Ride For The Brand   

By: SASQUAW  

 

Chapters 1-3
Chapters 4-6
Chapters 7-9

Chapters 10-13

 

Part 1

 

Ft. Worth Stockyards:

            It's early May and the Walkers are attending the Jr. Buck-out rodeo for ages 4-15. The event includes the mutton busting for the younger riders, as they try to stay on sheep for as long as possible.

           The youngsters are donned out in their western attire, helmets required. Fathers and other men run alongside the younger ones, holding them on as the scared animal runs to the center of the arena. The Mama sheep is waiting, and 'baaing' for her young 'uns.

            Young rodeo clowns assist in keeping the scared animals from maybe turning on the scared, but happy young riders.   The arena is full as the spectators clap and yell out names of their favorite riders.

Next is the bronc busting as the riders take their turn.

           Walker is standing between his twin sons as he looks down to Cordell and sees the disappointed look on the boy's face. The boy has his right arm in a sling.

            "It’s o.k. son, you'll get 'em next year.”  

           The boy shakes his head, "Only one more second, and I would have won my buckle, Dad!”

           Walker puts his arm around the boy's shoulder and pulls him gently to him.

          "I know son, but you gave that bronc a good riding anyways---I'm proud of you--you did great!”

          The bull riding is last as Walker and Cooper head for the assigned chute. Walker is helping his son get the chaps adjusted; he turns to the youngest twin.

         "Do the chaps fit alright son, want them tightened more?”

         "No Dad, they're tight enough. Grandpa John's chaps almost fit me perfect now.”

          The ranger smiles as he recalls buying the chaps just hours before his parents were killed.

         "Yep, and your grandpa would be so proud of you two for carrying out a 4th generation of rodeo riding."

          Cooper grins as he climbs upon the back of the young bull that he's to ride.

         "Don't get all mushy on me Dad, I got to concentrate!”

         "O.k., o.k., you just remember what I've taught you and ----"

         "Dad, this ain't the first time I've rode---remember?”

         "I don't care how many times you've rode! Pay attention!!"

         "I know Dad---keep my knees in tight, watch the back of the bull's head, ride with the bull and not against him!”

         Walker shakes his head, "Alright Mr. smart ass----and what else?”

         The boy laughs, "Look out for flying wet cow chips---and don't turn my back on this nasty beast!”

         All of the men laugh as they look to Walker, "Like Father, like son.”

         The seconds count down as Cordell reaches up and slaps his brother's fist with his free hand.

        "Good luck, bro' and 'ride for the brand---our brand!”

         The chute opens and the bull flies out, bucking and kicking, twisting his head back and forth; trying to grab the rider's boot.

         Cooper James Walker is holding on for dear life as his small body matches the bull's every thrust. He holds his right hand up high and is silently counting the seconds and listening for the buzzer.

         Walker has his own fists clenched and feeling every move that the bull is making, he too is silently counting the seconds.

          5, 6, 7, 8----the buzzer blows and the rider on horseback ride along the bull’s side until Cooper is safely on the ground.

          Walker and Cordell breathe a sigh of relief as the ranger looks back to the stands to see Alex and Angela cheering.   In just seconds he looks back to the arena and sees his son walking back to the fence, a huge grin on his face. 

         The grin on Walker's face freezes as he sees the bull break from the riders and charges at his son. The ranger screams out his sons' name.

        "COOPER!!!”

 

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

 

Bovine, Texas mid 1800's:

         The man is lanky and scruffy. The many harsh years of countless hot summers in the Texas sun. He hears his voice being yelled as he has spit his wad of tobacco juice onto the half wooden floor of the local stable.

         "Rasmus Cooper, stop spitting on my floor!”

          The man stops and stares back at the vet, "What damn floor you yapping about? The horses crap on it worse than my 'backa juice'.  You just take care of that boy of mine and patch up his head.  He gonna be alright?”

           The vet goes back to tending the young boy on his table, "How in blazes should I know, I treat animals---not people!  What did ye say happened to young Hayes here?”

          "He got kicked in the head---by 'ole Jake--my mule!”

         The boy is around twelve; he turns and looks to his old man, replying softly.

          "Didn't mean to turn my back on him, Pa--he's just plain mean!”

          The older man approaches the work table and grabs his son's head, turning it from side to side.

          "He kicked you boy, cause you was daydreaming agin!  How many times I gotta tell you, don't turn your back on 'Ole Jake---he wants your full attention----got that?”

          The boy sighs timidly, "Won't happen agin, Pa--I promise!”

           Rasmus spits on the floor again, and shakes his head.

         "That's for sure, cause I got to sell 'Ole Jake now, to pay this old quack his doctoring money for fixing you up. "

          Young Hayes Cooper heads for the buckboard as his old man pays the vet. The man is swearing under his breath as he slides up on the seat of the old buckboard.  He swears at the horse and they head down the dusting old road of Bovine. Hayes looks to his Pa.

         "I'm sorry----I'm sorry Pa.” Under his breath he mutters to himself, "damn old mule!”

 

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

 

St. Mathew’s hospital, present time:

The Walkers have just gotten the news on Cooper.

           "Your son was lucky; he only got clipped by that bull's hoof. He's got a concussion, and the sedative that we've given him will cause him to sleep. I want to keep him here overnight just to make sure that no swelling occurs.”

           Her stomach protruding with the soon arrival of their 4th child, Alex leans against her husband and asks.

           "Are you sure he's going to be alright?”

           "Yes, your son will be fine. I'm more worried about you Mrs. Walker---when is your due date?”

           Alex keeps looking back to the hospital bed and Walker answers for her.

           "She's due around the 1st of June. Honey you need to go home and get some rest---I'll be here with Cooper!”

           Alex, Angela, and Cordell soon leave and Walker is standing at the side of his son's bed. He brushes his hair back and whispers.

           "I'm right here son. The doctor says you'll be fine, that darn bull only clipped the side of your head---you'll be here overnight.”

            The nurse is checking Cooper's vitals as Walker steps out just long enough to get a cup of coffee. He goes back to standing beside his son and questioning the nurse.

            "All of his vitals are good, he's resting comfortable. He must be dreaming because he's mumbled his name a couple of times.”

            Walker's brow arches. "Really?”

            "Yes, his name is Cooper, right?”

            "Right!”

            The nurse smiles, "He's definitely talking to himself. I'm going to get you a more comfortable recliner so you can sleep in the room with him.  Can I bring you something to eat?”

            "No, I'll be fine---thank you nurse.”

            The nurse goes in search for a recliner and Walker commences to talk to his son.

            He grins, "Always said you had a hard head, now I'm sure of it.”

            Cooper starts moving his lips, trying to talk.

            "It's alright son, I was only kidding---rest.”

            "I'm ----sorry.”

            Walker leans down closer to Cooper, again brushing his rusty colored hair back avoiding the bandages.

            "Sorry? Sorry about what, son?”

            "I'm -----sorry----I'm sorry Pa-----damn old mule!!”

            Walker stands up straight and stares back at his son.

            "What's he talking about---a mule?   And, why did he call me---Pa?”

 

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

 

The boy tosses and turns all night, Walker calls for the nurse.

           "What's happening, he seems upset about something!”

           The nurse shakes her head.

           "I don't understand it, his bp is a little high, and his temp is perfect. Has he been talking in his sleep again?”

           "Yes, just mumbling---can't make out what he's saying.”

           "I'll give him another mild sedative, it should calm him down.”

            In minutes, Cooper is resting calmly. His dreams become scrambled as he sees himself and Cordell riding their horses through the fields and up to one of the creeks that runs through the Walker property. They argue about who will jump first and then Cooper kicks his mount and flies over the bed of water. His brother yells out to him that he's a cheat and soon follows suit. His horse slips and Cordell goes head first into the water.          

           Cooper is laughing and yelling back at his brother to get out of the water before he gets soaking wet and has to explain to their Mother what has happened. Cordell is not moving, lying spread-out in the water. When his call goes un-answered again, Cooper jumps in the water. As he reaches out for his brother, Cordell jumps up and pulls his brother underwater. The grip is tight, and Cooper is hitting his brother to let him up so he can breathe. It seems to take forever as Cooper is pulled further under the water and all the time, his brother is laughing----even under the water!!!

           He feels something going around his body and then a jerking feeling as he is being pulled up on the banks of the water.

           He tries to get up, he slides back down. He hears more laughter, but this time it's not his brother doing the laughing.

           He shakes his head and looks back at the three figures on horseback. He reaches down and takes the rope from around his waist and looks up at the three men. They snicker back at him.

           "I don't know who you guys are, but you're on private property. And, furthermore I don't appreciate being roped and drug through the water!”

           "Would you listen here, listen to all these here pretty words the boy is spouting off?”

           "Yeah, what's he yapping 'bout?  Don't see any barbed wire---how can it be private property?”

The third man spits a wad of tobacco juice in Cooper's face; he edges his horse towards the boy.

           "Maybe we need to show this boy some manners, his Pa don't care---let's have a little fun"

           Cooper turns around, "Where's my brother? What did you do to him?”

           "Brother? I don't recall old Rasmus having another boy!”

           The other two men shake their heads.

           "Cordell----Cordell----where are you?”         

           "Stop your yelling boy, ain't nobody gonna hear you!” Answers the one with a scar across the bridge of his nose.

           "Cordell----go get Dad."

           The men start laughing as they throw the lasso back around Cooper and drag him into the water. The water has gotten colder as the men tire of their fun and ride away.

           One of the men yells back to Cooper, "No need to call for your old man, he's the one that told us to teach you a lesson.”

 

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

St. Mathews:

            Walker and Alex are talking to the doctor about Cooper.

            Cordell is standing next to his brother's bed as Cooper bolts forward, sitting up in the bed and yelling for his brother.

            "Cordell, where are you?”

             His twin grabs his arm and tries to force him back in the bed.

            "I'm right here, bro---I'm here beside you. Both me and Angela are here.”

            The boy stares at Cordell and whispers, "He's trying to kill me.”

            “Who's trying to kill you?” Asks Angela.

              Cooper starts to cry, "I told him I was sorry---I told him---I was sorry that I didn't heed his warning.”

              "Who?  You told 'who' that you're sorry?”

              Coopers starts to tremble, "It's cold, the water is so cold.”

              Angela runs to the door, "I'm going to get Mom and Dad!”

              Cordell eases his brother back, and pulls the covers up on him.

              "You'll be warm soon, I'll get another blanket!”

              "No, don't leave me-they might come back!”

               "Nobody is going to hurt you Coop, we're all here to protect you---and Dad will not let anyone hurt you. You know that!”

              Cooper's voice becomes a mumbled whisper "But---he's the---one that wants to ----teach me a lesson-----for not listening to him----says I daydream too much.”

               "Are you saying that 'Dad' wants to hurt you?”

               The boy nods his head and starts crying, 'I told him I was sorry----I told Pa I was sorry. I didn't mean to turn my back------he's so-so mad----at me-----"

              The Walkers come running in, the doctor and a nurse start checking Cooper's vitals again.

              "What is going on, what is wrong with my son?” Screams Alex.

               Angela runs to her Mother, "Mom, please take is easy.”

              Walker stares back at the doctor.

             "What's happening, doctor? I want to know the truth. You said it was just a mild concussion---why is he talking out of his head like this?”

              The nurse looks to the doctor, "His bp is sky high, he's going into a seizure!”

             "Everyone out!!!  CODE BLUE.”

              It's now a half hour later and Cooper is stabilized again.

              Alex is pacing as both Walker and Angela try to get her to sit down.

             "I will sit down WHEN they tell me what is wrong with my baby!"

             "Mom, please sit down---you got another baby to think about. Want me to get you some hot tea?”

             Walker motions for his daughter to go, he whisper to her, "And ask Doctor Bates to come and check your Mother.”

            "I'm o.k. Walker----I'm just worried about Cooper."

            "We're all worried, honey. Now Angela is going to get your doctor to check you out, maybe a mild sedative to calm you."

            Walker takes a deep sigh and walks over to Cordell.

           "You said that your brother was saying someone was trying to teach him a lesson----to kill him?”

           Cordell looks away, "Yes sir----that's what he said!”

           The ranger eyes his son and his behavior.

           "Cordell, what is it, what's wrong? There's something you're not telling me!”

            Cordell faces his Father, "Coop was saying that someone was angry with him for not listening!”

            "What are you talking about son? Who is angry with your brother?”

            "YOU, Dad---he said you were angry with him for turning his back----and he kept telling you that he was sorry!”

             Walker's brow arches. "He kept saying last night that he was sorry----and when I asked him what he was sorry about---he said---'damn mule and then he called me "Pa----he's never called me that before!"

             Cordell's voice softens, "None of us has ever called you that. It's always been Dad, except for Angela and she still calls you 'daddy'. Why was he talking about a mule?”

            Walker's anger is showing as he gently pulls his son towards him.

           "I'm more concerned with who these people are that he says are trying to hurt him. Has your brother got into a confrontation with anyone that you know of?”

           "Dad, you know how Coop is. He jokes around a lot, but nobody ever messes with him. He could mop the floor up with anyone at school and besides they all know he's a clown!”

            The ranger takes a deep breath, looking back at his wife and daughter. They are both talking to Cooper, and brushing his hair back.

            "O.k., your brother is resting comfortably, it's time for church. You go to church with Angela and your Mother, I'm staying here.”

            Alex argues about leaving her son, but she soon gives in and goes to church with her kids.

            Walker takes his son's hand, "I'm not angry with you Coop, it's just that sometimes I don't think you listen to me.  Sometimes your head is in the clouds, but when something as dangerous as rodeo riding is concerned----you have to give it your full attention!  If I yell at you and your brother, it's because I love you so much and don't want either of you getting hurt!  Please, don't think I'm upset with you---come back to us---we all want you at home.”

 

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

 

Rasmus Cooper stares at young Hayes.

"I been looking fer you---where you been, boy? You been a swimming in that there river agin, ain't you?”

         The boy looks back to his old man, "More like being dragged through it! I almost drown, Pa---thanks to your friends!”

