BLUEBONNETS

BY Jim Griffin,  keeneyanke@yahoo.com

Central and southern Texas was in the throes of a horrific drought. As Alex Cahill Walker looked from the porch of her ranch house, all she could see, stretching to the horizon, was brown. Dull, drab, brown. Her vegetable garden was struggling, her little flower patch having long since given up. Everything was dust-covered, and dull, drab, brown. The sun beat mercilessly, day after day, from a cloudless sky.

Her husband, Texas Ranger Cordell Walker, had been home for two weeks and a couple of days, enjoying the luxury of a longer than usual leave. He had not received orders as expected, and was taking advantage of the extra time, knowing any day he would be sent back to duty.

Alex's son Bobby, Walker's stepson, had gone off three days previously with some of his school chums, on an end of the school year camping trip.

Cordell had been working around the ranch, for there were always repairs to be made, and he was not often home to perform these chores.

As Alex stood on the porch this early morning, she watched her husband approach, throwing his hammer to the ground in disgust. Even for a native Texan, this heat wave was too much.

Wiping his forehead and the back of his neck with his bandanna, he muttered to his blonde wife, "Alex, this is it--heat's too much--I'm just going to relax for the day."

Alex took him by the arm. "Cord, come into the house, and I'll get you a tall glass of lemonade."

Walker looked at her, gratefully  "Alex, I have an even better idea.  Let's take a picnic lunch to the swimming hole. We can spend the day cooling off and relaxing."

Smiling with delight, she responded, squeezing his arm, "Cord, what a wonderful idea! I'll pack the lunch, while you get Amigo ready."

In ten minutes, Alex had the lunch ready to go. Cord was at the porch. With the heat, he didn't saddle his big Paint, but merely bridled the horse. With a muscular arm, he lifted Alex to the gelding's broad back, the vaulted up behind her, arms gently enfolding her as Amigo gently, gracefully walked out of the yard, the two riders enjoying his smooth, rhythmic gait. (end of Chapter one, part one)

As Alex and Walker arrived at the stream, Walker slowly slid off Amigo's back, then lifted Alex down beside him.  Leaving the picnic basket under the scant shade of a cottonwood, the pair approached the river.

Even here, the drought's effects were clearly evident.  The band of green along the stream was greatly thinned, the stream itself barely flowing.  Only the depth where the stream had hollowed out its bed allowed for enough liquid for bathing.

Alex and Cordell faced each other.  He gently slid her gingham blouse over her shoulders, letting it fall gently to the grass.  She unbuttoned his shirt, tossing it aside.  Sitting down, they tugged off each other's boots.  Standing again, he loosened the her skirt, and gently lowered it. Alex unbuttoned Cord's jeans, and let them fall.

Husband and wife entered the river.  Gently, Alex, bar of soap in hand, started washing her husband's broad back.  Slowly, her hands worked down his body, head to toes.  Then, reaching around, she repeated her moves, on his front side.

In turn, Walker massaged and scrubbed Alex.  As he was standing behind her, in the middle of the stream, she tilted her head back, and he kissed her on the forehead, gently.  His lips moved carefully down her cheeks, her neck her shoulders, her bosom.  She turned to him, kissing him passionately.  Sinking gently into the caressing waters, the two became as one, rising and falling with the current, floating and turning in ecstasy.

Later, on the riverbank, the two lay in the sun, relaxing and dozing.  After lunch, Walker turned to his wife, and pleaded., "Honey, I'm hot from this sun again.  Can we take another swim?" 

In answer, Alex got up, wordlessly, and dashed back into the river.  As Cordell followed her, she splashed him, playfully. and leaped into his arms.  The two fell in thrilling ecstasy, again, into the cooling waters.

(end of Chapter One, Part 2)

As Walker and Alex reined up, the figure on the horse stirred, and sat up. Walker cursed in recognition. "Jim, you trying to scare me out of ten years' growth?" The rider was his partner, Texas Ranger Jim Griffin.

Dismounting, Jim smiled at his partner. "Walker, I was just taking a rest, waitin' for you to show up."

Walker shook his head. "Jim, it's usual to get OFF the horse before taking a nap."

"Walker, how many times you see me just take a quick snooze on the trail?  Yank's back is more comfortable than the ground, most times."

Alex was watching, eyes wide. Jim turned to her and apologized, doffing his Stetson, bowing slightly. "Forgive my manners. I'm Jim Griffin, Walker's partner...and you must be Alex. Walker's told me lots about you; you're even more beautiful than he says."

Alex flashed a slight smile. "Pleased to meet you, finally, Jim. Cord's told me all about you, too."

Laughing, Jim answered, "Nothing good, I'll bet!!"

Alex responded, sweetly. "On the contrary, it's been nothing but good."

"Ha, Ha, Ha! Then either your husband's fibbin' to you, Mrs. Walker, or you're being kind, sparing my feelings."

Walker broke in at this point, "Jim, what're you doing here, anyway?"

"Walker, let me rub down my bronc, and turn him out in the corral, and clean up myself a little. Then, I'll join you and Alex, and I'll let you know what's up."

Yankee, recovering, put his head over Jim's shoulder. At Jim's signal, the Paint reached out and gave Alex a big, sloppy equine kiss. Alex, surprised yet delighted, stepped back, rubbing her cheek. Jim, leading Yankee toward the corral, laughed. "Alex, since I can't kiss you, I'll let Yankee have that pleasure." Alex, remembering Cord's tales of Jim and his horse, just smiled silently. (end of Chapter 2, Part 2)

After unsaddling and rubbing down Yankee, turning the horse out with a big feed of grain and hay, and cleaning himself up at the well, Jim joined Walker and Alex for a cold supper.

Walker knew Jim was there for a reason. "Jim, what's so all-fired important that you nearly rode Yank into the ground gettin' here, in this heat?" Walker had not missed the condition of Jim's mount. "It's so hot I nearly shaved my beard off, this morning."

Jim stared at Walker, disbelief in his eyes. Alex burst out, "I don't care how hot it gets, Cordell Walker, you shave that beard and you stay on the trail until it grows back."  Alex had seen her Ranger husband beardless, when his beard had been burned off while he was rescuing two children from a burning house. While he was definitely a handsome man, beard or no, there was something ruggedly appealing about Walker's red beard, which his wife couldn't resist.

