied the new horse to the hitch rail next to Amigo.  Then he went over to Jensen's store to meet Alex and Bobby.

The twosome had a fair amount of supplies picked out. Olav Jensen was a kindly old gentleman, who was always willing to extend credit to his neighbors in trouble.  Walker told him, "I'll pay for this, and give to boy a peppermint stick and a  sarsaparilla, and his mom needs some dress material, I'm sure."  Alex protested.

"Walker, no," but he quieted her with, "You can just add it to my future wages.  I have another surprise for you in a day or two. But now, we've got work to do back at the ranch". Jensen's store was right next to C.D.’s.  As the supplies were being loaded, two cowboys came out of C.D.’s, and started harassing, and making rude comments toward, Alex.  "Back off," Walker growled to the pair.  One of them was tall and red-headed while the other was stocky and dark.  "You don't own the lady," retorted Red, and he tried to yank his Colt out of his gun belt.  Before his gun was half drawn, he was staring down the barrel of Walker's gun. "I told you, back off!!!" Walker repeated.  "With a muttered curse, the pair retreated but threatened, "We won't forget this, cowboy." C.D. had been watching from the saloon. "Doggone it, Cord, that's the fastest draw I've ever seen, except for the other night when you killed those two hombres."  "Know them, C.D.?" Was Walker’s only reply. "Nope, never seen them in town before," was the saloon owner’s response. "Ok, Alex and Bobby, Walker then told his employer and her son, let's finish loading the wagon and head home."

After they finished, Alex drove Teddy and cart over to where Walker had left Amigo tied.   Walker untied Amigo, while he let Bobby climb up on the buckboard . "Hey,

boy," Walker told the boy gruffly, in pretended annoyance. "Where do you think you're going?"  Bobby looked upset.  "Home with Mom and you, Mr. Cord." 

Walker replied "Well, then, don't you think you should ride your horse home?"  "Teddy's pulling the wagon," responded Bobby in confusion.  "Not Teddy. That Paint next to Amigo is yours."  Bobby's eyes grew wide with excitement and joy.  He jumped out of the wagon with an “Indian war-whoop,” and raced over to his new horse.

Alex just looked at Walker, eyes full of gratitude and yet pain, and said "Cord, no…I … we… can't accept." Walker cut her short .  "Every boy needs a horse unless he lives in town, and if Bobby's going to help us get your ranch back on steady footing, he simply has to have a horse to help with the work.  No, I'll hear no more about it. Let's go home."   Bobby raced back to Walker and Alex "Thank you, Mr. Cord- Mom, he's beautiful- what's his name, Mr. Cord?" 

"He's your horse. You have to name him" "Well, he's gold like the sunrise on Yellow Mesa, even with his white, so I'll call him Sunny," replied the boy excitedly.  The threesome headed home happily, and, a mile from the ranch, Alex gave Bobby permission to gallop his new friend home.  When she and Walker arrived at the yard, Bobby was happily unsaddling and stroking the nose of his new friend .

(end of Chapter 14)

The next morning Walker emerged from his bunk in the barn at dawn, to find Bobby already in the corral with his new horse.  The boy was ecstatic over his new friend.  He had already curried, fed, and watered Sunny and was racing around the corral bareback.  As he spotted the big Ranger approaching, he turned his horse sharply toward Walker, and yelled, "Bang, gotcha again, Mr. Cord."

Walker, used to going along with this game by now, staggered and dropped to the ground.  He then got back up and, much to the boy's pleasure, told him "You'll

make a great lawman one day. Meanwhile, though, you're not paying attention, and it's my turn. Blam! I got YOU."  Yelling with feigned pain and with delight, Bobby slumped over the neck of his horse, and slowly slid to the ground.  To Walker's delight, his eye for horseflesh had been true.  Sunny stood quietly as Bobby did all this, sniffing at his new friend as Bobby lay on the ground.  Walker then yelled. “I'm

comin' to get you boy!” He jumped the corral fence and engaged the boy in a good old-fashioned wrestling match.  Unbeknownst to both Bobby and Walker, Alex

had been watching this scene from the porch, her heart leaping with joy at seeing her son so filled with happiness.  Reluctantly, she finally called to man and boy, "If you two don't clean up and get in here right now, breakfast goes to the chickens!" "Yes, Ma'am" Walker humbly replied, while Bobby yelled "OK, Mom."

The two went over to the well to clean up. Walker told Bobby "Today's your first day earning your horse. We have to check some fence to make sure we can keep stock inside the land your Mom owns."  At breakfast, Walker told Alex his plans for the day.  When they had been in town the day previous, he had asked Sheriff Trivette to send a

coded message for him to Capt. McGuire at Ranger HQ. He didn't want to take a chance of anyone spotting him sending a wire and arousing suspicion as to his true

identity.  The wire would assure Capt. McGuire that he was fine and his investigation was proceeding.  Spending a couple of days strictly working on the Cahill ranch would also help keep his cover as a drifting ranch hand intact.  So, he told Alex he was

going to take Bobby with him as he inspected and fixed fence.  Bobby kept up an almost non-stop conversation in the meantime, "Isn’t my horse great?  He already

let's me ride him alone. Mom, can I take him some carrots from the garden? I'm going to be a real cowboy, and help you with our ranch."  Alex was filled with gratitude to Walker, yet at the same time sad, knowing that Bobby's father would never return to see what kind of fine young man his son would grow to be.

"Pard, go saddle your horse, and I'll be out in a couple of minute. And mind you, I'll be checking to make sure that the cinch is tight."  Bobby raced out the door, and Walker

turned to Alex. " I hope you don't mind me giving Bobby this horse. He needed a companion, and it will help him  learn responsibility.”  "Mind?" replied Alex," I don't know how I can ever repay you. You've made Bobby so happy.  I just miss his father, and I know he does too. But you've been so good for him and, you've given me hope again," she added, shyly.(end of Chapter 15)

"Well, time to get to work." Walker told Alex. "Wait, I've made some sandwiches for you." Alex replied, "And I'll have an extra-special supper for you two when you get home tonight." Walker then sauntered out the corral, where Bobby was already mounted on Sunny.  Amigo nickered a greeting to Walker as he entered the corral, and gave his human partner a friendly shove in the chest with his soft muzzle.  Walker stroked Amigo gently on the neck. Then, after checking Bobby's saddle, he mounted up. "Now Bobby, take it slowly. We've lot's of ground to cover, so I don't want you

wearing out your horse and I sure don't aim to be stopping and picking up that new hat of yours every few feet- it hasn't had time to mold itself to your head yet."  "No, Sir," the youngster replied, solemnly.  He was so filled with joy he would have done anything he was asked.  Side by side, the pair started down the trail to the back acreage of the ranch, while Alex watched them with a lump in her throat, a lump of joy. She turned back into the cabin lest one of the pair look around to see the tears in her eyes.

The morning was spent riding fence line, with Walker showing Bobby how to splice and tighten barbed wire.  Although the boy was still not quite old or strong enough to handle the chore himself, he was a willing student, and a few months would make a

great difference in his ability.  He was also, to Walker's great delight, a natural horseman.  Sunny, after months of being cooped up in the livery stable or its corral, was full of spirit, and bucked a few times on the way.  Bobby just yelled "Yee hah, go you bronco," and stuck to the saddle like a burr.  The Ranger also showed Bobby wildlife the boy hadn't really noticed before, deer and coyote, eagles and hawks.  At

lunchtime, the twosome ate ravenously from the lunch Alex had made.  "Bobby, if you eat any more, you'll burst, or break Sunny's back," Walker teased his young compadre.  Bobby just smiled and retorted, "If I'm going to be a lawman, I need to grow up to be big, like you, Mr. Cord."  Walker had no response to that comment.  After lunch, the pair rode on, until they came across a tree that had fallen, and taken down a good section of fence. "Well, Pard, can we get this tree moved and the fence back up

before dark?"  "You bet," Bobby replied, confidently.  Racing to beat the time, the two  struggled to shift the tree and restring the fence.  Removing his hat and wiping his brow, Walker then told Bobby "OK, work time’s over. Now it's time for some fun. Amigo'n' I will race you and Sunny to the swimming hole, and we'll take a swim." Bobby didn't even reply, just jumped on Sunny and hollered "Giddap, Sunny."  Walker purposely held Amigo back, since no horse in Texas was faster than his Paint.

Amigo was not pleased, and let Walker know it with some well-timed bucks.  The four of them arrived at the water hole in a dead heat.  "Cool your horse out for a few minutes before you  jump in that water," Walker ordered Bobby. “Remember, you care for your animal first, yourself, second.” After the horses were cooled, Walker and Bobby spent a goodly amount of time in the swimming hole, with a good deal of splashing, horseplay, ducking, diving, and just plain fun. After about an hour, Walker reluctantly told Bobby. "Gotta get out now- it's time to dry off a while so we can

get back to the house for supper- or your Mom just may skin us both."  The two climbed out of the stream, lounging on the bank in the warm late afternoon sun.

Walker's thoughts inevitably drifted back to the afternoon with Alex, at the same spot.  He realized he was becoming wholly enamored of this bold pioneer woman, and

was already more than very fond of Bobby.  But, he reasoned, it wouldn't be fair to ask them to share a Ranger's life.  Alex has already lost one husband, and Bobby his father. No, that can't happen again."  As if reading Walker's mind, Bobby spoke up, "Mr. Cord, wouldn't it be great if you could stay here with me and  Mom forever?" 