        "What in the devil you talking about, boy?”

         Young Cooper swallows hard, his mouth is set firm.

         "Them friends of yours, they throwed a rope 'round me and dragged me through that water. They said you wanted to teach me a lesson about my daydreaming.”

         The old man approaches his son, "if I had wanted to teach you a lesson, I would have taken my belt to you. Now, who are these friends that did this to ya?”

         "I don't know their names---you drink with 'em at the saloon!”

         "One of 'em have a scar across his nose?”

        "Yeah, Pa and the other two weren't very pretty neither!”

         Rasmus says nothing as he crosses the field and climbs into his old buckboard, he yells back.

         "You git in the house boy, and get started on fixing me something to eat'!

         "Where ya' going, Pa?”

         "Got something to settle with them Paladine brothers----no body lays a hand on my boy, 'cept me!"

         Young Cooper shakes his head, "No Pa, just leave it be---I'm o.k. ---just come back in the house---and we will forget all about it!”

         Rasmus lets out a string of curse words, "Too late boy---there comes a time when a man has to stand up for what he believes in----and them brothers are gonna learn real quick not to mess with me----or my son!”

         Cooper watches as the buckboard heads to town, his Pa's words echoing through his mind.

         "Son?----He ain't never called me that---always---just----boy'!

         Hayes Cooper starts running after the buckboard and screaming for his Pa to turn around, his pleas go unanswered.

         Its four hours till Cooper can reach the town of Bovine. The people stare back at him and shake their heads, the vet walks over slowly.

         "Ye too late Hayes.  Them Paladine brothers shot him down in cold blood."

         Cooper is fighting the tears, the anger getting the best of him.

         "Where are them cowards?  Them egg sucking cowards---I will kill all of 'em!”

"They rode out of here before the sheriff could git back in town. Go home Hayes----I will take care of your Pa's body----no charge to ya!”

           The boy looks around and sees the buckboard still in front of the saloon, the old horse still in harness.

           "My Pa never believed in charity---neither do I. You take the buckboard and horse for payment---I got no use for them---or this town---no more!”

           The boy turns, his shoulders shake and the boy's tears fall freely.

 

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

 

"Nurse!  My son is crying!"

         Another nurse has come on duty; she checks all of the vitals. "He's just dreaming again, Ranger Walker."

        Walker starts to pace, his hand goes through his hair repeatedly.

        "Can you give him something?”

        "Ranger Walker, his vitals are stable and even though he seems to be crying, ---”

         "He is crying! Look at the tears! Give him something----he's hurting!

         "It's too soon for another sedative, I've paged the doctor, he'll be here soon!”

          Walker bends down close to Cooper, "What is it son, have I said something to make you cry?”

         He has to listen closely as Cooper mumbles----"I'm going away, bye Pa.”

          "Cooper! Cooper---you listen to me---you're not going anywhere. I'm here son---everything is going to be alright---you hear me?”

          The new nurse has observed the ranger and the raising of his voice.

          "This doesn't look good; he sounds angry with his son.”

             

Ride For The Brand - Part 2

 

St. Mathews:

The Walkers have spent another restless day of watching their son toss and turn, and the mumbling of words that neither Walker nor Alex can get any understanding.

The Doctor is again trying to explain Cooper's condition.

"Ranger Walker, you have had concussions and 'you' must know how these symptoms affect different people.”

           "Yes, I've had my share---but some of the things that our son is saying are not making any sense!”

            "Did you always make sense when you were going through those flashbacks from Viet Nam?”

            The ranger starts to pace, "That was war! I saw and witnessed a lot of horrible scenes---but what is our son witnessing that he's tossing and turning and saying things like he's going away? And---and talking about things like getting kicked by a mule---it was a bull!”

            Alex is now trying to calm her husband.

            "Honey----he's dreaming and dreams get confusing.  Cooper has always had a wild imagination.”

            "Your wife is right.  Did your dreams always make sense 'all' the time?”

            "No, I guess they didn't and sometimes they would intertwine with other events in my life----is that what is happening with our son?”

            "Yes, I believe so. Some of these dreams that he's having are somewhat troublesome and his body is reacting, that's when his blood pressure goes up. "

            "Doctor, is he in pain?” Asks Alex.

            "I imagine he's having some pain, but the sedatives are helping and the pain killers.”

            The doctor leaves to go on rounds, the Walkers head back to their son's room. Some people from their church have come by to express their concern for Cooper. One of the families has offered to drop Cordell and Angela off at their schools for the final week.

            Alex has observed her husband's pacing and the worried look in his eyes. She knows that something is bothering him.

            "Honey, why don't you go home and get some sleep, you've been here since day one----you're exhausted!"

"I can't leave; I wouldn't be able to get any rest. I've been sleeping in that recliner, I'm fine!”

            "You are not fine! Walker, are you still upset about what Cordell said about Cooper saying that you were trying to kill him? Honey, nothing could be further from the truth, you know that!”

Walker shakes his head, "I was upset with Cooper right before he got on that bull because I didn't think he was listening to what I was telling him. And now, I believe that maybe he's reacting to all that---and his recessed feelings are coming through!”

            Alex shakes her head, grabbing her husband.

            "I don't believe for a moment what you are insinuating! Honey---Cooper loves you---he idolizes you. It's the dreams talking---not him!”

            "But sometimes you say something in these dreams that you would never say----when you're not dreaming!”

            "Honey, you are tired, you need to go home and get some rest!”

            An hour later finds Walker going back to the ranch. One of Alex's friends from work comes by to keep her company. Alex constantly rubs her son's cheek. She whispers softly.

            "Your Father is so worried about you. I know that you would never say those things to him. Something else is playing on your mind; I wish I knew how to help you.”

 

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

 

The old man stares back at the young figure before him, he squints his eyes.

            "Hayes---Hayes Cooper---is that really you?”

            The figure walks toward him, "Yeah---it's me Doc!”

            The old man spits out his wad of chewing tobacco.

            "But, ye said ye weren't never coming back to Bovine or near these parts!”

            "I know what I said! I came back for only one reason---to find those three son of bitches that murdered my pa!”

            "They ain't no wheres around here---they skedaddled to high heaven after they killed your old man!” 

              Hayes' eyes turn cold, "They murdered him---not kill---they shot him down like a dog in the street!”

             The old man nods his head, "Yep--they did just that. But, like I said they ain't here!”

             "You were the last one to see them, and I'm sure that you heard them say where they were heading---so you better tell me!”

             The old man stares down at the gun that Hayes is wearing, "Or what? Ye going to kill me-----that would make you no different from them three scumbags. Is that what ye want?”

             Young Hayes starts to pace, "They are going to pay for what they did----and if I have to kill you old man----I----I will---I mean it----I will!”

             "You ain't gonna kill me Hayes. How many men have ye killed?”

             Hayes stands up straight and meets the old man's stare.

            "Gotta start somewheres----and I been getting real good with this here gun. I been practicing for over 3 years now. I can shoot cans at 50 feet!”

             The old man throws his hat down on the ground, then gets up in Hayes' face.

           "Tin cans don't shoot back---are you crazy 'boy?”

            Hayes swallows hard and backs away.

           "Don't call me 'boy'-----don't ever call me that agin!”

           "You are just a 'boy---how old are ye now? About 15, 16?”

           "I'll be 16 in the fall--- old enough to kill a man!”

            The old man laughs.

           "Who do ye think ye are---Billy Bonney?”

           "He don't like being called that----He's Billy the Kid! Heck killed a man 'fore he was 16!"

            The old Doc stares back at the young man before him, he snickers.

           "Is that right---and ye know that for a fact?”

            Now Hayes is pacing, "I heard that he did, it don't matter---I want to be just like him!”

           "Let me ask ye something young Hayes---why are ye so set on killing these men? As I recall, your old man never was very partial you---he beat on ye all the time!”

            Hayes memories go back to the last day of his Pa's life.

           "Maybe so-----but he was still my Pa and I aim to make things right and kill the men that took his life, that's what he would want!”

            The Doc shakes his head sadly." You're in such an all fired hurry to end ye life, that's what's gonna happen! But, if that's what ye want---last I heared they was down around 'Jackson Flats''---know where that is?”

            Hayes shakes his head, "Don't reckon I do, just point me in the right direction I will find it!”

           "Dumb ass!  It's down near the Mexico border---ye have to head south---do ye know which way is south?”

            Again Hayes shakes his head, "I will follow their smell, old man---now point me in the right direction!”

            The old man tries to talk young Hayes out of going, finally he gives up.

           "Rasmus always said ye were stubborn---always got ye head in the clouds- well----if ye are in such a hurry to kill yourself, then go! Follow the sun setting---that means ye going West. Veer to your left when ye hit Coyote Canyon---ye will be going South----after that ye on your own!”

           Young Hayes puts his hand out to shake hands with the old man.

           "I heard someone say that a man's handshake was his word, I believe you are telling me the truth. And, my Pa always said to 'Ride For The Brand'---don't know exactly what he meant by that!”

            Doc stares back at him, "It means to stand up for what you believe in and what you have. Good luck Hayes---but there's something ye need to do 'fore going.”

          "What's that?”

          Doc reaches out and knocks Hayes' hat off---"Get that damn hair cut back---it's getting so long----you look like a damn woman!”

          Hayes rubs his face stubble, "I like it long, and soon I'll have the face hair to go along with it! Good bye Doc!”

           Hayes Cooper has been riding for a good hour, the words of the old Doc still going through his mind about getting a haircut.

           "I ain't cutting my hair, I like it long! Ummmmm' seems someone else has said my hair was getting too long and someone called me a 'dumb ass----or was it 'smart ass???”

 

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

 

Alex is caressing the side of her son's face with her finger; she pushes his rustic hair back. She emits a soft laugh.

Her friend Donna looks at her curiously, "Alex, what's so funny?”

          "I was just remembering the day that the twins were born and how red their hair was!”

          "I remember that day, the nurse kept looking back and forth at you and Walker!”

          Alex smiles, "Yes, they were staring, until Walker told them that he was half Irish, then when he told them he was half Cherokee---their mouths dropped open!”

          The ladies share a small laugh.

          "Cooper has always been the joker in the family, no matter what----he can always make me laugh. I remember the day they came back from the barber shop, I guess the twins were about five, and when Cooper walked through the door---I thought I was going to have a heart attack!”

           "Why, what was wrong?”

            Walker had Cooper wearing one of those 'scull-head coverings' you know the ones that make you look bald?”

             "Oh, my goodness", replies Donna.

             "He looked up at me and with a big wide grin, sliding his hand over his bald head and says, "You don't have to worry about me getting another haircut, Mama---I told the man to shave it all off."

            Finally, Walker and Cordell began to laugh, I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry----so I did both!!!”

             She reaches down to kiss his cheek, replying. "He has his Father's temper, and they both have his eyes.”

 

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

 

A soft rain has started to fall against Hayes Cooper cheeks, it's warm.

            He smiles faintly as he rubs his cheeks. His memory going back to a warm fire in front of an old fireplace, and the soft sound of someone singing.  He remembers the woman's face and how frail she looked in the glow of the fireplace.

            Then his memory goes to the sound of someone crying, it's him.

            He watches as his Pa throws the last bit of dirt over the hole, the man turns to him.

            "She was a good woman---and you can cry for her today---but tomorrow we have to put her memory behind us. Do you understand me, 'boy?”

            The small boy nods his head, "Yes Pappa.”

            Later that night he would hear his Pa crying softly and then a liquor bottle would hit the wall and he would curse!'   

            "Damn you Lord----why her?”

             Young Hayes struggles with that question for the next years, was his Pa saying that he would have rathered it be 'him', instead of his Mother?

            He pulls the old jacket up around his neck as the rain comes down harder, he can barely see the sign and make out the name.

              SPRINGTOWN

 

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

 

St. Mathews Hospital:

The two nurses are whispering again as they have come into the room to take Cooper's vitals. The older voice is angry.

            "I'm telling you there is something fishy about this family---especially the Father! He's always hovering over his son and wanting to know everything that the boy is mumbling in his sleep!”

            "So, what is wrong with that?”

             The nurse turns and looks at the boy and then turns back to the nurse's aide.

            "I think the Father is afraid that the boy will say something that he doesn't want anyone hearing.”

            "That's crazy!”

            "Crazy, huh? What about the other son, he has his arm in a sling.”

            "They both ride in the junior rodeo; the other boy got thrown off a horse!”

            "So they say! But, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that these boys are being abused, and the rodeo accidents are a cover-up!"

            "You saw the x-rays and the medical report! If they were being abused Doctor Thomas would have seen it.  Besides the parents are well known all over Dallas and Ft. Worth. He's a Texas Ranger and she's a lawyer!"

            The older nurse is getting angrier, and because they are well known and have important jobs make them immune to child abuse? Barb, you have a lot to learn! I've seen this happen before!”

            "Maxine, until you have proof of such accusations---I'm not listening to anymore of this gossip!”

            Maxine leans over Cooper and smirks, "Just the same, I think child services should be alerted.”

            "I'm not listening to anymore of this, I want to keep my job--I got kids to feed! I'm out of here!”

            Soon Maxine leaves.

            Cooper is starting to toss and turn as he has heard the voices.

            The words are almost inaudible.

            "No----ab-use"  

 

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

 

Ride for The Brand - Part 3

 

          It's been four days since Cooper was admitted; his condition hasn't gotten any better.

            "Honey, I'm worried about our son, Doctor Thomas said he was getting better, but I don't see it. I want another opinion; I want to call in a 'specialist!”

            Walker nods his head as he stares down at his son, "I agree. I talked to Doctor Thomas and he's contacting a ’brain specialist'-he should be here tomorrow!”

            Cordell and Angela are standing on each side of their brother's bed, they've heard their parents.

            "Can this new Doctor help Cooper?” Asks Angela.

           "We're hoping he can, he's been mentioned in the papers, very high in his field!”

            Angela turns and looks down to her brother, she touches his cheek.

          "You hear that little brother? Mama and Daddy are getting you more help.”

