F or as long as he can remember, Dusty McFarland has wanted to become a Texas Ranger, to follow in the footsteps of his father, Ranger Captain Laughlin McFarland. Now that he's turned eighteen, Dusty achieves that goal and, with his mother's blessings, is sworn in as a ranger. His father reminds him that his duties are to love the great state of Texas and to protect her with his life. Dusty understands the dangers and knows that each gunfight could be his last.
From the moment Dusty receives his star, he and his father do their best to uphold the law by tracking criminals and bringing them to justice. Their adventures include finding Dusty's blood brother, Tony, and trying to clear him of rustling and murder charges. They meet up with T-Bone, a dimwitted giant of a man who is teamed with the ruthless Billy Driskell. They hunt now El Diablo, a psychotic loner who kills and rapes for pleasure.
The third novel in a trilogy celebrating the tradition and legacy of the Texas Rangers, Ranger Winds: The Last Ride shows how the Rangers lived a life with demands that only a few good men could meet.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.91(d)|
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RANGER WINDSTHE LAST RIDE
By E. RICHARD WOMACK
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 E. Richard Womack
All right reserved.
Chapter OneToday Dusty McFarland turned eighteen; the date he had been promised by his father, Ranger Captain Laughlin McFarland, to be considered for the Rangers. A few days prior Dusty had reminded Laughlin of his promise and was told they would talk. Although he longed for the day he could become a Ranger, just as his father had been for years, he knew not to bring it up again; when Laughlin was ready, he would be approached.
Although he knew his mother, Melissa, would be worried about his daily exposure to danger and death as a ranger, he also knew she would be proud of him. After all, Laughlin had prepared him well and his training would minimize the dangers. Besides, since his Pa' was the Captain, Dusty had been exposed to the Ranger lifestyle all his life and felt that, even though he could always be a rancher, the thrill of being a Ranger was something he must experience.
The day began with Dusty at the corral tending to his horse, Cyclone, when Laughlin rode up to the ranch house, dismounted, and entered the kitchen. Melissa was busy baking a pie for the evening supper.
Laughlin poured himself a cup of coffee, sat down at the table, took a sip, looked up at Melissa and said abruptly, "We need to talk."
Melissa turned to Laughlin, smiled and said, "I knew this was coming. It's about Dusty, isn't it?"
"Yeah," he answered, "it's about Dusty."
Melissa poured herself a cup, joined Laughlin at the table and said, "My how time flies. He's all grown up isn't he?"
"Yeah," said Laughlin, "today he's eighteen and wants to be a Ranger."
Melissa smiled proudly and said, "Eighteen or eighty, he'll always be my baby." She paused and asked, quizzically, "Do you think he's ready?"
Laughlin smiled back at Melissa and said lovingly, "You've been a good mother; I love you as a mother and a wife." He paused, sipped his coffee then continued, "He's spreading his wings and he's ready to fly. Knowing this day would come I've prepared him with the use of a rifle and a pistol. I've taught him the mental part of a gunfight, how to keep his composure and all the things I've known and done. He has nerves of steel, but he realizes his first gunfight could be his last. You don't really know if a person is ready until after that first gunfight. I don't want to rob him of the glory of being a Ranger; I could tell him to stay here and run the ranch. Even though that's what I would like, he's a man and men need to make their own decisions. You asked if I thought he was ready.... the answer is yes; now all I can do is pray to God that I'm right."
Melissa put her hand on Laughlin's forearm, squeezed and said, "Laughlin, there's no doubt he's your son. He walks, talks and thinks just like you; we have to do whatever makes him happy. You're right; we can't force him to live his life just to satisfy us." She squeezed his hand a little firmer, kissed him on the cheek and whispered, "We'll pray that we're both right."
Laughlin looked into Melissa's pretty hazel eyes, leaned over, kissed her and then, with an understanding smile said, "I'll swear him in tomorrow."
Soon it was supper time. Laughlin, Melissa and Dusty sat down to eat; as usual, Laughlin blessed the food and then they all enjoyed the meal with a piece of fresh apple pie for desert.
