Marty Robbins - The Texas Ranger
Two Stars Are Better Than One
A Matt Kincaid/Jubal Stone Novel
Cherokee Parks and Casey Nash
"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow
that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'."
“Matt, I want you to promise me that you’ll take it easy once I let you go home. I mean it, I don’t want you riding anything but a chair for at least two or three weeks, and that includes no buggy rides into town or to your office. Do I have your word on it?” Dr. Harmon Killebrew asked, after giving Matt his instructions.
“Yeah, Doc, ya got my word. ’Sides, I doubt if May will let me do anything anyway, an’ the last thing I wanna be is on her bad side,” Matt Kincaid replied.
“Matthew Orion Kincaid, you make me sound like a heartless old hag. Harmon and Beverly have both given me instructions in your care, and I will most assuredly follow them to the letter. If that includes keeping you home, then that’s exactly what you can expect, mister. You’ll be happy to know that you can still have visitors, and that those visits can be of a longer duration than they have been here in the Killebrew home. Oh, and you can have all the Arbuckles’ and sweet tea you want, as long as you eat properly. But your trips out back are going to have to be done with an escort. No ifs, ands or buts,” May Kincaid informed her husband. “At least until Harmon says different.”
“I’ll see you in a week, Matt. And if your progress has been as rapid as it’s been during your stay with us, I’m sure you’ll be back to full function very soon. At least in time for John and Marjie’s wedding, which I understand is in three weeks. At least that’s what Becky and Luke said when she was in to see me a few days ago,” Harmon said, instantly regretting the last part of his comment.
“Harmon, are you telling me Becky and Luke were in to see you? Is she alright? Is there anything wrong with she or Luke?” May asked rapid fire.
“They’re both fit as a fiddle, May. It was just a routine visit, much like the one you and I had last week.” Turning to Matt, Killebrew continued. “Matt, May said you made her promise to see me once we were set up to see patients. Seems she had a fall and banged her head pretty hard, but I didn’t find anything wrong with her. Well, beyond a lack of sleep and added worry over you, your children and their activities. I believe her when she said she just tripped and fell.”
“Well, that’s sure good ta know, Doc. That she’s alright. An’ I’ll see what I can do about makin’ sure she gets more rest. How’s that?” Matt asked.
“That is sound advice for both of you, Matt. Get all the rest you can. Lord knows we all need it!” Killebrew exclaimed. “Now then, I believe May has your buggy outside, and there are several people out there waiting for you to make your appearance,” the young doctor said with a beaming smile, reaching for Matt’s hand to assist him in standing.
Once to his feet, Matt said, “Harmon, Beverly, I wanna thank ya for what you’ve done for me. The surgery, an’ takin’ such good care o’ me, an’ for makin’ May an’ me welcome in your home. An’ for turnin’ it inta an infirmary to give me a chance ta heal up enough ta be able ta stand up an’ walk. I ain’t sure how much I owe ya, ‘r how I’ll get ya paid, but whatever it is it was well worth the price of admission.”
“Matt, you owe me nothing. The county is taking care of it all. Judge Mason was very explicit about that from the very beginning, and has already made several payments toward my bill. Frankly, I would have done it for nothing, but let’s not let the judge know that, shall we?” Harmon responded with a smile.
“My lips are sealed, Doc,” Matt said as he gingerly started walking toward the door. “Take me home, woman. No offense, Doc, but I’m ready ta get away from these four walls an’ get me a breath o’ fresh air in the wide open instead o’ through a windaw.”
“I don’t blame you, Matt. Easy now, don’t get in too big of a hurry,” Harmon said as he held on to Matt’s elbow, helping his patient down the long hallway toward the front door.
“May, ya know I only got one way o’ handlin’ the law, an’ I aOutside, Matt was surprised to see their buggy surrounded by friends and neighbors, family, the judge and his wife, and his clerk and deputies, a rousing cheer going up from among them. Of course, there were a few teasing comments from his longtime neighbors.
“A fella’d think by now ya’d o’ learned ta duck, Matt.”
“Good thing ol’ Tink had ya faded.”
“You’ll do ’bout anything ta get time off an’ still get paid, woncha, Matt?”
The last comment Matt had to respond to, but with a grin as he wasn’t sure who said it, “Yeah, but it ain’t worth it, just in case ya wanna pin on my star an’ try it for yourself!”
An uneasy laugh went up among the men, but the women in the crowd were silent, which brought the laugh and comments to a quick end. As Matt got to the buggy step, Tink suddenly appeared on the opposite side from the doctor, and helped Matt get up and into the conveyance as May crawled aboard from the other side.
“Are you ready, Matty dear?” May asked, and when Matt nodded that he was, she started the buggy out slowly, turning onto the street leading out of town and toward the Slash K.
“As they left the edge of town, Hank and Hawk took the lead along with Matthias Crocker. Riding guard on each side of the buggy were Cricket and Lalo, and although Matt could hear riders, buggies, wagons and carriages behind them, he simply couldn’t physically turn to look behind them to see who it was following them.
Matt tried a couple of times, but it just hurt too much to twist around, prompting May to caution him. “Matty dear, just sit still, and I’ll try to miss as many bumps and dips in the road as I can. You’ll find out who’s behind us once we get home, alright?”
“I just wanna know why all the fuss, May. Why are my deputies ridin’ herd on us?” Matt asked, befuddled.
