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Thomas Murphy arrived in southern Louisiana from Ireland to make his fortune in the late eighteenth century. And make it he did. He was granted a parcel of 500 acres in Cameron parish and married an Acadian girl. He was my Granddaddy.


The climate in Cameron parish is harsh, and the land remote. But the land is rich, and you can grow just about anything. There is plenty of wildlife to hunt and the fishing and shrimping are good. Not to mention the oyster and crawfish harvesting. One of the most beautiful sights on earth is the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico.

Much to my Mama's chagrin I ran wild as a girl. Life was mostly good for us, but the War of Northern Aggression changed all that. We had to endure constant skirmishes on our ports and waterways. Union gunboats attempted to raid everybody’s livestock, but our forces fought them off. I'll never forget the Battle of Calcasieu Pass; our land was right in the middle of the conflagration. Our house was used as a hospital, what terrible sights that brought. Men ascreaming as the surgeons operated on them with no anesthetic. As I helped the injured, I kept one eye on the door, praying my husband Bucky was not brought through. He was an artillery sergeant - a member of Griffin’s Battalion, Company C - in the midst of that battle. He and his men manning a 12 pounder. In the end, the infantry did a fine job of repelling the invaders and the artillery finished them off. One sight in particular I will never forget. There was a lone Confederate musketeer in the open field who insisted on loading his musket, ramming his charge home, aiming and firing from a standing position only, totally oblivious to the torrent of Minnie balls from the navy marksmen. Captured Union sailors later said of his bravery --- "it irritated every man who shot at him!" I never learned his identity but he was probably one of the six Confederate infantrymen killed in the attack. It was a fierce battle but we were victorious and captured the Granite City and Wave - Union gunboats, as well as taking about 150 Union prisoners. Additionally we captured a large cache of arms, canons, ammunition, supplies, and repatriated a large number of horses and livestock.


That was the day we met Colonel Silverhawk. He was with Confederate Texans (bless ‘em, I don’t believe there are any other kind) dispatched to defend the Calcasieu River and fought alongside my husband. Like Bucky, he had enlisted in the army at 16. We became good friends with the man who was half white, half Apache, and all fighting man, with blue eyes and a braid down his back. He loved to talk up a blue streak about his home in Texas hill country with a Texas twang that was big as the Lone Star state itself. We called him by his well fitting nickname, Hawk.


Bucky had been dreaming of a better life somewhere else for a while. He had too many bad memories of the war and he wanted to take me someplace without the heart wrenching memories, hurricanes, malaria and damned Jayhawkers. A place not so remote and isolated. I met him when we were just children. His family owned a spread next to ours and we practically grew up together in the marshes, prairies and woods back home. He loved to hunt and shoot and fish; and is real good at it. I liked his wicked sense of humor, his backbone, and the way he looked out for me. I was nineteen and he was twenty when we married.


My family didn't lose our fortune during the war ‘cause my Daddy never traded in Confederate dollars. He said you need to trade in things that are valuable and paper isn't that valuable seeing as most folks are illiterate anyway. What most people want is to eat, drink and smoke. So he raised cattle, grew tobacco, and corn for whiskey. Lots of corn. When I was 16, daddy put me in charge of the still operation. He counted on me to help him run the family business, seeing as my brother Virgil was a lazy ne'er do well. One of our hired hands had to take over the still operation after I left.


After the South fell, you guessed it; we were headed off to Texas. We bought a spread of 650 acres in central Texas and started a ranch with about 150 head of cattle, with Colonel Silverhawk as our ramrod. I wasn't too sure about the land at first. It wasn't as leafy and lush as home, and I missed the Spanish Moss draping from the giant oak trees on our land back home, but when I rode across a field of bluebonnets I felt like I could call this strange place home. We built a ranch house and hired some hands. One of them was this gal Calico I hired to help around the house. She was from Colorado territory and determined, outspoken, and with a figure that had those silly cowboys running into each other while vying for her attention. They learned right quick not to try anything with her lessen they got a dose of her sharp wit, or worse - pistol
whipped. Turned out she wasn't much on cooking and cleaning, but there were two things she did well. Sewing and shooting, and I had a need for both. She made all the clothes the hands wore, even made some things for me. Her shooting skills came in handy when raiding parties came after our cattle. Well, to be honest, Bucky, Hawk, Calico and I had raided them from Mexican ranches. Sometimes I think those cattle have been back and forth so much that they knew the way.

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Met up with these deep southern folks, and when they spoke, I couldn't understand a word ! But setting around the campfire that night, I learned there names, Bucky and Whiskey. Bucky I known, because I served with him side by side, in the Confederate Calvary. Ole Bucky was a big ole man, with a backbone to match. Double tuff, wouldn't back up from nothing. I admired that in a man. Say what he means and do what he said. Bucky was like that. And his women, I should say wife, was Called Whiskey, cause that's what she made and shipped out before them Yankees came in and took over.


They told me all about the land they owned. I was too busy dodging minnie balls looking for me ! But setting at this fire, I heard how wonderful it most have been. One day soon I will see such a place, but for right now, Bucky, me and Whiskey has to cross into Old Mexico and steal some cattle to start their ranch, maybe some horses to boot. This women called Calico, would watch our backsides just in case the some of them ole boys tried to cut us off from crossing the river back to the US, or what ever they chose to call it.


After a few raids, we had close to one hundred head but Bucky wanted to raid again, even though it was getting harder and harder to get out of Old Mexico and those Mexican troopers out looking for us ! I though we had even cattle to stock two or three ranches, but Bucky said we where going into Old Mexico tonight. He said he knew where there was a large herd. I told him it sounded too good to the true, so I would go scot the area out. I could pass like an Apache as well as a white man. So I slipped into the old country, looked around, tracked a bit and there was just three buckcaros , riding night hawk. But they time I got back, it was almost day light and told Bucky what I had seen. He said we would slip into Old Mexico tonight and then that was it.


My folks didn't talk that much to one another. Mother always did her chores and did what my Father asked her to do. I was a mixed blood, madeaso as the Mexican people called me. Father had his fun with a white women just days before marring my Mother and here I am. I knew horses very well, and my Father taught me how to live off this sparse land. Hill country riddled with small caves large enough for shelter and deer the size of a mule ! The clothes I wore I made out of deer hides, buckskins they where called back east. I knew how to cook rattler, a buck or wild hawg, and how to find water out here. Life was hard out here, but Bucky and Whiskey where fit for it. Calico, being from Colorado Territory, was good looking but tuff as well. She would just as soon sew you something, or show you the business end of her colt !


Come around 11:00 we headed into Old Mexico and made the raid. One of our hands was drinking without me knowing, and started shooting and yelling all round ! We had to move that herd and move them quick or get caught ! Well, with the buckcaros and the Mexican troops shooting at us, we made it back across the river with out anybody hurt. But I promptly fired that sombitch that damn near killed us all !


Come supper time, I heard Bucky say he wanted to cross the river again, but I told him no. The hired hand I fired had stirred up a hornet's nest across the river and I would not go into Old Mexico again. Then Bucky started thinking, while eating. After a fine meal, Bucky gave me one of his finest cigars. Bucky only did that when he was about to ask a large favor of me and I would not like it ! As he took a long pull off the bottle of fine homemade whiskey, Bucky looked up at me and said, "This ranch aint that much Hawk, and you know that. But we work it anyway. We got 150 acres but now we need double that. And there aint no way to afford that. But I know of a way." I looked at Whiskey and there was a spark in her eye......that kind of spark that meant trouble for me.


"I plan on taking these cattle to the railhead in Kanas Hawk. Let them eat the tall grass as we go. When we get there, they'll be nice and fat ! And I want you to ramrod the drive Hawk. " Bucky took a pull off his cigar. "What'd say to that ? Top pay...what you say goes. You hire, you fire. And we'll work just like cow hands. How bout it Hawk ?"


I took a pull off the bottle and thought that was some good bourbon. Some Saloons call it whiskey, but it was bourbon, as I knew the difference. I took a draw off the cigar and let the sweet smoke roll and drift off my lips.


"Ifin' ya give me full rein of dis outfit.....let me outfit it as I see fit. Top pay.....Top responsibility . No ifin' or buts. Now ifin' ya find dim to yur likein', ya got yurself a ramrod." Bucky took a drink and put out his hand. There was a little spit in the palm of his hand, Hawk spit into his hand and shook Bucky's hand hard,and with Bucky smiling, I accepted the job. Bucky went over to cuddle on Whiskey some, and I walked outside with the cigar in one hand, glass of bourbon in the other, looking up at the night sky. I saw at least three or four shooting stars and heard the cowpoke singing to the cattle as he rode night hawk. He couldn't carry a tune in a wheel barrow much less a bucket. I though. Drew on the cigar again, and threw the bourbon back, and thought, "What the hell did I git myself into now !"

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Oh, what a night! For a while I didn't think we were gonna make it outta Old Mexico alive! I'm still shaking my head, wondering what I got myself into this time...but at least I got a decent job working for good people.....

And I'm very thankful for it. Grew up on the high plains of Colorado Territory, where my pa had a homestead. My ma died when us girls were real young, and Pa had quite a time tryin' to raise three daughters all by hisself. I learned to ride and shoot when I was still knee-high to a grasshopper. My oldest sister learned to cook outta necessity, but I was far more comfortable outside helpin' Pa. The only thing I really was ever good at was sewing and quilting, it gave me sumthin' to do after the evening chores was done.

Pa had always been friends with the Cheyenne and Arapaho in our area, he treated them fair and they returned the favor. But after Chivington slaughtered so many of my Pa's friends, things got bad for us real quick. Most of our neighbors didn't want the tribes around, and hated Pa for getting along with em'. One day we needed supplies, so Pa sent me off to town to pick em' up. When I got back the next day, our cabin and barn were burned to the ground, and it didn't take long to figure out Pa and my sisters had been in the cabin at the time. The neighbors tried to blame it on the Cheyenne, well, I knew better. I also knew it was time to take myself elsewhere, as the neighbors made it obvious that they weren't happy I hadn't been in the cabin during the fire as well, and they had me badly outnumbered.

I headed south, looking for work that didn't involve working in a Saloon, that wasn't a road I wanted to go down. But most folks didn't want to give me a chance at much else, not until I got to Texas and met a couple named Bucky and Whiskey. Whiskey was a kindred spirit, I could tell that straight away. And I knew I didn't have to worry about Bucky getting the wrong idea, he only had eyes for Whiskey anyway! So I was grateful that they were willing to give me a roof over my head and food to eat, and didn't ask anything in return that I wasn't willing and able to do. Of course, getting shot at wasn't exactly my idea of fun, but all the same, there's worse things that coulda happened to me if I hadn't met them.....


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Popping joints as I arose from the table drowned out the barkeeps feeble attempt to sing Lorena. The discomfort was almost welcome in masking his falsetto screech! Damn, I'm getting too old for this business....need to find some way to earn my keep a little easier and maybe have someone to make coffee when I'm too crippled up.


Ambled on down to T. E. Jacksons place to see about getting a new barrel on my Remington Special as the last few hunts west of Ft. Griffin had been the final straw for my faithful ole rifle. Forty-four caliber taking a 2 and a quarter inch case. I loaded er with 85 grains of powder to push a patched ball. Didn't matter, it would be the third barrel I'd shot out on those shaggies anyway. Thats the way it was and both Jackson and Rath kept spare barrels on hand for Sharps and others. Had full time gunsmiths too!


Bumped into Prairie Dog Dave Morrow on the way down. "Hey Yellerhouse! Lets us buy a bucket of beer and see if we can't figure this hide business out!" Well, that "Lets US" meant only one thing....he sure wasn;t buying.


