The Yellow Rose of Texas

A Maverick fanfiction Story

By Sharon A. Viljoen

Bart takes his oldest daughter with him to buy some special horses, and they return with more than they bargained for.

Contents

The Trip Out 1

El Paso – Rosales Ranch 4

El Paso – Going Home 7

Orla 11

Waiting for a Wagon 15

Our Week in Hell 18

Wanda, Spreckles, and Fried Chicken 20

To Save a Sinking Ship 23

Epilogue 31

The Yellow Rose of Texas 32

The Yellow Rose of Texas

The Trip Out

They'd planned this trip for weeks, Bart Maverick and his daughter Maudie. Right on the border of Texas and Mexico, word of a ranch breeding and willing to sell Mexican Criollo horses to gringos had reached the B Bar M. The Criollo horses were hardy, with a brawny and strong body and a broad chest. They were famous for their endurance and ability to live in harsh conditions. Bart had been cross-breeding different horses for years and thought that the Criollo and the blue roan strain he'd developed would give the western cowboy the perfect horse. Of course, he needed the Criollo to find out, and it had been impossible to find any for sale.

When he first heard of the sale he was skeptical, but the more he learned the more excited he became. The rancher was a reputable breeder who'd been in business for years. He discussed the trip with his partner, his brother Bret, who agreed it was worth it to find out if they could purchase half a dozen or so mares in an effort to advance the cross breeding they'd been working on for some years.

The trip they'd planned included Bart, his father Beauregard, brother Bret, and Cory Anderson. Cory had been their breeding manager since Tim Demerest was killed. Cory was a good man, but Tim had been part of the family, and it was a blow to the whole operation when they lost him. Preparations were made for the trip, and Bart's eldest daughter Maudie begged her father to let her go. Just turned eleven, she was big for her age and had been involved with everything the ranch did since she was small. Bart gave it some thought and decided it would be a good experience for her. That's when the worst that could happen, did.

Influenza swept through the valley, and its attack on the Maverick family was vicious. Beauregard, Bret and Cory all came down with a bad case of it, and there was talk of canceling the whole venture. Until it was discovered there was another buyer interested in the entire herd. If they put off the trip it could be as long as two or three years before they had another opportunity. And by that time the breeder could have moved on.

Bart had a long talk with Maudie, then another talk with his wife, Doralice. Finally he consulted his brother and the decision was made – he and Maudie would go. They'd get to El Paso by coach, then hire a crew to bring the horses back to Little Bend. If they bought some. Maudie was excited but kept herself under control. She was determined to prove to her father that she was serious about running the ranch someday, and this was the first step.

Plans were finalized, and father and daughter boarded the stage on Friday morning. It felt odd to be riding the stage to El Paso and not playing poker. Bart seemed fidgety and Maudie finally said something. "What's bothering you?"

"You'll think it's silly, but it's the way your Uncle Bret and me used to pass the time. We played poker when we traveled, and we had one rule and one rule only. We changed deal on whoever won, and the dealer got to cheat. "

"Each other? You cheated each other?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Why?"

"Two reasons. We got to practice cheating in case we ever had to do it, and we learned to recognize it, in case it was being done to us."

"Daddy."

"Yes darlin'."

"You realize that Uncle Bret taught Beauregard to cheat."

"Yes, I know that."

"And you realize that we all played poker with Beauregard."

"Yes, Buttercup, I know that."

"So doesn't it stand to reason that we all learned Pappy Beauregard's methods of cheating?"

Bart sat in silence for a minute while he pondered his daughter's question. Finally he asked, "You did?"

"Yes, Daddy, we did."

"So that means we can play Maverick Poker?"

"Yes, Daddy, we can. If you have a deck of cards."

Her father's face lit up as he pulled a deck of cards out of his coat pocket. "Like these?"

"Just like those," Maudie answered as she matched his smile.

Bart shuffled and dealt the cards, and father and daughter began talking about exactly what they were looking for in the Criollo stock. As they played their peculiar brand of poker, they then progressed to discussing what they would be interested in if it was a colt or a stallion.

Their main focus was the Criollo filly or mare. It was their intention to cross-breed the mares with the B Bar M blue roan-Arabian studs, producing an animal that had the hardiness and endurance of the Criollo, along with the willingness and sensibility of the Arabian, but possessing none of the extreme temperament. At least that was the original intention.

By their second full day of traveling Maudie was working on another possible scenario, one that involved breeding the blue-roan mares with the Criollo studs. And Bart had come to understand that his eleven-year-old daughter was almost more skilled at poker than he had been at the same age. Fortunately, she had no desire to roam the countryside and be another Poker Alice. She was more than content to run the B Bar M and raise colts and fillies.

Maudie's interest in the horses and the ranch began when she was a wee lass, due to her attachment to her father. If she was involved with the same things that caught her father's attention, then she would naturally spent more of her time with him. And that was just fine with her. As she got older, she confined her interest in poker to a pastime she shared with her siblings, but her love for the ranch and the horses grew as she aged and tethered her closer and closer to Bart.

She kept a secret, even from him. She wanted to be a man so that it would be naturally assumed that she would take control of the ranch when her father and uncle decided to give it up. Maudie knew she was going to have to fight for it. None of her brothers appeared to have the interest that she did; and her cousins were too small to give any indication of their interest. So Maudie had to bide her time; waiting to see who emerged as the brother or cousin she would fight for control of the ranch.

In the meantime, she stayed close to her father and learned everything she could. Her heart was broken when she thought he was dead; and what was worse, she blamed herself. She'd been such a child about the whole incident that the only reasonable thing left to do was to drown herself, and the creek would accomplish that nicely.

She couldn't do it. She tried to pay the ultimate price, and even after the burial service on the hill, when she felt there was nothing to live for, she couldn't do it. It was a good thing she couldn't, because fate had thrown her a curveball, and her father was still alive. She never told anyone. And she swore that she would never dream of doing anything so foolish again. No matter what happened. Maudie had learned a valuable lesson, especially for one so young.

There would be times in her life when she felt she'd lost everything, but she could look back on the incident with her father and know there was always something in her future that was important, something worth living for.

El Paso – Rosales Ranch

It took them almost six days to make the trip to El Paso, and both father and daughter had played more Maverick poker than they ever wanted to again. They'd also gotten to spend a lot of time together, and Bart had begun to realize just how bright and dedicated to the ranch his oldest daughter really was.

The next morning they headed out to the Rosales Horse Ranch to see just what Frank Rosales had available for sale. Bart found three mares and two three-year-old fillies, and Maudie liked two younger fillies, both closer to two–year olds. When it came to the stallions, Bart and Maudie disagreed. There was a five-year-old gray stallion named El Conquistador that she thought would be a fine fit with their stock, and Bart preferred a black six-year-old named El Hombre. "Why do you want the six-year-old, daddy?"

"His chest is broader, and he has wider-set eyes." Bart had been staring at the stallion for several minutes. They watched the two stallions now, as Frank put them through their paces.