“Because they don’t want anyone to try to carry out the threats to your life. Having you shot, and very nearly dying, has changed how a lot of people view your being sheriff, and the last thing any of them want to see is you getting attacked again. I’m afraid, at least until this thing is over, you, well, both of us really, are going to be very well guarded, like it or not,” May explained.
“Sure seems like a lot o’ fuss, though. Seems ta me like they’re drawin’ too much attention to us.”
“Well, you can thank Bob Mason for it when you talk to him once we get you home. He and Sally are in their carriage somewhere behind us, bringing Martha, Tinker, Marisol and her three children along. Jerry Jackson, Susie and Janet are following in a wagon, Steve has Mildred, her two children, Delores, Becky and Marjie with him, and the boys are riding alongside them. By the way, I want you to know just how nice these new additions to our growing family are. Marisol is absolutely a delight, as is Delores, and Susie is just as sweet and kind as Janet. You should see how protective of them Matthias is. Why, you’d think they were his sisters the way he hovers over them.”
“That’s real nice, May, but why in the dickens are they all comin’ home with us?” Matt asked.
“It was Becky and Marjie’s idea, dear. They wanted to give you a welcome home party, complete with a fine meal and all the trimmings, as well as share it with the people closest to you. Matt, all these people behind us, not to mention your deputies, hold you in great respect. Please just accept this show of gratitude as a blessing, and don’t start grousing about it. Alright?” May pressed.
“Yes, dear. An’ what am I gonna get ta eat?”
“Well, steak for starters, and potatoes, and eggs if you want them. Oh, and there is apple pie for dessert, and I made two big jugs of sweet tea for you.”
“Sounds fine ta me, May. An’ if we’re havin’ steak, that must mean that Steve an’ the boys managed ta get a steer butchered.”
“Yes, they did, Matt. One for each us and Steve, and two hogs for us and one for Steve. It took a few days before they got to it, as they were sitting outside the Killebrew’s home for those first few days after you got shot. But once they got started, they really got after it. You’ll be pleased to know that the pork skins came out perfect, and the pig’s feet all went to Steve for pickling. I just don’t know how people can eat them, but apparently Steve loves them. Anyway, we now have bacon again, and I can make you some ham hocks and beans with fresh cornbread whenever you want them. Delores gave me a recipe for cornbread made with pieces of real corn and peppers. I tried it out a few days ago, and it came out so nice and tender, Matt. The boys devoured it and made me promise to make more of it once you came home. Well, here we are,” May said as she slowed Jessie and the buggy down to turn off the road and down the lane leading to their ranch yard.
“Sure glad ta see this again. Got so’s I wanna be here ta home more an’ more the older I get, May. I reckon it’s ’cause o’ your good cookin’. Well, that an’ I ’spose I’ve got used ta sleepin’ with ya after all these years.”
“I must admit, our bed has been very lonely these last few days, Matty dear. Can’t say I’ve missed your snoring, but then again, I suppose I’ve gotten to the point that I miss even that. Oh, Matt, it’s going to be so good to have you home again.”
As May pulled the buggy up as close as she dared to the edge of their front porch, Hank, Hawk and Crocker were there waiting, with Lalo and Cricket just a few steps behind them. The men helped Matt climb down from the buggy, and then helped him climb the steps.
“Right here is close enough, gents. Right there in my chair will suit me just fine for now. I’d like ta sit right here for a time an’ just look around,” Matt said, breathing a big sigh of relief once they settled him down into his chair.
“Matt, we’ve got some things we’d like to discuss with you, but after all the others arrive and everyone is fed and on their way again. Tinker has asked that he be allowed to sit in, as has Crocker, and I suppose the judge will want to hear it along with Martha, who also has an interest in our discussion.”
“Dang, Hank, ya make it sound like y’all want me ta step down.”
“No, Matt, not at all. In fact, quite the opposite,” Hawk answered for them all. “What we’d like is to reach out beyond Irion and Tom Green Counties for help in finding this Albert Dillingham, as well as this R.W. Wilcox. After you got shot, we all put our heads together and started reaching out to those we know in law enforcement to see what we could learn of these men, or any who associate with them. But we need your permission, as sheriff and our boss, to contact still other agencies to see what they know.”
“Excuse me, gentlemen, but here are some glasses and a pitcher of sweet tea for you. I know Matt has been wanting some, so make sure to pour him a glass, please,” May said, placing the tray on the table next to Matt, and then retreating back inside.
“Yeah, Matt, I even reached out ta the Rangers, but they say they need an official request from ya ta get started on it. I offered ta have the judge send the request, but they nixed that idea, sayin’ that even though he was operatin’ as both the judge o’ the commissioners court an’ the county attorney, they needed the district attorney or the sheriff ta send the request. So, we been hung up on high ground waitin’ for ya ta get better,” Cricket added.
“I think we’d better call a halt to this conversation for now, men, as more and more people are arriving. But we’ll pick it up later, or maybe we’ll even have to wait until tomorrow if Matt gets too tired, or May runs us off,” Lalo added.
“Hawk, why ain’t ya out coverin’ your area? An’ Cricket, I thought I sent ya out ta take over Lalo’s old territory. Who’s been runnin’ this show while I been laid up?”
“Well, the boys an’ the judge picked me ta ride herd over the county as actin’ sheriff, with Lalo as my chief deputy, Matt,” Cricket said, looking down with hat in hand and scraping one of his boots on the porch.
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