Gunsmoke (1955–1975): Season 4, Episode 5 - Letter of the Law - full transcript

A rich landowner seizes the chance to get a little more acreage when he discovers that a homesteader has failed to file the paperwork to make his quarter section his own.

James Arness as Matt Dillon.

Hi, Kitty.


Well, how was he riding
this morning?

Oh, just fine, real fine.

Of course, you're not
gonna make much money

riding him all over the prairie.

We didn't ride
all over the prairie;

we just went up the river
a few miles.

Well, that's real good
for you, Kitty.

You ought to do that more often.

Well, I'm going to.

You can come along
anytime you want to.


That is, if you don't mind
my stopping

to do a little fishing
by the river.

Not at all.

How about next Saturday?

All right, fine.

Say, I'm gonna stop off
at Doc's.

You want to say hello to him?

Gee, I'd love to, Matt, but I
got to get out of these clothes

and get back to work.

Tell him I said hi, though,
will you?

All right, Kitty.
I'll see you later.


Yes, sir.

Well, my carbolic a...

Well, where's my carbolic acid?

That's what I need.

The car... must be in here.

Oh, come in, Matt, come in.

Morning, Doc.

How are you?

I'm fine.

Fine, if I can get
this box open.

What... you can't
get a hammer in...


Ulysses S. Grant!

Hey, a little thing like that
just hurts something...

What you got there, anyway?

Well, I've got carbolic acid in
here, if I can ever get to it

without killing myself.

I'll get you open this time.


Here we...

Eh... Seidlitz powd...

Seidlitz powders?

24 boxes of Seidlitz powders.

Where's my car?

Well, it says "carbolic acid"
right there.

Yep, sure does.

Well, what in thunderation?

24 boxes of Seidlitz powders
is enough to cure

every bellyache from here
to the Rocky Mountains!

What's the matter with
those dunderheads back there?

Doc, you better slow down.

Well, look at it, just look.

And now I've got to
crate that all back up,

pack it all up and take it
to the depot and...

What's the worst part of it is,

what am I gonna use
for disinfectant?

Well, you could always try

some of that whiskey
they sell around town.

Oh, yeah, sure.

One drop of that on a man's sore
toe, it'd eat his leg off

clear up to his belt buckle.

You ought to know;
you drink enough of it.

What was that?

I said you drink your share.

Well... that's true.

That is true.

On occasion, I have been known
to stoop to the temptation.

And that must be
what's wrong with me.

What's the matter?
What do you mean?

Well, it's probably
eating my brains out.

Otherwise, I'd have
sense enough to get out

of this flea-bitten town
and get back where...

Mr. Dillon, this is marked
"official business."

I thought maybe
it might be important to you.

...back where practicing
medicine is something besides...

- Hmm...picking bullets
out of people and getting...

How are you, Doc?

- Huh?
- How are you?

I'm just terrible,
if you really want to know.

Yeah. Did I hear you say
you was gonna pack up

and leave and go back east?

By golly, I'm just gonna do it.

I just probably will do it

and leave you all right here
to stew in your own juice.


Get back where,
when you order something,

you don't get a half a dozen
cases of stuff...

What's the matter there, Matt?

Is it important?

Yeah, looks that way.

It's from Judge Rambeau
over in Wichita.

Homesteader case,
court order for eviction.

- Oh? - What homesteader's that,
Mr. Dillon?

Brandon Teek.

Seems like he didn't
file legally

for that land of his
over by Wagon Mound.

Brandon Teek...
I knew him in Abilene.

I was there the day
he shot it out

with the two Jelder brothers;
he killed both of them.

He'll fight you, Matt;
he's mean.

Oh, I think
he's changed some, Doc.

He's married now, trying to
make a go of that farm of his.

Yeah, I'll tell you, you go out
there with an eviction notice,

and you just better make sure
your gun's loaded.

Oh, I-I don't hardly think
it'll take a gun to do the job.

Well, I wouldn't bet on it.

Well, of course, you never know.

See you later, Doc.

Marshal! Chester!

How are you, Teek?


Can't complain.

Well, your place looks
in pretty good shape.

You're doing all right out here.

It's the hardest year's work
I ever put in.

What brings you out this way?

Well, I guess there's no point

in beating around
the bush, Teek.

Here, you might as well
read it yourself.

What's this?

"Land office, court order."

"lmmediate eviction."

