Disclaimer - I do not own, invent or profit from these characters. I like to make up stories.
Note: If anyone read my story – What Came Before. This would take place about 2 or 3 years after Matt left the ranch, but he was always influenced by the lessons he learned from James Blake.
Kitty, Doc and Festus were sitting at a table in the Long Branch saloon, with drinks in front of them. Kitty was staring down into her beer. She raised her head to look at her two friends, "Matt said he'd be gone about 4 days and it's been a week. All he had to do was bring a prisoner to Hayes, and he was coming right back. Festus we know from the telegram you got from the sheriff in Hayes that Matt hasn't even gotten there yet."
"I'm sure ole Matthew is fine Miss Kitty. It's jus taking him longer to get that man to Hayes than he figured. You know for yourself that that storm had to slow them some."
Kitty looked unconvinced, "Festus, he should have gotten to Hayes before the storm hit."
Doc was starting to become concerned too, but didn't want to let on. Kitty was worried enough without him adding fuel to the fire. "Kitty I wouldn't worry. He's only 3 days late."
Kitty put her hand on Doc's arm, "That's not really true Doc. He was supposed to be back here in 4 days and he hasn't even arrived in Hayes in 7."
Doc put his hand on top of hers, "Now look here, lots of things could have slowed Matt down. That doesn't mean he's in trouble. One thing we all know about Matt is that he can take care of himself and handle just about any situation." Doc paused and rubbed his mustaches before saying thoughtfully, "You know he was probably only around 18 or 19 when I witnessed Matt doing just that for the first time."
Festus and Kitty both looked at Doc in surprise. Kitty spoke first, "Doc, I always thought you met Matt in Dodge. Did you know him before?"
Doc rubbed his mustache, "Well, actually I met Matt a couple of times before Dodge.
Festus couldn't stand it, "Well you ole scutter tell us about it."
Kitty nodded too, "Yes Doc please. When was the first time you did meet Matt?"
"Alright, well the first time was in Wheeler Texas. After serving in the War as a surgeon, I went home to Baltimore to practice medicine. I wasn't happy, maybe the war years made me restless. I started traveling around looking for the right place to hang my shingle. I'd get to a town, put up a sign outside my wagon and doctor anyone who came by. I had already spent some weeks in Wheeler, got to know some people, met some fine folks, but I was thinking about moving on - for one thing the law didn't seem to operate too well there.
Anyway, one night I was drinking in a saloon, watching a bunch of cowboys. The same bunch I had watched the night before, and the night before that. They were rowdy and loud - liked to drink, gamble and horse around with each other. One of them interested me. He looked younger than the rest, seemed maybe 18 or 19. He was as rowdy as his friends to a point, drank and gambled right along with them to a point. It was as if something was keeping him from crossing some line.
That night I found myself standing next to him. I had watched him win pretty big at a poker table before walking away, and I couldn't help but notice that he had quit when the town's sheriff joined the game. I tried to strike up a conversation, "Buy you a drink?"
He looked at me, "Now why would you want to do that?"
"Just being friendly, I'm Doctor Galen Adams, most people call me Doc, I heard you being called Matt."
Matt ignored me, his attention was on the gambling table. An argument was breaking out, and a man suddenly stood up and pointed at the dealer.
"This game is crooked. I saw that dealer cheat."
The sheriff was playing and winning. He shook his head, "No cheating here, and such accusations can cause trouble, you'd best sit down or go home"
The man wouldn't back down, "He is cheating. Anyone can see it. I want my money back. You are the law, do something."
The sheriff stood and responded, "We don't take false accusations lightly. You just insulted me and this fine establishment, now I recommend that you sit down, leave or draw."
The man still wouldn't back down, "I'm no gunman, but I swear that man is cheating."
The sheriff said again, "Like I said, sit, leave or draw." The sheriff waited a only second or two before he drew on the man. The poor man didn't stand a chance. He went down, and I quickly ran to his aid.
The Sheriff yelled at me, "Get away from him."
I didn't move, and the sheriff yelled at me again. Matt moved in front of me, and looked directly at the sheriff, "He's a doctor, let him take care of that man. "The sheriff snarled, "Well what do we have here, some young upstart interfering with the law is it?"
Matt kept his eyes on the sheriff as he spoke to me, "Move yourself and that man out of the way."
I dragged the wounded man over to the side as best I could and looked up. The sheriff had his hand on his gun and drew. Matt moved with a speed that I hadn't witnessed before and shot first – the sheriff fell with a bullet through his heart.
Matt holstered his gun and turned to the sheriff's deputy, "Take him out of here, and if you put his badge on I hope you do a better job.
Matt came over to me, "How's he?"
By that time I had gotten the bleeding to slow substantially, "I think he could be alright, but I'd like to get him home and take care of him there. He lives a couple of miles outside of town."