Walker smiled and, reaching over, fondly tousled the boy's sandy hair. "It sure would, Bobby, it sure would."

"Then will you?"  To which Walker could only murmur "We'll see". He couldn't bring himself to tell Bobby that it could never be. "Now, boy, get yourself dressed. We’ve

got to get going or your Mom will be worried" (end of Chapter 16)

As promised, Alex had a really special meal ready for Bobby and Walker.  Bobby asked his mother, "Mom, can I say a special grace tonight?"  After Alex responded in the affirmative, Bobby prayed "Thank you Lord, for our food, and our ranch, and Mom, and Mr. Cord, and for my new horse Sunny. Amen."  Walker looked at Bobby and

told him "Bobby, you worked hard today. You've earned the right to just call me Cord. No more “mister.” We're pards."  Alex then declared "Eat, already!"  She was afraid of her emotions getting the better of her.  The three feasted on fried chicken, potatoes, fresh green beans from the garden, and peach cobbler.  As they were eating dessert, Walker told Alex "Now for the rest of my surprise. I've arranged with the Gage's

to get 10 head of cattle from them.  You can raise them for market, and when they're ready, Francis and Sydney will put them with their herd for the fall drive.  You can pay them with the money these steers will earn, and you’ll have enough cash to buy calves for your own herd next year".  Alex said, 'Walker, that's just too good to be true! She hesitated, “Are you planning on staying on?"  Walker evasively replied, "As long as necessary- but don't forget, I bought Bobby a cow horse, and I'll need to teach

him to handle a small herd."  "When are they arriving?" Alex asked Walker. "I'll leave before sunup tomorrow to drive them over here." Walker responded. "Can me

and Sunny come?"  Bobby asked. “MAY, Sunny and I come,” corrected his Mother. “May we?” Bobby restated. "Not this trip, I’m afraid. Sunny isn't fully trained yet, and neither are you, son. We'll work on those skills here so you can learn what to do in the future," replied Walker. "Tomorrow, I need you to clean out the stalls in the barn for the horses.  Summer won't last forever." “Aw, gee, it’s not fair." Bobby whined. “Robert Cahill, none of that, or there’ll be no riding Sunny for a week!" his Mother

remonstrated. “Now, off to bed, everyone. We all have a big day tomorrow. I need to weed the garden and get it ready for planting the late summer squashes and  vegetables."

With that, Walker retired to his bunk in the barn, and Bobby and Alex retired for the night. (end of Chapter 17)

True to his word, Walker was in the saddle and on his way before sunup the next morning.  As he passed through Bandera, only a few people were about.  Some folks were straggling into St. Stanislaus for the morning Mass, and a few of the shopkeepers were sweeping the wooden sidewalks.  Sheriff Trivette was in conversation with C.D. in front of the saloonkeeper's place.  Espying Walker, he yelled out, "Where you headed, Mister? You know you can't leave town!" 

Walker spurred Amigo up to Trivette, and growled "None of your business, but, if you must know, I'm going to pick up some cattle at the Gage ranch for widow Cahill."  Trivette responded by reaching up, grabbing Walker by the shirt front, and yanking him off Amigo.

"Don't backtalk ME, bud. I'm the law here" Under his breath, he told Walker "C.D. told me about those two hombres you had the run-in with. I did some checking on them. One is Red Coleman, gunslinger out of Kansas. The other is Brady Bodine, another bad character out of Colorado. Rumor has it they're going to work for the Lazy C, Jack Clayton's brand."  Walker quickly whispered, "thanks".  To complete the act, Trivette

faked a punch to Walker's belly.  The big Ranger doubled over as if hit hard, and then Trivette followed through with a left that appeared to hit Walker square in the jaw, but which was just a glancing blow.  Walker flopped flat on his back, and glaring at Trivette, muttered, "Some day you won't have that badge, and I'll call you out!"  He then got up slowly, as if trying to catch his breath, stumbled back to Amigo, climbed into the saddle, and headed out the Gage ranch.  Sydney and her brother greeted

Walker warmly.  After a quick coffee, they took Walker to where the 10 head of cattle he had asked for were penned.  "Walker, as you can see, they have our Circle

G brand, plus, as you asked, we put a small mark on each steer's front leg", Francis Gage pointed out.  "Is there a special reason for this?" Sydney asked "There

is," replied Walker, "Part of my plan to smoke out Jack Clayton and his cronies.  But, in case it goes wrong… He hesitated, “I don't want to give you any details yet. That

way he can't blame you two or Alex.  Don't forget, except for you and Sheriff Trivette, no one in these parts knows I'm a Ranger, not even Alex Cahill. By the way, two tough hombres have drifted into town, names of Red Coleman and Brady Bodine. Don’t tangle with them unless they start trouble on your place. They’re about to join up

and become part of this whole mess"  Bidding the siblings a warm farewell, Walker started the little herd on the trail to the Cahill ranch. (end of Chapter 18)

Chapters 19-25

Jack Clayton was in a foul mood.  He turned to his foreman, Lanky Kance, and cursed "-----------------   ------------ I thought we'd control this whole area by now.  I need all this land before the railroad comes through, and I need to control the cattle trail

access.  What's gone wrong, anyway?"  Kance cursed back "It's that ------------------- Cord jasper. Cahill would have been off her land by now, if it weren't for him- plus, I hear he's been cozying up to the Gages over at the Circle G"  "Well, I think I've

come up with a solution to the Cord problem- let's head into town and I'll introduce you to your two newest hands- no point putting it off any longer- THEY"LL solve our problem, once and for all"  The ranch owner and his foreman went to the corral,

saddled and mounted their horses, and loped off toward Bandera.

Walker's little herd was making good progress. He had hoped to be back at the Cahill ranch before sundown, but it looked as if he would be there by midafternoon.  He

let the herd and Amigo drink in a small draw, and then pushed them onward.  However, fate had a different plan in store that day.  As Walker pushed the herd

through a small canyon, Clayton and Kance happened upon his back trail. "Well, look here, Boss" Kance exclaimed. "maybe we can get rid of your problem right now" "Absolutely" Clayton muttered. "That ------------ won't give us any more trouble after today- and then we'll take care of Cahill and the Gages, and anyone else who gets in our way".  With that, he unshipped his Winchester from this saddle scabbard.  The wind, which had been gentle most of the morning, had picked up about an hour earlier.  It was blowing straight at Walker's face, kicking up the dust from the cattle.

He had covered his nose and mouth with his bandanna to avoid breathing in the suffocating cloud.  The wind covered any sound or scent from the rear that Amigo,

with his equine senses scent and hearing, or his human partner might have picked up.  Clayton took aim, and Walker stiffened in his saddle  as a bullet caught him in the back.  Then, the big Ranger tumbled to the ground as a second slug knocked him from the saddle.  He rolled over a couple of times, and lay face down in the dirt.  Clayton laughed "that takes care of that -------------, and we might as well pick us up a few

more head"  He and his foreman took off after the scattering steers, leaving Walker sprawled in the brush. (end of Chapter 19)

It had been about an hour since the ambush.  Ranger Cordell Walker appeared to be dead. However, there was still some life left in him. He  gave a slight groan,

aware of a tremendous pain throughout his torso.  He was also conscious of something that appeared to be a bumping in his head. He kept drifting in and our of consciousness.  Finally, he came to enough to realize that what he was feeling on his head was the muzzle of his faithful companion of many trails, Amigo.  The Paint was insistently nuzzling his human friend, trying desperately to awaken him..  Besides Walker's head, the horse kept pushing against Walker's side, trying to get the downed Ranger up and moving.  Finally, the frustrated animal gave a great shove into Walker's side, flipping the Ranger over.   Facing up at his four-legged friend, Walker groaned "all right Amigo- I love you, too, but I'm afraid I'm done for this time, fella..  Go back to the ranch, or else rub off that saddle and bridle on the rocks and run free"

In response, Amigo snorted, almost as if in disgust at his rider, and buried his nose in Walker's chest.  When Walker didn't respond, the Paint again nuzzled Walker's face, lipping the Ranger's nose and ears.  When he still received no response, Amigo moved his muzzle down to Walker's midsection, and again shoved it deep into the Ranger's belly.  That move finally got a response.  Walker gasped "OK, boy, we'll try to

get home", and tried to get up, but he only succeeded in rolling onto his side.  He was getting weaker again, his shirt soaked with the blood  he was losing.