After finishing the meal, Laughlin said, "Dusty, lets you and I help your Ma' clean up the kitchen; then we'll go to the porch and talk."
Melissa quickly interjected, "No, no, you men go on; I'll take care of the kitchen."
Laughlin smiled and quickly replied, "Let's go Dusty, before your Ma' changes her mind."
It was a summer evening; the sun was slowly setting in the west, birds were going to bed; deer, rabbits and coyotes were preparing for their nighttime excursions as Laughlin sat down in the porch swing. Dusty took a position on the top step, leaned back on a porch post so he could look directly at his Pa'.
Laughlin cleared his throat and began, "Dusty, I know how you've looked forward to this day. As you grow older you will come to realize that your actions also affect the ones that love you." He was looking directly at Dusty as he continued, "Your mother and I have talked it over and, it may surprise you but, you have her blessings." Laughlin could see the surprise and excitement in Dusty's eyes as he added, "Just like me, her main concern is your safety and happiness."
"Ma said okay?" asked Dusty with wide eyes.
"Yes she did; she knows the life of a Ranger is dangerous but it's also exciting. Each day as you face death, love for the state of Texas and being a Ranger overpowers all the bad elements. In the beginning, Rangers were the only law enforcement and, even with the advent of such organizations as 'Pinkertons', as well as increased local and county law enforcement officers, the Rangers will continue to play a major role in the history of Texas. The first ingredient in being a Ranger is that you love this great state. The second is, if necessary, you must be prepared to protect her with your life."
Laughlin took a deep breath and paused; when he saw that Dusty was listening intently, he continued, "Now son, I've prepared you with your weapons and you've learned well but I can only tell you what I would do in a gun fight or when cleaning out a saloon. Unfortunately, you'll have to learn from you own experiences; but I will repeat what I've told you in the past, more Rangers die from back shooters than any other way, so keep the fight in front of you."
Dusty nodded his understanding and asked, "Pa', when will I be sworn in?"
Laughlin responded with, "I know how you admire Boots as a Ranger and as a man but right now he and Ryder are in Abilene. Tomorrow, along with your mom, we'll ride into town and do the swearin' in at the sheriff's office."
"Nathan will be there won't he?"
"Oh yeah," said Laughlin, "he's been acting Ranger and sheriff since Oral died; He'll be there."
Dusty lowered his head and his eyes became misty as he said, "I wish Tony was here, we were supposed to join together."
"I know Son; I wish he was here too and as soon as you're sworn in, you and I are gonna go find him. I will never believe the murder and cattle rustling charge that's been hung on him – we're gonna find him; then we're gonna clear him and bring him home."
The next day Laughlin, Melissa, Nathan, Uncle Bester, Brother Morgan and of course, Dusty, all gathered on the porch at the Uvalde sheriffs' office. Stores were closed as most of the townsfolk were in attendance; every one wanted to see their famous Ranger's son sworn in as a Texas Ranger.
Melissa stood quietly in the front row next to Brother Morgan and watched. She looked at Dusty, standing tall and straight. He had broad shoulders and was strong as any man, though he still had his boyish grin. Like Boots, Dusty was happy and fun loving but, like his father, could quickly adjust his demeanor to meet any situation.
The crowd was silent as Laughlin administered the Oath, shook Dusty's hand, gave him a hug and said, "Welcome to the Rangers."
The crowd showed their approval with a loud applause as Uncle Bester, the gunsmith, and Nathan (Shotgun) stepped up on the porch and congratulated Dusty. When the noise from the crowd died down, Bester said, "Ranger McFarland, Nathan and I have a present for you."
Dusty stood a little taller and his chest swelled up with pride when, for the first time, he heard himself being addressed as Ranger McFarland. He could barely control his emotions as Uncle "B" handed him a special made double barrel shotgun. It had an eighteen inch barrel with the stock cut down to a pistol grip. Both hammers and the receiver had silver and gold inlay; it was the most beautiful and magnificent scatter-gun Dusty had ever seen.
