Hasta Luego

By: Jim Griffin,  keeneyanke@yahoo.com

Bobby Cahill Walker had been a Texas Ranger for slightly more than two years.  He had proved himself worthy of the Ranger star, a ferocious fighter for

justice when need be, yet with a personality tempered by compassion for the victims of Lone Star criminals.

On this late June day, Bobby had returned to Austin, having completed his previous assignment.  Capt. Bill McGuire was watching from his window, espying the young Ranger approaching on his golden and white Paint, Sunny.

The pair rode up to Ranger Headquarters slowly, for this had been Bobby's toughest assignment yet.  Sunny was showing the scars of battle, moving with a slight limp, a jagged red groove down the horse's shoulder, where a heavy Winchester slug had nearly cut Bobby's mount from under him.

The blonde Ranger, entering the Captain's office, touched his hat brim in salute, and lowered himself gingerly into a chair.  Capt. McGuire observed the stiff movement.  Bobby had his left arm tied up in a sling, and his entire body was bruised and battered.

“Rough trip, huh, Bobby?"  Capt McGuire queried his young Ranger, kindly.

"Little rougher than usual, Cap. But I'll be ready to ride day after tomorrow." 

Capt. McGuire just shook his head. "Bobby, you're as stubborn as your old man."

Eyes brightening, Bobby looked up "Cap, where is Cordell, anyway?"

"Up in the Panhandle, Son. Don't expect him back for another three or four weeks."

"OK, Cap. I was hoping to see him, but I guess it won't happen this trip.  Let me have my new orders, then; I'm going to groom and grain Sunny, and hit my bunk."

"Bobby", the Captain replied, "you're not going anywhere for a while. I'm ordering you to take a week's leave, at least."

The young Ranger attempted to leap from his chair, but managed only to rise slowly, swaying slightly as he faced his commanding officer, fire in Bobby's eyes.

“Cap, I'm ready as ever."

Gently, but firmly, Capt McGuire told the angry lawman, "No, son, you're not. Look at yourself: arm in a sling...all beat up...you can barely move....Sending you out without some rest would be murder. Besides, even if you could go, what about your cayuse?  He's shot up, and lame besides. You want to cripple him permanent?"

Bobby, with a great sigh, sank back in his chair. He knew there was no point arguing. The Captain continued, "Now, I want you to do just what you said:

take care of your cayuse, and get some shut-eye. Tomorrow, I've arranged a cattle car for your horse, and passage for you to San Antonio.  You're going home to your Mom for a few days."

What Capt. McGuire left unsaid was that he had received a report from Big Spring, site of Bobby's last assignment.  Eighteen months earlier, Bobby had

been assigned to that same town, and had befriended a Deputy Sheriff about his age.  The two had fought off a gang of rustlers together.  However, on this assignment, Bobby's friend had been viciously gunned down. The report Capt. McGuire received claimed Bobby was blaming himself.  The wise Captain wanted his young Ranger to get some mental rest.

Bobby reluctantly accepted his orders.  It had been several months since he'd been home, and the thought of seeing his Mom and the ranch was comforting.

As he was rising to leave, Capt McGuire called out to him, "Bobby, there's one more thing: As soon as your leave is over, I have a special assignment for you.  I can't give you any details on it yet.  I'm waiting for a complete report on the situation, but it appears to be an extremely dangerous one.  Once you're ready, I'll have you on your way.  There's a messenger due in

here by stage in the next couple of days.  I'll get a special courier down to Bandera to give you your orders as soon as possible.  Now, remember, no Rangering for at least a week. And, son, I MEAN THAT; NOW GIT!!" Capt McGuire snapped, smiling.

Bobby, exhausted, but anticipating his next mission, returned the Captain's smile weakly, and stumbled out of the building to care for his horse.

The next morning, Bobby and Sunny were on a southbound train from Austin to San Antonio, and then it was a short ride home to Bandera.

As the train chugged across the prairie, the young Ranger settled back in his seat, flinching against the pain of his injuries.  He tilted his Stetson forward over his eyes, and tried to get some shut-eye.

As soon as the rhythm of the train rocked him to sleep, the nightmare started.  It was the same nightmare he had had every night on the trip from Big Spring back to Austin.

Bobby and the deputy he had befriended nearly two years previous, Ben Jenkins, a tall, brown-eyed, brown-haired local officer the same age as Bobby, had cornered a gang of stage robbers several days' ride out of Big Spring.  There ensued a furious gun battle. Sunny had been hit, and Bobby severely bruised when his mount rolled over from the impact of the slug.  As

he struggled to reach cover, he had been hit in the shoulder.  In the fight, three of the four bandits had been killed.  However, as Bobby was reloading his Colt, the fourth outlaw lined Bobby up in the sights of his Winchester.  Just before the outlaw fired, Ben shoved Bobby aside.  The young deputy fired at the same time as the outlaw, hitting him in the chest, finishing him off.

Sadly, the outlaw's slug drilled Ben through the belly. He spun and collapsed to the ground.  Bobby rushed over to his friend.  Ben looked up at him,

weakly. "Bobby, old pard, this is it..." 

"Ben, don't give up on me; I'll get you back to town and the doc."

Ben protested, "It's no use; I'm done for: gut-shot. Bobby, it's a hard four days' ride back to Big Spring for a healthy man, let alone an hombre who's shot up; I'd never make it."

The young Ranger wouldn't give up. "Ben, I'll try to stop the blood- maybe if I can, you'll pull through."

Ben just smiled wanly, "You stubborn cuss; no wonder you're a Ranger: never give up."

For three days, Bobby stayed with his mortally wounded friend.  Except to bury the robbers in shallow, unmarked graves, he never left Ben's side.

Ben wavered in and out of consciousness, feverish and in great pain.  Finally, he called weakly to Bobby, "Pard, it's gettin' darker...head's kind of spinnin'. Please, Bobby, get me some water."  As he sipped weakly from the Ranger's canteen, Ben gave a final groan of pain, stiffened and died, his head cradled in Bobby's lap.

As always, Bobby awoke from this nightmare moaning in grief, drenched with sweat.  The young lady on the seat opposite gazed at the young lawman with great concern. The young woman seated opposite Bobby, a comely, hazel-eyed brunette, with short, curly, hair, and full, red lips, spoke up. "Are you feeling all right? Is there any way I can help you?" she asked the young

Ranger, smiling sweetly.

Bobby replied, "No, it was just a bad dream. Thank you for asking, though."  Then, remembering his manners, he touched the brim of his hat, and introduced himself.  "Pardon me, Miss, for forgetting what my Mom taught me: I'm Bobby Walker."

"That's quite all right", the brunette replied, laughing slightly. "I'm Jana Waters"  She was blushing slightly, and Bobby realized he had been staring at

her pretty, but not unrealistically so, face.

Turning his eyes slightly, Bobby asked "How far are you traveling?"  Jana raised her large hazel ones to meet his gaze squarely. "I'm on my way to Medina; my aunt has a small store and dressmaking business there, and I'm going to help her."

Bobby, trying not to appear too forward, stated, "Well, we won't be living too far apart, then.  My folks and I have a ranch in Bandera.  That's where I'm headed now- I've been ordered on leave for a few days. It'll be good to see the ranch and my Mom again."

Jana, definitely interested in see the young Ranger again, responded, "Will you be home for long?"

"Not sure" Bobby replied. "I know I'm on leave for a week, but then I have orders coming shortly after that. Had hoped to see my step dad, Cord, but he's on an assignment up in the Panhandle.  My father was killed in a robbery in San Antonio. Cord came along and saved our ranch. He's a Ranger, too, you see, and the reason I joined the Rangers."  Bobby then recounted the whole tale of Cordell Walker's  arrival in Bandera, and the battle for the valley.

The train was slowing on its approach to San Antonio.  "Well, here's where we both get off", Bobby stated.

Jana responded "My aunt will meet me at the platform.  I'd want you to meet her, if you'd like."

Bobby, emboldened by her invitation, replied. "I'll go one better, with your permission. Medina's right on my way home." (He conveniently neglected to mention it WAS a slight detour).  "This is a safe trip: however, I would be neglecting my responsibility as a Texas Ranger if I allowed two unaccompanied ladies to take a journey though these parts alone."

Smiling, Jana Waters told her newfound friend, "Bobby Cahill Walker, I would be honored to have you protect us."

Bobby alighted from the train first, taking Jana by the hand and helping her to the platform.  A large, 50ish woman waved to Jana from the end of the platform.  Hurrying up to the young woman, she hugged her warmly. "Jana, it's so good to see you here at last."  Looking Bobby up and down thoroughly, she inquired sharply, but not unkindly, "And who is this handsome young gentleman I saw you disembark with?"

"Aunt Phoebe, this is Bobby Cahill Walker. Bobby, my aunt, Phoebe Bates."

Bobby tipped his Stetson in salute. "Pleased to meet you, Ma'am."  Jana chimed in. "Aunt Phoebe, Bobby's on his way home on leave.  He's going to see his Mom at their ranch in Bandera. With your permission, he would like to accompany us home. There may still be a few outlaws around here, you know."

Bobby had to cover his mouth and start coughing to stifle his laugh at the girl's brazen fib.  Still, he was starting to like her more and more.  Aunt Phoebe, a knowing look in her eye, looked at Bobby and spouted, "Bandits?! HA--a likely story...still, it would be prudent to have a man along- especially a Texas Ranger."

"Then, let me retrieve my cayuse, and I'll meet you out front of the station" Bobby responded, as the porter arrived with Jana's luggage.

He went to the freight platform, and liberated Sunny from his unwanted confinement in the cattle car.  The horse whinnied happily upon seeing his human partner. Bobby tacked up, and, whistling happily, led Sunny around the station.

It was well for Bobby that he had the two ladies to accompany him, for their presence took his mind somewhat off his injuries.  As the trio covered the 25

miles to Medina, it became more and more obvious, even to the stubborn young lawman, that Capt. McGuire had been right when he placed Bobby on leave. 

Sunny's limp grew progressively worse as the group approached Medina.  Bobby, used to riding for weeks on end with little food or rest, was stiff and swaying in the saddle.

Upon reaching Phoebe Bates' small home and store in Medina, the older woman invited him in to rest and eat.  Despite the entreaty in Jana's eyes, Bobby

declined the invitation. "If it's all the same to you, Ms. Bates, Sunny and I will just get a long drink of water, then we'll head for home.  It's only a few more miles to Bandera, and I haven't seen my Mom for several months."

That remark elicited a smile of sympathy from Aunt Phoebe. "Young man, anyone who misses their Mom is a good person."

Bobby then turned to Jana. "Jana, I'm so glad we met. May I call on you before I go back on duty?"

Stating the obvious, Jana retorted. "If you don't, Bobby Cahill Walker, I'll never speak to you again."

Touching the brim of his Stetson in a farewell salute, Bobby waved goodbye, crying "Adios, fair ladies."

After separating from the two women, Bobby realized just how much he needed rest. Sunny was limping badly, and the young Ranger was fearful his horse may have been permanently crippled. Murmuring softly to the faithful equine, Bobby told the animal, "Don't worry, pard, even if you can't go back on the trail with me, you'll always have plenty of grass and grain, and you can grow fat and lazy."

In reply, Sunny shook his head back and forth vigorously, as if saying, "No, sir!"

Bobby tossed back his head and laughed, in spite of his pain. "Alright, then, hoss, we'll be on the trail again in a week or so, you'll see."

Finally, the Cahill ranch came into view.  Bobby's mother, Alex, had never changed the name of the spread, retaining it in honor of her first husband and Bobby's father.  Bobby had been adopted by Cordell Walker when he had married Alex, and used both last names.

Alex was on the porch of the ranch house, a ceramic pitcher in her hand.  As Bobby and Sunny entered the yard, her eyes widened in amazement, and she gasped with surprise. The pitcher, forgotten, dropped out of her hands, shattering on the ground. 

She ran to her son.  Bobby dismounted as quickly as he could. He hugged his mother with his one good arm, while she threw herself against him, arms wrapped around him.  "Oh, Bobby, Bobby", she cried softly, tears of joy flooding down her cheeks.

Bobby had been home for a week and a half, with no sign of orders or a messenger.  Teddy, the old ranch horse, had passed on, so Alex had obtained a sorrel gelding for the ranch and to haul the buckboard.

With Sunny recuperating from his wound, Bobby had used the buckboard and Max to go into Bandera, and send a wire to Capt. McGuire.  It was also an excuse

for him to make a trip to Medina.  After visiting with Jana and her aunt, finding Jana settling in well to Western life, he returned to the telegraph office in Bandera. There was a reply from Capt. McGuire, but Bobby was disappointed at its contents: "No orders await; patience, Son", was all it said.

While he was home, Bobby had completed lot of work around the ranch.  "Cap said no Rangerin'; didn't say no ranchin'",  was his response to Alex when she asked him to slow down.  His arm was healing well, and was out of the sling. Bobby was feeling stronger by the day.

That Wednesday was an extremely hot day, and Bobby had been, of all things, chopping wood.  The stove always needed it...and winter would come...and who

knew where the Rangers might send Bobby and Cordell.  After finishing, Bobby called to his Mom, I'm going to take Sunny out the swimmin' hole; cool

water'll do him good, and I can use a swim."

"OK, but be back for supper- fried chicken & dumplings."

