Bo's Gift--by  Sasquaw                       December--2003

            It's  almost Christmas and a light blanket of snow is falling throughout most of central Texas. The weatherman is saying that the snow will increase and the temperature will drop into the teens. The Walker kids are all excited, it will be their first white Christmas!
            The kids are running back and forth to the picture window that looks out toward the barn and the long gravel drive. Angela and Cooper are trying to count snowflakes, Cordell is staring out at the barn and beyond, he remains quiet.
            "Hey kids---come get your jackets and snow boots on, we want to be ready to go and cut down the Christmas tree when Daddy gets home."
            The kids squeal and turn away from the window, running to the hall closet and putting their winter attire on. Alex looks back to the picture window as she watches the sad look on her son's face. She's seen this look many times in the last 4 months, she knows only too well what her son is thinking about. She sighs and reaches for Cordell's jacket and gloves, walking slowly up behind him.
            "Hey sweetheart, wanna get dressed? Daddy will be here soon, we're going up to the north rise, Daddy says the trees are more plentiful up there---maybe we can find a nice pine this year."
            Cordell turns slightly as he takes his jacket and slowly begins to put it on, he looks back to his Mother with tears in his eyes.
           "I still miss him, Mommy---I think of him every day."
             Alex reaches out and pulls her son to her, brushing his rustic colored hair back out of his eyes. She kisses the bridge of his nose, the freckles showing up very clearly against his rosy cheeks.
            "I know you do, sweetheart---we all miss him."
            Cordell brushes the tears away, "Do you think he knows it's almost Christmas?"
            "Yes, yes I do," Alex replies, forcing a smile. "I'm sure that he's looking down on all of us, especially you---and wishing you a Merry Christmas."
            Angela and Cooper walk slowly towards the window, and Angela asks.
            "Do they have Christmas in 'doggie heaven?"
            "I'm sure they do, Angela---and "Bo" is having a very nice Christmas. He's running with all the rest of the animals, and barking, and playing---just having a big time."
            "Is he happy, Mommy---does he miss us, too?"
            The headlights from the Ram, sweep across the picture window as Walker is pulling up to the front of the ranch house, he beeps the horn.
            "Daddy's home!" Squeals Angela as she is running for the door, Cooper is right behind her.
            Alex looks back to Cordell, "Yes son, I know he misses us as much as we all miss him." She pulls his jacket tight around him and pulls his wool cap down over his ears. She nods towards the hall closet---"Hurry and get your boots on, Daddy is waiting."
            The Walkers are soon on the road, heading up the north mountain road, the snow is coming down harder. The recent rains and now the snow have helped to replenish the wildlife and all of the trees. Walker was worried about finding the perfect tree for his family, but the roots of the pine trees go deep and many were in perfect form and growing tall and straight.
            "Hey kids, I saw some beautiful trees up here last month---and I know if we look hard enough--we'll find that perfect pine--how about it?"
            All of the kids are laughing, and singing Christmas carols and even Cordell has tried to get into the spirit. They're all trying to look out the window at once when they see deer crossing the road. Walker slows down to let them pass, a doe and two fawns cross in front of them.
            "Look Daddy---Bambi."
            Both Walker and Alex laugh, "Yes Cooper---two Bambi’s---and they are less than a month old. They can't move too fast, but they're trying to keep up with their Mama."
            "Where's their Daddy?" asks Angela.
            Alex smiles, "Unfortunately most "Daddy" animals don't hang around their families too much, but I'm sure their Daddy is near by—watching."
            Angela stands up in the floorboard of the quad cab and leans over the backseat, hugging her Daddy's neck, "I'm glad our Daddy is always around, and not just watching."
            Walker takes his daughter's hand and kisses it, looking over to his wife---"That makes two of us, baby."
            An hour later finds the Walker family atop the rise and a tree has been spotted. Walker goes to the back of his Ram and takes out his portable chainsaw. The family watches as he cuts it down, when the tree hits the ground, everyone cheers.
            The kids are all staring at the tree and clapping their hands, Alex takes out the picnic basket and pours everyone some hot chocolate.
            "Oh, honey---the tree is beautiful---even more beautiful than last years' tree."
            "You say that every year, Alex---What do you say kids? Is this tree more beautiful than last years'?”
            Unison of squeals and head nodding is the answer, as suddenly the cold, dark night is pierced by the sounds of coyotes off in the distance. The kids remain still as they look to their father for protection.
            Walker nods his head, "It's okay, guys--they're not even close--it's just the sounds of one mate calling for the other."
            Alex watches Cordell as his gloved hands close and open, his mouth sets tightly, as his eyes look to the direction from where the sounds came. She puts a protective arm around him.
            "Okay, guys, let's help Daddy get the tree loaded and maybe we can talk him into going for pizza on the way home."
            Angela and Cooper are running to grab the trunk of the tree, but Walker motions them to the other end. "It's lighter at the other end, Cooper--jump up in the Ram and help pull it in".
            Alex and Cordell are getting the center as Angela is grunting to shove her part of the tree up to her brother. Walker laughs as he hurries to help his daughter.
            "Careful, baby---this tree is also bigger than last year's---and heavier."
            Finally the tree is loaded and the Ram is heading slowly back down the mountain side and again more wildlife is being spotted. More deer are crossing along with wild turkey’s, and occasionally a coyote is spotted. The 'oohs and ahs' stop every time a coyote is spotted. Everyone, including Walker, has a memory of that horrible July night as the kids' family pet  was killed by the wild dogs.
            Walker sighs as Alex reaches over and touches his shoulder. It was one of the hardest things that Walker had ever had to do, to put Bo out of his pain, by shooting him. He felt his heart being ripped apart as he can still recall the look of horror on his kids' faces, especially Cordell's!
             Alex looks to the backseat as both Angela and Cooper look at their brother sadly. Cooper touches his twin's shoulder, "It's okay, Cordell, the coyotes are gone, Daddy killed a lot of them."
            Cordell pulls away from his brothers' grasp and draws himself up into a fetal position, he replies softly.
            "I wish Daddy would kill them all---I hate them!"
            The ride to the pizza place is in silence as both Walker and Alex decide to order the pizza to go. Angela and Cooper go in with Alex to make the order, Cordell remains in the Ram with Walker.  The ride home is even quieter.
            As the kids get ready for bed, Walker stands in front of the picture window, watching the snow flakes come down harder. Alex walks up behind him, slipping her arms around his waist.
            "Penny for your thoughts, honey---wanna another cup of coffee?"
            "No," the anger answers softly, as he pulls his wife's arms around him tighter, "I just want our kids to enjoy their first white Christmas--but Alex---I'm worried about Cordell---it's been almost 4 months since Bo was killed---he's not over him yet."
            "I know, honey---but it's going to take a little longer for Cordell----he was closer to Bo than Angela or Cooper."
            Walker turns and faces his wife, "Is he still going out to Bo's grave in the middle of the night?"
            Alex nods, "I'm afraid so, I've followed him out and watched him, he just stands there and softly sings that song of "Mr. Bojangles" then he starts to cry.  Walker, I'm worried about him too, maybe we should get professional help".
            Walker shakes his head, "NO!  I'm not having one of my kids talking to a shrink--Cordell is not crazy----he just needs time to deal with the loss of his pet."
            "But, honey---you just said that he should be over the loss by now---and besides---I'm not saying that he needs to talk to a shrink---just someone that is capable of handling these type of problems."
            Walker continues to shake his head, "I wish------"
            "You wish what?" Asks Alex, stroking her husband's trimline beard, "You wish that White Eagle were still alive, don't you?"
            "Yeah, I do----I miss talking to him---and Uncle Ray---I need their wisdom---I thought I knew how to handle this---but I'm completely confused---the spirits are evading me--I don't know what to do."
            "Maybe---it's time that we got the kids another pet?  What about the guy that sold you Bo---I'm sure he has another litter by now---Walker---will you go to see him?"
            "I've thought about that---yeah, maybe you're right--I will stop by his place on the way home tomorrow night---and---I'll try to get one that looks just like Bo."


                                        **********************************************


            The snow is coming down harder as a small figure makes his way to the small grave on the backside of the barn. He's got a blanket around him as he stops and kneels down at the grave. The small wooden cross bears the name of "Mr. Bojangles".  A small bouquet of wild flowers sits atop the mound of harden dirt, as the small figure pushes away the dead flowers and tidies up the grave. The boy looks around him and takes the rubber ball from the little stand that his daddy had made especially for it.
            A taller figure watches silently from the shadows and remains quiet as the smaller figure starts to sing.

