This story is a sequel to
“Cody Pyle Returns”.
you, Marion, for the wonderful suggestion of bringing two of Adam’s favorite
people together. However, I’m not so sure that Adam thanks you, at several
points in this story!
Cartwright sipped his coffee, soaking up the warmth of lively conversation
around the breakfast table. His sons and Cody Pyle had returned the night before from
their extended weekend trip to the family hunting cabin in the mountains.
As Adam and Hoss paused in their jovial rendition of their adventures,
Ben glanced at the grandfather clock and sighed.
“While I’m sure your little brother used up a fair amount of energy
during your trip, I expect the fact that his spring break is over is the reason
he hasn’t graced us with his presence yet this morning.”
chuckled, “That youngun did mention ta me, at least twice on the trail home,
that he weren’t lookin’ forward ta ‘bein’ cooped up in the classroom
another sigh, Ben directed, “Hoss, go get him out of bed, please.
I won’t have him starting off on the wrong foot, being late to school
nodded with a grin, before stuffing another forkful of flapjack into his mouth.
As he stood to obey his father, a loud knock at the front door diverted
him. “Who could be callin’ this
early?” The others heard only a
brief mumbled exchange before Hoss returned to the table, handing his father a
note. “Pete brung this in from
town, Pa. Roy asked him ta deliver
it to ya.”
open the paper, Ben frowned. “Seems
Miss Jones took ill during her break and the usual substitute, Margaret Ames, is
visiting her sister who just had a baby. School
won’t open now until next week...”
WHOOPEE!” Joe all but
tumbled down the steps, glimpsing his father’s scolding countenance as he
reached bottom. The twelve-year-old
slipped on a somber expression as he stammered, “Um … I … A course, I’m
sorry Miss Jones ain’t feelin’ well. Uh, hope it ain’t nothin’ too serious.” With all eyes at the table trapping him now, Joe squeaked,
“Really, I hate bein’ sick. So,
I wouldn’t be wishin’ it on no one, not even old ...” Swallowing the rest of his thought, Joe slunk towards
the table and scooted into his chair. While
painstakingly scraping scrambled eggs onto his plate, he attempted a wavering
smile at Pa, then wisely dove into his meal.
with a fresh pot of coffee, Hop Sing scolded, “Boy lucky any food left to eat!
Lot of big appetite at table today.”
Scurrying away, he returned instantly, to place a steaming cup of cocoa
in front of the boy and a fresh stack of flapjacks on his plate.
Hop Sing.” Joe grinned as the
little man mumbled a few choice thoughts in his native tongue.
“Aw, Hop Sing, I’m really sorry I was late.”
Turning his attention to breakfast, the youngest Cartwright kept one ear
on the now resuming conversation.
mind shifting to business, Ben mentioned, “I need to get over to Carson City
early on this week, to pick up that bank draft for the lumber we delivered.”
suggested, “Hey, Pa? Cody and I
could ride over and pick it up for you. It
would be the perfect chance to drop in on aunts Hattie and Matilda.
I’d like them to meet Cody...” Catching
his little brother’s hopeful eyes, he continued, “And if you’d like, we
could take this rascal of yours along with us.
Wouldn’t want him to get bored, seeing as how he’ll be at loose ends,
hazel eyes shifted from sibling to father and Ben smiled indulgently, reaching
out to run a hand down the back of his youngest son’s head.
“All right, son. And if
you like, and the ladies are willing, you can bring them back with you.
Matilda still hasn’t seen the
idea, Pa.” Wiping his
mouth, Adam dropped his napkin on the table as he rose, “Best warn Hop Sing,
of the impending crowd.”
Carlson’s eyes sparkled, as she swung open her grand front door to find the
crowd on her doorstep. “Adam!
Little Joe! What a wonderful
surprise!” Her gaze rose to meet
the laughing brown eyes of their large, rustic companion.
His massive right arm hung comfortably across Joe’s slim shoulders and
a friendly grin peeked from behind his graying beard. Hattie admired the elaborate vest of rabbit and squirrel
pelts hugging his broad chest, then glimpsed the impressive knife handle
sticking out of a sheath on his belt. Her
eyes shifting back to Adam, she absorbed the special warmth in his expression.
Extending her hand, she surmised, “You MUST be Cody Pyle, because you
are the picture of the man Adam has spoken of, on many an occasion over the
smile widening, Cody took the gracious outstretched hand in his.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m shore
glad ta finally meet ya.”
come in, all of you and make yourselves comfortable in the library.
I’ll just go find Bessie and tell her to get the rooms ready.
You will be staying, at least for the night?”
Without waiting for confirmation, Hattie turned, continuing to herself,
“Oh, then I must see to bolstering my stew...”
another word, young man. You just settle yourselves down.
Bessie will be in shortly with refreshments.”
Hattie marched off, Cody chuckled, “Headstrong old gal, ain’t she?”
laughed, “They don’t make ‘em any more stubborn than that one, I assure
interjected, “Hey, Adam? Could I run down to the stables, ta see the horses?”
the matter, boy, afraid of all those books in Aunt Hattie’s library? Worried
brother might take the opportunity to slip in a school lesson?”
youngster scowled at the thought. “Aw,
the boy on his way with a slap to his bottom, Adam reminded him, “Just make
sure you find George first and let him know you’re in there.
He’s real particular about who’s around his ‘critters’.”
As Joe shot off toward the back of the property, Adam explained,
“George has been with Aunt Hattie forever.
He’s her foreman, handyman, gardener and well, generally, he seems to
have a hand in most everything that goes on outside the house.”
entered the library and Cody whistled, “By golly, boy, I cain see why you and
that fine lady git on so well.” His
eyes continued to widen as they shifted from one book-lined wall to the next.
“Ain’t never been ta no liberry, nowhere, but I think yer Aunt Hattie
must own every book ever wrote!”
grinned, his insides fluttering with the same excitement they always did when he
entered this room. “No, not every book, but there’s a lifetime of reading
here, to be sure. And yes, it sure
helped to make quick friends of us, back when Pa, Hoss and I first visited.
We were lucky that Pa had reason to come out this way a fair few times.
Aunt Hattie made it real clear, right from the start, that he could drop
us off here whenever he needed to.” Shrugging
his shoulders, Adam admitted, “Hoss didn’t get much of a kick out of this
library, but Aunt Hattie always had plenty of animals on the property to perk up
his interest. He and George became
fast friends, from the outset.”
George fella, he a older folk, like yer aunt?”
he’s a good twenty years younger than Aunt Hattie, I’d guess.
Her husband hired him, but when Mr. Carlson died, George dedicated
himself to watching over the place. He
and Bessie live in a small house on the property.
Those two are as loyal a pair as anyone could ever want in their
employ.” His eyes gleaming, Adam
added, “They’re both stubborn, in their own right.
It’s an interesting household, to be sure.”
interrupted them, carrying a tray bearing cocoa, coffee and brandy, with a plate
heaped with cookies along side. Adam
smiled warmly, “Something for everybody, eh, Bessie?
one of the sweets, Adam urged, “Help yourself, Cody.
Aunt Hattie is one heck of a baker and, as you’ll soon find out, just as
fine a cook.” His eyebrows dipped
as he wondered aloud, “Where’s Aunt Matilda?”
turned at the doorway, “Excuse me, Mr. Adam, but Madam Matilda is with Mr.
in San Francisco.”
hung heavy in the air until Bessie assured him, “Mr. Jason should be bringing
her back tomorrow. They’ve been away for two weeks.”
Adam beamed, rubbing his hands together.
“Thanks, Bessie! This is
great! Cody, Jason is Aunt
Hattie’s cousin. He’s my age. We used to spend a week together here every summer, from the
time I was twelve, up to the age of sixteen.
I wasn’t expecting him to be here.”
The young man glowed with his pleasure.
“All these good friends in one place.”
himself to a glass of brandy, Cody studied his friend.
“Yer aunt must be quite a gal, what with takin’ a pair of
rambunctious younguns in at the drop of a hat, plus housin’ you and this other
young fella fer a whole week, when the two of ya were goin’ through them
himself a cup of coffee, Adam settled into his favorite chair in the library.
“Aunt Hattie loves children, Cody, no matter what their age.”
With a wink, he added, “And she knows how to handle them too -- no
matter what their age. I admit,
Jason and I were a bit adventuresome
and did get into a little mischief
during our visits.” Adding sugar
to his cup, he chuckled. “Thinking
about it, Hoss and I probably added a bit more spice to Aunt Hattie’s days
than she anticipated…”
bit of spice!” Hattie stood in
the doorway, arms folded across her chest, her laughing eyes belying her severe
expression. “Cody, this young man
and that large little brother of his…”
Aunt Hattie, we couldn’t have been that hard on your nerves.
You never told Pa to stop bringing us.”
eyes tearing at the thought, Hattie cleared away the tightness in her throat,
before scolding, “Well, I couldn’t very well go back on my offer now, could
absorbed the quiet look of reminiscence passing across Hattie’s face.
He couldn’t help but probe, “From what I seen, them two older boys a
Ben’s git on right well, ma’am. Did
they scuffle a lot as little tykes? Ya
got a fair number a fine things here.
I cain see how ya might worry about ‘em gittin’ trampled or smashed,
under stampedin’ little feet or by two boys rollin’ in a tussle…”
it wasn’t that they fought, certainly not with any frequency.
No, quite the contrary, they made a good team.
Adam kept a very close watch on Hoss.
Why, Hoss was only four, the first time they came to stay with me.” Her eyes dancing, she remembered, “I learned very quickly
to cook large meals! AND to prepare
them on time!”
chuckled, realizing where Aunt Hattie was heading.
thoughts suddenly scattered as Joe bounded into the room.
“Hey, Adam, ya gotta come see Marmalade’s new colt!”
boy! YOU are not a horse.”
an apologetic look toward their hostess, Joe offered sincerely, “I’m sorry,
Aunt Hattie.” Bouncing in place,
the boy needled, “Adam…”
I don’t dare leave this room until Aunt Hattie gets this story out of her
system. I’d be afraid of just
what might be said about me or our brother, in my absence.”
interest perking, Joe asked with a grin, “Aunt Hattie, is this a story about
when Adam and Hoss stayed here with ya?”
