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 actions 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.
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December 31, 1982
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Excerpt from Bowdrie by Louis L'Amour
BOWDRIE RIDES A
ONLY A MOMENT before, Chick Bowdrie had been dozing in the saddle, weary from the long miles behind; then a sudden tensing of muscles of the hammerheaded roan brought him out of it.
Pulling the black flat-crowned hat lower over his eyes, he studied the terrain with the eyes of a man who looked that he might live. His legs, sensitive to every reaction of the horse he rode, had warned him. If he needed more, he had only to look at the roan's ears, tipped forward now, and the flaring nostrils. Whatever it was, the roan did not like it.
Soft-footing it along the dusty trail, he approached the grove of trees with wary attention. He let his right hand drop back to loosen the thong that held his six-gun in place on the long rides. There was no change in expression on the dark, Apache-like face except that the scar under his right cheekbone seemed to deepen and his eyes grew more intent.
The trail he followed led along the base of a rocky ridge scattered with trees and boulders broken off from the crest of the ridge and toppled down the slope. The strawberry roan, stepping daintily, walked into the trees.
"Hold it, boy." He spoke gently as he brought the horse to a stand. A few yards away lay the sprawled figure of a man.
He sat his horse, his eyes sweeping the area with the attention of one who knows he may have to testify in court and would certainly have to file an account of his discovery.
The man beside the trail was dead. No examination was required to demonstrate that. No man could take a bullet where he had taken this one without dying. Also, he was lying on his back with the sun in his eyes.
No tracks showed near the body except those of the dead man's horse, which stood nearby. From the size of the hole in the dead man's chest, the bullet had gone in from behind. Bowdrie turned in the saddle, measuring the distance, and his eyes found a large brush-covered boulder some fifty yards away.
The killer had not taken any chances. Chick still sat his horse. The killer had been smart to take no risks, as the man on the ground was no pilgrim. His was a good-looking face but one showing grim strength and the seasoning of many suns and the winds from long trails. He also wore two guns, and there were not many who did.
Bowdrie walked his horse closer, careful to disturb no tracks. He noted the chain loops hanging from the strap button of the dead man's spurs, looking from them to the horse, taking in the ornate Santa Barbara bit and the elaborate hand-tooled tapaderos that hooded his stirrups.