           Cordell reaches down and takes his brother's hand, jokingly saying.

           "Yeah, you got to stop all of this laying around, I'm getting tired of doing your chores--and with only one hand! Besides, you got to get better and get out here, Angela's birthday party is coming up soon .You don't want to miss that, do you?”

            Angela exhales, "The only thing he likes about my parties is the sweets."

           Walker pulls his daughter close to him and kisses the top of her head.

           "You know better than that, he and Cordell always buy you something nice!”'       

            "I know Daddy, I'm just trying to be sarcastic---I just want him home---to be with all of us--and what about yours and Mama's wedding anniversary? It's the day after my birthday!”

           Alex smiles at her daughter. "I think your Father and I already decided to have a quiet dinner at home--I'm not feeling like going out to dinner, o.k. sweetheart?”

           The kids begin getting their backpacks ready.

           "Hey Mom, Mr. Evers has been asking about Cooper's book report, have you seen it?”

           "He took it to school with him last week; I remember seeing him putting it in his backpack. It should be at school, didn't he turn it in?”

           "Apparently not and Mr. Evers says that if Cooper's book report isn't turned in by this Thursday, he'll get a failing grade. He's still not too happy with the last book report Cooper turned in!”

           Walker takes a deep sigh, "None of us were very happy about that book report and if this new one is anything like the last one--your brother is-----------.”

The ranger's voice chokes up-----" Never mind--- are you two ready for school?”

            "Yes sir, we're ready---but you don't have to take us. Kenny and his Mom are waiting downstairs to take us to school.”

            As the kids leave, Alex reaches out and takes her husband's hand.

            "Dad called, he's flying in this evening and Jimmy said he would be here as soon as possible.”

            Walker nods his head slowly.

            "Something just isn't right; Cooper should have come out of this by now. Look at him hon, it's like he's in a very peaceful dream-----and not tossing and turning like he does in his bed at home."

            Alex smiles softly, "I know. I can't count the times that you and I have commented on how he gets his sheets all twisted up around him---wondering how he ever sleeps!”

 

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

 

Young Hayes has sought cover under a mass of mesquite trees. He's soaked to the bone, as he fights to stay awake.

            "What was the name of that town that ole' Doc said to look for---I thought he said 'Jackson Flats----I should have seen it's marker by now---but all I've seen is that one for Springtown. What a stupid name for a cattle town---it sounds sissy!”

            The boy has dosed off,  he hears voices.

            "He's just a boy", says the first voice. "Wonder what he's doing out here by hisself in this rain? 

            "Guess we'll find out when he wakes up; let's try to get a fire started."

            "With what, everything is wet?”

            The second voice is obviously the leader, "Our forefathers will not be happy with that remark. We will find a way to get a fire started, the boy needs heat!”

            The coolness of the Texas night has gone and now young Hayes is feeling the Texas sun bearing down on him. He doesn't remember having a blanket over him, as he sits up slowly and stares back at it... He feels he's not alone as he turns around quickly to see the two men staring back at him.  They are both dark skinned and have their hair long, no facial hair.

            The older one speaks first, "Morning paleface, want something warm to wake you up?”

            The other one shields his eyes from the rising sun and grunts.

            "It must be around seven or so; you have wasted the good morning hours!”

            Young Hayes stares back at them; he's never seen an Indian up close.

            "Are you gonna scalp me? I don't got any money!”

            The two men laugh softly and the older one hands Hayes a cup of warm liquid, he sniffs it.

            "This ain't coffee, what is it?”

            "It's tea!”

            "TEA? That's for women folk, ain't you got any coffee?”

            The younger one shakes his head, “Beggars can't be choosy, you will drink the tea----or do without!”

            The boy takes a small sip, "It tastes kind of funny, is it supposed to taste this way?”

            "It's herb tea, it will take away your tension.”

            The older one laughs, "Ray--give the boy some coffee if that's what he wants!”

            Ray does as he's told and hands the boy coffee, he swallows it and then spits it out.

            "It don't have no sugar in it, it looks and smells like----tar!”

            "Have you ever drank coffee before, or should I say---have you ever had coffee with your sugar?”

            Hayes sits up straight, "I can drink it without the sugar, what about some cream----or goat's milk?”

            The older one laughs louder and shakes his head, "I think you have met your match little brother!”

            Ray grunts, "I think this young buck needs a trip to the sweat lodge or a tree limb across his backside!”

            Young Hayes swallows hard throwing the rest of the coffee into the fireplace.

             'Sorry, didn't mean to rile you any, got anything to eat?”                           

             “Caught a squirrel last night---you skin him and I will cook it for you!”

            "Ya don't think I can skin anything---I will show you! Where is it?”

            Ray turns and nods towards his saddle bags, "Over there, buck. Help yourself!”

           The two men watch as Hayes commences to pull the animal out of the bag; the varmint reaches out and grabs Hayes by the nose.

           "This ain't no squirrel---it's a damn skunk!”

            Ray and his brother are laughing and Ray yells back, "You was close little buck, it's a 'snipe' and some of them are just damn right mean---not to say---they stink worse than a skunk!”

           Hayes has decided he's not as hungry as he thought he was as he goes back to sipping the tea.

           The two men begin saddling their horses, the older turns to Hayes.

          "We got to be going, got a rodeo in Jackson Flats---wanna ride along with us?”

           Hayes turns and looks back to the marker, "I never saw a sign for Jackson Flats---just 'Springtown.”

           Ray repeats the name to himself and then looks to his brother, "Have you ever heard of this place that the young buck is talking about?”

          "Nope, sounds like a nice place to live----and maybe raise a family. Is that your home, kid?”

           "No, I came from Bovine---it's that way. But, I have business in Jackson Flats, alright if I follow along with you?”

            The men mount up, "Well, it was nice chowing with you, young buck-- we are going to Jackson Flats---to the rodeo; you wanna tag along that's fine.”

            "What kind of business you got in Jackson, kid?”

            Hayes stands up straight and pulls his gun belt around and straps it down.

            "Gonna kill me a man, actually three of them!”

           Ray kicks his horse, "Whatever you say, buck---just don't go playing with that gun, it's not no stick toy!”

          The three are headed to their destination; Ray looks to his brother who has been quiet.

          "She won't be there, brother. Your dreams are in the clouds---again!

"I think you are wrong, she was at the last rodeo, she will be at this one and she will be easy to spot----with that flaming red hair!”

            "Even so, she will have nothing to do with you; our skin is different from hers!”

            "I saw something in her eyes, they were so kind. And that kid has the same eyes, kind of soft at times and then dark----and very scared.”

            "Now, what are you talking about?”

            The older man looks back to young Hayes; the boy is having a hard time staying in the saddle.

            "I think you gave him too much herbal tea Ray. What did you put in it?”

            "Just a few extra medicinal herbs, something that the white man calls, 'loco weed'. We don't want him asking too many questions, do we?”

            "I'm not sure why we are here, and I'm sure the kid is even more confused than we are."

            Ray nods his head and studies the clouds, "Only the spirits know why we are here, my guess is to protect that boy.”

            "That's pretty obvious since we too have gone back in time, and have seen the faces of our forefathers-----and maybe a glimpse of the future.”

             Ray pulls his horse to a dead stop.

             "For the last time, John---forget that woman! It's not to be--you will never have her, he forbids it!”

             "And, I'm telling you Ray---I don't heed his warnings! I'm not afraid of him!”

             "You are trying too hard to pass for a white man; you are forgetting the ways of the red man!”

             "I will no longer argue with you, little brother. We are here for a purpose, let's do our job.”

             Ray eyes his brother curiously, "Tell me John, do you see the red headed woman in the future?”

            John stares back at Ray and smiles, "I can only dream---is that not where we are---in that boy's dream?”

 

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

 

Ride For The Brand – Part 4

St. Mathew’s hospital:

           

            The Walkers have been with their son all day; Gordon Cahill and Trivette have made their entrance.

         Trivette sees the worry on his friends' face; he puts his arm around his shoulder.

        "Stop worrying big guy, Coop is going to be alright. He's a fighter--just like his old man, and his Godfather!"

        Walker forces a smile, "Thanks Trivette and thanks for coming down to see him. You're about ready to take those final exams to be an FBI agent, aren't you?"

        Trivette grins, "Already took 'em, I 'aced' 'em!”

        "Congratulations! I know that makes your brother Simon proud that you two will be working together."

         Trivette hesitates, "Well, I'm not going to be working with Simon.”

         "How come?”

         "I wasn't going to say anything yet, but I want to be transferred here---to Dallas!”

        The smile on Walker's face widens, "Are you serious? You'll be right next door to Ranger headquarters!”

       "Well, call me crazy---but I've gotten used to Texas----and this damn heat! More important than that, I can't stand those winter storms!”

       "Trivette, you should be used to them, you grew up in Baltimore!”

        Trivette grimaces, "I never could stand the cold then, and now that I'm older---I can't stand them at all!”

        Walker remains quiet as he looks back to his son's bed and then back to Trivette.

        "We've been through a lot, haven't we partner?  How many years now?”

         "Going on 20----- and 4 kids between us---wait---I forgot you got another one coming!”

          Walker smiles, "In about 2 weeks, but I have a funny feeling this one will be early also, just like Angela and----and---.”

         The ranger's voice breaks, "and just like the twins were---"

         Trivette grins, "Not J.W.---I thought that little 'bugger' was never coming out!”

         The rangers continue talking as the nurse, Maxine, takes Cooper's vitals. She keeps looking around the room at all of his visitors, especially Trivette. She says quietly.

       "Visiting hours will be over soon, and only family can stay!”

        Angela follows the look on the nurse's face as she replies sharply.

       "Everyone here is family!”

 

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

 

        Jackson Flats:

       Hayes Cooper wakes to the smell of coffee. The boy looks around him. He sees an old man nearby cleaning out the stalls.

       The boy rubs his eyes and looks at his surroundings; he has fallen asleep inside a barn.

       "What am I doing here, and how did I get here?”

        "Hey boy, you better get busy helping me, or you can skedaddle out of here!”

       ”How did I get here----and where are them two men that I was with?”

        The old man spits, "You was by yourself when you stumbled in here, now have a cup of coffee and then get busy! You work for your bunk and breakfast!”

        Hayes has helped the old man clean out the stalls and then he walks out in the street, looking around. The old man swaggers out behind him.

      "Sure ain't nothing to this town of 'Springfield', is there?”

      "Springfield??? Where the hell do you think you are, boy---this is Jackson Flats---what there is of it!”

         Hayes shakes his head, "I don't know where I'm at, the sign said Springfield, but my friends says it was Jackson Flats!  And, my head hurts like crazy!”

      The old man stares at him and replies, "Yeah, you were staggering around, drunk as a skunk! What ya been drinking?”

      "I ain't been drinking nothing but that herb tea my friend gave me. I do remember not being able to stay in my saddle-----and hearing my friends talk about coming here to ride in the rodeo.”

       The old man shakes his head and points to the edge of town, "They is having a rodeo down that way, maybe that's where your friends are.”

       Hayes goes in search for the rodeo grounds, he's being observed by the two figures in braided hair.

      "He's looking for us Ray.”

      "So what do we do now?”

      "There's not much more we can do, we got him here and 'here' he will meet his destiny.”

        Ray looks to his big brother, and asks.

       "We can't intervene?”

        John shakes his head, "It's out of our hands, we have to go forward.”

       The two men look to each other and then in the direction the young Hayes has taken.

       John lays his hand on his younger brother's shoulder, "You can't help but like the young buck, huh Ray?”

      "He's so young and getting ready to take the lives of three men---yes, I am concerned for his safety."

       "Don't be----there will be someone else to take our place---we have to go now.”

        Hayes has been up and down the street, he finally spots the two men as they are getting ready to mount. He calls out to them, they don't answer. Hayes begins running and calling out their names, they continue riding.

        Finally Hayes stops. "I know they heard me, why didn't they stop?”

       A soft voice answers, "Who are you talking to?”

       Hayes turns to see a young girl about his age, she's very pretty.

      "I was trying to get my friends' attention---but they rode on like they never heard me.”

       The young girl stares in the direction that Hayes is pointing; she turns back to him and replies.

      "I don't see anyone, the street is empty.”

        Hayes turns to look and the girl is right---the street is bare except for a few horses tethered outside the saloon. He takes his hat off and begins fanning himself.

       "I ain't feeling too good---its sooooo hot---but I feel something cool and wet-----on my cheek."

 

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

 

    St. Mathews:

      Its evening and Alex is watching her daughter giving her brother a sponge bath----from the waist up, that is.

      "Sweetheart, you don't have to do that, the nurse's aide will do that.”

       Angela smiles and tosses her long hair back over her shoulder, her blue eyes look into her Mother's.

       "I know I don't have to, Mama---I just wanted to.”

      "Well Cooper seems to be liking it, I think he almost smiled.”

      "He's probably dreaming that some sexy and beautiful nurse is doing this, not his sister!"

      "Just the same, I'm proud of you and Cordell staying close to Cooper."

      "Why are you surprised Mama, we always stick by each other when one is in trouble, and besides I don't like that nurse with the red hair.”

       "Why?"

        "She's kind of nosy, and I didn't like the way she kept staring at Uncle Jimmy and saying 'only family' can be in here. Uncle Jimmy is family, why do people say things like that---just because of the color of his skin?”

       "I'm sure she didn't mean it in the way you took it, but some people are prejudice! You can't change that, Angela!”

        Angela turns back to her brother and gently washes behind his ears.

        "Still---it's not right-----good grief Cooper---you got enough dirt behind your ears to plant potatoes!”

         Alex is trying to keep from laughing as Cordell walks in, out of breath.

         "Mom, I could not find Cooper's book report and Mr. Evers is steaming!”

         "Sweetheart, stop worrying about that report! So what if he gets a failing grade, it won't hurt his "A" average!”

         "I know that Mom, but it's the principal of the thing. Cooper was really upset about that last book report and he wanted to make it up to you and Dad for embarrassing you!”

