The unusually tall man in the saddle with a marshal's badge pinned to his vest was feeling better than he had in months. The pain was finally subsiding and he looked forward to seeing Dodge again.
He couldn't recall a brighter morning sun. The glare nearly blinded him as he struggled to see the edge of the familiar town. It seemed as though the heavens suddenly opened up, bathing the desert floor in brilliant light.
As the big roan horse trotted past the first building, the rider could make out the Long Branch at the end of the parched, dirt street. Outside the swinging doors stood Miss Kitty, Chester, Doc and Juley. They never looked so good, he thought.
"Rider comin' in, Doc," said Chester. "My gum it looks like Matthew."
"He's long overdue," said a relieved Doc.
"Thank God he's safe," murmured Kitty.
As the tall man rode in and jumped down from his horse, the familiar faces ran up to him with tears in their eyes. Kitty rushed up and hugged him.
"Welcome home, Matt. It's been a long time."
Happy trails, big fella. We'll see you again one day.
Baldwin Park, California