Ft. Griffin beer wasn't the best in the world but it'd do. Dave looked over his glass half serious and grinned, " Sam, what happened to that filly that rode in and out of here like a jackrabbit in front of the Grand Dukes hounds?


"Well, I don't know Dave. She called herself Calico and said she couldn't stay long. Don't blame her cause Griffin is a pretty dang terrible place for a lady and that she was. Seemed troubled though and maybe needed a helping hand but she's gone faster than ice in July. "


"Been thinking Dave. I'm gettin too old for this busting your behind chasin herds and dodging renegade Comanch or Kiowa coming down out of the Nations to raid. Don't even know I want to kill another buffler anyway and besides it wouldn't surprise me if they weren't all gone in a few years. Besides all the shootin its pretty obvious theres been a bunch of dyin off too. Probably tick fever or some such. Think I'll mosey on down to Lampassas and Waco...see what might be some opportunities for a viejo of my stripe. Lots of cattle coming up through there from the brush country down south."

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I sat out from the ranch house before sun up intent on coming back with a chuck wagon and a cook to go with it. And a damn good one too. The sky was turning purple when I rode out then slight yellow then a red and then a fire red. Got into town about 11:00 and the sun was hot on this June day. And the smell of hides.....buffalo hides filled the air.


"Damned white man ....killing off our food and clothing !" I thought as I rode up to livery to stable my horse. It might just be a long stay and I was determined not to come home with a wagon and a cook. I thought that with the smell of fresh skinned hides about in the air, some where there my be a cook. And any cook with his salt would have a chuck with him. I walked a little ways into the Mexican market. It was the kind of market that not only sold fresh fruits but also harness's , tack, horse shooing if you need it.


Came across this Mexican women and the smells from the frying pan she was using was down right good smelling. I walked over, tipping my hat, and asked her what was in the pan. She poured them out into a small basket and held them up to me, so I took one and ate it. Señorita .....dis is down rat tasty ! What are dim ? ! "


"Grasshoppers I catch this mornin' and just fried when you walked up, Señor !" she said. She look to be in her late 20's early 30's maybe. Dark brown hair to her shoulders with a touch of gray. Her shin looked smooth as the day she was born and her smile so sweet.


"I'm here ta head up some cowboys good wif a rope , hoss an gun. But dey'll need feedin. Whars yur Pa....like ta have a word wif 'em, please ma'am." I said with my hat in my hat. Don't usually do that outside, but for some reason I did then, and she smiled.


"I have no Papa, Senor ! We where poor so Papa traded me to a buffalo hunter to cook for them. He got to where he mistreated me so badly, I hitched up my team then I broke both his knees with that frying pan." She said.


Putting my hat back on I said, "I see !" clearing my throat. "So yur all alone out here ."


"Si, I am ."


"An ya got a chuck wagon, juding by what ya said fer, rat ." I asked.


"Si...I do Senor." she replied.


"What's yur name ? Ya do got a name, don't ya ?" I asked her.


"Si.....It's Gloria...but you can call me girl if you would like." She replied, those brown eyes looking up at me. I had seen that look before, on a pup I had once. Cried for two days when I learned a coyote had got it. That when my Father taught me it a weakness to cry. Have not cried since.


"Nope.....I'll call ya by yur name ! " I said. "How soon can ya be packed up Gloria ?"


She looked around and said, "In two hours Señor."


I shifted my weight from one foot to the other and said to Gloria, "Forgit dat Señor stuff.....name's Hawk. I bet you can drive dat big ole chuck wagon all by yur self too ." We had went around back to the dry goods store for chinese folks and looked at her wagon. It was large enough to hold all the food stuffs and cooking stuff and three water barrels on it. I nodded and walk back to the front , rubbing my chin and wondering how the devil I was gonna explain this to Bucky and Whiskey.


Turning I asked her, "Gloria, which way do you point dat tongue when ya unhitch yur team ?"


"North Senor......I mean Hawk.....always north." She said.


I had no reason to pass her by,....she was a good cook, strong not skinny longing. And smart too boot. So I took a deep breath, sighed and told her, "Have yur stuf packed up in two hours. We gonna git supplied and din head back to da ranch." She smiled from ear to ear and sat about her task.



I walked toward the Saloon and once inside ordered up a whiskey. I threw it back then ordered up another, this time sipping it. "What da hell am I gonna tell da boys bout dim eattin' a bug every now an agin !"

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CLANG*CLANG*CLANG Cookie Is Beating On The Skillet! Get Up And Get Your Eyes Open. Coffee Will be Ready Soon. Cookie Is Fixin Hog Jowl, Biscuits And Gravey. Now Come On Cowpokes Get Ta Movin.We Are Burnin Daylight!!

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We loaded up and headed back to the ranch in a slow steady walk of the horses. The clang of the chuck wagon sounded the same was when I was young. Was within sight of the ranch house when Gloria broke the ice.


"I cook many good things for you Hawk. You see what we loaded and I cook you many a good thing. Have you no women of you're own ? You never spoke of her if you do." Gloria asked.


I smiled, looking at her and replied, "Now who in der rat mind wood want a wore out cowpoke like me ! I'm all used up. Sides,...I am confirmed single man ! Dat way I see it, a women aint good for many a thing....she's good fer just a few an dat's it !" I said with a wave of the hand.


Gloria frowned and looked at me saying,.."You are right, Mr Hawk....you be used up !"


We rode on in quiet, listening to the hoof falls and the rattling wagon that followed. Gloria was tuff ...she could hold her own, as she hitched up that team. and drive that wagon near as good as any a man could. I didn't see any weapon on Gloria or her chuck wagon, but I knew better than to think a women out here, unarmed and Mexican has a chance of living to see sun set. Nope.....she was armed alright, but just because I didn't see a weapon, did not mean Gloria didn't have one.


Was we rode up to the ranch house, Bucky met us at the door, with napkin still tucked under his chin. He smiled as he saw the chuck wagon, but that smile was quickly replaced by a worried look and then a frown. He called for his wife, Whiskey to come out on the front porch and watch as we rolled to a stop.


"Lord Gawd....just we don't need......nother women . What the hell was you thinking Hawk ?" Bucky asked me out loud.


Looking at Bucky, I asked ....Mind ifin' I step down ?" pointing to the ground must in front of him.


"Ya know I don't mind ! What's got into you Hawk ?" Bucky was starting to get a little irritated now. So I trend lightly, picking and choosing my words as not to add kerosine to the smoldering fire.


I stepped down and adjusted my Dragoons that where on my hip, walked over to the chuck wagon and tried to help Gloria down, but she waved me off. I took her by her hand , walking over to where Bucky was, near in shock, as i could tell, Whiskey who was chuckling to beat the band.


" Bucky, Whiskey, dis here's Gloria. No last name just Gloria." I said. "Damn good cook and she had her own chuck wagon. Strong, handy an mindful. to boot !"


Gloria walked up to them and shook both hands and Whiskey proceed to take Gloria inside to give her supper. I had some of the youngest hands take the chuck and team out into the barn, unhitch the team, stable them , give them food and water. Then I walked passed Bucky, saying....."She cooks a mean batch of bugs !" To which Bucky looked at me, splitting out his last bite of stew.


They all talked abit and I went out side, having already rolled a cigarette, stepped out on the front porch and before I lite it up, I thanked mother earth for producing it for me. I fired it up, taking a long draw, and looking at the night sky. The front porch faced the east, where all live begins in the morning, and as I sipped the fine bourbon that Whiskey always has in her house, Bucky came out, light up a cigar, taking a long draw, we stood there with out saying a word. Bucky spoke up first.


"Mighty fine meal Whiskey and Calico cooked up for us tonight."


I said, "Bucky, just cut rat to da chase. What do ya want here ?"


"Hawk, you brought another women here ..and a mexican women to boot ! We just lost the War of Northern Aggression.....Texas is hurting and we stole cows from mexico. Have you forgot what most Texicna do to any lone mexican ?" Bucky was chewing me a good one, but then I got him to thinking.


I responded...."Bucky.....Ya can fire me ifin ya want.....up to ya.....but dat women can cook good...she can pull her own weight wif da chuck wagon and she's not too old ta do it nether. Best part of it is we pay her $500.00 when we sell da cattle......an not before. SO it's a good inceptive fer her to stay. Plus , we got the wagon all filled up ! Da only thing that needs doin' is fillin' dos tree water barrels. Now ifin dat aint to ya likin', just gave me my wages and I'll be gone."


Bucky eased up a bit. "Hawk....you can leave if you're a mind to. But I would be more than obliged if you would stay and help with this drive. We'......"pointing into the house...."No nothing when it comes to driving cows to Kanas. And if Gloria can cook bugs as good as you say, then we won't go hungry on the trail !"


I shook Bucky's hand and as we walked back into the house, Bucky turned to me and asked, "By the way.....how was those grasshoppers she cooked up for ya ?"


"Nice, warm and sweet !" I said......"Kinda like you !"

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After dinner I helped Whiskey with the dishes, then asked if she needed me for anythin' else that evening. She sent me on my way, and I immediately went looking for this new cook of Hawk's. He might be impressed by her cooking, but it would take more than that for her to survive on this crazy trip him and Bucky had planned for us!


I found Gloria sitting on the seat of her chuck wagon. I asked if I could join her, and she invited me on up. We sat and talked for a spell, then I asked "Gloria, are you sure you wanna go on this trip? These boys can be awfully rough and wild at times, and Hawk won't always be nearby." "Si, Senorita, I gave Mr Hawk my word" was her reply.


I thought about that, and asked "Well, do you have any way of protecting yourself if'n these boys forget how to behave themselves?" "Si, Senorita" was her answer, "I take care of myself!" Gloria turned around on the seat and pulled aside the canvas so I could see inside. Laying right inside the wagon within arm's reach was a Henry repeating rifle, I'd heard of them but had never had the pleasure of seeing one! I asked her where she had gotten it, but she wouldn't say, and I didn't press. Wherever it came from, I doubted the original owner had much use for it anymore. She assured me she knew how to use it, but I wanted proof, I was starting to like her and didn't want to see her get into any trouble she couldn't handle. For the most part, the boys that worked for Hawk were ok, at least around me (they knew I could shoot) but get a little liquor in them and there was no telling how wild they could get....


After clearing it with Bucky and Whiskey, we went out a ways from the house, but within sight of the bunkhouse, and set up some tin cans as targets. I pulled out my Navy pistols, one in each hand, and put two shots on each target in quick sucession. Then I reloaded, and had Gloria throw a couple of tin cans up in the air, and I shot both before they hit the ground. I had her do it again, same result. Then she pulled a coin out of her pocket, and got ready to throw that in the air. I asked if she was sure she wanted me to shoot her coin, she asked if I was sure I could hit it. I just grinned and said "throw", and proved I could hit that too!

Then it was her turn. We set up some more tin cans, and she shouldered her rifle, and made short work of all of them. Then I threw some more cans in the air, and she hit them even faster than I had. While she was shooting I glanced back over my shoulder towards the bunkhouse, just to make sure we had an audience, and we did. I also noticed Hawk, Whiskey, and Bucky watching from the back of the house. So I pulled a coin outta my pocket, I only had one, but I figured if Gloria could hit it then I could stop worryin' about her safety. After making sure she was ready, I threw it up as hard as I could. Hardly a second went by, and that Henry went "BOOM", and I knew right away I wasn't gonna be spendin' that there coin on anything.....

Gloria looked at me, an unspoken question in her eyes. I smiled at her and said "Well, now, I think me and you are gonna get along just fine on this trip north!" She just smiled back at me and said "Si, Calico". As we walked back to the house, I didn't hear a sound coming from the bunkhouse.....