"Well, Walker, your leave is over. Buck Malloy and his gang busted out of the calaboose in Uvalde. Appears they're headed for his old stompin' grounds around Carrizo Springs, and the Border. And, compadre mio, guess who the two lucky Texas Rangers are who get to track them down and round them up?" ( End of Chapter 3, Part one)

Walker jumped up, emitted a sharp whistle, and cursed under his breath. Buck Malloy and his gang had terrorized the Carizzo Springs and Eagle Pass area for nearly two years. Walker and Mark French had finally ridden them down.

"Jim, you mean the WHOLE OUTFIT escaped?"

"Appears so, Walker. They were bein' transferred to Huntsville.  Broke out, killed two deputies and a cowpoke who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Jim, why didn't I get a wire from Capt. McGuire?"

"Cap knew I had to ride right by your place here, anyway. Figured you'd have a couple of more days to relax and enjoy your home time."

Alex was grateful. "Cord, I'm heading into town tomorrow, to send a wire of thanks to Capt. McGuire."

Jim continued, "Walker, I wanted to head out tonight; know you would want that, too."

"Darn straight about that, Jim."

"Yeah, but Walker, I've gotta admit, tough as Yank is, this heat's a killer. I'd like to rest up here tonight and tomorrow, then head out after sundown, when it's cooler. Malloy and his bunch already have a good jump on us, anyway. Neither one of us'll help bring 'em in if we're dead from heat stroke before we find 'em."

"Jim, you're right. We'll take tomorrow and get ready to ride, and head out at sundown."

"Bueno, Walker."

Suddenly, Jim clapped his palm to his forehead. "Alex, I have something for you in my saddlebags. Completely forgot about them. Hope they're still all right! Be right back."

As Jim went out to his saddle, retrieving the mystery package, Alex turned to her husband. "Well, Cord, it was a great two weeks. We both knew it had to end, soon. And I'm glad I finally got to meet your partner. Jim seems like a nice guy."

"He's the best partner I could ask for, Alex, except for those darn jokes. And him and that cayuse drive me crazy."

Jim was in the doorway, grinning, holding one had behind his back. "I heard that, Walker." Bringing his hand forward, he remarked, "These are for you, Alex." He was holding a bouquet of Texas bluebonnets, slightly bedraggled from their trip in his saddlebag, but still showing their sky-blue beauty.

"Jim, they're lovely! Where did you ever find them?" Alex remarked, totally delighted.  "Bluebonnets are my favorite flower. This year, though, with the drought, I haven't seen one little flower, let alone a whole bouquet."

"Just before I got to your ranch, Alex. Little hollow, in a bend by the river. Just waitin' there to be picked for a lovely lady like you..."

"Jim, thank you." Alex kissed the tall, blonde Ranger on the cheek. He blushed, furiously.

Walker, all business, gruffly growled, "Jim, let's get some shut-eye. With luck, if it's not quite as hot tomorrow, we can start in the mornin', camp during the heat of the day, and make some more miles tomorrow night."

(end of Chapter 3, Part 2)

Jim spent the night sleeping in the hayloft of the barn. Exhausted from his fast trip through the blazing Texas heat, finding little water en route because of the drought, the tall, blonde Ranger slept later than usual.

He was awakened by Cordell Walker, his partner, shaking him roughly by the shoulder.

"Jim; let's get goin'. We can make a good ways before sunup." It was still the predawn.

Yawning, Jim answered, groggily. "Walker, got to check on Yank, first. If he's not ready, we're restin' up until tonight."

Walker glared at his partner. "Griffin, that bronc's ready. Now; you gettin' out of that bunk, or have I gotta drag you out?"

Jim sat up and stretched, eyeing his partner quizzically. "Walker, you and I've been partners long enough to know NO ONE tells me about my horse.  Now, I don't know what's eatin' you, but back off."

Walker flushed, "Sorry, Jim. Just the thought of Malloy and his bunch on the loose makes my belly churn."

"OK, Walker, apology accepted." Jim was up, pulling on his boots.  Standing, pulling on his shirt, he continued, "Be right down; just let me check on Yank."

"Fine, Jim; he 'n' Amigo are munchin' their grain.  Coffee's on, and breakfast'll be ready by the time you come down. With luck, we'll make El Indio Springs before noon, and we'll bed down until sundown."

Yankee had recovered considerably with the night's rest, and a good feed and watering. After patting his horse, slipping Yank his customary peppermint stick, Jim entered the Walkers' kitchen.

Cordell was sipping at a cup of hot coffee, Alex starting to make hotcakes, bacon, and eggs. "Mornin' Alex; didn't expect to see you this early."

"Mornin', yourself, Jim. Set yourself down and grab a cup of coffee. Breakfast will be ready in a jiffy."

Jim stepped to the stove. "Alex, this'll be your last breakfast with your husband for a while. Let me cook; you just relax. If I do say so myself, I am one heckuva cook."

Happily, Alex handed the pans and utensils over to her husband's partner, smiling at him. Walker just sat silently, stony-faced.

With serious business at hand, the threesome ate quickly, and quietly.  Soon, the two Rangers were mounted, ready to ride. Walker leaned over from  Amigo's back, kissing Alex tenderly. "Honey, I'll be back, soon."

Alex responded, "Just be careful, Cord." Turning to Jim, she added, "Thank you again, Jim, for the lovely bluebonnets."

Jim barely had time to answer, "You're welcome, Alex", before Walker wheeled Amigo out of the yard, and spurred the gelding into a long lope. Jim and Yankee had to gallop a ways to catch up. (end of Chapter 4)

Walker and Jim rode silently. Jim was puzzled. He could barely get a sentence out of his partner. Walker hadn't treated Jim this way since they had first been partnered, when neither one of the loners had been happy over Capt. McGuire's forcing them together as a team. Since then, however, the bond between the two had grown deep and strong.

Finally, Jim reined up, sharply. Walker was forced to pull up Amigo, and turn back to where Jim and Yankee awaited.

"Walker, what's wrong with you?" Jim exploded. "You haven't said more than five words to me since we left Bandera." The two Rangers had swung into town on the way southwest, to see if there were any further information from Headquarters at the Western Union. There was none, and, to Walker's chagrin, Sheriff Trivette was out of his office, checking on a rustling complaint. Walker hated leaving town without saying goodbye to the sheriff, and C.D. Parker, the saloon owner. C. D. was also not around, as he slept late, due to the nature of his business.

"Nothin', Jim. Nothin' at all", was Walker's surly response.

"Suit yourself, Walker, but, if this keeps up, I'll be askin' Cap McGuire for a new ridin' pard." Jim kicked Yankee back into a lope.

