Lawman, manhunter, peacemaker—it takes a hard breed of man to survive on the frontier, but Chick Bowdrie stands head and shoulders above the rest. This outlaw turned Texas Ranger was one of the favorite protagonists of master storyteller Louis L’Amour, appearing in a total of nineteen short stories bursting with unforgettable heroics and harrowing action. They’re all here in this eBook bundle, together forming an epic portrait of a man standing at the crossroads between good and evil:
McNelly Knows a Ranger • A Job for a Ranger • Bowdrie Rides a Coyote Trail • A Trail to the West • The Outlaws of Poplar Creek • Bowdrie Follows a Cold Trail • More Brains Than Bullets • The Road to Casa Piedras • Bowdrie Passes Through • Where Buzzards Fly • South of Deadwood • Too Tough to Brand • Case Closed—No Prisoners • The Killer from the Pecos • A Ranger Rides to Town • Rain on the Mountain Fork • Down Sonora Way • Strange Pursuit • Strawhouse Trail
The name is Bowdrie. It was a name that caused the most hardened gunmen to break out in a cold sweat. Chick Bowdrie. He could have ridden the outlaw trail, but the Texas Rangers recruited him because they didn’t want to have to fight against him. Pursuing the most wanted men in the Southwest, he knew all too well the dusty trails, the bitter cattle feuds, the desperate killers, and the quiet, weather-beaten, wind-blasted towns that could explode into action with the wrong word. He had sworn to carry out the law, but there were times when he had to apply justice with his fists and his guns. They called in the Rangers to handle the tough ones, and there was never a Ranger tougher or smarter than Bowdrie.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||4 MB|
About the Author
Date of Birth:March 22, 1908
Date of Death:June 10, 1988
Place of Birth:Jamestown, North Dakota
Read an Excerpt
McNelly Knows a Ranger
He rode up to Miller’s Crossing just after sundown and stopped at the stage station. Stepping down from the saddle he stood for a moment, taking in the street, the storefronts, and the lighted saloons.
Turning abruptly he crossed the boardwalk into a saloon. The bartender looked up, swallowed hard, and then turned quickly to polishing the back bar. The loafers at the tables glanced at each other, and one picked up a deck of cards and began riffling them nervously.
Bowdrie’s question warned them they had not been mistaken. “Where’ll I find Noah Whipple?”
The bartender’s Adam’s apple bobbed. “He—they—they shot him.”
Bowdrie’s eyes were cold. The bartender swallowed again and shifted his feet uncomfortably, staring in fascination at the man with the dimplelike scar under the cheekbone below his right eye.
“It was Aaron Fobes done it, Mr. Bowdrie. He’s one o’ the Ballards.”
Bowdrie stood silent, waiting.
“About two this afternoon. They come ridin’ in, five of them. Four got down an’ come in here. The other’n stayed by the horses. They looked to be a purty salty outfit. They’d been ridin’ hard by the look of the horses.
“They took a quick look around when they come in and paid no attention after. They seen everything with that first look. We all knew who they was, even without that holdup over at Benton where they killed the cashier. Everybody knows the Ballards are ridin’ again and there ain’t two gangs alike.
“The tall one I spotted right off. Had a blaze of white hair over his temple. That would be Clyde Ballard. He’s a known man in Texas, from the Rio Grande to the Cimarron.
“The tall gent with the towhead, that would be Cousin Northup, and the slim, dark-faced youngster was Tom Ballard. The other two was Aaron Fobes and Luther Doyle.”
“You seem to know them pretty well,” Bowdrie commented. “Tell me more.”
“Noah, he come in here three or four minutes before the Ballards got here. You maybe know about Noah. He was a good man, no trouble to anybody, but Noah was a talker. He hadn’t paid no attention when the Ballards came in, just a glance and he went on talkin’.
“ ‘Feller come through last night an’ said the Ballards was ridin’ again. Used to know that Fobes up in the Nation.’ We tried to catch his eye but there was no stoppin’ him. ‘That Fobes,’ he says, ‘never was no account. Poison mean, he was, even then.
“ ‘Time’s a-comin’ when they won’t let thieves like that ride around the country robbin’ decent people.’ Noah was just talkin’ like he always done but Fobes was right there to hear him. Fobes tapped him on the shoulder. ‘You talk too much, stranger,’ he said, speakin’ kind of low and mean.”
Chick Bowdrie listened, seeing the scene all too clearly, and the inevitable ending. That was Noah, all right, always talking, meaning no harm to anybody, a decent, hardworking man with a family. At least, there was Joanie. Thinking of her his face tightened and he felt empty and kind of sick inside.
“Fobes, he said to Noah that maybe he’d like to stop the Ballards from ridin’ the country? Maybe he’d like to try stoppin’ them himself?
“Well, you know Noah. He might have been a talker but he was no coward. ‘Maybe I would,’ Whipple says. ‘This country should be made safe for honest people.’
“Clyde Ballard put in then. ‘Forget it, Aaron. He didn’t know what he was sayin’. Let’s ride.’ Tom Ballard, he started for the door, Northup followin’. Noah Whipple thought it was all over, an’ he dropped his hand.
