The Dreaming Tree    
by
Michelle K.   

Story Summary:  The boys are given the task of cutting down a tree that holds special memories for the whole family.

  

Beneath his dreaming tree

Conquered fear to climb

A moment frozen in time

When the girl who first he kissed

Promised him sheíd be his

Inspired by the D. Matthews song ďthe Dreaming TreeĒ

~The Dreaming Tree~

Adam pulled Sport to a halt when he reached the meadow. There it stood, not as majestic as it once was, but still, it made for an impressive site. It swayed as the wind whipped around it, daring the aged tree to stand up to its power. Yet the tree persisted, resisting the windís taunting. It should have succumbed long ago to the relentless forces of nature, nevertheless it had survived. To the surprise of many it had endured through the years, facing floods, fires, numerous lightening strikes, aggressive cattle, and heavy snows. However, Adam thought with frustration, there was one thing the old tree would not survive, progress.

Adam gently pressed his heels into his horseís side urging Sport forward. He looked with fondness upon the old Oak tree which stood alone next to a rambling creek. He had spent many days under the tree reading, fishing, dreaming, playing and... kissing, he thought with a smile. The tree was a vestige of his childhood, of days when he had few worries, of days when he dreamed of things to come, but now the tree must go.

Adam squinted at the sun, frowning he pulled out his pocket watch. He was late, again. Ground tying Sport, Adam sat down underneath the tree to wait for his younger brother. Joe was supposed to meet him to help cut down the tree, he wouldnít be able to do it himself. Sighing, he leaned against the wide trunk and closed his eyes, the sound of the gently flowing water lulling him to sleep.

***

"Joe, look, I told you we would be there in a minute!" Adam said, exasperated by his little brother.

Six year old, Joe pouted, "How come we hafta go so far Adam, weíre just goiní on a picnic! Why couldnít we go ta the lake instead?"

Adam, sighed, "Joe I already told you, this place is special. Donít worry it will be worth it, youíll see." He glanced at his younger brother who was fidgeting in the seat next to him. Joe was never able to stay in one place for long, Adam thought with a smile.

The two brothers rode for several more minutes, finally pulling the buckboard to a stop. Adam had decided to take Joe out for a picnic to relieve his father and spend some time with his baby brother before he had to leave for college. Ben had been busy lately trying to hire men for the coming fall round up. He had eagerly accepted his sonís offer to take Joe out for the afternoon if only to get a moment of peace and quite.

Joe stood up, eyeing the area skeptically. "Whatís so special Ďbout dis place?" he said his voice laced with disappointment.

Adam jumped down from the buckboard walking around to where his brother stood. Grabbing his brother around the waist he set him down on the ground. "Just wait Little Joe and Iíll tell ya."

Grabbing the fishing poles from the back of the wagon he handed one to Joe. "Here you take this and go over there by that big tree." Joe took the pole as Adam pulled out a blanket and picnic basket.

Joe frowned when he reached the tree and the creek near by. "I like the lake better!"

Adam rolled his eyes, as he joined his brother. Spreading the blanket out, he tried to placate his brother. "Youíll see Joe this place is real special..."

"How?" Joe asked, his eyebrows raised quizzically.

"Just hold your horses, Iím gettiní to it!" Straightening the blanket he sat down. "Here Little Joe come aní sit by me."

Joe complied and plopped down next to his brother, waiting for him to say something. Adam leaned back on his elbow and smiled contentedly. Then he looked up, "Would you look at that Joe..."

Joe looked up, and then returned his gaze to his brother, "What?"

Adam continued to look up. Pointing he said, "Look at that Joe, Up there. Isnít it pretty?"

Joe looked once again then back to his brother. The expression on his young face was one of bewilderment. "What? I donítí see nothiní."

Adam smiled, "Joe do you see how all the limbs of the tree... Well, its like theyíre woven together. Almost magic like. You would think they would all tangle together and make a mess, but... Well, theyíre not."

Joe looked at his brother as if he were mad, "So!"

"OK, yeah maybe this does seem kind of silly, but Iím telliní ya little brother this is a very special tree..."

"How??" Joe said exasperated.

"Joe, this tree is a dreaming tree." Adam replied softly, as if he were divulging a secret.

"A dreaming tree?" Joe repeated, also keeping his voice low.