Maudie nodded her head. "He does, but El Conquistador is almost fifteen hands high. And look at the canon on El Hombre's left fetlock. It's misshapen, and that could be a birth defect."

"How did you spot that, sweetheart?" Bart hadn't seen it; even now it was almost invisible. He kept looking at the two stallions, comparing them, and he finally decided that Maudie had a good point. "Alright, El Conquistador it is. Did you see a colt that you liked?"

"I'm glad you asked. There's a two-year-old that reminds me of that gelding you talked about so much. Noble, I think his name was. He's that buckskin over in the far paddock. Can we walk over and look at him?"

"Sure we can, I just can't imagine he's anything like Noble. That horse was one of a kind. You're sure this is a colt?"

"Yes, sir. I'm sure. I was watchin' him when you were picking out the mares."

They changed paddocks and made their way over to the far side of the ranch. Maudie didn't have to point him out, Bart spotted him right away. The colt was just about as big as Noble, and his coloring was almost the same. He looked across the grass and caught Bart's eye, then bobbed his head up and down the same way Noble had. It sent a shiver down Bart's spine.

Maudie stuck her hand through the fence and whistled, and the colt came over. He nuzzled her fingers before turning his attention to the ex-gambler. He sniffed Bart back and forth, as if he was looking for something, then slowly backed away from him and stood there staring. The resemblance between Noble and the colt was amazing. "Has he got a name?" Bart asked.

"Baron," his daughter told him.

"Close enough," Bart murmured, then turned to Maudie. "Alright, we'll take him. I want to go back and pick up several more of the year-old fillies. Then we'll see about hiring some hands for the trip back."

"We will?"

"Yes ma'am, we will. We're not gonna drive ourselves crazy doin' it all alone. We'll have about twenty horses, and that's too many for two people. I figure we need three or four more hands to help on the trip."

"Where are you gonna get 'em, Daddy?"

"We'll go to the sheriff in the mornin' and see if he knows of anybody."

Frank Rosales came across the pasture to see if Bart had decided how many horses he was going to buy. "About twenty altogether, Mr. Rosales. El Conquistador, the three mares and the four fillies, Baron, and three of the year-old fillies. Then there's eight saddle ponies for the remuda."

"Sounds good, Mr. Maverick. I'll have them all rounded up tonight and have them ready to go for you in the morning. What about wranglers to take 'em back?"

"Do you know any we could get to go back to Little Bend? There could be jobs for them at the ranch when we get back. If they wanted to stay."

"I've got three here that would go. Dan Avery, Jimmy Hunt, and Lucien Walters. Dan doubles as the cook. And I'll bet you Danny's brother Slim would go, too. Here, come on in the house, and I'll write you up a receipt for the horses, then we'll ask Danny if Slim'll go with 'em." Bart and Maudie followed Frank inside, and he sent for Slim Avery while he wrote Bart the receipt for the horses.

"Sure, Mr. Maverick, I'll go if Danny's goin'," was the answer that they got from Slim. "We can put everything together and be ready to roll the day after tomorrow. That quick enough for you? How about we meet you in El Paso at the Emporium tomorrow at noon and we'll get all the supplies and be ready to go the next day?"

"That sounds good, Slim. Make sure the three other boys are there, too. We can go to lunch and then buy supplies. I wanna meet everybody before we get started. That alright with you?"

"Yes, sir, I'd say it works for all of us. This your daughter?"

"It is. Maudie, this is Slim Avery. Slim, my daughter Maudie. She's the oldest of five, and the one most interested in the ranch. Maudie and me will be ridin' with you."

Slim tipped his hat. "Miss Maudie, glad to meet you. You ever ridden a roundup before?"

"At home on the ranch, but not this far. I'll do anything you need me to do."

Slim grinned. "Good to know. We'll put you wherever we can use you."

"Here's your receipt, Mr. Maverick. It was a pleasure doin' business with you. Let me know how that cross-breedin' turns out, would you? I'm mighty anxious to find out." Frank Rosales gave Bart the receipt and they shook hands.

Slim Avery was waiting outside for them. "I've got a better idea, Mr. Maverick. We can save a whole day with it."

"Let's hear it, Slim." Bart already liked Avery; he was polite and thoughtful and would fit in good at the B Bar M.

"Well, we're all here now. We could meet in the bunkhouse and decide what we need to make the trip, then go into town and get the supplies. Then we'd get the wagon loaded tonight and be ready to go in the morning soon as we had breakfast."

"Good idea, Slim. That way we eliminate killing time. Go round up the boys and we'll meet you in the bunkhouse."

Bart and Maudie went to the bunkhouse and waited for the four men to get there. "What do you think of Slim?" Bart asked his daughter.

"I like him, Daddy. He seems to know what he's doing."

"That was the impression I got. He reminds me of Tim. Let's see how he works out on the drive."

In less than five minutes all four men had joined the Mavericks in the bunkhouse. "Alright, I'm Bart Maverick, and this is my daughter Maudie. She's been working roundups and drives with us at home on the ranch since she was eight years old. Lest any of you men get any ideas, she's only eleven now. We're goin' to Little Bend, right in the heart of Texas, the B Bar M Ranch. You might have heard of it; we cross breed horses.

"Since you've already got your horses and gear, the job pays fifty dollars a month, with a seventy-five dollar bonus if we get all the horses there safe and sound. Plus there's the possibility of a job at the ranch. We're not gonna push everybody so hard that we have problems; we've got some little ladies in this bunch and I don't want them exhausted every day. We're goin' into El Paso now and buy supplies for the trip. There's a nice little café right down the street from the Emporium; dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow is on me. We'll meet you at the same café tomorrow at six. Then we'll swing by here and pick up the horses. And questions?"

It was quiet as a mouse. "Alright, everybody, get your horses and let's go get dinner and supplies."

Each man introduced themselves to Bart and shook hands, then did the same to Maudie, with a tip of the hat instead. They all seemed polite and well-spoken. On the way to their mounts, Bart asked his daughter, "Well, sweetheart, what do you think? Can we make this drive work?"

"Yes, sir, we can. We certainly can."

El Paso – Going Home

The café down the street from the Emporium was named Julie's Home Cooking, and that's just what it tasted like. Dan Avery explained while they ate that the four men had been working at The Rosales Ranch for almost a year but Frank was cutting back, and it looked like they were out of jobs. Bart's offer had come along at just the right time.

Bart explained the set-up at the B Bar M and what he and his brother were trying to accomplish. Then Maudie took over and talked about the idea she'd had . . . the cross-breeding of the blue roan/ Arabian mare with the Criollo studs. If any of the cowhands had wondered why she was involved in this venture, her ideas convinced them this was no ordinary eleven-year-old girl.

"Miss Maudie, you might have hit on somethin' that could be worth a fortune," Slim Avery told her as they all ate dessert. "You got any more young'uns this bright at home, Mr. Maverick?"

"Slim, you gotta call me Bart. There's too many Mavericks at the ranch for me to be Mister. And yes, my wife and me have got four more, including Maudie's twin sister Belle. But none of them are as interested in the horses as Maudie. And they're all younger."