         Angela groans, "The infamous book report that nobody liked, and we're still talking about it!”

        "Talking about what?” Asks Walker as he comes in with food and drinks.

        "Never mind Daddy.”

           Cordell shakes his head, "Angela, this is important! Cooper wanted a good grade, not a failing one and I can't find it!”

          "Slow down son, nobody is blaming you for any of this. Did you check his locker?”

          "Yes Dad, several times, and I've asked all of our friends if they have seen it. They said Cooper was carrying something that looked like a book report and he put it in his locker!”

          ”Cordell, do you know what the report was about?”

          "No Mom, but I know he was proud of it. I would wake up several times to tell him to turn the light out and he would just mutter---"In a minute--I'm riding for the brand.”

           Walker is sipping his coffee, "I've heard him mention that phrase several times, was that what the report was about?”

         "Can't say Dad, he wouldn't talk about it, but when we would tap fists he was saying it a lot and then" I" said it at the rodeo---I don't know why, it was just sort of 'catchy'!”

        "Walker, what could he mean by that?”

        "Hon, you know how much Cooper likes westerns and he was always infatuated with cowboys and the way they talked.”

         Cordell grabs a sandwich with his left hand and replies.

        "He sure lives up to his name! It's all your fault Dad for naming him after one of your western heroes!”

        "Well, excuse me. But your Mother insisted that both of your names begin with a "C" and middle initial of "J!!!” Come to think of it, he lives up to his middle name too--he's girl crazy like his Uncle Jimmy!”

         Both Alex and Angela laugh.

        "Mom, I think you're right---I can almost swear that he has a small grin on his face!”

 

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

       

Young Hayes stares at the young girl; he feels his insides flopping around like butterflies. The girl is a few years older than him with strawberry blonde hair, freckles, and beautiful green eyes.

         Hayes clears his throat, "I don't care what ya say, my friends were here just a few minutes ago, and now they just leave me here without even saying goodbye"

         "I'm not calling you a liar------or anything like that!”

         "Ya better not be,'cause I know what I seen.”

         The girl looks to the sky and then back to Hayes, "It's gonna rain soon, I best be getting home. Do you have a home here?”

          "NO! I'm here to settle a score for my Pa---and I know just where to look next."

          "Where?”

          "My Pa always said to find information to go to the nearest watering hole---- there!"

          The girl turns and looks to where Hayes is pointing.

          "The saloon?”

          "Yep"

         "But, you're too young to go in there! The old bartender is really grouchy, he won't serve you!”

          Hayes looks back to the girl, "And, how do you know how grouchy the bartender is?”

          The girl kicks at the ground, “Let’s just say I know, and that's final!”

          Hayes tightens up his gun belt and exhales, "I got no time to be standing here talking to a girl, I need information and I'm darn gonna get it.”

          "Suit yourself----but take my word for it---you won't be in there long!”

           Hayes mumbles to himself and heads to the saloon.

           The girl smiles and starts counting to herself, when she reaches 60----Hayes Cooper comes flying through the saloon doors! He gets up, says a few curse words and goes though the swinging doors a second time, and again he's thrown out. The bartender comes through the doors after him. He points his finger at Hayes.

          "You stay out of here, you little 'whippersnapper' or the next time I'll tan your hide-I told you---you're too young to be in here!”

              Hayes begins dusting himself off, his head is spinning. He mutters to himself.

            "I'll bet Billy the Kid never got throwed outta a saloon.”

             The girl sashays over to him and smiles.

             "Billy the Kid never met my Daddy!!!”

            "Your Daddy? The bartender is your Daddy?”

             "Not my real Daddy, but he raised me since I was a baby.”

              Hayes groans, "Daddy or no Daddy" he pulls his revolver out and spins the cylinder, "this time he's not throwing me out!”

              Everyone in the saloon turns to see the young man walking in slowly with his gun drawn.

            "I don't want no trouble; I just want some questions answered!”

              The bartender starts from around the counter with a huge club.

              "I've told you for the last time, now I'm gonna bash your brains in!”

               An old man that stinks to high heaven of the booze and horse manure tries to stop the bartender.

             "Wait a minute---calm down----just tell the boy what he wants to know----then he will leave----right, boy?”

               "I just want to know if the Paladine Brothers have been here----or----or if they might be here still, " asks a scared Hayes Cooper.

               The bartender is a portly man with a scraggly mustache, he stares back at Hayes.

             "And, if they are, are you a relative of those three sons of bitches?”

              Hayes wallows hard, "No, they killed my Pa and I aim to kill them!”

            The saloon erupts in laughter as they stare back at the young man with a trembling hand.

              The old drunk is holding a half empty bottle of whiskey as he staggers over to Hayes.

            "I seen those men you talk about----buy me a bottle and I will tell you where they are.”

            "Don't listen to him boy, he's been drunk ever since the stagecoach dropped him off here. Some 'city slicker' from back East---New York, I think he said.”

            The drunk keeps getting closer to Hayes, and the boy has to turn away from the stench.

           "I don't have any money---get away from me old man!”

          The drunk is wearing a suit that looks and smell like he's been sleeping in it for a month; a bow tie hangs halfway around his neck.

            "O.k. then, how about just a shot---only two bits. How 'bout it, after all I stopped this bartender from bashing your head in---how 'bout it? Huh?"

            Hayes takes a deep breath, reaching in his pockets; he finds a coin and throws it to the bartender.

           The bartender stares at the coin, "What the hell kind of coin is this?"

           The drunk reaches out and grabs the coin, puts it in his mouth and bites down, then he smiles.

          "It's a quarter; I haven't seen a quarter piece since leaving Virginia----where did you get this, boy?”

          "I found it, I think----I don't remember. Why? Ain't it worth anything?”

          The old drunk starts to snicker, "It's equal to what these southerners call two bits. Only, it's a union coin!"

          The old bartender's face becomes red, "Union coin? What in tarnation are you doing with union coins?”

          The drunk grabs the boy by the shoulder and pushes him towards the swinging doors.

          "I think its best that we get out of here before that old man tries to tar and feather you, thinking you're a Yankee---like me!”

           "I ain't no Yankee, my Pa fought for the Confederacy!”

            "Yeah, yeah, yeah, let's not start the war all over again---do you have any more of those coins?”

            "No" lies Hayes. "I don't have any more money---and where the hell you taking me? Take your hands off me!”

             The old man pulls his coat up around him tighter.

              "In case you haven' noticed, it's starting to rain---and we got to get inside that old barn there, 'fore we get soaking wet!”

 

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

 

             St Mathews:

              Walker has sent his family home along with Alex's Dad; Trivette has gone to get them more coffee, and his famous Latte` drinks.

              The ranger sits beside his son's bed, holding his hand. The nurse Maxine is checking all the machines and IV's. She continues to watch the ranger suspiciously.

               "Cooper, it's me---it's Dad, I'm right here with you son. Everything is going to be o.k.  I sent your Mother home, the baby is really moving around, making your Mother very tired. But, she's o.k. it's you that everyone is worried about. The new doctor says that he can't find anything wrong that Dr. Thomas hasn't already diagnosed. He says that you're in some stage of a "coma-like", like a deep dream. Why can't you come back to us, we all miss you, we love you son. Come back to us, please!"

             Maxine smirks, "Maybe he doesn't want to come back to you---because you've been abusing him.”

             "Did you say something, nurse?”

            "No, I was just fussing with this new blood pressure machine----I think I will bring in another one, I'll be right back.”

             Walker shakes his head and then he jerks back as he feels Cooper trying to squeeze his hand.

           "Coop! You did hear me, didn't you?”

           The hand squeezes harder, then relaxes.

           Walker's eyes tear up, "I know you're hearing me Coop--- this has been a good sign, can you squeeze my hand again?”

          The ranger continues to wait but there no response from young Cooper.

 

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

 

          They have found refuge in the barn that Hayes had helped to clean out earlier. The rain is now coming down hard and both he and the man from the saloon have to keep moving around to find dry spots. Hayes keeps staring at the old man.

          "You better not try anything old man, I still have my gun and I will shoot you if you do!”

            "I'm more concerned with staying dry---damn I wish I had another drink. My hands are shaking---see---see how they shake!”

             "My Pa’s hands shook like that when he had too much to drink, serves him right and you too. We never had any money 'cause he would spend it all on that 'devil juice!”

              The old man laughs, "Devil juice, huh? That's what my daughter used to call it, her and her Mama!”

             "You got a daughter, where is she?”

             "Don't know, back in New York I reckon. Haven't seen her in about ten years. Last I heard she was living in Colorado---going to college, studying to be a lawyer.”

            "A lawyer? I hear them people are real smart, did you ever meet one?”

            The old man takes a deep breath, "Yeah, used to know one. But, he had a problem---he drank a lot.”

             Hayes nods his head, "Like you?”

            "Yeah----like me. What about you kid, why are you here in this mess? You say you're going to kill the Paladine brothers, do you know for sure that they killed your Pa?”

           "That's what the old horse doctor told me, he said they shot him dead because my Pa was calling 'em out for what they done to me."

           "What about witnesses?”

           "What are them?”

            The old man continues to shiver and shake.

           "Never mind! I keep forgetting that I'm in Texas where the law is handled by guns---not a judge and jury! This 'god forsaken' place never will never be civilized!”

            "You use a lot of fancy words, but if you don't cotton to it here---go back to that fancy place you was talking about. Don't be bashing Texas!”

            "If I had any sense I would be on the next stage East--but I can't go----just yet.”

           "Why not?”

           "Let's just say the 'scales of justice' prevent me from doing so! Because like you---I have a debt to settle.”

           "I don't know what you're talking about.”

           "You said your name was Hayes?”

           "Don't recall telling you my name.”

          "It's a different kind of name, is that your first or last name?”

          "Why?”

          "Well, I need to know what to put on your tombstone when they bury you six feet under, cause that's where you’re heading on this path of destruction!! Now which is it?”

         "My name is Hayes---Hayes Cooper---so there!!!”

         "I thought most of you TEXANS went by your last names?”

          "Never thought about using my last name, but I always did like the sound of it. Cooper? That sounds more like a man's name!”

           "But, you're not a man", the old man answers slowly.

            "I will be! I'm going on 16 summers!!!

             The old man lies down in the straw and curls up; he looks back to the boy and asks.

            "So, which is it going to be?”

             The boys’ smiles, "Cooper! Because when I find the Paladine brothers, they will know the name of my Pa and they will know I aim to kill them!

             The old man groans, "Why did I agree to this?---oh God----I need a drink!”

 

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

 

Ride For The Brand - Part 5

 

           It's early morning and Cooper has awakened to the sun beaming in through the cracks of the old barn. He looks over to the old man, who is still fast asleep.

          "Hey old man, wake up! You said you would tell me about the Paladine Brothers. Where are they?”

           The old man grumbles as he opens his eyes and looks around. He rubs his hand across his stubbly beard and smacks his lips. He sees the boy staring back at him.

          "Seems I recall that I said I would tell you if you bought me a bottle, I don't see one!”

           "Here! It’s the best I could do; I took it off a table in the saloon when the man went outside to piss!”

            Cooper throws a half empty bottle over to the old man. He grabs it and begins drinking it as fast as he can.

            "Hurry up old man, I ain't got all day! Tell me where they are--or was you just lying to me?”

            The old man drinks the last of the whiskey, he answers softly.

           "You sure in a hurry to meet your maker!”

           "Stop wasting my time, I don't believe in any of that stuff---about God and all that!”

         "That makes two of us! My friend is the devil himself and I wake up each morning staring into his ugly face!”

         "I don't believe in the devil neither, where are the Paladine Brothers!”

         "You sure woke up with a burr under your saddle! Now that you've got a man's name does not make you a man---and you damn sure not any smarter!”

         "What you mean?”

          "I mean, there are three of them and only one of you. Do you have a plan on how to take them?”

          "Don't need no plan; I shoot them down like they did my Pa!”

          ”You do that and you will end up in jail---that's murder!”

          "They killed my Pa, they didn't go to jail!”

           "Because they ran---you're too stupid to run! You think because you're a kid that they won't string you up?”

            "You mean, 'hang me?”

            "I will tell you where they are, but you got to let the law handle them. Take them to court, put them on trial!”

             "They don't deserve no trial----they murdered my Pa, don't you understand?”

              The old man's voice softens, "I understand that you are confused, you want vengeance---but this is not the way.  That's why the laws were written, to obey the rules and let justice prevail!”

              Cooper sits down on a bale of hay and rubs his head.

              "I don't understand everything you are saying. If they go to court, then---they will get hung--is that what you're saying?”

              "They have to be tried first, it has to be proven that they did kill your Pa. Witnesses have to come forth and testify to what they saw, and then the lawyers will argue the case and decide their fate!”

         "Nobody saw them shoot my Pa---just the old horse Doctor says that he saw them do it!”

         "Did it ever occur to you that he might be lying?”

         "Why would he lie to me?”

         "People will lie for many reasons, and it's up to a lawyer to prove they are lying!”

         "A lawyer will help me prove that they killed my Pa? Where do I get one of them there lawyers?”

          The old man throws the empty whiskey bottle across the barn floor.

         "You're looking at one!”

         "YOU?"

          "I used to be a great lawyer till the bottle got a hold of me! It cost me my wife and daughter, 'that' and the many women that I couldn't resist. I've got one last chance to make it all right!”

          The old man hands Cooper a wrinkled and stained card, the boy just stares at it.

          "Well?”

          Cooper hands the card back to him, "I can't read, I don't know what it says.”

         The old man grabs the lapels of his old suit and struts around the barn. He then bows.

         "Gordon Cahill, attorney at law---at your service young man"

 

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

 

    St. Mathews:

 

          The preacher from the Walkers' church has been visiting. A tall and lanky man, who favors his left knee, due to a car accident.

         "I'm so sorry that I haven't been able to be here more for your son!”

        "We understand brother Bob; we understand your busy schedule."

        The preacher bends over Cooper and says a blessing; he turns to Alex and Angela.

        "Has there been any change?”