"Mom, you know I'd never miss your fried chicken!"

Bobby arrived at the stream, shucked his clothes, and led Sunny neck deep into the rejuvenating liquid.  He held the horse there for half an hour, then let him loose on the bank to graze.  Bobby then swam for a good time longer, then, emerging on the bank, stretched out on the grass, the hot Texas sun feeling wonderful on his still aching body.  Finally, feeling totally refreshed, he redressed, and headed back to the house.

As Bobby entered the kitchen, he stopped, stunned. For there, at the table, was Cord.

"Cord, what are you doing here?  Cap told me you were in the Panhandle."

"Fine way to greet me!" Walker responded.

"Sorry, Dad, I'm just in shock; didn't expect to see you."  Alex stood by, thoroughly enjoying the moment.

"Well, Bobby, It's like this: I'm the special messenger...I have your orders."

Excited, Bobby shouted, "When do I leave...Where'm I headed?"

"Easy, Son. It's where are WE headed; we'll be riding together.  But, we don't leave for at least another week.  Cap is still waiting for more details

on the trouble.  Plus, part of MY orders are to make sure YOU'RE ready to ride again!"

"Cord, I've been ready forever, it seems, Plus, Sunny is anxious to hit the trail.  Speaking of which, I didn't see Amigo."

"Hid him out back, so you'd be surprised when you walked in.  And as for being ready, that's up to me. I'll be the judge of that. "

Alex broke in, "Alright, you two, enough Ranger talk! I only get to see you a few days at a time, and I intend to make the most of them.  Now, let's eat."

After giving thanks for the food, and for all being together, the threesome settled down to supper.

Later, after Bobby retired, Alex and Walker were snuggling in their bed.  Walker asked his wife, "Honey, how is Bobby doing, really?"

Alex replied, "Cord, physically he's doing fine; I'm not sure about his mental state.  He doesn't know I hear him, but he has nightmares EVERY night."

"I know. Cap. McGuire had gotten that report from Big Spring.  That's why he sent me to join Bobby. By the way, what's this I hear about a girl?"

"Yes, evidently our son has met a very nice young lady. She was on the train with him.  Her aunt has a store in Medina.  Bobby's been over there to see her a couple of times.  All I know is her name is Jana."

"Speaking of love, woman: it's been a long time..."

Taking her in his arms, Walker kissed his wife, gently.  Her hand slid down his stomach, and the two settled in for a night of lovemaking.

Two evenings later, Alex and Walker were jolted out of their sleep by Bobby's terrified scream.  Rushing into the young man's  bedroom, they found him

trembling, drenched with sweat, eyes wide with fear.

"Bobby, what is it, what's wrong?" Alex cried.

"Nothing, Mom, just a bad dream- I'm fine go back to sleep." Walker and Alex exchanged worried glances.

"Walker, you saw him--and I KNOW he has those nightmares every night", Alex spoke worriedly to her husband, after they were settled back in bed. "What

can we do?"

"Don't know...but I might have an idea; I'll talk to Bobby tomorrow."  The two settled down to a fitful sleep.

The next morning, at breakfast, Walker announced, "Tomorrow, we're going into town to get supplies; we'll be leaving in a couple of days, and I'd like to

visit C.D. and Trivette.  Bobby, today we're going to ride the ranch, and see if we'll need any fencing or other materials from town."

Turning to Alex, he informed her, "We'll be gone most of the day; I want Bobby to ride Sunny, so I can see if he's trail ready. Make a list of what you need for the house."

Half an hour later, Walker and Alex were mounted and on their survey of the Cahill ranch.

Walker led Bobby up to his favorite part of the ranch, a knoll that overlooked miles of Bandera County. Dismounting, he told his son. "Bobby, we'll rest here. I need to talk to you."

Bobby, worried at the look in Walker's eyes, dismounted. "Cord, what's wrong? You know you can hide stuff from everyone except Alex or me."

Walker began gently, "Bobby, Capt. McGuire received a report on your last assignment from the sheriff in Big Spring.  The report said you did a fine job. But, it did mention that you seem to bee deeply affected by the death of your friend."

Bobby sighed in response. "Cord, that's nothing that time won't cure.  Yes, I miss Ben.  But I know death is something a lawman faces every day."

Firmly, Walker responded, "Bobby, it's more than that. Your Mom and I hear you every night. Capt. McGuire gave me specific orders NOT to let you back on

duty until we get to the bottom of this.  Now, would you like to talk to me, or your Mom, or maybe Father Koslowski, or a friend?"

"Cord, if I talk to anyone about this, it'll be you."

"Well, son, there's no time like the present."

With quivering voice, Bobby started to recount the incident at Tucker Canyon, outside Big Spring.

"Cord, me'n Ben had chased the Maddox gang for a week.  We finally cornered them in Tucker Canyon. Sunny 'n me got hit, as you know.  But, we had them

trapped. Killed three of 'em outright."

Here Bobby stopped, body shaking. Walker just waited.  Finally, Bobby continued, "My Colt was empty; I was reloading, when Les Maddox came around to where he could plug me. Thought I was a goner.  Then, Ben came out of nowhere and knocked me over. He got Maddox, too...dead center."

Tears were now brimming in Bobby's eyes. "Cord, Maddox shot Ben. He GUT-SHOT him, my best friend.  I should have taken that slug...ME, not BEN!!!"

Bobby was now sobbing, violently. Walker put his arm around the young Ranger's shoulders. "Let it out, Bobby."

Bobby continued, haltingly. "Cord, I stayed with Ben for three days. For THREE DAYS I watched my best friend die. I wanted to save him, but I  couldn't. Now he's gone...and it's my fault.  I got him back to Big

Spring. I couldn't face his mom and dad, and his sisters.  I wanted to be in Ben's grave with him."

Bobby hung his head, fist pounding the ground in anger and hurt. 

Finally, when the youngster seemed spent, Walker looked at him, gently. "Bobby, Ben's death was not your fault.  But, no one can make you see that except you.  Now, I have an idea, but it's up to you to make it work.  Tomorrow, we head into Bandera.  I fully expect the rest of our orders to be waiting at the Western Union.  When we return, I'm going to build a sweat lodge.  I think it will help you remove the evil spirits troubling your mind."

Then, firmly, Walker continued. "Bobby, if you don't get through this, your Ranger career will be over."

That evening, Bobby, for the first time, slept without awakening.  Walker and Alex hoped it was the start of the healing process.

Upon arrival in Bandera the next morning, Alex stopped at Jensen's.  She would place her order, and then visit some friends in town.  As luck would have it, Sydney and Francis Gage were also in the store. Before Walker and Bobby moved on, they visited briefly with the ranchers.  

Following that, the pair headed straight for C.D.'s saloon.  The bartender, in his usual understated style, hog-tied both Rangers in a huge bear hug.

"Dad-gum it, where've you two been? Bobby, I'll have Ginger get you a sarsaparilla."  Ginger, the former lead dance hall girl, was now Mrs. C.D. Parker. No matter how old Bobby got, he still enjoyed a sarsaparilla. 

The two Rangers were held hostage by C.D. until they had recalled every

adventure for the last six months. Finally escaping, the pair headed for the sheriff's office.  They were greeted warmly by Sheriff Trivette. "Good to see you guys; you don't come around very often."  

Walker replied, "Jimmy, the Rangers only go where needed.  Bandera County is quiet, thanks to you and your deputies."

After lunch with the sheriff and Alex at C.D.'s, Walker headed for the Western Union office.  He emerged with a yellow envelope.  He read the contents, and told Bobby and Alex, "Orders are here. Alex, I can't divulge their contents to you, or even where we're headed.  Bobby, I'll tell you the orders AFTER we're on the trail.  But first, you have to take the sweat, and hopefully get the poisons out of your system. Then, I'll decide if you'll be going with me."

"Cord, I WILL be going!" was Bobby's firm response.

"Bueno," Walker replied, for the first time feeling confident his son would overcome the grief at the death of Ben Jenkins.  "Now, let's head for home. We leave day after tomorrow.  I'd leave tomorrow, but Capt. McGuire gave me leeway for you, Bobby...and I think you still need to clear your mind."

With that, the Walker clan left for home. 

As Bobby and Cordell emerged from the sweat lodge, Bobby gave a yelp, and dove for his Levi denims.  Walker muttered a vague, "What the ------?" and dove back into the lodge.  For, outside the lodge, staring at the two very undressed Rangers, were Jana Waters and her Aunt Phoebe.

Quickly throwing on his denims, Bobby tossed Walker's pants into the lodge.   Walker emerged, and the two rapidly donned boots, shirts, bandannas, and Stetsons.

The two women were alternating between embarrassment at seeing Walker and Bobby “au naturel,” and laughing at the expression on the men's faces and their rapid dash for their clothes.

Finally, dressed, Bobby and Walker approached the ladies' carriage. Everyone was a deep shade of red, Bobby's and Walker's definitely NOT from the heat of

the sweat.  Bobby managed to stammer "J-j-jana, what are you doing here?"

"Bobby...I'm so ashamed", she replied, although there was a trace of mischievous glee in her voice.  "Aunt Phoebe was delivering a dress to Ginger Parker. We thought we'd come by and see how you were doing.  No one was at the house, but we could see smoke over the ridge.  We thought we find you up here, perhaps. We had no idea what that little tent was for.  It is good to

see; I mean, you look, OH, I mean...I'm glad to see...AAUGH!!" At that point, Jana's voice ground to a complete stop.

At this point, Bobby broke in "Jana, I'm happy to visit with you again.  May I introduce my Dad, Cordell Walker.  Cord, this is Jana Waters, and her

aunt, Phoebe Bates."

Pleased to finally meet you", Walker told both ladies, touching the brim of his Stetson. "Jana, Bobby has told me about you.  Why don't you all come

back to the house with us?  Alex must have been at the stream.  She'll be so happy to meet the two of you.  You can stay to supper."

Tension broken, Phoebe Bates answered Walker, "Bobby talks so well of you and his Mom, we just had to meet you. Since we were here, it was the perfect

opportunity to check you out."

At that, Bobby and Walker convulsed into laughter, tears running down their faces.  Even Jana joined in the laugh at her aunt's expense.

That evening, the quintet talked well into the night. Bobby was pleased to see how well Jana and Phoebe got along with his parents.  He only had eyes

for Jana, and the feelings that grew stronger daily.  Finally, while the three older members of the group talked, Bobby and Jana strolled out on the porch.

Taking her in his arms, he kissed her gently.  "Jana, Cord and I have to leave for our assignment tomorrow. I don't know until we leave where we are

headed.  But, I will return.  I want to see you again."

"Oh, Bobby, as I do you."  Tilting her head, her full lips pressing on Bobby's she told him, "This is for you, until you return to me."

The hour being late, Jana and her aunt spent the night at the local ladies'  boarding house.

The next morning, Walker and Bobby were on their way before sun-up.

"Bobby", Walker spoke first, in the quiet of the pre-dawn. "I know you are at peace about Ben now, or I wouldn't have let you come on this assignment.  I have confidence in you."

“I won't let you down, Cord", was the younger Ranger's simple reply.

As they rode, Walker explained the assignment to his son.  "Bobby, the Comanches are stirring up trouble again over near Pecos."  We have to stop them before a full-scale war breaks out."

"But I thought the Comanches were at peace", Bobby questioned.

"They are, that's what's strange about this.  I have a feeling there's more going on here than is showing.  Chief Spotted Horse and I are blood brothers. He knows I'm part red man.  We'll meet with him first, and see if he can help us."

The two Rangers, father and son, rode on toward what would prove to be the most dangerous situation either of them had ever faced.

Two night later, Walker and Bobby rode into the small town of MacArthur.  It was late, and the two weary riders and their mounts both just wanted a good

night's rest.

As they approached the livery stable, a cowpoke was untying a horse just ahead of them, in front of the local saloon.  Suddenly, the horse pinned its ears back, neighing in anger, and striking out at the cowpoke with its front feet.  The cowpoke removed a knotted rawhide quirt he had in his back pocket, and started viciously hitting the cayuse on the neck and chest, cursing the animal as he did so.

Without warning, another cowpoke emerged from the saloon.  With one leap, he launched himself over the hitch rail, and tackled the man tormenting the

still-tied horse.

There followed the most violent fight Bobby Walker had ever seen.  Even Cordell had seen few--if any—to match its intensity, in his long Ranger career.

The man who had leapt from the saloon rose to his knees, and, as the cowpoke started to rise, hit his adversary under the chin with a powerful left,

snapping the man's head back and flattening him to the ground.  As the second cowpoke rose, an apparently uninterested bystander grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around, and punched him in the belly, doubling him over, gasping for air.  Then, a punch to the jaw straightened the second cowpoke back up, staggering him against the tied horse.

The second man waded back at the third, swinging with abandon, ignoring the blows he was receiving.  He backed the bystander up the stairs and against the wall of the saloon, delivering blows over and over to the man's midsection.  Finally, he connected with a powerful right to the bystander's nose, breaking it.  The bystander sagged against the wall, and slid to the

sidewalk.

Meanwhile, the first cowpoke had come to, and was pulling his Colt.  Whirling, the cowpoke from the saloon drew and fired, hitting the first in the kneecap.  Breathlessly, he told his opponent, "That'll make sure you won't abuse any more horses...and you won't try stealing mine again, either!"  The downed man, hate in his eyes, tried to bring up his Colt again, but received a bullet through his shoulder for the effort.  He collapsed in pain in the dust.

