Jim Horn rode his horse down the trail at a steady pace. He and his horse, Chief, were both wearing several pounds more than their share of the dust of that long, hot trail from the border area of west Texas into San Antonio. Anyone unfortunate enough to be out in the blistering heat watching him would have seen a sturdily built, sun browned man of slightly above average heighth. He fit the square-rigged stock saddle on his horse as if he were born to it as indeed he was. A brace of worn but clean .44-40 Colts in tied down holsters on his hips and a Winchester carbine of the same caliber in his saddle scabbard showed him to be a man not to be trifled with. The weapon only a few unhappy and often short lived people got to see was a short-barreled Colt that usually rode in one of Jim's boots. At twenty-eight years of age, Jim considered himself to be not too ugly to look at, but most women rated his looks as very attractive despite his strong features. The women were particularly attracted to his gentle drawl, and as one love-stricken Austin girl had written poetically in her diary, "Mr. Horn has eyes as blue as the wide Texas sky!" These same characteristics had often been thought of by the men who he made his living hunting down as a blood chilling voice and the stone cold eyes of a born killer! Jim's vocation of man hunting was strictly legal; the left side of his vest sagged under the weight of the gold star of a Texas Ranger. Jim was a veteran of five perilous years of Ranger duty. Jim sat astride of one of the spectactularly spotted horses from a strain known as the appaloosa, which were bred by the Indians of the American northwest. He was personally of the opinion the horse was anything but pretty. As compared to the average Texas cow horse, this stallion was hammer headed, broom tailed, and cow hocked. His big striped hooves looked almost too big for his legs and Jim had never much cottoned to the wierdly intelligent, almost human look in his eyes. The stud also had the powerful shoulders and massively heavy neck that were then typical of the stallions of that sturdy breed. What Jim did like about the big ugly horse was he had the ability to thrive at a traveling pace that would have killed most of those prettier average cow horses of Texas. He had an energy-conserving gait that seemed to carry him just far enough on each step to get ahead, but this mile eating pace had carried Jim and his gear almost three hundred miles down some of the roughest trails in west Texas in the last two weeks! Jim was leading a lanky bay mule loaded down with his latest capture. Joe Three Horses, or Injun Joe as he was better known, was a half-breed Kiowa indian Jim had been sent after a couple of weeks before. Injun Joe was a character who was notorious around some parts of Texas, not only as an accomplished horse thief but also for his many slick escapes from justice. The officials in San Antonio had finally persuaded the reluctant Ranger Captain to put his best man on Joe’s trail. Joe was presently shackled belly-down in chains across the mule's narrow back as punishment for his latest unsuccessful escape attempt. It had taken Jim four long days of tracking the Indian's faint trail just to locate Joe the first time, then it took him another three days to run him to ground. The indian had been so good at evading capture the Ranger had to resort to relying on all of his senses, even his sense of smell, to track him! Joe had been working hard at a job of breaking horses on a ranch outside of Uvalde when he had literally seen Jim coming. He’d forced his green broken horse right through the thin mesquite rails of the corral fence and lit a shuck under him! He’d ridden that horse into the ground the first day out of Uvalde then he’d stolen another one from a nearby ranch. The injun’s second stolen horse had given out on the evening of the next day and Injun Joe had then fled on foot. Jim had finally caught up with him on the third day of the long chase. He’d bought the mule from a ranch in the vicinity to pack the injun in on. The saddle-worn Ranger had been leading the mule back toward San Antonio for the last four days; Joe's latest futile escape attempt had been made only the night before. "Hey, Joe!" Jim hollered back to his prisoner, "I've been studying on somethin’ ever since before I caught up with you! You crossed several ranches on foot after that last horse gave plumb out underneath you, why didn't you go and steal yourself another one?" "Kill too many good horses already!" Joe grunted as the mule bounced unmercifully. "When Joe escape next time maybe Ranger Jim sell Joe good horse with spots?" "Hell no, Joe!" Jim laughed! "If you’d been riding old Chief, I'd still be chasing you all over Texas!" Jim thought that, horse thief or not, you had to respect the indian for taking his chances on foot rather than risk killing more stolen horses in a chase! He called back to him, "Joe, any man who would sooner give up his freedom than to hurt more horses can't be all bad! If you'll give me your word you won't try gettin' away again, I'll set you right back up on that mule." "No can do! Not yet, maybe later." The injun replied resolutely. Jim laughed in appreciation of the indian's wild spirit and warped sense of honor, then he shrugged and went back to his day dreaming about the cool beer from the spring house of the Eldorado, his favorite saloon in San Antonio. The thought of that cold beer then led Jim to thinking about the pretty, brown eyed, auburn haired Louisiana woman who owned the Eldorado.
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