        "My husband said that last night Cooper squeezed his hand for several seconds that means that he is hearing our voices! Right brother Bob?”

        "It's a very good sign and Cooper knows that the Lord is beside him, now and always!”

        "Yes, my son is no stranger to God, none of us are!”

         "I have to be going, but first---may I lead us in a special prayer?”

         They all join hands and the preacher begins leading them in prayer.

         "Damn it! I don't believe this---Mom---look at this mess------oh, I'm sorry I didn't know you were here brother Bob---I'm so sorry for what I said!”

         Alex stares back at Cordell in disbelief, "Cordell John Walker, how dare you use foul language in a hospital, and---and---in front of our preacher?”

        Cordell's face turns red, "I'm so sorry Mom and again I'm sorry brother Bob------please forgive me!”

        The preacher nods his head slowly and places his hand on Cordell's shoulder.

           "It’s o.k. my son-----sometime we forget where we are. I've said a few choice words too, at the mercy of a hammer hitting my thumb!”

          The preacher soon leaves and again Alex is staring at her son.

         "What was so important that you had to enter a room like that, what's wrong with you?”

          Cordell shakes his head, "I found the book report, Mom!”

         "That's no excuse Cordell!”

         "I said I was sorry for my behavior, Angela! Mom---this is important. Where's Dad?”

         "He's testifying at a trial, why? Why are you so angry?”

          Cordell holds up a mess of pages, "This! It's Cooper's book report and it's in a total mess!”

          Angela smirks, "What else is new? Our brother is not exactly organized----we can't all be 'neat freaks'---like you?”

            Cordell takes a deep breath, "For once, it's not my brother that has created this mess. Look closer Angela, what do you see?”

            Angela takes some of the pages and stares at them.

           "Ugggghhh, what is this stuff? It smells almost like fingernail polish!”

            "Because that's what is! Along with cheap perfume, fingernail polish, cola spilt all over it----and God knows what this green stuff is!”

             Alex touches the substance, "It feels like ---like seaweed. Why in the world would your brother have all of these things all over his book report?”

          Cordell grabs a glass of water and begins explaining.

         "I've been questioning all of our friends about this report and finally Peg Davis said that she saw Cooper giving it to Lana Reeves."

         "Who is Lana Reeves?”

          Angela groans, "Oh great----Miss big boobs, herself!”

         "Angela, please! Let your brother explain!”

          "Sis is right, Miss big boobs! Actually, she stuffs her bra with tissue and who knows what else------"

          "Cordell---Please!”

          "Peg said that Lana had been hanging around Cooper's locker, so I guess she was pretending that she wanted to read it---and knowing my brother----he believed her!  For what reason, I'll never understand. Anyways, she ended up with it---brought it back to school because all of our friends were trying to find it----and she brings it back ---in this condition! Said she was down at Galveston, on the beach!"

         "She's almost as messy as Cooper!” Replies Angela.

         Alex takes the report and examines the mess.

        "Sweetheart, I know you like things neat----but we can get this all straightened out. We will all put the pages in order and try to clean----this 'gook' off and.''

        "Mom, that's not the important part---here is the title, what does it say?”

        "Ride For The Brand? Isn't this the phrase that you and your Father were saying that Cooper was--always saying?”

        "Yes, Mom.”

        "Alright, but why is this so significant to you? It's just a title!”

         Cordell sighs, "Mom, don't you remember when Dad was always reading that book about Hayes Cooper to me and Coop, when we were younger?”

         Alex nods her head slowly, "The Life and Times of Hayes Cooper, yes---I remember it. I also remember that he had to read it to Cooper several times because your brother was so infatuated with it---more so than you!”

          "I only had to hear it one time---that was enough for me! I'm not that interested in westerns---not like Cooper! He never got tired of hearing it!”

          "Yes, and as he got older--he downloaded it to his computer! I remember seeing it---when I was getting on to him about spending too much time on the computer."

          "I still don't understand why you're so excited about this book report being on this Hayes' character, what's that got to do with our brother?”

          "Maybe more than we realize, Angela. Your Father will be here soon; maybe he can spread some light on all this?”

          "If anyone can, it's MY Daddy!”

 

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

 

          The young girl observes Hayes Cooper leaving the barn. The old man from the saloon is talking to him, rather sternly. Finally he walks off.

         "Where have you been? I hope you didn't spend the night in that nasty old barn---it leaks!

         "I know! But, it's the only place I could stay---and it was free!”

         "Who was that man you were talking to?”

         "You sure do ask a lot of questions---if you must know---he is gonna be my lawyer!”

          The girl laughs, “What do you need a lawyer for?”

          Cooper shakes his head, "You ask too many questions, go bother somebody else. I got work to do!”

          "I wanted to ask you something.”

           "What?”

           "Would you like to attend church with me?”

           Cooper starts walking away and throws his hands up in the air.

           "No way! I ain't never been inside a church, and I ain't starting now, don't believe in God!”

             "That's your biggest mistake, not having 'faith' in God and the things he will do for you---if you just ask!”                                                                    

             Cooper stops and walks back to the girl.

            "If God is so great, why didn't he stop them bastards from killing my Pa?”

           "You don't need to use swear words, not today--of all days!”

           "What is so great about today?”

          "It's Sunday----and everybody should be in church---especially you! You need someone to listen and he will listen!”

          "I ain't going to church---so you best leave me alone 'fore I say something you don't wanna hear!”

          The girl turns around, with her chin up in the air.

         "Fine! Be that way, but you will change your mind before the day is out. If so, there will be an evening service too! See you there, Cooper!”

           Cooper stares at the girl as she walks away.

          "How did she know my name?”

 

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

 

            St Mathews:

            Cordell has met his Father as he steps off the elevator; the boy is talking a mile a minute. Cordell holds the book report up to him.

           "We finally got it arranged, and I printed a copy of it and Mom faxed it over to Mr. Evers. Dad, you got to read this!”

           "O.k. son, I will! You need to slow down before you have a heart attack!”

            "Dad! I'm serious----you got to read this! Cooper writes about Hayes Cooper and some of the things that have happened to 'our' Cooper have happened to Hayes Cooper, when he was a boy! The part about Hayes being kicked by a mule, Cooper was kicked by a horse. He talks about Hayes' Pa---remember---he called you "Pa'?

            "Wait a minute son, there was never anything written about Hayes Cooper until he was in his adult years, and his "Pa' was never mentioned! Not in that book that I used to read to you boys and as far as I recall, it was the only book written about him!" 

           "I remember that, Dad! But, you also said that you wished that you could have known more about your hero in his early years!”  

            Walker stares back at his son, "I see what you're getting at. You think that your brother has created a childhood for Hayes Cooper!”

            "Something like that-----and maybe that's where he's at---in this dream or whatever!”

             Walker draws his son closer to him, being careful not to hurt his right arm.

            "I think we need to talk to Dr. Thomas and see what he thinks of your 'theory. But first, I want to see the rest of my family. Is your Mother o.k., is she staying off her feet like Dr. Bates instructed?”

            "Yes sir. Angela and I have made sure she doesn't lift a finger----or foot!”

             The ranger smiles and kisses the top of his son's head, Cordell pulls away.

             "Dad, we're in-----you know---a public place. I'm too big for this!”

             "Since when?  O.k, no public affection, does that please you?”

             The ranger and his son continue walking towards Cooper's hospital room. They are being observed by the nurse Maxine and another young nurse.

             "Did you see that, the boy pulled away from his Father?”

              The younger nurse turns to Maxine and says quietly.

              "I think the young man was merely embarrassed by his Fathers' attention in a public place. Most kids that age react in that manner."

               Maxine shakes her head, "No, that's a sign that boy and the other boy have been abused, mark my word!”

              The young nurse again answers in a voice that's just above a whisper.

             "I think you need to concentrate on things you know about, you are not behaving in a professional manner. I have heard one of the aides talking about your comments on the Walker family---if it continues I will be forced to take this to nurse Abbott. Is that clear?”

            "Don't threaten me, I out rank you!”

            "Rank doesn't mean anything to Nurse Abbott, you've already clashed with her once this year, want to try for two?”

            "How do you know about that, you've only been here at St. Mathews for just a few days?”

             The young nurse smiles, "You would be surprised at what I know---don't push it!”

 

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

        

  Young Cooper is awaiting the return of the lawyer; the man finally makes his appearance.

           "So, what did the marshal say? Will he arrest the Paladine Brothers?

           "He has to find them first, but it's not a marshal I talked to.”

            The boy is becoming impatient.

            "You said there was a marshal over in the next county!”

             Gordon Cahill is looking around for something to drink, he keeps smacking his lips.

            "I need something to wet my thirst; did you get me another bottle?”

             "No I don't have any more money. But, the old man that cleans the stalls left a little coffee, want some?”

             Cahill grimaces, "Not exactly what I had in mind. Where is it?”

             The boy pours the last of the coffee and Cahill drinks it slowly.

             "Tastes like tar!”

              "Never mind that, if you didn't talk to the marshal, who did you talk to?”

              "A Texas Ranger!”

               The boys' eyes light up, “A Texas Ranger, a real live Texas Ranger?"

               Cahill spits the last drop of coffee out and stares back at Hayes Cooper.

              "No, a dead one! Hell yes, he was alive----wasn't very friendly and didn't appear to be too interested in the Palladines. Think he had something else on his mind!”

           "What now? Will he find the Paladins for us?”

           "He said he would, his mind was somewhere else.”

           "What ya mean, somewhere else?”

           "Seems the ranger's wife is due any day, and he's as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs!”

            "What ya mean---his wife is due---due what?”

            Cahill takes a deep sigh, "His wife is due to give birth----a baby you dumb hillbilly!”

             Cooper's face flushes, "I ain't never seen no baby get born."

             "Well, I don't think either of us will be invited to the blessed event!'

              Cahill stops and looks around, "What the hell is that noise, sounds like someone screaming?”

              Cooper points to the door, "It's coming from the church down the street, that preacher has been screaming and carrying on for the last hour!”

              The old man flops down on the hay and tries to get comfortable. He tosses and turns.

              "Damn it, not going to get any sleep till that preacher runs out of air----or I put my fist down his throat!”

               Cooper sits down beside him, "The music sure sounded pretty earlier, someone was singing something about 'amazing' or something like that!”

              Cahill stands up and walks over to the door, he turns back to Cooper.

              "What say we mosey on down there and maybe the music will start again?”

              "I guess we got no choice. Sure hope whoever was singing will sing that song again!”

               They walk slowly towards the sounds of the church.

 

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

 

  Ride for The Brand - Part 6

 

        St. Mathews:

 

           Doctor Thomas has 'skimmed over ' the report on Hayes Cooper and the similar situations relating him to Cooper Walker. He shakes his head and looks to the Walker family.

           "I've heard of these things happening. It's like when we go to sleep at night after watching a movie that has really impacted us. It stays in our subconscious mind, and sometimes we do end up in those dreams---in some way or another. So----it's not uncommon."

            Cordell beams, "So, my brother is in this dream with his ----and my Dad's hero?”

           Walker glares at his son and shifts uneasily back and forth, rather embarrassed that he has a hero.

            "You're so right young man and that is what we are going to start working on.”

             "Just tell us what to do, Doctor.” Pleads Alex.

              "The same thing that all of you have been doing, by talking to him. But, this time---start talking to him about that report and the character in it.”

             "I don't know too much about the character", replies Angela, "I was never into westerns or that Hayes Cooper.”

              Cordell puts his left arm around his sister.

              "It's o.k. sis. I'll read it and explain the character to you.”

              Walker clears his throat, "I have another book at home, and maybe there might be something in it that will help us too. Alex, is your Dad still at the ranch?”

              "Yes, I will call him and ask him to bring the book on the way to the hospital.”

               The Doctor smiles, "So, let's get started. I want to start monitoring the feedback as each of you talk to him and the things you are saying to him. The highest responses are what we will concentrate on. Who wants to go first?”

 

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

 

            Cahill and Cooper are listening outside the church. They sit down on an old log as they listen to the preacher rave.

             "I didn't know they could talk so loud, ain't they supposed to talk---soft?”

              Cahill smirks, "Not any of the ones I ever heard! I hated church---but my wife would drag me there----every Sunday! Then------when my daughter came along----she would sing in the choir.”

              Cooper stares back at his friend and the way his voice changes.

            "What happened to your wife?”

            "She----took a long trip---to a place that tried to help her depression.”

            "Depression, what's that?”

           "It's something that happens to your body and mind when someone-----has disappointed you-----and caused you pain. Something similar to what you are experimenting, Cooper."

          "I got that ’depression thing? How?”

         "You must have felt sad and hurt after your Father was killed, and you had to have feelings that you didn't understand, and the anger!”

          "But, you said I had reason to be angry, and now you say I don't?”

           Cahill turns to the young man.

          "I'm saying that this might not be the right path for you to be taking. If you kill those men, your life will be forever changed.”

           "My life changed when my Pa was killed."

           The old man takes a deep sigh, "Yes, I understand that. I have to keep reminding myself that the justice here is entirely different from the way it is back East.”

           "Let me ask you something lawyer man. If someone had killed someone you loved, would you want someone else taking your revenge?”

             "I reckon not" answers the old man.

            "Can I tell you something? All my life I don't remember my Pa ever call me anything but 'boy'---but on that day he was killed---he called me 'son. I remember him saying that every day.”

            The two stare at each other for the longest and then finally Cahill mumbles.

          "I think that damn preacher has run out of breath, maybe we can get some sleep now.”

           They began walking back to the stables when the music starts again and Cooper stops.

         "There's that pretty song again, I want to see who is singing it.”

           He opens the church door to peek in; he turns back to the old man.

         "It's her, it's that girl that keeps following me and asking all kinds of questions. Can we just listen for a while?”

          Cahill smiles, "Sure, we can listen to the music. Maybe this is the sign I'm supposed to be listening for.”

          Cooper looks at him confused, "What you talking about, sign?”