The third man had risen from the sidewalk and rushed at the cowpoke from the saloon, knife drawn, cursing loudly, "You no-good ^$@#%*)))_" You can't stop us!" The other, without time to fire, took a long slash across his ribs.  Then, grabbing his opponent by the wrist, he forced the knife back on its owner.

Slowly, the man's arms twisted, the powerful grip of his opponent forcing the knife into its owner's gut, below the belt.  The man's jeans became soaked with blood, as his opponent made sure the blow was fatal. "There's no room in Texas for horse thieves" was the only response the dying man received, as he sank to the street.

Walker had fired in the air, then over the heads of the combatants, but to no avail. As he did not know who was in the right, he could not shoot any of the

participants, for fear of harming an innocent man.

Dismounting at the fight ended, one man crying in agony, another soaked with blood, his own knife in his gut, Walker drew his Colt.  He shouted, "Reach, and keep 'em high!"  to the man still standing.

The cowpoke, bleeding from the cut on his ribs, hands held high, turned to face the big Ranger.  A smile spreading across his face, he exclaimed,

"Cordell Walker...just the man I've been trying to find these past three days!!"

Walker lowered his Colt, exhaling in surprise.  The man he had drawn his gun on was wearing a Ranger star, and was none other than his former riding partner, Jim Griffin. 

Walker exploded. "Jim- What the H*** are you doing here?"

"Like I said, Walker, looking for you. Wait'll I check on Yank, and we'll talk."

As he headed toward his horse--the one the cowpoke had been untying--Walker yelled at Jim, "What about these two hombres?"

Shouting back over his shoulder, Jim retorted, roughly, "Hey, you saw what they did to Yank; Let 'em lay there and rot. That's better than they deserve.

Sheriff'll pick 'em up, anyway."  As Jim spoke, Hank Hardy, the town sheriff, was shouldering his way through the crowd surrounding the scene.

Bobby looked at Walker in amazement, hardly believing his ears at Jim's speech and attitude.  "Cord, what's this all about?"

Walker replied , "I'm sure Jim will tell us, before the night's over."

The wounded man was still lying in the street where he'd been shot down, screaming in agony.  His partner was dead in a pool of blood on the sidewalk.

Walker and Bobby worked their way over to Jim, who was speaking soothingly to his big Paint.  "Walker, Bobby, look at this."  Yankee was badly cut on his

neck and chest, blood matting his soft chestnut hair.  Jim got a tin of salve and a clean cloth out of his saddlebag, gently cleansing his horse's wounds.

Yankee nuzzled Jim in gratitude.

Sheriff Hardy approached the Ranger trio.  Nodding, he greeted them, "Evenin,' Rangers. Anyone care to tell me what this was about?"

Fire in his eyes, Jim confronted the hapless local lawman. "Simple, sheriff: those no-good sidewinder skunks of rattlesnakes tried to steal my horse.  When he wouldn't go with them, Rob Haskins, the one in the street there, started beatin' on him.  When I objected, his partner, Sam Casey, tried to finish his play for him. End of story."

The lawman turned to Walker and Bobby. "That how you two seen it?" 

Walker answered. "We came along just as it started, but that's how it looked. That Paint that's all cut up is definitely Jim's."

Picking out four of the men, the sheriff had the body of Sam Casey and the severely beaten and wounded Rob Haskins taken to the doctor's office, which

doubled as the mortuary.  As Haskins was carried past Jim, still working on his horse's wounds, the tall Ranger looked at Haskins, his voice tightened by

anger. "Haskins, I'm glad I didn't kill you. You'll have a long time to think about how your hoss-thievin' days ended."

Walker looked squarely at his old partner. "Jim, we have to talk."

"I know that, pard. I’ll meet you in the saloon as soon as I get Yank settled. Livery's just up the street.  Restaurant's closed, so this hole is the only place to get any kind of grub."

Walker and Bobby settle their mounts into the livery, and returned to the saloon to await Jim.  Neither spoke.

After finishing dressing Yankee's wounds, and placing his mount in the stable, Jim joined Walker and Bobby. Settling down into a chair, Jim leaned back with a sigh.  He answered the question Walker had in his eyes.  "Cordell, I know you think I was too hard on those jaspers.  I wasn't here looking for them.  Didn't even know they had drifted out this way.  But,

there's wanted posters out on them for hoss thievin' all over the state.  And you know as well as I do a hoss thief is lower down than a cold-blooded killer.

"At least, when a man guns you down, it's done quick. A hoss thief would just as likely as not leave you in the desert to die of hunger or thirst.  No, I

have no feelin's for hoss thieves at all."

Walker knew this was Jim's sore point, and there was no use in even trying to argue.  Besides, Walker tended to agree with his old partner, to a point.

Bobby, still somewhat upset by the violence, just sat quietly.

"Jim, you said you were in MacArthur looking for us...why?" Walker queried.

Well, it sure wasn't for my health. Marcy'll take me apart for sure when I get home, this time.  I've missed our anniversary AGAIN 'cause of you two.  I was on my way home, when Cap McGuire dragged me in his office."  Reaching inside his shirt, Jim pulled out a blood-stained envelope.  Smiling ruefully, Jim apologized. "Sorry about the blood, pards."

Continuing, he told Walker and Bobby. "Cap said to make sure I found you, 'cause the information in this envelope is crucial to your mission. I haven't read it, so don't ask me what it says."

"Are you going with us?" Bobby asked.

"Nope, my orders were to give this envelope to Walker, and that's it."  Tomorrow, I'm headed home to see Marcy and the kids. It's been over 10 months since I've seen them." was Jim's tired response. Continuing, he added, "There's no rooms to be had in this rat's nest of a town.  I'm bunked in the hayloft at the livery. You two can join me there. Right now, it's

time for some shut-eye."

As they left the saloon, Walker, noticing Jim's shirt was still blood-soaked, asked him if he had stopped by the doc's.  "Nope", Jim replied. "that salve I use on Yank is better medicine for cuts anything the doc would have. While I took care of Yank, I dressed and bandaged that slash.  It's not deep, just long."

Arriving at the livery, the three Rangers settled into their bedrolls.  The next morning, as Jim was changing into a clean shirt, Walker insisted on

checking, cleaning, and redressing the slash in Jim's side.  It was red and ugly, but, as Jim had said, not deep.  After an early breakfast, the three parted company, Jim on his way home, Walker and Bobby on their way to the Pecos.

"Bobby, the new orders Jim brought indicated the trouble has moved even further West.  We'll be heading for Van Horn.  There's also word the Comanches have the latest repeating Winchesters.  That means there's

gun runners in the mix somewhere."

Bobby grunted a barely audible, "Whatever you say, Cord."  He had barely spoken since the pair had left MacArthur.

In an attempt to change the boy's mood, Walker asked him, "Hey, Bobby--there's only one or two small towns between here and Van Horn.  How are you fixed for shirts?"  Walker still kidded Bobby about the younger Ranger's proclivity to ruin new shirts in gunfights.

It never failed to get a laugh and a smart retort from Bobby.  This time, though, Bobby just glared at his Dad. "Cord, I'm tired of that, OK?  I haven't ruined a shirt for at least six months." Then, Bobby lapsed back into sullen silence.

Walker instinctively knew what was troubling his son. While Bobby was recovering from Ben's death, he would still have rough patches to get over. Walker was sure the violence of the fight between Jim and the horse thieves had brought on this mood.

"Bobby, you haven't said two words since we left town.  Remember, I still have to send a report to Capt. McGuire on whether you are fit for duty.  Now,

pard...son...you'd better talk about what's on your mind."

"It's Jim, Cord.  How could he kill that one man like that, and cripple the other, permanently?  I've always liked Jim, every time we've crossed paths.

He's always so easy-goin', no matter what's goin' on. Remember the time he jumped in that pond, said he needed to cool of and was goin' for a swim, right in the middle of a gunfight.  He, did, too, but kept on fightin'  I don't understand what's happened to him."

Walker replied, gently. "Bobby, you don't know Jim as well as I do. Don’t forget, we rode together for two years.  Jim's a great guy, gentle as they come, except when there's a fight on. But, he does have one weak spot, and that's animals, 'specially horses and dogs."

Walker continued, "I've only seen one other person, besides Jim, who could do this, and he was an Apache named Brave Wolf.   Jim can walk into the middle of a herd of wild mustangs, and, half-an-hour later, be surrounded by them, havin' 'em eatin' out of his hand. He just has a connection with horses.  Anyway, he told me once that humans--except kids—men, women, too, always  have half a chance to defend themselves, but animals don't.  I've often wondered, if it came down to a choice, whether Jim would give up Yankee or his wife."

"Bobby, that's the side of Jim you've never seen before.  And those two horse thieves made the mistake of trying to take Yank away from Jim, and, even worse, hurtin' that cayuse.  That's the one thing Jim never could stand.  Now, Bobby, I might have handled them a little different.  But, don't forget, as Jim said, they were horse thieves, and stealin' a man's horse in this country is the same as killin' him.  Those two were headed for a piece of hemp, anyway. Now, you think about that for awhile."

The two rode in silence, until they reached the hamlet of Terrence.

Terrence was a ghost town, but it did still have a pump and water for the horses.  As Walker and Bobby reined up, shots rang out.  The two Rangers took cover behind the water trough.

The pair was pinned down. "Cover me!" Walker yelled to Bobby. "I'm going to try for that old wagon across the street. Maybe we can spread out their fire."  There appeared to be two shooters, hidden in an alley diagonally across from the Rangers.

Zig-zagging across the road, Bobby firing furiously to cover his Dad, Walker made the cover of the wagon.  Unfortunately, he had miscalculated, and was exposed to the bullets blasting in his direction.

Seeing his partner in trouble, Bobby deliberately exposed himself, hoping to draw the dry-gulchers' attention.  The bait worked.  One of the pair emerged

from behind the wall protecting him.  Bobby fired quickly, catching him in the chest.  The man staggered back against the wall, and slid slowly to the ground.

The other shooter, panicked, tried a firing retreat. Bobby drilled him through the stomach.  This bushwhacker threw up his hands and fell forward,

draped face down over a hitching rail, never moving again.

Meeting in the middle of the dusty street, Walker asked Bobby, "You alright, Son?"

Chuckling, Bobby replied, "Yeah, Cord, except for this." He showed his partner a bullet hole in the side of his new blue shirt. "And I see what you mean about Jim, now, too."

Checking the bodies of the dry-gulchers, Walker recognized them.  "That's Sam Percival, and the other is John Perkins.  Bobby, they're both wanted for

robbery and murder.  Must have been holed up here, and spotted our badges as we rode into town.  Well, nothing to do but bury these buzzards, and get a

report off to Headquarters first Western Union station we come to."

After quickly depositing the bodies in shallow graves, Walker and Bobby pushed on toward Van Horn.

Wearily, after many days travel, Amigo and Sunny plodded into the trading center of Van Horn, Texas.

The town was a beehive of activity, for it was the main center of commerce for many square miles in that desolate section of West Texas.

It was mid-morning when the two Rangers, father and son, reined up in front of the Palace Hotel.  Dismounting, Walker told Bobby. "We'll check in here,

leave the horses at the livery, then round up the sheriff."

The Palace was a rather grand establishment for that part of Texas, with a large saloon and dining room, and cut-glass chandeliers.  As Bobby and Walker, dust-covered from hard riding, entered the hotel, the desk

clerk haughtily looked at them over the Perce-nez spectacles perched on his nose. "Can I help you gentlemen?" he inquired, clearly annoyed at their

approach.

"Yeah, room out front, for both of us", Walker responded.

Checking his registry, the clerk retorted, "We're full right now."

Walker leaned over the counter, face red, voice tight. His nose was an inch from the clerk's.  "Look, Mister, we've ridden nearly 400 miles, in ten days.

We're tired, hungry, and our horses are exhausted.  Now, I see at least 15 keys to empty rooms in those pigeonholes behind you.  Either we get a room and the best stalls you've got for our horses, NOW, or, I'll use the power behind this badge pinned to my shirt, and shut down that gambling joint you've got going. And then, those glasses on your smart-aleck face will

be coming out your other end, if you get my drift."

Losing his brave demeanor, the clerk reverted to the frightened jackrabbit he really was. "Gentlemen, I believe Room 10 is available...our finest."  Calling to a young Mexican lad, he ordered, "Jose, please take care of these gentlemen's horses. Extra grain and a hearty rubdown, please."  Jose hurried over.  Walker tossed the lad a silver dollar.

Jose smiled in gratitude. "Anything I can do for you, Senor, just ask."

"Jose, just take real good care of our animals...and have them ready for us at anytime", Walker replied.

Entering their room, the Ranger pair found it just like any other hotel. This was one way Rangering did get dreary: night upon night away from home, either

sleeping on the hard ground or in cheap hotel rooms.

After a quick clean-up, Bobby and Walker checked on their cayuses, who had been thoroughly rubbed down by the lad Jose, and were happily munching a big feed of oats. "Cord, looks like we won't have to worry about Sunny and Amigo in this town, anyway", Bobby remarked. "Even Jim would like this stable for his hoss."

