He pulled his Ram pickup into the ranch yard and opened the cab door. Looking down, he turned his old legs around and slid off the seat. Then he noted his watch and realized he was a few minutes late for dinner at his old friend’s house. He stood on the back step and stomped his feet, making sure his cowboy boots were clean before he knocked on the screen door.

Lee stood there a minute waiting for an answer, admiring the view of the mountains on the far side of the meadow. He knocked again and hollered, “Joe, you got supper ready?”
Lee opened the door and stepped through the mudroom into the kitchen. Surrounded by the aroma of roasted chicken, he looked at the stove where pots were heating and roasted chicken sat in a pan. He then noticed his friend sitting on the floor leaning against the leg of his old wooden table. Lee ran to his side and saw the pan of boiled potatoes spilled on the floor.

“Joe, are you all right?” As he reached down to pick up the hot pan, he noticed Joe didn’t move or speak. Joe’s only response was to follow Lee with his eyes.

“I’m calling the hospital.” Lee put the pan on the counter, tossed a towel over the spill and took out his cell phone. Joe reached over and grabbed Lee’s leg with his left hand and tried to lift himself up. Lee reached down and pulled Joe up and helped him sit in an old high-backed wooden chair.

Joe’s mouth opened and he made an “Ahh” sound then closed his eyes and dropped his head.

“Like I said, I’m calling the hospital.” He stepped into the living room where Joe couldn’t hear him but he could still keep an eye on his old friend. He noticed Joe had not tried to talk, and tears were welling in his eyes.

As Lee hung up the phone, he heard a knock on the screen door. “Ya’all eating without me?”

“Get the hell in here, Darrell! We got a problem,” Lee yelled as he ducked back into the kitchen.

Bursting in the door and through the mudroom, the tall, young, broad-shouldered Texan pulled up short almost hitting Lee. When he saw Joe leaning sideways in the chair, he asked, “What happened?”

“I think Joe had a stroke. I called the hospital and talked to Mary Harris, she told me to give him an aspirin and she would send the ambulance.”

Darrell assessed the scene. “I’ll check the bathroom.” He slowed for a minute beside Joe and figured Lee was right. Joe was the victim of a stroke.

Joe swallowed the two aspirin Lee gave him. But Darrell had other ideas for getting to the hospital.

“Let’s get him in my truck. We can get him to the hospital faster than waiting on the ambulance.” Darrell took Joe’s arm and helped him stand. Lee, much smaller in stature than Darrell, grabbed the other arm and they carried him out to put him in the back seat of Darrell’s F-250 double-cab.

Lee closed the truck door and ran towards the house. Darrell got in the front and had the truck turned around by the time Lee locked the back door.

Inside the truck, Lee was buckling his seatbelt. “I needed to see if the stove was off. Didn’t want to come back to smolderin’ wood. I grabbed Joe’s cell too. Someone will have to call his daughter.”

As Darrell took off down the drive headed for Cold Springs, Lee turned and checked in the back seat to see how his friend was fairing. “I’ll tell Mary we don’t need an ambulance.” He grabbed for the dash to steady himself as Darrell made a sharp turn onto the county road.

A little concerned about Darrell’s driving, Lee mumbled, “Maybe we should’a put a seatbelt on Joe.”