Before Dusty could respond, Nathan spoke up and said, "Ranger, this is from us to you, it'll even the odds when you're out-numbered." Her name is Bertha, ride with her by your side and sleep with her at night just don't give her any whiskey; she gets real mean when she's drinking." You could see the tension in Dusty's face changing to sheer joy as the entire crowd roared with laughter. He was now a full fledged Texas Ranger.
After the congratulations subsided, Dusty walked over to his mom, hugged her and whispered, "I love you Ma' and I know this wasn't easy for you."
Melissa, with tears in her eyes, squeezed him and said, "My little boy has grown up and become a Ranger. Protect yourself and the McFarland name; I know you'll make us proud." Then she kissed him and cried openly.
The rest of the day was spent celebrating. The entire town brought out a variety of covered dishes and beverages of all sorts. The impromptu party broke up before sundown as the McFarlands headed back to the Big Iron. Tomorrow promised to be a busy day.
The next morning Laughlin told Dusty to go saddle up Cyclone and High Pockets; He was to pick out a strong pack horse; as promised, they would be heading out to find Tony.
High Pockets was out of Princess, Melissa's paint and Laughlin's stallion, Sam, before he gave way to old age.
While helping the men pack their provisions for the trip, Melissa asked Laughlin how long he thought they'd be gone.
Laughlin answered, "I'm not sure; but we'll be gone as long as it takes to find Tony." He checked the synch on High Pockets and the tie downs on the pack horse, then added, "When we find him, we're gonna bring him back and get him a fair trial. We all know he's no murderer or rustler. We'll just have to prove it."
Melissa hugged and kissed both of them and said, "Hurry back, I'll miss you both and I want to see Tony back here where he belongs."
The two of them mounted up, tipped their hat to Melissa and rode off towards the west. Knowing they would be on the trail for several days, Laughlin made sure they kept the horses at a slow walk.
They hadn't ridden very far when Dusty asked, "Pa, what's your plan? Where are we going?"
Laughlin said, "I haven't told you everything, but I'm told the Mexicans in Del Rio and along the river have been referring to a young man as "El Chamaco."
"The Kid said Dusty, "you think they're calling Tony El Chamaco.......the kid?"
"That's right" answered Laughlin, "supposedly three wranglers off the Kingfisher Ranch caught him rustling. They tried to take him in; he killed two of 'em but one got away. The owner, Mr. Kingfisher, tried to ride him down but couldn't. The surviving wrangler gave a description and Kingfisher posted a $500 dollar reward, dead or alive. The one they call "El Chamaco" is always by himself and doesn't stay anywhere long. Some say he hides across the river, others say he has a girl in a cantina at Del Rio."
"Is that where we're going, to Del Rio?" asked Dusty.
"That's right, we'll try to find the girl first and start from there."
The conversation kind of dried up as they rode the rest of the day in relative silence. That evening, just before sunset, they stopped and prepared for the night. It was summer, the days were hot and the south Texas nights were warm. When the sun went down you could see lightening displaying its wares in the northern sky. It was beautiful, though somewhat ominous.
Dusty looked up at the clouds, saw the lightening and asked, "Pa', do you think it's gonna storm?"
"Probably not," said Laughlin, "that looks like heat lightening; besides it's a long way off."
"You learn a lot when you're sleeping outside don't you, sir?" remarked an ever inquisitive Dusty who decided it was time he quit referring to Laughlin as Pa' and began saying sir, as he had observed the other Rangers doing.
"Yeah," answered Laughlin, "and I did it for a long time with nothing else to look at but the moon and stars. In time, you'll learn a lot if you pay attention; nature is a great teacher."
By this time they had spread their blankets and settled in for the night, but Dusty, who was in a talkative mood, asked, "Captain, did you always want to be a Ranger?"