                                  "I knew a man--
                                   Bojangles and---
                                   and he would dance for me
                                   in worn out shoes.
            The smaller figure wipes his pajama sleeve across his face, he sniffles as he touches the  grave.
            "Do you still dance, Bo?  I remember how you would dance on your hind legs----do you dance for everyone in 'doggie heaven'---does God like to see you dance?"
            The figure in the shadows takes a deep sigh as he leans up against the barn and whispers to himself "Just give me a sign on how to handle this, Lord. I've chased bad guys all of my life and I've been through the jungles of hell in 'Nam--and I knew how to fight the demons---but not this. I don't know what to say or do to ease my son's pain---I need a sign."
            Cordell turns quickly towards the barn as he sees his Daddy leaning up against it and watching him. The boy stands up, taking the blanket from around him, he lays it gently over the small grave. He walks slowly towards Walker.
            "I didn't want Bo to get cold---the blanket will help to keep him warm."
            Walker quickly clears his throat as he observes the blanket covering the grave. He knows that Alex would not be too fond to know that Cordell has chosen one of his best blankets to lay on the hard ground. He tries to smile as he reaches out for his son.
            "I know that Bo appreciates what you are doing for him, and the blanket is a nice gesture---but son----Bo is beyond feeling anything, he can't feel the cold."
            Cordell looks up to his father, "But---how do we know that, Daddy?--He can't tell us if he's cold.---How do we know he can't feel anything"?
            The snow is coming down harder, as Walker puts his arm around the small shoulders of his oldest twin, he nods his head.
            "You, your brother and sister  know that when someone is dead, only their spirits remain---their souls are taken to heaven.  Cordell, you have seen dead animals and you know that only the bones remain after a certain length of time. Bo has been dead for a long time, his soul and his spirit has gone to heaven---there's nothing left to feel any pain."
            Cordell looks back to the grave, "But, he comes to me in my dreams, I can feel him licking my face. If I can feel him, then he can feel me, right Daddy?"
            Walker sighs as he looks back to the house and sees Alex standing in the picture window. They had heard the front door open, and had come downstairs to see their son walking slowly out to the barn, the blanket pulled around him tightly.
            "We'll talk more about this in the morning, Cordell--but right now your Mother is worried about you. You need to get in out of the cold---let's go inside."
            They walk slowly towards the house as the cold north wind begins to howl, Cordell stops quickly.
            "Daddy, Bo is talking to us."
            "No, son---it's only the wind. Bo is asleep, and you should be also. Didn't you say that your brother and you were having a Christmas party tomorrow at church?"
            The boy nods, "Yes sir, the preacher wants us to talk about things that are most mem---mem------"
            Walker smiles, "Memorable?  Is that the word you're trying to pronounce?"
            Cordell nods, "Yes, that's the word. He also wants us to talk about things that make us angry and to find out why we are angry and mad."
            Walker stops and kneels down on the ground before his son, "What makes you angry and mad, Cordell?  Is it the coyotes-----or is it -----me?"
            "I hate the coyotes, Daddy--they hurt Bo---they killed him."
            "But, I was the one that shot Bo---I had to put him out of his pain, son. I thought you understood that, are you still angry with me?"
            Cordell's eyes fill with tears as he goes into Daddy's arms, "No, Daddy, I'm not mad at you---because Bo told me you didn't mean to hurt him.".
            "That's true, Cordell---I would have done anything to save Bo--but he was beyond saving---he was all tore up inside---and he was in such horrible pain. I couldn't stand to see him hurt like that, you understand why I had to do what I did?"     

            Cordell hugs his daddy tightly, "Yes Daddy---I just miss him so much, and when I hold him, he cries too."
            Walker can feel his eyes misting as he hugs his son, he picks him up and they walk towards the house.


                                  ****************************************


            In the days to come Walker and Alex start to worry more about Cordell's behavior, prompting Walker to put another lock on the front door. He's testing the new lock as Angela stands at the bottom of the stairs, watching him.
            "That won't stop Cordell from getting outside, Daddy---he'll just climb down the trellis, like he did last night."
            Walker shakes his head, "He climbed down the trellis, and you let him? Why didn't you come tell your Mother or me, so we could stop him?"
            "I promised him I wouldn't. He said Bo was wanting to talk to him."
            Walker slams the hammer down into his tool box, "Damn it, Angela--you know that it's dangerous for you kids to be out after dark!  You should have told us--we could have stopped him."
            "I'm sorry Daddy, but Cordell was so sad--he cries a lot---you know."
            Alex walks slowly into the living room, she looks to her daughter.  "Angela, do you hear your brother crying during the night?"
            Angela's blue eyes look back into her Mother's, "Yes ma'am--and sometimes he comes into my room and wakes me.   He says that Bo is crying for him and that when he picks Bo up, Bo doesn't want him to put him down, and that when he does, Bo cries harder."
            Alex rubs her arms, trying to keep her emotions intact. "What else does your brother say?"
            Angela watches the look on her Daddy's face, she can tell that he's getting very impatient with the conversation. She brushes her long auburn hair back out of her eyes, letting it fall gracefully over her shoulders.
            "Cordell says---that--------that he would like to------be with Bo---so Bo won't feel lonely."
            Alex gasps as she looks to her husband, "Oh my God---Angela---- please say you're not saying that he wants to----be-----no----oh my God---Walker!"
            "Now just calm down, hon. Angela, baby----what do you mean by that---that he wants to be with Bo---in what way?"
            Angela looks up the stairs, she sees the twins standing at the top. She looks back to her Father.
            "Maybe, you better ask Cordell."
            Walker looks up at the boys, he tries to keep his voice calm, "Cordell---come down here , son---now."
            The twins walk slowly down the stairs as Alex  and Angela move to the couch and sit down. Alex motions for Cooper to join them. Walker walks to his recliner and motions for Cordell to sit down on the hassock.
            "Your sister has just told us some disturbing news, Cordell---I demand---I mean--I "would like" to know what all of this talk is about---about wanting to be with Bo! This kind of talk is scaring your Mother--now would you please tell us what this all means?"
            The boy stammers for just the right words, "I just mean that if Bo can't be here with me-----that I want to go where he is---to 'doggie heaven"!
            "But, Cordell," interrupts his twin---"you can't go to 'doggie heaven'--you're not a dog!"
            Alex nudges her son, "Ssssh----Cooper, please be quiet."
            "But, Mommy" the boy continues to interrupt.
            "Cooper!" Walker slams his fist down on the arm of his recliner, "Your brother and I are talking---now either be quiet or leave the room!"
            "Walker---please lower your voice,"
Alex snaps back at him. "Now we are all concerned about Cordell, and our nerves are all on edge---it's not going to help anything by screaming at the other kids!"
            Walker draws a deep breath, "You're right and I'm sorry Cooper for yelling at you. But son---would you please just be silent so I can talk to your brother for a few minutes?"
            Cooper starts to cry, "I'm sorry--but I don't want Cordell to go to any kind of heaven---"
            Alex pulls her son closer as Angela puts her arms around the boy too. "It's okay, Cooper---let Daddy talk--Daddy knows how to take care of everything---you'll see."
            Again Walker takes a deep breath as he takes in the words of his daughter, he whispers slowly to himself. "If only it were that easy, baby."
            "Daddy--are you mad at me?" Asks Cordell.
            Walker reaches out and pulls his son up into the recliner with him, scooting over to make room for the boy to sit with him. "No, son--I'm not mad at you---I'm just---I'm just-----scared for you."
            "Scared?"
            "Yes, Cordell--I'm scared. When you talk of joining Bo---it scares me. I love you, son---I don't want to lose you, we all love you---we want you here---with us."
            "But---I want Bo here with me---he needs to be here with me so I can take care of him---"
            "Cordell!  Bo is dead---you can't care for him."  Walker's voice is starting to show anger as Alex is cautioning him to lower his voice."  For the last time, Bo cannot feel any pain-----you need to start getting over his death---there's nothing you---or anyone else can do to bring him back!"
            Cordell starts screaming as he scampers to get down out of his Daddy's chair.  He starts crying and running for the stairs, Cooper is running after him. The boy stops and stares back at Walker, his bottom lip quivering.
            "Stop making my brother cry---I hate you!"
            Alex jumps up from the couch, screaming at Walker. "Now you've done it!!  I told you to watch the tone in your voice---Cordell is just a baby for Christ’s sake and now Cooper is upset with you! Are you happy now?"
            Walker falls back into his chair as Alex runs up the stairs after her sons. Angela is staring back at her father.
            "So? Are you upset with me too?"
            Angela says nothing as she climbs up into the chair with her Daddy, putting her arms around his neck. "No, Daddy--I'm not upset with you----sometimes even Daddies don't say the right words."

***

Walker and Alex have agreed to get professional help for young Cordell, they are returning from the Doctor's office.
            "Well, that was sure a waste of time." Walker gripes. "That quack didn't say anything or suggest anything that you and I haven't already done---now our son is probably even more confused."
            Alex glares back at her husband and then to their son that is sitting between them in the Ram. She takes a deep breath, "Well, I thought it was a good idea---so I was wrong!  At least I tried."
            Cordell keeps his head down as his parents glare back and forth to each other. He talks very softly, "I'm sorry that I've made everyone mad at me."
            "Sweetheart, no one is mad at you."
            Walker takes his hand down from the steering wheel and puts his hand on his son's shoulder. "Your Mother is right, no one is mad at you. We're just trying to understand your behavior."
            "Because I talk to Bo---and he's dead?" He asks, pushing his cowboy hat back.
            "Yes son, we're very worried about you, this isn't normal."
           "But, Daddy--you talk to Uncle Ray and to Shopaw all the time---and they're dead."
           Alex swallows hard as she touches her son's hand, "But, sweetheart this is different."
            "How is it different, Mommy? Do they talk back to Daddy, like Bo talks to me?"
            Walker looks to his wife and shakes his head slowly, "Cordell, I'm a adult and I understand about death, and I've tried to explain all of this to you. I'm talking to my Uncle's spirit when I need guidance---what do you talk to Bo about?"
            Cordell bites his bottom lip---"About things----just things."

