Jones smacked her yardstick across her desktop, the third time since lunch.
The wooden instrument shattered, spitting splintered sections into the
laps of her two quietest students, the Woods twins.
Maria and Melinda exchanged wide-eyed glances from their front row seats
as their dark brown eyes shifted from their reading lesson to the sharp-tongued
teacher in front of the class.
Cartwright, after all the warnings I’ve given you today about your behavior,
what possessed you to take unexcused leave of your seat to go daydreaming by the
window? I’ve been extremely
patient with you, young man, but my tolerance has reached its end.”
trace of worry chased across the twelve-year-old face, but quickly vanished as
the child prompted, “Can’t ya hear it, ma’am?
Don’t ya hear that whistling?” Frustrated,
the youngster rushed to the fling open the door.
“Ya GOTTA hear it now.”
her fragmented rule from the twins’ outstretched hands, Abigail marched to the
door, demanding, “Since when does this classroom come to a standstill because
some passing stranger just happens to be whistling?”
Taking in the size of the approaching traveler, the teacher commented a
bit warily, “A rather massive man, isn’t he...
but just the same, Joseph...”
own patience fizzling, Joe slapped his thigh, interrupting, “Ma’am, I’m
tryin’ to tell ya, that AIN’T no stranger.
That fella is a real good friend of my brother Adam.
When I was a boy, he promised he’d come back and visit me one day and
sure enough, there he is!” Leaving
the open-mouthed instructor in his wake, the child dashed out the door, leapt
off the porch and barreled full tilt at the now laughing man.
down to stretch out a beefy arm, Cody Pyle pulled Joe up into his saddle,
returning the boy’s embrace with a heartfelt bear hug of his own.
Grasping the slender shoulders, he pulled the child back enough to study
him. “Look at ya, boy, you musta doubled in size since I last seen ya!”
a small sprite fer yer age, but then there’s no gain callin’ yer attention
ta that, I reckon.
they approached the hitching rail at the schoolyard, Cody took in the slim,
bristling woman on the porch, still gripping the wooden stub in her right hand.
A touch of concern in his deep, gravelly voice, the big man whispered in
Joe’s ear, “She didn’t break that there stick across yer backside, did
grinned over his shoulder, “Naw, but she’s as mad at me right now as a hive
a bees in bear’s paw.” Remembering
Abigail’s promise to send home a note if he disturbed the class again with his
shenanigans, the boy requested hopefully, “You think you can talk her out a
writin’ a note to my pa? Cause,
um, I really would’a been good for the rest of the day, ‘cept I heard you
his wild, dusty beard, Cody studied the worried hazel eyes poised for his
answer. “Yeah, well I reckon
I’ve got me a reputation fer stirrin’ up trouble in Ben Cartwright’s sons,
least ways in yer pa’s mind anyhow.” Again,
taking in Abigail’s stiff posture, the hefty man offered, “I ain’t no lady
killer, youngun, but I’ll see what I cain do about gettin’ ya off the
his passenger slipped from the saddle, Cody dismounted and removed his
dust-laden hat, resisting the urge to slap it clean, against his leg.
Stepping humbly toward the school porch, he took in Abigail’s stern
countenance and the flock of children peering from the doorway and through the
windows. “Ma’am, I cain’t tell you how sorry I am, fer disruptin’
yer day. Believe me, this
youngun’s big brother Adam cain tell ya, I’ve got nothin’ but respect fer
anyone who’s got the know-how to teach another human soul.
And here you be, ma’am ... why ... teachin’ a whole passel a kids.
Yer ta be commended, fer shore.”
true respect for her talent, Abigail softened slightly, but then her eyes
shifted to a grinning Little Joe and her temper flared, “It won’t work, Mr...
his hand, Cody introduced himself, “Pyle, ma’am, but I’d be mighty obliged
if you’d jest call me Cody, same as this youngun here.”
With a warning scowl at the youngster to wipe the grin off his face, he
turned once more to the teacher. “Now,
this lad hasn’t seen me in a coon’s age and then some, ma’am.
He was jest yea high the last time I come through these parts. And when my travels brung me so close agin, well, I jest had
ta swing by, ta see him and his family. Folks
in town tole me yer school was gettin’ ready ta let out fer the day.
In fact, I recollect one woman sayin’ somethin’ about a spring
holiday? Might that be why these
younguns have extra ants in their britches taday?”
still a bit disgruntled, Abigail suddenly realized just how much she needed an
intermission, “Well, I suppose with it so close to the end of the day and the
beginning of their holiday AND since you are such a good friend of Ada...”
Blushing, she corrected, “That is, the Cartwright family, Cody, I’ll
turn this ‘passel’ free a few minutes early.”
whoop of glee filled the air and the instructor spun on her students, “You
just make sure you take all of your belongings home with you, children.
The schoolhouse will be cleaned from top to bottom while you’re away.
Anything not nailed down may not be here when you return.”
children chorused, “Yes, ma’am,” before swarming through the classroom,
scooping up coats, hats and other items, before vanishing in a streak, leaving
only echoes of shrill laughter and yelps of joy lingering in the schoolyard.
Abigail requested, “Do give ... all the Cartwrights my best when you
see them, Mr. ... uh, that is, Cody.” As
Joe stumbled out onto the porch, choking an armload of his own belongings, his
teacher added, “Enjoy your holiday, Joseph.
And do try to wear off some of that extra energy while you’re away from
face beaming, Joe answered enthusiastically, “Yes, ma’am.
And you have a good break too. I
bet you can use it, huh?”
his hat at the dumbfounded woman, Cody promised with a wink, “I’ll do my
part to see that he uses up some of that there extra energy, ma’am.
Nice meetin’ ya.”
the pair headed toward the Ponderosa, at Cody’s leisurely pace, Joe
complimented, “Well, you sure picked the right words outta your hat, bringin’
Adam into it, Cody. I think that
probably swung her around.”
that? Yer teacher have a warm spot
fer that older brother of yers, does she, boy?”
yelped with laughter. “A warm
spot!” Crossing his hands over
his heart, he pretended to swoon, “Her heart burns for Adam ... like a volcano
about to erupt!”
heartily over the youngster’s dramatics and analogy, Cody probed, “Should I
be guessin’ that yer older brother don’t share that gal’s fiery feelin’?”
his eyes, Joe confirmed, “I’ll say! And
when my pa ain’t around and Adam’s gotta come sort things out at school,
well let me tell ya, it doesn’t score me any points with older brother!”
glint in his eye, Cody asked fondly, “How is Adam, Little Joe?”
he’s fine. Got lots ta do all the
time. Pa keeps him real busy.”
Hesitating, he revealed, “Truth is, he ain’t gonna be at home when we
get there.” Seeing the expected
disappointment rise in Cody’s eyes, Joe quickly assured him, “But he ain’t
so far away. He’s up supervisin’
Pa’s latest lumber contract. And
I’ve been thinkin’ on it, ever since we left the school.
I’m gonna ask my pa if I can take you to the camp, so you can visit
Adam. Maybe he can even get off for
a day or two, but that’ll have to be between him and Pa.”
that he wouldn’t miss seeing Adam, Cody relaxed and drew out a cigar.
“And how about the rest of yer family?
Yer pa holdin’ up okay? And
what about that large brother of yers and that there mighty fine little cook?”
he couldn’t recall every detail of Cody’s last visit, Joe remembered the
essence of their goodbye and the love that flowed from this man’s eyes and
arms as they shared their final hug. The boy felt that love now, knew it encompassed the
entire Cartwright household. “Everybody
is just fine. And they’ll be so
glad ta see ya! Golly, Cody, you
just made my school holiday extra special!”
sporting wide grins now, the pair picked up their pace, suddenly anxious to
reach the ranch house.
sensed something in the air, just before he turned from his wood chopping.
A smile lit up his face as he drove the ax head into the log at his feet,
hollering, “Hop Sing! Hoss! We’ve got company!”
Joe and Cody reached the house, the cook emerged from the kitchen and Hoss
strode up from the barn. Happily
surprised at the guest’s identity, Hop Sing announced, “Hop Sing make stew
bigger now, for large dinner guest. Make
dumpling, bake pie, have good crop of potato in garden...”
Shaking the big man’s hand, the little cook bubbled over with
exuberance. “You sight for sore
eyes. Make much smile.”
Locking eyes with Ben, he shook his finger, insisting, “You send
someone, get Mr. Adam home, lickety-split, so he not miss good friend.”
Ben commanded, “Hop Sing, you take care of fattening up your stew!
Let me worry about ‘Mr. Adam’!”
up his hands, the cook spun on his heel and stalked off toward his garden.
His fiery retort in his native tongue left Ben massaging his temples.
deep laughter returned smiles to everyone’s face.
“Well, I see yer cook’s still got his spunk.
Sure cain make a fella’s mouth water though, speakin’ about all that
grabbed and pumped the large man’s hand, “Cody, this sure is a wonderful
surprise. And don’t you worry a
moment about Adam not being here. I’ll
tugged on his father’s vest tail, “Pa?