Adam leaned in closer to his brother, "Yeah, you see this tree brings you dreams, special dreams. And special things happen here..."

Joe looked up at the tree, "Like what?"

"Well, it depends... It might bring you a dream about something thatís happened to you or maybe something thatís going to happen... I canít really say because itís different with each person."

"Have you ever had anything happen Adam?"

Adam grinned, "Sure Iíve had lots of stuff happen here."

"Like what?"

Adam took a deep breath, thinking, "Well, Joe, its kinda hard to explain. I come out here a lot to think. I read books here. I like to fish here. Itís a great place to get away from everything, when you need time to yourself. And I think it helps you with your thoughts."

"So..." Little Joe said, not excited by his brotherís description.

Adam grinned, realizing his brother wasnít impressed. "Well, lets put it this way. Since Iíve known about this place a lot of things have happened. Your Ma came to the Ponderosa and then you were born... Just trust me on this Joe."

Joe frowned, "ĎKay Adam. Can we fish now?"

Adam sat up, ruffling his brotherís curly hair. "Yeah sure. Think youíll be able to catch more than me this time?"

"I bet I can!" Little Joe said with determination in his voice.

"Alright, you catch some good ones and we might be able to eat these for supper tonight" Adam said with a laugh.

The two brothers laid lazily next to the creek, waiting for the fish to bite. No more then an hour later, Adam noticed his little brother had fallen asleep. Smiling he laid back down soon joining his brother in a quiet slumber

***

It was no more then twenty minutes later when he felt the slight tickle on his cheek, like a bug, he thought absently as he swiped at the pest. Thinking the bug was gone, he relaxed. Soon after he felt the pest again, this time on his upper lip, taking another swipe he was becoming annoyed at being disturbed from his peaceful nap. After the third time, he opened his eyes, realizing the bug wouldnít go away till it met its death.

Prying his tired eyes open, he reacted quickly when he saw the pest. "JOE!" he yelled, as he saw his brother standing over him with a leaf in hand.

Joe laughed as he stepped back from his older brother. "Now, Adam what would Pa say if he saw you here napping on the job?Ē

Adam stood up, annoyed at being caught sleeping. "Very funny. Nice of you to show up... You were supposed to be here at eleven."

Joe smiled, still laughing at his little joke. "Oh, sorry about that brother. Got caught up in town, again."

Adam, dusted the back of his pants off, as he spoke. "I bet. What girl kept you this time?"

"Aww, brother, now donít you go presuminí too much. It wasnít no girl this time. Just the stage which arrived about 15 minutes late with the mail." Joe grinned impishly.

With a wave of his hand Adam said, ďAlright, no matter. You ready to get to work?"

Joe lost the smile on his face, "Yeah, I guess so. Doesnít seem right cuttiní this tree down though."

"Well, we have to move the fence, Joe. Doesnít do us much good in the creek." Adam replied, scratching his cheek as he surveyed the area.

"Right...So thatís the plan? We cut down the tree then move the fence?"

"Yup. Thatís it. Itís easier then rebuilding the fence all together. Itíll save us a couple days work at least." Adam reasoned.

Joe stared at the tree, lost in thought. "I know but it just donít seem right cutting this old thing down..." After a quiet moment of reflection, he spoke again, "Remember when we came out here after you came back from college?"

***

"Paaa! I donítí wanna go with Adam! I wanta stay with Hoss today!" Eleven-year-old Joseph Cartwright whined.

"Joseph! Not another word, youíre going with your brother and thatís final!" Ben bellowed from his desk.

Adam, stood to the side, fingering his hat. "Pa... Its all right if Joe doesnít want to go with me..."

Ben turned to his oldest son. Adam had just returned from college nearly a month before. Since his sonís return, Adam and Little Joe had been quibbling almost constantly. He was tired of the tension and was determined to see his two sons straighten things out. "No son. Joseph is going with you, weíre not going to change our plans because you two canít get along!"

Adam propped his hat on his head. "Yes sir." Turning to little Joe he nodded towards the door, "Come on Joe, weíve got work to do."

Joe frowned at the prospect of spending the day with his overbearing older brother. He thought his brother to be extremely bossy; and saw him more as an intruder then anything else. Heading out the door he silently sulked as he climbed in the buckboard, avoiding any eye contact with Adam.