"Like what, son? Would you please tell your Mother and me what it is you talk about with Bo, that you can't talk about with us?"
            "You would just get mad at me if told you."
            "No, I won't Cordell--I promise not to raise my voice. Is it the coyotes?"
            The boy nods his head slowly, "Yes sir---I hate them---would you kill them all, Daddy?"
            "Cordell, sweetheart---killing all of the coyotes wouldn't bring Bo back, if that is what you're believing."
            The boys' eyes fill with tears, "I know that---but Bo cries every time I try to hold him---those mean old coyotes hurt him bad, I want them to hurt too."
            The rest of the ride is in silence as the Ram approaches the long gravel road, leading up to the Walker home. As Walker pulls the truck to a stop, Alex starts climbing out, Cordell unbuckles his belt and starts to follow suit. Walker reaches out and gently pulls him back.
            "You and I are going to take a little ride---Alex, we'll be back sometime tomorrow."
            "Tomorrow?" Alex's eyes grow wide, "Walker, what are you talking about, Cordell has to go to school."
            Walker puts the truck in reverse, "You can write him an excuse, I'll call you later---Cordell---tell your Mother goodbye."
            The boy scrambles to kiss Alex, and then he looks back to his father in confusion, Walker winks back at him.
            "We're going up to the badlands, I think it's time that Cordell and I  went to the sweat lodge, okay, son?"
            Cordell's deep blue eyes meet with his fathers', "I like going to the sweat lodge, it's been a long time."
            Alex sighs as she pulls her jacket tighter around her and looks up at the sky, the weatherman is predicting more snow. "Well, you sure picked the right time to go---it's freezing and it will be even colder up in the badlands! Walker, please make sure that you both have plenty of cover, and please make sure that Cordell is kept dry---you know how easy it is for him to catch cold.  And, what about food------"
            "Alex, will you stop worrying? I'm not going to have Cordell out hunting for his food, this is not a survival trip! There's plenty of food in the emergency backpack that we always keep packed---he'll be fine--stop worrying!"
            Cordell smiles back at his Mother, "Everything will be alright, Mommy---I promise to stay dry."
            Alex kisses him quickly and then goes around to the drivers' side. Walker smiles back at her, touching her cheek with his forefinger, "We'll be fine, hon--Cordell and I just need some 'man to man' quality time."
            She takes his hand and kisses it, "And, what about the other two--Cooper is going to be furious that you're leaving him behind."
            Walker reaches out and kisses his wife gently, "I'll make it up to him and Angela---and you too---when I get back."
            Alex pulls him back to her and kisses him hard, "You better---Cowboy!!  I hate these cold, lonely nights without you beside me."
            "Oooooh" Walker teases, "Only the cold nights, what about the rainy ones----and those hot July nights where we kick the cover off and sleep in the buff, and the ice cubes on your--------bosom?"
            Alex flushes as she watches her son's eyes, "Would you just get of here----and hurry back."
            The Ram pulls slowly down the gravel road and then heads North to the Oklahoma badlands and Walker's birthplace.


                                          ************************************


            Cordell is watching as the snowflakes fall, a slight smile crosses his lip. "I like coming up here, Daddy--I like to see all of my cousins, like Joe Littlehand, and Red Wing. Do they all know that we're coming?"
            Walker smiles, "I'm sure that your Uncle Sam Coyote knows we're coming, he can feel it in the air---and hears it in the wind."
            "Daddy, will you tell me again how you were raised with the Cherokee, and how you used to hunt and all of that good stuff?"
            "You want to hear that story again! How many times have I told you, and Cooper and Angela about my childhood?"
            "Lots of times, Daddy--but we always like to hear the story--again and again.  And, how the reser--resera---what's that word again?"
            Walker is beaming with pride as his son insists on bringing up memories of his childhood. "Reservation---the word is reservation and that is where your Grandfather John was born."
            "I was named for him, wasn't I, Daddy---and you?"
            "That's right son, Cordell John Firewalker--that's your name."
            "And, you were born on the rese—reservation, too?"
            Walker shakes his head, "No, son---I was born in a little town called  Eagle's Nest---on this side of the Texas border. But, it was so close to the Oklahoma side that the white man would not recognize my proper birthplace. They insisted that my birthplace be registered on the Oklahoma side, and since my Father had to register me with the Lawton Bureau of Indian Affairs, that's where my birthplace was officially recorded."
            "Do you like being a Texan, Daddy"?
            "Well, I never spent too much time on the Oklahoma side, your grandpa rode the rodeos and we traveled most of our lives---all over Texas! I've always considered myself a Texan, but I don't overlook my real birthplace --- Oklahoma!"
            "But, I'm a born Texan—right?"
            "Yep---born and reared--as all of you kids are. You were all born at St Mathews hospital, in Dallas--The Big "D"---and you can't get anymore Texan than that."
            "And, I'm a quarter Cherokee Indian?"
            "That you are---your grandfather was a full bloodied Cherokee, that made me half, and  because your grandmother Elizabeth was------"
            "IRISH!! She was from Ireland, right, Daddy?"
            "Yes, she was from Ireland---and she was a beautiful and gracious woman--with flaming red hair and blue eyes--the same color of eyes that your Mother has, and the same loving manner. Your grandmother never had an unkind word to say about anyone. You don't know how many times I've wished that you kids could have known your grandparents, they would have been so proud of all of you."
            "We have grandpa Gordon, but we don't get to see him much. He's always so busy, he keeps saying he will come to see us, but something always stops him---and that makes Mommy mad."
            Walker smiles back at his son, "Cordell, I think you know the real reason why we're going to the sweat lodge, don't you?"
            Cordell lowers his head and then looks back at his father, pushing his hat up, "Yes sir--to clean up my insides and clear my mind, isn't that what you say the sweat lodge does?"
            "That's right son, the lodge lets you clear your mind and body of everything that is bothering you. Let your mind go blank and ask the spirits of your forefathers to guide you----"
            "And, to make me stop talking to---Bo?"
            "I just want to try and understand why you are talking to him. What is he saying to you, Cordell? If you don't tell me what is being said, I can't help you."
            "He doesn't really say anything, Daddy, he just looks at me--he's so sad---and scared."
            "Is that why you go out to his grave, to protect him?"
            "Yes, Daddy. He wants me to hold him---only then will he stop crying."
            "What happens when you try to put him down?" Asks Walker.
            Cordell starts to cry, he shakes his head, "He never wants me to put him down, he cries harder---then I wake up crying and sometimes I go to Sissy's room and she lets me stay with her till I can sleep again."
            Walker sighs as he pulls his son closer to him then he takes the boy's hat off and lays it gently on the other side of Cordell. He then kisses the side of his son's head, whispering.
            "I'm so sorry for your pain, I hope that the lodge will help you to get through this painful time in your young life, and I pray that I see a sign that will help me-- to help you."
            Cordell has entered the sweat lodge for the second time in his almost 6 years. The first time was when he was barely 3, but the heat forced him and his brother out after less than an hour. Angela tried to outdo them, but soon, she too was making a fast exit. Cool rags and water were brought to them as they were forced to lay still on the grasses of the Oklahoma plains.
            This time the young warrior has completed his stay as he holds his fathers' hand on one side, Sam Coyote on the other. They emerge from the lodge quickly as Redwing rushes forward to Cordell with plenty of warm blankets. Walker looks to his son and then to cousin, Sam .
            "He did well this time, I could feel his body flushing the evil spirits away."
            "Yes, ‘Washo', he did well, but there is something very deep inside of him that will not let go."
            "Yes, I felt it too, Sam---I wish I could climb inside his mind to see what it is that is haunting him. It's tearing me up inside that I'm unable to help my son."
            Cordell has finished dressing as he approaches his father and Uncle. "Did I do good, Daddy?"
            Walker reaches out for his son to embrace him, "You did great son---your Cherokee blood is running thick and the two blackbirds, from which you and your brother are named, spread their wings in pride. You soar with the eagles."
            "Like you, Daddy? Lone Eagle?"
            Walker nods, "Yes--like my ancestors before me---and yours---come "Wren"--let's go home."
            The ride home is very tiring as both Walker and Cordell fight to keep awake. Finally Walker stops and gets them something to eat, Cordell devours the two cheeseburgers and giant drink, and soon they are on the road again.
            The snow is falling harder and now a sleet has begun to fall. Walker slows the Ram down, as Cordell snuggles up closer to him.
            "Daddy---I'm cold."
            "Okay, son, I’ll turn the heater up more---how's that---are you warmer now?"
            The boy mumbles, "Don't drive too fast, Daddy----you ----might--- you might not see---them---in time."
            Walker's brow arches, "See who---in time---?"
            The soft breathing of his son assures the ranger that the boy is fast asleep. Walker reaches for his cell and dials home.
            "Hi hon, we decided to come home tonight---guess we're just spoiled for your tender, loving care."
            "I hoped you would come home early---honey---the weatherman is saying that the sleet is turning to ice up that way---are you and Cordell alright?"
            "Yes, Alex--we're both fine---our son is fast asleep after devouring two huge cheeseburgers, dripping with chili---a huge Slurpy--not to mention gobs of French fries."
            Alex laughs, "And, what about you? What did you have to eat?"
            "I had a roast beef sandwich, at least that's what the waitress called it--couldn't prove it by me though---I stayed mainly with my coffee. You know I don't like to eat a lot when I'm driving----it makes me sleepy."
            "Okay, sweetheart, I'll wait up for you and have you a hot meal waiting. Angela and I made smothered steak for supper, how does that sound?"
            The Ranger's mouth starts to water, "Ummmmmm---with onions and mushrooms, and a slice of bacon for seasoning?"
            "You got it, cowboy! I'll be expecting the two of you in about an hour?"
            "About that time---bye hon---love you."
            Walker turns off the cell as Cordell has started to twist and kick on the seat beside him. Walker nudges him gently, "Hey---partner---take it easy on my truck."
            Cordell suddenly jumps up, "Bo----run Bo---don't let them get you!"
           
Walker slams on his brakes as Cordell is reaching for the handle of the passenger door. "I'm coming Bo---I will protect you---run---run fast!"
           