I was kinda hopin’ you’d let me take Cody up to the lumber camp.
I know the way and Cody will keep a good eye on me, so you won’t have
ta worry or nothin’...”
and Cody exchanged a strange look, which neither Cartwright son missed.
Squeezing Joe’s shoulder, Ben allowed, “Well, I’ll give it some
Pa...” A stern glance reminded
the boy of who was in charge and that proper respect was expected.
Joe answered quickly, “Yes, sir.”
Pyle observed the scene. He’d met countless people during his exploration of the
country, but none of them made more of an impression on him than this father and
his relationship with his sons. He
marveled at Ben’s ability to corral his children with a single word or glance,
but much more impressive, this same man could tell his boys he loved them with
every breath in his body, simply by laying a hand on their shoulders or
capturing their eyes with his own. An
orphan, with no family ties he knew about, Cody swallowed hard, reminded
suddenly of just what this family really meant to him.
his throat, to remove the tightness there, the big man asked jovially, “My
room in yer barn still available, Ben?”
grabbed their friend’s horse, knowing there was no talking him into staying in
one of the guest rooms. “I’ll get yer horse settled, if’n ya like, Cody.”
Admiring the animal, Hoss couldn’t resist stroking it.
“He shore is a beauty.”
to have the subject shift, Cody grinned at Ben’s middle son.
“Yep, he’s a fine critter all right.
He and me, we’ve seen a lot tagether.
Lost my other horse a few years back and a fella give me Cinder here as a
present fer helpin’ him clear off a sizeable chunk a his land.
Said a big man needs a big horse and it was only fittin’ that this big
fella carry a proper-sized passenger.”
Sing poked his head out the bathhouse door.
“Water hot now, Mr. Cody, whenever you leady.”
his hat, Cody grinned, “Ya shore know how ta take care of a fella, Hop
Sing.” Sniffing the air, he
added, “And much as I want a bath, I’m so lookin’ forward to that there
fine supper yer rustlin’ up!”
Joe in the direction of the barn, Ben landed a swat to his rump, ordering with a
grin, “Go on and help your brother with Cody’s horse and his things, then
get to your chores, young man.”
the boy stepped quickly away, to avoid a second swat, “Yes sir, Pa.”
brothers wandered off amiably and Ben accepted the cigar Cody presented, with a
nod of thanks. They puffed silently
until Cody broke in, “Boys seem to have come along nicely, Ben.
That youngun still keeps ya hoppin’ though, don’t he?”
He chuckled. “Guess he
keeps that teacher a his on her toes too.”
furrowed brow, Ben probed, “Was he acting up at school today?
I warned that young man this morning, that just because this was the last
Ben, that boy’s got a spirit about him. And
I’m ta blame fer the trouble this afternoon.
He heard me headin’ toward his schoolhouse and he jest plumb had ta
come greet me. I settled it all
with that teacher a his. The boy
left on good terms.”
an appreciative nod, Ben noted, “Well, Abigail has her hands full.
Of course, Joe isn’t the only one who acts up, but I fear he’s often
the spark that starts the wildfire. To
her credit, Miss Jones keeps the class fairly well in control and she doesn’t
hesitate to bring it to my attention when that scamp crosses over the line
between rambunctious and just plain naughty!
We’ve been through it enough times that her threat of a note home
usually settles him sufficiently.”
what Joe says, Adam’s still got a good hand in helpin’ ya raise that frisky
warm smile spread over Ben’s face. “I
can’t tell you how grateful I am to have Adam home again.”
agin?” Cody’s eyes filled with
his head, realizing all the omissions, Ben hurriedly explained, “Well,
there’s lots to fill you in on, isn’t there?
Adam went back East to school for several years.
Long years, it seemed at the time. To
be honest, there was a part of me that feared the East would lay claim to him,
but he settled back in here, raring to put all his learning into practice.”
mused, a hint of worry in his words, “Maybe I keep him too busy...”
Pushing away the guilt, he admitted, “He’s an enormous help to me,
what with expanding the ranch, spreading out into other ventures and ...”
Shaking his finger at the barn, he emphasized, “And keeping an eye on
that youngest scalawag of mine.”
grinned, “Yes, well, from what I seen my last visit, those two have a certain
respect fer one another. Cut from the same cloth in some ways, ain’t they?”
Ben surmised, “More than either of them realize I think.”
Considering it further, he added, “Then, I expect their differences are
just as important as their similarities, in making that relationship what it
is..." Slapping the big guest
on the back, he declared, “No matter! They’re
brothers, the three of them and they’re there for each other when it
for you, when it counts, my friend. “Well,
I’ll take that bath now. I cain
shore use it. Wouldn’t think a
distractin’ yer noses from that fine meal in the waitin’.”
chuckled, but as his large guest disappeared into the bathhouse, he mulled over
his youngest son’s request. Don’t
let the past cripple you. That was
a long time ago and nothing more than an innocent oversight.
Sing’s cooking filled the air with fine aromas and Cody’s stories filled the
room with laughter. He shared the
most memorable places and faces he’d encountered since his last visit and all
the family members regretted that Adam was missing these colorful yarns.
Ben announced over dessert, “Joseph, you’d better plan on an early night
tonight, if you expect to take Cody to the lumber camp in the morning.”
up from his place, Joe engulfed his father in a hug, “Oh, thanks, Pa!
I can’t wait to see the look on Adam’s face!
Pa, I’ll never get to sleep tonight, just thinkin’ about it!”
his son close, Ben patted his back, his own heart full, imagining his eldest
son’s reaction to this surprise visit. Clearing
his throat, he insisted firmly, “Well, you see if you can’t settle down just
a bit, young man. After all, the
last thing Cody needs is to have you falling asleep and slipping off your horse
on the trail tomorrow.”
Pa, I won’t.” Joe grinned, then
announced, “I’m gonna run upstairs and get my stuff together, case Adam says
he can’t get away, cause then we’ll just camp out with him.
shot up the steps, before his father could comment and Ben’s eyes sparkled
over his son’s spontaneity. Catching a similar light in Cody’s eyes, he insisted,
“There’s no reason why you can’t bring Adam home for the weekend and then
some. The foreman he hired, Jake
is a very capable and dedicated man. He’ll
keep things running smoothly in Adam’s absence.
Besides, they may be near finished with the cutting by now.”
Hoss bid them goodnight, Ben retrieved the brandy and the two men sat sipping
it, the crackling fire a welcome accompaniment to their conversation.
place looks good, Ben. Joe tells me
you’ve got yerself inta all sorts a business now... lumber, mining, horses ...
and you ‘got enough heads a beef ta feed everybody in the world’!”
chuckled, “My youngest son tends to exaggerate, but we’re doing well.
We have money in different ventures in the area.
It’s good for the community and has benefited us, to be sure.
And the herd has certainly grown since you were here last.”
Refilling Cody’s glass, Ben raised his, “I’m a very lucky man, for
so many reasons. And ‘good
friends’ is mighty high on my list.”
in the toast, Cody nodded, “I count myself lucky ta have acquired yer
friendship, Ben. Having you and yer
boys here, well... I know it’s taken me a while ta get back fer this visit,
but I was mighty glad to hear ya were still in these parts.
I’ve kept yer family in my heart all these years and yer all jest as I
remembered ya.” With a yawn, he stood and stretched, “Well, best git on ta
bed, if we’re ta get that early start. ‘Spect
that youngun will be up at first light, anxious ta lead me ta that brother a
his.” His eyes gave away his own
excitement, “Lookin’ forward to seeing the growed up boy a yers, Ben.
What, with all them college lessons in him now and all, ya must be right
proud a him.”
voice suddenly husky, Ben replied, “You know I’ve always been proud of that
boy of mine, Cody.”
his glass in salute, the big man admitted warmly, “Yep, I know it.”
Draining the glass, he set it on the table and bid his host goodnight.
been riding for a good hour or more and Cody couldn’t help but smile in
amazement, at Joe’s incredible knack for keeping the conversation going.
As well, he imagined that this conversation could take place just as
easily without his presence!
why don’t ya take a swig off yer canteen.
Ain’t yer throat dry by now, from all that jawin’?”
grinned weakly. “Oh, guess ya’d
like me to stop yappin’ for a bit, huh?”
chuckled, “It’s okay, son, I spend lots a my life jest listenin’ ta birds
and squirrels. I don’t mind
if’n ya talk, but I’d like ta slip in a question or two, if’n you’ll let
sure. Honest, Cody, you can just
tell me ta shut up, if I’m talkin’ too much.
My brothers sure do. I’m
just excited, ya know?”
grin widening, Cody nodded, “Yes, son, I know.
I’m excited about seeing him myself.”
thirst quenched, Joe launched into another soliloquy and Cody couldn’t help
but note this blatant difference between Ben’s oldest and youngest sons.
Five-year-old Adam had not been a chatterbox, by any means.