After lunch in the local cafe, the twosome headed for the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Bill Cullen was a stocky man of about 50, with black hair going to gray.  As luck would have it, the Mayor of Van Horn, Hobie Stuart, was also in the lawman's office.

Walker and Bobby entered.  "Howdy, Sheriff. I'm Texas Ranger Cordell Walker, and this is my partner, Bobby Cahill."  Bobby looked quizzically at his dad at the use of his name this way, but said nothing.

"I'm Sheriff Bill Cullen, and this is the Mayor, Hobie Stuart.  Now, what can I do for you gentlemen?"

We've been sent out here to check on the Comanche trouble", Walker replied. "How much can you tell us about it?"  At that point, Stuart abruptly excused

himself. "Bill, forgot I had a meeting at 2:00; you can fill in the Rangers for me, also."

After the mayor departed, Cullen reported. "Rangers, there's trouble all over: stages attacked, ranches burned, hosses run off. All done by Comanches."

Walker questioned the sheriff. "Positive it was Comanches?"

"Absolutely. Every place that's been attacked, victims have Comanche arrows in 'em."

Walker, playing a hunch, asked, "No gunshot victims?"

"We-l-l-l, there've been a few of late...just in the past couple of weeks", Cullen replied. "Even then, though, arrows are all over the place, and unshod pony tracks."

"Thanks for your help, Sheriff- if you have any more information, or need some help, we're at the Palace, Room 10, at least for tonight. Tomorrow, we're headed for the reservation.  Spotted Horse and I are blood brothers. If he has reason to be starting on the warpath, or if some of his brave have turned renegade, he'll let me know."

After they left the sheriff, Bobby, bursting with curiosity, asked Walker, "Cord, why did you just call me Bobby Cahill?" 

Walker replied, "I'm not sure who we'll be fighting here...just yet, anyway. It's better for now if they don't know we're related."

Spotting a barber shop across the street, Walker said, "Bobby, let's get cleaned up, then hit the sack. We have an early start tomorrow. I want to get to the reservation and back before dark, in case any more trouble happens."

Bobby eyed Walker. "Cord, you have a hunch, don't you? Think it's the sheriff?"

"No, Bobby, I don't. But I wouldn't trust Hobie Stuart as far as I could throw a steer."

The next day, after an early start and a hard ride,  the two Rangers arrived at the Comanche camp.

"Greetings, Spotted Horse"

"Washoe, it has been too many moons."  Turning to the young woman next to him, the chief introduced her. "Washoe, this is Wily Coyote, my wife." The woman has black hair, but startlingly blue eyes. Spotted Horse continued "Her white name is Lisa- she came here to teach our children the white man's ways- instead, I have taken her as my wife."

"I am very happy for you, Spotted Horse- May I introduce my son and partner, Bobby Cahill Walker- it is not known in Van Horn that we are related."

"I understand, Washoe-now, what brings you to our camp?"   "And, Bobby, you have the look of a hunter in your eyes- As a son of my blood brother, you shall be called "Brave Hawk" by our tribe.  Welcome"

"Spotted Horse, I am honored to meet you and your people," the young Ranger replied, respectfully.

"Spotted Horse, we have reports that your tribe has broken the treaty- I know in my heart you would not do so- I need your help in finding the evil ones who would bring trouble on the Comanche". Walker told the great chief.

Spotted Horse looked off to the far western horizon. "Washoe, I wish I could tell you that none of my people have broken the treaty.  Unfortunately, that

would not be true."  Continuing, the chief added. "about 30 of our Braves have been tempted by dishonest white men to leave the reservation, and make war on the settlers in this area."

Walker pressed the chief. "Spotted Horse, do you know where those Braves are?  And who are the white men?"

"Washoe, the Braves are somewhere in the canyons of the west wind. As far as the white men, I only know that the man who calls himself chief of Van Horn is with them. And, one of our women is with him.  She is Wild Rabbit.  Now, Washoe, I have told you everything I know.  Can you help our people?"

Jaw tight, the big Ranger replied, "I will do my Best."

"That is all I ask, my brother. Now, let us eat before you take your leave." 

On their way back to Van Horn, about five miles outside town, Walker and Bobby spied smoke rising over a distant ridge. 

Spurring their horses to a dead run, the Ranger partners raced for the source of the smoke.  As they topped the ridge, the observed the burning ruins of a

ranch house and barns.

As they approached, they were met by Sheriff Cullen, and several townspeople. "Rangers, sure glad to see you. No good Indians attacked Dick Monroe's ranch.

Burned the place."

"Anybody killed?' Walker asked.

"Yeah, that's Dick and his foreman, Larry Kincaid, on the ground over there."

Walker and Bobby dismounted, Walker examining the bodies carefully.  Kincaid was lying face up, an arrow in his chest.  Monroe had fallen across the body of his foreman, two arrows in his back.

Straightening back up, Walker told the sheriff, "yep, Indians all right. He shot Bobby a knowing glance. 

What'd that dirty redskin Spotted Horse tell you?" the sheriff demanded of Walker.

"He says none of his braves have left the reservation- and he wouldn't lie to a blood brother", Walker responded.

"That no good  #$%%^ Can't trust any redskin." At that remark, Walker punched the stocky sheriff in the mouth, sending him sprawling. "Cullen, you  ^%^&*,

I'll have you know I'm half redskin"

The sheriff, wiping the trickle of blood falling from the corner of his mouth, just got up and turned away from a very angry Ranger Cordell Walker.

After the investigation at the remains of the Monroe ranch was completed, Walker and Bobby departed  for Van Horn, leaving the sheriff and his men awaiting the arrival of a wagon to remove the bodies.

Out of earshot, Bobby turned to his dad. "All right, Cord, what's going on- You didn't tell Cullen everything."

"Well, Bobby- I think Cullen's honest, but I want to be darn sure.  Spotted Horse says some of his Braves have left the reservation, and he would not lie to a blood brother.  And, those ranchers were killed by arrows, obviously. But, Brave Hawk (Bobby smiled at Walker's use of his new Indian name), those arrows WERE NOT COMANCHE!!!

Walker and Bobby spent the next several days around Van Horn, but their investigation seemed to be coming to a dead end.

Hobie Stuart, the mayor of Van Horn, ran a freighting outfit. Spotted Horse had indicated to Walker that Stuart was somehow involved in the gun-running to the Comanches, as Walker had suspected the first time he met Stuart.  While the freight company would make it easy to smuggle contraband,

Walker could find no evidence of such activity.

True, Stuart did hire a rough bunch of teamsters, but this was not out of the ordinary.  Such men were needed to tackle the vast spaces of the West.  Walker and Bobby, through careful observation, had checked most of the loads going in and out of Van Horn, and there was no evidence of smuggling, either of guns or hard liquor.

The two Rangers had also made several fruitless trips toward the west, searching for any sign of renegade bands.  Frustrated, they found none:

absolutely no sign.

In their hotel room one evening, Walker and his son went over what they had learned, so far.

"OK, Bobby: we know that some braves have left the Reservation, yet, we can't find any signs of roaming Comanches...."

"Right, Cord, and you said the arrows that killed Monroe and Kincaid weren't Apache."

"No, Bobby, they weren't. They were Mescalero Apache...but there's been no sign of any Mescaleros in the region."

"Cord, do you still think Hobie Stuart's involved?"

"Yes, son, I do.  Somehow, he's getting weapons in here.  But, I think he's just a partner.  We haven't seen the real ringleaders."

"How about the Sheriff?"

"No, Bobby; I think he's just stupid, and hates Indians. But I think he's basically honest."

"Another thing, Cord.  Spotted Horse said one of their women, Wild Rabbit, was with Stuart.  Yet, we've seen no sign of her."

"You're right, Bobby.  Most white men who have an Indian woman like to show them off, like they bought and own them.  Why isn't Stuart letting anyone see

Wild Rabbit?"

 Settling back on his bed, hands behind his head, Bobby asked his partner, "What's our next step, then, Cord?"

Walker thought awhile, then replied, "Bobby, we're going to split up for a few days.   I'll make a search even farther west. I'll stop and see Spotted Horse on my way and see if I can get more out him."

Walker continued.  "When I leave, you 'n' I'll spread the word that we think the Indians have moved into far west Texas, or New Mexico, and I'm going to

check on that.  We'll let it be known that you're staying in town, just in case there are any more raids here.  What I want you to do is keep your eyes and ears open, especially about anything that has to do with Stuart.  With luck, thinking there's only one of us here, and that we don't feel there's any more trouble in this area, our crooks will slip up somewhere."

"How long will you be gone, Cord?", Bobby queried.

"I'll meet you back here in four days. If the outfit behind this--and you and I both don't think it's the Comanches--is going to make a move, they'll do it

soon.  Now, let's get some shut-eye: I want to get an early start in the morning."

Walker returned to Van Horn, as promised, four days later.  The big Ranger and Amigo had covered lots of ground, with little result.  Walker was frustrated, tired, and angry. After turning Amigo over to Jose at the livery, Walker went to the Palace, looking for Bobby.

Bobby was not in their room, nor was he in the dining room.  The young Ranger was also not in the saloon.

Since that night at Irish's on Bobby's first assignment, he had never much liked those establishments, but did frequent them when necessary to get information.

Sheriff Cullen said he hadn't conferred with Bobby for two days.  Walker was starting to be concerned.  Sunny was still in his stall at the livery stable, so Bobby hadn't left town, at least by his own will.

Walker decided to go question Jose at the livery, on the off chance Bobby had used another mount for some reason. 

"Jose," he questioned the lad at the stable, "has my partner left town at all in the past few days?"

"No, Senor; but, he did tell me, if he was not at your hotel, to let you know he would be back this evening, and that he may have some news."

"Bueno, Jose, Muchos Gracias," Walker replied, tossing the stable boy a silver dollar.  Mentally, he made a note that this young Mexican lad perhaps could be an ally if needed. 

Much relieved, Walker went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and had a quick supper.  He then settled into an overstuffed chair in the lobby, awaiting his

son and Ranger partner.

It was after nine o'clock, and Walker was again Getting somewhat worried.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Bobby entered the lobby.

Seeing Walker, Bobby called out, "Cord, glad you're back, let's get some supper!"  Walker knew from the look on the young Ranger's face that he had news... news that wouldn't keep.  Yet, Bobby was savvy enough to act as if nothing had happened, that he was just glad to see his partner.

"Bobby, I already ate, but you grab some chow, and I'll get some coffee with you." Walker responded.

Over ham, peas, and boiled potatoes, the two Rangers talked over everything and nothing.  Walker told Bobby the truth, that he had found no further Indian sign.

Spotted Horse had nothing more to give to the Rangers.

"So, Bobby, we're at a dead end." Walker spoke loudly enough for anyone in the vicinity to overhear him.  "I wired headquarters. They want us to hang

around here for awhile longer, anyway.  Now, I'm tired. Let's head upstairs."

After settling in the room, Walker turned to his son and partner. "OK, kid, spill it...before you explode. What'd you find out?"

"Walker, just as you suspected! Stuart's in the gun-running. Jose was cleaning out Sunny's stall, and I was making small talk with him.  He mentioned that Stuart didn't have near as many wagons coming into town as he used to have.  I figured that meant he had another warehouse somewhere.  I followed him today, and, sure enough, he's got another place about two

miles out of town.   I'm late gettin' back 'cause I had to follow him on foot, stayin' out of sight.  Good thing he was takin' his time."

"Great work, Bobby; anything else?"

"Yeah, plenty Cord- I spotted an Indian woman at the other place. Must be Wild Rabbit. And, this is just a hunch, but she didn't look happy to be there."

Bobby paused, then continued. "Cord, here's the best part.  I got a chance to check out the place after Stuart left." Answering the question in Walker's eyes, he added, "No, I wasn't seen. I'm sure of that. Anyway, there's all sorts of empty crates in that depot.  No proof, but they look like rifle boxes to me.  And, Jose told me that three important-looking gents show up here once a month or so and meet with Stuart.  They should be here this week."

"Bobby, are you sure we can trust Jose?" Walker wanted to know.

"Cord, as sure as I'd trust any young boy, I'd trust Jose. Stuart treats him bad. Don't ask me why--it's just a gut feeling--but I think Jose's on our side."

"Good work, Bobby...you may have just broken this case.  Now, all we need to do, at least for the moment, is hang around a few days like we're waiting

on word from Austin. But, you can be sure, when those three 'gents' arrive, we'll be in a spot to hear every word of their meeting."

Three days later, Josh Maxwell, Marty Stannard, and "Chalky" Chalker arrived in Van Horn.  They checked into the Palace, and met briefly with Hobie Stuart in the hotel's saloon.  Their movements were carefully, but discreetly, observed, in turns, by Texas Rangers Cordell Walker and Bobby Cahill Walker.

The careful scrutiny proved fruitful, for the Rangers found out there would be a meeting of the four the next evening, at 9:00 PM, at Hobie Stuart's main

office.

Taking a leisurely ride out of town, Walker and Bobby, knowing they were out of sight or earshot of any casual observer, discussed their findings.

"Cord, awful funny time for a meeting...at least, one that's not a dinner affair."