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It's bad enough medicine to endure most of what humanity has to offer but the sight before me was the most despicable one could imagine. You can't marry that much filth with vermin and uncleaniness to equal what lie before me just out of Ft. Griffin. Yeah I knew him and wondered aloud why I'd not put a bullet in this hide rustling thief long ago. Top all that he was tight with the Comancheros at Punta Aqua last I heard.


Yep, ole Skinny Tom Malkin was huddled all up in a fetal position by the trail wailin like a foundered cat in a rat nest. Bloodied all up too! Well, my horsmanship is not that refined and ole Tater accidentally drove a hoove into Skinny Tom. You'd a thought alla Satans banshees woke at once the way he carried on. Stepped down and offered "Say Tom, looks like ya had a run in with somethin pretty stout! Whatever happened though it ain't enough in my judgement...sure suit me if MacKenzie had caught yer sorry self up on the Palo Duro and hung ya for yer many sorry lowlife acts!"


"Ya gotta help me Sam, I was robbed and damn near kilt by some lunatic Mesican woman and her sidekicks. They done ambushed me, crippled my legs, and run off with my whole outfit!"


"That a fact!" Damn sure no sympathy on my part whatever the situation. Gawd! Me, Taft, and Flint had dealt with a lot of scum as Parkers marshals up in the Nations but this idjit topped em all except for the child killers. Made me kinda grumpy remembering all that so I just up and sorta repeated what Tater started.


Ole Skinny Toms vocal chords were still in good shape thats for sure. Never was one for being all that patient so I just shoved a 44 Colt, Richards they called it, in his nose and demanded the truth. Just right after half-cock Tom decided that beins I was an ole pard of the buffler range he could level with me. "All I wanted was her to cook and ah, well you know what I mean Sam! She needed to least pay her keep for me saving her from them Comanch a ways back!"


"Likely story you sorry sob! Ya know, I heard of a huntin outfit owned by McCrae up on the Clear Fork that didn't show up at Ft Griffin. Rig just like you described and McCrae ain't been seen nor heard of either. Ansel McCrae was a real good friend of mine...almost like brothers!"


Ole Toms eyed rolled in the back of his head as he screamed he'd nothin to do with that and what in hell business was it of mine. Took a look around at the horizon and decided that there wasn't even a lobo within five miles. "Tom, what was this Mesican girls name if ya don't mind me askin?"


"Oh Jesus!", he moaned. "Her name was Gloria or something like that but you can't miss my rig and I don't know about no McCrae up on the Brazos".


"The hell you say Tom! Thems women scratch marks all over your face! Yep, the kind done in desperation! Tom, you just ain't worth killin much anyway but since you just brought Jesus up I'll oblige you!" Tom kinda looked real puzzled as I holstered the .44 and then quickly slashed his throat. "Jesus'll introduce you to your proper place in the hereafter very shortly Tom...can promise you that you sorry piece of dog crap."


The Studebacker wagon wasn't hard to follow at all.

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Whiskey looked at Bucky, Bucky looked at me with a look of surprise and amazement.


"Ya didn't tank I'd sign her on ifin she good not take care of her self, did cha ? Look , I got my hands full tendin' to da cattle and da hosses, much less watchin out fer da hands in case dey take ta drink, an I have ta take care of you two...I had ta make sure Gloria cood defend herself. One less thang I'd have ta worry bout. "Hawk said, flicking the ash off his cigarette. Bucky looked like he could kill me, and Whiskey just smiled with glee.


After asking the Sheriff to kept an eye on the place, we all saddled up and hitched up and started to move the 300 or so head and 75 head of horses up the trail. Bucky, Whiskey and me rode up to the top of a low mesa that over looked the herd and it was such a sight to see !Whiskey and Bucky looked at one bother, completely in love and I had to do something to break the moment.


Laughing a little to myself I said , "Just tank.....all dim critters down der has been stole one time nor another. Some most likely twiced ! I best git back now. Y'all best do what ever it is yur gonna do an git back too !" and i rode down off the mesa and back to work, shouting at the hands to do this and do that. Bucky say we should stop for a while, at the end of the day, let the cattle rest and fatten up some. "Sounds good ta me. I'll pick out a couple of da boys and ride inta town, pick up some ammo and maybe a drink , then be back fore sun set. Next town we come up on, I'll do da same wif a couple more boys."


Whiskey, with the reins of her mare in one hand, the other on her hip, she said to me, "Hawk, that's not fair.....But the time you cycle through the hired hands, why, you'll be in town at every stop we make !"


I smiled at Whiskey and pointed to my head....."Dat's rat, Ma'am.....Privileges of da Ramrod ! " and I spurred my Appy into a trot, told the hands what I was going to do, and what the rest should do until I returned. Then pointed out two men and rode off into the semi dry land. We rode into town and I told the hired hands with me, go get a drink or three, but come running when I called out. We'll be leaving for the herd at sunset.


They tore out for the nearest Saloon.....drinking and women was the only thing on their minds. And I don't blame them as that was on my mind as well, but first there was a list I needed to tend too at the dry goods store. Went in and the owner was friendly enough fellow. I placed my order, "four boxes of 45's and three boxes Sharp's 45-110." The shop keeper said that he would have them together in a few hours, which was fine by me. I needed a drink to cut this trail dust . I said that would be fine and walked out, heading for the Saloon.


Half way across the street some one yelled at me, but I didn't pay no mind just kept on walking. "Hey, Marshal.......remember me ?" It was so loud, I had to stop. I had just been called out.


"Don't tank i've had the pleasure friend." I said, letting my hand slowly drop to my side.


The stranger walked around me till the sun wasn't in any of our face's and then he continued , " Oh...I remember you Marshal Hawk ! Ya send to do 10 long years in the big house out Austin way. I got out alive cause that's all I could think about....you and my 10 years at hard labor !"


"I'm all done Marshalin' now friend. Ifin I sent ya der, ya most likely had it comin'. " my hand was down near my dragoon...itchin to get the jump on him, so I jerked it leather clear, cocking the hammer said, "Curley, I aint no Marshal no more. Retired from dat a spell back. I cood kill ya whar ya stand, but dat won't be fair. What wood be fair is fer ya to drop yur gun belt and ride out of town. Dat way no one gits hurt. Savvy ?"


Curly did what I told him to do and he hand put his hand near the but of is pistol, as if he was gonna try to pull it out. That had been used in the war, but both sides quickly caught on. "Now Curly.....I don't want to kill ya and ya don't want to be dead nether. Don't try it !" Then there was a clunk of a gun but to the skull and a thud as Curly hit the ground. The Sheriff came running out, his Remington in his hand.


"What's all this now ! " he demanded and pointed to me and the lump of a human being laying in the dusty street. "Sheriff....dis man called me out from over yonder. He tried to make draw agin him but my two co-workers der, gave him a good sized knot on dat back of his head. Can ya keep him in yur jail till he comes round. Don't want him layin' out here in da street an all. It's unsightly !"


The Sheriff questioned my two hands and the by-standers and said, " You best be on you're way Mister. I aint got nothing i can hold him on when he comes to."


"Yes-um Sheriff just about to leave rat now....just as soon as I can git me one drink." I said.


The Sheriff looked at me as if he had seen me before and started to drag Curly off into the jail.


One of the hired hands asked, "Hawk...ya recon will be see in' Curly again ?"


I threw back my drink and said to him, "You bet !" and rode back to the herd.

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I expected Hawk would be in town for a while, drinking and such. When he came back early, I knew there was trouble.


“Any one get shot?”

“Nope, just little pistol whipped, Whiskey.”


“Hawk, you have to lay low! We don’t want anyone finding out you’re breed, that would put everything at risk. And where are the supplies? Let me guess, you had to high tail it out of town without them.”


Hawk told me about what had happened, his past as a Marshall came to haunt him. Still and all, he could not go back for the supplies. Curly knew he was breed, and we needed to take care of business.


Bucky and I saddled up to retrieve our supplies.

“Whiskey darling, can I buy you a livation at the local watering hole?” Yes, we knew Curley was at the Saloon. There were all kinds past its batwing doors, cowboys, gamblers, Saloon girls and outlaws. One outlaw in particular. And caterwauling he was, like no other. And he was about to give up Hawk. Bucky did feel the need to intervene.


“That lowlife arrested me once, for Nothing! He didn’t like me is all! And I don’t like him either! Ya wanna know WHY? I’ll tell ya why…


Before he can say more, Bucky turns to face Curly and says “What I know is that you have a big mouth for someone who’s a yellow bellied Yankee sympathizer.“ Curly glared, his eyes flashing and his cheeks flushing. “Whadda ya mean by that?” Curly demands. “Oh, I’ve heard of your war exploits” says Bucky. Rustling beeves to feed the Yankees, reporting on our whereabouts and troop movements, I’d ‘a thought someone like you would want to keep a lower profile in these parts.”

“You’re a damned liar with a big mouth, and I’m gonna shut it for you- permanent like!” says Curly.


Before Curley even cleared leather, Bucky had his LeMat cocked and ready. Idiot that he was, Curly draws his Colt Navy and as he was clearing leather the balls fell out of the chambers and clattered and rolled around on the the floor. He pulls the trigger anyways, resulting in an explosive but impotent chain fire. At the same instant, Bucky peppers Curly with grapeshot with his LeMat. Bucky strides over to the dying man, looks him in the eyes, and says “Sorry Curly, but your balls were too small.

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I spyed two riders on the low mesa in the distance and thought that , maybe, they where rustlers who worked for a bigger gang and was out taking a look see at the herd. Now, this herd we where pushing was differently large enough to drew some unwanted attention. Like the Comanchees on the flat lands ahead. They had to be starving , so I took my gun belt off, cut out three head and pushed them out to the starving Indians. After parlaying a bit,they shook my arm and rode off with the cattle, very happy. I rode back to the herd, steeped down and put my gunbelt back on just as Bucky and Whiskey rode up.


"Howdy bosses....I don't see nary supplies, like ammunition .....uh.....didn't make it ta town, rat ?" I asked, pushing my Montana crease hat back on my head.


Both Bucky and Whiskey stepped down and Whiskey said to me,...."We had to go into town..........."


"An do what Whiskey !" I raised my voice to her. "Just what da hell whar ya goin to do ?"


"Now Hawk, calm down. You sent Curly to Federal Prison and he wanted to kill you for that. And he knew you where a breed !" Bucky said.


I frowned as I didn't understand. "An dat means what ?"


They both hung their heads but I said to Bucky......."Boss......ya gave me a job, you an da Misses der......payed me good too ! But I'll be dead an rottin' before I let ya fight another battle fer me ! Bucky.....remember how in Chanclorsville, VA when yur outfit got pinned down by Yankee gun fire, we came chargin' from der rear an cauht 'em wif dar pants down ! Remember dat an all dim other battles we fought side by side,shoulder to shoulder...I tank of you as a brother, da Misses der, as a sister. But I just can not have ya fightin' fer me cuz I' half breed." I said. Seeing that my anger had caught them off guard, I continued ,...In case ya don't know, we, ...Ex-Confederates and pushin' a very large herd of cattle wif some hosses, so much a man wif half an eye cood track, ......inta a Yankee State...dim folk hang Ex-Confederates, and dey shore as hell will hang a Ex-Confederate half breed ! Now, ifn' ya got no more objections, da herd needs tendon !" I then swung up into the saddle, tipped my hat to Whiskey and looked at Bucky saying......"Boss."