Not that he’d been shy. If
he had a question, he voiced it, though Cody suspected the tyke chewed on most
things long and hard before he spit them out...
like my pa, Cody?’
pa. Do you like him?’
sure I do, son. Any reason why
ya’d think otherwise?’
shook his head, ‘No. I was
thinkin’ you must like him, otherwise you wouldn’t be travelin’ with us,
all this way.’
where this particular conversation was headed, Cody probed, ‘Do ya think some
folks DON’T like yer pa, son?’
knitted, the boy explained, ‘Some folks don’t understand Pa.’
his bushy beard, the big man nodded, suspecting that this youngster had made it
his primary ambition, to understand his father. Ben Cartwright meant the world to this ‘little man’,
intelligent beyond his years. It
was more than intelligence though. The
lad clearly adored his pa and studied him, learning his moods, his motives, his
values and his passions, as they worked their way though good days and bad, ever
eyes reaching out to the child, Cody stated sincerely, ‘He’s a good man, yer
father. Got a good heart.
Hard times make their mark on a man, son, but yer pa, well, his goodness
is there. A fella can see that and
has ta, well, fergive the hard edges.
grinned, satisfied that he’d sized up this big man correctly.
His attention shifted to the trail ahead and he pointed to the growing
speck approaching. ‘Look, Cody,
Pa’s coming back from his scouting.’
large traveler didn’t miss the hint of relief in the youngster’s eyes.
He slapped the reins, encouraging the team, bringing them closer to that
growing figure in the distance...
they neared the camp, Joe requested in an excited whisper, “Can you stay outta
sight, till I find Adam, Cody? I
wanna make him guess who brought me up here.”
Enjoying the boy’s youthful fun, Cody nodded and took out a cigar.
As he lit it, Joe’s face clouded, “Are those special cigars, Cody?
Do ya think Adam will recognize the smell?”
Yeah, a mite. I’ve smoked
others when I have ta, but I prefer these here ones, from Pennsylvania.”
He considered a moment. “Your
brother has a sharp mind, son. No
telling what he’s got tucked away in his memory. Smells can stick in a fella’s head fer years and bring back
them days gone by, quick as that.” He
snapped his fingers for emphasis. Trying
to interpret the boy’s expression, he finally questioned, “Would ya rather I
didn’t light it, son?”
his head, Joe grinned, “No, you can.” Rubbing
his hands together, he noted the drift of the wind, encouraging, “And puff on
it good. We’ll just see how smart Adam is.”
boy marched into camp as if he owned the place, drawing the attention of several
lumberjacks. Jake Weber stepped out
of a tent, calling out, “Little Joe? Somethin’
the matter at home, son?” When
the child spun round and shook his head, the foreman glanced about, then
scolded, “You’d best not be up here all by yer lonesome, son.
Yer brother won’t like that. This
is no place for a youngster.”
back an angry retort, Joe huffed under his breath, then answered as politely as
he could, “No, sir, I ain’t here by my lonesome, but I want to see Adam,
kinda in private.”
his chin, to hide a knowing smile, Jake concluded, “Ah, I see, in a bit a
trouble, are ya?”
flaring, Joe snapped, “No, sir, I ain’t in trouble.
I just want to see Adam!”
The boy spun to find his brother behind him, hands on hips, brow creased
as he searched the area for signs of Hoss or Pa.
Scrutinizing the boy, voice edging toward anger, he questioned, “What
are you doing here? I sure hope you
didn’t just wander up on your own...”
it, Adam, this ain’t goin’ like I planned at all!
You’re ruinin’ everything!”
“Now, hold on a minute. I overheard what sounded like a fair amount of disrespect in your voice, talking to Jake there, just now...”
the big man waiting on the sidelines, Joe managed to swallow his anger and
disappointment, stubbornly forging ahead with his plan.
Looking Adam directly in the eyes, he insisted, “Sniff the air.”
Beginning to wonder if his little brother might be experimenting with
drink, Adam scrunched in his eyebrows, peering more closely as he posed, “You
want to repeat that?”
voice something between a whine and plea, Joe insisted, “Aw, golly, Adam,
humor me, will ya? Just sniff the
air. Tell me what ya smell.”
his hands in a gesture of surrender, Adam sniffed.
Joe pushed impatiently, “Deep, like you was tryin’ to figure out what’s on
the stove, from out in our barn.”
briefly to the heavens for strength, Adam shut his eyes, taking a deep whiff.
He stopped dead cold. His
eyes shot open, to immediately scan the woods beyond the camp.
“Cody Pyle,” he breathed out in a whisper. His gaze met Joe’s, instantly spotting tears glistening in
the child’s eyes. His voice rose,
demanding now at the trees, “Cody Pyle!”
Though keeping his own tears of joy in check, Adam couldn’t remain
still, taking off in long strides, bearing down on the hearty laugher answering
him from the woods.
and his loggers exchanged bewildered glances as their boss broke into a run.
Joe followed, at a respectful distance.
Something told him to let his brother have his reunion alone.
all eyes now, Adam sprinted, reaching out to grab Cody’s outstretched hand,
before surrendering to his bear hug. He
admitted quietly into the huge shoulder, “He gave me your message, back then
... but I ... well, I wasn’t sure ... that you’d really ever get the
the young man’s strong back several affectionate slaps, the large man scolded
gently, “Promised that little boy I’d come back, son.
Old Cody don’t make a habit of breakin’ his promises...”
two men stepped away, their hands briefly clasping each other’s forearms
before they released each other completely.
Their eyes continued to speak, before Adam nodded, a hint of smile on his
lips, “Yes, I didn’t always like the outcome of those promises, but I
can’t think of any that you broke.”
rustle of leaves alerted the pair to Joe’s presence and Adam turned, eyes
filled with warmth as he opened his arms. Capturing
the boy in his embrace, he whispered into soft curls, “I’m sorry, buddy.
Thanks for bringing him up here to me.”
Joe held on tight, the memories of messages he’d delivered long ago, to
both men, came rushing back.
an arm around his brother’s shoulders, Adam led them back to the camp, to
introduce their large friend to the curious loggers.
Afterwards, as the men broke away to build their evening campfires, Adam
held the foreman behind. “What
would you estimate, Jake, two more full days of cutting?”
to three, I think, Adam. It’s been a long haul.”
I know. The men have been working
hard and they’re tired.”
interrupted, “Be happy to pitch
in, Adam. I’ve cut down my fair
share of lumber over the years.”
insisted, “Adam, I can keep this goin’ if you...”
his head, Ben’s eldest insisted, “I’m here until the last log hits that
river, Jake.” Turning to Joe, he
stroked his chin, face twisting with his thoughts.
“This isn’t the place for you to be spending your spring break
though, buddy.” He looked to Cody, “How long had you planned to stay?
Because I was thinking, there’s a spectacular waterfall nearby.
You and Joe could camp there and I could join you in the evenings until
the cutting is finished. Much as
I’d welcome your help, I think the kid here would enjoy exploring with you the
next few days. How would that be,
at the prospect, the boy looked up to Cody who just grinned his agreement.
Joe quickly suggested, “You’ll send word to Pa though, right, Adam?
Cause... well, he seemed worried about me comin’ up here at first
and...” The child watched the
same silent exchange pass between his older brother and Cody, that he’d seen a
day earlier between Cody and Pa.
a pat to his brother’s shoulder, Adam assured, “Of course I will, Joe.
I would never leave Pa wondering over your whereabouts.”
away he called out, “Billie!” An
older man trotted up and Adam instructed, “Need you to head to the Ponderosa,
at first light and give my father a message for me.”
Thinking further, he decided, “I’ll write it out.”
Heading for a table beneath a canvas canopy, Adam sat and jotted down a
rather lengthy message.
shrugged, then rolled his eyes as he confided to his friend, “My brother sure
can be long-winded, even when he’s writin’ a note.”
the boy’s hair, Cody just chuckled.
following morning, with the rush of the falls in their ears, the three campers
enjoyed a fish breakfast, early enough to allow Adam to report back to the
logging operation at a reasonable hour. Seated
on a large boulder with his little brother, the older sibling drained his coffee
cup, then announced, “Well, I’d best get cracking, before my crew starts
making comments about the boss being on spring holiday!”
hopped up first, instantly trapped about the wrist, as Adam ordered, “Hold on
there, boy, there’s something I want to discuss before I head out.”
inwardly, before turning to face big brother’s “lecture look”, Joe moaned,
“Aw, Adam, you don’t gotta tell me ta behave.”
narrowing, the older brother reined the child back in to stand directly before
him. “Perhaps not, but I’m
going to say my piece, just the same.” Resigned to this fact of life, the boy waited, his gaze
dutifully meeting his brother’s. “I
expect you to behave for Cody, the way you would for me or Pa.” Catching a brief flicker of cunning spark in the boy’s
eyes, Adam firmly amended, “Let me put that another way.
I expect you obey Cody and to act in a manner that adheres to the rules
and guidelines under which you’ve been raised.
AND I’m going to leave you with a tidbit to chew on, in the event you
foolishly choose to ignore my warning.”
waited, growing fidgety, his wrist still captive.
“From personal experience, I can assure you that Cody Pyle knows just
what to do to little boys who make foolish choices.”
With that, Adam released his hold and stood to face their large
companion. “He’s all yours,
Cody. You two have a good time.