Adam followed his brother out the door, hoping the day would get better as it progressed. He hated being at odds with his youngest brother and he hoped that what he had planned would work to smooth things over. He had consulted with his father two days before and Ben had thought it a good idea. However, Adam hadnít expected the objections from Joe to be quite so vocal and was now having serious doubts.

The ride had seemed an eternity to Joe, and it was made in total silence. Adam had tried on several occasions to get his youngest brother to talk but he had nothing to say. He was mad and let him know it by keeping quiet. Joe frowned as he recognized their destination. "Why are we coming out here?"

Adam turned to his brother, surprised by the voice. "Youíll see." He replied.

Joeís frowned deepened as the wagon pulled to a stop. "I donít see why we had to come out here, thereís no break in the fence and their ainít no cattle pasturing out here."

Adam didnít answer. Jumping down he walked to the back of the buckboard; lifting up the canvas he had covered the back with. Joe watched curiously as his brother pulled out a toolbox and two hammers. The back of the buckboard was filled with lumber of all shapes and sizes, enough to build a small shack, Joe guessed.

"Whatís all the lumber for?" He asked Adam.

Adam leaned against the wagon, "Well, weíre going to build something."

Joe rolled his eyes, "I can see that. What are we going to build?"

Adam smiled, "A house."

"A HOUSE??" Joe repeated, sure his brother had lost it.

"Yeah, a tree house... for you." Adam grinned, his voice dropping as he said the last part.

Joe jumped from the buckboard and ran to his brother. "For me?" he questioned.

"Well," Adam looking at the large tree. "I donít figure Iím young enough to have a tree house anymore and Hoss is just too darn big..."

Joe grinned widely, "You mean it? A tree house just for me?"

"Yup! A place all your own. And I canít think of a better place on the Ponderosa to build it." Motioning toward the old tree, "There isnít a better tree around to build it in either."

"Wow! I sure didnít expect this, Adam!" forgetting that he was mad at his brother. Suddenly he frowned, looking at Adam he said, "Wait Adam... Isnít this your favorite place?"

Adam paused, thinking of a reply. "Well, yes, it is, but like I said there isnít a better spot on the whole Ponderosa." Reaching for his brother he ruffled his head, "Besides, I canít think of anybody else I would rather share the spot with then my baby brother."

Joe grinned, "Thanks Adam..."

Adam pulled out a piece of lumber from the buckboard, "Donít mention it Joe. Now. Letís see what we can do with this wood. You got any idea how you want this place to look?"

Joe stood next to his brother, unsure what to say. He was surprised, to say the least, by this gesture of his eldest brother. Suddenly he looked up at Adam with a sheepish smile, "Well, I was hopiní... maybe you would be able to design it for me, youíre the one with the college degree."

Adam nodded, "Sure, I can do that... You just tell me how you want it to look, okay?" Pointing to the tree, he said, "How bout we get some of this lumber unloaded then we can sit down and make some plans..."

Joe smiled, "Okay!" Turning towards the tree he went to set down the board Adam had handed him earlier.

Adam watched his brother as he walked away and let out a sigh of relief. Glad to see his brother not furious with him for once. Maybe his father was right, maybe this is just what they needed. Reaching into the back of the buck board once again, he pulled out the sketching paper, along with a few of his architectural tools he had put there earlier.

***

"Adam, Iím telliní you that was the best tree house a kid could have!" Joe smiled fondly.

"Yeah, it wasnít too bad was it?" Adam grinned. "Considering how long it took us to build that thing it had better be the best tree house around."

"Oh, it was. All the kids were jealous of my little hide-away. Mitch and I used to come out here all the time after school and on weekends."

Adam chuckled lightly, "I remember how mad Pa was at me for taking so long to build it. I think when I had first talked to him about it, he was thinking one day tops. If it wouldnít have been for your begginí and whining he never would have let me finish it."

Joe smiled devilishly, "I was awfully good at that wasnít I?"

Adam glanced at Joe, one eyebrow cocked, "Were good at it? When did you stop?" he said sarcastically.

Joe rolled his eyes, "Haha, very funny, brother."

"Hey! Ainít you fellas supposed ta be doiní some work around here?"