"True, Bobby, but let's think this through.  It'll be dark shortly after 9:00. That makes it hard for snoopers.  Besides, Stuart being the big man in this town, no one will question him.  Now, I've already scouted out Stuart's office.  There's a spot in the side alley where I can sit under his window, and hear every word.  I'll want you to keep watch from the back alley, in case anyone comes up on us."

The two partners rode slowly back to Van Horn, plans set to spring the trap that would hopefully bring peace back to West Texas.

Following Bobby's gut instinct, Walker talked to Jose, the stable boy.  While Bobby could watch the back of the alley, someone was still needed to watch the Main Street end.  As Walker still did not trust Sheriff Cullen enough to confide in that officer, he entrusted Jose with that task. 

"Senor Walker, I would be honored to assist you, if it means an end to all these killings", was Jose's prompt response.

Observing from the porch of the Palace, Walker and Bobby waited until all four members of the group were in Hobie Stuart's office.  The Rangers then separated, Walker going through the Palace and out the rear entrance.  Bobby swung by the livery, as if to check on the horses.  Jose leaned casually against the wall of the gunsmith's shop next to the alley, as if he were just taking a break from his duties.

Ten minutes later, Bobby and Walker met at the back entrance to the alley. "Bobby, keep a sharp lookout", Walker warned his young partner.  "Anything looks suspicious, whistle once; I'll come runnin'."

Perched on a box, Walker listened intently to the conversation in Stuart's office.

Marty Stannard, a fat, black-haired, stout-necked hombre, spoke first. "Stuart, you've done a fine job so far. Now, in four days, we'll make our move.  After that, no one will want to be within 25 miles of Sierra

Colorado Canyon."

Josh Maxwell, red-haired, hazel eyes, chimed in, "Stuart, what about those two Rangers that are hangin' around?"

"No problem. They think the Indians have moved on. They'll be pullin’ out in a day or two."

"Chalky" Chalker, the last of the trio, spoke harshly. He was a killer by nature, tall, sandy-haired, with chilling gray eyes, and slim hips, on which two Colts were hung low.  "Well, boys," he drawled, "If they aren't out of here by day after t'morra, I knows how to handle them," he stated flatly, patting the butts of his Colts.

 The other three nodded agreement. 

"Now", started Maxwell, "let's go over our plans one more time, to be sure there's no slip-ups.  After today, we can't be seen in town until we make our

move."

As Maxwell continued, a scream of agony came from Main Street, near the alley entrance.  At the same moment, as Bobby instinctively turned toward the

alley, a blinding light and searing pain shot through his skull, as the barrel of a Colt slashed viciously on his temple.  The young Ranger went down as if pole-axed.

An instant later, as Cordell Walker listened to the meeting, he felt the sharp stab of a Colt barrel in his back.  "Reach, Mister, and no funny stuff. Now, unbuckle that gun-belt, slow and easy-like." Walker, having no choice with a .45 in his back, raised his hands.  His captor ordered him, "OK, bud, through that door", indicating a back entrance to Stuart's warehouse.

As Walker entered the warehouse, the outlaw behind him smashed the butt of his pistol on the top of Walker's skull, sending the big Ranger crashing to the floor.

Cordell Walker slowly came back to consciousness. His hands were tied behind his back, and his feet were also tied.  His head was pounding, and there was lump the size of a small grapefruit on the top of his skull.

Slowly gathering his faculties, the Ranger looked around, as best he could from his cramped position, lying on his side.  He was in a dimly lit room,

apparently a back storeroom in Hobie Stuart's freight warehouse. 

There was a guard in the room, one of Stuart's teamsters.  He was a rough-looking individual, swarthy and dark, muscularly built.

Glancing around as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Walker spotted Bobby.  The boy was also tied and lying on his side.  His blonde hair was matted

with dried blood, and there was a streak of blood from his left temple to his jaw.  Walker realized, to his horror, that he could not ascertain if his son was still breathing.. He thought he could see Bobby's chest rising and sinking shallowly, but he could not be positive.  The younger Ranger's countenance was a pallid, sickly white.

As Walker tried to flop over, so he could attempt to reach Bobby, he was stopped by a sharp kick to his ribs. Looking up, Walker saw the guard looming over him. "You ain't goin' nowhere, Ranger", the teamster snarled.  Walker, sick from the blow on his head, and the kick from the guard, passed out again.

When Walker came to again, Stuart, Maxwell, Stannard, and Chalker had all entered the room.

Chalker was stooped over the prone figure of Bobby. He straightened up, and, turning to his partners, remarked,  "Well, this one's still breathin'...for

now, anyway."

Involuntarily, Walker let out a sigh of relief.  This drew the four outlaws' attention.  Chalker strode over to where Cordell was lying.  He used the toe of his boot to cruelly roll the Ranger onto his back.

"Walker, I'm glad I trusted my gut.  You see, my partners here really believed they had you fooled, and that you were leaving town.  I'm not that stupid. I had two of my men follow you tin-stars from the hotel. Not too bright of you to use that Mexican kid for a guard. Well, Mex's are used to dying by the knife, anyway."

Walker grew sick at the thought of the young Mexican stable boy being knifed to death.

Stuart picked up where Chalker left off. "Ranger, by this time tomorrow, you won't have to worry about any more Comanche troubles."  Turning back to his

partners, he ordered, "Let's go out front and finish our plans; you, too, Cody", he added to the guard. "These two jaspers ain't goin' anywhere."

Shortly after the group left, the door to the Rangers' prison opened, and a small figure slipped silently into the room.  The figure bent over Bobby,

but, after ascertaining the young Ranger was still unconscious, the figure approached Walker.

Looking closely to see if Walker were awake, the figure spoke when it saw the Ranger's eyes opened slightly.

In poor English, she said. "Ranger, I am Wild Rabbit. Have you been to my people?"  When Walker nodded in the affirmative, she continued, "Did Spotted

Horse speak of me?"

Walker replied, "He told me you had abandoned your tribe."

Bowing her head, the Indian woman replied, "I am ashamed to say it is true. I was vain, and Stuart tricked me, and many of our young Braves. He told us he would help our tribe to gain many riches. Instead, he took us to a valley of fire, and then brought me here, to work for him. Now, I must go, before I am

found."

Walker fixed Wild Rabbit's eyes with his, as steadily as he could manage. "Wild Rabbit, do you wish to help your people?"

The woman replied, "I would do anything to erase this shame from my heart. I am planning on running away from here shortly, and to go to Spotted Horse,

and beg his forgiveness."

Walker continued his questioning. "Where are the young Braves who joined with Stuart?"

"I fear I do not know." was Wild Rabbit's reply.

Walker knew the situation was desperate.  As Sheriff Cullen was not among the group at Stuart's, Walker took a chance. "Wild Rabbit, you must try to help us, and your people.  As quickly as you can, leave here, and go to the sheriff.  Tell him what you have seen here."

Suddenly, the door to the room burst open, to reveal Chalky Chalker, and Cole, the guard.  Striding across to Wild Rabbit, the pasty gunslinger slapped her across the face.  "Squaw, what the &*^^$ do you think you're doin' in here? GIT...NOW!!"  Turning to Walker, he growled, "Don't do you no good to talk to anyone, let aloned a #^$$%$ squaw, Ranger.  By tomorrow night, you and your partner will be coyote bait!!!"  With that, Chalker brought the barrel of his Colt down on Walker's head, once more sending the Ranger into blackness.

After closing the door to the chamber holding the two Rangers prisoner, leaving Cody behind as guard, Chalker returned to the rest of the outlaw gang.

Glaring at his partners, the gunslinger spoke, in a voice that would brook no argument.  "Listen, all of you. We've got to leave tonight. All of us. I know

that's a day early, but we've got to get rid of those two snoopin' Rangers on our way."

Marty Stannard spoke up. "Why not just finish off here, and be done with it?"  As he spoke, he pulled a Bowie knife from the sheath on his belt.

Chalker spat back, "No! Those hombres are mine...and I've got real special plans for them.  Now, we pull out in an hour."

Despite Chalker's orders, the rest of the gang argued with him for a time, not noticing that Wild Rabbit had slipped out.

The light was still on in Sheriff Bill Cullen's office.  Wild Rabbit, keeping to the shadows, reached the office, and entered.  Cullen, half asleep behind

his desk, jumped at her entrance.

"What d'ya want, Squaw?"  He asked her, roughly.  The sheriff did nothing to hide his contempt for Indians.

"Sheriff, you must come help.  The two Rangers are captives at the Stuart house." 

Snorting, unbelieving, the slow-witted sheriff retorted, "Why should I believe a %^&^&* squaw?"

"Because it is true. I have been several moons at the Stuart house...and tonight, this is what I have seen...."

Wild Rabbit then recounted the events of the evening to Sheriff Cullen, concluding, "...and the red-beard Ranger asked me to come to you."

"Well, I still don't believe 'ya", Cullen answered. "In fact, I'm puttin' you in a cell here until I find out what's goin' on."  With that, he grabbed the

struggling Wild Rabbit, forcing her into the jail's only cell.

Jose, the stable boy, had been watching the front of the alley next to Stuart's as Walker had requested, when a flashing blade out of the darkness cut him down.  Rough hands then dragged the boy into the alley, hiding his body behind a pile of trash.

"That takes care of that $%%%^ Mex", Clay Banks said to another of Stuart's teamsters, Tate Holcomb. "And the Rangers will be taken care of, too. Now, let's get a drink."

After a long interval, the pile of trash moved slightly.  Jose, bleeding profusely, staggered out of the alley, then collapsed in the road. Slowly,

painfully, inch by tortured inch, the lad dragged himself to the only place he thought there might be help, the sheriff's office.  Finally reaching the

door, he reached up. opened it slightly, using every ounce of strength he had remaining, and dragged himself into the office.

Sheriff Bill Cullen had only a few moments before placed Wild Rabbit in custody. Now, he stared wide-eyed at the Mexican youth dying on his floor.

"Jose, who did this to you?"

"Senor sheriff, I do not know.  The big Ranger, Walker, asked me to watch the alley at Stuart's warehouse tonight. While I did so, someone in the darkness threw ......" Jose, weakening rapidly, stopped here. 

"Jose, don't quit!" Cullen shouted.

"Sheriff...a knife.  The Rangers are at Stuart's. I fear for  them...Please...go and....." Here the lad groaned, convulsed with blood issuing from his mouth, and died.

Cullen turned to Wild Rabbit "If this lad was right, I owe you an apology, Squaw.  But, for now, I'll leave you here in that cell. It'll be a whole lot safer for you."  With that, the stocky sheriff buckled on his gun belt, and

headed for the Hobie Stuart Freight and Express Company.

As Cullen arrived, going around to the rear of the warehouse, he observed several horses and riders emerging from the gloom.  Two of the horses appeared to be pack animals.  Cullen yelled, "Stuart, stop! I want to talk to you!!"

Several Colts spat flame and smoke, and Sheriff Bill Cullen was driven backwards and fell, dead in his tracks, shot to pieces.

Cordell Walker slowly became aware of warmth on his back and was aware of motion.  Slowly, he realized that he was belly-down over the back of a horse.

Fighting his pounding head, the Ranger opened his eyes slightly, and noted with grim satisfaction that he was lashed to the back of his personal mount,

Amigo. That fact was small comfort, though, as he was securely tied hand and foot to his stirrups, and Amigo was being led by the guard, Cody, who was mounted on a rangy Bay.

Carefully, not wanting the galoots to know he had come to, Walker strained to see whatever he could.  He observed--again with relief, but with little comfort-- that Bobby was also tied belly-down over his saddle, and that the young Ranger was tied to his mount, Sunny.   The boy's head was so matted with blood that his blonde hair was stuck flat on his scalp, rather than hanging down. Another outlaw--mounted on an Appaloosa--whom Walker didn't recognize, but who was Clay Banks, Jose's killer, led Sunny.

Walker sighed to himself in relief, thinking, "Well, Bobby must still be alive or these sidewinders wouldn't have bothered to drag him along."

The sun had barely risen when Walker first felt its warmth.  It was now getting higher and warmer. The outlaws had travelled hard and fast in the dark, and were many miles from Van Horn.

Walker tried to make a mental note of the direction of travel. The group seemed to be headed almost due west.  After what seemed hours, but which in reality was a much shorter time, Walker again lapsed into unconsciousness.

Shortly thereafter, Walker was again jolted back to life by the sudden stopping of his horse.  "This is the end of the line for those two!" Chalky Chalker snorted. "By tonight, Texas will have two less Rangers."

Walker watched helplessly, through slitted eyes, as Bobby's hands and feet were untied, and the youngster was dumped on the ground like a sack of grain.  To Walker's consternation, Bobby didn't make a sound as he hit the earth, indicating he was, clearly, gravely hurt.  

Next, Walker received the same treatment.  While he tried to keep feigning unconsciousness, the impact with the ground forced a grunt out of the big Ranger. As he lay there, trussed and helpless, a rough hand skinned back his right eyelid.  Studying Walker's eye, the Mescalero Apache who had opened the lid grunted, "This one awake."

Chalky Chalker looked at Walker, and sneered, "Tougher than I thought; well, no matter: you'll die slow, anyway, and so will your partner."

Walker made a mistake, then.  Overcome with pain and sickness, weakened from the blows to his head and the travel, the Ranger, always in control under pressure, became overcome with emotion at the thought of losing his son.  All he could think of was some way to get Bobby home to Alex, at least.