I’ll try to get back for supper, but feel free to start without me.”
Sport, Adam vanished within seconds and Joe looked up to find Cody
on, boy, busy yerself cleanin’ our skillet, or didn’t ya want to go explorin’
while yer brother’s off workin’?”
the traveler scratched his beard, finally deciding, “Well, seein’ as how yer
brother admitted ta the fact, I don’t see why I cain’t fill in the missing
pieces. First off, I think
‘wallop’ is a pretty harsh word fer a few smacks to a little tyke’s hind
quarters. What’s more, I expect I
hurt yer big brother’s feelin’s more ‘an anything.”
pestered, “You’re stallin’, Cody.”
you ain’t cleanin’ that there skillet neither, are ya, boy.”
As Joe tossed a bit of sand into the pan, Cody launched into the tale
from the past...
and the Cartwrights grew comfortable with each other, very early in their
relationship. An intuitive child,
Adam trusted the stranger instantly. Ben’s
own instincts soon told him to do likewise and the three shared their food and
few means of comfort as if they were a family.
By the same token, Ben freely left Adam in Cody’s care on the occasions
he thought it wise to scout ahead of their wagon. Cody’s horse, like his master, was an easy going creature
and allowed Ben to ride him, while Cody either drove the Cartwright team or
remained with Adam at the current campsite.
became the primary hunter for the group and this particular instance marked the
first time he took Adam along with him. Before
they started out, the husky traveler squatted down and fixed the boy in a firm
stare. The youngster waited,
surprised at this sudden change in his friend’s demeanor.
‘What with yer pa out on my Rusty, you’ll be comin’ along on the
hunt taday, son.’ Adam’s eyes
shone with excitement and pride as he nodded his ascent.
The lines in Cody’s face deepened and his voice grew even more serious,
‘I expect ya ta stick close to me, youngun.
No wanderin’ off fer any reason, ya got me?
Last thing I need is ta find I’ve shot me a little boy fer dinner.’
Cody watched the young eyes triple in size and gave a satisfied nod, glad
to see his point had registered. ‘That’s
right, it’s a scary thought, but I want ya ta be scared.
Huntin’ is serious business, boy.
Bullet an arrow cain do ugly damage, that jest cain’t be fixed, much a
pa’s told me about guns and all, Cody. Don’t
worry, I’ll stick close.’
see that ya do. When I look behind
me, I expect ta see ya in my footsteps.’
adults sure liked to repeat things! Adam
kept his thoughts to himself, nodding his understanding.
He hesitated, then suggested, ‘Maybe I can shoot somethin’ with the
slingshot you made me? I’ve been practicin’ with it.
Gettin’ real good at hittin’ pinecones.’
the first time Cody noticed the lumps in the boy’s pockets, resembling the
cheeks of a busy chipmunk storing up for the winter.
‘You got yerself loaded
down with stones there, son?’ At
the boy’s nod, Cody chuckled before compromising, ‘Tell ya what.
How about if Cody makes a killin’ first, then we’ll see about givin’
you a lesson with that there new slingshot a yours.’
see’, Adam repeated grudgingly, fingering his weapon.
shook his index finger under the child’s nose.
‘Now listen here, youngun, we need ta get us a good feed tanight.
Yer pa’s anxious to push ahead and our bellies best be filled up
decent, aforehand. So, ya best plan
on doin’ things Cody’s way, else you’ll find yerself havin’ trouble
settin’ fer yer supper tanight!’ Again the boy nodded, not wishing to rile his companion
his slingshot dangling out of his back pocket, Adam trailed in his companion’s
footsteps, his eyes searching ground and tree for possible targets.
After a bit, nature’s call forced him to stop and relieve himself.
As he did up his trousers, his ears perked up at the unmistakable chatter
of a squirrel in the tree he’d just christened.
Cody’s long strides had carried him a fair distance already. Adam knew he’d have to run in order to catch up.
Still, as the squirrel scolded, the budding hunter slowly reached around
to tug out his slingshot, simultaneously digging a stone from his left front
if laughing now, the squirrel twittered more incessantly, springing upward to
light on a branch directly in the sun’s glare.
Adam squinted at the furry silhouette, then set his jaw, more determined
than ever to nab the jabbering critter.
the first stone, the boy scowled as it sailed well below his target.
The squirrel’s tail beat the air and Adam dipped into his pocket for
more ammunition. ‘You’re gettin’
cocky, but I’m gonna get ya this time.’
only thing yer gonna be gettin’, boy is a lesson in followin’ orders.’
Adam dropped the slingshot and spun to find Cody glaring down on him, two
rabbits dangling from his right hand. Seconds
later, that same hand was delivering the promised lesson to a captive backside,
stinging swats accompanied by a sharp lecture, ‘When I tell ya somethin’,
boy, I expect ya ta heed me, jest the same as yer pa expects from ya!’
Cody set the child back on his feet, he ordered, ‘Pick up yer slingshot and
folla me back ta camp. You ain’t
actin’ responsible enough fer no huntin’ lesson taday.’
little chin puckered as he worked to contain threatening tears.
Without turning, Cody growled, ‘I’d best hear little footsteps
patterin’ behind me, right quick, or boy, so help me, I’m gonna warm them
britches a yers good and proper this time!’
up his slingshot, Adam resisted a sudden urge to hurl it at the still tittering
squirrel. He shot daggers at the
blasted beast instead, before jamming his weapon back in his pocket and quickly
matching Cody’s pace, to avoid further reprimand. None-the-less, he stewed over the incident, his mood good and
black by the time they reached camp.
ordered, ‘Get the firewood tagether, boy, while I skin off these pelts.’
It only took one glance, to know Adam was giving him the silent
treatment. The boy prowled around
the campsite, plucking up pieces of kindling, his face a dark cloud.
Shaking his head, the big man ignored him, confident he’d done the
right thing, hoping Adam would soon draw the same conclusion.
arrived just as the scent of cooked rabbit kissed the late afternoon air.
‘Mmmm. Smells like you two
had a very successful day.’ Watching
Cody silently slide a skillet of greens over the fire, Ben suddenly noticed his
son’s absence. He opened his
mouth to ask, but was immediately interrupted.
toward their wagon with his chin, Cody explained, ‘Had ta give a lesson taday
about followin’ orders. Guess
he’s decided ta go hungry, rather than apologize.’
Pulling out a cigar stub, the big man jammed it into his mouth and
grunted, ‘Mule-headed little fella, ain’t he?’
off Rusty’s saddle, Ben mumbled, ‘Mule-headed.
Humph. The word doesn’t
even begin to scratch the surface.’
briefly discussing Ben’s observations of the trail ahead, the two ate in
silence. Their eyes suddenly met,
at the sound of two small boots hitting the dirt below the back of the wagon.
Moments later, after careful deliberation, Adam approached the campfire.
‘I’m sorry, Cody.’
contrite eyes, the big fella extended his huge hand, answering, ‘Apology
accepted, boy.’ As their hands
clasped, Cody encouraged, ‘How about sharin’ some of this meal with yer pa
boy nodded, but turned to his father and quietly admitted, ‘I’m sorry, Pa,
for bein’ naughty while you were away.’
out to push his boy’s tousled hair into place, Ben answered with a gentle
smile, ‘All right, son. You just
see that you mind Cody in the future.’ Reaching
for the plate Cody had prepared, he slid to one side of his log, suggesting,
‘Sit down now and eat. We’ve
got a long day ahead of us tomorrow.’
Adam opted to climb into his father’s lap, Ben broke into a warm smile,
slipping his left arm tightly about his son.
Cody slid a well-stocked plate onto the child’s lap and Adam dug in
eagerly, commenting enthusiastically, ‘This is real fine, Cody.’
Looking his friend in the eyes, he asked hopefully, ‘Next time we camp,
will you show me how to hunt proper with that slingshot?’
a wink at Ben, Cody nodded, ‘Yep, that’s a promise, son.’
absorbed Cody’s soft mood, but couldn’t hide his smirk as he asked, “Did
Adam ever hit anything with that slingshot?
I mean, actually kill somethin’ for ya to serve up for a meal?”
did. Was a squirrel in fact.
Only seems fittin’, don’t it?”
Chuckling, Cody suggested, “What do ya say, son, shall we see what all
is out there, in them trees and bushes, fer our own supper tanight?”
by the waterfall behind them, Joe asked abruptly, “Are you a good swimmer,
am, boy. Got throwed in the water
by some well-meanin’ fella who thought I’d better learn.
I was nothin’ but a pup at the time and I’d a drown, I think, if I
didn’t get the proper way a thrashin’ down, there and then.
But I made a point of gettin’ dern good at it, after that day.”
Studying the boy, he dug, “Jest what’s so interestin’ ‘bout my
swimmin’ talents, anyhow?”
I wanna swim out to that waterfall. Adam
says the current’s too swift and that I don’t swim well enough for him to
chance it. Last time we came up
here was when he first came back from college.