Adam and Joe turned to see their brother Hoss, sitting a top his horse. They looked at each other sheepishly, they did have a job to do.

"Hoss, what are you doing out here?" Joe asked, when his brother reached them.

"I thought you were supposed to be repairing the barn today?" Adam added.

Hoss, shifted in his saddle, "Well, I decided to take a little break. It gets awfully lonely working by yourself. I kinda missed you fellas. There isnít anything wrong with that is there? A fella coming to see his two brothers..."

Adam, looked at him skeptically, "Pa send you out here to see how weíre doing?"

Hoss climbed down from his horse, grinning as he did so. "Well, you could say that Adam..." Reaching into his saddlebags he pulled out two packages wrapped in brown paper. "He also sent me out here with your lunches." He said with a gap-toothed smile.

"Well, since you come bearing gifts... Come, sit Hoss." Adam bowed graciously, indicating a spot on the grass for Hoss to sit.

Hoss grinned, waving his brother off. "Aww, Adam, quite fooliní."

Adam and Joe chuckled. "Well big brother as long as youíre here you can help us!" Joe proclaimed. "After we eat lunch of course!"

Hoss walked over to his brothers, taking a look at their work, or lack there of. "You two sure ainít done much."

Adam ran his hand over his face, letting his it rest on  the back of his neck. "Yeah, well, I guess you could say that we havenít done anything..."

"Except a lot of talkiní that is." Joe added.

Hoss looked at them curiously. "Talkiní? Bout what?"

"About the old tree house!" Joe answered.

Hoss nodded in acknowledgment. With a glint in his eye he turned to his brothers. "The olí tree house... Hey Joe, you remember that time me and you was out here and..."

***

"Joe, Iím telliní ya. Ya just gotta be patient when youíre fishiní. Let the fish come ta you. It works every time." Hoss said as he stretched out in Joeís tree house.

Joe frowned at his brother, "Aww shut up Hoss. Who asked you?"

"Now, now Joe, there ainít no call to be sore at me just cause I caught more fish Ďen you." Hoss chided.

Pushing himself up from his corner in the tree house, Joe scowled. "You ready to go back home yet?"

Hoss pushed his hat back, staring at his brother with disbelief. "Little Joe you must be plain loco! You want to go back home after this morniní? Why Pa was in such a bad temper this morniní bícause of that deal that went sour, weíre plumb lucky gettiní outta the house without some low-down dirty job to do. Iffin you go back to the house weíre sure to get nothiní but an earful from Pa and an extra load of chores."

Joe sank back down to the floor, his mood worsening. First, Hoss caught twice as many fish as him and now this. He was bored and being close to the stream where he caught so few fish was the last place he wanted to be at the moment. Joe stewed for a moment trying to think of other activities he and his brother could do to pass the day away.

Suddenly perking up, Joe smiled. "Hey, Hoss... How bout we go into Virginia City?"

Hoss, who had his hat pulled over his eyes, "Now, Joe, ya know I cainít take ya inta town today. Pa would be mad for shore if he found out thatís where we went after what you did last week."

Collapsing back into the corner Joe let out a noticeable sigh. "Well, we canít stay here all day. Iím tired of fishiní!"

"Well, what else you wanna do Joe?" Hoss answered from beneath his hat.

"How Ďbout we go see if we can track that cougar thatís been gettiní the calves?" Joe asked, hopefully.

After a moment of silence, Hoss pushed his hat back and looked at his brother. With a sigh, he said, "All right, Joe. If thatís what you wanna do. Guess we hafta go down by the lake thatís the last place I saw tracks. Just remember, though. We stop when I say so and you donít go nowhere with out me." Emphasizing the Ďmeí with a thumb pointed at his chest.

Joe smiled, excitedly. "You got a deal Hoss!" Standing up quickly Joe grabbed the bucket of dirt and worms he and Hoss had collected earlier. "Guess we can get rid of these!" Heading toward the tree house exit with the bucket he began his descent.

Hoss grinned at his brotherís immediate mood change as he watched him disappear down the ladder from inside the tree house. He began to collect his things, including their fishing poles, intending to toss them down to Joe. "Hey Joe..." He stopped in mid sentence as his brother climbed hurriedly back up the tree house ladder.

"Joe? What are you doiní?"