I got back to the herd and checked who was riding heard , riding right and left flank an drag. And who was riding night hawk. The grass here was green here, but as we pushed northward, it would turn greener. And maybe my luck would change too. I had been known as a good Marshal, double tuff, and didn't have any problems in killing a outlaw, and pulling a cork. We sit up camp now and started to run the camp as normally as we could. And it was normal to me.


Come sun raise, I came out of my tent at the smell of coffee cooking on the fire, and while I was sipping a hot cup, my eyes looked to the low mesa and now there where five riders instead of two. I put my gun belt on, sitting my tin cup near the fire and looked up saying..."Barns.....saddle up !" He knew not to question my motives. Once he was in the saddle, I was too and said to him, "What say we go say Howdy to dim fellers yonder Barns."


"Be then neighborly thing to do Boss !" Barns said and we rode slowly toward them. As we neared them, they rode off into the distance. "What do ya think they want Boss ?"


I shifted in the saddle a bit saying, "Sizing up the herd, I figure. Let's git back to 'em an git some breakfast Gloria fixed fer us. She's mitey good at fryin' grasshoppers !" I said throwing Barns an elbow.


Barns looked at me and frowned and said....."Boss....I aint eattin' no grasshoppers !"

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Hushed, angry voices woke Calico out of a light sleep. Whiskey and Hawk were on the edge of camp and she could just hear some of it.


“Nobody LETS me fight my battles, I fight them as I see fit. That’s how kin takes care of kin. You know about Texans and breeds, want to end
up in hanged? We had to protect interests.”


“Interest, rat? I’ve lived thro hell and still kikin. I’s not any ones intrest.”


"Iffin you go down you'll take Bucky and me with you. I will not let that happen."


A glance out of slittted eye and Calico noticed they both had bowies drawn. She pretended to sleep for a while, when it was almost dawn headed to town to get the supplies that kept on getting left behind. And to confirm her suspicions that Bucky and Whiskey killed a man. She saddled up as quietly as she could, walked her horse slowly away from camp and headed for the town. Calico was not the only one in camp that slept light.


On the road Calico felt safe for a while. It was cool and peaceful as the sun started to rise. Well, the sun meant shadows and she noticed one, then two. Then ten and they were riding for her. She rode as hard as the mare would go but the riders were gaining on her. She sent a few wild shots at them and one or two hit home. Not enough though. Two of the riders were along side of her, reaching for the mare’s reins, when she heard rifle fire. Both riders went down, it was just a matter of minutes before the rest were taken care of. Terrified, she galloped ahead till Whiskey grabbed the mare’s reins and brought her to a stop.

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"Just where the heck do you think you're going?" Whiskey growled at me. "Are you crazy, going off all by yourself like that? It's not safe out here for a woman alone, even if you can shoot!"


"You're out here alone," I pointed out, still a little shaken. "And someone had to go get the supplies from town, I have a feeling we're gonna need that ammo!"


Whiskey motioned me to turn my palomino back towards camp, saying "We'll send a couple of the boys into town after the supplies, you're going back with me!" I figured I better not argue, she wasn't in the mood for it, and now was not a good time or place to be gettin' myself fired!


When we got back to camp, I could tell Bucky was none too happy with me either. After talking to Whiskey for a minute, he stormed over to me and told me in no uncertain terms "Don't pull a stunt like that again! You are not to leave camp alone, if you wanna go anywhere you go with me or Whiskey, or you take at least one or two of the boys with you at all times, and that's final! Do you have any idea what those men woulda done if they'd caught you?"


"I was just trying to do SUMTHIN' useful Boss! It ain't like I'm getting the chance to do much of anythin' now that we're on the trail, and you ain't payin' me to do nothin' at all! Just wanted the chance to do somthing to earn my pay!" I could tell Whiskey overheard me, and could also tell she got my point. At the ranch I had plenty of work to keep me busy, but since we'd hit the trail, I was basically just tagging along, without much to do. I knew it hadn't been the smartest thing I'd ever done, going off on my own, but I was just getting so bored......

Whiskey came over and whispered to me "Just get Sundance rubbed down and fed, we'll talk more about this later", and went off to talk to Bucky alone. I made sure my mare was tended to, then went to make sure SOMEONE had been sent to fetch the ammo....I had a feeling we were gonna need it!

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Hushed, angry voices woke Calico out of a light sleep. Whiskey and Hawk were on the edge of camp and she could just hear some of it.


“Nobody LETS me fight my battles, I fight them as I see fit. That’s how kin takes care of kin. You know about Texans and breeds, want to end

up in hanged? We had to protect interests.”


“Interest, rat? I’ve lived thro hell and still kikin. I’s not any ones intrest.”


"Iffin you go down you'll take Bucky and me with you. I will not let that happen."


A glance out of slittted eye and Calico noticed they both had bowies drawn. She pretended to sleep for a while, when it was almost dawn headed to town to get the supplies that kept on getting left behind. And to confirm her suspicions that Bucky and Whiskey killed a man. She saddled up as quietly as she could, walked her horse slowly away from camp and headed for the town. Calico was not the only one in camp that slept light.


On the road Calico felt safe for a while. It was cool and peaceful as the sun started to rise. Well, the sun meant shadows and she noticed one, then two. Then ten and they were riding for her. She rode as hard as the mare would go but the riders were gaining on her. She sent a few wild shots at them and one or two hit home. Not enough though. Two of the riders were along side of her, reaching for the mare’s reins, when she heard rifle fire. Both riders went down, it was just a matter of minutes before the rest were taken care of. Terrified, she galloped ahead till Whiskey grabbed the mare’s reins and brought her to a stop.





In the day light I packed up my horse, and took my pack horse from the ramuta, packed it up and walked up to Bucky.


"Boss.....need my wages thus far. You and da Misses".......I turned hard and looked at Whiskey. "Have teated fairly thus fer, but.......but......I just need my wages Boss !" I said.


My spurs jungled as I walked away toward me pack horse and re-tightened all the straps and cinches down, Bucky got a pouch of gold coins and said, "Hawk.....You need to think about this. You and I know who and want you are. You know people would do horrible things to you if caught. You know that, right ?"


I sighed and said, "Yup...I know. Can I have my wages now ? Me an Gloria will be movin' on !"


Bucky handed me the porch and I swung up into the saddle and spurred my horse into a walk right by Whiskey. I tipped my hat an looked her straight in the eye an said, "Ma'am ! and rode due east.

With the clacking and banging, we rode the rest of the day east with out saying a word. And had supper with out saying a word. As the dirty plates was washed up, I took a bottle of whiskey that I had from the stock and walked around to the flour barrel, sat down and sprinkled some tobacco on the ground and lite up a cigarette. After a long draw and I took a healthy draw of whiskey that was in my coffee cup. To my surprise, Gloria walked up and lite her a cigarette and sipped the whiskey in her cup.


"Folks said that when Injun drinks, he goes loco !" Gloria said looking dead at me.


Blowing smoke rings, I looked out into the darkness and replied, "Only a damned breed Gloria ! Aint held a job dat long in a many a year. Seems a damn breed aint want wif dim either ! Well....maybe I can find a job on nother drive north or wild hoss breakin'."


"Make sure it is not you that gets broken !" Gloria said and poured more whiskey in my tin cup.


Gloria had long been asleep and I was still sitting by the fire, stirring it, thinking about what went wrong with me and Whiskey. And how did Bucky came into it. I thought how this damn Indian pride was bigger than my narrow throat. I thought bout all the bad times me and Bucky had gotten through. And all the good times as well. How the hell did it come to this ? Oh well.....that was then and this is now. Best get some sleep.


The morning came and Gloria was up with the purple sky turning to dark red and I was up as well, and had a throbbing head ache and watch her fry up some parrie chicken eggs, which where smaller than hen's eggs but more tasty, buffalo bacon and biscuits and coffee. Getting up, I pulled my pants on, strapped on my gun belt, and without a hat, my salt and pepper breads where out for all to see. Pouring some hot brew into my tin cup, I sat down and thought of my, our next move. And I didn't have a clue. So after breakfast I asked Gloria.


"Don't want to say. Just git called loco ! I tell you....Will not go east passed the Oklahoma Territory !" Gloria said. Well, that set it up pretty well. If I wanted somebody to cook and clean and sometimes sleep with on a cold night, I'll need to go south. Lord know what will happen if I go north ! I need to find work.....steady work. On a cattle drive maybe or a round up. Plenty of ranchos south of here, think that's where we'll head.


Saddling up, I looked west to where I thought the herd, where I thought Whiskey and Bucky would be buy now. Nether had been on a drive before but a few of the hands have. Barns...who was hired a few days after I was hired, would most likely set up to the job. Now for me, I didn't have a Marshaling job....Tejas Rangers where hiring but I was too damned old. And I didn't have a ranch to work for any more. All I had was this porch of gold coins and my two dragoons and a lot of pissed off ex-cons looking for me. I was out of a job for the first time in my life !

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i had been riding in tha shadows for many moons, maybe the full cycle that the white man refers tu as a year. It had been a very long and hard cycle, what with shadowing The Fair One from what is known as tha Colorado Territory, staying in the shadows and doing whatever it took to make certain that she would always see another moon. I and a young brave were keeping a watchful eye from afar on the herd that the Fair Oone known as Calico and her friends were pushing north. She had caught my eye in the Colorado Territory as she worked her fathers ranch. A fair man was he, with a heart that was known to be fair and a tongue that did not know how to lie. I was part of the Cheyennes that had been in the Colorado Territory for many moons, I was one that was known to stay apart from the villages for I was different than the rest of the young braves. You see my father was Frank Culpepper and my mother was a Cheyenne Squaw that Frank had taken into his house after her tribe had been decimated with illness. He taught me how to ride, judge cattle, men and horses, but he knew that there was something within me that longed to ride the plains free. That is how I had first caught a glimse of the fair one they called Calico. It made my heart run with black hatred when the white men burned her family. I had nearly charged into the midst of them but the young brave called Wisdom pulled me back and the plan to avenge the deaths was born. It was as we were planning in detail that we saw The Fair One ride to the ranch, pause, and then hurled her pony towards the south. We followed her from afar, not long after we noticed a group from the town that seemed to want to head her off,,,,no harm would come to this fair one we swore. We launched our ponies in their direction and caught them by surprise, we had killed 2 of the 5 before they knew we were there, we got two more but the last one managed to escape our wrath...It would be better for the people in the town to know of our revenge so we let him continue his harrowing ride home, alone.

But back to the shadows, it had not been easy, we ate what the earth had been giving us, but in that land they call Texas, mother earth seemed to be tired and gave us little. Our ponies were tired from many moons of walking and the parched earth gave us little water. We watched from afar but the lack of water must have made our judgement poor as we had been spyed by the one who looked over the herd. We watched in great amazement as he cut out a few head and starting pushing them towards us.....To our amazement to led them directly to us and as he notioned us to take them our eyes caught, he and I were both breeds,,,nothing more needed to be said....he turned and returned to the herd. We knew that the great gift of the cattle was beyond our use, but we had passed thru a village that we knew would need them, we drove them to the village and the chiefs saw that our horses were fed and watered and we were fed as best as the tribe could give. We were invited to stay, but my heart was still black with the hate of the white men that had killed the fair one's family and my oath to watch over the Fiar One all the days of my life called me back to the shadows....

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Me and Gloria rode into this town that was more like half camp and half town. The "tents" had wooden floors and wooden walls about half way up the sides and a canvas roof. It seemed that somebody hit a vein of silver near by and this town sprung up to try to see if they could get some of that silver. In the Saloon, the barkeep was the biggest man I ever saw. And big hands to go with his big size so he could get as much silver dust as possible.