At the woman’s nod, Joe plunked himself down on the settee and reached
for a cookie.
handed his brother a napkin, while pointing at his lap, then poured out a cup of
cocoa for him. Turning to Cody, he
winked, “You see, Aunt Hattie was a night owl and tended to sleep late in the
morning. Well, that is until she
met the Cartwright boys.”
picked up the thread of the tale, “Yes, Ben never mentioned that Adam and Hoss
rose with the sun. And little boys who rise before the rest of the household
tend to eventually find trouble, especially when they are hungry for
giggled, “Yeah, my brother Hoss gets into trouble, even now, if he don’t get
fed on time. Hop Sing STILL smacks
his hands, don’t he, Adam?”
corrected, “Doesn’t he.” Laughing, he agreed, “Little brother speaks the truth.
Hop Sing does not like prowlers in his kitchen!
Then again, I don’t think Aunt Hattie was too thrilled about young
cooks, in hers!”
Adam woke with a start, his eyes darting from the unfamiliar ceiling to the
walls, until he remembered that he and brother Hoss were staying with Hattie
Carlson. Turning his head, he met
blue, blinking eyes.
his eyes, Adam took a moment to sniff the air, then whispered, ‘I don’t
smell any cooking yet, Hoss. Maybe Aunt Hattie doesn’t wake up as early as we do.’
the older boy tossed back the covers and swung his feet over his side of their
bed. ‘You can’t have cookies
for breakfast.’ With an
admonishing glance, he added, ‘Besides, I think you ate all the cookies left
on the plate last night, didn’t you?’
the child insisted and rolled out of bed.
his head, Adam knew he’d better find this boy some food, right quick!
‘All right, let’s get dressed and we’ll go downstairs.
Maybe by then, Bessie will be here.’
Skinning his brother out of his nightshirt, Adam helped him dress, before
climbing into his own clothes. Pulling
on his socks, the older brother glanced up to find the room vacant.
Wide-eyed, he grabbed his boots and dashed for the staircase.
down the steps, he caught up to Hoss at the bottom, scolding in a loud whisper,
‘Now listen, Hoss, we ain’t at home. We
can’t just go burrowing around in Aunt Hattie’s kitchen.’
Clamping his hand over the protesting mouth, he continued quietly,
‘Let’s go outside and collect eggs from the chickens.
If no one’s up by then, I’ll…’
The boy chewed his lower lip, before reluctantly promising, ‘I’ll
make ya up some scrambled eggs. Okay?’
the egg basket, Adam handed it to his brother and insisted, ‘Let me do the
collectin’, okay?’ As the
younger boy nodded, Adam couldn’t help but give him a big smile of approval.
had warned them about one rather feisty rooster, destined soon for the stew pot!
Grabbing the broom leaning up against the coop, Adam cautioned, ‘Now if
Big Red comes at us, I’m gonna whack him, just like George told us he does.’
When Hoss shook his head, disapproving, Adam suggested, ‘Would you
rather I let him scratch out your eyes or sink his claws inta your head?’
Hoss vigorously shook his head ‘no’.
‘Okay then, let’s go in.’
sooner did the boys enter the dim coop, than the rooster launched itself,
Adam’s face his target. ‘Stay
behind me, Hoss!’ Broom and
rooster connected with a loud ‘whap’, starting a chain reaction of wild
clucking amongst the hens. Red feathers leaped into the air as Adam chased the
bellicose bird out into the yard. Squawking
hens scrambled from their nests, leaving Hoss unattended.
younger Cartwright had been party to egg collecting many times, his role always
the same; he held the basket, while older brother slipped a hand carefully under
the nesting birds to remove their offerings.
Round blue eyes studied the deserted clutches and with a smile of pride
spreading over his face, Hoss grabbed the white booty.
Rapidly filling the bottom of the straw-padded basket, the youngster
began a new layer, not realizing how painstakingly gentle brother Adam was at
this task. The sickening crack of
egg on egg shattered the child’s gleeful mood.
He peered woefully into the basket, painfully aware of his brother now
standing along side of him.
suggested a bit sarcastically, ‘We usually wait until they’re in the pan, to
scramble them, little brother.’ When
the wide blue eyes looking back at him filled with tears, Adam regretted his
comment. Patting the slumped
shoulder, he soothed, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll just use those couple eggs
first.’ Noting there were still
more to collect, he suggested, ‘How about if you hold the basket and I pick up
the rest of the eggs? You watch how
I stack ‘em. That way, next time
we collect eggs at home, you'll know how ta do it right.’
Hoss nodded, a wavering smile pushing away his somber expression.
brimming, the boys started for the door, halting abruptly as the rusty guard
blocked their exit. Adam scolded himself, realizing he’d left the broom leaning
up against the outside wall. What would Pa
do? His sharp eyes surveyed the
area, searching for an alternate weapon. As
he spotted the ax hanging on the far wall, the barest smirk glanced his lips.
Hmmm, maybe we’ll be having stewed chicken for dinner.
Grabbing Hoss’ arm, he inched them backwards, his eyes never
leaving the tricky bird. Lifting the ax carefully from its place, he instructed
quietly, ‘Hoss, stay way in back a me. That
rooster ain’t ta be trusted. If
he flies at me, I’m gonna let him have it and make it count.’
yellow eyes seemed to study the ax head and when Adam walked determinedly toward
the exit, the bird backed up several paces.
The boy chuckled, ‘Seen a few friends go before you, did ya?
Well, I mean business, so you’d better let us out.’
The bird took the hint and backed up further. As soon as both children were beyond the doorway, Adam
ordered, ‘Hoss, head for the house and be real careful with that basket of
eggs. And don’t look back.
Just keep goin’ until ya get inside.’
to taking orders from his sibling, the hefty youngster trotted off, his blue
eyes trained on the cluster of eggs. Adam
continued to step backwards, keeping the ax at chest level and eyes locked on
the pursuing red beast. Suddenly, a
voice to his right announced, ‘I’ll take over from here, son.’
George simultaneously reached out from a nearby bush and snatched the
rooster’s legs with a gloved hand. Suddenly
inverted, the rusty warrior hung limply, as if resolved to his fate.
‘You go on inside, boy. And
when you see my Bessie, you tell her to get the stew pot ready.’
sir.’ Handing over the ax, Adam
breathed a sigh of relief. He’d
witnessed Hop Sing dispatch several chickens at home.
However, he was just as glad to postpone putting his knowledge to use.
Remembering he had a hungry brother loose in Aunt Hattie’s kitchen, the
boy marched quickly toward the house.
discovered Hoss staring longingly at the cookie crock out of reach on the
shelves by the stove. ‘Okay, boy,
guess we better put some of those eggs we collected to good use.’
He moved toward the stove and cautiously reached out to touch the metal,
grumbling, ‘Cold as winter.’ Gathering
wood from the nearby kindling box, he stacked and lit it, before searching the
pegs on the wall for the proper skillet. Dragging
over a chair, he climbed up to retrieve the pan, then began his search for a
mixing bowl in various cupboards at floor level.
his back, his younger brother commandeered the chair and reached in vain for the
cookie supply. ‘Dang it, Hoss!
No cookies!’ Grabbing the
child around the waist, Adam set him none-too-gently back on the floor.
‘Now, I’m makin’ ya breakfast, so just be patient, will ya!’
Hoss glowered and his brother mirrored the look.
‘Okay, I ain’t Hop Sing, but I’m doin’ my best here.
Now, you sit yourself down at that table, ‘fore I bring that rooster in
here ta guard ya!’
eyes widened and Adam burst into laughter.
now, that rooster ain’t in no condition to guard an acorn, but this boy
doesn’t have ta know that!
his little brother climbed into a chair at the table, Adam picked through the
egg supply and dug out the injured ones, plus several more.
Turning to his sulking sibling, he declared, ‘I’m goin’ to the
springhouse for the milk. You stay
put ‘till I get back.’ When
Hoss ignored him, Adam demanded, ‘Ya got me, Hoss?’
Hoss nodded, his attention drifting to the cookie container.
Grabbing the boy’s wrist, Adam decided, ‘Best ya come with me.’
in one hand, little brother in tow with the other, Adam headed outside. With
some difficulty and minor spillage, he filled the pitcher with milk before
dragging his charge back to the house. Pouring
his brother a glass of the creamy beverage, he suggested, ‘You drink that and
I’ll add some to the eggs. That’s
what Hop Sing does. Says it makes
‘em taste better. Trouble is, I
ain’t really sure how much…’ Finding
Aunt Hattie’s supply of bacon fat, the young cook smeared some in the skillet
and set it over the flames. Dumping
a rather generous quantity of milk into the mixing bowl, he began to beat the
in the world?’ Jumping away from
the stove, Adam found himself staring up at an astounded Hattie.
relinquishing the spatula in his hand, the child stammered, ‘We, that is, Hoss…
I had ta feed him, ma’am or he’d a just started takin’ your kitchen
apart.’ Wincing at the gooey,
lumpy glob in the skillet, he frowned, admitting, ‘Guess I need more practice
on makin’ eggs.’ Brightening,
he added, ‘But thanks ta us, you got a chicken to stew tonight.’
gray eyes shifted from the young chef to his sidekick at the table.
A white ring adorned the little boy's lips, connecting to a trail
dribbling down his chin. His chubby
arm outstretched, Hoss held his empty glass out for a refill.
Her gaze returned to Adam who quickly offered, ‘Should I fill your tea
Eyes glittering, Hattie
nodded, ‘Yes, a cup of tea is just what I need right now.’
As Adam grabbed the vessel, she added, handing him a washrag, ‘And take
your brother with you.’ As the
two boys headed for the pump, she surveyed the skillet and shook her head,
‘Perhaps we’ll just start over and have flapjacks instead…’
grinned, noticing the sheepish look on his older brother’s face.