Matching Amigo to Yankee's stride, Walker finally got Jim's attention. "Sorry, Jim; I don't mean to be like this. It's this &&^^%^ drought. I'm worried about Alex and Bobby, and our stock. You saw how hard it was to get that trickle of water out of the pump when you washed up last night. If we don't get some rain, and &&**( quick, that well's gonna dry up. Forget how I've acted."

"It's forgotten, Walker. I know you're worried, and hate leavin' home this way. Marcy and my kids went up to her folks' for a couple of weeks. They've had a little more rain up Waco way, so with my family away, that'll help our well stay fuller."

Then, Jim added, "Walker, you stubborn cuss!! You of all people know that, while you can hide somethin' from almost anyone, you can't get by your wife, your kids, or your partner. That story about your well won't cut it. Alex and Bobby went through worse droughts than this, before you even knew them. We're on this assignment together; but, Pard, when it's finished, you better let me know if you want to head out on your own trail again." (end of Chapter 5)

It was just before 11:30 when Jim and Walker rode up to the small oasis  of El Indio Springs. The spring was one of the few reliable waterholes in that part of Texas, and the Rangers were not disappointed. There was water enough for the horses, and to fill the Rangers' canteens. In addition, some sparse grass offered a little nourishment for the hard-working cayuses.

After a cold lunch, eaten silently, Walker and Jim stretched out, to sleep until sundown. Then, after the heat of the day had passed, they would resume their journey.

Jim was half-asleep, when suddenly he heard his partner grump,  "HUMPHFF!! Bluebonnets!"

Jim propped himself up on one elbow, looking at his partner. "What did you say, Walker?"

"Nothin', Jim. You must have been dreamin'; get back to sleep."

"Nice try, Walker, but no dice. So THAT'S what this is all about. You're mad because I gave your wife some posies."

"Jim, don't be ridiculous!"

"Give it up, Walker! You and I can read each other like a book. I should have known what was wrong, as soon as you clammed up last night. Walker, it was just a present."

"Maybe it was just a present to you, but all I heard about half the night was how wonderful you were, bringing those bluebonnets. 'Cord, you never bring me flowers, but Jim found some bluebonnets, and right here on our ranch'." Continuing, Walker added, "And then you were so sweet, and made breakfast for her."

"Walker, you're jealous!!"

"Am not!!"

"Well, I should hope not: I'm happily married, just like you are. I'd never even think of another woman but Marcy, just like you'd never think of another but Alex. Walker, I made breakfast for YOU, just as much as Alex. I thought you'd appreciate one more chance to sit down together before we hit the trail. I guess I was wrong." Angrily, Jim laid back down.

"Jim, I ......."

"'I', nothin' Walker. If you really think I would try to move in on Alex, then there's nothing more to talk about. I don't know you like I thought I did, and I resent what you're implyin', about me and Alex. And, have you really NEVER brought that wonderful woman flowers?"

Sheepishly, Walker had to admit "No, Jim, never have."

"Well, then, Cordell Walker, no wonder she carried on about them all night. I thought I was dumb about women, and lucky Marcy would have me, but you're even dumber. It's amazing you're married at all. You've told me about how you and Alex met, and how she saved your hide. And now, you tell me you’ve never even brought her one lonesome daisy? Unbelievable, pard. If Alex were my wife, I'd be bringing her flowers every day."

Walker was stunned, silent. Jim had turned his back to his partner. His words had stung. Walker had never been the type to bring flowers and little gifts, and--until Jim had presented the bluebonnets to Alex the night previous--he had never realized Alex missed those little gestures of love. Now, he had left a hurt wife back at home, and his jealousy had angered his partner. It would take some doing to rectify this situation. Walker, troubled, finally fell into a restless sleep. (end of Chapter 6)

After sundown, Walker and Jim arose, and ate a quick supper. Then, they filled their canteens, saddled the horses, and headed into the Texas twilight, planning on riding most of the night, avoiding the  extreme heat  that was withering Texas, desiccating almost all life.

The two partners rode silently, the tension between them almost a living thing. Finally, Walker, trying to make amends for his hasty words, spoke up. "Jim, I'm sorry- I shouldn't have jumped on you for those flowers."

Jim was still furious over Walker's unreasonable jealousy. "Walker,  forget it; we've got work to do. We're not even sure if we're headed in the right direction. We'll have to trail Malloy and his bunch through every settlement and hole in the brasada. Let's just get this over with, so we can both get home." The tall Ranger lapsed back into sullen silence, purposely keeping his bronc a few paces ahead of Amigo.

Part of Walker's anger and hurt was realizing Alex and Jim were right. It took a very special woman to marry a Texas Ranger.  Even women who were married to local sheriffs didn't have it as hard. They usually saw their husbands every night, except perhaps when the men were out with a posse. A Ranger's wife, however, often didn't see her man for weeks--or even months--at a time, frequently not even knowing where his assignment would take him.

Many a Ranger's wife had waited in vain for her husband to return. Sometimes, she would get one last reunion with his remains. Then, as often as not, she would never know what happened, as her Ranger husband, lost in the line of duty, had his final resting place in some unmarked grave, or in a lonely canyon, unburied.

For these reasons, most Rangers never married. Those who did often had their marriages fail, with the constant strain of being away, while their wives never knew when, or if, they would return. No, Jim and Walker were two of the lucky few, having loyal wives in Marcy and Alex.  With the incident of the bluebonnets, Walker realized, for the first time, he had been taking Alex for granted.

"Well", he thought to himself, "No more. Every time I get home, Alex will get a little present. I love her so much, and I'm sure she knows it, but I haven't shown her, lately."

And for three more days, Walker and Jim rode mostly by night, resting by day. They checked with everyone they met, in every small town, with every local  lawman. Still, no further information on the whereabouts of Buck Malloy and his gang was obtained. The report Jim had received in Austin, saying the outlaws were headed for their old territory, was their only clue.

Getting closer to Malloy's former haunts, the Rangers finally had to start riding by day. They could not chance missing a lead or coming up on an enemy in the darkness. The pair was constantly checking their back trail, making sure some drygulcher wasn't coming up behind, ready to gun down the two officers. In their line of work, carelessness could mean death from a .45, or a Winchester slug.

Walker was frustrated, for he had been unable to get through to his partner. The ever-smiling, carefree, joke-cracking Jim was now deadly serious, barely speaking. Every overture Walker attempted to make peace was ignored.

"Jim, just one joke..."

"Sorry, Walker...just not in the mood. Don't have much of an audience, anyway, do we, Yank?" Jim again pushed his Paint ahead of Amigo.