The boy has the door open and jumping down, his boots hit the hard, cold ground. He takes off running down the embankment and into the mass of mesquite trees, Walker is in pursuit.
            "Cordell! Come back here---where are you going?"
            Cordell is saying nothing as he tries to run harder, but the legs of his father are soon catching up to him, Walker reaches out to grab him, they both fall to the ground. Cordell is wrestling to get out of his fathers' grasp, Walker is holding tight as he keeps forcing Cordell to look at him.
            "Son, what is wrong--what do you see out there? Talk to me!"
            Cordell becomes still as he starts to shiver, his bottom lip is quivering and turning blue. "Daddy---Bo is calling to me---they are hurting him, they have him on the ground---lots of blood------Daddy help him!"
            Walker is looking around him, he hears the wind picking up and in the distant, the howling of the wild dogs. A chill goes through Walker's body as he picks up his son and holds him close. Cordell is shivering harder, Walker climbs back up the embankment and quickly turns the Ram's heater to full blast. He reaches in the back for his sheepskin jacket and pulls it tightly around his son, and the boy starts to calm down.
            Cordell looks up to Walker, "Daddy---can we go home now, why did you stop? Did we have a flat tire or something?"
            Walker takes a deep breath, "You don't remember jumping out of my truck? You were screaming that the wild dogs had Bo---what's the matter son---were you having another dream?"
            "I don't remember---can we go home now?"
            The Ram pulls back out on the two lane  as Cordell keeps watching the side of the road. He sees them, staring back at him----red eyes that are----watching his every move inside the cab. A whimper is heard as a pair of eyes turns in its direction, then a snap, and a piercing yelp is muffled. The other eyes close gently, and soon the eyes dim in the cold, December night.


                                            *******************************


            Walker has relayed the story to his wife about Cordell getting out of the truck and running in pursuit of his beloved dead pet.
            Alex's eyes are wide with fright as she keeps kneeling down beside her son's bed, brushing his hair back.
            "Oh my God, my baby----Walker--this is getting dangerous---what if he gotten that door open while the truck was still going, he could have been hurt---or killed?"
            Walker is pacing the twins' bedroom as he goes to Cooper's bed and  straightens the boy , pulling his covers up over him. The ranger is nodding his head.
            "I know, I know----I'm just as upset about this as you are---we'll just have to start keeping the doors locked."
            Alex starts to cry softly, "I'm so scared---Walker--this is getting out of hand--I thought you said that the sweat lodge would help him to rid his mind and body of all of these evil spirits."
            Walker sighs deep as he walks to the bedroom window and looks out at the sleet that is falling hard, ice is forming around the window panes. Walker shakes his head.
            "Unless the mind is clear of all thoughts and the body is willing to accept the purities of cleansing, it won't have any affect-------"
            Alex's bottom lip is quivering as she jumps up from the bed and crosses the room, grabbing her husband's arm and spinning him around.
            "Walker---he is only a baby---what kind of evil thoughts and purities need to be flushed from his mind and body?  He's barely 5 years old---for Gods' sake."
            "He's almost 6, Alex------and something is definitely bothering him!!!! Now, I know you're upset about all of this---and so am I."
            Alex looks back to her sleeping son and then to her husband, walking slowly into his arms. Walker embraces her, his right hand caresses her back, he kisses her gently.
            "It's okay, hon---we'll get through this--don't we always? The Cahill/Walker combination and strength always wins out. We just got to figure out why our son is having these dreams and why he feels that he has to protect Bo. Something has happened to start Cordell having these dreams, we have to think back to when it all started."
            Alex pulls back, "You're right, in the first couple of months after Bo was killed, Cordell was missing him and he would go out to his grave and he would talk to him----but there was nothing abnormal about that. Dr. Reed said it was normal for someone to mourn a lost pet. I know that Cordell would get sad at times, but he continued to play, and he had other interests."
            "Yeah" replies Walker, "his behavior was completely normal for someone older. That Dr Reed also said that for a 5 yr, Cordell was very compassionate and that someone that young gets over this kind of situation a lot quicker. That they don't dwell on such matters---their young minds are too cluttered with other ideas---other interests."
            "Honey, you know as well as I do that Cordell has always been a very loving and very compassionate boy, he's very impressionable and-----and more vulnerable than----Cooper."
            Walker takes a deep breath as he rubs his beard, "Are you referring to the fact that Cooper has been able to kill----quicker than his twin?"
            Alex's blue eyes soften, "I'm referring to the time that he watched you butcher that hog and he never flinched an eye----and also the times you've killed chickens----and what about that wild turkey?"
            "Alex---I'm a rancher and sometimes I have to kill the animals to eat!!  What do you suggest I do, let them over populate so that some stupid motorists can run over them in their autos, crippling them---and letting them suffer?"
            "Honey, I know what being a rancher and a farmer has to consist of, I'm not saying it's wrong."
            "What are you saying, Alex---that Cooper has no feelings, but Cordell does?"
            "All I'm saying is that Cordell does not have a stomach for the killing and if that makes him weak, then so am I!!!  Because I don't like it either!! I cringe every time you have to put a farm animal down or to dress out an animal to eat.  And, I just wish that you wouldn't  subject our boys to such a barbaric behavior at such an early age!"
            "Alex, for the last time---if they plan to take up ranching, then they will have to learn that being a rancher is not fun and games---yes---some people would call it barbaric---but these are people who are still believing that if you want something to eat--go to the local market and order it!!! Where the hell do they think the beef comes from, and the chickens, etc?"
            "I know all of that, and I would appreciate that you lower your voice, before Cordell starts having even more bad dreams! Can't you argue in a normal voice?"
            "NO, I can't---oh what's the use----I'm going to bed---you coming?"
            Alex's bottom lip starts to quiver more, "No, I'm not---not when you use that tone of voice to me!"
            The Ranger growls like a bear as he stomps across the hallway and slams their bedroom door. Alex grunts, mouthing a few choice words as she grabs a blanket from Cordell's bed, and pulls his chair up close. She looks across the room at Cordell's twin, the boy is again---laying sideways across his bed. She sighs and walks over, putting a heavier blanket around him, she then reaches down and kisses his forehead.
            "My boys, my babies---so much alike---and yet this one attribute sets you apart. I refuse to believe that Cordell is not strong, he just has very fragile emotions and they show up more than with his twin. Cooper is not cold bloodied, he's just-----different."
            An hour later finds the bearded Ranger kneeling down beside his wife's chair.
            "Hey----I'm sorry. It sure is cold and lonely in our bed, I could sure use your warm feet up against my backside?”
            Alex purrs, "But you always complained that my feet were cold."
            Walker smiles as he reaches down to lift his wife out of the chair, "So, I lied----- I just wanted to get a 'rise' out of you-----or rather me."
            The murmur of the two lovers is being heard as they walk slowly back to their bedroom. Cordell tosses and turns as he sits up and looks out at the sleet hitting his bedroom window. He sniffles as he gets up from his bed and walks to the window. He can see the small mound beside the barn. He sees the blanket that he put there earlier and the bricks that his Daddy laid on top of it, to keep the blanket from blowing away.
            "It's okay, Bo---the blanket will keep you warm---they won't be back.  The wind says there are other problems to be solved and they are busy--there are so many of them---so very many."
            The boy smiles as he walks back to his bed and covers up, he whispers---"Someday---they will all be gone and then you and I will be happy---right, Bo?"
           
Atop the rise, about a quarter of a mile away, the figures are darting back and forth. Their shaggy winter coats and long spiny legs quiver in the Texas cold. This is a new breed, not used to the confines of a winter that only the plains of Texas can throw at them. They whimper as their snouts rise, searching for a distant smell. The boy was right, there are so many of them, and more being born.
            The previous drought caused them to find food closer to the farmhouses. The sweltering temperatures had caused the lakes and smaller riverbeds to dry up, and they searched for water closer to the farms too. They preyed on the small animals, and had even gone after "Amigo", but Walker and Bo had fought them off. After Bo was killed, a freak thunderstorm had come and it rained for almost 36 hours straight.
            Walker and the other ranchers were busy damning up the small beds so the water could feed the other animals, they were still seeing the wild dogs. But soon, things were getting back to normal and the wild dogs were staying higher in the hills along with the wolves--and the bear. The new litters were being born, and the litters were abundant, but many of the wild dogs were not surviving because the Mothers were in poor health.  Only the strong were surviving as both the parents of the pups were eating the weaker ones, still they were multiplying and the sounds of the wild dog could be heard for miles.


                                                 **********************************


            It's a week before Christmas and the Walkers have returned from taking the kids to see Santa. The kids are all excited as they run inside the house and look at the tree.
            "Mama, do we get to turn the tree on tonight?" Asks Angela.
            "Yes, we do---as soon as the rest of the decorations are put on. Whose time is to put the star on top?"
            Cordell jumps up and down, "Mine, Mommy---can I do it now---please?"
            Alex smiles back at her husband, "What do you say, honey---do we turn the tree on now?"
            Walker shakes his head, "I don't know---there doesn't seem to be enough decorations on it yet----maybe we should wait till Easter-----or maybe the 4th of July?"
            All of the kids begin squealing---as Angela runs to her daddy, and grabs his hand. "Come on, Daddy---turn the tree on."
            Alex takes the blue star and hands it to her oldest twin as he climbs up on the step ladder and places it in just the right place. Walker walks around the tree and picks up the power cord.
            "Okay, Alex--turn the lights out and I'll turn the tree on."
            All of the kids are waiting impatiently as Walker continues to stall.
            "Daddy---hurry up," shouts Cooper.
            "Yeah, hurry up," the other two chime in.
            Alex smiles, "Yeah, honey---hurry up."
            The tree is lit as everyone stares back at it. The eyes of the Walker kids glow, their mouths drop open. The 'ooohs and ahs' soon fill the room. Suddenly the kids start shouting.
            "Now, we put the presents under the tree---I hope there's plenty of room for our bicycles." Shouts Cooper.
            Walker continues to tease as he winks at Alex, "What bicycles?"
            "The bicycles we're getting for Christmas."  Answers Cordell.
            "Yeah---and without training wheels--we're too big for training wheels," adds Cooper.
            "I don't recall Santa saying that he was bringing you two bicycles, do you recall anything about bicycles, hon?"
            Alex smiles, "I think I will make some hot chocolate---okay, kids---go help your Daddy put the presents under the tree."
            The kids all start running for the hall closet and to the guest room off the hallway. Walker and Alex exchange glances, and Walker sighs--"Well so much for another secret hiding place being discovered."
            Alex waits until the kids are out of ear range, "Speaking of hiding places--do you have the bicycles in a safe place, this time?"