Still, it was evident from the expression on Hattie’s, that the memory
was a pleasant one.
observed, "Bet that pair kept ya on yer toes on most a their visits,
didn’t they, ma’am?"
you call me Hattie. And no, not ‘most’ of their visits… ALL of them!"
burst into laughter, then ducked his brother’s hand making a sweep at his
head. "I’d like ta hear about ALL them visits, ma’am!"
raised an eyebrow and reminded his brother, "I thought you wanted to show
me the new colt?"
chuckled and suggested, "Wouldn’t mind seein’ the little fella myself
and all the other fine critters on this here big spread."
his empty cup back on the tray, Joe agreed reluctantly, "Yeah, well,
the Cartwright brothers headed outside, Cody asked, “Will ya be comin’ along
with us, Hattie?”
not just yet. I need to see to our
dinner, but I’ll wander out in a bit.”
delicious aroma of stewing meat and vegetables entwined with the essence of
baking bread. Cody closed his eyes
and inhaled, “That there meal yer cookin’ is right invitin’.
I’ll be lookin’ forward ta settin’ at yer fine table.”
watched with satisfaction as her guests readily devoured her dinner of beef stew
and fresh-made bread. A hint of
cinnamon in the air teased their noses, promising a delicious dessert in the
Adam tells me you did a fair bit of the cooking when you traveled with him and
All my life, the outdoors has been my home, from one end of this here
fine country ta the other. Met lots
a folks along the way too, who shared their knowin’ with me.
I learned what wild roots and greens ta add ta my rabbit stews and such,
ta make ‘em tastier.’ With a
wink at Adam, he added, ‘Passed on what I could ta this youngun … when he was
a youngun, that is. He was right
careful ‘bout learnin’ exactly what he could pop in his mouth when we come
across it, while huntin’ or fillin’ our canteens at a waterin’ hole.”
kept one eye on his older brother’s face as he asked, “Did Adam ever eat
somethin’ he shouldn’t a, Cody? You know, pick up the wrong thing by mistake?”
the glint in Cody’s eyes, Adam tugged at his right ear, surrendering to the
inevitable as the large man’s hearty laughter filled the room…
kindling wood, five-year-old Adam glanced up, then pointed as he announced,
‘That looks like a good stand of cattails up ahead, Cody.’
you are, son. A mess of them would
go real fine, long side them duck yer pa and me got earlier.
You wanna rustle some up fer us?’
Always delighted to play a significant part in providing their meals,
Adam left his kindling stacked in a pile and diligently tugged up a sizeable
quantity of the young plants, laying them atop the burlap sack he faithfully
carried along with him whenever he ventured from the wagon.
the pile of greens, he finished collecting the wood and delivered it to his
father who was cleaning the birds. When
he returned for the cattails, he found Cody munching on one.
‘Ain’t we supposed to cook ‘em, Cody?’
son, but ya cain eat ‘em this way too and old Cody’s starved!’
surveying the discarded plant material at his companion’s feet, Adam selected
a stalk for himself, breaking off the root and slipping off the outer most
leaves. Chomping on the end, the
boy munched twice before wrinkling up his face.
His lips stuck out in a pronounced pucker as his mouth worked at the
foreign taste on his tongue. Mouth
suddenly slack, he focused on the black blob sticking out in between the leaves
in his grasp. Dark eyes swelling to
huge circles now, he slung the cattail to earth and spat repeatedly, spattering
bits of green slime over his shirt front. ‘Ptah!
out his shirt tail, he swiped it repeatedly across his outstretched tongue.
dropped the ducks and scrambled to his son’s side, quickly kneeling to grab
the child’s shoulders. ‘Adam? Adam,
son, what’s the matter?’
his head from side-to-side, the lad pointed sharply at the discarded cattail on
the ground. His father plucked it
up, immediately spotting the hind half of a fat cricket trapped between the
behind Ben’s shoulder, Cody slipped his hand up over his mouth in an attempt
to smother his smile. Ben dropped his head, hoping to harness his own laughter,
bubbling deep within his chest.
scowled at the pair before grimacing and sticking his index finger under his
tongue, digging for what felt like tiny legs lodged there.
Again he spat.
to retrieve a canteen, Ben once more knelt before his son.
‘Here, why don’t you try rinsing your mouth out.’
boy slurped in a mouthful, swished it around, then spewed it out.
As Ben’s mouth twitched, his son’s scowl deepened and he crossed his
arms, complaining, ‘Ain’t funny, Pa. A
fella could get sick. How come
managing to regain control over his voice, Cody suggested, ‘Come on now, son,
there’s lots a respectable critters out there, what would count themselves
jest plain lucky, happenin’ on a meal like you jest et.’
Adam clamped his lips together as he simmered, finally spouting, ‘I
ain’t no critter! I’m a man!’
that, Ben rose to turn away, his grin so wide, his cheeks hurt.
Eyes twinkling, Cody replied, ‘Adam, you, me and yer pa … we’re all
of us God’s critters, and that there’s the truth.
As to ya gettin’ sick, that there cricket won’t hurt ya.
Tarnation! Old Cody’s et
more than a bug or two in his time … on purpose, plenty of em.
I bettcha a bug’s jest as much meat to a frog as a squirrel or rabbit
is fer us.’
reiterated in a grumble, ‘I ain’t a frog.’
not, but a few bugs along the way ain’t gonna bring ya ta harm.
You think on this: If ya
hadda eat ‘em or starve, I spect you’d be right pleased to come across a
bug’s trail. Bet yer pa agrees
with me on that, don’t ya, Ben?’
right, Adam. Insects may not
be our first choice for a meal, but I’d sooner eat a few crickets and feed
them to you, then see us go hungry.’
studied his father’s face, especially his eyes.
Finally he ventured, ‘You been feedin’ me bugs, without tellin’ me,
Pa?’ When his father hedged, the
boy pressed, ‘Have ya?’
off his hat, Ben played with the rim before planting it back on his head,
‘Yes, but then, it only seems fair, really.’
reaching skyward, the youngster hollered, ‘How come that’s fair?’
A warning look from his father brought an immediate ‘Sir’ and the boy
waited for an explanation.
twinkling, Ben revealed, ‘Well, as I recall, at two you were quite happy to
eat bugs, without telling your pa. Seems
only right that I should be able to feed them back to you, without telling.’
his chin, the child considered the reasoning.
Ben observed the expression crawling over his boy’s face and knew he
wasn’t going to swallow the explanation.
He watched the little forehead furrow, the small jaw shift back and
forth. Mimicking his father, Adam removed his hat and fingered it
before jamming it back on his head.
just a baby. They don’t know not
to eat bugs. I was likely just
nodded slowly, ‘And what about now? Does
five years old make you too old to experiment?’
mouth twisting into a bow, Adam considered his father’s question, then
admitted, ‘I spit it out cause I thought it would make me sick.
I guess it didn’t taste too bad.’
Mulling over Cody’s earlier proposal, he distinctly recalled more than
one night, laying in back of their wagon, hunger clawing at his belly.
Finally, he concluded, ‘Pa, if we have to eat bugs sometimes, I won’t
put up a fuss … But tonight, could we just have duck?’
the laughter around Hattie’s table, Joe interjected, “Bet Adam didn’t eat
anything but duck that night, huh, Cody?
Didn’t eat nary a cattail for some time ta come, did he?”
chuckled, clearly picturing the dark-haired little boy pushing greens to and fro
on his plate. “Well, yer pa seems
ta have a way of convincin’ you boys ta do what yer told, in this case ta eat
the meat AND greens in front of him. Yer
brother et em, but his little eyes crawled over every spec, of every leaf, for
he stuffed a one of em down his gullet!”
renewed laughter faded, Adam caught the smirk on his little brother’s face.
“Something else you wanted to say, little brother?”
I can’t understand, older brother, is how you didn’t know when Pa was feedin’
ya bugs. Seems somethin’ like
that would be hard to miss.”
eyebrow cocked, head tilted to one side, Adam studied his brother until the boy
fidgeted, suddenly regretting his question.
“Well you know something, little brother, I think I’ll let Hop Sing
help me answer that question for you.” With
a wink at Cody, he added, “Some night when you least expect it, I’ll see
that he sneaks a few choice insects into one of his stews or some other dish.
We’ll see how well you do at recognizing them.
Mind you, I won’t tell you until the next day, that you’ve eaten
at his lower lip now, Joe stammered, “I was just funnin’, Adam.
Really. After all, you were
just a kid then … Really, I
was just teasin’.” When Adam
didn’t retract his offer, the boy suggested, “Uh, you were just funnin’
back, weren’t ya?”
a hint of a smile, Adam responded, “Nope.”
Pausing to wipe his mouth with his napkin, he looked to their hostess.
“The meal was wonderful, Aunt Hattie.”
Little Joe pull at his suddenly tight collar, Hattie rose, “I’ll bring in
the dessert and coffee.”
followed, “Let me help.”
the pair reached the kitchen, Hattie scolded gently, “That little boy is
likely to have nightmares, worrying over that threat of yours.”
chuckled, “Well, I’ll just let him stew in his own juices a bit longer.
I promise I’ll put his mind at ease before he hits the hay, all
right?” Giving Hattie a kiss to the cheek, he added, “You’re an
old softie, you know that?”
the kiss, Hattie whispered, “Adam Cartwright, you don’t fool me for a
minute. That’s a very lucky
little boy in there.” Voice
dropping further she added, “And your father is a very lucky man.”
the tray of coffee and cocoa, Adam blushed, “Come on.
Can’t wait to taste that cinnamon delicacy that teased our noses
sat on the edge of Joe’s bed and tucked the blankets up around his chin.
The boy met his older brother’s eyes. “Adam?”
I shouldn’t a made fun like I did, before at dinner.
I… Well … I can’t think of once, ever bein’ hungry and not bein’
able to do somethin’ about it.”
sympathy rang in the child’s words and shone clearly in his eyes.
Pushing the boy’s curls gently from his forehead, Adam assured,
“Don’t worry, boy, brother was just giving you a bit of your own medicine.