          They both listen to the music and Gordon Cahill's memory returns to that of seeing a blond, blue eyed girl singing her heart out on a certain song. The song is "Amazing Grace.”

 

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

 

Ride For The Brand Part 7

 

           St. Mathew's

 

        As Walker and Cordell are going over Cooper's book report, Alex and Angela are talking softly to Cooper.

       "Cooper, sweetheart---it's Mom. Sweetheart, we think we know how to get you to come back to us. Your brother found that book report you wrote and we understand that you are in some kind of dream. The Doctor thinks that you are living in Hayes Coopers' childhood, is this true? Can you hear me; squeeze my hand if you can.”

         The minutes pass and no response from Cooper.

         Alex's voice breaks, "I can't reach him.”

        Angela goes to her Mothers' side, "It's o.k. mama---just keep trying.”

         Walker has read the book report, he shakes his head.

        "Some parts must be missing. According to this---the story ends with Cooper going after the three men that shot his "Pa.”

       "Is that good, Daddy?”

        "I don't know, baby, I suppose. But, if this is where the story ends, then we should be able to reach him.”

        "Maybe Cooper wanted the story to continue---in his mind?" Replies Cordell.

         Angela shakes her head, "You're sure giving our brother some imagination!”

         The Doctor is watching the machines and notices a small response; he looks over to Alex who is humming softly to herself.

        "Mrs. Walker, I'm getting a small response. What is that song you're humming?”

         Everyone looks to Alex as she answers, "Amazing Grace.”

 

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

 

         The town of Jackson Flats is in total awe at the sight that is coming down the dusty road leading into their little town. The dust has been kicking up for several miles as the many horses approach in perfect unison. The cadence sounds of men's' voices barking orders. A tattered old US flag is being held up- right by its staff in the stirrup of a young man, while another flag in equal condition follows behind with the #9 displayed.

          The men at the saloon are spilling over into the street and the old bartender's eyes grow wide.

         "I don't believe it---I heard they were setting up in these parts!”

          Cooper and Cahill stare at the bartender and then to the faces of the riders. A lone figure dismounts and approaches the saloon, dusting the dirt from his uniform. He takes his bandanna and wipes his face with it. The face is still dark.

          Cooper looks to the bartender, "Who are they?”

          The old bartender spits a wad of tobacco towards the lone figure and answers.

         "Buffalo soldiers! That's who the hell they are---darkies in Union uniforms!”

          The lone soldier approaches the saloon, then nods back to his troops.

          "I'm Captain James Washington Trivette, 9th Calvary---asking permission for my men to enter Sir

           The bartender stands firm, "We don't allow 'darkies', fancy uniforms or not!”

           The young officer continues to climb the steps, letting his right hand rest comfortably on his holstered .45.

           "By order of the president of the United States, I hereby demand that you, sir are refusing to serve soldiers of the US Calvary, 9th division!  Any further refusal can result in a court martial against your establishment.  Is that clear,----Sir

          Cahill snickers, "The man is right bartender, you can't refuse to serve them!”

           The big man snorts, "Maybe so----but I don't have to like it!”

           The soldiers step up to the bar, a bottle of whiskey is slammed down in front of them. They say nothing as one burly sergeant reaches over and grabs the shot glasses.

           The captain finds his own table as Cahill followed by young Cooper, approach him.

          "You got balls, captain---I'll give you that! May we join you?”

           The captain nods slowly.

           "I take it my speech didn't get past you---Mr.?”

           "Gordon Cahill, attorney at law-----you made your point to the bartender, just the wrong words. You can't court martial a civilian for not serving you liquor, but you can charge him with 'not upholding the rights of a military officer----which in this "god forsaken town in Texas----no one would know the difference anyways!  But, I would suggest that you don't throw them fancy words around again----or you're gonna be tar and feathered. Get my meaning?”

             The young Captain nods slowly, "I get your meaning.”

             Cooper is staring at the dark skinned man.

            "What you staring at white boy, ain't you never seen a black man before?”

             Cooper swallows hard "No, I mean yes----in the cotton fields!”

             The captain downs his drink and the sergeant pours him another round. He looks to Cahill, and pours him a drink.

            "We don't tend to be here long, just passing through and getting our horses freshened up. Heading down around Waco!”

           "Aren't you afraid of going deeper South? You know----there's a lot of people down this way that still don't accept what you boys have done in the war?”

           "Do you? Have you accepted that we have given lives for the union?”

          "The war is over, it doesn't matter what I think. And, as soon as my -----debt----is paid--I'll be moving on.”

          The two men stare hard at one another as Cooper stares into their eyes. He turns to his friend.

         "You keep talking about a 'debt'--what do you mean by that?”

         Cahill smiles, "In time, you will find out.”

         "We were bush wacked about a week ago down in some place called Coyote Canyon, I lost four good soldiers. Actually, my commanding officer was killed---I was promoted in the field. Can't say I enjoy my new commission---today was no exception!”

           "Who you looking for?”

            The Captain looks straight at Cooper and replies, "The Palladine Brothers!”

             Cooper's face turns white, then angry.

             "Me too! They killed my "Pa'!”

              "Stand down boy, they will answer to a military court first---and then shot by a firing squad!”

             Cahill eyes the young Captain, "You've got them tried and convicted already, why take them to court?”

              The captain's face turns even darker as he stares into the lawyer's face.

              "I saw them slit the throats of three of my men and then they shot my commanding officer between the eyes. He didn't die right away and then them three 'sons of bitches' tortured him, all the time calling him 'nigger' and a disgrace to the uniform!! Does that answer your question, Mr. Lawyer?”

              Gordon Cahill stands up, extends his hand to the captain.

              "I believe it does young man, good luck to you. I bid you farewell.”

               Cooper watches in confusement as his friend calmly walks to the door and walks out into the street.

              Cooper has searched for hours to find Cahill, finally he sees him boarding a stagecoach.

             "Where you going?”

             "My debt has been paid, young Cooper. I must go now, I want to try and find my daughter, and try to be a part of her life.”

            "You're leaving? What about the trial, ain't you going to be my lawyer anymore?”

             Cahill looks to the saloon and sees the young captain exiting, they nod to each other and the captain mounts up. Turning, he gives a 'foreward ho' to his men, they trot slowly beside the stagecoach. As their eyes meet, the Captain salutes Cahill, then their pace increases and they ride south.

           "You'll be fine son, just have faith in the law. You will have many forks in your life of decisions; you will know the right ones when the time comes. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, just be smart enough to learn from them. It's too late for me and my wife, she has passed on. But, I have to try with my daughter---one last time! Goodbye Hayes Cooper, maybe we will meet again---in another life!”

            Cahill takes one last look around the town and then he mumbles to himself "Lord, take care of this boy and please---don't ever give me a reason to live in Texas!”

            Cooper watches as the stage moves down the dirt road and then out of sight. He stands for the longest and then he just sits down in the middle of the road, his eyes tear up. He whispers.

           "Everyone is always leaving me.”

           "Not everyone, Cooper.”

            He looks up to see the strawberry blond with green eyes looking back at him and smiling.

          "My Daddy says to bring you home for a good hot meal. Do you like chicken 'n' dumplins?”

          "I don't know, don't reckon I have ever tasted them---but the chicken sounds good. -----But, your Daddy doesn't like me!”

          The girl turns and sees her Daddy, the bartender, standing between the swinging doors. She turns back to Cooper and replies.

         "Well---he hasn't killed you yet---that's a good sign!”

 

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

 

Ride For The Brand Part 8

 

       St Mathews

 

       The Walkers have been taking turns talking to Cooper about his report and also the book 'Life and Times of Hayes Cooper'.

       Cordell is now reading him parts about the Palladine Bros.

       "Hey bro', how did you come up with this part and why?  I never knew you could write like this, Mr. Evers says it's 'A' plus material for sure!"

        Alex's Dad has been at the hospital all evening, along with Trivette and more members from the church.  Rangers and other law enforcement have dropped by to show their support.

        After everyone has left, Walker is trying to convince Alex to go home with her Dad and get some rest.

        "Honey, I want to stay here, with our son!”

        "But, you need rest! Please go home for at least a couple of hours.”

         Cahill puts his arm around his daughter, "That husband of yours is right Pumpkin---let's go home for a few hours, what do you say?”

          "Alright, but only for a few hours---and then I'm coming back----understand?”

           Cahill shakes his head and mumbles, "Just as stubborn as you’re Mother and this damn Texas weather!”

           Alex has gone home and the aides have brought in trays of food for the rest. None of them have eaten much as Angela stares at all the trays.

           "I'm going to fix us something to eat and bring it in tomorrow; hospital food leaves a sour taste in my mouth!”

            "I know baby, I'll sneak out in a while and go get you and your brother something to eat from McDonald's.”

             "Uggghhh, Daddy---that tastes even worse!”

              "Stop complaining Angela, this dessert doesn't taste bad.”

             "What's it supposed to be?”

              "It’s chocolate cake, sis. If Cooper could eat solid food, he would have devoured all of our plates for it!"

              Angela dabs her finger into the chocolate icing and tastes it.

              "It doesn't taste bad, but mine is better. Right, Daddy?”

              Walker looks up from the book report and smiles.

              "Yes, baby---your cakes are out of this world---especially the Devils Food and the Pineapple Upside Down cakes that you bake for me!”

             Angela beams as she takes another small taste of the chocolate icing. She leans over her brother and places a small dab on his bottom lip.

 

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

 

           Young Hayes Cooper is having the meal of his lifetime as he gobbles up the white drops of dough, seething in a bed of chicken broth. He looks up to see the young girl and her daddy, the bartender, staring back at him.

           "I'm sorry for my table manners; it's just that I ain't never tasted anything this good.”

            The bartender grunts, "You remind me of an old sow that hasn't eaten all day! What you going to do next---roll in some mud?”

              "Daddy---that's rude!”

              "It's alright, I'm used to people being rude to me" Cooper replies softly.

               "Well, if you would stop feeling sorry for yourself and act like a man---people would stop treating you like a 'snot nose kid. Buck up kid, stand your ground, stand up for yourself and what you believe in!”

             Cooper stares at the old man.

             "I do try to stand up for what I believe in, like wanting to revenge my "Pa's death, but I get told to let the law handle it. I agree, then people leave me. I'm told that I'm just a kid and to act like one---and now you're saying 'act like a man! What the hell am I supposed to do?”

             "You lower your voice when you are a guest in my house, you little 'whippersnapper!” 

             The girl lays her hand over that of the old man's.

            "Daddy please!  Apologize----both of you!!”!

             They stare at each other and then the man motions for Cooper to keep eating, the girl smiles back at him.

             "Thank you daddy, you're just like a grumpy old dog who thinks he has to whup up on all the smaller ones.   Guess that's why everyone down there at the saloon calls you big dog!”

              Cooper is swallowing his milk as fast as he can. He turns to the man and asks.

              "Is that what I'm supposed to call you, 'big dog?”

               The man glares back at him, "Only my friends call me that---you can call me Mr. Parker

               The girl smiles as she rushes to throw her arms around the man.

               "He may not have given me birth, but he's my Daddy and I love him.”

                Parker blushes, "Alright, that's enough---the two of you get of here so as I can get these dishes washed.”

                "Thank you daddy, I'll take us some cake out on the porch and daddy----we have to get him out of that stinky barn!”

                "And, what do you suggest we do---move him into our house?”

                 "No, he can sleep in the back of the saloon!”

                 "I don't want to be no trouble, I can go back to the barn---I like it there!”

                 Parker stares at the boy, "You'll do as my daughter says--you will sleep at the saloon and you will work for your bed and board---is that clear?”

                 Cooper nods as he and the girl go to sit on the porch.

                "Will you tell me your name; I can't keep calling you 'girl?”

               "I'll tell you after you agree to go to church with me.”

               "No way---I ain't going to no church!”

              "You came to the church the other night and peeked in, I saw you!”

               "I just wanted to know who was singing---and I saw you. You sing real pretty. But, I don't like that preacher! He made my ears hurt!”

                "What preacher? There was no preacher that night, we were having choir practice!”

               "I know what I heard, he was screaming so loud, it was scaring the horses. Cahill heard him too, and he was here---he would tell you!”

               "There was no preacher and besides my preacher doesn't scream, he's a kind man and very soft spoken!”

               Cooper stares at the girl, "If you say so, I still ain't going to church.”

              "Fine, I'm not telling you my name!”

             "Fine! I don't care!”

             "Will you not laugh at my name?”

             "No, I ain't gonna laugh!”

             "Well, my Daddy calls me Faith---but my birth name is Althea!”

             "Althea?  That's a pretty name, I like it."

             "So much that you will go to church with me?” Althea asks smiling and making her brows arch.

              Cooper runs his hands through his hair, "Yes, I'll go to church with you---just this one time!”

             "One time is all you will need, Cooper.”

             "What do you mean by that?”

             "Never mind, let's eat my cake. Do you like chocolate?”

            "Ain't never tasted it, don't know if I do or not!”

             Althea shoves a piece into Cooper's mouth; he swallows and then begins licking his lips.

           "That tastes good, can I have some more?”

          Young Hayes Cooper has discovered chocolate as he takes his fingers and laps it all from the dinner plate, and smacking his lips.

 

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

 

Ride For The Brand Part 9

 

     St. Mathews

 

       Cordell and Walker have returned with hamburgers, Angela is jumping up and down as she relays her message.

       "Daddy, he responded again! Cooper was licking the chocolate off his lower lip!”

       Walker drops the burgers on the table and runs to his son's side, turning towards Angela.

      "Are you sure, baby?”

      "Yes, I'm sure. The nurse saw it also.”

       Cordell looks around the room, "What nurse?"

       "The nurse that was just here, didn't you see her?”

       "You mean that nosy nurse that you've said you didn't like?”

       "No Daddy. This one was sort of young and real nice; she saw it first and got my attention!”

        "Has the Doctor been in, was he told about any of this?”

        The nurse must have left to go and tell him.”

        Walker begins brushing his son's hair back and talking to him.

        "Heeey son, what was that all about? You're getting better, I just know it---like your Grandfather C.D. was always saying "I can feel it in my bones.”