Besides whiskey, which was really watered down rot gut, there was poker, faro, roulette and guessing games. The man dealing Faro I know. He was a deputy I had which I was young. Decided he would stop being a law dog as it didn't pay much and started to drift. He nodded to me, and I gave a slight nod back, letting him know I saw him . He was dressed like a dandy from head to toe, but I saw this slight bulge in his vest pocket , letting me know he had a belly pistol or something. Gloria was at the dry goods store putting in our order. I went to the bar and ordered bourbon. The barkeep looked at me with this funny look on his face. Maybe he knew me from some place or maybe he knew that I knew the whiskey was not good at all.


The bourbon arrived and then I said to the dandy next to me......"Howdy Buick ! Touht I wood never see ya agin ! What da hell ya doin' in dis hole in da wall ?"


And Buick responded, ...."How do Hawk......or should I say Marshal Hawk !" Turning to look at the crowd with his elbows on the bar and said...."Been dealing Faro.....to suckers like that Gentleman there."


I didn't turn but sipped on my drink and replied ,..."Aint Marshalin' no more Buick...Been retired, relieved and rejoycin' fer bout 10 years now. Was working fer a nice husband an wife what is pushing a herd up north to Kanas, but dey don't know whar da railhead is in Kanas. "


Buick nodded for another drink and I nodded to the barkeep.


" Not still I see yur silver first mister !" the barkeep said. Buick just smiled.


I reached into my vest pocket and pulled out a $20.00 gold piece and layer it on the bar and told the barkeep....."Will dis work fer ya ? Aint got no silver ! When dis runs out.....I'll give ya nother !"


"Well, it just run out !" the big barkeep said. And just like greased lighting, there was a belly gun and a dragoon pointing, point blank at his head.


Buick said to him, "Barkeep......I think you just retired from the Saloon business.....Now how bout you just easing out from behind that bar was we'll walk out onto the street....alive or we " Buick was pointing to himself and me, "Will be forced to shoot and at this range, there wouldn't be much left of you're empty head and mostly, you'll be chinese hawg food. Now, let's just take a trip together."


Buick,the barkeep and me started walking for the door.....the folks in front of us would go silent till we passed, then right back to what they where doing. Once on the street I said....."Don't even tank of com in back in here ! " And then Buick and I walked back into the Saloon.


"Ya tank he'll ride off Buick ?" I asked.


He smiled and said "Why are you asking me ? You used to hunt men for a living !"


"Cuz ya know him, watched him day in and day out." I said.


Buick turned to me, motioning for a Saloon girl, whispering something in her ear, tipped her and she ran off into the back room.


"Nope ! Not a chance ! He wants to die !" Buick said.


"Din we'll have to oblige him. Hope ya got something a little bit bigger din da pocket gun !" I said, looking at his pocket pistol.


Buick threw his bourbon back, smiled and put it away when the Saloon girl came walking up with the most fanciest rig I ever laid my eyes on. To try to describe it, would do it a grave misjustice. I looked down at that rig and whistled. "Dat must cost ya right smart Buick !"


"Cost enough !" Buick said and walked behind the bar and got the bottle of bourbon and walked to the only open table, under the stairs, that was open and sit down. Buick poured two more drinks.


"Now, what can I do for you Hawk ?" Buick asked as he adjusted his rig.


I sipped my bourbon and said to him, ...."Not a damn thin' Buick ! Just came in here to have a drink, din I saw ya. What do ya want Buick ?"


Buick sipped his bourbon and said....."What makes you think I want something !? Just want to drink with an old friend,......that's all !"


"BUFFALER CHIPS !" I said loudly. "Each time we drink tagether, always end up wif da short in of da stick ! Now...what do ya want ?"


Buick poured another bourbon in each shot glass and replied....."Such you asked Hawk, I was thinking about moving on and thinking there is safety in numbers and wanted to ride along with you. And seeing how the Cheyenne are on the warpath ."


"Now ya till me Buick !" I said. "Been seein' sign here an dat. Met up wif 3 of' em....one didn't look like he wood make it. Gave 'em 3 head of steers. Maybe dey let me pass through."


"That why I would like to ride with you." Buick said.

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We walked out onto that muddy street toward the only dry goods store in this camp or town, or what ever you want to call it. It was taking a very long time for Gloria to get the supplies for the chuck wagon. Then out of the conner of my eye I saw this man....the same barkeep that had sticky fingers came around the two hole outhouse with a rig strapped to his hip, one gun, and a scatter gun in his hand. Buick saw him as the bar keeper leveled his scattergun at us. In a flash,Boom..Boom and then a Booom ! Buick and me drew, and fired, and as the barkeep went down, he fired into the air.


We walked over to him, I kicked the scatter gun away, Buick took out his one pistol. If a man wore one pistol in this country, he knew how to use it or was running a dangerous bluff. At any rate we were not taking changes. He looked up at me and said, "I'll hunt ya down Breed an kill ya !"


I cocked my hammer on my dragoon and replied, "Friend...I believe ya will ! " and fired another round into his head, just above the left eye, taking the eye and the rest of his skull and brain matter and planting them into the mud. Before we could move the chinese men came running up, strip him of anything useful and dumped his body into the hog lot. The hogs did the rest.


"Believe dat was my shot dat hit him Buick !" I said, as I reloaded.


"Hell No Hawk....it was mine for sure ! Buick said as he reloaded his fancy new copper cased 44-40's ! Never saw such a thing. It was something new and Buick could afford it as well.


We went into the dry goods store and the sip keeper refused to sell anything to a Mexican, money or not. Buick stepped up, took the shop keeper aside and when they returned, the shop keeper came back with four glasses, poured us all a drink and while lifting his glass high said..."Mr Buick...Mr Hawk and Miss Gloria...a toast to ya ! I just got a return on my goods I sold that man ya killed !

Now,,,," after he threw his whiskey back...."What will it be ?"


Before anybody could speak Buick piped in....."Just what Gloria wanted but double. And add some sugar to boot ! And this man here is gonna pay for it all !"


"An some rollin tobaccer !" I said looking at Buick.


With the supplies all packed up in the chuck wagon, me, Gloria and Buick started to head out. The sky looked gray but it was warm and we rode and the wagon clangked, rattled and creaked down the trail and I started to look on my back trail.


"What ya felling , Hawk ?" Buick asked.


"Not at thin' I said, but I knew Buick didn't believe me.


"Now...each and every time you said that back when we where marshaling , we got jumped !" Buick then slide out his Henry from it scabbard , levered a round into the chamber and laid it across his saddle horn. "I ain't taking that change no more !"


We rode on the rest of the day without saying a word, just listening to the hooves of the horses in the mud and the sounds of the chuck wagon, listening for any thing out of the sounds.....a stick breaking, another horse's hooves slushing through the mud. We stopped and made camp early as it looked and felt like it was going to rain again.


We got the camp all set up, Gloria had supper working then, up on the hill, we saw a rider. Buick grabbed his rifle and joined up with me, just like the old days. "Told ya Hawk !" and he leveled his rifle. But before he could fire, Hawk pushed his rifle down.


"Best hold up on dat shoot, Buick. That man's ridin' a fine Mexican saddle....silver concho's very whar. An it's on a fine horse too boot. By dat looks, he ain't aforrdin' dim !" Hawk said.


"You can see that Hawk ? I can't !" Buick said.


"Too much faro dealin' Buick......I tank I know dis man ! I've been lookin' fer him a long time now. Never caught up wif him while I was marshallin'. But be ready....he's lightin' fast an slick as possum fat !" I said.


He rode up to the camp without saying he was coming in. He knew we where watching him close, and reined up on the right side of the camp, putting his horse between himself and us. He was setting himself for a defensive attack or just taking care. We will some see !


"Howdy Hawk ! Heard you where dead !"


"Now, dat's funny ....hearded da same thin' bout ya, Black Dawg !" I said. "What cha doin' here ?"


"Just stopped to ask for a drink of water, Marshal Hawk ! Don't care if it's muddy....just so's it's wet !" Black Dawg said.


Hawk pointed to the water barrel and replied, "Git it yur self ! Aint got time da be yur maid !" That's when I noticed Buick's hand slowly siding downward.


"Hawk....best tell that youngin' he best stop or he'll be dead !" Black Dawg said angry.


I told Buick to back off and returned my full attention to Black Dawg...."Whar did ya git dat fancy saddle ? Bet ya killed a feller fer it.....know ya didn't buy it !"


Black Dawg laughed a little saying...."I killed the man who was ridin' it on this fine mount....had my way with his wife and two daughters.....killed 'um all before I was done !. But dat was in Mexico and ya can not do a damed thing about Marshal ! You swore an oath, remember ? ! and he grinned from ear to ear.


I slowly adjusted my gun belt, and if Buick remembered, that was a sign I was going to draw on this man, and to get ready to back my play. "Dawg.....Figured a man is good fer only one oath in his life.....I gave mine to da Confederate Sates of America ! Not to some damned badge dat I quit wearin' long time ago ! Now, ya got yur water.....ride on out fore I'm forced ta kill yur sorry hide !"


"Don't think you could beat me Old Man !" Black Dawg said. "But I just wanted a drink of yur nasty water ! Now....I'll be on my way !" Black Dawg sung up onto his stolen saddle and rode off, I never took my eyes off him. I watched him till he rode over the far mesa.

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It was past midnight, and I was exhausted, but I still couldn't fall asleep. Every since I had left Colorado Territory, I had a funny feeling like I was being watched, and that feeling had grown stronger the last few days, ever since those men had chased me on the way into that town. Maybe I was just imagining it, but the feeling just wasn't going away...guess that little incident had scared me worse than I thought!


Or maybe it was just that everything seemed to be going wrong on this trip. After Hawk and Gloria had left, Bucky had asked to speak to me in private. He told me that since Gloria was gone, and I wanted more to do, that the logical solution was for me to take over the cooking until he and Whiskey could hire someone else.


"Bucky, have you lost your mind??! You know I can't cook, Margaret and Theresa always did all that! I was hoping for you to tell the rest of the hands to start letting me help with the herd, or to let me do more to take care of the horses, sumthin' like that! You know, sumthin' I actually know how to do...since the boys STILL don't think I'm capable of it! Besides, if those boys have to eat more than one meal with me cookin', you and Whiskey might end up drivin' those cows all the way to Kansas by yourselves!"


While we were talking, Whiskey had walked over. "Calico, hon, we're really sorry, we know this ain't what we hired you to do, but we don't have a whole lot of other choices, not until we get a chance to hire someone else. And don't you think it's about time you DID learn how to cook?" she said. "Maybe it's time you start thinking some more about your future, you don't really want to work for us forever, do you? Isn't it time for you to start thinking about settling down, finding yourself a good man to partner up with, and maybe start a family?"


I just shook my head, and said "Yeah right, like there's much chance of that happenin'! There's only two kinds of women that I've noticed men being interested in, proper ladies and...well...and soiled doves. I sure as heck don't fit in the first category, and I ain't interested in being part of that second category!! If'n you two don't want to keep payin' my wages, maybe I can find another ranch somewheres that needs help, or if'n I can come up with some money, maybe open a little sewing shop somewhere. There's plenty of men out here on the plains that don't have anyone to do their sewing for them, I could survive off doin' that!"


"It's just temporary Calico, as soon as we can get another cook, we'll find you something else to help out with" Bucky said. "Don't you be getting all riled up and threatening to leave, it's bad enough that Hawk and Gloria did! Just be patient, things will all work out!"

Well, the hands weren't any happier about this arrangement than I was, but at least no one has starved or got sick....yet! But this wasn't what I had signed on for, and it definitely wasn't to my liking! I laid awake staring at the stars, thinking about what Whiskey had said. Maybe she was right, maybe it was time to start thinking long and hard about my future, and where my life was going. I couldn't wander around chasing after cows my whole life, but what did I really want to do?