"How'd you get so involved with the horses, Miss Maudie?" Lucien Walters asked.

"Well, I wanted to spend more time with my father, time I didn't have to share with any of my brothers or sisters. So I started going with him when he tended the horses, and I got interested in what he was trying to do. Then I just began thinking of ways to improve the cross-breeds."

"Everybody finished?" Bart asked. "Then let's get back out to the ranch to get our stock."

Half an hour later they were at the Rosales Ranch. Their horses were corralled together and ready to go; Dan took over driving the wagon as Bart placed the other riders. He rode left point and Maudie rode right, Jimmy and Lucien rode somewhere between swing and flank, and Slim rode drag. The remuda ran with the rest of the herd, and they rotated positions every two days. The wagon followed when Maudie rode drag; it remained toward the front of the herd when she took any other position.

They took it slower than they would a cattle drive, especially the first two or three days. Bart didn't want to push the yearling fillies too hard, and they didn't have a deadline for getting back to the ranch. Maudie had no idea the drive would be as difficult as it was, and practically fell asleep as soon as she was done eating every night. On the fourth day, Bart took over driving the wagon and kept her on it with him. He figured they could ride a man short for a day or two while Maudie got some extra rest. None of the men objected; they were all impressed with how hard she'd been working to do her share.

She slept most of the morning and didn't join her father on the seat until early afternoon. Bart was happy to see she looked more rested than she had since they'd started the drive. "What's up, sweetheart?"

"I should go out and relieve one of the riders."

"You've done more than your fair share."

"I had no idea this would be so hard, Pa."

Bart grinned. "What happened to daddy?"

Maudie shrugged. "I outgrew it?"

"Already?"

"Can I ask you a question?"

Her father smiled at her. "You can always ask me a question, darlin'."

"Why did you let me come on this drive? Anybody else would have said no."

"There's a long story behind that, Maudie."

"I've got nowhere to go, daddy."

That reply elicited a chuckle. "Alright. You've been tellin' me for a long time that you wanted to be involved in runnin' the ranch. Your mother thought this job might be too much for you. This is the first real chance I've had to show you that it's not all play; that it involves a lot of hard work. I knew you could handle it, I just didn't know if you'd still want to once you found out just how hard."

Maudie was dismayed. "Did you think I'd be afraid of hard work?"

"No, not afraid of it. That you'd rather do somethin'. . . easier."

They rode in silence for a while before anything further was said. "And what do you think now?"

"I think you can do anything you set your mind to, no matter how difficult it turns out to be. And I think that you'll do fine . . . running the ranch. If you still want to when the time comes."

Maudie leaned over and kissed her father on the cheek. "Thank you, Daddy."

XXXXXXXX

Maudie got used to the pace of the drive as the days passed. Bart was proud of her; she worked her tail off and never complained. When it was her turn to drive the supply wagon, one or another of the men took her turn for her; that was the one thing she just wasn't strong enough to do yet.

She always found a way to make it up to whoever drove for her. She'd take their turn cooking, or do their laundry, or ride Nighthawk in their place. Bart always made sure that he rode Nighthawk with her, so she wouldn't be alone with the herd. Every one of the drovers had nothing but good things to say about her.

They fell into a rhythm, and actually made good time. Baron ran next to Maudie unless she was riding drag; he had no desire to have dirt and dust kicked in his face. Then he'd pick a spot out of the crowd and stay close to Bart.

By the end of the second week they'd gotten to Pine Springs. They planned on staying over in the little town two nights . . . one night Slim, Dan, and Lucien would stay at the hotel in town; indulging in baths, dinner in a restaurant, and sleeping in a real bed. Jimmy, Bart and Maudie would serve as Nighthawks. The second night it would be reversed, with Jimmy, Bart and Maudie staying in the hotel. That's the way it was supposed to work. The second night, when Slim, Dan and Lucien had Nighthawk duty, Dan fell asleep underneath the supply wagon, and the three one-year-old-fillies wandered off without being spotted.

Bart and Maudie found the fillies gone the next morning when they returned to camp. Maudie wanted to look for the fillies immediately, and she convinced her father to send Dan out to do just that.

Two hours later Dan still hadn't returned. Neither had the fillies, and Maudie was close to frantic. "I'm goin' out after them, Daddy," Maudie insisted.

"No, Maudie, I don't want you goin' out there."

"Somebody has to go. We need four men to make it back to Little Bend, and we need to find the lost fillies."

Bart mounted his horse and would stand for no more arguing. "You and Slim stay here; Jimmy, Lucien and me will look for'em."

Another hour passed; Maudie and Slim did their best to keep the herd quiet. Finally Slim started singing softly, and Maudie joined in, just as softly.

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground!
Lonely, but free, I'll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go, but I'll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumblin' tumbleweeds

I know when night has gone
That a new world's born at dawn!
I'll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumblin' tumbleweeds.

By the time they'd sung 'Tumbleweeds' twice, Bart and the boys were coming over the hill with the fillies. The fillies had found a creek and waded through it, coming out on the wrong side and getting themselves lost. Once Dan found them and got them headed in the right direction, they seemed to be in no hurry to rejoin the herd. Since there was only one of him they took their sweet time makin' their way back, and he really couldn't do much with them until Bart, Lucien and Jimmy came lookin' for them.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Maverick. I sure never expected to fall asleep down there. I know I cost you half a day's time. I'll make it up to you. Somehow."

"Just don't do it again, Dan, alright? Now that we know those little girls have got a wandering eye, let's make sure they don't go off somewhere without us. They could grow up to be an important part of our program."

Orla

Bart moved the herd a little faster for the next day or two, hoping to make up the time the fillies had cost them. He wanted to get them all home before they could run into any more trouble.

Their next stop was another little hole-in-the-wall named Orla. Bart wanted to swing by Orla because they had a telegraph line and he could at least find out what was going on at the ranch. Besides, the trail would change their route more towards Odessa, which would give them an almost straight shot towards Little Bend.

They'd been lucky so far and hadn't run into any Indians, and none of the new stock had tried to run off, ever since they'd brought the fillies back. Maudie was fast asleep one night, however, when she heard Jimmie's horse issue a terrible scream, and the next thing she knew everyone was awake and the big bay was thrashing around on the ground.

"What happened?" Bart yelled, and Lucien grabbed his rifle and beat a Mojave Rattlesnake into the dirt.

"Stepped in a rattlesnake hole and got bit," Slim replied, and before anyone else could react, a shot rang out, and the bay stallion lay still.

"Nothin' else to do," Bart declared. "Take whichever one of the remuda horses you want to replace the bay. I'm sorry, Jimmy."

"Wasn't your fault, Bart. He just took a wrong step. As long as you got no objections, I'm gonna bury him." Jimmy pulled a shovel out of the supply wagon and headed to the body of the stallion. Bart and Lucien both grabbed shovels and started digging. "You don't have to help."

Bart nodded. "Yes, we do. We won't leave him out here."