            "Yes," answers Walker as he walks over to his wife, and begins nibbling on her neck, "the bikes are over at Hank's place, along with that huge doll house that Angela wanted. They can't find them over there I guarantee it.  Now, where are you hiding my Christmas present?"
            Alex purrs as her arms go around the ranger's neck, "And, what makes you think I'm hiding your present? Have you been snooping again?"
            "No, I haven't been snooping," Walker lies, "it's just that there aren't anymore hiding places that the kids haven't found, and I haven't seen any-------"
            Alex's mouth drops open as she pushes away from her husband and hits him in the chest playfully, "You have been snooping---Walker---you…"
            "Mommy----Daddy---come quick!"
            Both Walker and Alex start running towards their kids' voices in the guest room, they are staring out of the window.
            "What?  What's wrong?"  Alex shouts as she runs towards them and looks out the window. She sees them, there are four of them, inching their way towards the barn.
            Cordell turns to Walker, "They're back, Daddy---they want to hurt Bo more."
            Walker swears as he turns and runs to the gun cabinet, Alex pulls the kids away from the window, but Cordell pulls out of her grasp and runs back.
            "Why are they back, Mama?” Asks Angela.
            "I don't know sweetheart---Daddy will run them off."
            Cordell turns and makes a face. "I hope he kills them all this time, so Bo will not be scared anymore."
            Walker has grabbed his rifle, he looks out at the wild dogs while injecting shells into the chamber. He fires shots over their heads and the wild dogs scramble. He runs quickly to the barn to check on his horses, they're all okay. He walks around the barn and up and down the fence line, wishing he had had left the electric devices up. Satisfied that everything is okay, he turns and walks back to the house, looking over his shoulder to make sure the wild dogs aren't circling back. He shivers as he steps back inside his warm house, Alex and the kids are asking questions left and right.
            "Daddy, why are they back? Were they after Bo's grave?"
            "Why didn't you shoot them, Daddy?"
            "Can I shoot 'em, Daddy?"
            Walker throws his arms up, "One at a time---ok kids---Angela, would you please get your Daddy a cup of coffee?"
            Angela starts running to the kitchen as the twins walk slowly back to the picture window. Alex is rubbing her arms as she approaches her husband slowly.
            "Walker--what is going on? This isn't normal-----is it?"
            Walker nods towards the boys, "You kids get ready for bed."
            "But, Daddy--Mommy said in the truck that we could stay up late tonight and have popcorn and hot chocolate." argues Cooper.
            "Yes, I said that, but do as your Father says! Go take your baths, get into your pajamas, and then you come back down---then we'll fix the popcorn ---okay?"
            Cooper pulls on his brother's arm, "Okay--come on, Cordell."
            Cordell continues to stare out the window, he mumbles--"You should kill them, Daddy----all of them."
            "Cordell John---I'm not telling you a second time---get upstairs and get ready for bed---NOW!"
            "Yes sir," Cordell answers softly, "come on, Cooper.”
            Angela returns with her daddy's coffee, he smiles and winks at her. "Angela--baby---go make sure your brothers are taking a bath and not just filling up the tub."
            Angela runs to the stairs and hollers back, "They're good about that--they think they're tricking you and Mama."
            "Okay, honey---the kids are out of hearing range, now what is going on?"
            Walker sips his coffee, "I'm not so sure, Alex. I thought the recent rains had made up for the drought we had earlier and that the coyotes were having plenty to eat up in the hills."
            "They're obviously hungry, they were so skinny looking."
            "Coyotes are always scrawny looking, but you're right---they're hungry and they're starting to get aggressive again.  But, there's something really weird about the way they're behaving."
            Alex takes a deep sigh, "This whole year has been weird, causing all of the animals to behave abnormally. I talked to Peggy Atwood, across the highway down at the feed store, she said that her sales had doubled because the other ranchers were buying up more feed for their livestock---because the coyotes were eating it too.”
            "Yeah, I heard the same story when I had to buy feed that the coyotes are multiplying fast. Some of the ranchers have talked about a "killing party"---to thin them down---so we won't have another epidemic of them going after our livestock again."
            Alex looks up the stairs and replies, "Well, that would certainly make Cordell happy, he would like to see them all destroyed---and personally---so would I."
            Walker shakes his head, "There is something different about the way these dogs are behaving, they're skinnier, and less aggressive than the ones that were attacking the ranches earlier in the year.  And, there's sure a lot them. One of them was a 'bitch', she had just given birth.  And that is a little weird, for the mama to go hunting with the pack when she's probably got pups that are wanting her milk."
            "But, the mama has to have food to produce that milk," replies Alex.
            "Yes hon, I know that. But usually the mamas of wild dogs stay close to the dens, and eat what is available. Sometimes the male will drag some uneaten food back to her, but usually---she's left pretty much on her own to feed herself and her litter."
            Alex laughs softly, "Just like the typical male species, he puts the babies there and then doesn't want to care for them, leaving the female to do everything."
            Walker arches his brow as he stares back at his wife who is trying hard not to laugh, "Is that so, Mrs. Walker?  I hope you're not putting me in that category of selfish males."
            "No way, Cowboy" She purrs, as she goes into his arms, "You are the perfect father----and husband."
            Walker sets his coffee cup down and starts squeezing his wife tighter, "Now---do you want to tell me where my Christmas present is---or," he starts tickling her----"do I have to tickle it out of you?"
            Alex smiles,  "Later, Cowboy. Honey, did you have a chance to go by that place to see if that man had anymore puppies?"
            "Yeah, I did. But, the man said that his female didn't have anymore litters after Bo."
            "That's a shame, I was hoping to get another pup--maybe it would help to take Cordell's mind off of everything that is going on here."
            "Well, not all is lost. Remember that day that Bo came home--all tuckered out---and I said he had been visiting his girlfriend?"
            "Yeah, I remember."
            "I was talking to Peggy's husband and he said it was their blue heeler that Bo had been seen with, and he said they had 'hooked' up several times."
            Alex's mouth drops open, "Oh honey---do you think it's possible that their dog might have gotten pregnant by Bo?"
            "Well---I'm afraid it wouldn't do any good, Jeb Atwood said their little dog was killed too, by the coyotes. He found what was left of her out in his south pasture."
            "Oh no---that's horrible!"
            "Yeah---but Jeb also said that his little dog wasn't the only female that he saw Bo trying to 'hook' up with. There was a another border collie across the highway---and the last time he saw her, she was due to have pups."
            "How long ago, could they be Bo’s?"
            "It's hard to say, Alex---maybe. The time would be about right, Bo was killed in mid July and Jeb said the last time he saw that other dog was around mid September and she was getting ready to whelp.  But, you know as well as I do that when a bitch is in heat, every male dog within 10 miles is going to pick up her scent."
            "Where's the female dog now?"
            "Don't know, I could ask Jeb if he knows. Want me to check it out?"
            "Would you, honey?"
            "Yeah, I'll check it out, but Alex---getting the kids another dog, especially another border collie--might not work. They would be comparing him too much to Bo---and I just don't know if that would be a good idea, it might cause Cordell to mourn Bo even more!"
            "We’ve got to try! Please honey---talk to Jeb and see if the dog had her pups. They would be weaned by now, wouldn't they?"
            "Oh yeah, about three months old by now. Okay, I'll go by the feed store and see what I can find out."


                                             *********************************



            Walker has talked to Jeb Atwood about the female dog.
            "Sorry, Walker, I haven't seen that dog around lately but she did have pups--a whole passle of them!"
            "Who owns the dog, do you know?"
            "She was a stray--don't think she belonged to anyone. Last time I seen her was about a month ago, she was at the side of the road, looking all hungry and scared. I remember the weather was starting to change, and I knew she had to be hungry. I tried to feed her, but she ran away. That's the last time I saw her."           
            The Ranger thanks his friend and heads on to work. The snow has fallen harder, Walker can't recall it snowing so hard in Texas. He whispers softly, "A white Christmas in Texas---now that's a miracle. But, the way this Texas weather changes from day to day--wouldn't surprise me if the temperatures are back in the 90's by Christmas day---wouldn't surprise me at all."
           