        "Daddy, put some of this icing on his bottom lip, see if Cooper will have another response!”

        Walker does as his daughter has suggested no response.

        The Doctor walks in.

        "Hey, how is everything going?  Anything to report yet?”

         Angela stares at the doctor.

         "Didn't that new nurse tell you what happened?”

         "What nurse? Did something happen, what?”

          Angela relays her message again.

         "I haven't been told anything, what nurse are you referring to? Was it nurse Poe?”

         I've never seen her before, she was rather young with strawberry colored hair, she was wearing glasses.”

         The Doctor checks his schedule, "The only nurse that was supposed to be on duty at this hour is Nurse Poe, she's in her late 40's with red hair!”

         Angela shakes her head, "No it definitely wasn't her---I don't even want her near my brother---I don't like her!”

         Walker puts his arms around his daughter, "It's o.k. baby, calm down.”

         Cordell takes his sister's hand, "Did you doze off Sis? Maybe you fell asleep and just dreamed that you saw Cooper licking the chocolate off his lip!”

        "Noooo Cordell, I saw it---with my own eyes!”

 

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

 

        It's the mid hours of the coming dawn when a loud pounding is heard on the door of Parker's home. Grabbing his shotgun, he looks out the window, then runs to the door. A lone figure tumbles in past him and hits the floor.

        Parker runs to the man and sees the blood all over the front of his blue tunic uniform. He looks back over his shoulder and sees Faith running to him; she kneels down beside the fallen captain.

         "What's he doing here, daddy? He wasn't supposed to come here'!

          "I know daughter, no time to talk---get some towels to stop this bleeding, hurry!”

           The black captain is trying to talk.

         "All dead----they came out of nowhere---the noise was so loud---""

          "Don't talk; we got to stop this bleeding.”

          "They're coming 'big dog'----it's time!”

           Parker keeps shaking his head, "Nooo, it's not time yet, we're not ready!”

          The captain is spitting up blood, "You have to get ready, their eyes were glowing----no time to waste!”

          An hour has passed and the captain is resting comfortably.

          Parker is pacing nervously.

         "I thought we had more time to prepare the boy, how many were there?”

         "Only three that I could see---but I felt the 4th one was nearby, watching.”

        This is bad. Faith, you have to get that boy inside the church if not, we all perish!”

        "He agreed to go with me, daddy, he promised!”

         Parker grabs the young girl, "And, as soon as he is inside the church---you get out of there and ride as far-----"

        "No Daddy, you're not sending me away this time, I'm staying!”

        "Faith, listen to me."

        "NO! I've got him this far, I will see it through---I have a stake in this too!”

         The captain coughs, "What's ----she--talking about?”

         Parker takes a deep sigh, "She's taken a liking to the boy.”

         Faith smiles, "It's not just a liking---I'm going to marry him---someday!”

       "This is insane---you will perish with him!”

        "No, he will not allow it---you'll see.”

        "It's almost daybreak, go wake the boy and get him to the church----now!”

         Faith hesitates, "Daddy, Cooper heard his voice in the barn the other night, I tried to convince him he didn't!"

        Parker grabs his daughter and hugs her, "He is already here. Go Faith, go get the boy and stay with him!”

        The girl is off and running.

       "How could you allow this to happen, if the 4th one appears---this whole town will cease to exist?”

       "Don't you think I know that?  All of your platoon---is gone?”

        The captain nods his head slowly.

       "We heard the thundering hoofs, the noise was deafening. Our ears were bleeding, and then they were upon us!”

       "How did you manage to get away?”

       "Only by the grace of GOD, and my dark skin blending with the dark of the night!”

         Parker groans, "God better be working triple time tomorrow, let us pray.”

         The two men join hands.

 

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

 

     St Mathews

 

          Walker has the book report in his hand and pacing back and forth.

         "What's wrong, daddy?”

         "We have to find that missing chapter!”

         "But, Mr. Evers said he was going to give Cooper a passing grade, even without the final chapter.”

        "You don't understand, Angela. If your brother is following Hayes Cooper's life, then we have to know what is going to happen in that final chapter. It could mean---maybe the answer to how to get your brother back to us and getting out of this horrible dream!”

           "Dad's right. I've gone over this story and all the things that have happened to the Cooper character has happened in a similar way to our brother!”

            Dr. Thomas has been listening to the conversation between the Walkers.

            "I agree, and also there's the earlier chapter about what he plans to do to the killers of his Father.”

            Angela looks back and forth to her Father and brother and then back to the Doctor.

            "But, he's only a character, he's not real! How can what he does, affect Cooper?”

            "Think about it Sis, everything that Hayes Cooper has done, does affect our brother! Cooper is inside this character----or I mean Hayes Cooper is inside him---am I saying that right?”

           "You're on the right track, son. We can't take any chances; we got to find that missing chapter!"

           "I have to ask this, ranger Walker---is your son violent?”

           "No!” Answers Angela.

            Walker puts his arm around his daughter and then looks to the doctor.

           "He does have a temper; most boys his age have tempers! But, I wouldn't say---he was violent!”

           Cordell nods his head, "That's true, we're both in the 'arts' but we have practiced the teachings of Yen for years. Dad insisted on it!”

          "I don't understand ----'Yen?”

          "Yes Doctor it's the teachings of the Chinese for martial arts. Yen teaches self-discipline, control, and respect for the art. With my students as well as my family, I will not tolerate abusing the arts in a way other than self-defense!”

            Cordell smiles, "Yeah, but Dad has kicked a few buttes when not totally necessary, huh Dad?”

           "I understand what you're trying to say, ranger Walker--after all--your name is synonymous with fighting crime!"

         “’So, are you saying that my brother is capable of 'killing'---even in a dream?”

           "I'm saying that 'if' this character does follow through---it could have an effect on your brother. The effects of how our brain works is still a mystery!”

           Angela begins to cry, "You mean he could become------- a serial killer?”

          Walker pulls his daughter to him, "That's not what the Doctor. is saying!  Your Mother will be here soon, please don't repeat any of this!”

         "Mom will know if we try to hide something----she always knows!”

          Cordell goes to his sister and tries to comfort her.

         "We're all scared sis, just don't volunteer any extra information to Mom!”

         "She will know, Cordell.  She's a lawyer; she knows when someone is hiding something!”

          Walker puts his hands up, "Alright, enough! Doctor, what can we do to help prevent Cooper from going down that road?”

          The Doctor takes a long sigh.

         "I have a feeling that things are going to get worse, and all of you need to be prepared. Keep talking to him about pleasant things!"

           "Why do you think that, Dr.?”

           "Because he has responded to more things, I believe a change is coming---any day now. And there's something else I would suggest.”

            Walker takes a deep breath, "What?”

            "I would suggest that you call your pastor!”

         

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

Ride For the Brand Part 10

Faith has rousted Cooper from his sleep in the barn and has urged him to get to the church. The boy is looking around at all the scared town’s people who are running to the church also. Others choose to stay inside their homes.
Cooper looks up at the sky.
"Why is it so dark?”
"Never mind that, we have to get inside!”
At the entrance of the church, Faith tells Cooper to remove his gun, the boy argues.
"We are going into the house of the Lord, guns cannot protect you there---but God can!”
Reluctantly Cooper takes his gun off and places it on the bench, still arguing.
They go inside and find their seats.
             Faith turns to Cooper and gently touches his hand.
             "Cooper, you trust me, don't you?”
             "Yeah, I think so---why?”
             "Because things---strange things are going to happen, and you have to promise me that you will stay here. Inside the church, promise me.”
           "Somehow I don't like the sound of all of this; I thought churches were supposed to be safe.”
            Faith smiles, "Who told you that?”
            "My ma, that's who told me, maybe I should fetch my gun!”
            "No Cooper, you have to stay here---you'll be safe in here, I promise!”  
Faith and Cooper have been listening to the preacher for several moments. She turns to Cooper and asks.
"Is this the preacher that you heard the other day in the barn?”
"No, the voice I heard was loud, very loud.”
Faith keeps looking back to the entrance as she keeps fiddling with the yellow ribbon that keeps falling from her hair. Cooper smiles back at her.
           You have real pretty hair; the ribbon is real nice too. Will you be singing later?”
           “I don't think so----maybe.”
           Cooper looks around at all the people.
          "Why is everybody so quiet, they look scared and nervous!”
           The preacher emerges from behind his pulpit.
          "The Lord talks about The Good Samaritan in Luke, and he urges us all to be forgiving to our neighbor and in Acts he preaches forgiveness to all that may harm us. We will make mistakes but none are unforgivable if we believe in God. To rid the devil, we must continue to praise the almighty, to keep him out of our souls."
            Cooper whispers to young Faith.
           "But, I don't believe in God. Why am I here if I don't believe?”
          "Just keep listening Cooper, you will see that you have more belief than you realize.”
           The preacher begins walking down the aisle, all the time preaching on forgiveness and vengeance.
          "We have all wanted vengeance at one time, but the Lord says; Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”
           "I remember my Ma telling me that we should not get even with someone that has hurt us, is that revenge?”
           "Yes, Cooper. Your Ma was telling you that because she must have believed in God and she did not want you going down a road of hate and self-destruction. The preacher is saying the same thing."
            The preacher is drawing nearer to young Cooper, his voice is starting to rise and his words begin to contradict. He stops and shakes his head, flailing away with his arms at the air.
           "No----get away---you are not welcome here----this is the house of my Lord!”
           Cooper leans back in his seat, "Is he talking to me?”
           Faith grabs his hand, "Be still---whatever you do---stay in your seat!”
           The preachers' voice is now screaming, he goes down on his knees.
            Another voice is heard.
          "You are all going to hell; I will take you into the fires of hell and damnation. God will not help you, he is a false prophet--he does not give you eternal life---only I can do that---come with me----all of you!”
           "I'm getting out of here---that voice is lying!”
           "How do you know the voice is lying? You know nothing about the Bible, remember you said so," replies Faith.
           Cooper shakes his head, "I don't know why I said that. Why is that preacher saying things different now?”
          "The devil is trying to take over, the preacher is resisting and so must you!”
          "Me?  What have I done to him?”
          "You have hatred in your heart; you talk of revenge against those 3 men. That is what the devil is playing on----your weakness!”
          Cooper stands up and heads for the door, Faith is pulling him back.
         "No, you can't go out there---you're safe in here. If you go outside, the devil will materialize!”
         "What does that mean?”
         "In here, only his voice can be heard. He's testing you Cooper!”
         "This is crazy! I haven't done anything to make him angry with me; maybe it's one of these people.”
           Faith lowers her voice, "Look around you Cooper, look at these poor souls, and they are petrified!”
          Cooper spins around and looks at their faces, they have no reaction to what is happening around them.
          "Because Cooper, it's you that the devil wants and if you step out of this church---he will have won---and there's nothing anyone can do to save you!”
           Cooper's voice begins to break.
          "What can I do?”
          "Ask God to help you, ask for forgiveness. Do it Cooper before it's too late!"

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

Ride For the Brand Part 11
        St Mathews:

        Cooper James Walker is tossing more violently, as his body starts to jerk. His mouth is moving, but nothing is coming forth.
        Alex screams, "What's happening to him, what's happening to my son?”
        The Doctor and nurse are trying to calm the boy, Doctor Green yells for the sedative to be administered. The nurse is trying to hold Cooper down while the Dr. injects the sedative through the IV.
        "Is he going to be alright Doctor?” Asks Angela.
         "The sedative should calm him down, something has definitely happened in that dream of his!”
          Alex and Walker are on each side of the bed, talking to their son. Cordell is reading the book report again, and swearing under his breath.
          "We're missing something, what are we missing?”
          Walker takes his son's hand, "Cooper, son---it's Dad--we're all here for you. We know you are trying to say something, what is it, son? How can we help you?”
         Cooper begins to swing at Walker.
         “Get away from me-----why are you trying to hurt me----get away!”
          The boy stops swinging, and gently he falls back asleep.
          Walker steps back and looks to his son, his voice begins to break.
         "He's still blaming me----for earlier.”
          Angela screams and runs to him, "No, Daddy he's not blaming you----it's someone in that stupid dream!”
         Both Alex and Angela start crying and Cordell's eyes start to cloud. Gordon and Trivette watch helplessly from the doorway.
         The outburst from Cooper has drawn attention, as many onlookers are trying to look into the room. The Doctor yells at the nurse to get security to clear everyone away from that end of the ward. She's hastily running to the door and shouting for everyone to leave, her eyes fall on Trivette.
        "You have to leave sir---only family can remain in here!”
          Before Trivette can answer, Gordon bellows out.
         "Nurse---he's not going anywhere and if you plan to remove either one of us---you better have more security than I see coming down the hallway! That is my grandson in there and this man's 'godson---do I make myself clear?”
          The Doctor calls to the nurse and nods for Gordon and Trivette to come in.  Gordon goes to Alex and Trivette reaches out for Angela.
          Angela stares back at the nurse, Trivette tries to calm her.
         "Easy sweetheart---don't worry about her, she's unimportant at this time.”
           Walker is pacing, "What have I done? My son thinks I want to hurt him----I would never hurt either of my kids---never!”
          "It's like your daughter said Ranger Walker--it's the dream----not your son!”!
           Gordon makes Alex sit down and asks Angela to go and get her some water. When Angela walks by the nurse, she hisses.
          "Don't you go near my brother!”
           The Doctor is noticing the tension towards the nurse.
          "Nurse Poe, why don't you go take a break. I can handle things here!”
            Doctor Green is examining Cooper again as he looks at the faces on all of his family. He walks over to Alex and tries to calm her.
           "We've make a good break through, your son has finally said something!”
           Alex looks quickly to her husband and sees the anger and confusement. She replies softly.
         "At the expense of my husband thinking that his son hates him? I don't call that a good 'breakthrough'!”
         "I'm sorry---poor choice of words.”
          The Doctor looks to Cordell who is reading the report again.
         "Your other son is quite a reader!”
         "He loves to read----just like his Father!”
          Cordell is trying to hold the report in his injured arm and begins flipping the pages backward.  His eyes grow wide as he approaches his Dad.
          "Dad, What the Doctor said is true. Hayes Cooper is saying these things, not Coop! His childhood wasn't exactly a close one to his Pa----remember in an earlier chapter that horse doc said that his Pa used to 'whup up' on him, and yet he wants revenge for his Pa's murder? So, it's got to be his Pa that he is thrashing out at------not you!”
           "I understand what you are trying to say, son---but remember Hayes Cooper didn't write that book report---your brother did!”
            Cordell starts to walk away, Walker pulls him back.
           "Son, are you sure your brother ----is not----still angry with me----about that incident a couple of months ago?”
            "You mean when you punished him for something he didn't do, when you didn't believe him when he was trying to tell you that he didn't do it?”
            Walker begins to pace, "Well? Is he?”
           "Dad, I thought you two settled that?”
           "I should have believed him; I let myself believe a total stranger instead of my own son!”
            Cordell answers softly.
            "He was upset with you and his feelings were hurt that you didn't believe him----but, he said it was o.k. that the two of you would work it out. You know Cooper never stays mad at anyone for very long-----especially you!”
          Cordell smiles and slaps his Father lightly on the shoulder, "Besides, if he stayed mad at you----he wouldn't get his allowance!”
          Walker forces a smile and draws his son into him, "Public affection or not---I'm still giving you a hug.”
          The boy laughs, "Just---no kisses!”
          Brother Bob from their church comes in rather 'winded'!
         "I'm sorry I'm late----but the weirdest thing happened. I got into my car and it wouldn't start. Someone from the church offered me a ride and on the way here---his radiator overheated----I had to hail a taxi!”
           Walker reaches out to the preacher, "Things happen, Brother Bob---it's alright!”
          "But, my friends' car was new----and so was my car battery!  It was like 'someone or something ' didn't want me to come here!”
           Nurse Poe is looking in at a safe distance. She shakes her head and mumbles softly.
           "This has all the makings of an exorcism!”