Matt was kneeling beside me when one of his friends came over and said quietly, "Matt we're leaving this town. Coming? There could be trouble after what you just did."
Matt spoke without looking up, "I'll catch up if I want to. Doctor, I'll help you get him home."
We got the man into the back of my wagon. I drove to the edge of town and stopped.
Matt looked at me and barked, "Why'd you stop, you said it was a couple of miles outside of town."
"I'm not sure which way. It's dark out."
Matt sighed, "Of course it's dark, it's night time. Do you know what direction?"
I remember saying, "Yep, northwest, but I'm not exactly sure which way that is without being able to see any sign posts."
Matt shook his head and looked up at the sky for a few seconds, "OK, I'll drive. Let's trade seats."
Matt took the reins and in about 20 minutes we pulled up in front of a farmhouse.
I went to the door and knocked. A woman appeared with two skinny young boys standing by her side, "Hello, you're Doctor Adams, aren't you?"
I nodded and spoke reluctantly, "Mrs. Gray, I'm sorry to say this but your husband has been shot. I think he is going to be alright, but I'd like to bring him in the house, and tend to him."
The woman looked startled, "Oh no, oh no - please doctor do all you can. I can't pay you now, but I promise I will."
I was about to respond when Matt appeared behind me carrying Mr. Gray in his arms. He carried him in and laid him on a bed. I was tending to the man as Matt walked over to the two small, scared boys. He knelt down on one knee to meet their eyes and put his hand on one boy's shoulder, "Hello, my name's Matt. What are your names?"
The taller of the boys said, "I'm Jeremy and this is Steven."
Matt stood up, "Well, it's nice to meet you boys. You know I have a horse outside that needs tending, but I need some help. Do you think you two could give me a hand?"
The boys looked over to their mother who smiled gratefully at Matt as she nodded.
Matt took the boys outside. They came back in just as I was finishing up. "Mrs. Gray, he'll be alright, just change the bandage twice a day like I showed you."
"Thank you doctor, and like I said I'll pay you, I promise."
"I know you will, but there is no hurry. You take care, we'll be on our way now."
As we turned to go and the boys called out, "Goodbye Matt."
Matt turned and smiled, "Goodbye boys, and thanks for your help."
When we got to the wagon, Matt climbed into the driver's seat, "I'd better drive, or we'll be riding around until day light, when you can see your sign posts." Matt shook his head again and a small smile played at his lips.
I climbed up beside him and as we got under way said, "That was a mighty nice thing you did, getting those two scared boys out of the house. It helped all of them."
"Doctor Adams, I don't know what you mean. I needed some help with the horse and carriage."
I snorted, "First of all call me Doc. Second of all - needed help, my foot." We were quiet for a time but I was curious, "Mind if I ask you something?"
"Guess not. I don't have to answer."
"I'm not sure how to put this. You're mighty fast with that gun – don't know if I've seen anyone faster."
"Doc, if you're asking if I'm a gun slinger the answer is no."
"I kind of figured that would be the answer. How do you earn your living?"
"Oh, this and that. Right now me and my friends have been hiring ourselves out to cattle drivers to scare rustlers away. I've done some other things – worked horses, tracked, things like that. I reckon I'll do other stuff as it comes along."
"Sounds like a kind of aimless life, if you ask me."
"I didn't ask you, you're the one that's been doing the asking."
By this time they had gotten back to town. Matt climbed down, "See you around."
I started to thank him, but he was already on his way down the street.
The next evening I went into the saloon, hoping to find him. I was looking around when the bartender walked over to me, "That man who shot the sheriff last night left this envelope for you."
I opened the envelope. There was some money and a note that read,
I hope this covers the man's bill. Don't travel at night, you'll get lost. Matt
At that time, I wondered if I'd ever see him again.
Festus and Kitty were intrigued. Kitty smiled slightly, "That sounds like Matt but not quite Matt."
Doc smiled, "I know what you mean Kitty. Anyway, it's late. We should all go get some rest. I'm sure there will be some word on Matt tomorrow."
Matt was on his way to Hayes City, taking a convicted murderer, Max Hooker to be hung. He had hoped that the entire trip would take about 4 days but that was not to be.
When they were halfway to Hayes, 2 friends of Hooker's had managed to set him free. It took Matt a couple of days to track them down, cursing himself the whole time for letting it happen. When he found them they were holed up in an abandoned cabin. There was a shoot out leaving one of Hooker's friends dead. Now Matt had two men to bring to Hayes. Both were handcuffed and they were riding towards their destination when the thunderstorm struck. The rain and winds were so strong that Matt had them take shelter in a cave. They were stuck in that cave for over 36 hours while the storm raged unrelentingly. Now they were again on their way, but it was slow going because of the damage the storm had done. Trees and branches were down all over the place, the ground was wet and muddy, and every stream and river was flooded.