He waded us out there just like he did when I was little, with a anchor
rope. I just thought, you’d swim
out there with me...”
his head, Cody scolded, “I ain’t gonna override nothin’ yer bother has set
up fer ya, son. Besides, we’d be
better placed to let that water set fer now and get ta our huntin’.
Them falls ain’t goin’ nowhere.’
at the supplies heaped on the ground, Joe noticed Cody’s bow-and-arrow.
“Would you show me how to make one of those, Cody?”
will, boy. We cain find us the
proper wood while we’re out taday and start work on it when we git back.”
if that don’t plumb beat all. Don’t
know how we come up empty-handed. Ya’d
think these here woods would be just brimmin’ with critters.”
Though he didn’t voice his conclusion aloud, Cody had a pretty good
theory of why the game had eluded them. This
youngun’s gonna need ta learn ta be a lot quieter, if he expects ta catch
anything with that bow-and-arrah he wants ta make.
But mehbe while he works at strippin’ the wood, I can sneak off and
find us some supper.
voiced his suggestion diplomatically and left Joe to strip his bow wood while he
sought meat for their dinner. The
boy finished peeling off the bark and listened for sounds of his teacher’s
return. The rushing waterfall
roared his name now and he glanced down again at the supplies Cody and Adam had
piled near their bedrolls. “Boy,
that’s plenty of rope. I don’t
see why I can’t go out to the falls myself, if I tie myself first.
I remember what Adam did before.”
With one final glance around, the youngster grabbed the rope and bounded
over to a tree at the water’s edge. “I’ll
just hook these pieces to each other, then around me... Now, I’m all set.”
out into the cold water, the boy whistled, “Whew, that mountain water comes
down like ice! Sure would wake a
fella up quick in the mornin’.” With
the heat of the sun on his back, Joe shrugged off the chill below his waist and
continued forward. He recalled back
when he was six and visited these falls. Adam
had carried him to the rocks beneath the falling water.
When he was ten, he’d swum as far as he could, then Adam moved ahead,
towing him, once the current got too much for him. “Well, I’m two whole years older now, I’ll swim to
those boulders on my own... and if I can’t get there, I’ll just go back to
the bank, is all...”
arms tiring, Joe soon realized he wasn’t going to make his goal.
Sighing, he tried to reverse course, only to discover his anchor rope was
tangled up on a dead tree lodged in between several fair-sized rocks.
“Great. This water’s
gettin’ darn cold now, too.” Chewing
on his lower lip, the child ticked off his options.
“I could dig out my pocket knife, cut the rope and try to swim back to
shore. I could wait here for Cody
ta come back ... but I gotta feeling he ain’t gonna be too pleased findin’
me like this.” The boy dug for
instant rope and boy parted company, Joe knew he’d made the wrong decision.
The current snatched him up, dragging him along, no matter how hard he
tried to swim toward the bank. Adam
had always described these as the “mother falls”, but up ahead, the water
took some fairly long drops, onto sharp rocks.
Beginning to panic, Joe hollered at the top of his lungs for help.
rode into camp, proudly displaying a pheasant and duck slung over his saddle.
His smile wilted instantly, at the sound of Joe’s screams and the sight
of flapping arms in the water. Urging
Cinder forward, he headed well below where he spotted Joe.
Dismounting, the big man stripped out of his coat and boots, before
bounding into the chilling water. His
strong arms and legs carried him against the current and he reached out to
snatch the flailing boy, then swam toward shore.
his cargo, until he could touch bottom, Cody stood, hoisting Joe from the water.
Pinning him against his hip, he growled, “You know, boy, I thought Adam
was overdoin’ it a mite, givin’ ya that lecture, ‘fore he set off this
mornin’, but I cain see he knew exactly what he was doin’.
Well, by thunder, I know jest what I’m gonna do too!”
couldn’t have escaped the mighty grip if he’d tried, but he knew better than
to bother. What’s more,
considering the fright he’d just shot through both of them, he knew he
deserved exactly what was heading his way.
on the same rock from which Adam had delivered his lecture, Cody roughly shifted
his wet charge from hip to lap and proceeded to paddle the boy’s sopping
backside until he was quite certain he’d made a lasting impression.
Depositing Joe back on his feet, he hollered, “When yer brother gits
here tanight, I have half a mind ta tell him ta send ya packin’ fer home in
the mornin’!” Jerking his head
toward their gear, he grunted, “I suggest ya find a dry set a clothes and get
them wet ones into what’s left a the sun, so’s they dry off proper.”
took several steps away, but stopped and turned.
His bottom stung like all get out, but his conscience and heart cried out
in fiercer pain. “I’m sorry, Cody. What
I did was real stupid.” Slapping
his hands to his sides the child begged, “Please, forgive me.
I won’t give ya no more trouble. Don’t
make me go back home. I wanna camp
out here with you, till Adam’s done and we can all go home together.”
still driving his words, Cody bellowed, “Boy, do ya have ANY idea how sick
I’d be if anything happened ta ya while ya was in my charge?
How could I EVER face yer brothers or pa if ...
Dad-blame it all ta the devil, boy!
Ya jest scared a good ten years off a my life, at least!”
to make peace, Joe bargained, “Cody, please, ya got every right to be sore.
I’d do almost anything ta take back what I did today. You ... You can wallop me all over again, if ... if
it’ll make ya stop being mad with me.”
His words a pitiful whisper now, the youngster begged, “Please, say ya
forgive me though, Cody.” Meeting
silence, Joe sucked in a sob, his tears mingling with the water still dripping
off his wet head.
come here, dad-blame it all. Come here, boy.” Drawing
the child to him, Cody patted his wet back and spoke so gently, Joe couldn’t
believe it was the same man. “Cody
fergives ya, son. And I ain’t
gonna wallop ya agin. You’ll be
havin’ enough trouble settin’ tanight as it is.
Come on now, let’s us get a fire started and get ya dry. The night air will have a chill in it and I won’t have ya
gettin’ sick.” When the child
continued to hold on, Cody assured him, “It’s okay, Joe.
We’s still friends, son.”
arrived as his fellow campers were just cleaning their plates.
“I could smell your cooking for a mile, I think.
Wow, pheasant AND duck! Don’t
dare let my crew know I’m dining like this at night!
Cody share some of his hunting tips with you today, buddy?” Suddenly realizing he was the only one grinning, Adam studied
his brother. “What’s the
matter? Something happen today I
should know about?” Joe hung his
head and after a glance at Cody, Adam noticed the doubled up wool blanket
beneath his brother’s seat. With
an edge in his voice, Adam insisted, “All right, what happened?”
admitted to his boots quietly, “Cody didn’t just go huntin’ today, Adam,
he, uh... had ta go fishin’ -- for me.”
Firelight illuminated the older brother’s face.
Cody watched relief chase the flicker of anger from the dark hazel eyes.
Clearly, the older sibling realized how lucky he was to have his reckless
brother alive and sitting before him, his only apparent scar a scalded backside.
soon resurfaced, climbing into Adam’s voice, as a lecture grew in the back of
his throat, “Joe...”
put up a hand, “Adam, the boy and I, we had a rough afternoon.
The youngun’s paid fer his mistake.
Let’s drop it, huh? Ya
look like ya could do with some of this here food.”
couldn’t leave things unresolved. As
Adam sat down by the fire, the boy rose and went to his brother’s side.
“I’m sorry, Adam.”
flooding him once more, Adam drew his brother close.
“Okay, boy, apology accepted.” With
several pats to the child’s back, he encouraged, “Let’s enjoy this food,
hmmm?” The boy nodded against
him, suddenly deciding Adam’s lap would be more comfortable than his
the plate Cody handed him, Adam ate voraciously, interspersing the day’s
progress, in between bites. He finally concluded, “Jake thinks we’ll be finished
tomorrow, after all.”
it’ll be nice ta git back and spend a bit a time with the rest a yer
family.” Motioning with his chin
at a now sleeping Joe, the big man added, “I’ll try ta see that we don’t
have quite so much excitement while yer away tamarraw.”
his chin on the curly head beneath his, Adam answered quietly, “Life is rarely
dull, when you’ve got this one under your wing, Cody.
I certainly don’t fault you for what happened today.”
well I don’t have younguns under this big wing much, but my experience in the
past shoulda taught me that when ya leave a little fella on his own, there’s
always a chance he’ll do somethin’ you ain’t even thought of.
‘Spect yer pa mighta been thinkin’ on that, when he considered
whether er not ta let me bring yer brother up here.”
it all, boy, never woulda occurred ta me, no how, that a tyke like you
shrugged, “Well, he was such a gentle horse and smart... or so I thought...”
had risen just before dawn to go off hunting.
He and Cody agreed the night before that they’d camp one more day, to
give them and the animals a much needed rest.
As the sun rose, Cody finished the coffee Ben left behind, deciding
he’d like to harvest wood for a new supply of arrows. Peeking in on Adam, sound asleep, he slipped away to an elm
tree, just a short distance from camp.
teasing his nose, Adam woke only moments later. He remembered that Pa was hunting and slid out of the wagon,
surprised to find himself alone. Busying
himself picking up a new supply of kindling, the boy felt his stomach rumble.