The thought of opening up a little shop in some town somewhere did appeal to me, and I knew I could make a go of it, if I could come up with enough money to get started. But was that really what I wanted? As for a husband and family, well, it didn't seem very likely that would ever happen, but it didn't mean I couldn't find a place to settle down, and stop chasing after dreams that weren't likely to come true. I wanted more than anything to go back to my father's homestead and rebuild that, but Colorado just wasn't safe for me anymore....


"One of these days, I'm gonna figure out just what it is I do want, but for now I better be getting some sleep, dawn will be here before too long," I thought as I rolled over to try and get more comfortable on that cold, hard ground. "Sooner or later, things are bound to get better...."

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Perhaps I shud change my name to One Who Lives in the Shadows. The young brave that had been riding with me for the last cycle of moons has decided that he cud no longer continue with me. The strain of remaining out of sight from those so close has worn his spirit thin. I will continue to shadow the Fair One, the sight of her family being burned in their homestead has scarred my spirit but The Great Spirit replenishes me like the heavy dew that satisfies the grass and the rain that washes the wind of the dust from a dry earth.


A few moons ago I saw the Kind breed and his woman leave the company that pushes the cattle north, I don't understand why this has happend, it has caused confusion in the camp and the Fair One appears to be stressed like the pines in a strong wind. A most curious occurance,,,but I must control my couriousity, while curiousity is a good thing, it can also make one's judgement to become skewed and those consequences can be compared to a brave being caught in an avalanche in the high country. Not something I wud want to experience again.


One thing I have learned living in the shadows during this pushing of the cattle, and that is, if I push the strays back towards the herd, the cowboys will not venture as far out and that will lessen my chance of being revealed from the shadows,,,agin.


the young brave that has left wanted to return to the village we last visited, and with the journey there a short one, left me most of his share of provisions, a great blessing. With the advancement to the north, game as been becoming more plentiful and my bow will help me to fill my belly. Snares will also help me catch small game, tho with the fire needed to cook the game in the warm season will require me to be much more careful to remain in the shadows.....the stars are many and the moon high. A good nights rest will be a welcomed friend.

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"Break Camp Gloria ....we're heading into town...need supplies.....now !" I said looking at Gloria just as she started to melt lard in the frying pan.


"But Senor Hawk....I made coffee !" Gloria said as she threw the melted lard out onto Mother Earth.


"Good.....I'll have a cup.......Ya too ! But no more.....we gotta move !"


Gloria looked confused asking " Why Hawk...why the hurry ?"


She clearly did not know, so I told her. "Rat now.....Black Dawg is some whars watchin' us. He'll see us break camp an move out cuz he knows dat I know he's circling round to attack us....kill me..have his way with ya and scalp da both of us ! Now, let's move ! I don't cotton ta him havin' da high ground !"


We broke camp, and rode out for the town that was maybe a day and a half ride out. I tied my Appy to the tailgate and climbed up and drove the wagon, and asked Gloria to help me keep watch...signal me with the tapping of my foot with her's and look in that direction . The wagon was very loud and clumsy...not easy to maneuver around so we got on the main road. We didn't see a sign of him and that was both go and a bad thing. Good thing that we didn't have to fight him.....and for Gloria. Bad because he more than likely was out killing someone else. The horses was played out and yet I pushed them on. The was an old saying about Apache's. It held true here and I guess they knew it.


Finally, the horses where all played out and could not go no further, so we made camp. We had gotten used to riding with the fear that we just got used to it as well. Small fire was made, just enough to roast some fresh rattler that was caught and to cook some coffee. And the night was clear and cold......and getting colder. And Gloria asked.....


"Senior Hawk.......I mean Hawk......"She said and reached down and grabbed the bottle of whiskey and took a large pull off of it. "Do ya every git lonely for a women ?"


I didn't even look up, I was so tired. "Shore nuff do ! You ever git dat same feelin' fer a all nite man ?" and I took just a sip off the bottle.


"Yes, I do ! My husband dies of consumption 10 years ago. Haven't been with a man since that time." Gloria said. "And you...."


' Awww........just whores mostly . Dat was dis one women I had feelins' fer....but she did not have nary a clue I had dos feelins. " I said and rolled over on my side, with Dragoon under my blanket. Suddenly, I was rolled unto my back, and I cocked the Dragoon that was now pointing at this figure. She slowly pushed my Dragoon aside, straddling me, started to take her clothes off.


Morning broke clear and cool, and I had slept well. Blow the coals of the fire back to life, filled the coffee pot and tossed a handful of coffee grounds inside and then put my pants on.


"Morning Hawk !" Gloria said happily .


I looked over and said "Mornin ! Git up an git some breakfast cookin !I'm gonna look around fer a spell. Stay rat here. Ya got my pistol close by.....use it ifin ya have ta !" And I walked out into the brush hill country that surrounded us. Satisfied I saw no shoed tracks or war moccasins, I made my way back to camp. When I got back , Gloria was humming a little tune and smiling. Taking my tin cup and pouring some hot brew into it I said....."Don't let last nite git inta yur head, I love ya or anythin' like it. Si ?"


She stopped humming and served up some breakfast to me. As I eat she said to me, "Don't think last night happens ofter, Senior....yur where just handy at da time !"


We drove the wagon into town and pulled up outside the Saloon, looking up at her I said...."Wait here....I need a drink !" Gloria wrapped the reins around the set brake and said to me,..."Screw it Senior....I drink too !" and jumped down off the seat. I motioned to her to follow me inside the Saloon , went up to the bar and ordered two whiskeys. We was only served one.


"We ordered two.....not one Barkeep !" I said.


"WE don't serve her kind here !" the barkeep said and went back to wiping down the bar.


I cleared myself and said, "Friend......we ordered two drinks, and if we don't git two drinks, I got a mighty hard feelin' somethin' bad is goona happen !"


The bar keep laughed and replied ,"And who is gonna do that old man ! Like I said...WE don't serve her kind here !"


Suddenly Gloria grabbed my scatter gun that she had discreetly carried in, cocked both hammers and let one drop, hitting the painting behind the barkeep when he ducked in the naked women's private parts ! The next barrel, which was unfired, she leveled at the barkeep.


"See thar ! Tolt ya somethin' bad is about ta happen to ya ! But ya just won't listen. So, I'll tell ya agin....WE will have two drinks !" and tossed my glass into the air and lighting fast, drew my Dragoon and fired and the glass disappeared . "Now, ifin' ya don't want ya head ta disappear to, I think we'll have our drinks now."


The Saloon went quite and then as the smoke cleared went back to the noise of mid day business. Then suddenly....."Well , as I live and breath.....Hawk..you old war dawg....that you was dead !"


The Bartender came over and made the sign as if he was asking and this man said, "Set up Bar keep... On me !" and he pointed to the two glasses in front of him and a third for himself. "Let me guess....you must be the sharp shooter and judging by the lady in the picture, you're a right good shot !" Gloria smiled and just sipped her whiskey.


"Gloria...meet Sam MacAlister....8th Missouri Calvalry, CSA...former Tejas Ranger I take it ." I said.


"And don't forget former Scout for the 4th Calvary under Colonel Ranald MacKenzie.....You didn't know about that part." Sam said. "So what brings you to this hole in the wall Hawk ?"


I smiled and said, "Gittin' supplies fer da rig out der ....." Hawk smiled and Sam did too. They both knew there was more to it than that. "An ifin' I can, pick up the trail of the herd that Whiskey and Bucky are drivin' north to Kanas."


"Well, if ya mean that large plowed up swath of earth out yonder, I say it would be fairly easy to pick it up !" Sam said with this big grin on his face. This was one of the towns he had passed through and not gave it a sound thought. Hawk smiled because he was fairly sure the recent spring rains had washed all sign away. He pushed his glass back toward the barkeep and he re filled it and when Gloria did the same he waited for a second and when I looked at him, he pour her another. While he was at it, he topped off Sam's glass too.


"Welt din, I spect I'll be layin' in some extra ammo.....Black Dawg been seen round abouts ." I said. With that, whispers began to travel through Saloon and men began to leave and head home.


Sam said with a frown on his face...."You seen that somebitch round here Hawk ?"


"Yup...seen him yesterday ......near whar we made camp. Dis morning went search fer sign, but never saw one. Sides..what ya want with me MaAlister. Ya seem to be doin' all rat. "

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Sleep came and stayed as a welcome friend last moon, I woke with gratitude to the Great Spirit for a sleep that was deep, tho at times frequented with dreams that were hard to understand.

I had visions of a dark rider that too played the shadows to his benefit. As I attended to my pony I heard a horse coming at a gallop,,,,,it was the young brave that had left to go to the village. As he pulled up his pony I cud tell that his mind was full of distress, as he dismounted I offered him water and some fruit,,,he drank a few sips and then started to tell me of the happenings at the village. It seems an apache brave was trying to stir up the Cheyenne. But they wud have none of it. It seems my visit there must have been at the leading of the Great Spirit, as I had told them of my life as the son of Frank Culpepper, a great and respected rancher and my mother the Cheyenne squaw. I had told them of his fairness not only to my mother but also the villages that were near his spread. I also spoke of the venegence that I had wrecked on the white men who had burned the Fair Ones family. I also spoke agin of the kindness of the Kind breed who had brought the 3 steers that had gotten the tribe thru a bad time. I also brought to their minds that those steers were not sickly, but well and fattened.

He spoke of the apache brave and his dark heart that burned of hatred. he had boasted of killling many without regard. The Cheyenne knew of the evil that the apache cud harbor and sent him out of the village with a small amount of provisions, for they wanted no part of his black heart but they also did not want that black heart turning against them. They are brave, however they also know of the apache's ways of seeking venegence even for the most light offense. He warned me that this black hearted apache was in the area and to be aware of his darkness.

After the young brave left, i was reminded of the vision that I had dreamed during the last moon. suddenly the hairs on my neck were on end as I realized the connection. As I continued to brush my pony I thot of all that was said. I pulled the stick that makes great fire from it's leather pouch, my father had given it to me as soon as I was able to hold it up. he taught me how to care for it and the things that made the fire and the boolits that would explode a mellon as far as an eye could see. I wiped the dust from it, ran the rod and lamb's wool thru it and shoke the powder. I also pulled the caps that cause fire from their pouch to make shure that they were dry and ready to use. something told me to make the rifle ready. I carefully measured the powder and poured it into the barrel, i took a patch and rubbed it into the fat and placed it on the muzzle and placed they boolit on top of the patch, i then used the rod to push the boolit til it would go no more. I took a cap and carefully inspected it and firmly placed it on the nipple. My firestick was now ready, for what I wasn't sure, but the vision of the dark rider and the story of the black hearted apache had my spirit apprehensive. I was brought to the thoughts of the men who had burned the Fair Ones family, now with the visions of a dark rider dancing thru my mind I could only wonder what it all meant.

the herd was slowly moving north, but this day I would not linger in the shadows following it, the Great Spirit was leading me to the west, I would be able to catch up to the herd easily. What I would find as I pushed my pony west I knew not, I had learned tho to follow the urgings of the Great Spirit....my eyes constantly peered in all directions,,,you never know when evil will raise it's ugly head.....

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"It's like this Hawk.....You know what it is like out here, being a Confederate and a half breed, know it worse than most folks. Get hung and double quick ! I'm looking for two things and I think you can help on them both !" McAlister said.


"Sounds fair to me Sam, but der are two things.....First, gotta git back to da herd, ifin' de'll have me and second is dat ! " And I was pointing to this follow who made his living dealing faro.