"You'd do the same for us. Come on, let's dig," Lucien insisted, and the three men went to work. It took them the rest of the night, but by morning there was nothing left of the bay above ground. Maudie cooked breakfast and then Jimmy checked the remuda for a new horse. He finally found a black mare and pulled her out, to be saddled and ridden as a replacement for his bay.

They headed for Orla, and pulled into town twenty-four hours later. Bart went straight to the telegraph office and sent a wire to his wife, explaining where they were and how soon they would be home. Bart waited for an answer, and finally got the briefest of ones . . . 'Everything alright, hurry home. Doralice.' By the time he got back to the drive, he'd been up over forty-eight hours. And the next night was Bart's turn to ride Nighthawk, to be followed by Maudie's turn to drive the supply wagon. By the time the string of sleepless nights was over, Bart would have been awake for almost ninety-six hours.

Jimmy volunteered to drive the wagon for two hours so that Bart could get some sleep; at the end of the two hours Bart would take over. Maudie spent a few quiet minutes with her father, and then let him fall asleep. Once he was overtaken by sleep, she told Jimmy that Bart had given her permission to drive, so that he could get a full nights rest. Jimmy believed her, and he rode point while she drove.

Around ten in the morning, one of the horses stepped sideways and drug the wagon into a deep rut, one that they couldn't get out of. Maudie fought to get the wheel back on level ground but she couldn't do it, and finally, the spokes and the tongue on the right side shattered and the wagon tipped over.

The girl was thrown out of the wagon and hit her head against the broken spokes. Bart was ejected from the back end and was jolted awake; as soon as he opened his eyes he knew what had happened. "Maudie! Maudie!" he yelled, but he got no answer. He scrambled free of the wreckage and saw Lucien on his knees on the ground, with Maudie in his arms.

"Is she alive?"

Lucien nodded. "Gonna have a big welt on her forehead, but she's breathin'."

"Why'd you let her drive? Jimmy was supposed to wake me up after two hours."

"She told Jimmy that you'd given her permission to drive. She was determined that you were gonna get some sleep."

Bart spread a blanket on the ground, then took his daughter out of Lucien's arms and carried her over to the makeshift bed. "Looks like we're all gonna get some sleep now." He turned to Slim and asked, "Ride back to Orla and get the doc out here. Then get Danny to start makin' a list of what we're gonna need to replace what we lost."

Lucien rolled up a blanket and made a pillow for Maudie. Slim grabbed the reins to his horse and took off for town. Bart laid his daughter down gently and brushed the hair out of her face. "Jimmy, can you come over here?"

Maudie was still unconscious, and Bart was worried. "Jimmy, you were drivin' the wagon when I fell asleep. You were only gonna drive for two hours and wake me up. What happened?"

"She told me you gave her permission to drive until you woke up. I couldn't call her a liar, so I tried to stay close to her. The outside horse slipped into a rut and Maudie couldn't get him out; by the time I got around to him the wagon had tipped over and the spokes and tongue were broken, and Maudie was unconscious. I'm sorry, boss; I should have known she was lyin' to me."

A small moan escaped from the girl on the ground, and her eyes fluttered open. "What . . . what happened?"

"I think you owe me an explanation, Miss Maudie. You coulda been killed when the horse slid into the rut. I sent Slim to Orla to bring the doctor back and see how bad you been hurt. And you scared me to death. You know you're not strong enough to drive that wagon."

"I'm sorry, Daddy," she started to cry. "I wanted you to get some sleep. I really thought I could handle the horses."

The clop-clop-clop of a surrey could be heard, followed by a horses hoof beats. A small man of about sixty came running over to where Maudie lay. "Mr. Maverick? I'm Doctor Sutherland. I understand this is your daughter Maude. Trying to do something she wasn't strong enough to do yet? Miss Maude, you're lucky you weren't killed. Does it hurt anywhere besides your head? Let me take a good look at that."

Bart stood and let the doctor examine her thoroughly. "Danny, go do an inventory and write down everything we need to get us home. Including a new wagon. Soon as Dr. Sutherland's finished, we'll go back to Orla and spend some money."

It took about fifteen minutes for the doctor to give his all clear. "She's gonna have a heck of a bruise but doesn't look like anything else is wrong. She's a real lucky young lady. Keep her in bed for a couple days and don't let her get too active. She should be alright."

"Thanks, doctor. I'll tie her down if I have to."

Once Dr. Sutherland was gone, Jimmy presented Bart with the list of destroyed or damaged goods, including the wagon that was needed. "Slim, you stay with her and make sure she doesn't get up. Lucien and me'll go get the replacements, including the wagon. Maybe we can pick up another rider in town. We'll be back as soon as we can."

Bart got up to go but Maudie called him back. "Daddy, I'm sorry. I should have paid more attention to you when you told me not to try and drive the horses."

"Yes, ma'am, you should have. Now we've lost several days and I don't know how much money. And I don't know what I'm gonna do with you. I'm disappointed, Maudie, that you decided you knew more than I did. We'll have to figure out what we're gonna do when we get home."

Bart and Lucien rode slowly into town. Lucien could tell that something was really bothering his new boss. "You wanna talk about it?"

Bart was quiet for a few minutes before he finally said, "She's never disobeyed me, Lucien. Never."

"She's growin' up, boss. She thought she was doin' somethin' good for you, and she just overstepped."

"Sounds like you've been there before." There was something in Lucien's voice that rang true to Bart.

Now it was Lucien's turn for quiet. "I had a sister. Patrice was almost two years younger than me. She died when I was fourteen. I still miss her. So I know a little bit about young ladies."

Bart sighed and shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. "Sorry about that. She was just a little older than Maudie?"

"Yeah." They rode on, reaching the outskirts of Orla before Lucien spoke again. "When you said there were kids on the ranch . . . and a chance for a job . . . that's when I made up my mind to ride with you. Frank didn't have any kids, and I miss beein' around 'em."

"You won't get a chance to miss 'em at the B Bar M. We've got . . . let's see, I've got Maudie and Belle, they're twins, then Beauregard, Breton and Lily, and my brother Bret's got Grace, Bartley and Bodeen. Sometimes it's like a cattle stampede, with real small cattle."

Lucien burst out laughing just as they reached the general store. Both riders dismounted and headed inside, with the newest employee of the B Bar M still laughing.

Waiting for a Wagon

The General Store in Orla was surprisingly well-stocked, and they were able to get almost everything they needed. Except for the most significant thing . . . a wagon. The store owner informed them that he would have to order a wagon from Odessa and it would take four or five days to reach Orla. . ."Isn't there anybody in town that can sell us theirs?" Bart asked in frustration.

"Sorry." The store owner replied. "Don't know that there's anybody in town that's got one. I got an open wagon you can borrow until your covered one gets here. At least you'll have somethin' to haul these supplies in."

"I guess that'll have to do. I appreciate you lettin' us use it. You said four or five days, right? You got some kind of tarp I can put over everything so it's protected?"