What's this all about, Marshal?

I own this land;
I got a deed to it.

Yeah, but the deed's
no good, Teek.

You see, you didn't register it
with the land office

90 days after prove-up date.

I'm sorry about this, but...

You're sorry, are you?

Well, let me tell you something.

Anybody tries to put us
off this land's gonna be

a whole lot sorrier.


Brandon, did you...

Oh, hello, Marshal Dillon.


Howdy, ma'am.

Well, how you, how you feeling,
Mrs. Teek?

Oh, just fine.

It's going to be any day now.

Oh, well, that's fine.

What is it, Brandon?

Oh, nothing, Sarah.

Just, uh, some fool paper
that says

we got no legal right
to this land,

that I forgot to register
the deed or something.


Now, don't worry.

There isn't any law in this
country that's gonna put a man

off his own land
he's worked and slaved over.

Well, Teek, uh,
I'm afraid this is the law.

That's a court order there.

I made my own laws once,

And I can do it again.

I ain't wore a gun
since the day we got married.

Sarah made me promise.

I still got one.

I know how to use it.

No, Brandon.

Brandon didn't
make this promise easy, Marshal.

And he won't go back on it.

Now, look, folks, uh...

don't be in a big hurry
to pack up and leave here.

I... Well, I'm gonna see
what I can do about this

immediate eviction notice.

Well, that's mighty nice
of you, Marshal.

Uh, we'll... we'll be back out
to see you in a couple of days.

- Bye.

You think he's gonna keep
that promise, Mr. Dillon,

about not wearing a gun?

I sure hope so.

Judge Rambeau.


Matt Dillon. I'm the marshal
over in Dodge City.


I've heard a lot
about you, Marshal.

Welcome to Wichita.

Thank you.

Oh, uh, this is Jim Haley,
deputy sheriff here.

- How do?
- How are you?

How about a drink, Marshal?

No, thank you.

Well, you fetch us
another one, Jim.

Yes, sir.

How did you know I was in here?

Well, your, uh, office told me

this would be
the most likely spot.


Well, now, uh, I'll have to
speak to them about that.

Uh, sit down, Marshal.

Well, what brings you
to Wichita?

It's about that court order
you sent me, Judge.


Now, let me see, uh, uh...
which court order is that?

The one to evict a Brandon Teek
off his land

over by Wagon Mound.

Oh, yes, yes.

I remember that one.

He's putting up quite a fight,
I suppose.

Not so far, no.

Well, he sure must have changed.

He was a wild one
around here in the old days.

Well, he's changed
all right, Judge.

He settled down,
and he's married.

They're expecting
a baby any day.

Hmm, you don't say so.

Uh, how about that bottle, Jim?

Yes, sir, Judge.
Coming up right away.

Well... I'm glad
he didn't give you

any trouble evicting him,

Well, I haven't
evicted him yet, Judge.

See, I told him,
under the circumstances,

I thought it would be all right
to take his time in moving.

I presume by "circumstances,"
you mean the fact of their, uh,

approaching parenthood.



this is a matter of law.

And the law leaves
no room for sentiment.

What's right is right,
what's legal is legal,

and the two are one and
the same thing; don't you agree?

Not entirely, no.

Well, will you
explain yourself, sir?

Well, Judge,
I don't think the law is

quite as clear-cut
as you make it out to be.

I think the people that make
the laws leave a lot of leeway

for people like you and me...

the judges that decide
what the law should mean

and the law officers
that carry it out.

Marshal, I find it
somewhat remarkable

that a cow town peace officer
sets himself up

as a law instructor, instead of

doing the job
he was hired to do.

Well, that may be.

But I don't think
it's any more remarkable

than what you're doing
to Brandon Teek.

Now, what do you mean by that?

He's been on that land
over a year, Judge.

He's put in a year
of hard work on it.

He's built himself
a house, a barn.

He's broke sod on most of it.

Now, how come this business
about the deed just came up?

Well, it was only recently
brought to my attention.

Well, if you don't mind
my asking, who by?

I hardly think
it's any concern of yours.

There's nothing
irregular about it,

if that's what
you're driving at.

No, I'm sure it's legal.

Right to the letter of the law.

Then I suggest
you go back to Dodge City

and carry out that order,

Judge... Teek used to be
a gunslinger.

Now he's trying to go straight.

If you evict him off his land,

you're gonna be knocking the
props right out from under him.