He sees the stalled car at the side of the highway, and a woman is looking under the hood. Walker approaches the car and sees small baby in an infant seat.
            "Can I help you, what's wrong?"
            At first the woman is frightened, then she sees Walker's badge, just inside his jacket.
            "Thank God, you came along, are you an off duty cop?"
            "I'm a Texas Ranger ma'am, did you hit something?"
            The woman is shivering and trying to talk, "I tired to miss them, but there were so many of them, I think I might have hit one and then the engine just stopped! I don't know anything about cars, I was just putting the hood up, hoping someone would stop."
            "What do you think you hit?"
            The woman points to the side of the road, "Dogs---wild dogs. They just darted out in front of me, I slammed on my brakes, and my car started skidding--I finally got it stopped by pulling the emergency brake."
            Walker looks back to the baby inside the car. "Ma'am go get back in your car with your baby, I'll check out the damages."
            The woman doesn't have to be told twice as she hurries back to the warmth of her car. Fifteen minutes later and the car is purring again, the woman thanks Walker repeatedly.
            "It's okay, ma'am, part of the job. Besides, I wouldn't want my wife and kids stalled at the side of the road, I would hope that someone else returns the favor."
            The woman drives off and Walker keeps seeing movement in the bushes, he approaches slowly. He sees the broken and bloodied bodies of two young coyotes, and then he hears the whimpering. He sees the young pup, shaking and shivering from the cold, the pup is trying to move away from the human.
            "Heyyyy little guy---let me look at you."
            The pup is only a couple of weeks old, and still needing milk. Walker glances back at the older coyotes and sees that one could have been the Mother. Walker shakes his head as the pup continues to cry. Walker reaches out and picks the pup up and puts him inside his jacket.
            "Okay, little guy, this goes against all my better judgment, but you are in dire need of some milk and food--or you will certainly die. Maybe I can spot some more of your family and hope that one of the mamas will nurse you."
            Walker searches for over an hour, the rest of the pack is staying far away from the human and one in particular is watching the human's every move. The figure paces back and forth in front of the pack, his neck crouched, ears perked, emitting a low growl. Walker watches him, as every time the ranger moves forward, the wild dog retracts.
            Walker shakes his head as he strokes the young pup inside his jacket. "Well, little guy--that big one over there with the black-tipped tail is certainly not going to let me get any closer, so I will put you down and hope that he and the others will accept you."
            Walker sets the puppy down slowly and backs up, the dogs continue to watch him and slowly they approach the little pup. They sniff the small figure and then they run away. The black tip sniffs the young puppy, then he, too, darts away.
            "Great!" Sighs the Ranger, "That's what I was afraid of, they smell me on the pup and now they're going to neglect him----and the little guy will certainly starve to death---or be run over like his friends.  So, now what do I do?"
            The pup starts to cry louder as he is wandering in circles. Walker takes out his gun and walks over to the young pup, he ejects a shell into the chamber of his .357 and aims it at the pup The pup stares back at him, bleating.
            "Damn it----I would be doing us all a favor by ending your life, because I know your family is multiplying too fast and it's only a matter of time till you start running with the rest of them and targeting the livestock again."
            The blacktip has stopped and is looking back at the human, then lays down on the ground and watches. Finally the human picks the pup up again and puts him back inside his jacket and walks slowly away. The blacktip growls low, his eyes squinting. The human gets inside the gray object and drives away.


                                ******************************************


            Alex is staring back at her husband and to the little pup.
            "Walker---why did you bring him here?"
            "I didn't have much of a choice, hon--the pup is needing milk--his mama was killed. I couldn't just leave him out there, could I?"
            Alex groans as she reaches out to touch the pup, "No---I guess you couldn't do that, even coyotes don't need to be treated that way." She suddenly jerks her hand back and glares back at Walker.
            "Honey---we can't keep him here, how do you think the kids will react to his being here?  My God, they are terrified of the wild dogs and Cordell will go into a frenzy if he knows that that there is a coyote in this house.  And, speaking of houses---get him out of here, Walker."
            Walker is pacing, "I’ll take him to the barn and make him a nice bed, in the meantime will you call the vet and ask him to fix up some bitches' milk? I'll run by and get it----and then I have to get to work."
            "And, what happens in the meantime, who is going to feed the milk to him?"
            Walker smiles back at his wife timidly, "I was sort of hoping that you would ---try and feed it to him. Please Alex--you can't just let the little guy starve to death."
            Alex is shaking her head, "Walker, you were just saying last night that the coyotes would have to be thinned out again, and now you want to try and save this one."
            Walker sighs as he keeps stroking the scraggly coat of the pup, the puppy is crying louder. The Ranger's eyes plead with his wife.
            "I know that it sounds like a catch 22---and the easy way out would be to put a bullet in his head--and be done with it. But, Alex---look at him---he's just a baby."
            Alex again reaches out to touch the pup, and takes him in her arms and smiles down at him. "He is sort of cute, isn't he?”
            Walker can see that his wife is mellowing, "Yeah, he is. Please hon, we just get him on his feet, and maybe after our smell has disappeared from his coat-----maybe one of the other mamas will nurse him."
            Alex smiles as she looks back at her husband and seeing his compassion for animals. "Walker, do you have any idea what the vet is going to say when I tell him the milk is for a coyote pup, when the ranchers are already to start that 'killing raid' again?"
            "They don't have to know anything, just tell him we picked up a stray and leave it at that. I got to get to work, Trivette is probably chomping at the bit by now."
            "Okay, I’ll go get the milk and I’ll try to feed him, but I don't know how the kids are going to react to all of this!  If Cordell freaks out---this pup is out of here---understood?"


                                      ***********************************


            The kids are all staring back at the pup as he lays on the hay in the barn, Alex is watching them closely especially Cordell. The boy is staring back, his hands folding and unfolding. Cooper and Angela are watching their brother's reaction, and Walker is holding his breath as he holds the little milk bottle up to the pup.
            "He's kind of cute, Daddy," replies Angela.
            Cooper nods his head as he looks to his brother, "Yeah---cute."
            Walker looks to Cordell, "He's just a baby-----and as soon as we get him strong enough, I'll take him back into the woods. Will that be okay?"
            Cordell looks down at the pup, "I don't care--just kill him, Daddy---like his parents killed Bo."
            Alex looks back at her husband with that 'I told you look'-----Walker shakes his head.
            "No, son I'm not killing him! He can't be responsible for what maybe his relatives did to Bo---he's just a baby---he needs the chance to survive. Killing him will not bring your little dog back!"
            Alex hesitates, "Walker--------"
            "No, Alex!  I'm not killing the pup and I'm not letting him loose so some other wild animal can prey on him. He will stay here in the barn and I will feed him---no one else has to have anything to do with him, is that clear?"
            Alex takes a deep breath and nudges the kids back to the house, "Very well---then you can take care of his needs. I will not have anything more to do with him.  I have the kids to think about. Because you're certainly not thinking of their behalf."
            Alex and the twins walk back to the house, Angela stares down at the pup, "Look Daddy--the puppy has a star shaped spot on his nose."
            Walker examines the pup closer, "Yeah, he sure does! A perfect little star, how about that?"
            Walker looks back to his daughter and asks softly, "What do you think, baby---am I wrong in trying to keep the little guy alive?"
            "No, Daddy---cause you know what I was thinking?"
            "What, baby?"
            "It's almost Christmas and we have a baby puppy in our barn---with a star on his nose---"
            "Snout," Walker corrects her, "it's more on his snout."
            Angela smiles, "It's like when Jesus was born, right Daddy?"
            The puppy is nudging Walker's hand, wanting more milk. The Ranger smiles and looks to his daughter.
            "Would you like to feed him, Angela?"
            Angela hesitates as she looks toward the door and then back at the pup. "Yes, daddy---I would like to hold him, but will mama get mad if I do?"
            Walker motions for his daughter to squat down on the hay and then he hands her the pup, "Mama doesn't have to know---at least---not just yet."
            Angela giggles as the pup nestles in her arms, "I feel like Mother Mary, Daddy---feeding baby Jesus."
            Walker sighs, "Yeah----I wonder if this was the sign that I was asking for?"
            "What do you mean, Daddy?"
            The Ranger slides over closer to his daughter and puts his arm around her, "Never mind, baby---I was just thinking out loud."
            "Look at him, daddy---he's so hungry! And, you know the best part of all of this is?"
            Walker's brow arches, "No, what?"
            Angela's blue eyes look back at her daddy, "That when he 'pees', I don't have to clean it up!"
            The barn erupts with Walker's laugh.


                                                **********************    

                                                             
            The next 5 days is spent with Walker and Angela feeding the coyote pup, Cooper has started mellowing and coming into the barn and even trying to play with him. Walker has made them wear plastic gloves when touching the pup, and he's asked the vet to send out rabies and distemper injections.
            "He's getting stronger, Daddy and he even tried to eat some of my sandwich," shouts Cooper.
            "Yep, he's definitely getting stronger---and he's learning--or trying to learn---to howl like his ancestors. If he keeps improving this way, I'll be taking him back to his pack, real soon."
            Angela and Cooper become quiet as they touch the pup's coat. Cooper looks back to his Daddy, "Do we have to give him up, Daddy?"
            "Yes son, he's a wild dog, we can't keep him. I just hope that his family will accept him and not turn on him."
            "We're wearing gloves, Daddy--can the coyotes still smell us?"
            "I don't know, Angela---we'll just have to wait and see. But right now, we got to get ready for Christmas services at church---and I'm hungry, can't wait to plow into that church supper!"
            "Yes," answers Angela. "Tonight we exchange Christmas presents in our Sunday school class."
            "Oh boy, I hope I get lots of nice presents---tomorrow night is Christmas--are we getting our bicycles, Daddy?"
            Walker tries to keep a straight face, "Well, I don't know--have you been a good boy? Did you put the bicycles on your wish list to Santa?"
            "Yes" Cooper shouts, "and I asked Santa to take the training wheels off."
            Angela frowns, "Brothers!  The bicycles that you and Cordell picked out don't have training wheels."
            "They better not have, 'cause I'm too big for training wheels, and I can go real fast without them."
            "Come on guys, tell ’Star’ goodnight, we got to go get ready. I think your Mother wants you to wear the new clothes she picked out."
            The kids say their goodbyes to the young pup and run quickly into their house. Walker makes sure that there is plenty of food for the pup to nibble on and then makes extra sure that his beloved "Amigo" is settled for the night. He pulls the barn door closed and then walks hastily up the front steps.
            In the distance a lone figure is making his way towards the barn. It stops and sniffs the air, proceeding slowly, it's snout held high.