There won’t be any bugs on your plate, unless you ask to try them.
throat suddenly tight, Joe picked at the comforter edge.
Adam leaned forward, anticipating his brother’s sudden embrace.
“Thanks for bringin’ me along, Adam.”
the youngster securely, Adam answered, “I know how much you enjoy being with
Cody, buddy. I expect, all too
soon, he’ll be moving on again. I
wanted you to have as much time with him as possible.”
Settling Joe back into his pillow, he insisted, “Now, you get to sleep. Tomorrow, we’ll get in a little exploring before Jason and
Aunt Matilda return. Should be able
to head back to the Ponderosa the next day, if Aunt Matilda’s not too worn out
from her travel.”
tugging at him Joe admitted through a big yawn, “Wish Cody could just stay on
with us, Adam.”
much as I agree with you, boy, that’s just not who Cody is.”
Softly stroking his brother’s hair, he explained, “He’s been
traveling since he was a baby and it suits him.
Staying in one place too long, well, it just gives him ants in his
britches.” As his brother’s
eyelids drooped and closed, Adam whispered, “But I think he’ll find reason
enough to drop by more often now. And
one of those reasons is you.”
Adam’s surprise and the sisters’ delight, Cody offered to drive Hattie’s
carriage back to the Ponderosa. Joe
spent a good portion of the journey riding along side, listening as the traveler
amused the ladies with his array of adventures.
and Adam took up the rear, catching up on each other’s news.
At the sound of Matilda’s shrill laughter, Jason grinned, “She sure
is happy she decided to stay on permanently with Cousin Hattie.”
Shaking his head, he observed, “They love each other as much as any two
sisters could, I expect, but they sure know how to rile each other.”
twisting into a knowing smile, Adam agreed, “Yes, I’ve seen it played out
quite a few times. They’re
equally adept at it too.”
I don’t know, Cousin Hattie has the edge, I think.”
a moment, Adam nodded, concluding, “It’s because she’s the oldest.
It goes with the territory.”
chuckled, observing his friend with a sideward glance, finally warning, “You
be careful, boy and don’t get cocky.”
Adam frowned and shifted his hat forward.
“You’re confusing me with my little brother, I believe.”
Are you trying to tell me cockiness has never gotten you into hot water?
No, let me rephrase that … US into hot water.”
his throat, Adam countered, “Oh? What
about your temper and that pride of yours?
Surely you’ll admit they were motivating factors, a time or two?”
if you’re thinking of our introduction to Malcolm Travis, I admit, he got under my
skin immediately. And it was quite
clear you shared my dislike.”
did have a certain annoying air, didn’t he?
Way too full of himself … just begging to be taken down a peg….”
high-pitched giggle cut the conversation short as the boy doubled back to join
them. “The ladies are tryin’ ta
talk Cody into bein’ part of their next fundraiser for the older folks
a knowing look with Jason, Adam concluded, “Well, then I expect Cody will be
Joe scratched his head. “How can ya be so sure, Adam?
I thought you said Cody’d likely be moving on soon.”
snorted, “Because when Cousin Hattie decides she wants something, she pretty
much makes sure it happens.”
encouraged, “You’d best get back up there, boy, or you’ll miss watching
the master at work. Aunt Hattie can
talk anyone into anything.”
eyes shifting between his brother and Jason, Joe asked suspiciously, “You
tryin’ to get rid of me, Adam?”
hear of it. You’re welcome to
ride with us if you like.”
I don’t want to miss Cody’s stories. Aunt
Matilda just pulls one after another out of him.
But I think Cody’s kinda enjoying it.
He says the ladies ain’t squeamish about stuff, the way other gals are.
He’s right too. Ya know,
he told one tale about this fight he got into in a saloon… this bear of a man
was pickin’ on this little pipsqueak of a guy and Cody figured the big guy
needed a lesson. Had ta break the
other fella’s arm, for he’d see reason.”
The boy grinned, “Cody set the fella’s arm for him though. And when he described all the poppin’ an crackin’, the
ladies never even flinched.”
from the buggy yanked Joe away and Adam considered, “Aunt Hattie’s reactions
to things weren’t always predictable, were they?”
whoop of glee interrupted the conversation and the young men looked up to see a
familiar form heading towards them. Joe
nudged Cochise forward, yelling over his shoulder, “Hey, there’s Pa, comin’
ta meet us!”
pot in hand, Ben joined the two women on the porch, already sipping the tea Hop
Sing had brought earlier. Watching Cody and the four boys heading for the corral,
Hattie commented with a smile, “He’s an impressive man, Ben. Amazing that he found his way back to you, after all these
Ben noted, “It’s been wonderful, for all my boys, having him visit again.
I expect he’ll continue to wind his way back here now and again. He’s as fond of them as they are of him.”
Breathing in the scent of pine, he added, “And the Ponderosa has a way
of drawing people back to her. She’s
an irresistible lady.”
two sisters shared an appreciative glance before Matilda commented, “Ben, when
Hattie told me how beautiful this place was … well, I have to admit, my
imagination didn’t do it justice. I’m so looking forward to our visit to your lake.
And the meadows of wildflowers we saw on the trail here are just
Ben caught Hattie’s eye and chuckled, “They certainly have a way of
enchanting you ladies.”
laughed, then scolded, “Yes, but then you men try to use that to your
advantage at times, don’t you?” Glancing out at the handsome dark-haired young man in the
distance, Hattie just shook her head. “Oh,
Ben… he still can’t pass that field of mine, without blushing.”
frowned at her sister, “All right, you two, what story is lurking behind all
this talk of fields and flowers?”
that his sons were well occupied, Ben glanced down at his fingers, before
finally surrendering, “Well, since his brothers aren’t within earshot, I
expect Adam will forgive me for relaying the story to you.”
His eyes clouded a moment, “Forgiveness … It’s as much a part of
this story as flowers…” Hattie’s
warm expression encouraging him, Ben began, “Adam was fifteen at the time and
suddenly Miss Patricia Lawrence
was no longer just the silly giggling daughter of Hattie’s neighbor.
We decided to take a short ride before lunch, the young people getting a
fair distance ahead of us…”
the couple strolled a bit before Adam reached out to take Patricia’s hand.
‘Would you like to walk through the meadow?
Should be real pretty right about now.’
lilting laughter betrayed her when she tried to scold, ‘Papa warned me about
boys like you, Adam Cartwright.’ Suddenly
spying the sea of wildflowers ahead, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, they ARE beautiful.
Adam, I’d love to pick some to take home with me.’
a sly grin, Adam challenged, ‘And why else would I have brought you here?’
her mouth to zing him with a smart comeback, Patricia suddenly let loose an
ear-piercing scream. Amid shrieks, she squealed, ‘A bee! A bee! It went
up my dress!’ Looking frantically
down at her skirt, she grabbed a wad of material at mid-thigh level.
‘Adam, do something! I...
I’ve got it trapped. Help me, I
don’t want to get stung!’
mouth gaping, the young man stammered, ‘I ... Patricia ...’
pitch in her voice seemed to rise with each word as she demanded, ‘You’ve
got to get it out from under my skirt! If
I let go of my petticoats, it will get loose and sting me for sure.
Adam!’ Panic consuming
her, Patricia screamed again.
to hold on to his own composure, Adam gestured with raised hands, ‘All right,
all right, just keep it trapped until I can think of how to do this
homing in on the screams, Ned Lawrence and Ben Cartwright rode hard, reaching
the top of the hill above the meadow. Patricia’s
shrill shrieking filling them with foreboding, they searched the area below with
frantic eyes, finally spotting the young couple.
From their vantage point, the men could see only one thing: Adam on his knees with both hands up Patricia’s skirt.
Their ears caught only certain words from the frantic discourse below.
pleaded, ‘Please, take it off, take it off!’
young man appealed, ‘Patricia, I wouldn’t know where to start!
I’ll just rip away what I need to…’
Adam! I can’t stand it any
his horse, Ned growled, ‘I’ll kill him!’
Buck forward, Ben shouted, ‘ADAM!’
father’s astonished tone startled him, but didn’t deter Adam from his
mission. As his knife made the
final tear in Patricia’s undergarment, he pulled the wad of material free,
placed it under his boot, to grind it thoroughly with his heel.
Reaching out to stroke Patricia’s flushed cheek, he was surprised when
a huge hand gripped his upper arm and yanked him away.
you young brute. How dare you!
I’ll have you horsewhipped to within an inch of your life!’
Adam free of Ned’s grasp, Ben insisted, ‘Lawrence, I’m responsible for
this boy and will see the proper measures are taken.’
His blazing eyes bored into his son.
realizing the accusations against him, Adam retorted, ‘Pa!
You … you don’t understand...’
forced herself between father and son. Mr.
Cartwright, please, you’ve got to listen.
Adam wasn’t... well, he would never...
Please, listen. There was a
bee up my skirt.’
Lawrence and Ben Cartwright gaped, before exclaiming together,
hot with anger and embarrassment, Adam swept the piece of petticoat off the
ground. Shoving the material into
his father’s hands, he snapped, ‘Yes, a bee.’
Tipping his hat at Patricia, he offered in a strained voice, ‘I hope
we’ll be allowed to see each other again.’
Temper soaring, he stalked off toward his horse, leaving the two fathers
to discover the smashed remains of the culprit on cream colored cloth.
graciously insisted, ‘Please accept my apologies, Patricia.’
Staring at the dust cloud in his son’s wake, he touched the brim of his
hat and added, ‘If you’ll excuse me, I have another apology to make.’
his gut instincts, Ben located Adam at the edge of the creek dividing the
Carlson and Lawrence properties. From
a distance, he observed his son pace at the water’s edge.
The young man chucked several sizeable stones into the rushing water,
before finally grabbing his hat and hurling it to earth.
Hearing his father’s approach, he stiffened, deliberately turning his
back, stubbornly concentrating on the rippling water.
a sigh, Ben dismounted and slowly approached.
Hesitating a moment, he rubbed the back of his neck as he watched his
firstborn draw his hands to his hips and sharply shift his head, as if to
further distance himself from the man so close behind him now.