"Buick's the name and you are ,............." Buick said, his hand out reached.


"MacAlister.......Sam MacAlister.......perhaps you have heard of me ?"


Buick quickly with drew his hand and looked him in the eye and said, "Yes I do MacAlister ! Confederate Colonel and former Texas Ranger I hear ! "


" Yup....and you say that again that loud and it will be you're last !" MacAlister said, tapping his Colt Walker with his fingers.


I stepped in with.."Throw back dim drinks boys and wimmen...let's ride !" and minutes after that we where on the trail north...following the herd. I knew something was in the woods, just out of sight but shadowing us. The Creator told me in a dream that this would happen and it was of no threat, but still it concerned me. I maybe half white, but I am also half Apache too. We didn't have to track that much as the ground was marked with cattle sign. Me, Buick and MacAlister...all where fine trackers and good shots, Buick was into fast draw and gunfighter style, while MacAlister was more of one shot at a time and long range. Me, I was just a fighter, one hand shot, even though I carried four guns on my person and a fighting knife and scalping knife. And although MacAlister knew some about the desert for he and I had fought many a Mexican solders there, he didn't know the tricks the desert living held. I did.


Buick was an eastern Saloon man. He didn't fight in the war, he was too far west to be of concern for him. He just rode from Saloon to Saloon....dealing faro, playing some as well, but never poker. "Fools game" he said of it and dealt faro every now and agin. He was a fine shot but came out west just before the war broke out, but still had his eastern ways about him. He always dressed as a dandy, would have a drink now and then but not to much. And wore a very fancy rig with two nickel 38's in them. He was one hell of a gunfighter and faro dealer.


That was this outfit. And we trailed the herd north, hoping to throw in with them. Would we be able to make it to the herd without running across Black Dawg ? I'm sure he was trailing the herd too. And would Bucky and Whiskey let all of us throw in with them ? Time would tell !

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The sun hadn't yet risen high when I cleared the trees and cud see a town in the distance. As I rested my pony movement to the north of the town caught me eye, a wagon with 3 riders were slowly but steadly going north. The wagon looked familiar, the same wagon of the Kind breed and his woman? I pulled the eyeglass that my father had given me, from it's soft leather sleeve. He had given it to me when I left the ranch. I knew that it meant a great deal to him, as his father, the captain of a tall ship from England had given it to him when my father grew tired of sailing and struck out for the west. I gently wiped the glass ends and streched it out bringing it to my eye. My feelings were right, it was indeed the wagon of the Kind One and his woman. A smile mades it's way to my face and I relaxed a bit...as I lowered the glass a flash of sunlight caught my eye,,,,,to the south of the wagon, the glass instinctively rose back to my eye, a cold shiver went thru my spine,,,,,,I refocused the glass and again looked at the location of the flash....again the cold shiver went thru me, this time to my toes.....the dark rider....I lowered the glass, my stomach was in a knot....my mind was a blurr, what did this mean,,,, I put the glass back into it's sleeve and mounted my pony, I slowly swung back into the trees and put the pony on a path to shadow the wagon and the dark rider,,,,was the wagon headed for the herd? Why was the dark rider following the wagon? What would happen if the wagon met up with the herd,,,,,and the Fair One,......I rode slowly on,,, staying in the darkness of the trees, my mind wandered to thoughts of the Fair One, whose hair reminded me of the praire grasses in the fall,,,,being gently moved the the wind,,,,,a branch across my face was enuff to bring my thoughts back to the immediate,,,,slowly on, stopping to study the wagon and then catching glimps of the flash off of the dark riders saddle silver.....my hand caressing the leather holding my firestick,,,,I was glad I had taken the time to carefully load it that morning...what would today bring,,,,slowly on.....carefully slowly on....

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When we broke camp that morning, I finished cleaning up after breakfast then went looking for Bucky. "Hey Boss, we're starting to run low on a lot of stuff...beans, flour, salt, and worst of all...coffee. Do you know if there's a town around here someplace where we can stock up?" I asked. "If you want me to keep feedin' these boys, I gotta have somethin' to do it with...."


Bucky shook his head, and said "Don't know, let me go ask Barnes, he knows this area better than I do". He came back a few minutes later, and told me "Barnes says there's a town about 10-12 miles or so to the northeast of us, we'll be passing within about a mile of it later today. If you want, you can ride on ahead, pick up what you need, and meet us at the river a little north of town. But you are taking Jesse and Pete with you, I won't let you go alone. Barnes has been seeing signs of indian war parties lately, and there's outlaws in the area too. I'd prefer you take more than two of the hands, but that's all I can spare. Make sure you have your weapons with you! I'll have a list for you of a few other things we need, and the coin to pay for it, ready for you in a few minutes."


I went and asked Jesse if he could saddle Sundance as well as his gelding, and I would be ready to go soon. While waiting for Bucky, I grabbed something out of my saddle bags, and climbed in the back of the supply wagon. If I was going to town, I didn't want to be wearing my dirty buckskins that I wore on the trail, so I managed to find enough room to change into the one and only dress I owned. It wasn't fancy, but it would do for a shopping trip. I climbed out of the wagon just as Bucky and Whiskey came walking up, and I thought Bucky's eyes were gonna pop outta his head!


"What the heck are you wearing? I didn't even realize you owned a dress!" he said, while Whiskey just laughed. "She looks nice, ain't nothing wrong with that!" she said, "Besides, at least the men in that town will know she's a lady."

"Well, I wouldn't go that far, but at least the dress is clean," I answered, and took Bucky's list and pouch. Then I went over to my horse, and made sure to put my gun belt on. Maybe it didn't look right with the dress, but I wasn't about to go unarmed. Then I made sure the rifle Whiskey had loaned me was loaded, and asked Pete to give me a hand up on my mare, mounting wasn't easy the way I was dressed, and I didn't own a sidesaddle.


Me and the boys headed off in the direction that Barnes said the town was located, and I told em' both "Keep your eyes peeled for anything moving around out there, but don't go shooting at anything unless you know it's a threat. If'n we run across any braves, we don't want to start any trouble, it'll just come back to haunt us all. Shoot only in self defense, and only if you don't have any choice. Otherwise, just let me do the talking, and hopefully we won't have any problems."


Jesse asked me how many indian languages I did speak. "My Cheyenne and my Arapaho are pretty good, my Kiowa is decent enough to get by. I know a little Sioux, I'm kinda rusty on that but we're not likely to run into any of them this far south anyway. I also know sign, which pretty much will do for any of the tribes round here. The one thing I don't want is to run into any Comanche, they ain't much for talkin', and I only know about half dozen of their words, none of which is considered polite! So just keep watchin', ok?"

We made it into town without seeing another soul, which was fine with me. We pulled up in front of the general store, and tied off our mounts and the pack horses. I told Jesse and Pete that they could wait for me in the saloon across the street, I wasn't likely to run into any trouble in the store, and if I did I could handle it. They weren't happy, but were more than willing to go get a drink or two, shopping held no interest for them. I went in the store, and to my surprise, there was a familiar face inside.


"Gloria, are you a sight for sore eyes! How ya been?" I ran up and gave her a big hug, it was good to see her again.


"I be fine, Senorita, and so is Senor Hawk. We be looking for you and Bucky and Miss Whiskey, and the herd," she told me. "Senor Hawk has been worried."


"If he was that worried about us, then why the heck did he leave?" I asked


"Tain't none of yur buzness, Calico, so don't ask agin!" Hawk growled, walkin' up behind me. "You jus tell me where Bucky and Whiskey are, there's trouble a-brewin' and they need to know bout it, and fast!"


I turned to him and told him "Me, Jesse, and Pete are picking up supplies, then we're supposed to meet up with them at the river. The boys are over in the saloon."


"Well, get to buyin' what you was sent here after, and I'll have Buick go get Jesse and Pete. The sooner we catch up ta da others, da better!" Then he turned to talk to a man standing in the doorway, and I noticed this man was staring at me, not Hawk! Well, not being used to that, I didn't know what to do, so I just went about grabbing the things on Bucky's list, and tried to not look towards the door. I finished up getting everything together, paid the shopkeeper, and then me and Gloria went back outside. The men were all standing there, and helped us get the supplies loaded on the pack horses.


"Now Calico, this here's Sam McAlister, and that there is Buick MacKane," Hawk said, pointing to the man that had been staring at me in the store. "Now, get on yur hosses, we need to get ridin'!"


As we headed for the river, all I could think was "Bucky and Whiskey ain't gonna like this!"

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As we neared the river, the smell of the fresh water was in the air , so we let the horses wade in and have a drink. Buick could not keep his eyes off Calico. It was making Calico a bit nervous and Buick had his mind on other things instead of the things at hand. So I rode up to him, letting my Appy have another drink and said....."Ya find Calico rat purty, don't cha Buick ?


Never taking his eyes off Calico he answered......"And you don't ?"


"Nope.....no women in dis world has captured me...so I wood be obliged ifin ya put yur head on straight an realize dat we're in hostile country on dis side of the river an not da other ! An ifin' a bullet was fired or an arrow let loose, it wood not know da difference at all ! Sometimes a man just has to ride on." I said to Buick.


It was getting dark and to travel in the dark, in this part of the country was not wise. There where plenty of gopher holes a horse my step off in an break it's leg. And those same holes. enlarged by different gopher families living there, would cause the chuck wagon to roll into it and break an axle or worse, a wheel hub ! So we stopped for the night, while it was still some what light, Gloria unhitch ed the teams, Buick worked on the line and Calico helped Gloria. I noticed Calico never was too far from Buick, and at times was sash saying for Buick. They would have been talking to each other, but both was too shy. Gloria laid the wagon tongue pointing north, got a fire going and a pot of coffee cooking on the near by rocks.


Supper was done and the eating ware was washed and put back in it's proper, we all settled down with a cup of coffee. A little coffee and and a lot of whiskey. We got to talking about this and that.....some good times we had, and the like. Then the reality septet back into our lives.


"We need to set up a night watch. Raidin' injuns may not respect the treaty and din der's always Black Dawg to watch out fer." I said.


Buick proped up on one elbow and said.."Hawk , you real think that somebitch is this far north ? Aint he staying south of us ?"


Sam MacAlister said, "Buick, don't be taken in by anything that murdering somebitch says or does !"


"Yup !" I said. He'd just as soon slit yur throat as ta look at ya ! He's one mean hombre fer shore.


Sam stood, taking his rifle in hand said to me, " I'll take first watch....You can spell me in four hours, Hawk."


So, I nodded and laid down on a nice and warm bedroll. While I was waiting on supper, I dug two holes...one about the size of by bed roll, and when we was finished with the cooking fire, I shoveled some coals from it into the hole I dug and covered it with Mother Earth. That why, Mother Earth can keep me in her warm embrace all night long. The other hole was near a shrub and nin the cold of the night, water filled it because the shrub was not active in the cold. I layer down and slept nearly three hours when Sam woke me.


"Hawk.....we got company !" MacAlister said to me. To the untrained eye, there was nothing out here to see.....just scrub and misformed trees and cactus and the calls on the night animals. But to one who was trained to read the desert and one who was born to it, the ye was full of movement and to the ear, there was the sounds of a raiding party about to strike.


"Yup !....I best wake da others. We're gonna need 'em ! I said and went bedroll to bedroll, waking them and tell them quietly and quickly, get their weapons and get to cover.....like behind the chuck wagon.


"Where you go Señor ?" Gloria asked.


I looked at her and smiled saying....."I'm gonna give our guess a little West Tejas Howdy ! Stay here.....watch yur back, ok ? She nodded.