The pair was less than a day's ride out of Crystal City, entering a small arroyo. Jim, turning to Walker, said, uneasily, "Walker, I've just got a  feelin' somethin's gonna happen here."

"Jim, I was just gonna say the same to you."

All senses alert, the two Rangers trotted carefully into the arroyo.  Suddenly, Amigo's and Yankee's ears pricked up, both mounts nickering a warning. From a clump of mesquite and boulders on the side of the trail came a harsh warning. "Reach, you two and don't try any funny stuff!"

(end of Chapter 8, Part one)

The two Rangers rode through the darkness, Walker also realized he would somehow have to reach his partner. Their bond was too great to have ended like this. (end of Chapter 7)

From the brush, two hard-looking riders appeared, Colts leveled at the Rangers' belt buckles. With no choice, Walker and Jim raised their hands.

The apparent leader, a dark-complexioned, black-eyed, bearded tough, snapped, "We're takin' your valuables, and your cayuses, too. Now, first, unbuckle your gun-belts, and toss 'em over here, slow and  careful-like.  Then, get off them hosses"  His partner, a tow-headed, gray eyed individual, waved his pistol at Walker for emphasis.

Jim made the motion to dismount, as did Walker. With a signal from Jim's left heel, Yankee exploded like a wild stallion, leaping and sun fishing high in the air. Jim, acting totally surprised, but with this move  planned, dove off his plunging horse.

The tall Ranger hit the ground rolling, pulling his Colt. As the bearded outlaw--totally confounded by Yank's explosion--took a hasty shot at Jim, missing, Jim fired from prone on the ground, shooting upward under the bucking Yankee's belly. His slug caught the outlaw in the stomach.  The man tried to raise his pistol for another shot, but his arm lowered, all strength leaving it. He looked at the spreading stain on his shirt in disbelief, and sagged out of his saddle, crashing into the road.

His partner took a snap shot at Walker, just clipping the big Ranger's hip. Then, he wheeled his buckskin, attempting to flee for his life. Walker and Amigo lit out after him. No horse in Texas could outrun Walker's big Paint. Overtaking the gun thrower, Walker shook out a loop from his lariat, roping the man from his saddle. The outlaw was jerked to the ground, all breath driven from his lungs.

Walker quickly dismounted, and pushed the outlaw face-down in the dirt.  He quickly tied the man's wrists behind his back. The outlaw's horse had stopped about a hundred yards up the road. Walker retrieved the animal, leading both it and the tied owlhoot back to the ambush site.

Jim had just gotten up from next to the man he had shot. Looking up at his partner, he remarked, "See you caught yours."

"What about yours, Jim?"

Jim just shook his head.  "Lasted for a couple of minutes, Walker, but never said a word."

"Well, Jim, La Pryor's only a couple of miles from here. We'll drop these two off for the sheriff there."

Turning to his captive, Walker questioned, "What's your handle, Mister?" The only response he received was a muttered oath.

"Suit yourself. Might want to remember, though: It's not too bright to try and dry-gulch a pair of Texas Rangers."

After slinging the body of the dead bushwhacker over his mount, and tying his partner to his saddle, the two Rangers headed for LaPryor. (end of Chapter 8, Part 2)

As the two Rangers headed for LaPryor, Walker leading the horse carrying his prisoner, Jim leading the animal carrying the body of the other dry-gulcher, Jim looked in his partner's direction. A sly grin  crossing his face, he asked Cordell, "Walker, you spring a leak, or somethin'?" Jim had noticed the wetness on the hip of his partners jeans, which was spreading. He could also see two bullet holes, where the slug fired by Walker's prisoner had burned the big Ranger's hip.

"Jim, it's nothin'; this jasper's slug creased my hip, that's all."

"Pull up a second, Walker. Whether you like it or not, I'm gonna check that hole. No "butts" about it. Jim was grinning. Walker returned his smile, for he had a feeling the anger was finally beginning to drain from his partner. However, he kept trotting Amigo in the direction of LaPryor.

Jim stopped him cold, however, when he barked, "Walker, pull up, NOW!!! Your hoss is bleedin'!!" Unbeknownst to either Ranger, the slug that had creased Walker's hip had also furrowed along Amigo's rump. In the heat of the gunfight, neither had heard the horse's short whinny of pain, and the powerful gelding had shown no sign of injury during the chase. Now, however, with the continuing motion of the trail, the wound had opened further, and blood was dripping down the big Paint's flank.

Walker was unconcerned for himself, but was sick with worry as soon as he knew of the horse's injury. He and Jim quickly dismounted, Jim grabbing at a tin of salve and a clean cloth from his saddlebag. (End of Chapter 9, Part 1)

“Walker, you hold Amigo, and keep an eye on that galoot, there, while I take care of this groove."

Walker was worried, but knew if anyone could calm and handle a wounded horse, it was his partner.

Jim quickly cleaned out and dressed the long slash down Amigo's rump. "He'll be fine, Walker. Groove was really shallow, and I've got the bleedin' stopped."

"Thanks, Jim."

"Now, Walker, I've got to check your wound."

"Forget it, Jim, it's nothin'."

"Walker, you're still bleedin'." Now, are we gonna stand here and argue all day, or are you gonna drop them jeans?"

Walker gave in. He pulled his pistol out of his holster, to keep it trained on the prisoner. Then, the big Ranger unbuckled his gunbelt and lowered his Levi's.

His hip was black and blue, with an angry red slash running across it. "Walker, few more inches, and you'd been crippled for life."

"Griffin, just clean up and bandage that wound, and stop yakkin'."

"Hey, pard, you think I like lookin' at your ugly rump?" Truthfully, Amigo's is a lot better lookin." Pushing his luck, Jim went further, "Although,  now that I think of it, it is more pleasant than lookin' at your ugly mug day after day." Jim was grinning evilly. Walker, jeans at his ankles, having to keep his gun on his prisoner, was helpless.

After what seemed an eternity to Walker, but was only a couple of minutes, Jim had his hip cleaned and bandaged. 

"OK, Walker, I'll watch your friend, there. Pull your pants back up. Suppose a lady came along, right about now.  Seein' you standin' there like that, she'd faint dead away."

Walker quickly redressed, muttering various imprecations in Jim's direction, but happy that his partner was at least speaking to him again. He was thinking of a way to get revenge for Jim's wisecracks. Then, he slapped his forehead. "Wisecrack!!" Jim had missed a chance for a pun, while Walker's jeans were down. Walker shook his head, grateful Jim had missed the chance, yet frightened that he was starting to think of jokes like his partner.