Another sigh escaped as Ben quietly stepped forward to rescue the
discarded black hat, dusting it off meticulously as he wrestled with how to
proceed. Moving to his boy’s side, he suggested, ‘You dropped
eyes never leaving the water, Adam nodded and silently accepted the headpiece.
owe you an apology, son. I’m
jaw stiff, Adam frowned, angry words stuck in his throat.
When his father reached out a hand to his shoulder, he shook it off,
spinning to face him, eyes flashing. ‘I
would NEVER treat a woman in such a manner.
NEVER!’ His voice dropped
to whisper, hurt creeping out in his words, ‘You taught me better than that,
Again Ben found himself staring at taut shoulders.
‘Adam … son, I made a mistake. From
where Ned and I sat, we saw… and of course with Patricia screaming … well,
we … we drew a wrong conclusion.’ Adam
didn’t budge. His voice
gentle, Ben tried again to penetrate the rigid wall, ‘I said I was sorry.
I don’t know what else to say. Your
pa makes mistakes, just like anyone else, boy.’
He let his son chew on the words, then added, ‘And I hope you can
forgive me for this one.’
his lips, Adam continued to study the water as it hurried over large, sharp
rocks. He felt the familiar dark
eyes watching, waiting, as memories of his own mistakes wormed their way into
his conscience. How many times in
his life had he asked his father to forgive him -- for too many foolish
decisions? Slowly turning, he met
the patient eyes. ‘Yes, sir.
I forgive you.’ Placing
his hat firmly on his head, he mumbled, ‘But I don’t know how I can ever
look Patricia or her father in the face – EVER!’
Whipping off his hat again, he slapped it against his thigh in
frustration, once more facing the creek.
smile pushing at the corners of his mouth, Ben suggested, ‘I expect you’ll
laugh about this incident one day, but for now, I think the best thing for us to
do is join the others and just get past the awkward moment.’
conceded, reluctantly, ‘Yes, sir.’ Heading
toward his horse, he swiped at the air with his hat, declaring, ‘Gals sure
bring on a lot of trouble!’
chuckled, ‘Yes, son, but I think you’ll find they’re worth the trouble.’
grin chasing away his remaining anger, Adam welcomed the slap on his back as he
joined his pa in laughter, ‘Yes, sir.’
laughter rippled down to the corral and Jason caught the look on Adam’s face.
“You know, I have a feeling those two ladies are pumping your pa for
tales to amuse them. Cousin Matilda
told me she loves to hear stories about when you were a ‘little fella’.”
snorted, “Yes, and her sister takes great pleasure in obliging her, I’m
sure.” Eyeing his friend, he
warned, “Just remember, we were both involved in a number of memorable
incidents. Best to steer clear of
any hints along those lines. They’re
sure to snap them up. And little
brother over there just lives for stories that show his older brother isn’t
smirked, “You just make sure you follow your own advice, friend.
Or do I need to remind you that that mouth of yours has gotten the pair
of us into trouble, more than a time or two?”
narrowing, Adam countered, “Oh? Do
you take no credit for helping to dig those holes we managed to excavate?
You don’t think that maybe that pride of yours helped tip the scales of
fate, once or twice?”
conceded, “Well, we were a team, weren’t we?”
As Ben hollered down for them to come to eat, he repeated, “Just
remember what I said and follow your own advice.”
off the warning, Adam glanced uncertainly toward the house, as Matilda’s
cackle continued to filter down to them. “Then
again, with Pa as their ally…”
chuckled, doubting the two of them were any match against that trio on the
porch. Turning his head toward the
corral, he couldn’t help but think that Cody could be coaxed into telling an
incriminating tale or two himself.
Adam took his seat at the crowded table, his father questioned, with a hint of
annoyance, “Adam? I thought you
went to lasso that little brother of yours and bring him to supper?”
his napkin, Adam explained, “He was a mess, Pa, so I sent him to the wash
house for a quick bath.” Spreading his napkin in his lap, he shook his head in
amazement, “What is it about little boys and mud…”
Looking up to find himself captured in a circle of eyes, Adam shifted
uncomfortably in his seat. Jason
took sudden interest in the chandelier. Hoss
rolled his eyes outright, then shook his head as he concentrated on cutting up
his beef. As Ben cocked a bushy
eyebrow, Cody threw him a wink before grabbing a slice of bread, a low chuckle
starting in his throat.
sisters focused on their host, who was folding his arms, studying his eldest, as
slow recognition tracked a path across the young man’s face.
A certain victory danced in Ben’s eyes as he prepared to answer the
question hanging oh-so-heavily in the air.
her plate with a nod of thanks at Cody, Hattie, nudged, “Go on, Ben, it’s
not polite, keeping your quests in suspense.”
brightening his dark eyes, Ben considered, “Well, I should wait for Joseph,
before I share this story. After all, he plays a major part in it. Though he won’t likely remember it, will he, Adam?”
a reflexive pull at his right ear, Adam shook his head, “No sir, but then I
have a feeling that after tonight, he won’t allow anyone of us to forget.”
if on cue, the youngest Cartwright tumbled in through the front door.
His nervous eyes on his father, the boy stammered, “S… Sorry I’m
chuckled as he began to heap food onto the youngster’s plate.
“Actually, Joseph, you’re just in time.”
Surprised that his father wasn’t scolding him, the boy waited.
to the chair beside him, Ben explained with wide smile, “You’re just in time
to hear a story about your older brothers and their fascination with mud.”
grin chased away his bewildered expression and Joe quickly slid into his place,
to join the waiting audience.
Adam placed a wiggling Little Joe down on his feet and grasped the baby’s
elder brother glanced down, lifting a skeptical eyebrow.
‘Did he say mud?’
flashed his older brother a toothy grin. ‘Shore
sounded like it. Mama says Joe
speaks all kinds a words, but Pa tells her it ain’t so.
Says it’s all just baby… uh … gib… giber …’
that.’ Scrunching up his nose,
Hoss peered up into his older brother’s eyes to ask, ‘What’s that mean,
means nonsense … silly sounds that aren’t really any one word.’
Watching Joe crawl toward the big mud hole ahead, Adam laughed.
‘But despite what Pa might think, Ma is right.
Joe knows what he’s saying. And
in this case, he definitely meant “mud”.
briskly forward, Adam swept the little boy off his feet.
‘Oh no you don’t. If I
let you into that slop, my NAME is gonna be “Mudd”!’
Joe squirmed wildly and Adam rolled his eyes.
‘Now listen, Little Joe, your ma only just finished givin’ you a bath
and you weren’t too cooperative about it either.
That’s why you’re out here with us, ta give her a break from your
antics. If I let you get into that
mud hole, you’ll need another bath.’ Mumbling
more to himself at this point, he added, ‘Your ma is in kinda a bad mood
today, so I ain’t plannin’ on getting on her wrong side.’
Looking the baby directly in the eyes now, he insisted, ‘No mud!
I’ll give ya just one more chance on the ground.’
older sibling set the baby back on the earth.
Instantly, the boy resumed his trek on hands and knees toward the sloppy
muck ahead. Scooping his brother
up, Adam suggested to Hoss, ‘We better go down to the coral.
The horses will distract him from this mission of his.’
they walked past the puddle, the middle brother observed, ‘That’d make real
fine mud balls, Adam. Cain we have
a contest and throw some at that there big tree?’
agape, Adam blinked several times before pronouncing, ‘You’re as bad as he
is! What do you think Ma will say,
if the three of us come back to the house, covered in mud?’
kicked a rock in his path. ‘Aw, gee, we been stuck in that old house fer … fer
ferever, Adam! Mama said go out and
play. Throwin’ mud balls is play,
sighed. The boy was right, wasn’t
he? The past week of rain had set
the whole household out of sorts. Marie
had had her fill of the older boys fighting, in between trying to keep Little
Joe from getting into EVERYTHING. Hop
Sing had had enough of mud tracks on his floor and washing grimy clothes.
Ben was ‘dang near fed up’, with coming home to a cranky wife AND
cook, after his long days of working out in the rain.
in to his brother, Adam suggested, ‘Yeah, well, let’s see you hit that spot
on that tree, where the branch broke off. See
beamed and squatted down to scoop up a handful of mud at the outer edge of the
puddle. Forming a firm ball, he
hurled it, just glancing the target.
praised, ‘Hey, that was real good. Now,
see if you can hit that black mark on the trunk, just over the last spot.
out a respectable wad of wet earth, Hoss patted it into another sphere and
sailed it at the tree. The ball
splattered the new target and Hoss laughed heartily.
‘Come on now, Adam, you try one. Bet
ya cain’t hit that there sap glob, on the next tree.
Joe down, Adam accepted the challenge. In
very short order, the two older boys had several trees coated with mud stains.
As they scooped up more ammunition, the two froze at the sound of the
twittery giggle several feet away. In
the gloppiest, wettest part of the puddle sat their baby brother, up to his
waist in murk, fists oozing with luscious, dark brown, sloppy earth as he
happily patted a handsome mud tower.
the other side of the puddle stood their father, hands on hips, eyebrows in a
deep vee, head cocked as he studied the circus before him.
He roared, ‘Just what in tarnation are you three boys doin’?’
the gooey globe in his hand, Adam grabbed his ear, then winced as the gritty
slop coated his earlobe.
piped up innocently, ‘We’re playin’, Pa.’
playing, Pa,’ came the muttered echo. Ben’s
gaze shifted to the baby. Dark
curls dripping with goo, mud thickening on little hands and knees, the child
plowed toward his pa through the murky sea.
Eyes wide, Ben warned, ‘Little Joe.’
The determined babe ignored his father’s tone and grinned, always
ecstatic to see his pa after missing him all day.
Ben shook his finger at the crawling machine rapidly closing in on him.
‘Little boy, your pa does not want to pick you up.
You are a muddy mess!’ Glee
in his eyes and laughter, the child scrambled forward.
You’re as muddy as this little boy.
Come over here and pick him up, before he tries to climb me.’
it was the fact that they’d been hostage in the house too long.