Rusty whinnied and Adam wandered up to him, to stroke his nose.
‘You sure are a big fella. Bet
you know where Cody is, huh?’ The
large red beast whinnied once more and Adam took that as his answer, before
leading the horse over by the back of the wagon.
Using the wagon as his stepping stone, the child mounted the horse’s
bare back and urged, ‘Go find Cody.’
grinned as the gentle creature seemed to understand, heading into the trees.
However, Rusty’s destination was not Cody; his nose sought water.
short while later, Ben and Cody emerged from the woods: Cody with a bundle of straight, raw sticks;
Ben carrying rabbits from their snares, plus several fish he’d pulled
from a nearby stream. Brow
furrowed, Ben inquired, ‘Adam still sleeping?’
Poking his head into the wagon, he turned sharply, ‘He’s not here.’
his sticks, Cody immediately noticed the absence on his mount.
‘Neither is Rusty.’ Aghast,
the large man insisted, ‘I ain’t been gone, but a half hour, if that.
The youngun was still in dreamland when I left, Ben, I swear ta ya.’
and anger competed on Ben’s face. ‘That
boy!’ He searched the ground and
pointed at the fresh horse tracks. ‘Let’s
go, they can’t have gotten too far in a half hour’s head start.’
boy and horse found water. Adam
looked around and realized that there were no human tracks behind them or here
at the water’s edge. Rusty dipped
his head for his drink. ‘I
didn’t say ta find water, dang it! I
said find Cody. Darn old horse, I
thought you were smart!’ Worry
invading his face, Adam nudged the horse’s sides with his heels.
‘You better take me back to camp or I’m gonna be in trouble for
ignored the weak impressions on his hide and continued to satisfy his thirst.
His temper overriding his sense, Adam dug his heels in with more force,
‘We gotta turn round, now!’ Lifting
his head, Rusty shook it, simultaneously snorting his refusal.
Glaring at the stubborn creature, the boy grabbed its mane as he
demanded, ‘Now, listen here, we gotta get back to the wagon.
Why, you’re in just as much trouble as me.
Cody won’t be too happy with ya, seein’ as how you’ve run off
without him.’ Mulling over who
led whom from camp, the boy considered, ‘Wonder it they hang little boys for
roar from behind answered his question, ‘No, but by now you should know what
happens to little boys who are expected to stay put, until their father tells
them to do otherwise!’
watched Ben grab the boy from Rusty’s back.
He couldn’t help but wince as father and son disappeared behind a clump
of bushes, followed by the sound of several well-deserved swats landing on a
small bottom. With the sniffling
boy tossed over his shoulder, Ben marched back toward camp.
his head at his horse, Cody admonished, ‘Don’t take that youngun fer a ride
agin, less yer bringin’ him ta me or his pa.
I thought you had better sense than that!’ Meeting the horse’s eyes, he admitted as he patted his
neck, ‘It’s a lesson fer us both, fer shore.’
shook his head and chuckled. “Guess I gave my pa a white hair or two, on our trip out
bushy eyebrows arched then plummeted, “Boy, I’m here ta testify, there
ain’t no guessin’ needed on that point.
And from what yer pa has shared with me, ya didn’t exactly stop, once
ya reached the Ponderosa neither.”
raised in surrender, Adam shifted the subject, to protect his hide.
“You know, I’ve got a long day tomorrow; I should take this boy’s
cue and turn in. Would you lift him
for me and I’ll tuck him into his bedroll.”
a knowing smile, Cody quietly accepted the white flag and rose to lift the
sleeping youngster. Shortly, the
sound of the falls lulled the two adults to sleep beside their young companion.
took special care the following day to walk a very straight line.
He and Cody spent a good bit of the morning studying area wildlife,
before settling in to catch fish for lunch.
The boy was amazed at Cody’s knowledge of medicinal uses for more than
a handful of plants they encountered. “You
should spend some time comparin’ notes with Hop Sing.”
doubt I know anything that little fella don’t already, but I’ll make a point
of talkin’ to him ‘fore I go.”
afternoon afforded Cody the chance to give Joe some of those hunting tips Adam
had mentioned the night before and the youngster was done in by the time they
sat down for their dinner.
Adam ain’t gonna be joinin’ us tonight, Cody.”
if they finished up there taday, like he said they would, I expect he had some
details ta take care of. There’s plenty of stew left here fer when he gets back, but
you look like them eyes a yours are fightin’ ya, boy. Why don’t you turn in.
You’ll have plenty a time tamarraw ta chat with Adam on our way
grinned. “Yeah, okay.
boy.” Chuckling over just how
quickly the boy fell into deep slumber, Cody moved closer to the water and built
a new campfire. Pulling out a cigar and his flask, he brewed fresh coffee,
then set the pot of stew where it would stay warm, but not dry out.
Looking up at the sound of Adam’s horse, the big man dished out food
and drink for his weary young friend.
thanks, Cody. I’m starving.”
Noting the bundle off in the distance near the second campfire, Adam
smiled, “Wore him out today, did you? And
still awake yourself? That’s some
feat.” Saluting him with his flask, Cody just grinned.
responsibility of the logging operation behind him, Adam leaned back against his
saddle, relaxing for the first time in too long.
When Cody passed him the silver container, Adam accepted, taking a long
swig. His eyes widened at his
friend as he returned the bottle. With a smirk he noted, “You know, that’s about how I
remember it tasting the last time.”
shook his index finger at his companion, “I could have wrung your little neck
that day, boy.” Jerking his head
at the sleeping bundle in the bedroll up the hill, he inquired, “That one had
his try at this stuff yet?”
least once that I’m aware of.
Dealing with it was part of my initiation back into becoming Pa’s right
hand man, so-to-speak. Joe was ten at the time and a friend of his talked him into
sipping a fair amount of cold remedy they found in the barn.”
Speaking of wringing necks, Seth Pruitt’s is one I’ve had a mind to
wring, for some time!”
the concerned eyes across from his, Cody commented, “Yer Pa depends on ya
quite a bit, don’t he, Adam?” The young man’s expression was hard to read in the
we’re partners, after all.” Working at a kink in his neck, he added, “Hoss does a fair
amount too and as that one gets older, he’ll get his share of the load.”
Ponderosa has growed a fair stretch, since I come through the last time.
Expect with the other boys taking on more of the load, yer pa’ll expand
that much more, won’t he?”
more for me to do, you mean, Cody?”
knows ya, boy. Knows he’s gotta
keep ya busy, keep that mind of yers thinkin’.”
the container passed back across the fire, Adam took another sip while he
studied the big traveler’s face. “Cody,
you taking the long way round at asking something?
You and I have always talked straight out to each other.”
a wink, remembering a few of their conversations, the large fellow admitted,
“Yes, we did and I dare say, as a young fella, ya shore did surprise me with
some of yer thoughts.” Adam’s
probing eyes told him to get on with it. “Well,
I guess one of my thoughts when I come back this way was that... well, mehbe
you’d join me fer a spell? Ya
know, travel with me a bit? There’s
parts a Canada I ain’t seen, as yet and well, I’m thinkin’ mehbe ...
I’ll edge my way up ta Alaska one of these days...”
Adam took another taste of whiskey, before passing the flask back.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I get ants in my britches
sometimes, especially times like this, when one job is finished and I have time
to daydream a bit.” A boyish
delight in his eyes, Ben’s eldest admitted, “Those days on the trail West
were hard and long, but ... this would be different...
It really would be quite an adventure, just taking off for a couple years
to explore...” A bit giddy from
the drink, Adam laughed, “Oh, Cody, travelling with you would be like a
boy’s dream come true! Alaska, no
man noticed that the bundle in the bedroll uphill had moved down behind a large
rock near their campfire. Little
ears absorbed Adam’s words and the romantic tone capturing his voice.
Slinking back to his bed, Joe covered his ears, as his throat tightened
and tears slipped through his tightly sealed eyelids.
Joe’s earshot, Adam concluded, “But I’ve really only been home such a
short while, since my trip East to college.
And... Well, there’s a lot to do here, Cody.
Pa, he... well he needs me. And
that boy over there, well, whether he likes to believe it or not sometimes, he
needs me too.” Cody’s
expression told him he was fooling no one and Adam admitted, “Those three
Cartwrights ... they’re home to me, Cody.
This is a life I love very much. I
stay here because I want to, not out of obligation.”
a resigned sigh, the big man replied, “Well, I had ta ask, but I expect I knew
what yer answer’d be. Promise me
though, if ya ever get the hankerin’ to roam, you’ll think a me?”
nodded, “If you’ll promise me, you’ll continue to think of the Ponderosa
as a place you can come ... anytime ... whenever you need a good dose of
will, son. I will.”
smell of coffee tugged at Little Joe’s nose and the sound of laughter between
his trail companions quickly brought back last evening’s revelation.
A black mood crawled through the child and he tugged his blanket up over
his head, to muffle the jovial conversation.
minutes later Adam finally knelt to shake his brother’s shoulder, “Hey,
buddy, rise and shine. Time to have a bite of breakfast, before we hit the trail and
head back home.”
grunted, to which his sibling responded with a rougher shake.