The two Rangers rode into the hamlet of LaPryor, and looked up the local sheriff, Carl Hanson.

"Recognize these hombres, Sheriff?" Walker inquired.

"Sure do, Rangers. The one belly-down is Jake Morrissey, and your prisoner there is Kyle Roche. County's been lookin' for them, for  hoss-thievin' and rustlin'. You did us a favor."

"Bueno, Sheriff. We'll turn them over to you. Any place to spend the night, here?"

"Afraid not, Ranger, unless you want to bunk in my jail. Crystal City's not all that far down the road. They've got an OK hotel, and a so-so cafe. That's your best bet."

After depositing the prisoner Roche safely with the sheriff—and Morrisey's body with the undertaker--the two partners rode on to Crystal City, arriving just after dusk. (end of Chapter 9, Part 2)

"Jim, you look exhausted. You've ridden three days more than me. What say we follow the sheriff from LaPryor's advice, and get a room and a decent meal, maybe even a bath?"

"That sounds, good, Walker, but let's make sure the livery is decent, first." As always, Jim (as was Walker) was more concerned for his mount than himself.

The Rangers quickly located the livery stable. To their surprise, it was clean and bright. Locating the hostler, they were astonished to see "he" was a young lady of about 19.  She was blonde, hair tied back in braids, with laughing blue eyes, and a winning smile. "Hello, Rangers--I'm Judy Martin--good currying and a big feed for your two broncs, there?"

Walker looked at his partner. Jim was clearly pleased, not only with the young lady, but with the surprisingly fine livery. The Rangers were used to far less for their horses, and quickly  turned them over to the young female hostler.

"Best you've got, Ms. Martin." Jim answered for both. Confident the two Paints were in caring hands, watching the horses happily follow the blonde Judy into their stalls, the lawmen headed for the Crystal City Palace, and arranged for a room and bath. (end of Chapter 10, Part 1)

After taking their alforjas up to their assigned room, Walker and Jim took out some clean clothes, and headed to the bathhouse at the rear of the hotel.

As they soaked in the zinc tubs, letting the refreshing water soak the grime and aches from their bodies, Jim turned and spoke to his partner.

"Walker, I've been a fool. We both have. I didn't realize giving Alex those bluebonnets would cause you trouble. Last thing I wanted. I apologize, Pard. And, I'm sorry for treatin' you like I did, on the trail."

"Jim, I was wrong, too. I didn’t' t realize Alex missed little things like that, and was blamin' you. I took out my hurt on both of you."

"OK, Walker, then we're both a couple of idiots, when it comes to women. I've gotta say one thing, though: I'd never go after your wife. Besides being happily married to Marcy, do you think I'm suicidal? I tried anything like that, you'd blow my guts out. And then, Marcy would finish what you started."

Walker laughed softly, knowing Jim spoke absolute truth. He was also watching the bath attendant, approaching with what appeared to be more hot water for the tubs.

Jim was stretched back in his tub, eyes closed, relaxing. The attendant approached, pouring the contents of his basin over Jim's head and shoulders.

"AYAIIIEEEE!!!"  Jim jumped up, screaming in shock.  Walker was doubled over in his tub with laughter, for he had arranged to have the attendant pour ice-cold water over his partner. Jim leaped out of his tub, chasing the hapless attendant out of the room, stopping only when he realized he was about to run totally naked into the street.

Jim turned back, glaring at Walker, sputtering helplessly. Walker was still convulsed with laughter.

Finally gaining some semblance of control, Walker managed to blurt out, "Griffin, that'll teach you NEVER to make cracks about my rump again. And, speaking of cracks, it's a good thing you stopped where you did. The whole town nearly got to see yours."

Trying to maintain a look of fierce anger, Jim failed miserably. The glare on his face totally broke down, as he collapsed on a bench, in gales of laughter. Finally, he contented himself with throwing a wet towel at his partner's head.

Finishing their baths, Jim scraping the stubble of a week on the trail off his face, the two partners, laughing and joking once again, headed for supper. (end of Chapter 10, Part 2)

Having eaten a so-so meal, just as the sheriff in LaPryor had described, at the Crystal City Waterford and China Restaurant, Walker and Jim headed for the local saloon, The Crystal Mirror. The local sheriff had no information for the peace officers, and the only wire from Headquarters stated that Buck Malloy and his gang were believed to still be headed for Carrizzo Springs or Eagle Pass. The Ranger partners hoped to perhaps pick up some information in the Mirror, local saloons always being a source of

news and gossip.

As always, bellied up to the bar--a bottle of whiskey and two glasses in front of them, but drinking little--the two Rangers chatted with the customers. They were not undercover, having worn their badges all the way from Bandera. Walker was still shaking his head over the two drygulchers, Morrisey and Roche, who had attempted to rob them, even knowing Walker and Jim were Rangers. "Well, they had nerve anyway. Didn't do 'em any good, though: Morrisey's in Boot Hill with Jim's slug in his belly, and Roche'll be stretchin' a rope, this time next week."

The partners had picked up some rumors in the Mirror, rumors claiming Malloy had passed just north of Crystal City, headed toward Carrizzo Springs. However, the stories were secondhand, nothing that could be confirmed.

As the two Rangers turned to leave the bar, they were confronted by a group of riders from the Cross C Ranch. The leader of the group was "Stonewall" Haskell, who had been a Captain in the Confederate Army. He had nicknamed himself after General "Stonewall" Jackson, and was owner of the Cross C.

Drunk, shouting, Haskell sent a long string of profanity in Jim's direction. "&^*(((( you  %%***((*,  ^%***,  We don't want any lousy Yankees in Texas, Ranger or no Ranger."

"Here we go again", Walker thought ruefully. Jim's Yankee accent had stirred up trouble again, innocently. He looked at his partner, who shrugged tiredly, a look of resignation on his face.

Jim looked Haskell directly in his dark eyes. "Haskell, I don't want any trouble, and neither does my partner. The War's over." He knew his words were having no effect, but tried to reason out of the situation anyway.

In response, Haskell charged Jim, head down, attempting to sink his skull into the tall Ranger's gut. Jim waited, then, at the last minute, sidestepped neatly. Haskell crashed headlong into the mahogany bar, knocking himself senseless.

 Walker had pulled both his Colts, and had covered the rest of Haskell's crew. "Out, NOW, all of you", he ordered, guns not wavering.  "And take that piece of human garbage with you!" Walker continued, indicating the fallen rancher with a nod of his head.