 Looking up at the pasty-faced killer, Walker asked, "Look, Chalker: You don't need two hostages. That boy over there is my son.  Do whatever you want with me, but let him go."

Chalker laughed, harshly, and spat in Walker's face. "Your boy, eh? Well, that is rich.  You can watch him, as you both die together."

Walker, realizing his slip, cursed himself mentally for giving the gang such an opening.

Turning to Josh Maxwell, Chalker, obviously in charge of the gang, at least for the moment, ordered his crony, "Bring your canteen over here."  After

Maxwell did so, Chalker poured its contents over Bobby's face.  The cold water brought him around.

Chalker had Maxwell and Stannard drag Bobby next to his father.  Bobby was obviously in great pain, but was fully awake.  He looked at Walker, and murmured, "Sorry, Cord- I let'em sneak up on me when I heard that cry."

Walker responded, "It's OK, Son; they got the drop on me, too."  The entire gang was gathered around the two lawmen, helpless in the outlaws' clutches.

Chalker kicked Bobby in the ribs. "Well, ain't that sweet?"  Then squatting so he could look both Rangers directly in the eye, he snarled. "Enough palaverin'; it's time to get to business."

To Bobby, he sneered, "I hear you're Walker's son.  He begged me to let you go." Bobby shot Walker a glance, which Walker couldn't return. Chalker

continued. "Anyway, it's no dice.  You're both going to die here together, nice and slow."

Chalker stood up, and continued. "Kid", he said to Bobby, "You ever hear what the Apaches can do with fresh rawhide?  I doubt it, but I know your old man

there does...don't you, Walker?"  Walker nodded a slow affirmation, hatred in the Ranger's eyes for a man who would resort to such torture.

The gunslinger continued. "The Apache take four stakes, and four strips of untanned rawhide.  They'll tie a man real tight by his wrist and ankles to the stakes with that rawhide, out in the sun.  As the hide dries, it shrinks, and slowly but surely it pulls the man's joints out of their sockets.  If it's done just right, his limbs might even come off, pullin' him to pieces. Now, Red Wolf there", indicating the Apache who had opened Walker's eyes, "is a real expert at this. And that's what we have in store for you two

#%^&&^$$)(*"

If Chalker had hoped to get a reaction of terror out of the young Ranger, he was badly mistaken.  Weakly, through gritted teeth, Bobby retorted, "It'll never happen. One way or another, we'll get out of this, and hunt you down!"  Walker looked at his son, a fierce look of pride in the big Ranger's eyes.

Turning to Walker, Bobby told his partner, "Cord, I know you were only trying to help me, and were thinking of Mom.  But, we took on this assignment together, and we'll stick it out until the end."

That remark enraged Chalker and the rest.  He quickly had Red Wolf stake out the two lawmen.

After staking out the Walker and Bobby in the hot sun, the gang prepared to depart.  However, Walker called out to Chalky Chalker. "Hey, Chalker, seeing as we're going to die, anyway, would you do me one last favor?"

Sneering, the outlaw replied, "Sure, Ranger: one last wish for a dead man, eh? What the  %$%^ do you want?"

"Just out of curiosity, tell me what this is all about."

Sure, Ranger, since you're a dead man anyway; won't do no harm.  But I'll let Maxwell tell you that tale."

"Well, Ranger, it's this way. Sierra Colorado Canyon is loaded with copper.  Hobie 'n' I discovered the ore when we were huntin' up that way.  Problem is, we can't get title to the land."

Looking at Maxwell, Walker filled in, "So Stuart convinced some of Spotted Horse's tribe that you were their friends, and got them to start raids."

Stuart broke in then, "Close, Ranger, but not quite. We got some of his Braves to leave, but we wanted no part of them helpin' us. So we took those no-good redskins up to Penasco Peak."

Walker broke in, "They still there?"  

"Nope, we did need some Indians, but not Spotted Horse's band.  We've got a bunch of Mescaleros working with us.  They were more than happy to kill off the Comanches for us."

"Knew you pulled that stunt: those arrows that killed Monroe and Kincaid were Mescalero, not Commanchee."

Chalker added, "Knew you were smart enough to figure that out, Ranger...but it won't do you any good now."

Walker chipped in, "And when they do your dirty work, you'll kill the Mescaleros."

"Naturally", retorted Stuart, for Red Wolf was out of earshot.   "Now that we've got you Rangers out of the way, and with Cullen dead (Walker gave a start at this news, for one avenue of hope was now gone), we'll start our little war party day after t'morra or so. Then, once we control the territory, we'll drive the Mescaleros back into Mexico."

Chalker finally lost patience.  "Enough talk, we gotta’ get a move on. Just in case you get any ideas, Walker, that rawhide is tight...and Red Wolf will be staying to watch.  Wish we could stay and enjoy the fun, but we don't have time.  Red Wolf has our permission to do whatever he wants with you."

Before leaving, Chalker told the Ranger pair, "Just to make this even more interesting, I'll leave you a few souvenirs.”  He then proceeded to place the

Ranger's canteens, full of water but just out of their reach, next to them.  As a final touch, he placed their battered Stetsons on the ground just above the Rangers' heads.  Then, leading Amigo and Sunny, leaving Red Wolf to watch Walker and Bobby suffer, the gang departed. Shouting over his shoulder, Chalker yelled to the two Rangers, "If you get thirsty or hot, just grab your canteens and your Stetsons!"

Tormented by the blazing sun, mouths dry as cotton, beaten and bleeding, and in agony from the slowly tightening rawhide bindings, the two Texas Rangers,

Cordell and Bobby Walker, father and son, awaited Death in the west Texas desert.

As the gang of killers rode west, Bobby turned to his father, cursing for the first time in his life. "Cord, what the %$#$$$ made you think you could make

me leave you here?  I thought you had more respect for me than that!"

Walker tried to meet Bobby's gaze, but couldn't quite meet his son's piercing blue eyes.  "Bobby, I'm only human...just like any other Dad, I don't want to

see you die. Plus, I thought perhaps at least one of us could get home to your Mother.  I must have still been half under from the beating.  You're a Ranger, and will be until the end.  I was wrong, son, and I apologize."

Bobby, a little ashamed at his outburst, answered, "Cord, I'm sorry for jumpin' on you like that.  I know you were thinking of me and Mom.  But, how could I ever face her, or my fellow Rangers, if they knew I ran out on you? No...we'll play this hand out together."

Walker looked away from his son, for he did not wish the youngster to see the tears of pride rolling down his cheeks.

Red Wolf came over to the Rangers then.  Kicking them both in the ribs, he grunted, "No Talk!"

Walker looked the Mescalero straight in the eyes. "Red Wolf, those men you are with speak to your people with a forked tongue.  They plan to kill you as soon as you drive the innocent settlers out of their homes."

Walker received no response. Thinking perhaps the Mescalero spoke less English than it seemed, Walker repeated the statement, in Mescalero Apache.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, the two Rangers, spread-eagled and tied by rawhide to the stakes binding their wrists and ankles, suffered greatly.  They did not speak further, for doing so only brought more blows from Red Wolf. 

The blazing sun, beside tormenting the two with its blistering rays, also slowly but surely shrunk the rawhide strips, causing ever more agony to the

Ranger's bodies.  Their tongues were starting to swell, making swallowing--if they had had any saliva to swallow--almost impossible.  To add to the torture, their canteens and Stetsons were just out of reach.

Bobby, turning his head to try and avoid some of the sun, noted Red Wolf starting a fire.  The Mescalero appeared to have some metallic objects near the blaze.

"Walker, why is that Indian building a fire in this heat?"

Walker knew the answer, but refused to give Bobby the truth.

"Must be a cooking fire, Bobby.  He'll get to eat, even if we don't."  Walker did not want to tell his partner that the metal objects that Red Wolf was

handling were thin needles, meant to be heated and rammed under the Rangers' fingernails, to bedevil the dying pair even further.

Walker, glancing at his son as best he could through sun-swollen eyelids, realized the boy was becoming delirious.  He prayed that Bobby, at least, would soon slip into unconsciousness, relieving the boy's suffering.

Red Wolf stalked over to the two helpless captives. Squatting next to Walker, he muttered, "Irons almost ready. I will use them on your boy first, so I can let you, Red-Beard, watch him scream."

Walker knew any protest on his part would only prolong Bobby's--and therefore Walker's--agony. He just glared at his tormentor.

Bobby had started to mumble deliriously.  He was calling incoherently for Alex and Jana. Even though he had met the young lady only briefly, for a few visits, he was smitten with her.

Walker thought he saw, on the ridge above the swale where they were imprisoned, a slight movement.  He blinked his eyes, and shook his head to clear the cobwebs.  No, it was just a mirage. Perhaps he too was becoming unhinged under the strain of the rawhide and the thought of seeing his son tortured to death.

Again, the big Ranger thought he saw movement.  He forced the thought out of his mind, trying desperately to think of any way out of the Rangers' predicament.

Walker had not even noticed that Red Wolf was standing over Bobby with the heated needles.  A groan from the young Ranger caught Walker's ear.  He turned to look in Bobby's direction as Red Wolf lifted one of Bobby's arms, a red-hot needle at the ready, to be jammed under one of the youngsters' nails, to be quickly followed by others.

Suddenly, the Mescalero dropped Bobby's arm, and stumbled backwards, a look of astonished terror on his face.  The Indian tried to get up and run, but stumbled again. He rose one more time, turning in confusion and fear back

toward the captives.  Walker heard a thunder of hooves, and an angry equine scream, as Amigo, thundering down the ridge, reared up, and Red Wolf

died under the Paint's flashing hooves.

Walker passed out for a moment.  Then, he was awakened by the insistent licking of a huge pink tongue across his tormented face.

At first, the big Ranger couldn't grasp what had happened.  As Walker gradually gained some control of his senses back, he looked around.

Bobby had passed out, and did not even realize his faithful cayuse, Sunny, was standing over him, nickering softly to his downed rider.  Red Wolf, or

what was left of him, lay crushed in the sand. Amigo had caved in the Indian's skull with one powerful blow of his front hoof, and then, without Walker to stop him, the big gelding trampled the man who had tormented his human partner, bringing his hooves down on Red Wolf, over and over.

After a moment of elation, Walker realized that he and Bobby were still in grave danger. The pair was still bound by the rawhide and stakes.  Bobby had,

mercifully, passed out.

Amigo was still licking and nickering to Walker. His voice almost gone, Walker spoke, in a sound that was more of a croak than human speech, to his cayuse. "Amigo, boy, untie the knots."  The big horse lifted his head, then resumed nuzzling Walker. "$$^^", Walker thought to himself. "why didn't I let Jim teach Amigo a couple of Yankee's tricks?"  Jim had taught Yank how to untie knots, strictly as a joke at first. More than once, when Jim and Walker had been riding partners, Jim had sent Yankee to untie Amigo, much to the

consternation of Walker.

As Amigo kept nuzzling, Walker tossed his head at the horse.  Finally, as if realizing what was holding Walker, the Paint started pawing at the stake binding the Ranger's left hand.

"That's it, Boy, keep going!"  Walker encouraged his mount.  With sudden, renewed hope, Walker pulled as best he could against his restraints.

Amigo stopped, then resumed again.  Walker strained against the bindings.  Suddenly, his left hand was free!!!  With his last remaining strength, Walker

reached over and yanked the right stake out of the ground.  Sitting up, he quickly loosed his feet.  Amigo gave a whinny of triumph, long and loud.

Walker, too weak to stand, crawled as quickly as he could over to his unconscious son.  As rapidly as his tortured limbs would allow, he pulled out the stakes holding Bobby.  Then, grabbing one of the canteens, he poured part of its contents over Bobby's face.  The liquid, almost scalding hot from the sun, still had the desired effect.  Bobby sputtered and looked at Cord, weakly.  "Don't move, son", Walker implored. "Take a few sips."  Walker held the canteen to the youngster's cracked lips.

After Bobby had taken a few sips, Walker placed the rim to his own, forcing himself to slowly sip the life-giving fluid.  Then, turning to Bobby, he

ordered, "Son, we have to make the shade of that mesquite bush. Can you crawl over there?"  Bobby nodded in the affirmative, helped slightly by a nudge

in the ribs from Sunny.

Grabbing the other canteen, Walker, followed by Bobby, crawled painfully over to the shade of the thin bushes.  There was a small spring and water hole

there.  The two Rangers cooled their faces in the refreshing water, and drank slowly, but deeply.  

The worst of their immediate danger was over. Now, there was work to be done.

Dehydrated, exhausted, and weakened by their ordeal, the two Rangers, father and son, lay in the shade of the mesquite for a good while.

Bobby spoke first, "Cord, what happened?"  Walker had to explain to his son how Amigo had come to their rescue, for Bobby had, thankfully as far as Walker was concerned, been passed out for a good while before the horses showed up. 

"Knew Sunny 'n' Amigo would never stay with those jaspers," Bobby stated, emphatically.

"Good thing for us they didn't, Son", was Walker's grateful response.  Then, the pair lapsed into a long silence again.

Finally, Walker, voice still cracking, spoke to Bobby. "Son, how are you feeling? How soon do you think we can ride?"

With the exuberance of youth, Bobby exclaimed, "I'll get the horses right now!" Walker had to chuckle, for reality set in, as Bobby tried to rise. "Ow!!" the youngster exclaimed, "my head's worse than that night at Irish's."  Bobby had never forgotten the lesson of his first, and last, drunken escapade.

