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James Griffin

James J. Griffin is the author of a series of Texas Ranger novels. Jim’s books are traditional Westerns in the best sense of the term, featuring heroes who are church-going family men with strong moral codes. Jim is a lifelong horseman, Western enthusiast, and unofficial historian of the Texas Rangers. His collection of Texas Ranger artifacts is in the permanent collections of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco. Jim is also a member of Western Writers of America and Western Fictioneers. A devout Catholic, Jim divides his time between Branford, Connecticut and Keene, New Hampshire when not traveling out West. Visit him at

Salvation In The Storm

Two men huddled alongside their fire. Wind-driven sleet stung their faces.

“Down your coffee. We’d better get movin’ before this storm hits.”

“Knew we should’ve stayed in Texarkana,” Quinn Mason complained.

“Never mind bellyachin’,” Texas Ranger Jim Corey ordered. “If you hadn’t robbed that bank, we wouldn’t be in this fix.”

“Never figured you’d follow me into Arkansas,” Mason muttered.

“A Ranger never quits a trail.”

“Reckon I learned that. You think you’ll get me back to Fort Worth?”

“Give me any trouble and you’ll find out,” Corey promised. He headed to where his pinto gelding, Sultana, and Mason’s bay were tied.

“Mornin’, boy,” Corey called to his pinto. Corey gave him a biscuit, then scratched his ears. Sultana nuzzled his shoulder.

Watching his handcuffed prisoner, the Ranger saddled and bridled both horses.

“Get mounted,” he ordered.

“Yessir,” Mason shrugged. “You sure we shouldn’t ride this norther out here?” he questioned.

“I’m sure,” Corey replied. “Pushin’ hard, we’ll make Sulphur Springs before dark.”

Corey swung into his saddle.

The day never brightened. The riders trudged through the gloom, while the wind reached gale force. The sleet changed to snow; heavy, wet flakes plastered themselves to man and mount. Corey and his prisoner struggled to find their way through a virtual whiteout. Quickly the snow accumulated eight inches deep, drifted three feet high in spots.

“Ranger, ain’t there anyplace to hole up?”

“None that I’m aware of.”

“You must have some idea,” Mason persisted.

“I’m not familiar with this area,” Corey explained. “Most of my time’s been spent along the Rio Grande.”

“You’d better figure somethin’ out.”

“We’ll ride a bit farther and hope we can find shelter,” Corey replied. “You might want to start prayin’.”

“I don’t bother with that,” Mason snapped. “My ma dragged me to church every time the preacher came into town. Waste of time.”

“You’re wrong,” Corey answered. “I pray every day, and go to Sunday Mass every chance I get. The Lord’s help has gotten me out of many a scrape.”

“I don’t need help from some pie-in-the-sky God,” Mason stated. “Besides, after all I’ve done wrong, He isn’t gonna welcome me with open arms.”

“You’re wrong again, Mason. It’s never too late to ask the Lord for forgiveness . . . or assistance. If we get outta this fix, it’ll be with His help.”

The Ranger took out the handcuff keys.

“I’m gonna take those cuffs off, just in case somethin’ happens to me. I wouldn’t want you freezing to death because your wrists were shackled.”

“I appreciate that,” Mason muttered.

“We’d best keep movin’. Watch for any kind of shelter.”

The pair rode until without warning, Corey’s pinto stepped into a snow-hidden rut. The horse fell, sending the Ranger tumbling into a ravine. Mason jumped off his horse and stood staring at the lawman.

“Reckon your almighty God didn’t answer your prayers, but He sure answered mine,” Mason muttered. “Adios, Ranger.”

Corey’s pinto had regained his footing. Mason went to Sultana and got the Ranger’s Winchester, then started for his own mount. He was stopped by a voice.

“You’re not going to let that man freeze to death, are you?”

Mason turned to see a Mexican gazing at him. He carried a sack containing carpenter’s tools.

“That’s what I’m plannin’ on. He’s a Ranger who’s takin’ me to prison.”

“Have you been sentenced unjustly?”

“No,” Mason admitted. “I robbed a bank.”

“Then why commit a far more grievous offense by taking a man’s life?”