Don't blame me; blame the law.

That's not my kind of law.

There's only one kind, Marshal.

Judge, the law is new out here
on the prairie.

It takes people a while
to get used to it.

Now, you got to help 'em out

You've got to loosen that law up
a little bit...

keep it from choking
'em to death.

I've never listened to so much
poppycock before in my life.

You better take
my advice, Marshal,

and stop being
a sentimental fool.

Now, go back there
and do your duty.

Well, Judge, how are ya?

Matt Dillon! What the dickens
are you doing in Wichita?

Oh, hello, Lee.

Just down here
on a little business.

What are you doing
so far from home?

Well, the same as you, business.

I've been here a week.

I see you know Judge Rambeau.

Oh, yeah. Yeah, we just met.

Judge, you know you're talking
to the best doggone lawman

in the whole doggone west.

Sprague, he's come here
about the Teek deal.


Now, wait a minute, Lee.

You own a lot of land
down by Wagon Mound.

You the one that's behind
this court eviction order

against Brandon Teek?

Matt, you've known me
for a long time.

There's nothing illegal
about this.

Oh, no.

The judge here made that
clear enough.

Well, then what are you getting
so all fired-up about?

He refuses to evict him

because the woman's gonna have
a child.

Is that the reason, Matt?

Part of it.

But there's a whole lot more
to it than that, Lee.

I'm in the land and cattle
business, Matt.

I got in it and I stayed in it
by watching out for chances

just like this one.

You own half of Ford County
already, Lee.

You don't need that land;
Teek does.

He's put in a year of his life
on it.

He's just now getting started.

Look at it this way, Matt:

If his wife is gonna have
a baby

like you say, they're better off

in town somewhere
away from the farm.

That's just how I lost my own
wife years ago,

on a dry dirt farm
like this one

where she had to work too hard

and she didn't get
the proper attention.

I see.

That's why
you're doing it, is it?

Just looking out
for Teek's wife?

I'll tell you exactly why
I'm doing it.

A man never gets enough land.
It gets in his blood.

I got a chance here to get ahold
of some more.

And if Teek gets caught
in the squeeze

through his own stupidity,
that's just too bad!


Well, at least you can be
honest about it.

Now I'm gonna tell you

Teek used to be a gunman.

This could make him one again.

That's your job, Marshal...

to keep gunmen in line and
protect law-abiding citizens.

You know, I don't hold
with the kind of law

that you and the judge here
seem to want, Lee,

and I never will.

If I serve that notice,
I couldn't face anybody again.

- Are you refusing to serve it?
- I am.

You're in for trouble, Matt.

Now look here, Marshal.

That's a court order.

I can hold you in contempt.

I've got a lot of power,
you know?

Yes, I guess you have, Judge.

Both of you.

There's only one trouble:

Neither one of you ever
learned how to use it.

Mr. Dillon,
that Mr. and Mrs. Teek,

what are you gonna tell 'em?

Well, I don't know.

The way it looks right now,

they don't stand much
of a chance against Sprague.

Hmm. You know, I used to figure
he was a pretty nice feller.

He ain't no better
than that judge is.

No. It's a good thing

they're not all like him,
isn't it?

Yeah, it sure is.

Yeah, you know, somehow to me

that trip to Wichita seemed
like a waste of time.

Yeah. Yeah, all except
for that train ride.

You know, that's something
I never get tired of,

riding those trains.

I could go twice a week,
if I had the time and money.


You know what I'd like
to do sometime?


Just get on there and... and-and
ride all the way to Topeka.

They tell me that there's
a feller up there

that's built a-a restaurant
right down by the station

where the trains come in.

That so?

Oh, yeah!
That ain't all, either.

I hear tell
that one of these days

he's gonna have 'em
all along the railroad.

You know, Mr. Dillon,

that's gonna make traveling
just a pure pleasure.

What with that
and them sleeping cars

that they're beginning to get.

You all set?


Golly, looks to me like them

Teeks has got company,
Mr. Dillon.


Can't recognize him from here.

Do you know who he is?

Yeah, I met him in Wichita.

His name's Haley.

Come on.



I thought you said
there was no hurry

about our leaving, Marshal.

I did.

It ain't up to him now.

You're a long ways from home,
aren't you, Haley?

How'd you get here?

I took the train,
and I hired me a horse in Dodge.

You know what I mean.

Judge Rambeau sent me.