"Yeah," said Laughlin, "but I was heading in the wrong direction until Captain Beasley straightened me out, swore me in when I was twenty one. I met your Ma' when I was twenty-eight." Laughlin hesitated, then questioned, "By the way, what's all this Sir and Captain business?"
Dusty said, "Well sir, since we're traveling as Rangers, I thought it best that I show the proper respect for my Captain"
"Well I'll be," said Laughlin, "You have grown up. Okay, when we're on patrol, its Sir or Captain, but when we're back home on the Ranch, it'll damn well be Pa', got it."
"Yes sir," replied Dusty, with a big grin on his face.
"Okay," spouted Laughlin, "Now that we've got that settled, where was I.......oh yeah, the two best things that ever happened to me was becoming a Ranger and meeting your mother. After you came along, the doctor advised us not to have any more children; it could endanger your Ma's life. That's why you're a spoiled rotten, only child." Then they both broke out laughing.
"Well, Captain, sir," said a playful Dusty, "Rumor has it, you're a legend. They say you're the fastest gun in the west. Is that true?"
"Well, I don't know about that," answered Laughlin.
"Think I could ever be a legend?" asked Dusty.
"Don't worry about that, you just stay alive, history will take care of the legend stories."
"You believe Tony's innocent, don't you?" Dusty queried.
"Yeah I do" answered Laughlin, "and hopefully I can prove it once we talk to him." Laughlin paused momentarily and then half jokingly spouted, "I'll tell you one thing, you're about the most talkative partner I've ever had; close your eyes and go to sleep. We've got lots of riding to do tomorrow; I'd like to be in Del Rio by nightfall."
Without further comment, both men rolled over in their bedroll and slowly drifted off to sleep.
Morning came quickly; they took just enough time for a cup of coffee, a piece of jerky and then it was in the saddle. Dusty thought about the eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy he was missing at his mothers table. He grinned, chuckled to himself and thought, 'I can see why there are no fat Rangers.'
They rode in a slow lope stopping occasionally to rest the horses and water them when possible. It was about nine in the evening when they arrived in Del Rio. After stabling the horses, Laughlin said, "We'll go to the saloon first to make our presence known; then get a room and a meal at the restaurant."
When they walked into the saloon, it was the usual reaction to the Rangers star. A hush fell over the room; all eyes were on the two Rangers. You could hear mumbling and whispering going on as the name Ranger McFarland was being passed around.
Laughlin walked to the bar, leaned over and softly said to the bartender, "Have you heard of El Chamaco?"
"Si," said the bartender, "El Chamaco", za Keed, hees a mucho fast pistolero."
"Where can I find him?" asked Laughlin.
"Me no know; 'e comes to see Belinda, one of our girls and then rides away to somewhere....... where I don' know."
"Where is Belinda?" Laughlin asked.
"She no heer today," said the bartender.
Laughlin looked at him sternly and barked, "When you see her, tell her Ranger McFarland is staying at the hotel for a few days and wants to talk to her.
Laughlin turned to Dusty and said, "Let's go get a room and a bath."
After leaving the saloon Dusty asked, "Sir, why are we hanging around here? Shouldn't we be looking for Tony?"
Laughlin looked at Dusty and barked, rather harshly, "Ranger, we just put out the bait. Sometimes you try and bring the prey to you rather than hunt them down. Belinda was probably upstairs. The bartender told her about us, she will be riding now to tell Tony that Ranger McFarland is in town looking for him. If Tony's innocent, he'll come to town and confide in us. If he's guilty, he'll cross the river and ride hard into Mexico."
Once again Dusty nodded his understanding. He felt a little embarrassed by his failure to pick up on the obvious. They walked over to the hotel in silence; got a room, bathed and had supper in the hotel restaurant.
The next day after a breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy and pancakes; they walked over to the sheriffs' office.
The sheriff, Jose Ramirez, was a young man in his twenties; he had been appointed after Sheriff Morales was killed in a gunfight.
Excerpted from RANGER WINDS by E. RICHARD WOMACK Copyright © 2011 by E. Richard Womack. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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