Once the wagon was loaded, Bart and Lucien tied their horses to the back end and headed out to camp. It was quiet for about one-third of the way, then Bart shook his head and started talking to himself. When he got loud enough for Lucien to understand what he was saying, Walters started paying attention.

"What am I gonna do with her? I can't just let her go and ignore what she did. She disobeyed me. What if Maudie had been hurt worse than a bump on the head? That wagon is costin' us a hunner' dollars, and that ain't countin' the supplies that were ruined. How can an eleven-year-old girl have that much belief in herself that she thinks she can do anything she decides to do? Even when she knows she ain't strong enough to do it?"

Lucien had to remind Bart of something that had happened continually on the drive . . . even if it cost him his new job. "You've spent this whole drive tellin' her how good she is. Even a humble man starts to believe the hype after a while."

"You think I've encouraged her too much?" There was a small amount of hostility in the question.

Lucien wondered if he was walking a thin line between helpful observation and unwarranted advice. "No, not too much. But she seems to put a whole lotta stock in the things you tell her. Maybe your opinions carry too much weight with her? If you praise her for one thing, she thinks she can do everything?"

They drove on a few more minutes, Bart giving serious thought to Lucien's suggestion. "Hell, maybe you're right. I just don't know anymore. It's hard not to tell her how good she is . . . because it's true."

"Maybe she just made a mistake. She sure seemed sorry before we left."

"Wonder what would happen if I just didn't say anything?"

"Only one way to find out."

"Ain't there, though?"

It was early evening before the wagon got back to the herd. Danny had managed to throw some supper together, and Jimmy had separated the damaged goods from everything that was still useable. Maudie was asleep on her bedroll.

"How's she doin'?" Bart asked.

"She seems to be okay," Slim told him. 'She's been awake two or three times, and she ate some supper."

"Hasn't even complained about pain so far."

Lucien grabbed a quick supper, and him and Slim went out to ride Nighthawk. Bart started to protest but Slim stopped him. "You stay here with your daughter. We'll take care of it." The worn out father nodded gratefully and made a bed next to her. He was asleep within five minutes.

It was the smell of the coffee that woke him. He opened his eyes and sat up, and a hand with a cup of coffee in it appeared in front of him. He blinked once or twice, realized that the hand belonged to Slim, and accepted the cup gratefully. He turned his head sideways and found no blankets and no Maudie. "Any sign of my daughter?" He asked.

"She's already out with the herd. Wouldn't listen to any of us. Sorry boss."

"Not your fault, Slim. When did she get up?"

"Around five. She made coffee, saddled her horse, and went out with Danny. Said she'd be back later."

"And she hasn't been in yet?"

"Nope."

"Can you go out and ask her to come in, please?"

"Sure, boss."

Maudie rode in some ten minutes later. She got off her horse and picked her way over to her father, then spread her bedroll and sat down next to him. "Did you get enough sleep?"

"I did. You were supposed to take it easy today. What are you doing out with the herd?"

"After yesterday, riding with the herd is taking it easy." There was pain in her eyes, but he couldn't tell if it was emotional or physical.

"Daddy . . ."

"What were you doing yesterday, Maude Belinda? Why did you directly defy my instructions?"

"I didn't mean to. I just wanted you to get some sleep. You were so tired, and I didn't see how you could drive the wagon without some."

"Uh-huh."

"I'm so sorry, Daddy. I'll never ignore your instructions again. I swear I won't."

"No, you won't. But there have to be some consequences for your ignoring them this time. And I haven't decided what they're gonna be."

"Yes, sir."

"Until we get home, I want you to handle all the cooking and track the supplies. And I want you to take care of the one-year-old fillies. You won't be doing any more drag or Nighthawk riding."

"Anything else?"

"For the time being, no." Bart looked at his daughter for the first time in a few minutes and saw the tears standing in her eyes. He reached over and held her chin in his hand. "I'm not mad at you, Maudie. But you could have been seriously hurt, or killed even, and now we're gonna be a week late gettin'
home, and so far we're out almost two hundred dollars. And none a that woulda been worth anything if you'd gotten hurt. I need to be sure you won't disobey me again. Do you understand?"

"Yes. Yes sir, I do."

"Good. I love you, Maudie. Even if I do seem like the meanest Daddy in the whole world."

Our Week in Hell

Now came the hard part . . . waiting for the covered wagon to arrive. They didn't dare try to leave and drive the uncovered wagon to Odessa; it would never have made it. The roads were terrible at best, and the wagon they'd borrowed wasn't made for that kind of a trip. They had no hope but to wait for the new wagon to arrive; all the while Bart sat and stewed. Maudie was nervous as a cat, and the boys just laid around and slept. Funny how much cowboys can sleep when given a chance. Not that Bart blamed them. There was nothing to do but sleep.

For Bart, he was able to spend time with the new horses. Maudie seemed to be right about El Conquistador, he was already showing signs of wanting to be the 'head man' of the herd. Bart just couldn't stand that name and started thinking about something more appropriate.

He hadn't intended to become attached to Baron, but he couldn't help it. Everywhere Bart was, Baron followed. He exhibited no closeness to any of the other drovers, and the only one he had any interest In besides Bart was Maudie. Given the choice between the two of them, however, the colt picked Maverick every time. Needless to say, his daughters feelings were hurt.

Bart decided to test Noble's biggest quirck on the colt. He found an apple in the fruit supplies and took it out to Baron. He offered it to the colt and was met with, if not disdain, then complete and total indifference. Bart put the apple back in his pocket and began to walk away, when he was met with a frantic whinny. He retrieved the apple and offered it again, and this time it was taken, happily and whole. He could imagine an entire conversation between Noble and Baron. 'You're supposed to eat it, Junior, not play with it.'

'How was I supposed to know that? I never had one of those before.'

'Now you know. Behave yourself.'

Bart chuckled to himself. Noble had been so quircky, so uinque, he didn't ever expect to find a horse anything like him. Now, it appeared, he had. Or rather, Maudie had. Now he had to go back and rethink the punishments he'd handed out for driving the wagon. Of course, he didn't need to do that right now.

Even with the destruction of the covered wagon and the five day delay, this was beginning to look like a profitable trip. Bart had found the man who would take over Tim Demerest's spot at the ranch, Lucien Walters, and two, possibly three good ranch hands. The thing that was bothering him so completely was his daughter. Maudie was certain that she was ready to start working out at the ranch. Bart partially agreed with her, but he had to stop and remind himself she was only eleven years old; she was still a little girl. There were some things she was capable of; other things she was not. And that's where he assumed there was going to be a disagreement between them.

So Bart spent the five days of the delay worrying about his daughter. On the afernoon of day five, he took Slim with him and rode into Orla, hoping that the wagon would be there. He was in luck, the covered wagon had just arrived. They switched wagons and headed back to camp.

Both men were impressed with how smooth the ride was, especially because they were forced to travel over the same bumps they had just traversed. "I think we should wait until tomorrow morning before we head out," Slim told the man driving. "That gives us plenty iof time to get everything loaded in the way we want and still get a good nights sleep."