Maybe it was the sight of his slippery little brother, doggedly
determined to deliver his customary hug to his papa.
But something about the picture of his large father backing away from
this tiny baby just struck Adam’s funny bone and he burst into laughter,
Pa’s severe expression doing nothing to deter his laughing fit.
barked, ‘Hoss! I hope you have
the good sense to obey your pa. Pick
Joe up and take him to the wash house.’
by his older brother’s merriment, the middle son, chuckled, ‘Aw, Pa, Little
Joe’s jest happy ta see ya, is all.’
the tips of his father’s boots, Little Joe grabbed his trousers, hauled
himself upright, then captured Ben’s legs in a mighty hug.
Looking down at the human mud pie , Ben shook his head and began to
chuckle. Hoisting his baby into his
arms, he turned his cheek to accept many muddy kisses, before tossing the grimy
boy over his shoulder.
a finger at his other two sons, he ordered, ‘I’d better hear two sets of
feet behind me, heading to that wash house.
I will not have my evening ruined by a scolding from your mother!’
late. ‘Ben Cartwright, what in
the world has gotten into you, getting those boys and yourself in such a mess
when we finally have a dry day! Why,
isn’t it enough that I have three boys, without you acting like one of
on her heel, Marie yelled toward the house, ‘Hop Sing!
We need more hot water!’
little cook flung open the kitchen door to take in the scene before him.
‘Hop Sing go back China! Everly
day, mud everlywhere! Boys bring.
Fa-tha bring. Missy
Cartlight only person in house with good sense!’
hooted, “Boy, my ma sure was mad. Did
you all even get supper that night?”
eyed his brother and reminded him, “Just remember, going into the mud was YOUR
shook his head and looked to his father for support.
“Uh uh, Adam, Mama made you responsible for me, so it was your fault I
got in the middle of that puddle. You
shouldn’a put me down. Ain’t
that so, Pa?”
nodded, giving his eldest son a stern glance, “Quite so, but it would seem
your mother took that thinking one step further, for in this case, I felt the
brunt of it.” With another
scolding look in Adam’s direction, he grumbled, “Spent the rest of the
evening trying to convince Marie that I was innocent.”
memory of their father retreating from the crawling mud slick, flashed again
through Adam’s mind. His low
chuckle drew a frown from his father, but, he shrugged and countered, “Well,
as I recall, I found myself with an excessive list of extra chores the following
that picture of you backing away from Joe made it worth it!
Joe caught the odd expression cross Aunt Hattie’s face and piped up, “You
got a mud story too, ma’am?”
Joe, I think Cody is holding back a tale of his own.”
Hop Sing slipped a huge slice of apple pie in front of him, Cody rubbed his
hands together. “Well, if folks
cain fergive me fer talking and eatin’, I mite be able to remember a
rolled into the small town in late afternoon, easily locating its mercantile in
the short string of buildings along the dusty main road.
As Cody tied his horse to the rear of their wagon, Ben turned to his son,
ordering, ‘You stay and mind our things, son.’
sir, Pa.’ Adam’s chest swelled
and he sat straighter in the seat. Soon,
his restless dark eyes began to wander, lighting on two men haggling in trade
over a bedraggled mule.
round fellow wearing a coonskin cap sqawked, ‘He’s worth more ‘an a pouch
of stale tabaccie, that’s fer shur!’
lanky man in a tattered cloth coat stood nose-to-nose, gesturing wildly as he
countered, ‘Tain’t neither! Look at them bald patches.’
Walking a slow circle around the mangy beast, the lean barterer spat.
‘An what about that sag in his middle?
Be lucky if he gets me ta the first waterin’ hole.’
sliding back to await the first man’s response, Adam turned abruptly at the
sound of laughter somewhere behind him.
Scooting over to the other side of the seat, he leaned out and stretched
his neck, frowning when the source of merriment remained obstructed.
With a quick glance at the storefront, he slid to the ground and crept to
the end of the wagon. Head
tilted slightly, he studied two children at a watering trough.
slim, red-headed boy, several years Adam’s senior, stood over a plump, little
girl contently sitting in the dirt. She
reflected the boy’s fiery hair, round cheeks and splash of freckles across her
flat nose. Mud decorated her calico dress as she slapped thick,
sloppy, brown patties in front of her. Her
brother clutched a rusty bowl, dipping it repeatedly in the trough, pouring the
contents onto a mound of damp earth.
fueling his tongue, Adam finally asked, ‘What ya doin’?’
lad threw him an inquisitive look before shrugging his shoulders.
‘She’s makin’ mud pies. What
da ya think?’
older boy groaned, ‘Pretend pies. Or
don’t you know ‘bout pretend?’
scowled at the criticism, answering defensively, ‘Sure I do.’
The creases in his face faded as he thought about traveling with his
father, pointing out objects like the figure of a bird, a dog, a woman in
flowing skirt … all carved out of puffy clouds overhead.
They’d wait a moment, for nature’s hand to nudge the pictures, then
Ben would take his turn and describe the new sculptures:
a rabbit … a squirrel … a sailor waving his hat.
Oh, and then there was the day Adam spotted the clipper ship!
How his father beamed over that! It
was then he mentioned, quietly, how much Adam’s mother enjoyed cloud gazing.
Pa suddenly grew so silent, Adam feared that they wouldn’t play the
game anymore. A moment later, his
father reached out an arm, drawing him close.
To Adam’s relief, his father lightheartedly pointed to a kangaroo and
the game continued.
boy at the trough interrupted Adam’s musings.
‘Well, I guess you ain’t gotta sister, otherwise you’d fer shur
know about mud pies. This here is
Ellie. I’m Nate.’
immediately stuck out his hand, ‘My name’s Adam.’
displayed a mud-coated palm and Adam grinned, dropping his hand to his side.
want ta play with us?’
Ellie’s mud-caked hair, Adam shook his head.
‘My pa will be out soon. He
won’t like it if I’m all muddy.’
Nate, who’s your new friend?’ A
tall blond boy strolled toward them, all the while looking Adam up and down.
name is Adam. This here is …’
Samuel.’ Rolling his eyes at the
mud pies, he scoffed, ‘Don’t she ever get tired a that?’
shrugged it off. ‘Keeps her from
makin’ a fuss.’
well, how ‘bout makin’ us up some rocks instead.
I just spotted me a big old bear. We’ll
need somethin’ ta pelt with ‘em with.’
glanced around, his expression a painting of confusion.
Nate laughed. ‘Pretend.
Remember?’ At Adam’s
slow nod, the boy urged, ‘Come on, you help us make rocks. You won’t get too dirty, if ya stay clear of Ellie.
She likes to throw it, once it gets good and messy.
So just set back of her a ways.’
perplexed, Adam questioned, ‘But where’s the bear?’
he’ll be comin’, right soon,’ Samuel assured.
‘First we gotta make up some ammunition, ta hit him with.’
really clear on the game, Adam followed Nate’s lead and knelt beside him.
Fairly soon they manufactured a nice stack of mud balls and Samuel
announced, ‘Okay, I’ll get us that there grizzly.’
the older boy ducked into the saloon, Nate urged, ‘Come on, get yerself armed,
one in each hand. Once ya throw
‘em, be ready ta run though, cause sometimes the bear don’t go down, he
jus’ gets mad.’
through the doors, Samuel yelled, ‘He’s a comin’!
And boy, is he a growlin’!’
saloon doors parted with a crash and out stalked Cody, vest dripping with the
beans Samuel had dumped on him, before sprinting away like a jack rabbit.
The big man’s eyes fell on Adam, who froze as his companions slung
their mud rocks and scattered. Little
Ellie took that moment to turn, and splatter a dumbstruck Adam with all the mud
in her grasp, giggling triumphantly as the goop dribbled off her target’s
over Adam now, Cody demanded, ‘Boy, what in thunder do ya think yer doin’,
partakin’ in this kind a mischief?’
his palms forward, to let the two balls slide to earth, Adam swallowed
repeatedly, until he produced enough spit to speak.
‘They … They said we were pretendin’.
I didn’t know there was a real bear.’
Heart banging on his chest, the boy gulped once more.
‘I sure didn’t know it was you.’
Sludge dripping from dark lashes onto paling cheeks, he added in a
whisper, 'Honest, Cody.’
as he enjoyed hearing about his elder brother getting into hot water, Joe
complained, “Cody? That ain’t
fair. Adam didn’t know those
fellas were settin’ him up. He’d
a never done that ta you.” Eyeing
their father, he added, “I don’t think he’d a done it ta anyone else
either, specially with Pa just a door away. Why, if Pa caught one a us throwin’ mud balls at a
stranger, well he’d …” The
boy swallowed hard, envisioning the outcome all too clearly.
chuckled, “Funny you should say that, Joe.
Cause yer right, yer pa weren’t too happy, seeing a couple a ornery
boys treatin’ a stranger that-a-way…
emerged from the store, arms burdened with supplies.
As the mudslinging scene enfolded before him, he dumped his purchases on
the vacant wagon seat and dashed back through the store, hastily locating the
back exit. Sharp ears homed in on
muffled laughter and he cautiously snuck up the alley between the store and
saloon, grabbing the two unsuspecting culprits by their collars.
Marching the wriggling scamps out into the street, he offered with a
certain satisfaction, ‘Cody, would you care to help me do the honors?’
a wink at Joe, Cody commented, “I expect those two younguns found settin’
down ta their tables a mite uncomfortable that night.’
feeling his brother had been served a raw deal, Joe pestered, ‘But what about
wink directed to Adam this time, Cody finished…
two men found Adam where they’d left him, looking very much as if he’d like
to strangle the still giggling Ellie. Ben
distinctly heard his son state, ‘If you weren’t a girl…’
boy flew to his feet, head jerking up to respectfully meet his father’s gaze.
do you have to say for your part in all this, young man?’
Adam opened his mouth, but Ben rolled ahead, ‘I gave you explicit
instructions to mind our things and what do I find when I return?’