"Walker, I'll take care of that" Jim broke in. He lifted "Stonewall" Haskell by his collar and belt, dragged the rancher to the batwing doors, and tossed the man into the street.

Walker herded the rest out the door, keeping his guns trained on them until they had loaded the still half-senseless Haskell on his horse, and the Cross C crew rode out of town. 

After he and Jim returned to their room, and were stretched out on their beds, he growled at Jim, in mock aggravation. "Griffin, when are you ever gonna start talkin' like a Texan?"

"Well, Pard, it's like this- I ENJOY my Yankee accent. 'Sides, when I'm workin' undercover, no one ever would guess this accent belongs to a Texas Ranger. And look at all the fun you 'n' I've had taking on those yokels who think it's fun to beat on Yankees."

"Oh, yeah, Jim, it's been LOTS of fun!!" Walker replied sarcastically, rubbing his jaw, thinking of how many times lumps had been raised on his face, in barroom fights started by some cowpoke who didn't like Jim's accent. "Well, pard, let's get some shut-eye."

Walker turned off the coal-oil lamp, and the two Rangers drifted off to a well-deserved rest. (end of Chapter 10, Part 3)

Walker and Jim were on the trail out of Crystal City at sunup the next morning.

"Walker, you and Mark French rode down this outfit. You got any ideas where they might be trailin'?" Jim and Walker were frustrated, for they were riding into the Malloy gang's territory, yet had gotten no solid leads on where their quarry might be headed, or holed up.

"Jim, let's swing north of Crystal City, and check the old stage road. Malloy used to use that. If there's any sign of a bunch of riders, at least it'll be a start."

The two partners swung their horses Northwest, at a ground-covering lope.

That night, the pair camped alongside the old stage road. There had been some tracks, but none definite enough to indicated Buck Malloy and his confederates had been through. 

"Jim, Malloy's got to be running low on funds, and food, and those hosses he stole must be wore out. I'll bet he's planning right now on hittin' the bank in either Carrizzo Springs,, or else Eagle Pass."

"How about both, Walker?  Malloy's got seven men with him. They could split up, four each, hit both banks, and head across the Rio, meetin' up again in Mexico. Local law in either on of those town's no match for Malloy's tough hombres."

"Jim, you could be right. There's also the Wells Fargo stage run from Laredo and Del Rio through Eagle Pass. They might try to hit that."

"Walker, there's just too many 'ifs...'"

"Yeah, Jim, you're right. Well, we're closest to Carrizzo Springs. Might as well head there, see if we can pick up anything. We can be there night after tomorrow, easy."

"About all we can do, right now, Walker."

The two partners settled in for a night's sleep. (end of Chapter 11)

About mid-morning the next day, Walker and Jim topped a rise, the trail they were following leading down to the main road from Laredo to Eagle Pass.

They hauled up their broncs short, then galloped down to the road.  Stopped there, the driver slumped over his reins, the shotgun guard sprawled in the road, face-down, was the Wells Fargo stage driver.

Both Rangers dismounted, Walker opening the coach, checking the passengers. His stomach turned, as the four inside, including a young woman, had all been shot. None had survived the deadly fusillade of lead.

As Walker turned from the coach, Jim descended from the driver's seat. "Nothing we can do for the driver, Walker, Slug went clean through his back, out his chest. He's done for."

Walker, jaw tight, replied. "Jim, there's four dead in the coach...includin' a woman."

Jim grunted in dismay, then, both headed over to the prone guard.

Walker rolled the man gently over. He was still breathing. With two Winchester slugs through his belly, though, he could not last long.

"Mister, we're Texas Rangers; any idea who did this?"

"Rangers?" the guard gasped out. "They caught us on that upgrade. It was..." the man paused, lungs rasping struggling for breath.  It...was Malloy."

"Easy, Mister", Jim broke in, "I'll get you some water."

It was already too late, for the guard had shuddered and died.

"Walker, Crystal City's closest to where we are now. If we can't track Malloy, let's get these poor folks over there, then we'll head for Carizzo Springs."

“Jim, let's go." However, as both Rangers expected, the tracks soon disappeared in the rocky gorges and canyons, Buck Malloy being totally familiar with the territory. Frustrated, the pair returned to the coach, and drove their grisly discovery into Crystal City.(end of Chapter 12)

After leaving the stage and its burden in Crystal City, Walker and Jim resumed their journey to Carrizzo Springs. They had been informed by the Wells Fargo agent the ambushed stage had carried no gold or bank shipments. The only money the outlaws had gotten was whatever the passengers were holding.

"Walker, that means Malloy's still short on money. Bet you're right;  He'll be hitting the banks in Carrizzo Springs or Eagle Pass."

"Yep, Jim, and Carrizzo's closer to where the stage was hit than Eagle. Let's head for there."

Pushing Amigo and Yankee to their limits, the partners raced for Carrizzo Springs. (End of Chapter 13)

Jim and Walker arrived in Carrizzo Springs just after 8:00 PM. They put up their exhausted mounts in the livery, and, after getting a room and quickly washing up, the pair headed for the closest restaurant.

They never made it to supper. As they approached the Comanche Saloon, four of Buck Malloy's men stepped boldly onto the sidewalk. While Jim had never seen any of them, Walker had--with Mark French--captured the gang. He recognized them instantly.

Walker put a cautioning hand on Jim's chest. "Jim, that's Clint Murdock, Blue Cheyenne, Harry Thompson, and Mark Carlisle comin' out of the Comanche. They're all Malloy's men."

"Walker, let's try and take 'em standing. Could be Malloy's right in town, also. If not, we'll need these hombres to tell us where he's holed up."

"My thoughts exactly, Jim."

Unfortunately, at that moment, Cheyenne spotted the two big Rangers. He shouted a warning to his compadres.

Two Texas Rangers and four deadly killers faced each other, forty feet apart. Clint Murdock, taking the lead, cursed, "As I live and breathe, it's Cordell Walker, you $%^^^&&".  And you've got a friend taggin' along. Well, Walker, say your prayers."

"Yep, Murdock it is me. And you're goin' right back to the calaboose. Now, just so you know who'll be sendin' you to Boot Hill, this is my partner, Jim Griffin. If you and your compadres want to keep livin' and breathin' drop your guns, real careful and slow."

In response, almost as one, the four desperadoes dove for leather. The thunder of Colts rumbled down the main street of Carrizzo Springs. (end of Chapter 14, Part One)

The gunfight was over in less than a minute. Walker's first shot took Clint Murdock in the heart. The stocky outlaw crashed backwards into the wall of the Comanche, and slid slowly down the wall, slumping lifelessly to the sidewalk.