"I agree with you," Bart responded. "The stock'll be fresh, too, so we should be able to get a whole days travel in. Sure will be happy to get goin' again."

"We all will, boss. Even the Yellow Rose."

"The Yellow Rose?"

Slim laughed. "That's what we call Yellow Rose of Texas. It does kinda fit, doesn't it?"

Something about the Yellow Rose of Texas was familiar. Seems like . . . but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. "Well, with the blonde hair, and the brown eyes . . . yeah, I guess it sorta does."

They hurried back to camp, a weeks worth of eager to get loaded and back on track again. The night was quiet, and it took them less than an hour to load. Everybody was awake and ready to roll by five thirty. And after five days of sitting around doing nothing, the B Bar M boys were ready to travel.

Wanda, Spreckles, and Fried Chicken

Bart and Maudie were both grinning when they came around the corner of the road that led to the B Bar M Ranch. "Wow," Slim remarked, and Lucien just whistled.

"Gentlemen," Bart said in an official tone of voice, "welcome home." He then turned to Maudie. "Sweetheart, you know how to separate 'em. And put Baron in the barn. Then I'll meet you all at the bunkhouse. I'm goin' to find your uncle."

Thirty minutes later Bret and Bart walked into the bunkhouse. Introductions were made, with Lucien last. "And Bret, this is Lucien Walters. He's gonna take over Tim's position. You get everybody settled in, then bring Lucien on out to the far corral. We'll get started with the other guys tomorrow."

"What are you thinkin' about now?" Bret asked. Bart was always thinking up something new.

"I guess you should bring Maudie out, too, she had the idea."

In just a few minutes Bret, Maudie and Lucien had joind Bart in the farthest corral. Bart explained Maudie's idea simply: breed the already cross-bred blue-roan mares to the Criollo stallions. To accomplish that, Bart proposed they keep rotating half a dozen of the mares in the corral with El Conquistador, and let the stallion decide who he was enamored of. "There's just one thing."

"What's that?" Bret questionned.

"I know we have to leave his name officially as El Conquistador for bloodline purposes. Can we call him something else, please? "

"Grey Ghost?" Maudie suggested.

"That works for me," Bret answered. "How about you, Brother Bart?"

"Fine. Bret, you explain the ranch to Lucien. Maudie and me got some talkin' to do to each other. Don't we, Maudie?"

"Yes sir, we do."

"Let's go to the office," Bart suggested, and they headed that way. The office was a single room that had been built next to Bart's house. It had an outside entrance, but Bart chose to enter through the house, allowing both he and Maudie the opportunity to let Doralice know they were home. That, of course, required hugs and kisses on everyone's part. It also required that Doralice fuss over the bump on Maudie's head, and plant kisses on both her daughter and husband.

When they finally got to the office, Bart chose to take a seat in the corner of the room, and Maudie followed. "Maudie, I told you I'd let you know if there was gonna be a further punishment for driving the wagon. I believe you'veou've been punished enough for doing something you were told not to do. However, I think we have differing ideas about what you can and can't do. I want you to be responsible for training Spreckles, but I want you to concentrate on him and leave the other colts and filies alone."

"What about roundups, Pa? Can I still take part in roundups?"

Bart shook his head. "I'd rather you didn't for the next year or so. Now, darlin', don't look like this is punishment for somethin' you've done wrong; it's not. I just think you need to get a little older before you're ridin' with the ranch hands. You can participate a little more in the paperwork side of the business, and help take some of the load off of your mother."

Maudie looked as if she was about to cry. "A whole year, Daddy?"

"A whole year, Maudie. It'll go fast, honey, and it'll make a big difference when you're a year older. And your momma sure can use the help. And by the time the year is up, you can have a top-notch horse in Spreckles."

"I can still train Spreckles?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"When can I start with Mom?"

"That's between the two of you, but I'm sure you could get started right away. This is not somethin' just to keep you busy; I need to know who has what and what they cost. That's the only way we're gonna figure out which breed is the most cost effective."

"What if I hadn't tried to drive the wagon?"

"Don't play that game, Maudie, it won't get you anywhere."

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Yes, Daddy."

XXXXXXXX

Monday afternoon found Maudie spending time with her mother, doing her best to learn the ins and outs of the horse breeding from her mother's point of view – the recordkeeping end of things. And there was a lot to learn. When she'd spent almost three hours in with her mother, she had to get outside, and she scampered across the grounds and went to see Spreckles. Lucien was just bringing in the three year-old-fillies and they were in fine shape. The littlest filly was a pure red-roan with a dark red mane and tail and she bounced when she walked. Spreckles paid particular attention to her and Maudie wondered what she would get if she allowed the two of them to breed when they were old enough. The filly was named Wanda and Maudie intended to keep an eye on her.

"Hey, Lucien," she called.

"Whatta ya need, Rose?"

"I'm gonna mark Wanda's breeding form. I wanna match her with Spreckles when they're old enough."

"You willing to wait that long?" he questioned back.

"Yes sir. I think it would be interesting."

Lucien watched Wanda bounce down the grassway and swish her tail, then he'd swear she winked at Spreckles. "You may be right."

"She's Baron's pure-bred sister. "

"Is your Pa gonna take over Baron?"

"Kinda looks that way."

Just then Slim came out of the barn and locked up for the night. Lucien and Maudie waited for him and he hurried to catch up with them. Wanda bounced back up the grassway and stopped once again right in front of Spreckles, and Maudie couldn't stop herself from laughing. "What a hussy!" Lucien declared.

"She's not a hussy!" Slim insisted. "She's just a flirt. Some of these horses have got minds of their own, and she's definitely one of them. She ought to make an interesting momma! She's not any more oddball than some of the Criollo horses; they just seem to possess a Joie De Vivre that's lacking in a lot of the others. They sure do make it interesting to be around."

"Yeah, they keep you on your toes, that's for sure. They're fun to deal with. And just between us, I don't think we coulda found better people to work for than Bret and Bart. I sure do like it better here than back at Frank's place."

"I'm glad to hear that," Maudie commented. "I thought Pop and Uncle Bret were pretty easy-going as bosses, but you never know until you hear it from the guys doin' the work. That makes me happy, cause it means you guys won't be lookin' for other jobs. I've kinds gotten used to you."

"Trust us, we get treated real fair around here."

"Hey, we better get everybody put away before we miss supper."

"Yeah, Lili Mae fried chicken tonight," Maudie told them.

"Hurry up, Slim, it's almost time for supper. You too, Miss Maudie!"

And the three of them took off running, none of them inclined to miss Lily's fried chicken.

To Save a Sinking Ship

School didn't start until three weeks after the Mavericks came home from El Paso, and everything was relatively quiet during that period. The West-Texas cowboys were settling in and learning their new jobs. Maudie spent two hours working with the breeding paperwork., then turned her attention to Spreckles and Wanda. Her father had given her the go-ahead to add Wanda to her training schedule, and Lucien helped out when he could.