"Colonel.....I'm gonna go on a recon mission .....see what our friends have planned fer us !" I said to Sam.


"Sounds like the thing to do, as we can't cut and run now. They put the jump on us !" Sam replied. I smiled and left my Henry with him and slipped out into the darkness. It wasn't long before I came about this Comanche brave, with his bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. He was the front scout for the main party that was on it's way. I slipped up behind him and quickly and quietly, broke his neck. Now he will go to the four winds to be with his Ancestors.


After taking his bow, arrows and fighting knife, I moved on, making a wide circle around our campsite. It was very unusual for the Comanche to be this far north, and by the way that brave was dressed and how his body looked, he was well clothed and well feed, the main raiding party was coming up . I slipped and worked my way around to an other Brave and the arrow made short work of him. Again, I took what ever I could get off him and went on, in a wide circle. I came up on two that was watching our left flank. That told me that these Braves had fought the white solders invading their homelands.


I tried to sneak up on them, but one saw me and both of them put up one hell of a fight, I must say. But in the end, I over came them, with just a small scratch on my left arm. Now there where three Braves riding the four winds. I made the call to the camp that all Tejas rangers know and was answered in kind, so I ran back in. Calico had her pistols ready, one in each hand, Buick, was also there with Calico. Their shoulders where rubbing against each other. I decided right there that when this battle was over, I was properly gonna introduce those two. A man can only stand so much ! Gloria was looking out two, her rifle in hand and was watching the rear also.


"Are they gonna attack? !" Sam asked me.


I grabbed my Henry and answered..."Not the ones that tangled wif me ! " Getting a drink from the water barrel, and catching my breath I said to MacLister...."Sam, dey whar scouts fer da main party. It's gonna be one hell of a fight !"


Sam pushed his hat back on his head, saying...."Main party uh ? Know how many ?"


Walking up to Sam, I said, "Nuff !" I pulled my hat down over my eyebrows to keep the moon light out. " Found tree scouts......one der," I said. "An der, and two of em' der. I tell ya Sam, we got a fight on our hands !"


"What breed, Hawk ? Have the Apache broke the treaty ?" Sam said , looking at me.


I didn't get anger at him, because I knew he meant no harm in asking. "No Sam......Diy is Comanche ! "


"COMANCHE ! Sam said in a surprised voice. "Comanche never raid this far north !" he said to me.


"Aint dat kind of raidin' party Sam, dis Comanche kill every white folk dey see ! An diy is gonna try to kill us to. But I figure we can sting'em more than some farmer wif a single scatter gun !" I said, with a wicked smile across my lips. Sam pulled his hat down and settled in and said,


"When do ya think they'll strike ....Sun up ?" Sam asked, almost as if he knew the answer . I looked back and Calico and Buick was sharing a kiss. I guess it was the "last kiss before we die !" kiss.


"Most likely. Injuns believe da Spirits walk in the darkness." I said.


"And you don't , right Hawk ?" Sam said.


"Zactly Sam !I"m a breed....half white or have ya forgitted bout dat ?! " I said to him, smiling.

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It was a strain watching the wagon and it's riders and trying to keep track of the dark rider. the wagon was easy enough, it was big and slow and steadily heading north, the dark rider tho was a different story, a lone rider that was trying to stay out of sight of the wagon and it's riders. Several times during the day i had had to pull out my glass and from the depth of the trees and try to locate him. It had been working but only because the wagon was slow. the day wore on and the wagon had reached another town. I found a spot that would give my pony and myself comfort, but yet a point from which I cud see in all directions around me. The stars were bright again and the moon quickly reaching it's height when I was able to quiet my mind enough to finally close my eyes. the sun's warmth woke me from a deep sleep, I was startled by how long I had slept, the stress of the days leading up to this was indeed taking it's toll on my spirit. I pulled the glass again and began searching for the wagon,,it had already made it's way from the town, with 1. 2, 3, more riders....wait,,,one of those riders isn't in pants but a dress, on horseback, she has fair hai,,,,,the Fair One? refocus the glass again,,,,,yup, the Fair One, with her locks of prairie grass curled up around her head...a curious sight,,,but what was she doing here with the wagon,,,worse yet being following by the dark rider,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,where is he????? I quickly drew my glass to the south,,,,,,there's a glimmer,,,,if only he knew his fancy saddle and gear were giving him away,,,,sometimes a cunning brave can be undone by his greed and pride... I put the glass away and led my pony to the trees where I continued to lead him, all the while thinking about what this day may bring, I knew there was a river ahead,,,,I would be able to refresh my supply, wash the dust off and my pony would be able to cool itself and drink as well. I thoughts went to my firestick,,,,it was ready, but that was the easy part....I knew what it was capable of and what I cud do with it.


As I led my pony along the edge of the trees I came upon a firepit that had been used that night, with several ponies,,,,none shod,,,,but what tribe.....they had left nothing behind, but were head northeast..... A little figuring and it was easy to see that they were looking to intercept the wagon and it's riders by the river. the dark rider would have to be forgotten for now. I leaped upon my pony and headed to the north at a slow gallop, I cud see in the distance that the trees would join the river, the time i would spend there tho was quickly taking a new meaning instead of a rest. At times I would slow the pony to a walk and during those times I would count my arrows, inspect them, and straighten the feathers. then I would inspect my bow,,,I pulled my bag with bear grease and lightly greased it. I patted the stock of the firestick through the leather pouch,,,,I had practiced for this many times, even back on my father's ranch, but this took on new meaning. I prayed to the Great Spirit to make my arrows true and the lead from the firestick straight, and to give me courage. I was drawing closer to the indian party that had used the fire, but was still uncertain just who they were,,,, I cud see a small mound that I would be at soon and decided to use it to try use my glass from there to try to find out just who I was following now. As I approached the base, I dismounted and led my pony up the mound. near the top I left my pony and crawled the rest of the way to the top, my heart beginning to pound as I pulled my glass from it's leather. The sun was just behind me, I would be able to use it without the fear of it giving me away. Curiousity had given me away before, I couldn't let that happen again... there they were, 10 in the main party and four out ahead, spread apart, two near the middle and one each on each flank. These were up to no good, a war party or at least a raiding party. I didn't recognize just what tribe they were from tho, I had never seen the likes of them before,,,,, they had come up from the south,,,,apaches would be from the southwest,,,,,sunni from the west, but they were peaceful,,,,,,Co,,co,,comanches!? But this far north,,,,, with no sqauws or anything else except for their horses and weapons and small pouches for what food they could carry. I slowly backed from the top, being extra careful now, when I reached my pony I led it slightly down and on the off side of the mound, not mounting it till I was sure I would not be seen. we went at a fast trot towards the trees and upon reaching them headed toward the river. when I reached the river, I let my pony drink, then I worked some mud into my face,,I knew that being a half breed my fair skin would give me away after the moon arose. I led my pony on across the river, and then turned toward the setting sun. It was easy to see the wagon as it reached the river, I had made camp so that I would be near it's spot. I coaxed my pony to bed down and gathered my bow and arrows and slid into the river....I hadn't been out of the river long, hidden it some brush a short distance from the wagon's camp, when one of the comanches snuck past me towards the camp, one arrow to his spine and he was sent to his happy hunting grounds. I dared not retrieve my arrow,,,,,it was still and it seemed you could hear the stars whispering among themselves, and I was sure that someone would hear my heart pounding if not see my chest heaving from it's constant thumping. I slid back into the river and made my way back to my pony. I regreased my bow, and then sat down next to my pony in heavy cover to wait for the sun. I pulled the firestick close to me, but left it covered to keep the dew from it. My knife was sharp, but it was not my choice, raised by a rancher didn't exactly give me the opportunity to learn how to fight with it, but throw it I could..


I knew the comanches would do no more tonight, and I knew the wagon and it's riders would not risk the holes, that the whistling pigs dig, in the dark. i began to get a lay of the land,,,the river before me, just off to the west the wagon on the other side of the river, the raiding party somewhere else, Would they make their way along the river and attack as the wagon and the riders were crossing, or would they attack at dawn hoping to surprise the wagon? I had a clear view across the river, a long bow shot but within range, an easy shot for the firestick,,but that was reserved at this range for one important shot....I layed out my things for easy reach,,,,,and then again prayed to the Great Spirit for wisdom and courage.

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When we left the town, I could tell Hawk was in a hurry, but the wagon could only go so fast. He suggested we all stay close together, and next thing I knew the man he had called Buick had moved his horse up next to mine. I just couldn't figure out why he kept looking at me, I knew the gun belt looked funny with my dress, but it wasn't THAT unusual to see a woman carrying guns out here....


When we got to the river and started making camp, he kept following me everywhere, but wasn't saying a word. That other fella, Sam, sure wasn't paying any attention to me, and I decided I had better talk to Hawk, private like, as soon as I could and ask him just what his friend was up to. He didn't seem to be any kind of a threat, I could tell he had better manners than me, but I still wasn't sure I could trust him. While I was helping Gloria with supper, I whispered to her and asked "Why does that fella keep staring at me? Am I doing sumthin' wrong?"


Gloria just chuckled and shook her head, "No, Senorita, he like you! Do you not know when a man is liking you?"


"How would I know, it ain't ever happened before, and I ain't sure it is now!" I snuck another glance at him, and he was still looking at me, now I was really confused....


After supper was over, we all sat around drinkin' coffee, and I stuck close to Jesse and Pete, they were kinda like brothers to me, and I felt safe having one of them on each side of me. We all talked for a while, but I didn't say much, just listened. When it started getting late, Hawk told all of us to get some sleep, except for Sam, who drew first watch. I made sure to lay my bedroll next to Gloria, and also made sure my knife and pistols were close at hand. No harm in being prepared....


Next thing I knew, Hawk was shaking me awake, sayin' "Git behind the wagon, and if'n ya ain't done it already, load heavy! And don' fire til I say...we got a fight comin'!"


Well, fightin' like this was nothing new to me, I'd helped Pa drive off bands of outlaws plenty of times, but I didn't think it was outlaws Hawk was worried about. I caught Sam's attention and whispered "Who's out there?"


"Comanche, Hawk says," was his answer, "You ever fight injuns before, miss?"


"Nope, Pa was friends with all the tribes in our area, we never had to worry bout them attackin'. But don't worry none bout me, I'll be fine! Just keep an eye on Jesse and Pete, I don't think they've ever been in a gun battle of any kind..."


Sam went over to the boys to make sure they were ready, and next thing I knew, that feller Buick was right next to me. He leaned over and whispered "Don't be afraid, I won't let anything bad happen to you!"


"I can take care of myself, I grew up out here, I don't need no man takin' care of me! You need to watch out fer yurself!" But I let him stay where he was, it wasn't like there was all that much room for all of us behind the wagon anyway...


While we were waiting for the Comanche to start attacking, all of a sudden Buick grabbed my shoulders, pulled me close to him, and started kissing me!! My knees started getting weak, and my stomach felt funny, and I didn't know what to do....but if that was what kissing a man was like, then I think I could get used to it...IF we made it through whatever the Comanche had in store for us!

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the moon was still high when I heard some noises coming from the direction of the wagon, not much, mostly rustling noises and whispers,,,a good thing, they must have discovered the comanches near. If the comanches were near you knew trouble was coming, for their reputation spread to the tribes of the high plains, and from the great river, to the great waters of the west, even the great mountians could not stop the stoies of their savagery. My senses were like the antelope, alert to every sound and movement...ready to pounce at any moment.


As the moon set low I again took count of all I had before me and how and when I would use each weapon I had readied. This day would not bring melons to explode, or rabbits to snare, wood to carve, but something that I prayed to the Great Spirit for wisdom and courage to make my fathers before me proud....

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