 "Amigo, it's up to you" groaned Walker.  Using his last ounce of strength, the Ranger hooked his right arm through the left stirrup of his saddle. "All right, Amigo, take me to Alex's" Walker whispered to the big gelding, then lapsed into unconsciousness


Bobby had finished his chores, and Alex was in the house doing some mending.  After helping his mother shell peas for the evening meal, he asked her if he could go  outside and play with Sunny.  Boy and horse were already inseparable. "As long as

you stay in the corral or front yard, it's OK" Alex told her son.  She did not remember when she had last been so happy.   Bobby raced outside.  He had been riding his pet for almost an hour, happily playing sheriff and rounding up imaginary outlaws, when he spotted a horse coming up the trail, very slowly.  As the animal got closer, Bobby realized it was Amigo, but where was Cord?  Then, he noticed the figure draped by one arm from the stirrup.  "Mom", the boy screamed, "quick, help, MOM, MOM, MOM".  Alex, terrorized by the tone of Bobby's voice, dashed out of the house.  By this time, Amigo had entered the yard.  "NOOO" Alex screamed at the top of her lungs. "CORD_

NOOOO".  As Amigo stopped, Walker's arm fell from the stirrup.  Leaning over the prostrate Ranger, Alex yelled at Bobby "Go into town and get Doc Evans, quick"  "Mom., is Cord .....?"   "Bobby, don't wait- get the doctor NOW"  Tears streaming down his face, Bobby raced Sunny toward Bandera at dead run (end of Chapter 20)

The citizens of Bandera who were out on the main road looked up in wonder at the small boy charging through town on the back of a Paint horse on a dead run.  Bobby reined in Sunny sharply in front of Doc Evans house, and burst through the door of the Doctor's office, yelling at the top of his lungs, "Doctor Evans, quick, help, we need you at our ranch"  The doctor, a kindly, gray bearded gentleman of about 60, emerged from his back room, where he had just treated a rancher with a sprained ankle.  Looking down at Bobby, the Doctor queried "Here, here, young man, what's all this commotion about?"  Bobby, scared and worried that his big friend might already be dead, responded hurriedly "you have to come to our ranch NOW- Cord's been hurt bad- it looks like he was shot!!"  Doctor Evans knew Bobby and Alex, of course, and had heard of their new hired hand.  "Just one minute, son", he kindly told the frightened

youngster", while I get my medical bag. Trixie is already hitched to my buggy.  I was going out in a little while.  You arrived just in time".  As the doctor went around to the back where he kept his bay mare and buggy, Bobby raced out the front door, ready to dash back home.  Sheriff Trivette had observed the boy's mad run through town, and was climbing the porch steps just as Bobby swept through the door. "Bobby,

what's wrong? Where's your mother ?"   "Mr. Trivette- something awful's happened to Cord- His horse brought him home- Cord was dragging by his arm from the stirrup- I think he's dead, but Mom told me to fetch Doc Evans quick."  Bobby, I'll ride back there with you- you and your mom may need some more help"  Doctor Evans came around the back of his house then, his mare pulling the buggy at a fast trot.  The sheriff headed back to the hitch rail in front of his office, mounted his rangy chestnut gelding Santana, and galloped toward the Cahill ranch, Bobby following as quickly as he could on the tiring Sunny.                    

Jack Clayton and Lanky Kance had arrived in town, after rounding up the herd Walker had been driving and taking them to the Lazy C.  Observing the sheriff and Bobby heading out of town, Kance wondered "what's that all about"?  Clayton replied to his foreman "Bet they found Cord's body- now there's nothing to stand in our way- but, just in case, as promised, let's go into C.D.s and I'll introduce you to your two new hands"  Entering the bar, the rancher told C.D. "set 'em up for the house"  Spying the men he was looking for at the bar, he introduced them to Kance "Lanky, this here is Red Coleman, and the hombre with him is Brady Bodine-  we'll wait a few days, and if anyone gets in our way, these two gentlemen will stop him-permanent"  "Howdy,

boys, and welcome to Bandera" Kance greeted the two owl hoots.  With that, the foursome started a long session of celebratory drinking.  They failed to notice that C.D. was carefully listening to their every word. (end of Chapter 21)

When Doc Evans and Sheriff Trivette arrived at the Cahill ranch, Cordell Walker was still lying face down in the dusty front yard, with Amigo standing protectively over his friend.  Alex Cahill was kneeling over the Ranger.   She had not attempted to move him into the house, for fear of causing further damage.  She had gotten clean rags from the house, and was using these to try to staunch, or at least slow, the bleeding form the wounds in Walker's back. Trivette jumped off Santana before the chestnut had even stopped running, and the doctor alighted quickly from his buggy.  Trivette took Alex by the shoulders, and gently pulled her back slightly from Walker. "Alex, Doc Evan's here, let him take a look at Cord"  The Doctor look a quick look at the Ranger, and shook his head.   As a range doctor, he had seen more than his share of bullet wounds and busted up riders, but rarely any this serious. "He's shot up bad- let's get him in the house and I'll see what I can do"  As gently as possible, Trivette picked up Walker's still form under the shoulders, and Doc Evans picked up Walker's legs by the ankles.  The Ranger never made a sound, and his head drooped listlessly from his

shoulders as he was carried into the house.  Alex followed the two men as they laid Walker on her bed, face down.  She wanted to burst into tears, but she instinctively knew she would need every ounce of her strength if there were to be any chance to save her ranch hand and best hope.  Just as the two men placed Walker on the bed, Bobby arrived back home, having fallen behind on the exhausted Sunny.  He stood

halfway in the front door, not sure whether or not to enter the house.                                     

"Mrs. Cahill, we'll need lots of boiling water" Doc Evans told her. "Already started", was her terse response.  She had put pots on the stove as she was getting the rags she had used on Walker.  "OK, now, I'm going to cut off his shirt, and see how bad he was hit."  Observing the ugly, blue-rimmed bullet holes, the doctor tsked softly to himself.   One was up high in the Rangers' back, the other lower down. 

"Trivette, lift up his left shoulder for me, will you" ordered the doctor.  As Trivette did this, Doc Evans checked another, larger bullet hole high in Walker's chest, just under the collarbone.  "Well, there's a little good, anyway- one slug went clean on through- we won't have to dig out that bullet"  Turning, he was about to ask Alex for hot water when he spotted Bobby in the bedroom door, the boy's eyes wide with horror.

"Trivette, please get the boy out of here"  The sheriff gently took Bobby in his arms "You have to leave now, son- you'll be more help outside"  Bobby protested wildly, pounding his small fists on Trivette's shoulders. "I can't leave Cord- he's my pard"  "Bobby, the doc's doing everything he can"  As he carried the boy outside, Trivette told him "besides- look at your horse- you rode him nearly to death"  Sunny was standing spraddle-legged in the yard, his head drooped almost to the ground in

exhaustion.  Amigo was standing next to him. "Now, you go give your horse a good rubdown and water and grain him.  I'm sure Cord would want you to take care

of Amigo too.  Those cayuses may just have saved your friend's life"  Trivette returned to the house, where the doctor had gotten out his medical forceps.  Alex was standing with him. "Trivette, Alex, if we have any chance of saving this man, I've got to get this other slug out of his back- I'll need the two of you to keep my instruments in alcohol.  In one way, it's good he's so weak from loss of blood- he won't likely

feel anything while I probe for that slug- it wouldn't do to have him wiggle around and maybe do more damage".

With that, Doc Evans started probing the lower wound in Walker's back.  After what seemed an eternity, he finally grunted "got it" and pulled out the rifle slug. "Let me have that, Doc" ordered Trivette, taking the bullet and examining it carefully. "OK, now I'm going to clean and sterilize these wounds, and then bandage them. "

After this was done, he asked Alex to stay with Walker for a few moments, while he cleaned up.  With a quick motion of his head, he beckoned Trivette onto the porch.  In a quiet voice, he told the sheriff "That man should have been long dead- I can't figure how he's hung on this long.  I don't think he has a chance, but if we can avoid infection, then maybe......."  his voice trailed off, then resuming, he continued "but, Trivette, he'll need around the clock attention- and that woman, strong as she is, will need help- do you know anyone who might?"  Trivette thought a quick moment, then replied "Doc, I can have C.D. send one or two of his ladies out here- Ginger for sure- but I intend to try and track Cord's trail to wherever he was bushwhacked, and see if I can find the dirty skunks who did this- can you stop at C.D.s and let him know what we need?"  Sure thing, but let's go back in and finish up"  Just then, Bobby emerged from the barn, where he had rubbed down and fed the exhausted Sunny and worried Amigo. Racing to the two men, he cried out "How's Cord?"  Softly, Doc Evans told the

boy "he's still alive, so he's got a chance- you can help best now by helping your Mom, and praying for your friend."  Going back in the house, he summoned Alex.  "Mrs. Cahill, I'll be back first thing in the morning. Cord is too weak to even think of moving him. Now, here's what you need to do- the bandages and dressing will need to be changed every four hours.