"No, Bobby, I didn't mean tonight. Sundown's in a couple of hours, so we wouldn't get far, anyhow. And speaking of that head, let me check that gash."

Walker tore off a piece of his shirt tail, and, using the water from the spring, carefully cleaned the gash, Bobby wincing as he did so.  "Well, Bobby, it's deep, but not bleeding again, at least not too badly."

Walker took another piece of shirt tail and fashioned a rough bandage around the young Ranger's head.

"Bobby, we'll rest tonight, and start early tomorrow.  Those #$$##%% weren't worryin' about anybody followin' them, so they'll be easy to trail.  Only problem is, we have no guns or ammunition."

Bobby suddenly exclaimed,  "Oh yes we do, Cord; wait here."  With the natural vitality of a 20-year-old, Bobby was rapidly regaining strength. 

Bobby returned shortly, with Amigo and Sunny, who were just outside the brush. "Cord, look!  Those idiots left us our Winchesters, and our saddlebags."

"Bobby, I should have thought of that--they were taking our mounts--no need for them to unsaddle 'em and take the equipment.  Those galoots thought they

could just waltz away."

Now eager to go, Bobby replied to Walker, "Don't go anywhere."

Chuckling, Walker replied, "Like where do you think I'd go?"

Bobby dashed off (as best as he could, still being weak), grabbing the Rangers' Stetsons from the ground. He returned, leading Red Wolf's mustang. And there, hanging from the saddle horn, were the Ranger's gunbelts and Colt .45s.

"Cord, they must have promised these to Red Wolf in payment for killing us."

"Well, Son, that’s sure another break for us.  Red Wolf won't need 'em, that's for sure."

Bobby had placed his crushed Stetson on his head, and now tossed Walker's to his father.  Studying the caved-in crown, Walker smiled, ruefully.  Then, eyeing Bobby's Stetson, he laconically remarked. "Bobby, always knew I had a thick skull.  From the looks of your hat, you must have one just as thick."

"Cord, what'll we do with Red Wolf, and his horse?"

"Well, Bobby, Amigo didn't leave enough of Red Wolf to do anything with...and, after what he did to us, I'm inclined to let the buzzards have him, anyway.  At least he'll be some good to somethin'." As if in answer, Amigo whinnied triumphantly. "As for his horse, just turn it loose.  There's plenty of wild herds in this area, and he'll hook up with one quick enough."

"Now, Son, except for food, we're in pretty good shape.  We've got our guns and ammunition, and our horses are fairly well rested.  We'll get a good

night's sleep, and start after those hombres at first light."

Forcefully, Bobby responded, "And we're not quittin' until every last one of 'em is dead or behind bars!!"

Before sun-up the next morning, the two battered but determined Rangers were on the trail of the Stuart gang, leaving behind the remains of Red Wolf, and the site of their near-demise.

As Walker had promised, the tracking was easy.  The outlaws, knowing Sheriff Cullen was dead back in Van Horn, and believing the Ranger pursuit ended, were taking their time, and leaving plenty of signs.

As they rode, the four outlaw leaders were congratulating themselves for outsmarting the Texas Rangers.

"Would've loved to stay with Red Wolf", Chalky Chalker commented. "Bet those Rangers' eyes bugged out real big before they died."

Hobie Stuart responded, "Yeah, too bad about losing their horses, though.  I told Cody to tie 'em tight but the fool didn't listen.  Well, considerin' what we'll be gaining, those broncs are a small loss. Sure were good-lookin' hosses, though."

Little did the gang know how great a loss of Amigo and Sunny would prove to be, to their murderous plans.

Walker had been carefully studying the outlaws' tracks all afternoon.  While Bobby had developed into a fine tracker, he was glad for the opportunity to

ride with his dad again, for Walker was the best tracker in the Rangers, and Bobby could always learn a little more from him.

As it was getting toward nightfall, Walker turned in his saddle and instructed Bobby, "Looks like a small oasis up ahead.  We're only a couple of hours behind that gang. Wouldn't do to run up on 'em in the dark. We'll camp here for the night."

Bobby was pleased, for he was still suffering from the ordeal under Red Wolf.

There was plenty of grass for the horses, and a cool spring.

Dismounting, Walker wisecracked, "Bobby, it's times like these I wish I was a horse."

Puzzled, Bobby questioned his dad "Why, Cord?" 

"Cause they've got plenty to eat, while all we'll have tonight are empty bellies.  We can't take a chance on shootin' a deer or jackrabbit, for those

coyotes might hear the shot."  For emphasis, Walker added, "And I don't mean the ones with four legs, either."

"Well, Cord, just tighten your belt one more notch." Bobby answered.  Then, unable to resist, he tossed in, "You were gettin' a mite plump around the middle, anyway."

In response, Walker tossed the remains of his battered Stetson in the youngster's direction.  Chuckling, with nothing to do, and still needing rest, the two compadres rolled in their blankets. 

Just before falling asleep, under a blanket of a million stars, Walker added, "Son, by this time, day after t'morra, this'll all be over.  Then, we'll both

head back to Alex."

The next morning, the two hungry Ranger partners made good time gaining on their quarry.

About one o'clock, Walker reined to a stop.

"Bobby, that canyon sounds like the one I heard those jaspers talkin' about at Stuart's just before my lights went out.  See that ridge over there?  We'll take our field glasses and scout up there. Unless I miss my guess, we should be able to get a good view of what we're up against."

Picketing Amigo and Sunny in a spot well-hidden by brush and rocks, Walker and Bobby carefully made their way up the ridge.

Nearing the top, cover got thinner.  Flattening themselves on their bellies, the Rangers painstakingly made their way to the top of the ridge.

Looking through his field glasses, Walker let out a low whistle. 

"Bobby, see that arroyo that bears left?"

"Yeah, Cord."

"Well, I just saw our friends head in there. Looks like they'll be pulling out tomorrow."

"How d'you figure that, Cord?"

"Well, they had a timetable, accordin' to what I picked up at the warehouse.  Day after tomorrow, the raids start. Look, to the right."

Bobby looked through his glasses. "About 15 Mescaleros, Cord."

"That's about right, Son- and, they've got their war paint on...and that fire is a war council fire. Stuart and his pals have them primed for a fight.  Well, tomorrow, they'll get one, but on our terms, not theirs."

Walker studied the terrain for awhile. Satisfied, he motioned his son to retreat back to the horses.

Once back in camp, the senior Ranger discusssed his strategy with his younger partner.

"Bobby, it'll be a tough fight, but we can beat these dumb galoots."

Memory of his torture fresh in his mind, Bobby retorted, "After what they did to us, I'm looking forward to slingin' a little lead their way."

Walker smiled thinly, then continued.  "The terrain is in our favor.  We can use those banks near the entrance to the arroyo, where the canyon splits, to

bottle the whole outfit up.  Then, if they don't surrender, and we know they won't, we can hold 'em off for days and picking em’ off as we go. We can keep forcin' 'em back into the canyon.  I don't think we'll need to, though. Those Mescaleros will keep chargin', no matter what.  We'll just have to pick 'em off. I'm not sure about the whites.  They may hang back for awhile but I have a feeling that, except maybe for Chalker, when the heat's on they'll break and run."

The two Rangers spent the rest of the day refining their strategy and rechecking guns and ammunition. Then, they hit the sack, anticipating the end of the Stuart gang and the Indians raids once and for all.

It was what Walker hoped would be the final day of the campaign to end the Indian raids in far west Texas.  The two Rangers had awoken to a beautiful day. However, both knew, in a few hours, the mood would change, and they would be in the deadliest battle of their lives.

The partners, with no food, filled their canteens from the spring and mounted up.  As they approached the outlaw headquarters, Bobby remarked to his father, "Cord, sure is a beautiful day, and pretty territory.  One day, you 'n' I will have to bring Mom to this end of Texas."

Walker smiled appreciatively at Bobby's enthusiasm for the Lone Star State. "We will for sure Bobby, but right now let's concentrate on what needs doin'." The senior Ranger went on, "As we planned last night, we'll go after the whites first.  With any luck, if we take care of them, the Mescaleros will realize they've lost their money and gun source, and will take off to

the cliffs at the back of that right side arroyo.  Then, we can pick 'em off easy. I doubt it, though: Mescaleros are second only to Comanches when it comes to being tough, smart warriors."

The two riders lapsed into silence then, as they reached the mouth of the canyon containing their adversaries.  Walker's and Bobby's faces fixed in grim determination.  Soon, the battle would be on.

Walker would have preferred to leave the horses behind, and proceed on foot.  However, the distances inside the canyon were too great, and the Rangers

needed the mobility Amigo and Sunny would provide.

Approaching the left fork, where Stuart and his gang had their headquarters, Walker spotted Cody, the teamster, guarding the entrance.  There was not enough cover to sneak up on the guard. 

Walker, still mounted on Amigo, withdrew his Bowie knife from its sheath.  With all the power in his arm, he flung the knife at Cody.  The big blade pierced the teamster's heart, and he fell where he stood, soundlessly.

Retrieving the knife, Walker returned to his son. "Well, Bobby, that's one down, and about 15 Mescaleros and 8 whites to go."

Walker had chosen, from his survey of the hideout area the day previously, a small rise just before the canyon split. Arriving at the rise, he was pleased to note his instinct and vision had been correct.  It afforded a view of both arroyos, and could be easily defended against an enemy of much greater numbers than the two Rangers.

"Bobby, here's where we make our stand. I know that Stuart and Chalker are pulling the gang out this morning, to start the raids.  All we have to do now is wait."

Dismounting, the two compadres carefully picketed Amigo and Sunny where the cayuses would be safe from flying lead, yet were within easy reach should the

Rangers need them.  Then, father and son took up their positions on the ridge.

About two hours later, Bobby saw the first sign of movement. "Cord, here they come; I see Chalker and Stuart...looks like Maxwell, Stannard and the rest are a little behind them."

"Yeah, Bob, and I see the Mescaleros a little up the trail.  Well, here goes."

In keeping with Ranger code, Walker and Bobby could not kill without giving a chance to surrender. Keeping to a fairly safe spot behind some boulders,

but where he could be seen, Walker hailed the advancing group.

"Stuart! Chalker! Maxwell! Stannard!  This is Cordell Walker, Texas Ranger!!!!  I'm placing you all under arrest for murder, arson, and various other crimes against the citizens of Texas." 

Chalker cursed back  "#%@@^**  Walker!!!! How'd you get away from Red Wolf, you  #%%^&&&?"

"You don't need to know that, Chalker. However, let me just say you never should have let our broncs break loose.  Now, surrender or face the consequences!!!"

In response, Chalker fired a long-range shot at Walker.  The bullet fell far short of its target, but the battle had commenced.

The gang of outlaws and the band of Mescaleros charged the two Rangers.  However, Walker had chosen their positions well, and several Mescaleros and two of the gang were shot from their saddles under Walker's and Bobby's accurate, withering fire with their Winchesters.

Chalker, although not the leader of the Stuart gang, was the savviest fighter.  Seeing the bodies of the first men to fall to the Ranger partners' deadly aim, he shouted to the gang members. "Fall back!!"  Take cover as best you can!!"  The remaining Mescaleros, savage and cunning fighters, were regrouping.  They charged the Rangers again, losing three more of their

number.  However, this charge allowed Chalker, Stuart, and their men to gain the broken ground that would shield them from the Ranger's lead.

Seeing the outlaws make cover, Walker snaked his way over to Bobby's perch.  Bobby, face covered with sweat, and begrimed with gunpowder, smiled widely.

"Guess we're given 'em what-for, eh, Cord?"

Walker forced a grim smile. "So far, so good, Bobby. But, all four leaders are still in there, as are a bunch of the Mescaleros...I had hoped it wouldn't come to this, but we'll have to flush 'em out.  Otherwise, at least some of 'em will get past us in the night... and you can bet four of them will be the top men."

Walker continued, "When we go in there after 'em, we'll be between the gang and the Mescaleros. Bobby, son, are you sure you wouldn't like to get out of

here?" 

"Not a chance, Dad."

"Bueno, knew that's what you'd say, but had to ask. Let's go GIT 'EM!!"

Bobby and Walker retrieved their horses, and galloped full speed into the left side arroyo, Colts smoking.

They threw themselves off their saddles, into the rocky terrain.

Josh Maxwell and Marty Stannard were businessmen--not above cheating and killing--but not in a fair fight.

The pair, panicky, raced their broncs toward the mouth of the arroyo, hoping to break free of the fight. Walker, espying them coming, shouted to Bobby,

"Maxwell's mine, you take Stannard!"  The compadres' Colts fired as one. 

Maxwell, shot through the head from side to side, crashed off his horse, into a mesquite patch.  Stannard, lungs torn by Bobby's lead, slumped in his

saddle, fell forward on his mount's neck, and then rolled onto the ground.

"Here they come, Cord!!" Bobby shouted in warning, as the remaining Mescaleros charged in another determined attack.  The two Rangers were indeed caught between two flanking enemies.  However, their deadly fire again repulsed the Indians.