“Come on now, boy, it’s not as if I’m waking you for school...”
child snapped, “I’m awake, Adam, but I’m not hungry.
I’ll be ready to leave when you are.”
his temper just barely in check, Adam warned, “Well, when you get up, I
suggest you leave your bad mood in your bedroll.
I won’t put up with too much more of that, boy.”
Meeting silence, Adam pushed back his hat and stood with a sigh.
he had a bad dream. Hopefully,
he’s not coming down with something...
their gear packed and on their horses, the three headed toward home, a moody Joe
well out in front. Exasperated now,
Adam quizzed, “You didn’t have another incident yesterday, you’re keeping
from me, did you, Cody?”
his head, Cody studied the stiff-backed boy ahead of them.
“Nope. Fer as I know, he had as much fun as I did.
Heck, Adam, the boy was as good as gold and seemed ta enjoy everything I
showed him. He took me ta a fishin’
spot he remembered and we et real fine fer lunch.
The boy was laughin’ and talkin’.
I swear ta ya, there weren’t a bad moment in the day.”
he has his cranky moments. Maybe he just woke up on the wrong side of bed...”
adults opted not to catch fresh food for lunch, but rather, dug out the beans
and bacon. Adam called out, “Joe,
we’re gonna stop to rest the horses and have lunch.”
The boy stubbornly moved on ahead and Adam’s temper surged as he nudged
Cochise’s reins, the older brother narrowed his eyes as his voice dropped to a
tone Joe knew better than to ignore. “Now,
I don’t know what’s eating you, but I’ve about had my fill of it.
You didn’t have breakfast. Fine.
You don’t want lunch? Fine.
But your horse needs a break and I won’t tolerate you abusing her.
You’ve got exactly one minute to get down out of that saddle and take
care of her or I’m gonna make certain that getting back into that saddle is
real uncomfortable for you. Do I make myself clear?”
dismounted as his only answer and stayed as far away from his companions as he
could. Adam counted to twenty
before stooping to collect wood for their fire.
Cody shook his head, wondering how in the world Ben Cartwright managed to
still have any hair left in his head.
the time they reached the ranch, Adam was ready to strangle his brother.
Ben met them with a big smile and Joe ran to him for a long hug. Concern deepened the creases in his face, but he
received nothing but shrugs from the boy’s trail mates before the two led the
three horses to the barn.
is it, son? Didn’t you enjoy the
was no sense hurting his father. He’d
find out soon enough what Adam and Cody were planning.
“Just tired, Pa. Think
I’ll just have a nap before supper.”
on hips, Ben watched his youngest pass a grinning Hoss without more than a
grunt. Turning abruptly, he marched
to the barn, seeking answers.
off Cody’s warning hand, Adam snapped, “He’s your son, Pa.
I wish you could tell me! He
was the picture of sunshine yesterday and this morning he woke up with a chip on
his shoulder so big, it’s a wonder he could walk!”
Pacing the barn, the eldest son glowered, then abruptly turned to face
his father, his voice more subdued, “I’m sorry, Pa, I shouldn’t be yelling
his son’s apology with a nod, Ben found his concern mixing with anger now.
He didn’t approve of rude behavior from any of his sons, especially
from a youngster toward his elders.
wisely sent his middle son up to retrieve his youngest at dinner hour.
brother, I don’t know what’s troublin’ ya, but if ya won’t tell any of
us, then you’d best find a way ta keep that fierce temper a yours under
control. Pa ain’t exactly on yer
side at the moment.”
he should be. If he only knew...”
knew what, little brother? Why don’t ya let me help ya here?”
heart aching over what was in store for his family, the child just shook his
head. “I ain’t even hungry.”
Joe! Adam says ya ain’t ate a
thing all day!”
like he cares!”
Joe, this is jest what I’m talkin’ about.
You’d better settle yerself down, right now.
I mean it, boy. You and Pa
are headin’ fer a tussle that ain’t gonna be good fer yer hide.
Mark my words, boy.”
a resigned sigh, Joe agreed, “Yeah, okay, Hoss.”
a boy.” Hoss followed his
dejected brother downstairs and the pair joined a silent group at the table.
conversation opened and Adam and Ben discussed the lumber contract.
From there, Cody managed to lighten the mood with a couple stories about
a fellow he’d met down in Texas.
was Hoss who inadvertently set off the youngest Cartwright’s rage, by jokingly
commenting, “Gosh, you spent all that time cookin’ down Texas way and now ya
wanna head fer Alaska and right near freeze?
That’s a mighty big change in temperature, Cody.”
glowered, “Yeah, I think brother Adam forgets just how hard the cold is on
him, but the idea of going to Alaska just tickles you all to pieces, doesn’t
it, big brother?”
Adam wiped his mouth, gritting his teeth, ready to yank the boy from the
table, for this endless bad attitude he was displaying.
smiled, “Why, son, Alaska can be right tolerable, depending on when...”
jumped to his feet, throwing his fork down on an untouched plate.
“Don’t you dare try to laugh this off!
I thought you came back to see me, cause ya promised you’d come.
Bein’ so nice, like you were my best friend. You ain’t a friend of NOBODY at this table!
It was all a big plot, wasn’t it!
Probably right from the start!”
his fist to the table, rattling wine glasses and china, Ben stood, his dark,
piercing eyes freezing his youngest son in his tracks.
“Joseph, that’s enough! You
march yourself straight up to your room, this instant, young man!
And you had better have a VERY good explanation for the behavior you’ve
been displaying since this afternoon, before I follow you up those steps!”
child glared at Cody, then turned abruptly, with not so much as a ‘yes,
sir’. Further stirring his
father’s temper, he stomped up the steps and slammed his door.
closed his eyes, resting his forehead in his hand as he slowly shook his head, Boy,
you sure don’t know when enough is enough, do you?
This goes waayyyy beyond getting out on the wrong side of the bed.
What in heaven’s name has gotten into him?
appetite gone, Hoss quietly retreated to tend to the animals.
Adam abandoned his meal, to stare into the fireplace.
Ben paced the room, trying to walk off his anger, while Cody studied both
father and son from the settee. Though
Ben remained furious with his youngest son’s appalling lack of manners, Adam
clearly was searching for some viable explanation for his little brother’s
loss of sanity.
there’s got to be some explanation for this.”
sharply, mid-pace, Ben snapped, “By the time I’m calm enough to go up to
that boy’s room, he’d dang well better have come up with one and be ready to
explain it. Because, as of this
moment, I can think of no reason not to go up there and give him the hiding of
continued to think aloud, “It just doesn’t add up.
Cody said the two of them had a ball yesterday.
The kid was so worn out, he was already asleep by the time I joined them
at camp. Then, when I went to wake
him this morning, well, it was as if I was waking up a whole different boy.
Talk about getting out on the wrong side of the bed. You’d think he hadn’t gotten any sleep at all, instead of
hitting the hay early.”
mid-thought, Adam met shared realization in his friend’s eyes, “Or maybe he
woke up at the wrong time and heard the wrong thing ... that is, heard just
enough to come to the wrong conclusion...”
nodded and Ben glared at the pair of them, asking a bit acidly, “I wonder if
one of you would be so kind as to explain?”
and eyes filled with regret, Adam lamented, “Oh, Pa, this is terrible.”
patience gone, Ben drew out his son’s name, “Adam.”
drifting to the second floor, Adam requested quietly, “Could Cody explain it
to you, Pa? I’d like to go up and
settle this, one way or the other.”
Ben dismissed his eldest with a wave of his hand, warning, “Regardless of the
reasons behind what happened down here, I expect apologies, all around, when
that young man comes downstairs!”
the steps two at a time, Adam drew in several long breaths before knocking on
his brother’s door. The boy
stood, expecting his father, but instantly spun away, his back stiffening in his
brother’s presence. He demanded,
own temper beginning to churn again, Adam warned, “If I were you, little
brother, I’d muzzle that temper of mine, real quick.
The fact that I’m standing here, instead of Pa, has temporarily saved
you from having your britches set on fire.
Though I dare say, considering Pa’s mood, if he chooses to come up
here, you’ll be dropping those britches.”
lower lip trapped in his teeth now, the boy faced his brother, concern for his
hide suddenly a bit closer to the surface.
Still, he remained silent, as he fought the turmoil of emotions swirling
advantage of the boy’s introspective state, Adam crossed over to the bed and
sat down. Cooling down, his motive
to solve this mystery taking priority once more, he ordered quietly, “Come
heard the change in tone, the deep concern reflected there.
Confused over last night’s events and the clear evidence of Adam’s
love here and now, pushed the child’s emotions over the brink.
“It ... It only seems like you just came home ... How... How c...
can... How can ya already be wantin’ ta leave again?”
pooling tears started the trail down the youngster’s cheeks, Adam reached out
to pull him into his embrace. His
hand stroking the child’s hair, he soothed, “Ssshhh.
Brother isn’t going anywhere.”
for air, Joe insisted, “I heard you. I
heard you, Adam.”