I'll show you how.  The main thing we have to worry about now is infection. That's killed more men that the bullet itself.  The sheriff assures me he can get a couple of ladies to help you- can you do this?"  Alex took a deep breath, and responded, "whatever it takes, I'll do it"  "Bueno, then let me show you how to change the dressings and clean the wounds"   After this was done, he told Alex "if you want, you can let Bobby in for a few minutes- might be good if Cord can somehow feel the boy's here"  Alex called Bobby into the room.  The youngster was brave, and did not cry,

but with trembling lips said "Cord, you HAVE to live- me and Mom need you"  After a few moments, Trivette called the boy softly from the room "Bobby, I want to try to find the no-good dry-gulchers who did this- tell me everything you can about how you found Cord, and show me where his horse brought him from".( end of Chapter 22)

Bobby and Trivette were still on the porch as Doc Evans emerged from the house Looking gravely at the sheriff, the doctor told him "I've done everything I can for now- it's up to Cord, Alex  and Bobby, and the Good Lord"  Trivette replied "OK, Doc, appreciate it.  It'll be dark soon, but I want to try and pick up Cord's tracks.   I'll go as far as I can until it's too dark, then camp and start out again at first light"  "OK, sheriff, good luck" responded Doc Evans.  I'm on my way to C.D.s now to tell him Mrs. Cahill needs help.  Vaya Con Dios"                                

Trivette turned to Bobby- "Now, Bobby, I need you to show me where you spotted Cord's horse"  Leading the sheriff, Bobby took him down the northwest trail "I was riding Sunny, and I saw Amigo right here" "OK, son, you're a great help- now, I'll go say goodbye to your Mom and get started- sooner I go, the better the chance of catching these buzzards"  Trivette led the boy back to the house.  Alex was at the stove, boiling bandages for later use. Trivette told her his plans.  She replied "Wait,

sheriff, just a couple of minutes, while I pack some sandwiches for you"  Trivette knew there was no use arguing, and he hadn't eaten anyway.  He could use the

food to keep up his strength.  "Ok, and thank you, Mrs. Cahill, but while you're doing that, would you mind if I have a couple of minutes alone with Cord?"

"Please", she replied.  Trivette entered Alex's bedroom and knelt beside the bed, whispering, "Walker, you've got to live- I don't think I can handle this trouble that's coming alone- don't worry, buddy, I won't tell anyone who you really are, not yet, anyway- I'll even wait until I see how you are before I wire Capt. McGuire- And, believe me, I WILL get the skunks who did this to you."  Alex then entered the room,

with a bag of sandwiches.  Trivette mounted Santana, and started following Walker's trail. He was far from an expert tracker, but the marks made by Amigo's hooves and Walker's body dragging from the stirrup were impossible to miss.  He pressed on until it was too dark to see, and made a cold camp for the night.  In the meantime, Doc Evans had stopped at C.D.s, to apprise him of the situation.  C.D., with a muttered

curse at the ambushers, called Ginger. "Ginger, take my buggy and ride out to the Cahill ranch" He explained the situation to her.  Meanwhile, Martha Evans, the doctor's wife, had seen her husband's buggy outside C.D.s, and came to inquire what had happened at the Cahill’s.  While the doctor was explaining the afternoon's events, Ginger protested to C.D. "I'm not fit to step in a decent person's home"  Mrs. Evans

took charge, bluntly telling the dance-hall girl "Nonsense- you're as good as anyone in this town" Then, to her husband, she said "and Doctor Evans, what makes you think I would leave that poor widow woman and her child alone in this situation- I'm going with Ginger, and we'll both stay with her as long as we're needed"  Doc Evans looked at his wife and said "Martha, you always were a wonder to me, and you still are.  You two ladies hurry out there, and I'll be back first thing in the morning."  C.D. added "and I'll be with him"  After the two women left, Doc Evans turned to C.D. and said "I'm glad they both went- I have a feeling that by the morning the only reason we'll be needed is to bring back Cord's body for the undertaker" (End of Chapter 23)

Little rest was obtained that night.  Trivette was in cold camp, trying to track the bushwhackers. C.D. still had to run the saloon, but knew he and Doc Evans would

be also be leaving for the Cahill ranch at dawn.  Martha Evans and Ginger arrived at the Cahill ranch just before midnight.  Bobby had finally fallen asleep, totally exhausted. Alex was in the midst of changing the dressings and bandages on Walker's

wounds.  She was working on sheer grit and determination.  Mrs. Evans told her "Dear, you won't be good to anyone if you don't get some rest."  When Alex started to protest, Mrs. Evans retorted "don't you think, after more than 30 years married to a

frontier physician, that I haven't learned a thing or two about patching up men who've been shot? Ginger and I can handle this right now, you have to get some rest"  Ginger spoke up, "please, Mrs. Cahill, let us help. I know I'm not a proper lady, but I sure can

help in this situation.  Now, I'll make you some tea, and then you lie down on the sofa".  Alex protested mildly, but, after lying down on the couch, fell into a restless slumber.                                  

At dawn the next morning, Alex was awakened by Bobby, who was desperate to know how his friend was.  Mrs. Evans and Ginger had just changed the bandages again.  Entering her bedroom with Bobby, all Alex could muster was "Is he still.....?"  Mrs. Evans quietly replied, "yes, dear, he is"  Ginger then answered "he's a strong man...knew that the first time I laid eyes on him in the saloon.  Now, let me fix you and your boy some breakfast."   Bobby slipped into the room, and sitting nest to the

bed, spoke softly to his friend.  "Cord, you've got to get well.  Amigo is waiting for you, and me and Sunny want you to stay here with us. Please, Cord, get well"

With tears in his eyes, he got up  and told Alex, "Mom, I'm going to take care of Amigo and Sunny-they need to be ready for Cord"  He then went out to tend to the horses. Shortly thereafter, Doc Evans and C.D. arrived.  They were surprised to see Bobby in the corral.  He had already brushed Sunny and Amigo, and was working on Teddy.  Entering the cabin, the pair was greeted by Mrs. Evans.  To answer the question in

Doc's eyes, she replied "yes, he's still alive"  The doctor went to check on his patient.  Walker was still unconscious, and breathing shallowly, but Doc Evans looked and muttered "well, I'll be.... and no fever, yet."                                                

Meanwhile, Trivette had resumed following the trail left by Walker and Amigo.  He had little difficulty, until he came to the site of the ambush itself.  There, the tracks of the dry-gulchers horses, mixed in with the cattle tracks from the scattered herd, made picking up the trail impossible.   "Well, Santana", Trivette spoke to his horse, "I think we'll just follow a hunch, and try a bluff."  With that, the sheriff headed straight toward the Lazy C spread.                                   

Just after he crossed the ranch's boundary, Trivette felt a tug on his shirt, and felt the burn of a bullet as it scraped along his ribs.  Santana jerked and squealed in pain as the same slug cut a furrow along the horse's flank.  Trivette quickly rolled out

of the saddle, just in time to avoid a second bullet which tore through the space he had just occupied.  Taking cover behind some low rocks, Trivette returned fire at his attacker.  He grunted with satisfaction as he saw the man grab his shoulder and roll off the bank he was firing from.  Trivette quickly ran up to the outlaw, who had already lost his rifle, and relieved him of his Colt.  As he tied up the attacker, none too gently, he asked "What's your name, Mister?" and who do you work for"  "Bob Knapp, was the reply, and I work for Jack Clayton- you're trespassing, and I have

orders to shoot to kill"  "This badge means I can go anywhere I want in this county", was Trivette's quick response, "and right now I want to go have a talk with your boss.  Let's get your horse and get moving."    

Hard eyes observed Trivette as he rode up to the Lazy C ranch house with his prisoner.  As he dismounted, and dragged Knapp off his horse, Lanky Kance, the Lazy C foreman, challenged the sheriff. "Trivette, what are you doing here"  "Get your boss, pronto!!!, was the reply.  The door to the ranch house opened, and Jack Clayton himself said, "come in, sheriff, and state your business."   Trivette told him

bluntly " Alex Cahill's hand, Cord, was ambushed while he was driving a few steers over to her place.  I think you were behind it, Clayton, and I think those steers are on your spread. There better not be any Circle G brands here. Clayton just smiled insolently.

"Do you have any proof- and, even if you find any Circle G steers here, can you prove I or my men rustled them?".  "No", replied Trivette sullenly. "not now.  But I'm taking your man here to jail for attempted murder of a law officer"  "He was just following my orders" sneered Clayton. "But, take him in".  Then, he added sarcastically "Lanky, if we find any Circle G steers here, please be kind enough to return them to the Gage ranch"  As Trivette left with his prisoner, he turned to Kance and said. "Find Red Coleman or Brady Bodine. You know what to have them do". Kance replied- yeah boss- get 'em both. "Not Trivette-yet, was the reply.  I have plans for him, and they involve the other Knapp brothers."          

Trivette and his prisoner were more than halfway back to Bandera, when a rifle shot rang out, and Bob Knapp fell backwards out of his saddle, shot in the chest, dead before he hit the ground. (end of Chapter 24)

Jack Clayton watched as Brady Bodine rode up to the Lazy C.  "Is it done?" "Yeah'", responded Bodine bluntly, "you won't have to worry about Knapp answering no questions- but I still don't see why you wouldn't let me take care of that no-good ------------sheriff while I was at it." "I have plans for him" replied Clayton.  "I'm going to get word to Knapp's two brothers that he was killed by Trivette-they'll take care of that law dog once and for all. And the best part is, no one will suspect we're behind it."    Then, we're going to wait a little while, until things quiet down, and just take over all the territory we need.  If anyone tries to stop us, we'll just burn 'em out, and shoot any ---------------- who stands in our way." Lanky Kance said. "I still think we should have blasted Trivette that --------------- while we had the chance"  Clayton whirled on his foreman "Kance, you still work for me, and as long as I do, you'll take my

orders- Now, I need you to get word to the Kanpp’s in New Mexico about their brother."                     