Again the child attempted defense, but his father’s booming voice
overrode him, ‘I come out to find you coated in dirt, aiding two
splattered mud drying on his eyelashes suddenly became so irritating that Adam
rubbed furiously at his eyes. Concern displacing anger, Ben lifted his son and pulled out a
handkerchief. ‘Don’t rub them,
you’ll hurt your eyes. Keep them
shut until I tell you to open them.’ Cody
produced a canteen, heavily dousing the outstretched cloth. Carefully swiping his son’s tightly sealed lids, Ben
removed the caked dirt. When he was
certain he’d done a thorough cleaning, he informed his son.
the boy opened his eyes, then sucked in his lower lip as he awaited the deep,
one word inquisition. ‘Well?’
more confidence that he felt, Adam insisted, ‘Well, Pa, I … I was just
following your ongoing orders.’
eyes narrowed. ‘Oh?’
to control the quaver in his voice, the boy clarified, ‘You always tell me I
should act neighborly when we come into a town … so I was makin’ friends,
while you were doin’ our tradin’. And,
uh, I could see our wagon, the whole time.
Never did let it out of my sights.’
at the smeared drying beans on Cody’s vest, Adam frowned, ‘I’m sorry they
messed up your clothes, Cody. You
gotta believe me, I didn’t know you were the bear.’
Turning back to his father, who was fighting to maintain his stern
demeanor, Adam insisted, ‘I’m tellin’ the truth, Pa.’
Glaring down at the girl below, he confided, ‘And I wouldn’t be all
dirty, ‘cept for her.’ Voice
dropping to a secretive whisper, he revealed, ‘You think she’s just a little
girl, Pa, but she’s downright sneaky.’
his battle with laughter, Ben managed to ask, ‘What do you think, Cody?
What should we do with him?’
at the horse trough, the big man proposed, ‘Well, if I was a horse, I’d be
thinkin’ this here water is a bit cloudy fer drinkin’ … what with all that
dirt that’s been throwed in it. Seems proper payment that the youngun should help refill
concurrence, Ben considered aloud, ‘Think maybe what’s left in that trough
would clean off a little boy? Or
maybe I should say, bear cub?’
eyes tripled in size. ‘Pa?’
Cody’s nod was followed by
a big ‘kersphash’. Adam
sputtered, as Ellie’s giggles once more filled the air.
Ben lifted his son from the impromptu bath, spiriting him into the back
of their wagon to suit him in dry clothes.
To the boy’s delight, he overheard Ellie’s mother, just as Pa pulled
the canvas down over the back of the wagon.
Johnson! Look at you!
Just wait until I get you home, young lady.
And where is that brother of yours?
He’s going to get more than a piece of my mind when I get my hands on
leaned back in his chair, giggling so hard he lost his balance.
His father’s quick hand saved him from a fall.
Recovering his voice, the boy declared with satisfaction, “I’m glad
ta hear it! Even if she was a
little kid, she caused way too big a ruckus.”
spite of himself, Adam couldn’t help but nod in agreement.
her eyes, Hattie stood, declaring, “I’m absolutely stuffed.
If I don’t get out for some of your wonderful pine air, I may fall
asleep right here at my place.”
the perfect host, Ben offered, “I’d be happy to accompany you ladies on a
slipped away for a ride, as the boys settled round the fireplace for a promised
from his moonlit jaunt, Cody found Hattie and Matilda on the front porch with
their host. With a wink at the
ladies, he chuckled, “Younguns all tucked in, Ben?”
my youngest best be asleep by now, or someone will have some explaining to do.
As to the older boys, there’s a good chance their match is still in
progress. The ladies and I have
only just returned from our star gazing. It’s
so clear tonight; we had a great view down at the corral. We were just heading in for a touch of brandy, to take off
the night chill. Won’t you join
that would be right welcome, ‘fore I hit the hay.”
Ben ushered his guests through the front door, they all stopped, simultaneously
spying the scene in front of the fireplace.
Adam sat in his father’s favorite seat, legs draped over the chair arm
nearest the fire, chin on his chest, book tipped against his stomach.
eyes softened and she whispered, “What a sweet picture.
How often does that happen?”
own heart warmed by the sight, Ben admitted, “He puts in a long day and he works
hard, but still insists on sneaking in a few pages of whatever book he’s
reading. Many a night I find myself
nudging him to head up to bed, or just as likely, I slip the book from his
hands, up in his room, before turning down his lamp. He’s a stubborn young man, tries to stretch out the day,
even though he knows full well he’s had enough.”
couldn’t help but recall, “He was a stubborn little fella, too, weren’t
he, Ben? Never would admit he was
too tuckered, if he thought it would interfere with our plans.
More than once, we had ta team up agin him, ta get him ta curl up,
walked for some distance from the wagon, in search of fresh water.
The swampy ground making it impossible to bring the team any closer, Cody
carried one water barrel, Ben the other. Adam
toted their canteens as well as his trusty burlap sack, which his father draped
around his slim shoulders. They
trudged past stagnant pools, ultimately plodding their way to a spring. After quenching their thirst, they explored further,
discovering more stable ground nearby, where they could bring the wagon
directly. Returning to the spring,
they began to fill the barrels and canteens.
Ben knelt beside his son, noticing him teetering slightly, eyelids
drooping as he held one of the vessels under water.
How about if you take a rest, son? Cody
and I can finish this. Pa could
make you a place to nap, over there under that tree.’
his fists over his eyes, the child shook his head.
‘I don’t need a nap, Pa. My
job is ta fill up the canteens. Then
we still gotta stir up some game, before we go back to the wagon.
Ain’t that what ya planned?’
yes, but we walked further for the water than I intended.
Thought maybe you could do with a rest.’
ain’t gotta stop on my account, Pa. I
can do my share.’
his throat, Ben captured Cody’s eye and, over his son’s head, gestured with
his hands for help.
a wink, Cody nodded, then stretched his arms, accompanied by a convincing groan.
‘Ya know, Ben, I shore could do with a rest myself, fore I lift these
barrels and tote ‘em back to that spot we come across.
Why, a fella cain’t work all day without a rest, now, cain he?’
looked up as their friend settled himself down at the base of the tree Ben had
you are, Cody. The body wasn’t
meant to go forever without a break.’ Sliding his back down the tree trunk,
Ben leaned his head back and released a contented sigh.
Allowing Adam to completely digest the picture of repose, he patted his
lap and suggested, ‘You’re welcome to join us, son.’
his hand over a wide yawn, Adam conceded, ‘Okay, Pa, if ya think we should.’
He carefully capped the canteen in his grasp and leaned it up against the
one he’d already filled. Unable
to hide the next gaping yawn, he half stumbled the few steps to his companions.
Seconds later, the boy snoozed heavily, bottom cushioned by his
father’s ample lap, face snuggled into Ben’s warm chest, small frame
surrounded by strong, loving arms.
genuine yawn muffling his words, Cody suggested, ‘Ya know, Ben, we really
could all do with some quick shut-eye … Uh, Ben?
Ben filled their glasses, Hattie pointed out, “Looks as though Jason lost the
battle with sleep too.” The
others glanced the pair of stocking-clad feet stuck out over the edge of the
nudged her sister. “You don’t
suppose those two could be playing possum, do you, the way we used to, when
trying to pick up a bit of information while Ma and Papa talked in our parlor in
frowned as she quietly approached Ben’s leather chair.
Her voice a whisper, she observed, “No, though I wouldn’t put it
passed these two. What a couple of
schemers they were.”
was Ben’s turn to frown. “Oh?
I hope after all these years later, I’m not going to hear that those
two gave you too rough a time, Hattie…”
eyes suddenly soft, Hattie admitted, “Ben, I wouldn’t have missed those
visits from your son for the world. Nor would Jason. Those
two were so well matched.” Shaking
her finger at the sleeping young men, she tried to look severe but failed.
“They were boys, Ben, just normal boys.
And I know I’m not telling you anything new when I say they had a
certain creativity.” Ben cleared
his throat and Hattie amended, “All right then, a certain penchant for
creative mischief. I’ll never
forget their second summer with me …”
Adam and Jason enthusiastically accepted Ned Lawrence’s invitation to visit
Cross Creek Ranch. Hattie’s neighbor, thought it prudent to get to know these
boys a little better, before giving them free roam of his property during their
annual summer visits. After all,
the boys’ hairy creature prank, the previous year,
didn’t leave him with the best first impression.
the Ponderosa, Cross Creek was in the budding stage.
Still, Mr. Lawrence had a respectable herd of cattle and he’d recently
hired on a new man. Malcolm Travis
had a fair amount of ranching experience under his belt, for a young man of
sixteen. A bit too full of himself
at times, he was a hard worker and so Ned ignored the character flaw.
eager to explore, Jason and Adam couldn’t very well ignore twelve-year-olds
Patricia Lawrence and friend Eleanor Trevor.
For one thing, Aunt Hattie had sat them down for a serious reminder on
manners before they’d left that morning.
After introductions were made, the girls accompanied Mrs. Lawrence to
prepare lunch for their guests. When
giggles floated down from the house, the boys shared wary glances.
laughin’ at us, do you suppose?’ Jason
wondered for both of them.
waved away the suggestion. ‘Aw, gals that age are always laughin’ over nothin’.
Besides, we haven’t done anything for them to laugh at.’
cattle drew their attention and they wandered toward a small corral.
Climbing atop the fence rails, the pair watched Malcolm and two older men
roping and branding calves. Malcolm
glanced up and nudged foreman Daniel, ‘Surely, Mr. Lawrence ain’t stoopin’
ta hirin’ children ta help out here?’
jaw tightened and Adam clamped a hand on his friend’s wrist, shaking his head
when their eyes met. ‘Don’t let him rile ya.
That’s exactly what he’s after.’
Called away to lunch, the boys let the incident fade.
lunch the girls followed Jason and Adam outside and invited, ‘Would you join
us in a game of Graces?’
backs still to the girls, the two friends exchanged frowns.
Adam rolled his eyes. Getting
into Mr. Lawrence’s ‘good graces’ was the purpose of this visit, but geez!’