Once classes started she was riding about twice a week. Benny was unhappy that they couldn't go out every night, but there was just too much work that needed to be done. He tried helping her out with the breeding paperwork, but she found she was much faster at the recordkeeping when she did it by herself.

The only time she caught a break was on the weekends. Then she had enough time to get all her chores done and spend some extra time with Benny. It was already Saturday afternoon and she was grooming Wanda, then Spreckles, and was about to start working with the colt when she saw Ellie Maverick coming across the yard.

The population in the school had grown so that the children were now split into two groups – under age ten and ten and over. Ellie had been hired to teach the over age ten group, and that meant she was Maudie and Belle's teacher.

"That's gonna be one fine stallion when he's fully grown," Ellie remarked.

"I think so," Maudie answered her.

"Maudie, we need to talk, honey," Ellie's voice was soft and gentle, but Maudie could already guess why she was there.

"I didn't turn in my last paper."

"No, you didn't. That's the second one in a week. I didn't want to give you a failing grade, but there's not much I can do if you don't turn in your work."

"I know. I just don't have time for the arithmetic when I'm already doing the cross-breeding books. "

"Maybe we can work something out. Let me think about this for a while. If there's a way I can incorporate the cross-breeding work into your homework, we can solve this problem and free-up some of your time. Can you let me see what it is you do for your mother?"

Maudie knew she liked Ellie from the very beginning. "Yes, ma'am. I can gather it together and bring it over to your house. I'll go get the work as soon as I'm done here."

"Taking care of the horses is really important to you, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am. I want to be able to change horse history the way that Pappy has tried to."

"You've got the rest of your life to do that, Maudie. You're only eleven years old."

"No, ma'am, Miss Ellie. My life's not gonna wait for me."

"Alright, you do like I ask. You bring that on over to my house and I'll take a look at it. But you're still going to have to do history and English the way everybody else does."

Maudie nodded her head vigorously. "Yes, ma'am. Those don't give me no problem. But It sure would be nice if I could lose some of that arithmetic. I'll get you the books in about an hour or so."

"Let's see if we can get you back on the right track without upsetting your father."

Maudie almost coughed when her father came up. "Yes, that would be best for all of us. Especially if I wanted to live."

The two ladies laughed, and Ellie walked back to her house. Maudie was relieved, hoping that this combining arithmetic and cross-breeding records could give her some more time to do the things she wanted to do. She finished grooming both Spreckles and Wanda and then turned them loose in the paddock to play for a while. Meanwhile, she hurried back to the breeding office to pick up the cross-breeding records and take them to the newest Mrs. Maverick.

The two ladies spent almost an hour together while Maudie explained the reports to Ellie. "Alright, I think I've got it now. Can you leave these with me for another hour or two? I think I can work out a way for you to use this as your arithmetic work. What you're doing is a lot more complicated than what we're learning in school. I should be able to give you arithmetic credit for the entire year as long as you keep handling the books for the ranch."

"That would be fantastic, Mrs. Maverick."

"As long as your father thinks it's fantastic, Miss Maverick."

The two of them laughed again and Maudie promised she would be back around four o'clock for the paperwork. Then she went hurrying to the barn to saddle Zanzibar and meet Benny for a ride. "You're in a better mood," Benny pointed out.

"I sure am. Uncle Ben married an angel."

"I already figured that out, but what did she do for you?"

"She's trying to work it out so that the work I do for my mom will count towards my arithmetic homework. That would give me more time each day to spend with you and the horses. Wouldn't that be great?"

"You bet it would. When will you know if she was successful or not?"

"This afternoon when I pick up the books from her."

"Does that mean you'd go back to ridin' with me every day?"

Maudie giggled. "Probably. Then you can start givin' me some help with Spreckles. And Wanda."

Benny nodded eagerly. "Sure. That'd be fun."

"Hurry up and get Colton saddled. Then we can ride until four o'clock."

"You got it."

They cut their ride a little short so they could get back to Ellie Maverick with time to spare. Ellie was pleased to find the children at her front door before they needed to be. It showed her that Maudie was truly interested in doing what she had to to get good grades. Ellie was certain she could convince Bart Maverick that his oldest daughter would continue to make a fine student, while perusing her love of horses.

To Save a Sinking Ship

School didn't start until three weeks after the Mavericks came home from El Paso, and everything was relatively quiet during that period. The West-Texas cowboys were settling in and learning their new jobs. Maudie spent two hours working with the breeding paperwork., then turned her attention to Spreckles and Wanda. Her father had given her the go-ahead to add Wanda to her training schedule, and Lucien helped out when he could.

Once classes started she was riding about twice a week. Benny was unhappy that they couldn't go out every night, but there was just too much work that needed to be done. He tried helping her out with the breeding paperwork, but she found she was much faster at the recordkeeping when she did it by herself.

The only time she caught a break was on the weekends. Then she had enough time to get all her chores done and spend some extra time with Benny. It was already Saturday afternoon and she was grooming Wanda, then Spreckles, and was about to start working with the colt when she saw Ellie Maverick coming across the yard.

The population in the school had grown so that the children were now split into two groups – under age ten and ten and over. Ellie had been hired to teach the over age ten group, and that meant she was Maudie and Belle's teacher.

"That's gonna be one fine stallion when he's fully grown," Ellie remarked.

"I think so," Maudie answered her.

"Maudie, we need to talk, honey," Ellie's voice was soft and gentle, but Maudie could already guess why she was there.

"I didn't turn in my last paper."

"No, you didn't. That's the second one in a week. I didn't want to give you a failing grade, but there's not much I can do if you don't turn in your work."

"I know. I just don't have time for the arithmetic when I'm already doing the cross-breeding books. "

"Maybe we can work something out. Let me think about this for a while. If there's a way I can incorporate the cross-breeding work into your homework, we can solve this problem and free-up some of your time. Can you let me see what it is you do for your mother?"

Maudie knew she liked Ellie from the very beginning. "Yes, ma'am. I can gather it together and bring it over to your house. I'll go get the work as soon as I'm done here."

"Taking care of the horses is really important to you, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am. I want to be able to change horse history the way that Pappy has tried to."

"You've got the rest of your life to do that, Maudie. You're only eleven years old."

"No, ma'am, Miss Ellie. My life's not gonna wait for me."

"Alright, you do like I ask. You bring that on over to my house and I'll take a look at it. But you're still going to have to do history and English the way everybody else does."

Maudie nodded her head vigorously. "Yes, ma'am. Those don't give me no problem. But It sure would be nice if I could lose some of that arithmetic. I'll get you the books in about an hour or so."

"Let's see if we can get you back on the right track without upsetting your father."

Maudie almost coughed when her father came up. "Yes, that would be best for all of us. Especially if I wanted to live."

The two ladies laughed, and Ellie walked back to her house. Maudie was relieved, hoping that this combining arithmetic and cross-breeding records could give her some more time to do the things she wanted to do. She finished grooming both Spreckles and Wanda and then turned them loose in the paddock to play for a while. Meanwhile, she hurried back to the breeding office to pick up the cross-breeding records and take them to the newest Mrs. Maverick.