Trivette returned to Bandera, the body of the ambusher Knapp slung over the outlaw's horse.  He reined up in front of Doc Evan's house, as the doctor was also the undertaker. The doctor and C.D. had returned that afternoon from the Cahill ranch.  C.D., as always, didn't miss a trick. Rushing up to Trivette, he demanded "What happened?"  "Tried to follow Cord's trail, but lost it in all the tracks where he was

shot- Followed a hunch, and headed for Clayton's spread.  This sidewinder tried to down me.  I got him in the shoulder, and took him to Clayton's.  He worked

for Clayton, but of course none of them claimed he was trying to kill me, just scare off trespassers.  Anyway, I arrested this snake, but someone got him on

our way in. His name's Bob Knapp."   On hearing Knapp's name, C.D. took a sharp intake of breath. "Bob Knapp- if he's the Bob Knapp I think he is, he's got

two brothers who are rustlers and stage robbers.  Mark my word's, Trivette, they'll be gunning for you." "Well, I'm not going to worry about that now, replied

the sheriff.  What's the word on Cord?".  Still hanging on, but Doc doesn't expect him to last more than another day or two." C.D. responded gloomily.

"Well, let's get this stiff into Doc's, he won't be able to answer any questions like I hoped" replied Trivette.  After they brought Knapp into the back room that was the morgue, Doc Evans ordered Trivette. "Take off that shirt- I want to see where that blood's from" "It's nothing, Doc," Trivette told him.  C.D. blocked the door to the outside "You're not leaving until Doc checks that side." Reluctantly, Trivette gave in, sat down on the examining table, and removed his shirt. "Hmm., not deep- you're lucky, Sheriff", Doc murmured"  I'll just clean that slice and put antiseptic on it"  After Doc did this, Trivette asked him for some antiseptic for Santana.  He put his shirt back on, went out and led Santana to the livery stable, and washed and dressed the wound on his chestnut horse's flank.  Santana nuzzled him gratefully, then both man and horse settled down for some rest.      

Mac Morrison rode quickly from Bandera back to the Lazy C.   "Boss", he shouted out to Jack Clayton. "I've got news for you- That big hombre, Cord, who works for Alex Cahill, isn't dead!!"

"Are you sure?", demanded Clayton? "Positive, Boss- I was outside C.D.s saloon, when the sheriff came in with  Bob Knapp's body- Claims someone dry-gulched Knapp-Anyway, he asked C.D. how Cord was, and C.D. says he's still hanging on-Doc Evans doesn't expect Cord to make it, though." "Thanks, Mac, for that info-you've

been a big help.  By the way, Trivette killed Knapp.  Now go get some grub and shut-eye." After Morrison left, Clayton turned to Kance and told him "In a day or so, we'll have to pay a visit to Alex Cahill- a kindly one- no force , for now.   Even if Cord is

still alive, she may come around and sell to us" (end of Chapter 25)

Chapter 26

Alex reluctantly went out on the porch.  Bobby was standing there, having put down the bucket of water he was carrying. He was staring at the riders fast approaching.  It was Jack Clayton and Lanky Kance. Tipping his hat, Clayton greeted Alex with a greeting that was far too sincere, and a smile that was far too pasted on to be genuine. "Mornin', Ms. Cahill" and "Howdy, son," he said to Bobby.  Trying to remain

calm, Alex looked Clayton straight in the eye, and responded, "Good morning, Mr. Clayton, and you also, Mr. Kance. What can I do for you?"  Well, Ms. Cahill, we wanted to tell you how sorry we were to hear of your trouble. How is your hand, Cord, anyway?"  "Still alive, as if you really care!" Snapped back Alex.  At that point,

Francis Gage joined her on the porch.  Spying the rancher, Clayton queried, "Gage, what are you doing here?"  Gage growled, "replacing the cattle that I'm sure are on your ranch."   Kance, the Lazy C foreman touched his hand to the butt of his Colt,

meaningfully. "You can't prove that Gage, and if that lady and boy weren't here, I'd call you out right now."  Don't hide behind a woman's skirts", Gage retorted.  Just when the two men were about to draw, Martha Evans burst through door.  "Stop it, both of you"  Alex has enough trouble without more gunplay around here!"  Clayton turned to his foreman, "Lanky, have you forgotten your manners? We were just here to see how Mrs. Cahill was doing."  Grudgingly, Kance took his hand away from his Colt, and Gage did likewise.  "Now, Mrs. Cahill, I know this is a bad time, but my offer for your place still stands."  Alex wanted to shoot the rancher herself but, with Cord

gravely ill, wisely decided to play for time. "It is kind of you to repeat the offer, Mr. Clayton.  However, I'm sure you can appreciate that I can't make any decision right now.  I have to see how Cord will be. He can't be moved, and may not live"  "I understand, Mrs. Cahill, and I'm sorry for troubling you."  With those words, Clayton and Kance turned and rode out of the yard, while Gage cursed "Those $%**()!!!#$%*------------" and spat in their direction. (end of Chapter 26)

Chapter 27

Two days after Walker developed his fever, Alex had to leave his side, in order to get more water.  She and the other two ladies, along with Sydney Gage, had stayed on round-the clock duty fighting the fever that threatened to consume the last of the big Ranger's strength.  As she was getting up from her chair, she noticed that Cord seemed calmer, his face not quite as flushed, and the sweat was not running down his face quite so profusely.  Touching her hand to his forehead, she exclaimed "I'm sure the fever is lessening"  She called excitedly to Martha Evans, the doctor's wife. "Martha, I think Cord's fever has  broken!!!!"  Mrs. Evans, Ginger, and Sydney all rushed into the room.  Mrs. Evans exclaimed, " Alex, I believe you're right"  Sydney volunteered   "I'll go into town and get Doc."  "All right, Sydney, and thank

you.” Alex relied gratefully. "But please, let's not say anything to Bobby just quite yet, at least not until the doctor gets here to examine Cord."  Fortunately, Bobby

was busy with chores that had been neglected over the past few days.                                       

When Doctor Evans arrived, he took one look at Cord, still unconscious, and exclaimed "Well, I'll be a son of a gun!"  Turning to Alex and his wife, he said, "The fever's definitely broken. I can't make any promises yet, but I would say your man is going to

recover.  We'll know for sure in a day or two."  Ginger, who was just outside the door, declared, "I told you that man was tough."   With tears in her eyes, Alex called out for Bobby.  When he arrived, she told him, calmly, so as not to give the boy false hope. "Bobby, Doc Evans thinks Cord is going to be all right. His fever has broken, and he’s still very ill, but it looks like he's going to pull through."  Bobby just stood there in silent amazement.  Then, he said quietly,  "I have to go and tell Amigo."

"You do that," Alex told him, softly.  (end of Chapter 27)

Chapter 28

Two days later, Alex and Bobby received a call from Father Koslowski, the pastor of St. Stanislaus Church in Bandera.  He had been out on a circuit ride, visiting some of his parishioners at the far-flung ranches and Mexican settlements of the area.  The

priest apologized for not stopping in sooner, but he had not gotten word of the troubles at the Cahill ranch until he arrived back at the parish.  He gave Cord a blessing, and reminded Alex "Where there is faith, there is always hope. No matter which path you use to approach the Father."  He also told Alex that she, Bobby, and especially, Cord, would be remembered in his prayers and those of the Parish.                 

Cord was still a very ill man, despite the breaking of the fever.  However, a few days later, Alex was in the kitchen when she heard a very weak cry from the bed where Cord had been battling for his life.  Mrs. Evans and Ginger had gone into town for a

few hours to get some supplies.  Doc Evans was due to arrive any moment.  Rushing into the bedroom, Alex gasped as she saw that Cord's eyes were barely, but very definitely, open.  "Oh, Cord!" She cried, involuntarily dropping next to the bed and hugging him, gingerly.

 "We thought we'd lost you!"  Cord looked at her with uncomprehending eyes." Where… what…?" He then closed his eyes for a moment.  When they reopened, he

murmured weakly. "Alex?”  Alex grasped his hand and held it tightly.  "Everything's going to be all right now, Cord."  At that moment, Bobby, who had been bringing in more water to boil the compresses in, entered the room.  Seeing his mother and the big Ranger holding hands, he dropped the bucket, spilling water everywhere.   "Cord' you're back!"  He yelled excitedly.  Between Alex and the boy, Walker's memory

started to return.  "Bobby! Alex! What happened?" 

Alex replied "you were shot twice in the back. Then you developed a fever."  "But how did I get back here?" Walker puzzled.  At that Bobby piped up,  "Amigo brought you back."  With that, the entire incident of the ambush became clear in Walker's mind. "The cattle? Where are they?"  "Gone", replied Alex. "But the Gages brought some replacements."  Just then, Doc Evans arrived.  He gruffly ordered Alex and Bobby away from Walker's side. Examining his patient, he observed, "well, Cord, you are without a doubt the toughest hombre I've ever treated. You should have been dead

before you hit the ground."  Then the doctor added, "but I'm not taking much of the credit here. You owe your life to the faith of that woman and boy. And in no small measure to that mount of yours."  “Not to mention the assistance of the Man  Upstairs.” Then, he ordered, "That's enough for now, Cord. You still need plenty of rest.

I'll be back to check on you tomorrow, and, if you're ready, I'll give Alex permission to start light meals for you."  He called Alex and Bobby out of the room to finish  speaking with them. "As I told him, he's one tough hombre and it truly is a miracle he survived, but, and I really mean this, he still needs rest!"