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

Ride For The Brand Part 12
    Jackson Flats:
     Cooper is trying to pull away from young Faith.
     "Please Cooper, don't go out there! He can't do anything to you if you stay in the church and ask God to help you!”
      Cooper turns to the voice and screams:
      "Stay away from me, I ain't afraid of you!”
       The voice becomes louder and now Cooper can feel hot air on his face. He winces from the smell.
       Cooper starts swinging his fists, "Get away from me, why are you trying to hurt me, I ain't done nothing to you----whoever the hell you are!”
       Faith is grabbing Cooper's arms.
       "Listen to me---the devil has taken over the preacher's body and he's trying to take yours!'
         Cooper shakes his head, "I don't believe in God and I don't believe in the devil. I'm getting out of here, where's my gun?  I'll show this 'son of a bitch' that I mean business!”
         Cooper is knocking the church doors open and reaching for the gun that he had to leave outside. A blast of hot air comes through the church doors after him.
          The boy cocks his gun, the gun becomes scalding hot. A loud and boisterous voice screams out and Cooper has to cover his ears, dropping the gun.
          He stumbles backward, reaching for some kind of weapon.
          "Show yourself, so I can knock your damn head off!”
          Faith has stopped in the doorway as she sees Parker and the Captain running to the church.
          "Daddy----help him", yells Faith.
         The two men stop in their tracks as the sky has gotten even darker and the thundering of hooves are now upon them.
            Three figures have ascended and begin to circle young Cooper. He stares back at them in horror. They have no faces, just skeletal remains, on three different color of horses.

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

            St. Mathews:

           Young Cooper is again thrashing and tossing as the Doctor is again trying to give him a stronger sedative.
            Who are you, what do you want with me?”
           "Brother Bob, please do something" begs Alex.
            The man rushes to the boy's side and tries talking to him. Cooper continues to yell the same question.
           "It's me Cooper Walker, its Brother Bob from your church. I am here to help you. Can you hear me?”
            Cooper's eyes open for only a second as he whispers.
           "He wants---- me----in hell!”
            Both Alex and Walker are asking the same question as Cooper grabs the preacher and cries.
          "I don't want----to go to hell----"
           Cooper's outburst has caused more onlookers to come to the ward, the security people are calling for more backup.
           The whispers are going back and forth:
          "I heard the nurse say, 'it looked like an exorcism'.
          "I heard that too!”
          "I thought only Catholic priests could perform that?”
           Trivette runs to the guard.
         "Get your people to get this end of the ward clear!”
          Angrily, the guard turns on Trivette, "You got no authority to tell me what to do!”
         Trivette shoves his FBI badge into the guards' face---"Is this enough authority for you?”
          Trivette closes the door as the young guard is radioing for more help.

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

Ride For The Brand Part 13
   Jackson Flats

   The three horsemen keep circling young Hayes Cooper. He can feel the voice getting closer and the voice begins to taunt.
   "Come to me, you want revenge?" I can give it to you!"
   The young preacher is standing in the portals of his church and yelling to Cooper.
  "Do not listen to him! Revenge is wrong!”
   The voice turns in the direction of the church.
   "Silence!"
    The doors slam shut. The preacher and Faith are trying desperately to pull them open. Faith runs to the window and screams out to Cooper.
   "Cooper----ask God to help you!”
    "I don't need any help, I don't believe that any of this is happening and I don't believe in your 'so called' GOD!"

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

       Cooper Walker is screaming out his defiance and swinging his fists at everyone in reach.
       Brother Bob lays his bible down on Cooper's chest and begins quoting verses.
      "Vengeance is his, sayeth the Lord.  Forgive this boy, he does believe in you---he's under the spell of the devil."
      The Walkers are all embracing each other. Gordon is pacing, the tears rolling down his cheeks while mumbling a small prayer.
      "Please help my grandson"
       Trivette lays his hand on Gordon's shoulder and replies. "Amen to that."
       Cordell has picked the book report up again and shouting to Walker.
      "Dad, it says here about the third chapter that Hayes Cooper was not a believer, he has renounced 'him' several times!"
       Alex is trying to talk through tears.
      "I don't care what that stupid report says about that man---my son does believe in God!"
      "Is this true, Ranger Walker?"  Asks the doctor.
      "Most definitely!"
       Angela grabs her Mother's arm and whispers.
       "But mama, Cooper hasn't been baptized yet.”
       "It doesn't matter Sis, he still believes in God", replies Cordell.

      ************************************************************************
 
    The three riders continue to circle and taunt young Cooper, their faces change back and forth from the faces of skeletal remains to that of the Palladine Brothers.  Their horses bump the young man and he falls to the ground.
     Cooper shakes his fist at the riders.
     "I'm not afraid of you---you do not scare me!”
     The voice becomes louder and Cooper can feel the hot breath on his neck.
      Cooper tries reaching for his gun again, the gun becomes too hot for his touch and he falls to the ground. He begins to sob.
      "I don't know why this is happening to me, what have I done?”

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

       The tears begin to fall down Cooper's cheek as he keeps repeating the question that young Hayes Cooper has asked. The Walker family gathers closer to the boy's hospital bed.
      "Mama, he's crying!”
       Walker yells to the doctor to give him something for his pain.
       "I can't give him anymore Ranger Walker and I don't advise it! Your son is at least trying to communicate with us, if I increase the sedative, he will just go to sleep again!"
       Brother Bob is nodding his head, "I agree---we must all continue to talk to him----all of you---ask him questions!”
       The Walkers are all reaching out to comfort Cooper.
        "Cooper, sweetheart---we are all here with you. We know you are in pain and you're afraid---talk to us----tell us what you need.”
        "Your Mother is right, son. You have to wake up and tell us how to help you; we know that you hear some of the things we are saying. Please son-----open your eyes.”
         "Hey bro, there is nothing you can't talk to me about. I've got your back, no matter what! Come on bro----talk to us and tell us what is happening in this stupid dream!----Because that's all that this is----a stupid dream!”
           Angela is crying too hard to speak as she falls into Walker's arms. Gordon and Trivette begin trying to talk to him also.
          Walker reaches out and takes his son's hand, "Son, I'm sorry for not believing you that time, are you still angry with me?"

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

        The voice still screams out at the young boy and the three horsemen commence to taunt him again. The boy is sobbing and tries to crawl away. The voices of Faith and the preacher are still shouting for Cooper to ask for God's help.
         The sky has darkened and black crows fill the air. More hooves are being heard as another figure appears out of the dust.
         Parker and Trivette stop in their tracks as the older man groans.
         "Oh Lord---he's here---there's no hope for that young boy now. We must pray!”
          The two men go down on their knees and the rest of the town follows suit.
          Young Cooper has begun to crawl faster and then he hears the voice.
           "Git up boy---don't you dare crawl like a sniffling coward!”
           Cooper stops and listens, he looks up to see where the voice is coming from, he sees nothing. He swallows hard and whispers.
            "Pa? Pa, is that you?”

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

         Walker stares back at his son as he hears the word 'Pa'. He grabs his son and shakes him gently.
          "Yes Cooper----if you want to call me 'Pa'---its o.k.! Whatever you want to call me---are you angry with me son?”

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

          Young Hayes is trying to stand as he reaches out and tries to touch a 'vision' that is not there.
         "No Pa, I'm not angry----Pa----help me.”
         He feels the voice coming closer, the voice becomes softer.
        "You should be angry with me; I have brought you down a road of hate and vengeance. You have to fight this demon that is upon you and lay down your sword.”
         The other voice bellows again, causing the earth to tremble.
         "It's too late for him, he is mine!”
          Cooper falls back down and again is trying to crawl away from the voice. He feels a loud 'thud' hitting the ground and slowly a vision begins to appear, taking the shape of a bird.
         The boy rubs his eyes repeatedly, as more of the vision materializes into the shape of boots, and then leather chappings.
         "Pa?”
         The voice answers softly, "Ride For The Brand, son"
         Suddenly other voices are chanting the same words as other visions appear. Cooper looks around him as the voices bring on familiar faces.
          The two figures in braided hair chant slowly, "Ride For The Brand, young buck.”
           An older voice of authority is heard.
          "Remember what I said son, put your faith in the law and the Lord--Ride for the Brand.”
          Parker and Trivette are calling out to young Cooper also.
          Cooper tries to stand as the voice has returned again, taunting.
          The voice of his Pa is talking to him again, as another voice intertwines with his.
         "You have to stand up Cooper, and ask God to forgive you.”
          Cooper is trying to make out the voice.
         "Who are you, are you God?”
         "No Cooper, I am not God---but God is everywhere and he's in your heart---waiting for you to ask him to help."
          The boy is crying harder as he reaches out to touch the boots and leather chaps. He blinks his eyes repeatedly as he makes out the vision of a bird---a roadrunner.
          A hand reaches out to help him up, the boy is staring into the eyes of a bearded man, a star is on his chest.
         "Pa? (sobbing) Why are you wearing a Texas Ranger's star?”
         "He is here to help you---fight the demon that wants to take your soul----listen.”
         "You are too young to go down this road of no return. Maybe someday when you are older you will be faced with other decisions to take another's life for whatever reason, but not now! Now you have to stand against the evil that is trying to possess your soul. All you have to do is renounce him and ask to walk beside God.”
        The stench is coming closer as the three horsemen circle young Cooper again.
        Cooper stands up straight and screams loud.
        "I renounce you----you can't be anything good when you threaten. God, I don't know you, but (sobbing) I ask you to help me, help me to know you and trust in you. My mama always believed in you---I want to believe----show me how!”
         Everything becomes calm, the sky becomes lighter, and the crows have disappeared. The church doors fly open and Faith and the preacher are running into the street, the others follow.
        Cooper is laughing and lifting his arms up to the sky.
       "Thank you Lord, thank you!”
         Young Cooper falls to the ground, laughing and looking around him. The streets are bare; he feels an aching at the side of his head. Suddenly he hears a voice yelling at him.
          "Hayes, are you o.k. boy?”
           Another voice asks.
          "Is he o.k. maybe you best take him to the doc? What has he been hollering 'bout, talking about the devil and all?”
           Rasmus Cooper shakes his head.
          "Ain't no need, maybe next time the boy will pay attention to when I say look out for 'ole Jake---that damn mule---he is The Devil.”

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


      
St. Mathews
        Cooper James Walker has awakened as he stares into the faces of his family. He looks around him.
        "Where am I?”
         Walker and Alex are hugging him, "You're in the hospital son!”
         Cooper grimaces, "Oh yeah---I remember you yelling out my name, Dad!”
          Walker nods, "Yep, right before that bull nicked you behind the ear. You've been out a couple of hours but the Doctor says you're fine and you can go home today.”
          "Hours? I've only been out for hours---it seems like----days!”
           Alex reaches over and kisses her son.
           "It seemed like an eternity to us--we've all been so worried about you."
            "Yeah bro, what was you talking about while you were out? You was talking about Grandpa John, Uncle Ray and Uncle Jimmy---and Grandpa Gordon-you even mentioned Grandpa C.D."
             Cooper smiles, "Yeah, I was having a wild dream that all started with that book report I wrote---about Hayes Cooper!”
              Alex smiles and looks to her husband, "You and your Father have the weirdest dreams about that man!”
              Cooper remains quiet, "It seemed so real, I remember fighting the devil and asking God---to help me. Is Brother Bob here?”
              "No sweetheart, why?”
               Cooper reaches out take his Mother's hand, "Because I want to be baptized next Sunday.”
               "Are you sure this time son?”
               "I'm sure Dad, I'm definitely sure.”
               "Well, I'm going to get the truck and your Mother will be signing the papers to get you out of here. Angela has gone to get you a wheelchair---and we'll be out of here!”
               A young aide has come in to help Cooper get dressed, he keeps staring at her, and she’s wearing a yellow ribbon in her hair.
                "Miss, where have I seen you before? Have you been one of my nurses?”
                 "Me? No, I was transferred here to St Mathews just today, my name is ---FAITH!”
               
                
           The End Oct 13, 2012