Easy, buddy. Oh, Joe, I’m
afraid this is just another case of a certain little boy listening to part of a
conversation and getting just enough of the story to hurt him.”
back, his vision blurred, Joe drew his sleeve across his eyes and nose,
“I don’t understand. You
and Cody were all excited about travelin’ together!
You said, travelin’ with him would be like livin’ a dream!
You wanted to see Alaska!”
his brother back against him again, Adam coaxed, “Come on now, listen to
brother’s words, boy. Please,
Joe, you must believe me, I have no intentions of going off adventuring with
Cody. I’m speaking the truth,
boy. You didn’t hear the end of
the conversation, buddy, or you’d know I told him my place was here.”
studied the kind eyes looking back at him, knew the words were indeed the truth.
Tears of anger and hurt transformed to tears of relief and Adam reached
out again, to wait it out, one hand rubbing Joe’s back, the other softly
stroking his hair. He finally
declared softly, “I love you, Joe. Please
believe me, I’m not going anywhere.”
breathing slowing to normal, Joe whispered, “Adam?”
a final pat to the child’s back, Adam pulled him away, pursing his lips at the
sight before him. Pulling out a
handkerchief, he gently dried his brother’s face before handing over the
cloth. “Blow your nose, then go
rinse your face off a bit. Then
we’ll talk, hmmm?”
the boy walked to the basin on his dresser and filled it with water.
He tried to explain, “I know I give you a hard time some days, Adam.
I was afraid maybe you thought travelin’ would be a good way to...”
abruptly, Adam remarked a bit too sharply, “To shirk my responsibilities?”
I... Pa keeps ya real busy and I
thought...maybe you just wanted to have some fun and get away from... well too
much hard work and a what must just feel like babysittin’ to ya...”
I chose to come home for a lot of reasons.
Helping Pa to raise you was definitely one of them.
I don’t consider it babysitting. Helping
to expand this ranch was another, but there are more.
I was just a baby when Pa decided to come out here, there was no choice,
but for me to come along. But his
dream of building this place became mine, as I grew up during our journey.
It wasn’t just a little boy’s dream, Joe, it’s one I still believe
in, still want to be a part of. And
Pa, bless that man’s heart, tries very hard to make sure I get to use my
education, because he knows how important THAT dream was to me too.”
to his brother’s side, Adam dipped the washcloth in the basin and gently
mopped the child’s swollen eyes, before cleaning off the rest of his face.
With the hint of a smile, he admitted, “Yes, you get on my nerves
sometimes. I expect that isn’t
likely to change. But then, older
brother gets on yours a fair bit too, doesn’t he?’
Joe tried to smile and Adam ruffled his hair.
“Well, you don’t have to agree.
I happen to know it’s an unwritten law, that siblings irritate each
other, at least once in a while.”
Adam, I really am so sorry. And what about Cody? How
am I ever gonna apologize? He must
think I’m a terrible person now.”
the boy’s mussed hair back in place, Adam assured him, “Cody understands
what happened, Joe and he understands... well, your motives.
He’ll accept your apology and so will Pa, to whom I suggest you
apologize to first.”
Adam, I really flew off the handle. Do
you think Pa’s cooled down enough by now?”
Looking at his feet, he whispered, “Besides, even if he understands why
I blew up down there, it doesn’t excuse it.”
Staring intently into his brother’s eyes, he insisted, “I wasn’t
tryin’ to eavesdrop... Honest. I
was just comin’ down to spend some time with you two, since I’d fallen
asleep before you got back. That’s
the truth. It’s just that when I overheard what you were saying, I
a hand on his brother’s shoulder, Adam frowned slightly, “Joe I make no
promises about the final outcome of this whole mess.
My best advice is to come downstairs and make your apologies.
Ultimately, your fate is in Pa’s hands.”
Adam, I wish ya hadn’t put it quite like that.”
his head with a half smile, Adam guided the boy from the room.
“Come on, boy.”
the two brothers descended the stairs, both Cody and Ben spotted Joe’s red
eyes, despite Adam’s attempt to clean up his face.
Joe marched straight to his father and met his gaze.
His chin trembling ever so slightly, he managed to hold onto his voice.
“I don’t know what to say, except I’m sorry, Pa.
I made a big mess of things, all because I listened when I shouldn’t
have, even though I didn’t really mean ta be in the first place.”
Turning to Cody, he explained, “You see, I just wanted to come down to
the fire and be part of the nighttime chat, that’s all.”
Fresh tears started as Joe plead, “Oh, Cody, I’m sorry, I said
horrible things. I just didn’t
want ya takin’ Adam away from me... from us.
Please understand and forgive me. I
want us to always be friends.”
gave his son a slight nudge and the boy took a few steps toward the settee.
Cody stood up, to lift him into his arms.
“Come on, youngun, let’s you and I take a stroll and get this all
straightened out between us.”
Cody took Joe outside, Ben’s eyes focused on Adam easing himself into his
chair by the fireplace. “Out with
young man shrugged. “He’s just
a bit worried ... well ... that you still may decide he needs that hiding.”
he’s been through enough pain over his mistake.
His apologies were heartfelt and heartbreaking.
Time to put it to rest. I’ll
talk with him a bit later. What’s
most important, is that he’s settled with you two.”
Adam’s eyes corrected him, “Yes, I know, he wants to make sure
everything’s settled with his pa too. I’ll
talk to him, son, surely you know that?”
Adam sighed. “Pa?
You’ll forgive me, but I sure could use a drop of your brandy.”
Ben walked to the round table and poured out two glasses.
“Son, I’ll join you. This
has been a very trying day.”
carried Joe until they reached the coral, then gently seated the boy on the
used ta bring me down here, when I was little and we ... we had somethin’ to
work out. Did he tell ya that?”
jest seemed like a good place ta bring ya, so’s we could look each other in
hung his head. “It’s hard ta look you in the eye right now.
I’m so ashamed of what I said, what I thought.
Adam loves you so much and I hurt him and you both, sayin’ everything I
did.” Meeting the kind eyes now,
he confessed, “I love you too, Cody. I
wouldn’t want ya leavin’ us, before we got things straight
out to touch the boy’s face, the large traveler assured the boy, “Joe, old
Cody loves you and yer family, as if you were his own kin.
And I know what that older brother means ta ya and you ta him.
It was as clear to him, as tanight’s sky, what made ya say the things
ya did. You thought Cody was takin’
him from ya. But ya gotta know,
son, I’d never hurt yer brother, not fer anything.
And it would hurt him ta leave this ranch jest now ... and you.”
in bed, Joe smiled into his father’s gentle eyes as Ben tucked the blankets
more securely about his shoulders.
for understanding today. I’m sorry I embarrassed ya, with my bad manners and all.”
accepted, son.” Reaching out to
stroke the child’s head, he insisted, “Let’s put this all behind us
sir. I’ll be glad to do that.”
He considered a moment, then added, “And I’m glad Cody’s decided to
stay a little longer. We ... well
didn’t get to go anywhere with him, as a family.
Hoss and Adam thought we could maybe spend the weekend up at the hunting
cabin. Would you come with us too,
in the child’s expectant eyes, Ben reached out and squeezed the boy’s
shoulder, “Well, I expect I can spend a day with you.
How would that be?”
beamed, “Thanks, Pa.”
mind playing over the better moments of his time with Cody, Joe suddenly
spouted, “Hey, Pa, was Adam a real handful for ya on the trail?
Cody told me Adam got into a little trouble, when he didn’t stick with
Cody during a huntin’ trip they took. Did
he do that kind of stuff with you too?”
should be asleep, young man,” Ben admonished, as he tried to rise, but Joe grabbed his hand
and tugged him back. “Aw, Pa,
you’re just protected older brother’s reputation, ain’t ya?” Ben simply raised an eyebrow at the boy.
devilishly, Joe proposed, “Can you imagine what your trip out here would have
been like if all three of us were little at the same time and travelin’ with
dark eyes widening as a flood of images hit him, Ben replied, “Joseph, I’ll
answer your question with a question. Which
do you think would cover your pa’s bald head better?
A powdered wig or a raccoon skin cap?”
boy’s giggle and his father’s deep rich laughter seemed to embrace as they
filtered down the stairs. Adam and
Hoss grinned at each other, drinking in the soothing sound.
absorbed the boys’ expressions, as the laughter from above continued to bathe
their ears, washing away any residue of the day’s friction.
Adam’s content expression touched Cody’s heart and he raised his
glass of brandy in a toast, “To a dose of family.
A fella couldn’t find better medicine anywhere.”
 Cody Pyle initially appeared in the author’s story “Echoes” and it’s sequel “Loose Ends”. Joe was age six in these tales.
 Jake Weber was featured in the Bonanza episode “The Quest”.
 An incident described fully in the author’s story “A Firm Hand”.
Complaints, Opinions, Recommendations?
Who do we think we are?
Why are we doing this?
Standards & Practices
Alphabetical by Title
Alphabetical by Author
Character Bios & More
Input & Opinions from Readers, Authors, Site Owners