Again, the battle with the gang members commenced.  Bobby looked, shocked, in Walker's direction, for the big Ranger was running away from the fray. One of

Stuart's teamsters was aiming at Walker.  As Bobby watched, helpless, out of range, Walker suddenly went down.  He then rolled over twice, and came up firing, drilling the teamster right through the belly.

Walker, smiling at his son's expression, called to Bobby, "Bobby, you take Maxwell; I'm going after Chalker."

The two partners advanced.  As they did, the Mescaleros prepared one more charge.

Walker advance upon Chalky Chalker, hidden in behind a boulder.  Chalker fired but missed.  "One last chance, Chalker! Give it up."  In response, the

pasty-faced gunslinger fired wildly at the Ranger.  Walker drew a steady bead and fired, the heavy slug from his revolver taking Chalker in the stomach.

Chalker looked down at the blood on his shirt,  unbelieving, then fell face forward.  Walker turned to help Bobby.

Bobby had found Stuart. "Stuart, this is for everyone you hurt", the young Ranger spat angrily.  As Stuart brought up his pistol, Bobby fired.  His lead

hit the freighter in the upper abdomen, staggering Stuart back against a dirt embankment.  Bobby fired again, hitting Stuart dead center.  The gang leader

slid slowly down the embankment, ending in a sitting position as his legs collapsed, but eyes wide open and glazing in death.

Now, it was just a matter of cleaning up the remaining few outlaws and Mescaleros.  Bobby fought furiously, and it was only a matter of moments that

the leaderless, confused remnants of the gang broke and ran.

For a few moments, in the silence following the vicious fight, Bobby took a breather.  Then, he looked around for Walker.

"Cord!!!" the young Ranger called.  No answer.

"Probably got around the other side of the ridge,"

Bobby thought to himself.  Sunny came up to his friend, and Bobby mounted.  "Cord!!!" the youngster cried again, louder.  Not a sound came from the

arroyo.

Fear rising like bile in his throat, Bobby shouted once again, "Cord, where ARE you?"

Frantic now, Bobby Cahill Walker, Texas Ranger, searched for his Dad and partner, Cordell Walker.

The canyon was littered with the bodies of dead outlaws and Mescaleros.  The remaining few still alive had fled.

Bobby found the body of Chalky Chalker.  He then stumbled over a small ridge.

In the distance, at the bottom of the ridge, Bobby could see Amigo, head hanging, reins dragging.  Bobby urged Sunny up to Walker's mount.

Jumping off Sunny, Bobby ran up to Amigo.  The gelding was whickering softly, looking straight ahead, but with muzzle almost touching the ground.  Bobby

followed the horse's gaze.  There, about fifty feet ahead, lay Cordell Walker, on his left side, knees bent, unmoving.

As Bobby, heart in his throat, raced up to his father, Ben Jenkins' spirit's words flashed through the young Ranger's mind. "Cord needs you, more than

you know.  You will be a great strength to Cord, shortly."

Bobby knelt beside his father and partner.  Walker's hands were tightly grasping the shaft of a Mescalero arrow that protruded from his belly, down low.  The big Ranger's shirt was soaked with his blood, which trickled over his hands and fingers.

Bobby gently rolled Walker onto his back. Walker looked up at his son. 

"Cord, let me pull that arrow out."

Walker raised a hand, weakly. "Won't do no good, Son. If you pull it out, it'll just tear up my insides worse.  Bobby, Son, this is it. I'm done for. There’s no comin' back from this one."

"No, Cord, NO!!"  Bobby screamed.

Calmly, Walker replied. "Bobby, it's my time.  I'll miss you, Son, and especially your mom.  Be sure to tell her over and over for me how much I loved her."

Bobby bowed his head, tears flowing.  Walker continued, "Bobby, it's not that bad: I've had a good life...been a Ranger, had a wonderful wife and son.

And I'll die here, doing what I loved best."

"Cord, there must be something...some way..."

Bobby's voice broke, as he saw a trickle of blood appear at the corner of Walker's mouth.

"No, Bobby, there isn't." Walker stopped, interrupted by a retching cough. "But, Son, please promise me you'll take care of your mother." Gasping,

Walker continued. "And Bobby, marry that Jana; I can tell you love each other, as much as Alex 'n' I love each other.  But, whatever you do, never quit the Rangers. You were meant for them".

"Cord, try to hang on."

"No, Bobby, it's the way it was meant to be. This isn't farewell, Son.  It's just 'Hasta Luego'. We'll meet again, somewhere, someday, you can be sure."

Walker closed his eyes, grimacing in pain.  Reopening them, he smiled at Bobby, a thin smile crossing his face.

The weakening Ranger let out a small chuckle. "Bobby, I just realized somethin'."

"What's that, Dad?" Bobby choked out.

"Look, this time, there's no hole in your shirt. Guess the joke's on me. Must be a good one in the front of my shirt."

"Dad, when we get home, I'll buy you the finest shirts I can find."

"You do that, Bobby.  Son, get me a fancy red one.  Your mom always did ..... did....... favor....... re...."

Cordell Walker's eyes closed as he took his final breath.  Bobby collapsed over his father's body, the youngster wracked with deep sobs.  Amigo stood next to Bobby, softly sniffing his rider's face.

It had been a long, sad trip back to San Antonio for Texas Ranger Bobby Cahill Walker, accompanying the body of his adoptive father, Texas Ranger Cordell Walker.

In the canyon outside Van Horn, where Cordell Walker had died in defense of the citizens of Texas, Bobby had gently placed his father on the back of Walker's faithful companion, Amigo.  Then, Bobby started the long trek back home.

A telegram had been sent to Capt. Bill McGuire in Austin from Van Horn.  The commanding officer arranged train passage for Bobby, Walker's coffin, Sunny and Amigo. 

The train pulled slowly into the San Antonio station, the steam issuing in a mournful cry as pressure was released.

Bobby slowly stood up, and stumbling slightly, exited the coach.  On the platform was his mother—and the wife of Cordell--Alex Cahill Walker.  As Bobby descended the stairs from the coach, she rushed to her son, wrapping him in her embrace. 

"Oh, Bobby", she cried. "I'll miss Cord so! I still can't believe he's gone."  Mother and son, clinging to each other, stood on the platform, unmoving.

Sheriff James Trivette, C. D. Parker and his wife Ginger, Francis and Sydney Gage, and Doc and Martha Evans had accompanied Alex on the sad trip from

Bandera to San Antonio.  Along with this group, Sheriff and Mrs. Zeke Tompkins, Marsha Phillips, and Irish, the hotel owner, had arrived from Marfa. While every Ranger in Texas wanted to be present, the demands of justice made this impossible.  Capt. McGuire chose Walker's former riding partners, Texas Rangers Mark French and James Griffin, to accompany

him to Bandera, where Texas Ranger Cordell Walker would be laid to rest.

The train conductor, reluctantly, broke in on Bobby and his mother.  Touching the young Ranger gently on the shoulder, he told him, with great kindness, "Son, it's time for your Dad to come home."

"Thank you", Bobby replied.  Holding his mother by the arm, he walked slowly, unsteadily down the station platform.  There, near the baggage car, stood the

wagon that would received Cordell Walker for his final journey home.

The baggage car door was already open.  The freight handler started to slide Cordell's coffin through the door, uncaring, bumping the coffin on a packing crate.

Capt. McGuire, tightly controlling his emotions, glared at the man, and stated. "You be careful, there, Mister.  That's a mighty great man you're in charge of there."

Sheriffs Trivette and Tompkins, Ranger French, C. D. Parker, Francis Gage, and Doc Evans, gently, carefully, removed Cordell from the baggage car,

placing his coffin ever so slowly on the wagon taking him home. Not a sound was heard, except for muffled sobbing.  The conductor brought Sunny and Amigo around to Bobby.

Finally, Bobby said to his grief-stricken mother, "Mom, it's time to take Cordell home."

The day for Texas Ranger Cordell Walker's funeral had arrived.

Alex and Bobby had chosen as his final resting spot the knoll on the ranch that Cordell loved so much, where there was a view of almost the entire Bandera Valley.  While Alex, Cordell, and Bobby were Christian, they were not formal members of any denomination.  However, Father Koslowski from St.

Stanislaus in Bandera had been a friend of the Cahill family since they had arrived in town, and subsequently a friend of Cordell's.  He had agreed to

preside over the simple funeral service.

The good priest performed a prayer service in the ranch house.  Then, a somber procession left the house, for Texas Ranger Cordell Walker's final

destination in the service of his beloved Texas.  

As the pallbearers and honor guard, Sheriffs Trivette and Tompkins, Francis Gage, C. D. Parker, Doc Evans, and Ranger Mark French placed the casket on the wagon, Capt. McGuire and Ranger James Griffin stood in solemn tribute.  Immediately following the wagon was Amigo, Cordell's longtime trail companion.  The Paint, led by Bobby, Cordell's stepson, was saddled,

Cordell's boots reversed in the stirrups, in honor of a fallen hero.

Following was Alex, tearfully but bravely enduring her sadness.  Then, after the casket was in place, followed the honor guard, Capt. McGuire and Ranger

Griffin, and many, many friends and acquaintances. 

Reluctantly, mournfully, slowly, Bobby signaled the carriage driver to start Cordell's procession.

Finally, the sad gathering arrived at the top of the knoll. Texas Ranger Cordell Walker had come home for good.

Cordell's coffin was placed on its supports, for the completion of the service.

Capt. Bill McGuire, overcome with emotion, simply stated, "Cordell, my friend, you were the best. Texas and the Rangers will never be the same."

Next, Father Koslowski, blessing the coffin, prayed the traditional closing prayers for a Church funeral. "Remember, Lord, those who have gone before us  marked with the sign of faith, especially him for whom we now pray, Ranger Cordell Walker.  May he, and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence light, happiness, and peach.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him."

After this prayer, despite the misgivings of her son Bobby and her friends, Alex Cahill Walker read a poem in tribute to Cordell.  In a strong voice, quavering with emotion, and with Marsha Evans and Sydney Gage at her side, she read:

 "Do not stand at my grave and weep,

  I am not there, I do not sleep.

  I am a thousand winds that blow,

  I am the diamond glint on snow,

  I am the sun on ripened grain

  I am the gentle autumn rain.

  When you awaken in the morning's hush,

  I am the swift uplifting rush

  of quiet birds in circled flight.

  I am the soft stars that shine at night.

  Do not stand at my grave and cry,

  I am not there: I did not die."

She turned weeping from the grave, as her son, Texas Ranger Bobby Cahill Walker, adopted son and oft times partner of Cordell, prepared to deliver his tribute

Bobby, exhausted from his last assignment, the one on which Cordell had died, the trip home, and the loss of his father, stood next to Cordell's coffin.

First, in honor of Cordell's Cherokee heritage, he placed three eagle feathers on the coffin, commending Walker to the Great Spirit.

"Friends, family..." Bobby began. "I cannot begin to list the many ways in which Cord touched us all.  He was a friend and hero to all of us.  But, most of all, to me, he was a Dad, and to my Mom, a loving, devoted husband."

"Cord taught me how to be honorable and decent.  He instilled in me a sense of justice, pride, and duty. He is the sole reason I am a Texas Ranger today." Overcome with emotion, Bobby paused here, choking back a sob. "I will miss him, terribly.  But I know he will always be riding with me, wherever the trail may lead. And I hope, as a Texas Ranger, that I will always do

honor to his memory and legacy.

"As Cord lay dying, he told me that this was not farewell, but merely, 'Hasta Luego.' 'Hasta Luego': Till we meet again."

Bending over the coffin, placing Cordell's hat and a fancy red shirt on the lid, Bobby whispered, "Hasta Luego, Dad."

As Cordell's coffin was lowered into the ground, Ranger Jim Griffin, mounted on his horse, Yankee, Cordell's horse Amigo at their sides, faced the lowering sun in the West.  In a clear tenor voice, breaking with pain, changing the lyrics slightly to fit his old partner, the Ranger sang one of Cordell's favorite old songs in tribute:

 "Oh when I die,

  take my saddle from the wall

  put it on my pony,

  lead him out of his stall,

  tie my bones to his back

  turn our faces to the West,

  and we'll ride the prairies,

  we love the best.

  Ride around, little doggies,

  ride around real slow,

  the fire ring and snuffy

  are rarin' to go.

  Old Paint's a good pony

  he paces when he can

  Goodbye, friends and family,

  I'll be in God's hand.

  Goodbye, Old Paint,

  I'm leavin' this land

  Goodbye, Old Paint,

  'I'm leavin' this land.

  My foot's in the stirrup.

  my bridle's in hand

  Good bye, friends and family,

  I'll be in God's hand.

  Good bye, Old Paint,

  I'm leavin' this land

  Good bye, Old Paint,

  I'm leavin' this land."

  Texas Ranger Cordell Walker was, at last, at rest.

As the group of mourners headed back down to the house, Amigo, who was being led by Bobby, suddenly tossed up his head, and broke free.

Running back to Cordell's grave, the big Paint sniffed at the fresh dirt.  Then, he laid down gently on the grave, joining his partner to ride forever in the Father's green valleys. 

(End)

Epilogue:

Bobby married Jana, and their first child, a boy, was named Cordell.  This started generations of Walkers who served in the Texas Rangers.

The usual legal disclaimers, plus:

"Goodbye, Old Paint" - Public Domain.

Do Not Stand at My Grave - Anonymous