Blue Cheyenne's first shot went past Walker's side then the gunslinger's hands flew upward, Colt firing again uselessly into the air, as a bullet from Jim's Colt hit him in the stomach. Cheyenne spun around twice, and fell, unmoving.

Harry's Colt spat, and Jim's Stetson flew from his head. Jim's return shot, fired as the Ranger threw himself sidewards and down, hit the outlaw in his left leg. As Harry was falling, he lifted his pistol again, aiming at the prone Jim.  Jim rolled, and sent a bullet between the gunslinger's eyes. As a blue hole appeared in the man's forehead, a blank expression crossed his face, and he fell, stiff as a dime store mannequin.

Mark Carlisle, the last remaining outlaw, grabbed his belly and jackknifed into the street, as Walker's .45 put a slug into his middle.

"You all right, Walker?"

"Yeah, Jim, how about you?"

"I'm fine, too. Wish I could say the same for my Stetson, though. It's got a new hole through it."

"#$$#, Jim, I wanted to take these hombres alive."

A crowd was forming, the local sheriff pushing his way through. He started to cover the two Rangers with his shotgun, until he spotted the silver stars on silver circles, pinned to their shirts.

“You two do this, Rangers?"

Walker replied, "Yup, Sheriff; they're part of Buck Malloy's gang. You ever see 'em in town, before tonight?"

"No, Ranger...they must have just pulled in today. I was out checking a hoss-stealin' complaint. Just got back into town."

Jim had had been checking the bodies of the downed outlaws. Rolling Mark Carlisle onto his back, he shouted, "Walker, this one's still breathin'!!" Then, Jim gave a gasp of recognition. He and Mark had been friends, years ago.

"Mark, what're you doin' ridin' with the likes of Malloy?" Mark was a family man, with a wife and two kids.

"Jim Griffin; might've known I'd run into you someday..."  Carlisle's hands were clenched over the bullet hole in his belly, blood starting to turn them red. Walker was standing next to Jim and Carlisle, now. Jim continued, "Mark, what happened?"

"Short tale, Jim, and not too sweet. I wanted money, and this was the quickest way to it..." Carlisle winced, and half rose, then settled back.

Walker broke in. "Carlisle, you know Malloy, and rode with him.  Now, before you cross the river, do one decent thing. Where's he holed up?"

Conflicting emotions crossed the mortally wounded man's face, then, deciding, he addressed Jim. "Jim, you were always a decent guy. I owe you this much. We were gonna hit the Cattlemen's Bank here tomorrow. Malloy and the rest are hitting the Eagle Pass Bank, day after tomorrow. Then we were all supposed to meet in Sierra Conquista, over the Border."

"Mark, that won't help, unless we can stop Malloy before he gets to Eagle Pass.  Where's he holed up, NOW?"

Carlisle's voice was failing, blood starting to ooze from his mouth and nose. "Jim, he's about 5 miles outside of Eagle Pass- In Black Hawk Canyon. Little cabin there."

"Thanks, Mark. When I get back, I'll get word somehow to your family that you died tryin' to stop the Malloy gang."

"Jim, that'll mean a lot.  Tha.....  UNNHHH."

Stepping back from his former friend, now a dead outlaw in the dust of Carrizzo Springs, Jim turned to his partner. "Walker, let's ride"  Walker was already jogging toward the livery, shouting over his shoulder to the sheriff. "Take care of these men" (end of Chapter 14, Part 2)

Again pushing their cayuses to the limit, Jim and Walker rode all night. Dawn found them working their way carefully into Black Hawk Canyon.

Buck Malloy had chosen his hideout well. There was plenty of cover, yet the cabin had a high vantage point, where anyone approaching could be easily spotted.

Walker and Jim had left Amigo and Yankee in a glade about 1/4 mile from the cabin, and proceeded on foot.

After surveying the situation, the two Rangers conferred. "Jim, no way we can get that close, and I'm in no mood to waste time here. We've got plenty of ammunition, plenty of cover, and there's no back way out of here, far as I can see. Let's just blast those sons out of there."

As Jim started to respond, "I'm with you, Walker", he suddenly stopped. "Walker, look!" The four remaining members of the Malloy gang had just emerged from the cabin, heading toward the corral.

"OK, Jim, let's let 'em have it!"  Walker, standing, shouted, "Texas Rangers, Malloy; you and your men are under arrest!!"

As the Rangers knew would happen, the only response was Winchester fire in return.

Two of Malloy's men, Chick Miller and Dan McDermott, were quickly cut down. As Jim drew a bead on Buck Malloy himself, the gang leader leveled his rifle and fired. Jim heard a scream of pain, and watched in horror, as Walker's Stetson flew off his head, the big Ranger crashing hard to the ground.

Jim, stunned for a moment, was stirred back into action by a heavy Winchester bullet just missing his right cheek. Stumbling toward his partner, he leveled his Winchester again and again. Buck Malloy and the last of his gang, Ed Coker, were slammed into the earth, cut to ribbons by Jim's fire.

Jim slid to the ground next to his partner. "Cordell!" he shouted, in agony. He rolled the bearded Ranger gently onto his back, staggered by the blood pouring off Walker's scalp. (end of Chapter 15)

Relieved, Jim realized his partner was still breathing. However, the blood had to be stopped. Jim tore off his shirt, tearing strips from it, using them as makeshift bandages to staunch the red flow from Walker's scalp.

Murmuring, "I'll be right back, Pard", Jim, quickly checked on the four outlaws, confirming their last stop would be the Eagle Pass Cemetery. Then, he raced for Amigo and Yankee. Jumping on Yank, leading Amigo, he galloped back to where Walker was lying.

When he returned, Walker was groaning. Jim placed a canteen to his partner's lips. Walker's eyes flickered open, and he smiled, faintly.

"Jim, what happened, Pard?"

We got 'em all, Walker; Malloy and his gang are finished. Everyone of 'em's dead. Malloy tried to take your head off before I got him, though. Good thing you've got as thick a skull as I do."

The flow of blood had just about stopped. Walker, feeling a little less dizzy, tried to sit up and succeeded. Then, in panic, he yelled. "Jim, where are you?"

Jim turned and stared, in disbelief. "I'm right in front of you, Pard."

"Jim, I CAN"T SEE!!"

Jim felt like a slug had just torn through his gut. "Walker, what do you mean?"

"Jim, I CAN'T SEE ANYTHING!!"