Managing polite smiles, the boys turned and Adam responded,
‘Sure, but uh, you’ll have to teach me the rules … I’ve never actually
either,’ Jason quickly asserted.
selected Adam for her teammate and the couples took their places on either side
of rope Mr. Lawrence had tied between two trees.
Several moments into the game, the girls decided they’d toss to each
other and let the boys do likewise, since Adam and Jason tended to hurl the
rings, rather than throw them ‘gracefully’.
the gals disappeared to retrieve lemonade and cookies, the fellas drifted back
to the corral. In an exaggerated
aside to Daniel, Malcolm prodded , ‘I called them two kids, but seems I got it
wrong. They’re a couple a girls.
Did you catch ‘em frolicin’, just now?’
growled under his breath, ‘Adam, now he’s callin’ us girls.’
nodded slowly, observing in a disgruntled tone, ‘This is where my pa would
suggest that ignoring the behavior is sometimes the best way to stop it.’
appeared to be doing just that, but Malcolm continued to taunt, ‘Don’t know
why Mr. Lawrence is so worried over that old lady neighbor a his havin’
trouble with them two. They look
like they’d be more than happy to set around with the old biddy and have tea
an crumpets all day.’
Adam drew in a deep breath, Jason pointed out, ‘Now, he’s insultin’ Cousin
dark eyes shifted from the laughing Malcolm to his co-workers, neither of whom
had cracked a smile as yet. Turning
to his friend, Adam concluded, ‘My pa has also been known to say that some
fellas need to be taken down a peg or two.’
what are we gonna do?’
his head in the direction of the house, Adam suggested coolly, ‘We’re gonna
have a nice polite chat with those two gals and learn about Malcolm’s habits.
You gotta know your prey, before you can set the proper trap for him.’
a satisfied grin, Jason hopped off the fence as Patricia and Eleanor waved them
up to the porch. ‘Now you’re talkin’!’
conversation jumped to various light topics, before Adam inquired, ‘So what
else do you gals do in the summer?’
volunteered, ‘We put on plays.’
explained, ‘Well, it started out as a way to entertain Eleanor’s younger
brothers and sisters, but word spread and now we get a whole barn full of kids
for an audience. Mama gave us some
dresses of Grandma’s to use for costumes.’
conversation continued to shift, eventually weaving its way around to the
crossed creeks and Jason wondered, ‘Your creek deep enough to go swimmin’
tittered. ‘Malcolm thinks so.’
suddenly crimson, Patricia scolded, ‘Eleanor!’
her shoulders, Eleanor defended, ‘Well, we didn’t know he was there, the day
we went searching for flowers.’ Watching
Patricia turn a shade darker, she revealed to the boys, ‘We’d been talkin’
to him for a good half hour and his lips started to turn blue.
That was when we spotted all his clothes slung over some
Patricia’s color returned to normal and Adam asked casually, ‘He go there a
lot, does he?’
happily volunteered, ‘Every day at lunch time.’
Jason watched his friend.
Adam’s eyebrows lifted ever so slightly as his lips pushed out into a
pucker and he nodded slowly, a plot obviously hatching behind dancing dark eyes.
A short while later, the two young men offered polite thanks, insisting
they had to be heading back. Their
return ride to Aunt Hattie’s was spent plotting the details of the perfect
dinner, Hattie settled into her knitting as the boys explored the bookshelves in
the library. Abruptly, Adam asked,
‘Uh, Aunt Hattie? Do you have any
dresses around that you don’t fancy any more?’
clacking of needles ceased instantly. ‘Dresses?’
laughed at the befuddled look on his cousin’s face and Adam instantly
clarified, ‘Ya see, the gals we met today like to put on plays.
I just thought maybe you might have…’
for costumes.’ After considering
briefly, Hattie rose and offered, ‘Well, if you two boys will bring it down
for me, we could look through a trunk I have in the attic.
We might come across a few items you could give to the girls.’
long after, the two boys knelt beside the old chest, anxiously awaiting
Hattie’s selections. Their eyes
widened as she drew out an elaborate pink gown, trimmed to the hilt in frilly
lace. ‘Do you think this will
pairs of gleeful eyes connected, before Adam answered exuberantly, ‘Oh,
yes’m, that will be perfect.’
warmly, Hattie sorted through the garments and drew out a light blue dress,
generously adorned with bows. ‘Would you like this one as well? They both belonged to an aunt of mine. She was so much shorted than I,
so I could never wear them, but then I couldn’t seem to part with them
either.’ Concern crept over
Adam’s face and Hattie quickly assured him, ‘But I don’t mind giving them
up, knowing they are going to a good cause.’
boys avoided each other’s eyes this time, laughter threatening now.
But Adam responded seriously, ‘Yes, ma’am, a very good cause.
Thanks for findin’ ‘em for us.’
the next day, the two plotters took off, dresses carefully wrapped in brown
paper. Thanks to the girls, they
homed in on Malcolm’s favorite swimming spot and sketched out the final
mentioned reluctantly, ‘Uh, so which one of us is gonna be the girl?’
briefly, Adam snapped his fingers, ‘We flip for it.’
Digging for a coin, he tossed it into the air and Jason called out,
at the traitorous disc in his palm, Adam quickly found his humor, ‘Well, I
never did think I looked good in blue, but …’
Jason muffled a laugh before Adam began to strip and they carefully
reviewed the plan once more.
on schedule, Malcolm appeared and the two trackers pursued him with sharp eyes
as they crouched in camouflage. As
they expected, the swimmer removed every stitch of clothing.
He carefully laid his clothes on a large flat rock concealed by some low
shrubs, then waded out to where the water was a decent depth for swimming.
the observers separated, Adam to distract the swimmer, while Jason tended to the
other part of their plan. Shaking
his head as his blue dress snagged on twigs and stones, Adam mumbled, ‘Can’t
imagine being stuck in this kind a getup everyday.
Those gals must have a heck of a lot of patience!’
Hiking the skirt, he launched
into his role, uttering an excellent imitation of Eleanor’s titter.
his vantage point, Jason clapped a hand over his mouth, to capture his own
laughter, enjoying his friend’s theatrics.
As expected, Malcolm stopped swimming, eyes searching for the girl behind
the giggle. Head concealed in a
bonnet matching his fancy frock, Adam twittered once more, before skipping
toward a nearby meadow. Malcolm
quickly waded for the water’s edge, stopping with a start as he gaped at the
rock where he’d deposited his garments. There before him, spread out in splendor, was the frilly pink
darting frantically in a useless search for his belongings, Malcolm froze, once
more, hearing Adam’s peel of girlish laughter.
It seemed to be getting closer as he became aware of the snapping of
branches from another direction, compliments of a secluded Jason.
Groaning, Malcolm grabbed the dress and wrapped it hastily around his
waist, before bounding off toward a path away from the approaching sounds.
boys continued to pursue him from a discreet distance, ever-herding him back
towards the Lawrence ranch house. Gripping
the pink wrap tightly at his waist, the cowhand managed to dart from tree to
bush until he was only feet away from the bunkhouse.
Luck deserted him, however, as Ned Lawrence appeared on horseback and
Daniel immerged from the hands’ quarters.
men simultaneously raised an eyebrow, then swiveled in the direction of boys’
voices behind them. ‘Looks like
something a gal would wear, don’t ya think so, Adam?’
to comb his mussed hair back into place, Adam nodded, scrutinizing the lace with
great care. ‘Yep, don’t
normally consider that color of pink for the gear of a seasoned cowhand.’
their hats, the two pranksters took off in a cloud of dust, leaving Ned Lawrence
concealing a very big grin as he decided that Hattie’s boys would bring a
welcome spark to his ranch, in summers to come, even if he’d never admit it to
observed Ben, not surprised to hear the appreciative chuckle sneaking from their
host. Like Hattie, Ben tried to
look stern, but in his heart he held a deep appreciation for his eldest boy’s
theatric flare and he was dang proud of his son’s keen mind, even though it
led him into hot water, more than a handful of times through the years.
the others slipped off to bed, Ben continued to study his sleeping son.
The young man’s forehead furrowed a bit, confirming his father’s
suspicions. “Did you think by playing possum, you would avoid my
stretched, grabbing the book off his chest as he did so.
“What? Pa? What time is
time is it,” Ben muttered.
Brightening, he concluded, as if to himself, “Time for me to sit Hattie
Carlson down, to fill me in on all those weeks you spent with her.
I have a feeling I’ll learn quite a bit about my eldest son.”
a sour glance at Jason, who took this moment to manufacture a snore, Adam
admitted, “You know something, Pa? I’ve
learned a valuable lesson myself, by bringing all these friends of mine together
for a visit.”
And what might that be?”
a pillow at Jason’s head, Adam answered, “Next time, invite them to come
 Cody Pyle first appeared in the author’s story “Echoes”. Aunt Hattie entered the Cartwright’s lives in the author’s “Turning the Pages of Time”.
 Hattie’s sister Matilda made her first appearance in the author’s story “Two Make the Mischief More Fun!”.
 Jason’s first encounter with Adam is recounted in the author’s story “Two Make the Mischief More Fun!”
 Patricia Lawrence first appeared in the author’s story “Those Daring Young Men”.
 A twist on a bit of dialog between Adam and Ben in the Bonanza episode “The Sisters”
 This event is told in the author’s tale “Two Make the Mischief More Fun!”.
 Malcolm Travis made his first appearance in the author’s story “Those Daring Young Men”.
 “Graces is a game that
dates back to the 1830s. It was originally intended as an indoor parlor
game, but could be played outdoors as well, and due to its popularity, it
often was. It was a two-player game which used two wooden throwing rings,
(usually decorated with ribbons), and four catching wands. Each player held
two catching wands, one in each hand. The first player would place the rings
over the wands which he/she held, then toss the rings, one at a time, to the
other player. The winner was the player who had caught the most tossed rings
within a set amount of time. It was generally considered a ‘girl's game’
as it was meant to encourage gracefulness--hence, the name,
“Games, Pastimes and Other Activities” (http://www.geocities.com/victorianlace12/games.html
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