“To keep from spending ten years in Huntsville.”

“Which means you’ll be running all your life, with an innocent man’s death on your conscience.”

“That doesn’t matter. I’m . . .” Mason started to protest, but was stopped by the Mexican’s gentle gaze, which seemed to pierce clear to his soul.

“There’s no way to reach that lawman anyhow. It’d be better if I just shot him.”

“You could get his rope and lower me to him.”

“You?” Mason scoffed. “You couldn’t get him back up here.”

“I assure you I can. Will you save the man’s life, or condemn him to death?”

Mason stood there, conflicting emotions crossing his face.

“I could just shoot both of you,” he murmured.

The carpenter merely stood watching Mason until he turned, replaced Corey’s rifle, and untied the Ranger’s lariat.

“Let’s get that lawman.”

Mason tied the rope around the carpenter then lowered him over the rimrock. Once he reached Corey, the Mexican grasped him and signaled Mason to pull them up.

“You’re too heavy, and the snow’s made it too slick for this horse.”

“Have faith,” the carpenter answered.

Mason shrugged, then pulled the pair back to the trail. To his surprise, they seemed to have little weight.

“Reckon you were right,” he admitted.

Gracias. Now let’s see what we can do for this man.”

Corey moaned with pain.

“You think you can ride, Ranger?” Mason questioned.

“Only if you splint my leg. It’s busted.”

“There’s no chance of finding anythin’ for a splint,” Mason answered.

“Must be something.”

“Your rifle!” Mason exclaimed.

“Yes,” the carpenter said. “I’ve got cloths to bind it in place.”

While the carpenter dug rags from his sack, Mason retrieved Corey’s Winchester. He knelt alongside the lawman. “I’ve got to snap the bone back. This will hurt.”

“Dunno what good this’ll do. We’ll never be able to lift him onto his horse,” Mason said.

“We got him out of the ravine. Putting him in his saddle should be simple,” the carpenter said.

“Get at it, Mason.” Corey gritted his teeth.

“All right.”

Corey yelped when Mason set the bone.

“Sorry. Went easy as I could. Can you ride?” he asked.

“Bet a hat on it.”

“We’re still in trouble,” Mason complained. “We need shelter fast.”

“Have faith,” the Mexican said. “We’re less than three miles from Mount Pleasant.”

“Then we’d best get movin’. You ride my horse.”

“No, Mr. Mason. Follow in my footsteps,” the carpenter urged.

“Suit yourself.”

Mason tied a lead to Sultana’s bridle, mounted, and heeled his bay into a walk. The storm abated, and shortly they stopped in front of the Mount Pleasant marshal’s office. Mason and the carpenter carried Corey inside. The office’s occupants leaped to their feet.

“I’m Marshal Thaddeus Stone. What happened?”

“Got a Ranger here who needs a doc,” Mason explained.

“Put him on my bunk,” Stone ordered. “Jake, give them a hand.”

The deputy helped Corey to the bunk.

“You were out in this storm?”

“We were. Thank God it stopped,” Mason answered.

“What do you mean? It’s a raging blizzard.”

Indeed, the storm was once again at its full fury.

“Get Doc Richards, Jake,” Stone ordered. “Get their horses into shelter, too.”

The marshal turned to Mason and the carpenter.

“Mind givin’ me your handles?”

“I’m Quinn Mason. Robbed a bank. Ranger Corey tracked me to Arkansas. We got caught in the storm. His horse stumbled and threw him. He fell into a ravine.”

Stone scratched his head. “I’m surprised you didn’t just leave him out there to die.”

“This gent happened along and talked me out of it,” Mason confessed. “You never did give me your name, Mister.”

“It’s Hay-sus.”

Stone and Mason turned back to Corey.

“Lie still, Ranger,” Stone ordered. He turned back to question the Mexican. “Where’d he go?” He scanned the room, but it seemed the carpenter had simply disappeared. “Couldn’t have gone anywhere that quick.”

“Hay-sus . . . Jesus!” Mason exclaimed. “Of course, it had to be Him.”

Mason dropped to his knees and bowed his head in prayer.

© James J. Griffin 2011

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