                                                  ********************


            The ride to church is rather quiet as the kids look to Cordell. The boy has had nothing to do with the coyote pup, he has watched from the picture window as his brother and sister have joined their Daddy in the barn.
            "You should see ‘Star’ eat, Cordell---Daddy says he's getting stronger and will join his family soon."
            Alex sighs as she looks to her husband at the mention of the pups name. "I can't believe that you gave that wild dog a name, Walker! It's only going to make giving him up harder to do."
            "Daddy didn't name him, I did." Angela answers quickly. "And, it's because of the star on his nose--I mean snout."
            "It doesn't matter who named him, Angela---you just don't name things you've got no intentions of keeping!! And, I am right about this, you're not keeping him."
            "Alex--for Pete's sake--I told you--I will take the pup back to his pack, why do you keep harping on this?"
            "Because you shouldn't have allowed Angela and Cooper to start calling him by his name--or a name."
            "Okay, Alex--you've made your point--so just drop it---okay?"
            "I will not drop it, all we have done since you brought that wild dog home---is argue-------"
            "Stop it---stop fighting," shouts Cordell. "Kill the dog, Daddy---so everyone will stop being mad."
            "Nobody’s mad but you, Cordell," says Cooper quietly.
            "Yeah," replies Angela, "this is Christmas and the bible says to forgive and forget----don't you remember, Cordell?"
            Cordell yells back at his sister, "And the bible says---Do not kill!"
            His brother and sister stare back at him and Cooper replies softly---"But, that's what you want to do, Cordell---- kill that little puppy."
            Walker slams on the brakes of the Ram, pulling it to the side of the road. "Enough--- okay, you win Alex--I will drop you and the kids off at church, and then I will go back and get ‘Star’---I mean the pup---and I will take him and dump him at the side of the road---is that what you want to hear?"
            "Nooooo, Daddy, both Cooper and Angela answer at the same time.
            Angela starts to cry, "No, Daddy that's wrong, that's not what the bible teaches!"
            "Please Daddy," begs Cooper, "don't do that--- he'll die."
            Everyone remains quiet as they hear Cordell crying, Alex reaches back to him. "It's okay, sweetheart."
            "No, it's not okay---everybody is mad at each other and this is Christmas---nobody should be saying mean words to each other."
            Alex turns to her husband, "He's so right---I have said some very mean words to you, concerning that dog----and I'm sorry---I'm just having a hard time dealing with this."
            Walker rubs his beard, "I know, I wasn't thinking too clearly when I brought the pup home, I wasn't considering how this was affecting you---and Cordell. Tomorrow I will take the pup out to where I found him, give him some food and wait to see how the rest of the pack will accept him."
            "And, if they don't accept him?" Asks Alex.
            Walker's reply is silence as both Angela and Cooper stare at Cordell and then to their Daddy. "Will you have to---kill him, Daddy?"
            "No baby," answers the Ranger, "the coyotes will do it for me---if they don't accept him—they’ll kill him!"
            Angela and Cooper sit back in their seats as they look to their brother. Cordell's face is sad as he lowers his head, and whispers, "Good---then Bo won't hurt no more."
            The lone figure has made it to the barn, he sniffs the air, he hears the pups yelping, the figure growls. The wild dog looks to the back of the barn, walking slowly towards the hardened mound of dirt. He circles it, sniffing---the smell of Bo's carcass has long been taken from the nostrils of the many wild predators, but to the blacktip--a faint smell remains. He lies across the mound, laying his head down. A piercing howl is heard as the wild dog sits atop the mound---braying to the cold and lonely moon. Inside the barn, the pup is trying to answer.
            An eerie feeling causes the hair to stand up on each of the Walkers' necks. They all look at each other, remaining quiet.

***

            The Walkers have enjoyed their evening at church services and are returning home. The kids are fast asleep as the temperatures continue to drop.
            "Hey hon--want me to swing by Hank's place and pick up the 'you know what’s’?"
            Alex looks quickly into the back seat, all three of the kids are leaning on each other. "I don't think so, if you stop anywhere they're going to wake up. Maybe you could go over in the morning before they wake and sneak them into the barn."
            Walker nods, "Okay, I'll go first thing when I wake up---besides I have to pick up your present," he looks to her smiling.
            "My present?  What is it?"
            "Aren't we getting nosy? I'm not telling you what it is, you won't tell me what my present is--so there."
            "I'll give you a hint, if you will give me a hint?"
            Walker reaches out and take's his wife's hand, pulling her gently across the seat. "Okay---it's something that you have always wanted."
            "Oh, that's a big help---can't you narrow down the prospects?"
            Walker laughs, "Okay---how's this, it's bigger than a breadbox."
            Alex slaps her husband's shoulder, "Walker!!!---You're impossible."
            "I know, and you love me--you're stuck with me," he answers as he pulls off highway 199 and down the gravel drive leading up to their home .The blue Christmas lights on each side of the road are dazzling against the white snow. Alex smiles.
            "Oh, honey, the lights are so much prettier this year, I'm glad we picked all blue instead of the multi-colored this time."
            "Yeah, me too. That blue is really pretty against the-------what the heck---oh no---they're back."
            Alex stares in the direction that Walker is looking. There are about a dozen of them, circling the barn. Their howls are causing young Star to yelp louder.
            Walker swears underneath his breath as he reaches under his seat for his rifle. "It's starting all over again---they're getting too brave to come under all these lights. Damn it---I wish I had left the electric fence up."
            Alex checks the back seat where the kids are still sleeping. "Walker, honey----just shoot over their heads---maybe it will scare them".
            Walker stops the Ram and gets out, "Keep the truck running, and if they start in this direction--- you and the kids get into the house as fast as you can"!
            "Walker---please be careful."
            The Ranger walks slowly towards the barn as all but one of the wild dogs runs away. The one big one stares back at him.
            "The blacktip.”  Walker whispers to himself. "He's sure a brave one or very stupid!"
            Walker puts the rifle up to his shoulder and aims it at the wild dog’ the dog remains still, staring back at him. The human and the wild dog continue to stare each other down, Star has stopped howling.
            The 'blacktip’ lays down on the ground and continues to watch the bearded Ranger. Walker sighs, "Looks like an old Mexican standoff, huh big guy? I guess you're wanting the pup--is that right?"
            The staring continues as Walker inches towards the barn door, he opens it slowly and walks in, still watching the big dog. The dog hesitates and then follows the Ranger inside. The 'blacktip' goes quickly to young Star and starts sniffing him, he keeps looking back at Walker and emitting a low growl.
            Walker backs up against Amigo's stall as he reaches out to calm the horse.  "It's okay, boy---I don't know what the heck is happening here--but I'm not going to let the wild dog hurt you---I got him in my sights at all times."
            The 'blacktip' continues to lick Star and sniff him repeatedly; young Star is confused and tries to nurse him. The response is a quick nip to his nose and the pup yelps. The wild dog takes one last look at the human and then he darts out the door and out into the fields.
            "Walker!  Walker----are you okay?"
            The Ranger goes to the barn door and motions to Alex that all is okay, then checks his animals again and gives Star another bottle of milk. He then pulls the bales of hay closer around the pup and fluffs up the bed of hay for him. The pup yawns and is then fast asleep. Walker walks over to Amigo, who is unusually calm.
            "I can't explain what just happened here, old boy---beats the hell out of me. I've never seen anything like this in my whole life."
            Walker makes sure the barn door is closed tight, and then walks back to the Ram.


                                  ********************************
 
            Alex is listening to her husband's story about what unfolded in the barn, while she is trying to get Cordell into his pajamas. The boy is half asleep and trying to listen to the conversation that his parents are spelling out. Walker is helping to get Cooper dressed for bed.
            "I'm telling you hon, I've never experienced anything like that before."
            "But, Walker---you say you can talk to the wolf?"
            "My Cherokee blood is related to that of the wolf and the eagle, in what ever way the mere mortal, wants to explain it!  But, not the 'c-o-y-o-t-e’."
            "Are you talking about coyotes, Daddy---are they back"? Asks Cordell.
            "Yes, son---some of them were by the barn---but they ran away when they saw us coming back. Everything is fine, Cordell---go to sleep. Tomorrow is a big day, remember we go to shop for Mommy's Christmas present, or rather pick it up."
            The boy nods his head sleepily, "Okay, Daddy--good night----good night Mommy," he hugs his Mother and kisses her.
            Cooper never opens an eye as he stumbles into his crumpled bed, and Walker pulls the cover up over him. "I don't know why we even bother to put bed clothes on this boy's bed, they'll all be in the floor by morning."
            Alex nods, "Yes, and he will be halfway out of his bed in less than a hour, he's a very restless sleeper."
            "That--and he probably ate too much at the party, every time I saw him, he was shoving the food down with both hands."
            Alex kisses her son and stares back at her husband, "Like father, like son--you were sure making fast work of the buffet!! You filled your plate up 3 times."
            Walker crosses the room and looks down at Cordell, the cover is tucked evenly around the boy's body, his bed always looked freshly made. He then looks to Cooper's side of the room and to his bed that looks like it's never been acquainted with fresh linens! He shakes his head and reaches down to kiss the boy's head.
            "Actually, it was 4 times," he comments.
            "What was 4 times?"
            "My plate was filled 4 times, those little hot sausages in that bar-be-que sauce were delicious."
            Alex reaches out and takes her husband' hand, "Come on honey, let's make sure Angela is all tucked in, then I will get out the bi-carb so your stomach won't be growling all night--and keeping me awake."
            He slaps her rear, "My stomach is not what is going to be keeping you up all night--I say---we work on another Walker."