Taking his leave, Doc Evans climbed into his buggy.  Alex and Bobby returned to the bedroom, where Walker had returned back to sleep.  Together, mother and son said

a prayer of thanks. (end of Chapter 28)

Mrs. Evans and Ginger stayed with Alex and Bobby one more night.  Doc Evans had told Trivette that Cord was going to survive, and the next morning the sheriff and

C.D. arrived with the doctor.  Now that he had regained consciousness, Walker was more fully awake and aware every hour.  Trivette entered the room.  He still had to

keep up his act, in order not to expose Walker as a Texas Ranger. "Glad to see you up, Cord," he told Walker bluntly, "but trouble still seems to follow after you like a black cloud. I need to talk to you a moment, alone."  After Alex left the room, he whispered to Walker, "Any idea who did this?"  "I do, but I have no proof," responded

Walker. " Wind and dust were in my face.  In case someone was eavesdropping, he asked Trivette, "Would you do me a favor, and send a wire to my brother in

Austin? Let him know I'm fine."  "Will do." Replied Trivette. The telegram was, of course, a coded message to Capt. McGuire.  "Oh, by the way," Trivette asked

Walker, "Ever hear of the Knapp brothers out of New Mexico?" "Sure have,” responded Walker, "Real bad Medicine. Why?"  "Well, one of them tried to dry-gulch me. He was working for Clayton."  Trivette then proceeded to fill Walker in on all the details of

his attempt to find  Walker's attacker, and the death of Bob Knapp. "Walker solemnly told Trivette, "C.D.'s right. His brothers will come gunning for you." With that, C.D. burst through the bedroom door. "Cord, doggone it, you jack-rabbit of a driftin' no good

cowpuncher, it's great to see you back."  Then, Doc Evans came in. Examining his patient, he noted, "OK, Cord, you can start eating again this afternoon- but only light meals for the next couple of days. And, if the weather's warm and you  feel up to it, get out on the porch and get yourself some sunshine in a couple of days." For the first time since he regained consciousness, Walker grinned "OK, Doc- I'll keep it down to one or two steaks a day, and only half-a-dozen or so eggs, and maybe a loaf of bread, and an apple pie."  Doc Evans just shook his head at his incorrigible charge.  Going back into the kitchen, he told Alex, "Good luck! Your job was probably easier

when he was feverish. Holding that man down will be one tough job!”  (End of Chapter 29)

Chapter 30

After a day of rain, typical hot summer Texas weather had returned.  Walker had insisted Alex leave him to dress himself, despite his lingering weakness.  Bobby

had repeated the tale over and over about how Amigo had saved Walker's life.  Walker told the boy "Yes, I wanted to quit, but Amigo wouldn't let me. Plus, I understand that your little cayuse of a pony had a little to do with me still being here too."  Bobby was pleased at that remark.  Now, Walker was ready.  He struggled to his feet, and appeared at the kitchen door.  "Alex?" He called to her, "I'm going on the porch. Could you bring me some coffee out there?”  Little did he know that Bobby, with Alex's help, realized that today was the day Walker would venture outside for the first time since

the ambush.  As Walker settled into one of the rockers on the porch, Alex sat beside him. "Cord, I am so glad you're still with us. Now, you have to promise not to get too excited." "All right," Walker groaned. "I'm just so glad to get some sunshine and fresh air."  With that, Alex waved a signal to Bobby, who was just out of Walker's sight behind the corner of the barn.  Bobby appeared, leading a thoroughly scrubbed and

groomed Amigo.  On seeing his human friend, Amigo whinnied at the top of his lungs and charged the porch, stretching his neck over the railing, and leaning his head on Walker's lap.  Walker stood up so he could better reach his equine partner.  He stroked Amigo's face over and over, patting the soft muzzle, while Amigo kept nuzzling Walker's chest.  Alex turned away so Walker wouldn't see the tears rolling down her cheeks.  Bobby disappeared and reappeared, this time on Sunny.  "Cord, as soon as you feel better, we're ready to ride. I've been taking really good care of Amigo for you." “He looks fine Bobby, and so does Sunny.  And we'll be riding again, real soon." Promised the big Ranger. (end of Chapter 30)

Chapter 31

Jack Clayton was in a fine mood.  The two Knapp brothers had finally arrived from New Mexico.  He summoned his foreman into the house. "Lanky, I'd like you to meet Bob Knapp's brothers, Dennis and Joe." Dennis and Joe, my foreman,' Lanky Kance."  Dennis Knapp was tall, with graying hair and piercing blue eyes.  Even though they were full brothers, Joe Knapp didn't look much like his older sibling.  Joe was shorter,

with darker hair and complexion, slightly balding, even though he was barely 30.  "Glad to meet you." Kance stated.  Then, turning to his boss, he asked, "Now that they're here, when do we finish this business?"  "Patience, Lanky,” responded Clayton.

"I've got a few more men coming in by the end of the week. Dennis and Joe already know how Sheriff Trivette killed their brother.  I want to be sure when we put

our plan into action that we can't be stopped, by anyone.  Plus, I hear tell that somehow that Cord fellow pulled through."  “Impossible!" Retorted Kance. "I saw you put two slugs in his back." " Well, Lanky, somehow he got back to the Cahill place and made it.  Next time, he won't be so lucky!" Spat Clayton.  “Now, here's my plan."  After going over in great detail his plans for taking over the Bandera territory, he told Kance, "Show our new guests where they bunk, and where to get their grub."  Dennis Knapp answered, "First, we've got to go into town and take care of that #$%*and()----------- sheriff"  "NO!!" Clayton exploded. "That will tip our hand. I've already told you, when the time comes, Trivette is yours."  Joe Knapp held his brother back.

"A few days more won't matter, Den. Besides, if Jack agrees, we can let word drift into town that we're here. Let that #$%#and*()------ sweat a while."  "OK, I'll

wait. But not long," was Den's answer.                 

The same day that Jack Clayton and his cronies were in a fine mood, Walker was in a foul mood.  Alex and Doc Evans had been holding him back.  His strength was almost full again, and he had been practicing daily to keep up his shooting skills.  However, every time he tried to ride Amigo, Alex was there to stop him.  And, even more annoying, Bobby was out riding every day. Finally, totally frustrated, he went out to

the barn to do some repairs. It was a hot, sticky day, and Walker had removed his hat and shirt.   Alex, hearing the pounding of the hammer, hurried into the barn. "Cord, just what do you think you're doing?"

Walker was totally aggravated. "Woman, if I can't get any work done, and get some riding in, I'm gettin' out of here!”  Alex, hands on her hips, just shot back, "Go

ahead! Kill yourself! See if I care!"  She turned to leave the barn then, in anger and hurt, reached up to grab the hammer from Walker's hand, just as he raised his arm.  "Let go!" he yelled at her. "No, I won't let you kill yourself," Alex retorted.  "I mean it, let go of my arm, Alex!"  Try as he might, Walker couldn't shake the grip Alex had on his arm.  During their struggle, the twosome fell sideways into the hay on the stall floor. Suddenly, before either of them realized it, the struggle for the hammer had them face to face. Walker relaxed first, then Alex released her grip.  Her arms

went around his back, his around her, and he pulled her to him. Alex's pulse raced, as she whispered, "Oh, Cord".  In response, Walker pulled her tightly against his chest, feeling her soft curves against his body.  He kissed her once, lightly, then with more feeling.  As she responded to him, he kissed her more roughly, passionately.  He felt an indescribable thrill race throughout his body.  Then, with great violence, Alex sneezed! Then, she did it again.  The sneezing stopped, then resumed in a

paroxysm of sniffling and a-chooing.  Through tearing eyes, Alex said, “Oh, Cord, I'm so dorry. This darn hay ‘dot dup my dose."  Collapsing in a fit of laughter, Walker hugged Alex to him and said, ruefully, “Alex, I just don’t think the fates are with us on this one!” “Seems we’re being reminded to behave ourselves, by Someone!” (End of Chapter 31)

That Tuesday, Walker was out with Bobby for the first time since the ambush, riding Amigo.  His mood had improved, but his frustration was building.  He still had no proof against Jack Clayton and there had been no action from that quarter, which was worrisome.   The two were returning to the stable, when Sheriff Trivette approached,

spurring Santana into a gallop at the sight of Walker. "Bobby, can you go to the house now?" Trivette asked the youngster. "Cord and I have to talk alone".

"Aw, gee", do I have to?" Bobby whined. "Bobby, pard, I'll be there in a minute- head along now," Walker told him, sternly. After the boy left, Walker asked Trivette

"What's wrong? You look like you've been ridden all night and put up wet."  "Walker, we've got big trouble. You know the Knapp brothers are at Clayton's. Well, one of his riders was at C.D.’s last night, and let it spill that Clayton is planning to attack the Gages in the next couple of days."  Trivette had no way of knowing that Clayton wanted this fact out in the open.  Walker sighed, "Well, Trivette, there's no point in me keeping undercover anymore- Unbuckling his belt, Walker reached into the secret pocket sewn in the back, removed his Ranger star, and pinned it to his shirt.  "Ride with me to the house."  As the two lawmen rode, Walker asked, "How many men do you think you can find to help us?"  "Let's see, there's Gage, of course, and Sydney shoots as well as any man. We’ll need her.  C.D. for sure, and maybe four or five others." "And how many men do you think Clayton will have?" "Probably about

twenty. All of them real gunfighters,"  was the sheriff's reply.  "We've got our work cut out for us, then," Walker grunted, wryly. "Let's get everyone who you think might help over to the Gages’ place tonight. I'll meet you there."  At this point, the pair had reached the Cahill gate.  Bobby was waiting their arrival. His eyes fastened on the badge pinned to Walker's chest. Eyes wide, he exclaimed, "A Texas Ranger?"