“He never should have done it, but Noah was a habity man. He was reachin’ for a chaw. He chawed tobacco, an’ especially when he was nervous or bothered by somethin’. He reached for his tobacco an’ Aaron shot him.
“It happened so quick nobody had time to move or speak. Clyde Ballard swore, and then they made a run for their horses and rode off. Noah was dead on the floor, drilled right through the heart, and him not wearin’ no gun.”
Chick was silent. He looked at the rye whiskey in his glass and thought of Joanie. Only a few months before he had ridden up to their ranch as close to death as a man is apt to get, with three bullet holes in him and having lost a great deal of blood.
Joanie had helped him from his horse and she and Noah had gotten him inside, then nursed him back to health. When able to ride again he had started helping around the ranch. He had not yet become a Ranger and the Whipples needed help. There was only Noah, his wife, and Joanie. They had two old cowhands but they were not much help with the rough stock.
Ranching folks weren’t inclined to ask questions of those who drifted around the country. You took a man for what he was and gave him the benefit of the doubt as long as he did his share and shaped up right. Hard-faced young men wearing two tied-down guns weren’t seen around very much, even in that country.
Names didn’t count for much and both Whipple and Joanie knew that any man wearing two guns was either a man who needed them or a plain damned fool.
He never told them his name. To them he was simply Chick. Noah and his wife treated him like a son, and Joanie like a brother, most of the time.
It had taken him a while to regain his strength but as soon as he was able to get around he started helping, and he had always been a first-rate cowhand.
Bowdrie walked outside the saloon and stood there on the street. He knew what he had to do, and nobody had to ask his intentions. It was the kind of a country where if you worked with a man and ate his bread, you bought some of his troubles, too. The townspeople remembered him as a young cowhand who had worked for Noah, and they also knew he had come into the country in a dying condition from bullet wounds. Why or how he obtained the wounds, nobody ever asked, although curiosity was a festering thing.
He tightened his cinch, stepped back into the leather, and rode out of town.
Two days later Bowdrie rode back to Miller’s Crossing. Folks working around town saw him ride in and they noted the brightness of the new Winchester he was carrying.
Bill Anniston, who ranched a small spread not far from the Whipples’, was standing on the steps of the stage station when Bowdrie rode up. He had ridden with Bill on a roundup when the two outfits were gathering cattle.
“Bill, I’d take it as a favor if you’d ride over to the Whipples’ an’ see if they’re all right.” Bowdrie paused, rubbing the neck of the hammerhead roan. “I joined up with McNelly. I’m ridin’ with the Rangers now.”
“You goin’ after the Ballards?”
“Time somebody did. McNelly said he’d send some men as soon as they finished what they were doin’, but I told him I didn’t figure I’d need no help.”
As he rode away Bowdrie heard someone say, “I wonder why McNelly would take on a kid like that?”
Bill Anniston replied, “McNelly doesn’t make mistakes. He knew what he was doing. Believe me, I’ve ridden with that boy and he’s brush-wise and mountain-smart. He’s no flat country yearlin’!”
Bowdrie rode south into the rough country. The wicked-looking hammerhead roan was a good horse on a long trail, a better horse than the Ballards would have. The roan liked to travel and he had a taste for rough country, a hangover from his wild mustang days.
The Ballards had not expected to be followed and their trail was plain enough. Once in a while they made a pass at hiding their trail, but nothing that would even slow Bowdrie’s pace.
It was not new country to him although he had ridden it but once before. South and west were some hills known locally as the Highbinders, a rough, broken country loved by Comanches because there was not a trail approaching them that could not be watched and there was ample water if one knew where to look.
Bowdrie thought as he rode. Clyde Ballard would be irritated. Clyde did not hold with killing unless it was in a stand-up fight or in the process of a hold-up. An outlaw had to have places to hide and if people were set against you you’d never last long. Often enough they were indifferent, but never if you killed a neighbor or someone they respected.
Aaron Fobes was another type entirely. There was a streak of viciousness in him. Yet Fobes would not want to cross Clyde Ballard. Not even Luther Doyle would consider that, for Clyde was a good man with a gun.
No one of them considered the possibility of pursuit. They had been a long way from Benton when the shooting took place and there was no marshal in Miller’s Crossing.
With the shrewdness of a man who had known many trails, Chick Bowdrie could guess their thinking now. Clyde would be inwardly furious because the useless killing would make enemies and Miller’s Crossing was a town they must avoid in future rides, and that meant some long, roundabout riding to get in and out of their hideout.
Bowdrie was in no hurry. He knew what awaited him at the ride’s end and he was not riding for a record. It was almost ten days after the shooting before he rode up to the Sloacum place.
He drew rein outside the house as Tate Sloacum came striding up from the barn. “How’s about some chuck?” Bowdrie suggested. “I’ve been thirty miles on an empty stomach.”
“ ‘Light an’ set,” Sloacum said. “Turn your hoss into the corral. There’s a bucket there alongside the well if you’d like to wash off some dust.”
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