"Walker, it's just the blood in your eyes." Jim knew he was wrong, but was trying to help his partner. "Quick, let me help you on Amigo.  We'll head for Eagle Pass, and I'll get you to the doc's there. He'll fix you up, quick."  Jim's voice had a confidence he did not feel.

As quickly as possible, Jim helped his partner onto Amigo's back.  With an equine sixth sense, the big Paint seemed to know his human companion was in trouble, and nuzzled Walker's back as he was lifted into the saddle. Eagle Pass was a long five miles off. (End of Chapter 16)

Jim had to leave his partner at Doctor Emanuel Gonzales's office in Eagle Pass, while he reported the end of the Malloy gang to the local sheriff, so the lawman could arrange the removal of the bodies from Black Hawk Canyon.  Jim then had to wire Austin with the results of the Rangers' search.  He did have to tell Headquarters that Cordell had been wounded, but did not mention his blindness.

Upon returning to the Doctor's office, Jim burst into the examining room, worriedly. Doctor Gonzales had just finished working on Walker.

Glancing up at Jim, the doctor stated, sympathetically. "Might as well tell you both. Ranger Walker, you may never see again.  Your optic nerve has been, as far as I can tell here, damaged. If you can get to a specialist, he may be able to give you better news. I'm sorry."

Jim, tears in his eyes, sat down, stunned.  Walker, searching with unseeing eyes, finally sighed, "Jim, let's go home."

Doctor Gonzales broke in. "Rangers' it's late- Why don't you spend the night here.  There's another bed in the next room.  Then, I'll examine Ranger Walker again in the morning. If he's strong enough, I'll release him."

Not even giving Walker a chance to reply, Jim choked out, "OK, Doc."

Walker had been given a sedative, and a pain killer.

He slept well, under the effects of the medication. Jim tossed and turned all night, sleep refusing to come, despite his exhaustion. (end of Chapter 17)

The following morning, with Dr. Gonzales's permission, Jim and Walker started their journey North, back home.

It was a long, slow trip, Walker riding well, but weak. Jim refused to chance any further injury to his partner.

"Walker, once we get back, I'll get you to the finest specialist in San Antonio, or Austin."

"Thanks, Pard, but don't try to pity me. I won't stand for that, and it doesn't fit you well."

"Walker, I'm not pityin' you. I want you to fight this. You and I are pards. I know you're a fighter. And, don't forget, you'll have Alex and Bobby by your side.  Now, I've never met Bobby, but you've told me lots about that kid. Walker, with him and Alex on your side, you can lick anything." Making a tasteless pun, hoping to rouse his partner's fighting spirit, Jim added, "I hope you can see that."

Walker, smiling wanly, retorted, "Griffin, when I CAN see that, the first thing I'll do is get my gun, and shoot out that tongue of yours.  Maybe that will finally stop those jokes."

The two Rangers rode silently toward Bandera. (end of Chapter 18)

Finally, Jim and Walker were approaching the Cahill ranch. Alex and Bobby would be waiting to greet Cordell.

Jim questioned his partner, gently. "Walker, how do you want to handle this, with Alex and Bobby?"

"Not sure, Jim; I'll see what happens."

"Walker, no matter what happens, never forget you've got a loving family. And I plan on stayin' with you a few days, too.  I'll bring Marcy down to help, if you'd like.

"Appreciate that, Jim, but it's not necessary."

"Maybe not necessary, Walker, but you're my pard. You'd do the same for me."

"Jim, do me a favor: Let's go home over the knoll by the river. I'd like to rest there a few minutes, before I go home."

"Whatever you say, Walker."

As the partners approached the rise, Jim's eyes grew wide. As the pair stopped their horses on top, Jim drew in his breath.

"Jim, what is it?"

"Walker, I don't believe this. It's Bluebonnets! Walker, it's acres and acres of Bluebonnets, as far as I can see."

Walker slid off Amigo, standing, looking to the horizon. "Jim, go get Alex and Bobby, and bring them here, quick!!"

"You sure you'll be all right, Walker?"

"Jim, I'm positive! Please, go get my family, now."  Jim pulled Yankee to a sliding stop at the Walkers' front door. Alex, hearing the pounding of the big gelding's hooves, rushed out on the porch. Seeing her husband's partner, a look of fear crossed her eyes. "Jim, what's wrong?  Where's Cordell?"

Trying not to reveal his emotions, Jim fairly shouted, "Alex, there's nothing wrong. Cordell's waiting for you and Bobby, up on the knoll. He wants you to hurry. Quick, get Bobby and follow me."

"Jim, Bobby's in town. He'll be back soon."

"Well, then, leave him a note to head for the knoll as soon as he gets back..  Then, hop up here behind me."

Alex quickly complied.  As she sat behind Jim, arms tight around the blonde Ranger's waist, he again pushed his Paint into a dead run.

As they reached the knoll, Walker was standing, seeming to search the distance. Jim quickly let Alex off his horse. She raced up to Cordell, tears streaming. She swept into his arms, kissing him, over and over, not even noticing his bandaged head. "Oh, Cord, I've been waiting and waiting- I'm so happy you're home."

Cordell held her tenderly, "Alex, look out there; what do you see?"

"OH, CORD...Bluebonnets--thousands of them--they're beautiful!!"

Walker turned toward where he felt Jim was standing. "Then my partner was right." Turning back to Alex, he said, sadly.  "Alex, I was shot in Eagle Pass" She looked into his eyes, and she knew. "Alex, I'm blind"

"Oh, Cord...!"

"Alex, Jim told me about the Bluebonnets. I wanted you to see them- It must have finally rained here."

"Cord, it did, but that doesn't matter. All that matters is you're home, and alive."

"Alex, I'm blind..."

"Cord, It doesn't matter. I still love you, and always will".

Walker held her to his chest, hugging her tightly, eyes shut.  He loosed his grip slightly, and opened his eyes.

Alex looked up into his face. "Cord, what is it?"

"Alex, I can SEE!! Alex, there's thousands of Bluebonnets out there, just like you and Jim said. And I can see every last one of them."

They stood, side by side, overcome with emotion. Finally, Cordell Walker said to his wife, Alex, "Darling, from now on, I'll bring you Bluebonnets, every day I'm home."

"Oh, Cord, I don't need Bluebonnets. I just need you, forever."

Jim Griffin quietly turned his horse away, heading back to Austin.  As he departed, he espied a young teenager on a palomino and white Paint, headed toward Alex and Walker.  He touched his Stetson's brim in salute, and pushed Yankee into a lope.

The End

All the Usual Legal Disclaimers.