Walker looked at the youngster and said, "Bobby, please get your Mom and you both come out to the porch,  please."  Alex came out, dishtowel in hand.  She gasped as she spotted Walker's badge.  He dismounted, along with Trivette.  "Alex, I need to tell you my real name now. I'm Cordell Walker, a Texas Ranger. I came to Bandera in

response to a request for help.  I can't tell you quite yet who it was from, but I know now, for sure, which I didn't before, that Jack Clayton is the man I have to face."  Alex's face was flushed. She stammered in disbelief, "A Ranger?  Why… why didn't you say?"  "I didn't want to place you and Bobby in any more danger than

necessary. Remember, I didn't want to work for you, but I saw you were in trouble, and I thought I could help you and at the same time use your ranch as a convenient disguise for my true mission.  I'm sorry if I've hurt you." 

Alex, flustered, just blurted out, " I don't know what to think or say. I need to think about this."  Bobby, who had been silent until this point, just looked at the big Ranger with tears spilling from his eyes and wailed "Cord, I know this means you’re going to leave us."  "Not quite yet, Bobby," replied Walker. "But I do need to leave for a while. Clayton is getting ready to make his move. I'll be back though, I promise."  Then, to Alex, "I've got to leave this evening,  probably for a few days "  Clayton's going to move against the Gages’ soon.  I need to make plans, and quick. But, I promise you, no matter what happens, these past weeks have been incredibly special to me. I’m never going to forget you and Bobby."  Turning to Trivette, he told the sheriff, "I'll meet you at 7:00 at the Gages’. Round up every man you can."

He turned back to Alex, but she and Bobby had already gone into the house.  Later that afternoon, Cordell Walker mounted Amigo and headed to the Circle G.  He called out a farewell to Alex and Bobby.  There was no answer in return. Neither of them could bring themselves to say goodbye. (end of Chapter 32)

Chapter 33

Walker loped Amigo quickly toward the Circle G.  He had hoped to avoid the conflict which was coming by catching Clayton in the act of rustling cattle from Alex Cahill.  However, Clayton had frustrated those plans when he ambushed the Ranger.   Years of law experience took over, and Walker thought over everything that had happened since he arrived in Bandera, and started to finalize his plan of action

There were several horses tied to the hitch rail at the Gages’ ranch house, and Sydney was on guard.  Seeing Walker, she greeted him warmly.  The two entered the

house where her brother, Trivette, C.D., and several other men had gathered.  Sydney quickly introduced Walker to the members of the group he had not met.  "Gentlemen, this is Texas Ranger Cordell Walker. Walker, meet Eric Johnson, Joe Heaphy, Matt Creamer, Bill Palmer, and Woytek Blawcyzk."  Johnson was a tall blonde Swede, Heaphy a dark haired, blue-eyed Yankee, Creamer and Palmer both typical Southern transplants, and Blawcyzk an immigrant from Kracow.  All of them struck Walker as honest, hard-working men. After the introductions, Walker grabbed a cup of coffee and told the group "I've been investigating the problem here in Bandera for several weeks.  I know all of you have been threatened.  Now, we have good information that  Jack Clayton intends to burn out or kill the Gages here first, probably for their water

rights.  Then, I'm sure he'll come after the rest of you.  I need to know how many of you will help me stop him.  He's got a crew of hardened gunfighters.  I'm not going to kid you. This will be dangerous and deadly. Some of you may die."  Trivette spoke up for the group. "Walker, all these men are here to help. There are some I couldn't

persuade, they're afraid for their families.  All of these men have families, too, but they realize they'll lose everything if Clayton isn't stopped!!"  "Bueno," replied Walker. “From now on, until Clayton makes his move, we'll have two persons on guard continually.  In the morning, when it's light, we'll check out the ranch here and establish our positions.  For tonight, Trivette, Gage, Sydney, and I will take the watch. Now, get some shut-eye. You may not get any for awhile after tonight.”

The next morning Walker led the group on a survey of the ranch.  "Well, he told them, the good part is the placement of this ranch. We can only be attacked from one side, the front.  Since the draw backs up to those cliffs, no one can approach from there.  The bad part is there's lots of brush and rocks for Clayton and his men to use

for cover. They'll be able to get close in.  Some of them, anyway, he muttered."  After establishing positions for the defenders, Walker told them, "All we can do now is watch and wait.  Much as I'd like to go after Clayton right now, we can't prove anything against him. We have to wait for him to make a move."  (End of Chapter 33)

Chapter 34

For two days, the defenders of the Circle G waited, tension mounting.  Nerves thinned, and tempers started to fray.  The third day, a brassy sun rose in the

dusty haze of a hot Texas summer day.  Francis Gage had been out patrolling the road to his ranch when he spotted the first of Clayton's riders.  Wheeling his horse and spurring quickly back to the ranch, he shouted the warning, "Riders comin’!!"  Walker grabbed him as he dismounted. "Any idea how many?”  "At least thirty, for sure.,"  Was Gage's disheartening response.  Trivette had been sadly low in his estimate of

Clayton's strength. "OK, everyone to their spots," ordered Walker. "But no firing until I give the order.  I'm going to give Clayton one more chance to surrender. All of you, keep me covered!"             

The riders were approaching quickly.  Walker took a position where he could be seen clearly, but where a shot at him would be difficult to take.  When Jack Clayton rode into view, Walker yelled "Clayton, this is Texas Ranger Cordell Walker. I'm going to place you under arrest for rustling, arson, murder, and attempted murder."  "A Ranger," Clayton sneered back.

"Well, there's only one of you, along with a few homesteaders, and I've got a whole bunch of pistol shooters. We're going to wipe you out!" "Have it your way," retorted Walker.                                              

One of Clayton's riders made the mistake of taking a shot at the big Ranger.  C.D. cut the man down with one shot, sending him sprawling from his saddle.  That shot started the battle for the Circle G.  While Clayton was fighting for power, the honest

ranchers were fighting for their homes and families.  Clayton's men fired fast and furiously at the ranchers.  Mac Morrison attempted to fire the barn, but received a bullet in the heart from Sydney Gage for his efforts.  While the brush and rocks afforded cover to the outlaws, they also could not easily advance against the ranch buildings.  During the exchange of fire, Trivette saw the Swede, Johnson, spin and fall

face forward into the dirt, shot between the eyes.   

After several hours of off and on shooting, Clayton and his men had not been able to advance.  The bodies of dead and wounded gunfighters littered the ground in front of the Circle G.  Suddenly, the fire from the invaders seemed to lessen, and riders were heard rushing away.  Blawcyzk shouted from his position in the barn. "I see Clayton, Kance, and several others leaving."  Trivette turned to Walker and questioned.

"What's that all about?"  Walker just looked at Trivette and shouted "Alex!!!!!"  Dashing for Amigo, who was sheltered with the rest of the horses out of the range of fire, Walker yelled over his shoulder at Trivette, "You finish up here- I'll try to head them off!!!!" (end of Chapter 34) 

Chapter 35

Walker bent low over Amigo's neck as the big gelding raced toward the Cahill ranch at top speed.  Walker silently cursed himself for being outsmarted by Jack Clayton.  His attack on the Gage ranch was a diversion.  Clayton had hoped to attack Alex Cahill

unnoticed, while Walker, Trivette, and the others were occupied at the Circle G.                            

Walker slowed as he approached the ranch, to be sure there were no bush wackers waiting for him along the road.  When he approached unchallenged, he rode quickly into the yard, dismounted and sent Amigo off to safety with a slap on the rump.                             

Sunny and Teddy were still in the corral, but there was no sign of Alex or Bobby.  The

buckboard, partially filled with hay, was in front of the barn, just where it had been when Walker left.  The Ranger searched frantically for the pair, fearful that they had already been kidnapped, yet spotting no hoof prints, dust, or sign of a struggle that would indicate that Clayton had beaten Walker to the Cahill ranch.  After searching the house, Walker quickly headed for the barn, receiving no answers to his calls of "Alex!!!! Bobby!!!!"   He climbed to the hayloft, and was near the open loft doors when Clayton, Lanky Kance, Red Coleman, Brady Bodine, and the Knapp

brothers swept into view.                             

Back at the Circle G, the battle was over.  The surviving outlaws quickly surrendered after Clayton left.  Trivette called over C.D. and Gage, who was bleeding from a scalp wound. "Everyone accounted for?" he asked Gage.  "Yep, but we did lose two. Johnson, you know, and Bill Palmer got killed, too."  "You stay here and keep an eye on these hombres. Lock them in your woodshed, if you have to. I'm going to help Walker!!"

Walker tried to duck back into the hayloft before he was spotted, but he was too late.  Clayton and his men quickly surrounded the barnyard, and started firing at the Ranger.  Besides the other six, two other outlaws had joined the group.  Walker cut down one as he tried to reach cover, and another as he angled for a better shot.  As this was happening, he saw a rider approaching,  and the Knapp brothers turned to guard the back trail.                                