The two ladies spent almost an hour together while Maudie explained the reports to Ellie. "Alright, I think I've got it now. Can you leave these with me for another hour or two? I think I can work out a way for you to use this as your arithmetic work. What you're doing is a lot more complicated than what we're learning in school. I should be able to give you arithmetic credit for the entire year as long as you keep handling the books for the ranch."

"That would be fantastic, Mrs. Maverick."

"As long as your father thinks it's fantastic, Miss Maverick."

The two of them laughed again and Maudie promised she would be back around four o'clock for the paperwork. Then she went hurrying to the barn to saddle Zanzibar and meet Benny for a ride. "You're in a better mood," Benny pointed out.

"I sure am. Uncle Ben married an angel."

"I already figured that out, but what did she do for you?"

"She's trying to work it out so that the work I do for my mom will count towards my arithmetic homework. That would give me more time each day to spend with you and the horses. Wouldn't that be great?"

"You bet it would. When will you know if she was successful or not?"

"This afternoon when I pick up the books from her."

"Does that mean you'd go back to ridin' with me every day?"

Maudie giggled. "Probably. Then you can start givin' me some help with Spreckles. And Wanda."

Benny nodded eagerly. "Sure. That'd be fun."

"Hurry up and get Colton saddled. Then we can ride until four o'clock."

"You got it."

They cut their ride a little short so they could get back to Ellie Maverick with time to spare. Ellie was pleased to find the children at her front door before they needed to be. It showed her that Maudie was truly interested in doing what she had to to get good grades. Ellie was certain she could convince Bart Maverick that his oldest daughter would continue to make a fine student, while perusing her love of horses.

9 Be Happy

Maudie had to admit that things were easier now that she didn't have to struggle through arithmetic. English and History had always been better for her, and she didn't mind doing the work for them at all. It was pleasant enough knowing that she could spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the woods and the farmland around the B Bar M, especially since she had a good friend to ride with.

Her fathers conscious wasn't near as peaceful. He'd had no reason to doubt his oldest daughter, but he had, and he wondered how much of that was a reflection of his own school years. As Pappy was fond of saying, Bart was bright but a slow learner. Thank God the girls were like their mother, and not him. He'd jumped to the wrong conclusion and assumed Maudie was cheating, and he owed her for proving him wrong.

Bart wanted to show Maudie she didn't have to be busy every minute and to have a good time, and he started thinking about the days when the two of them would saddle their horses and play hookey for an afternoon. The more he thought about those days and the fun they had, the more he wanted just one more of them. Besides, he owed Maudie at least one. He stopped and talked to Ellie one afternoon once class was dismissed, and told her what he wanted to do for his 'little girl.'While not exactly recommended by the school board, Ellie thought it was an excellent idea, and they arranged for Maudie to miss school the following Friday.

When Maudie got ready for school, she discovered Zanzibar already saddled and packed for a day of riding, much to her surprise. "Uh, oh, what did I do now?" she asked.

"Not a thing," Her mother told her with a smile on her face. "Your father arranged a day of hookey for you two, with Ellie's cooperation, and he's in the kitchen waiting for Lily Mae to finish the picnic basket."

"Are you serious?" she asked, and she could tell from the tone of her mother's voice that she was.

Bart came striding into the front room with a blanket under one arm and a basket tucked under the other. "Don't look so surprised, buttercup. I owe you one."

"For what, Daddy?"

Bart started to chuckle but caught himself before he really got going. "Let's just say I owe you one and leave it at that. I thought we could ride out to Lookout Point and have lunch, then see what else strikes our fanny. Maybe go visit Momma and Aunt Abby and Tim, then we can finish up down by the river, where your uncles and me used to hang out and get ourselves in trouble when we were kids."

"You? In trouble? When did you ever do that?"

"Oh, just about every day I woke up breathing.I was a hellion. Don't laugh like that, go ask your grandfather."

"I can't imagine you being in trouble all the time."

"I can't imagine me not bein' in trouble all the time."

They were sitting on the blanket about halfway up Lookout Point. Maudie was pulling the petals off a daisy, and Bart was plucking four-leaf clovers. "Honest, Daddy, you're so . . . so good all the time. I can see Uncle Bret bein' in trouble, but not you."

He flashed her the grin that got him out of so much trouble growing up, and in that second she saw it . . . the resemblance between her and her father."Did you always want to be a gambler? Travel the country like grandpa and live your own life? What happened that changed your mind? And are you sorry that something did?"

He didn't expect to hear those questions out of her, at least not now. But since he had, he intended to give her the truth. "Yeah, me and your Uncle Bret both, we wanted to be gamblers just like Pappy. When I fell in love with your mother I knew that I didn't wanna spend another day apart from her. As for regretting the decision to stop traveling and stay in one place, I could never regret that. Your mother and me wouldn't have you or your brothers or sisters if we hadn't stopped. Your interests change as you grow older. What fascinates you at fifteen or twenty holds no interest at age thirty. Don't ever feel bad because your ideas change as you grow older."

He pulled her close to him and kissed her head. "And remember, it's just as easy to be happy as it is to be sad."

On the ride home he reminded her, "You'll always be a Maverick."

Epilogue

She stood on the wind-swept hill, just the way she had all those years ago. Daddy called it . . .what had he called it? . . .Lookout Point. She was surprised she remembered it, it was all so long ago.

They were all gone now, every last one of them. She was the very last Maverick, funny as that sounded. She remembered when her father had ridden down this hill with her to remind her that she would always be a Maverick. She stood with her horse right below Lookout Point, and felt the cool breeze blow through and that's when she heard it; the sound of laughter, coming from a short distance away. No, she wasn't imagining it; it was real. It was children's laughter; Maverick laughter.

It was that moment she knew; it was her sister's laugh, her daughters laugh. And, finally, her granddaughters laugh. It was the Maverick laugh that would echo through this valley as long as there were Mavericks. And she heard it then, Bart's voice. As clear as if he was right next to her. "Remember, you'll always be a Maverick."

The Yellow Rose of Texas

There's a yellow rose in Texas
I'm going home to see
Though other men have held her
Her heart belongs to me

You've traveled down some dusty roads
Slept out in the rain
But this yellow rose is always here
When you come home again

She knows I've done some hard time
You stumbled then you fell
I just kept your pride from dying
You saved my soul from hell

She's the diamond of the desert
She's the golden flower of spring
She's the yellow rose of Texas
She can make a man a king

There's a yellow rose in Texas
She knows the dues I've paid
And I'm going home to tell her
I wish I'd never strayed

You couldn't see beyond yourself
Your pain and wounded pride
But now you know the truth is
In the way you feel in side

She knows I've done some hard time
You stumbled then you fell
I just kept your pride from dying
And you saved my soul from hell

She's the diamond of the desert
She's the golden flower of spring
She's the yellow rose of Texas
She can make a man a king

Yes the yellow rose of Texas can
She can make a man a king