                                          *****************************


            Walker has gotten the kids' gifts from his neighbor's place, along with the presents that Hank and his wife have bought for the kids. He takes all of the wrapped gifts and puts them under the tree, placing a small blue velvet box towards the back of the tree. He then heads back out to the Ram and starts unloading the bikes. He checks on Star who is looking up at him and crying for his breakfast.
            "Okay, little guy---just let me get these bikes out of sight and get that doll house hidden, then I will give you your bottle."
            Walker picks up the pup and gives him his bottle, and then he walks outside with him. The pup is getting aggressive with the bottle and trying to pull the nipple off.
            "Heyyyy, take it easy big fellow---is that how you treated your Mama when she was nursing you? Luckily for her, you didn't have any teeth, when you were first born. I remember when Angela was first starting to cut teeth and how Alex would yelp every time our daughter got too impatient."  Walker starts to laugh as he recalls how Alex would complain about her nipples being sore. He walks unconsciously towards the back of the barn, and he can't believe what he is seeing.
            There lying across Bo's grave is the 'blacktip'. Walker is stunned as he holds the pup tighter, while flailing his arms at the big coyote.
            "Get out of here---get off there." Walker shouts at the wild dog.
            The 'blacktip' refuses to move, he lays his head down and continues to watch the Ranger. Walker shakes his head and then looks at the pup who is staring back at the big one.
            Walker places the pup down, and the bigger coyote walks over to him, sniffing. The 'blacktip' circles the pup and then he goes and lies back down on the grave of "Bo". The pup yelps and follows the bigger dog, and he too lays across the grave.
            "I don't believe what I'm seeing," whispers the Ranger---"I'm completely lost for an explanation---I've never seen anything like this--in my life! It's almost like---the 'blacktip' is------no---no way---it's like he's trying to apologize for Bo's death."
            For fifteen minutes the two coyotes lay side by side on Bo's grave, then just as the night before, the 'blacktip' darts off, leaving the pup behind, and shivering.
            Walker watches the bigger dog as he runs across the open field till he's out of sight. The whimpering of Star gets Walker's attention. He quickly picks up the pup and caresses him.
            He looks down at the pup, "I know this is the time of the year for miracles---and this is definitely one miracle I will never forget. Come on Star---let's see if I can sneak some meat out to you while Alex is cooking breakfast. You want some bacon, how does that sound? On second thought, I'll give you some doggie treats, I don't want you developing a taste for pork and go after my neighbors' hogs.  But, one look at those mean, nasty hogs of Hank's and I don't think you would be tempted a second time. They are some of the nastiest and ugliest swine I've seen-----and they stink to high heaven---no wonder Alex hates them."


                                    *******************************


Christmas Eve:
            "Mommy----Daddy--come quick! Star is sick, he's real sick!"
           
Walker and Alex go running to the barn as Alex is shouting at Angela and Cooper not to touch the dog. Cordell is following slowly behind Alex.
            Walker runs to the bale of hay and starts shoving them aside. Star's eyes are bulging out and he's trying to cough, his little body is heaving, he can't breathe.
            Alex is holding the kids back as Walker is holding the pup upside down, "He's choking on something---Alex, I need your help!"
            "What? What do you want me to do?"
            "We're going to have to lay him down on one of those bales, I got to cut his trachea open!"
            "Okay------just tell me what else to do."
            "Angela---go into the house and get plenty of towels and some water as hot as you can get it---hurry baby!"
            "What do I do, Daddy?” Asks Cooper.
            "Call the vet---and keep him on the line, I'll have to have him walk me through this if I run into a problem with the bleeding."
            Cooper runs and jumps up on the bale of hay, reaching for the phone on the wall, he flips the speakers on---"He's not answering, Daddy"!
            Walker is trying to force the pup on his back as he yells back to Cooper, "Stay on the line, son---keep the line open----Alex, I need help in holding him down."
            Alex is reaching for the plastic gloves and trying to hold the pup, Walker looks to Cordell: the boy is just standing there, watching.
            "Cordell, I need your help son---take my knife and sterilize it over my lighter."
            Cordell backs away, "No-----why I should help him, his family killed Bo."
            Walker's temper is rising as he looks to Alex, "Alex----you'll have to do it, hurry hon."
            Angela comes running back to the barn with the towels, the pot of hot water sloshing over the sides. "Is this enough, Daddy---it was so heavy, I couldn't carry anymore."
            "It's fine, baby---lay the towels out on that other bale of hay and get ready to see a lot of blood---can you handle it, Angela?"
            Angela grabs the towels as she pushes Cordell out of the way, "Cordell---move---if you're not going to help, then get of the way!"
            Cordell backs up further against the wall, as Cooper is shouting that the 'doggie doctor' is on the line. "He's here, Daddy---the speakers are on, can you hear him?"
            "Walker---what's going on? Your boy said that a pup was choking, do you know what he's choking on?"
            "NO---" Walker shouts back, "I don't have any time left to talk, the pup is losing conscious---just stay on the line--I'm cutting the windpipe now!"
            Walker makes the small incision as blood starts to squirt out, "Damn it----I don't have anything to insert down into his throat, once we get the object out".
            Alex is looking around frantically for something to use, she spots a ballpoint pen in Cordell's jacket.  "Cordell---your pen---please son---hurry---Daddy needs it!"
            Cordell steps forward to hand the pen to his Mother, and sees all the blood and grimaces. Walker's eyes darting back and forth from the pup to his son, he whispers softly, "Thank you, son."
            Cordell backs up as Alex is again trying to hold the pup still, and Walker is trying to feel around inside the pups' throat for the object that is blocking the windpipe.
            "Damn it, I feel something----but my fingers are too big, I can't reach it!"
            "Let me try, Daddy---my fingers are small," replies Cordell.
            Walker is breathing heavily as Cordell looks back at him.
            "Okay, son---I'll try to guide you----there's going to be a lot of blood---can you handle it, son?"
            Cordell's voice is shaky as he climbs upon the bale and reaches out with his right finger, "I think I can, Daddy.  I'll try!"
            Cordell's finger is going deeper as Walker tries to tell him what to feel for. "There's something just to the right of the windpipe, Cordell, can you feel it"?
            "I feel something---Daddy---am I hurting him, am I hurting Star?"
            Both Walker and Alex answer at the same time, "No, Cordell---you're not hurting him."
            Walker's voice is soft as he talks to his son, "He can't feel anything son, he's in a deep sleep."
            Cordell's eyes grow wide as he starts to cry, "Like Bo--is he dead?"
            "No, sweetheart--he's not dead---he's unconscious---keep trying Cordell, do you feel anything?"
            "I got it---I got it," the boy pulls his bloody fingers out and holds the object up, a half eaten dog chew!
            Walker breathes a sigh of relief as he gently pulls his son out of the way, "You did great, Cordell---now--I got to put the cylinder of the ball point pen inside his throat, then hopefully Star will be able to breathe on his own."
            Cordell grabs the pen and pulls it apart, "Wait Daddy---let me wash it real quick, so Star won't get sick again."
            A half hour later has the Walkers breathing relief as young Star is breathing and trying to lick everyone's hand at the same time. The kids are all giggling as Walker goes to the phone and talks to the vet. As he's walking back to his family, he sees the familiar figure looking in through the barn window.
            "We've had a audience," he nods towards the 'blacktip'.
            The kids look to the window and then back at Cordell cautiously. Cordell reaches down and picks the pup up and holds him close.
            "Is that your Daddy, Star?  He's sure been worried about you."
            The wild dog disappears from the window and slowly enters the barn, and Cordell puts the pup down on the floor. They all watch as the older dog lies down on the floor with Star and allows the pup to walk all over him. The older dog stands up and approaches Cordell slowly.
            "Don't be afraid, son--be perfectly still," warns Walker.
            "I'm not afraid, Daddy---he was just worried about his son, the same way you worried about me. The same way I worried ab----about Bo."
            The dog sniffs Cordell's hand--and then licks it. He turns back to the pup and then again, he runs out of the barn and through the fields.
            Alex is in shock as she looks to her husband, "I don't believe what I just saw---Cordell, are you okay?"
            "I'm fine, Mommy---and you know what---I think I hear Bo dancing again."
            Everyone becomes quiet as they hear the music playing very faintly.
            "I hear it, Daddy--I hear the music to Mr. Jangles," shouts Cooper.
            "I hear it too, son--can you hear it Alex?"
            "Yes---I hear it.  Walker, what does all this mean?"
            Walker laughs as he puts his arms around his wife, "I think it means that miracles never cease, and this is Christmas Eve."
            Angela is now holding Star, "Yes, and just like the baby that was born in that barn to Mother Mary---God has sent his son down---just like Star's Daddy has sent him to us---right Mama?"
            Alex is almost crying as she takes the pup, "Yes--the Lord moves in mysterious ways, and we may never understand what truly happened here--or be able to explain to anyone else---but we will all know---and we believe in miracles."
            Cordell takes the pup and walks around to Bo's grave, he turns back to his family with tears in his eyes.
            "I had another dream last night, but this one was different."
            "How so?" Asks Walker as he kneels down on the ground.
            "Before--Bo always cried when I tried to put him down, but this time when I put him down he turned around and looked at me--and he said--that everything was okay now---and I shouldn't cry anymore--that he was okay and that he was happy in 'doggie heaven'."
            The Walkers walk back to the house, arm in arm as the North Star rises, shining brightly.


                            ******************************************


            A week later finds all the Walkers taking Star back to the place he was found. They all watch as 'the blacktip' approaches slowly and nudges the pup to follow him. The pup turns around to look back at his human family, yelps and then runs to catch up with his father.
            In the weeks to come, Walker and the kids will spot the ‘blacktip' from time to time---running in the fields, the wild dog beside him, with a STAR shaped crescent on his snout.


                                                     THE END           By Sasquaw   2003
                                   Merry Christmas