The rider was Trivette astride Santana, mercilessly urging the animal on to the aid of his Ranger friend.  Joe Knapp took a quick shot at the sheriff, which sailed over Trivette's head.  Dennis Knapp put his hand on his brother's arm, telling him "Hold it. We want to get this #$#!!$**()**! ------------ so he knows who killed him."  Trivette had jumped off Santana and taken cover.  The Knapp brothers rode out into the middle of the trail, and called Trivette out."  You no-good %$%##@@!!!**()!-------------- lawman!" Dennis Knapp screamed. "We're going to give you what you gave our brother!"  "I didn't kill your brother.  Clayton or one of his men did," retorted Trivette. “But I'm arresting you for attempted murder, and on outstanding warrants."  "You'll have to take us first," was Den's defiant reply. "If I have to," replied Trivette, coming into view, hands by his gun.  Both Knapp’s yanked their Colts out of their holsters.  Joe Knapp fell backwards, Trivette's bullet in his chest.  Trivette was spun around by Dennis Knapp's bullet in his shoulder, and hit the ground.  The sheriff rolled over just as Knapp took

another shot at him.  Firing from flat on his back, Trivette's slug caught Dennis in the belly.  The gunslinger stood for a moment, a look of utter disbelief on his face.  He tried to bring his gun up again, but buckled slowly to his knees, and fell onto his side,

his life ebbing away.                                

Walker, in getting the second outlaw, was forced to expose himself to the gang's

guns.  Jack Clayton aimed and fired, his slug catching Walker just above the belt buckle.  The Ranger folded over and somersaulted out of the hayloft door, landing

in the hay-filled buckboard.  Struggling, Walker rose to his knees, trying to bring his Colt up to firing level. 

Walker spotted Red Coleman drawing a bead on him, and knew he was done for.  Suddenly, the red-headed gunman jerked sideways, as a bullet tore through his side,

ripping through his heart and lungs.  As Coleman sprawled on the ground, Walker saw, from the corner of his eye, a smoking rifle held by Alex Cahill.      

That shot gave Walker the opening he needed.  Clayton, Kance, and Bodine had made the mistake of assuming the Ranger was dead, and had started to rush the buckboard.  Walker shot Bodine through the head, and then Kance, through the heart.  Seeing Clayton standing there, he told the outlaw rancher, "It's all over, Clayton," "Not by a long shot," retorted Clayton.

"You're gut shot, and I'm going to finish you off, as a mercy to you, Ranger. And then, I’m riding away from here. WITH the lovely lady. Oh, yeah, I have plans for HER.”  With that, Clayton, having replaced his Colt in its holster, drew.  Like so many

outlaws, he had underestimated Cordell Walker. Walker leveled his revolver, and drilled Clayton through the stomach.  The outlaw leader spun and crashed face

down, attempted to get up, and then sprawled in the dust of the Cahill barnyard.  Cordell Walker fell forward, into blissful, peaceful, darkness. (end of Chapter 36)

Chapter 37

Several days later, Ranger Cordell Walker awoke to see the face of Doc Evans as the Doctor stood over him. Alex was by the Doctor's side. Walker moaned, "Is everyone OK?"  "Yes, replied the doctor, and you really ARE the toughest cuss I've ever treated.  Good to have you back with us."  Alex leaned over and kissed Walker gently on the cheek.  "Everyone's here waiting to see you, Cordell."  Bobby was first into the room,

smiling and hugging his friend, "Cord, we'll always be pards, no matter what, right?" “Absolutely, Bobby, always!” Trivette and C.D. were next, followed by Mrs. Evans and Ginger.  Gage and Sydney and the other ranchers brought up the rear.  Gage had a bandage on his forehead, and Trivette's arm was in a sling.  C.D. had wired his glasses back together. Walker took one look and quipped "What a sad looking bunch!"

"Yeah, but you should see the other guys," retorted C.D..

 "Seriously," Walker asked Trivette,  "Are they all taken care of?" "Yeah", the sheriff replied, "most of 'em, including Clayton, are dead. The rest are in my jail,” Trivette told Walker, grim satisfaction written on his face. After a recounting of the events, Walker told the group "everybody out, ok? Except, Alex"    

When the room was clear, Walker asked Alex "Alex, please sit beside me."  As she did, he started, hesitantly "Alex, I'm sorry if I hurt you, and, the Ranger's life is no life

for a woman. I have to be away for very long periods of time, and I never know if I'll return. I have no right to ask you this, but, but, Alex, would… I mean could… oh, heck, would you consider..."  Interrupting, Alex burst out, "Cordell Walker, are you asking me to marry you?"

Y-y-yes, I am" sputtered the now truly harried and hapless Ranger. “I love you Alex. More than I can ever say, or show you.  And I’d be honored to become a father to Bobby, because I love him, too.

"Then I accept!" she replied happily.  "If I can go through these past weeks with you, I can go though anything, long periods of waiting, or not!"  With that, Bobby, who had been eavesdropping, burst through the door, hollering "Yippee!!!"  The rest of the crowd followed.  After everyone calmed down, Walker told Alex, "I‘ll have to be getting back to Austin as soon as I can. Do you know anyone who can marry us before then?"  Doc Evans jumped in, "Hold on there, Ranger. You won't be going anywhere for a little while." "Well, then, no reason we can't get married right here." Walker answered. Alex jumped in with, "Cord, Father Koslowski will be happy to perform the wedding for us, I'm sure, right here at the house, under the circumstances".  And, true to Alex's word, the arrangements were made for a wedding within the week. (end of Chapter 37)

Chapter 38

The day of the wedding had arrived.  Cordell Walker was surprised when Capt. Bill McGuire entered the room, Alex on his arm.  "Cordell Walker, you old buzzard, you've outsmarted and out shot the worst outlaws in the state of Texas, but this little lady

here has finally hog-tied you, and I'm darn glad she did!" "Thanks, Cap," Walker responded happily. "That boy you're getting to raise as your own is something else too, great horseman, and he thinks the world of you. "Yes, he's everything a man could ever ask for in a son, that’s for sure, Cap."   Then, turning to Alex, Capt. McGuire asked her if he could speak to Walker in private for a moment. "Yes, I knew you would need to do so," Alex answered.

 When she left, Capt. McGuire told Walker, "I understand you'll be able to return to work again in a week or so. If you intend to return?"  "Oh, I'll be back, Cap," Walker

replied. "Alex understands that I'm a Ranger, and always will be, and she understands everything that means You know she saved my life when she plugged Red Coleman?"  "I know," replied the Captain somberly. Walker continued, "She and Bobby will stay here when I'm on assignment, and you know, one day, Bobby will be a Ranger too, I'm sure of it."  "Cord, all I want is your happiness, and I can see you’ve finally got your fair share." Capt. McGuire answered. 

The ceremony was simple, with Father Koslowski  presiding, as promised. Bobby was best man, with Trivette, C.D. and Gage as assistants.  Sydney, Mrs. Evans, and Ginger acted as bridesmaids. Doc Evans made the toast: "To Cordell and Alex, much happiness and many years and, Cordell, please don't take any more cases in Bandera- I don't have enough time to keep patching you up!".                                   

Later, when the guests were leaving, Gage and Sydney, looking meaningfully at Alex and Walker asked Bobby, "Bobby, our dog Sadie just had a litter of speckled pups. Why don't you come over to our place tonight, get to know the pups, and pick one out for yourself?"   Bobby looked eagerly at his mother and new Dad, then told Gage and Sydney, "Gee, I'd like to but I can't leave Mom and my pard, Cord, while he still

needs help."  Alex looked tenderly at Bobby and said "It's all right, Bobby, for just one night," while  Walker added "Go ahead, son, it will do Sunny good to stretch his legs." "Oh, boy, a horse AND a dog!" Bobby exclaimed, racing out the door. 

Finally, the guests and Bobby had all left.  Alex and Walker were alone. A little fatigued, Walker headed back to bed. Alex, after changing, slipped under the sheets next to Walker.  She started to slide her hand down his stomach toward where he was still bandaged "Careful, Mrs. Walker,” he joked. “I'm a wounded man," Walker told Alex, grinning.

Playfully slapping his arm, she retorted "not THAT wounded, Cordell Walker."  He took her in his arms, kissing her passionately. "Cord", she murmured to him, " do you HAVE to go back to Austin?"  "Yep, darling, I do. Captain gave me a week, but before I go back we have one more piece of business to finish."

Leaning back from his face, Alex looked at Walker quizzically. "What business is that?" Walker smiled, tenderly.  

 "Remember that day at the river? The day in the barn? We never did finish-----"   "Oh, Cord," Alex sighed, the two of them giving in at last to their loving desires.   

HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES                                 

Bandera, Texas is just west of San Antonio.  There is a St. Stanislaus Catholic Church there, serving one of the oldest Polish-American settlements in the United States, with the congregation dating from 1855.   Bandera still calls itself the Cowboy Capital of the World, due to its heritage as a major cattle drive town in the 1870s.  Today, it is both a major cattle and guest ranch area.

The usual Legal Disclaimers…etc…   And stay tuned to this channel, same time, same WTR fanfic writer.  Jim assures  me that another WTR story of the late 1800’s will be forthcoming, where we will return to a yesteryear where the West consisted of a brave man, a strong woman, and a fine young stepson!  ;)