Maybe he figured the law needed
some enforcing down this way.

I thought maybe, uh,
you was in on it, Marshal.

He's got one of these
court orders,

just like the one you had
the other day.

And it's legal, too.

So you people pack up and start
getting out of here, right now!

Just hold on a minute.

Never mind, Marshal.
I'll take care of him.

Brandon, no!

- Let him try it if he wants to.
- Leave him alone!

- It might save us all...
Let go of my arm! - Sarah!

- Sarah!
- Hold it!

Sarah, oh, Sarah...

Sarah... here...

Get his gun, Chester.

Yes, sir.

How is she?

I don't know.

Brandon, promise me
you won't do anything.

I'll be all right, really.

I'll be all right.

Chester, ride for town

and bring Doc back here
as fast as you can.

Yes, sir.

That Doc ever gonna come out,
Mr. Dillon?

I don't know, Chester.

He's been in there
a couple hours now.

He'll do everything he can
for her,

though, Teek.
I'll promise you that.

I kept trying to tell you

- it ain't my fault.
- Oh, shut up.

She hadn't ought have grabbed
me; made me lose my head.

Just keep your mouth shut!

Teek, I'm sorry.

I couldn't
save your baby for ya,

but Sarah's gonna be all right.

Oh, thank you, Doc.

- Well...
- I...

Well, I-I...
I'm-I'm grateful to you...

I know, I know.

Now you, you make her stay in
bed for about three days,

and then she'll have
to take it mighty easy.

I will, Doc, I will.

All right.


Now, look, Teek,
you can't blame me for this.

I didn't mean to do it.

Haley, my wife made me promise
I wouldn't kill you,

but a man can take only so much.

You ever come around
here again...

you so much
as bother us again...

I'm gonna break that promise.

You can't fight the law!

That's a court order!

Marshal, it's your duty
to back me up.

You're a deputy in Wichita,

You got no authority here.

What are you talking about?

Well, I'm gonna take you back,
and I'm gonna throw you in jail.

And tomorrow you're going
to Wichita under guard.

Have you gone crazy?!

Get on your horse.

Judge'll get you for this.

Doc, we're heading back
into town.

You gonna stay out here?

Well, yeah,
I think I better for a while.

Yeah. Well, soon as things are
a little, little better here,

why, uh, send Teek in to see me,
will ya?

Yeah, I will.

- All right, Doc.
- All right.

Well, good morning, Teek.

Hiya, Straker.

Say, I got something
to tell ya.

What, something about how
to record my land?

No, no, this has to do
with Lee Sprague.

What do I care
about Lee Sprague?

He was in here this morning.

I don't care if he was here
this morning

or any other morning.

Listen to me a minute.

He was in to sign them papers.

You stopped me to tell me
that Sprague was in here

to sign my land over
to himself?

You're as bad as he is,

Hey, Teek, how's the missus?

Better, thanks.

Did Mr. Dillon get word to you?

He wants to see you
up to his office.

That's where I'm heading now,
if you quit bothering me.

How do you think
he's gonna take it?

Well, I guess there's only
one way he can take it.

You never know what to expect
from a man like that.

Uh-oh, here he comes now.

Well, hello, Teek.

Guess you know Lee Sprague here,
don't you?

What are you doing here?

You made your kill.
Now what are you gonna do,

sit around and eat
like a turkey buzzard?

Don't you talk loose to me,
ya mule head.

I can't stand the sight
of you, Sprague.

Then do something about it.

I will!

Hold it! Hold it!

Hold it!

Just where do you stand,

I'll tell you where he stands.

If it wasn't
for the marshal here,

you wouldn't be getting
your land back.

- Land back? - It was him
who talked me into it!

Right now, it wouldn't take me
much to change my mind.

Straker said you signed
the papers.

Yeah, and you didn't wait to
find out what papers, did you?


This is made out to him.

There's an endorsement
on the back.

This land's signed over to me.

Like I say,
the marshal talked me into it.


I told him about your wife
losing your baby, Teek.

He lost his own son on a dirt
farm, and his wife, too.

Guess he kinda blames himself
for what happened to you.

I don't know what to say.

With a temper like yours,
maybe it's best you say nothing.

Teek, maybe you better go tell
your wife about this, huh?


Thanks, Marshal.


lf, uh, you're ever out
our way,

we'd be proud
to have you take dinner.

Thank you.

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