"Adamís cominí!" Joe exclaimed breathless from his hasty retreat into the tree house. "And heís got a girl with him!"

Hoss, wrinkled his nose, "He said somethiní this morniní about meetiní some girl in Virginia City..."

Joe carefully peeked his head out the tree house entrance trying to see whom the girl was that Adam accompanied. "I think thatís Katie Matthews, Hoss." He whispered.

Hoss leaned down next to his brother, trying to get a look for himself. Joe quickly sat up, pushing his brother back. Hoss was about to protest when Joe pressed his finger to his lips, mouthing, Ďheís here!í

Hoss, frowned, not liking the idea of spying on his brother, he was ready to voice his objections when he heard Adam and his date from below.

"My Adam, this sure is a quaint spot. So far from anyone or anything..." the girl observed. Her voice hinting at something more than an innocent observation.

Adam swung out the blanket he had brought for the two to sit on, settling it beneath the tree. "Yes, this is one of my favorite spots. A good place to get away from it all."

Katie, let Adam lead her to the blanket, helping her sit down. "I like the tree house too. You play up there much?" she said, with a mischievous air.

Unpacking the basket of wine and cheese Adam had brought to help him woo Katie, he answered. "No, thatís my little brotherís tree house. We built it almost two years ago, after I came back from college. Figured little brother needed a place to call his own every once in awhile. And itís a nice place to take a nap, but donít tell my brothers I said that!" he added with a chuckle.

Joe and Hoss looked at each other, deciding to see if any more of their brotherís secrets would be revealed during his outing. Settling themselves in comfortably for the afternoon, the two brotherís listened contentedly from above to their unsuspecting brother.

After almost half an hour of listening to the small talk of their brother and Katie Matthews, Joe and Hoss were beginning to wish they had made their presence known as soon as they had seen their brother. Now, they were stuck, listening to the two courtiers talking about several varied but boring topics. Katieís giggling and constant, "Oh, Adam" beginning to drive both brothers to consider exposing themselves to their eldest brotherís wrath.

Joe stared at the ceiling of the tree house, wishing he was out by the lake tracking that cougar with Hoss. Now he was stuck, listening to the boring conversation of his oldest brother.

Below, the tree house Adam leaned on his elbow talking to Katie about his varied interests. Katie lavished him with compliments on his wit and his knowledge of literature and poetry. Adam quoted various poets, careful to make each one pertain to thoughts of love and beauty. Between quotes he would compliment every aspect of her person, in his most charming manner. With each compliment and positive response he slyly moved closer to her in a carefully thought out plan of attack. So, far, it seemed to be working, Katie looked to be completely under his spell. The two stared at each other with eyes for nothing but the other. Finally, Adam, moved in for the kill. Gently he traced his finger across her cheekbone, finally stopping as he twirled a piece of her blond hair around his finger. He leaned in close to her speaking softly as he did so, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely..." Katie looked as if she were ready to melt as Adam moved in close for a kiss. Soon the two were enwrapped in each otherís arms kissing passionately.

From above, Joe and Hoss, watched. When Adam had began with the poetry both brothers cringed. Neither being a fan of love poems they had silently mocked their brother from above. Joe had stuck his finger in his mouth several times in repugnance. Hoss, had wrinkled his nose at his older brotherís attempts to gain Katie Matthews affections.

Both brothers, scooted back farther into the tree house when the kissing began, not wishing to observe the intimate exchange. Joe, shook his head in disgust as he thought of his older brother with the girl. Suddenly a devilish smile spread across his face. Motioning toward the corner of the tree house, he pointed to the small collection of acorns, leaves and twigs that had found their way into the tree house. Hoss grinned as he realized what his brother had in mind.

Joe grabbed several of the items and crawled back to the entrance. Carefully, he selected an acorn. Smiling with an evil glint in his eye, he looked down at his brother, still in the midst of kissing Katie. He carefully positioned his arm, making sure the acorn was on target. Releasing the acorn it dropped quickly, hitting its target, Adam, on his leg. Much to Joeís surprise, and annoyance, his brother seemed to ignore the assault.

Hoss shrugged his shoulders. Joe picked up a twig and repeated his careful positioning. This time the twig landed on Katie, but she too ignored it, too intent on making love to Adam. Disappointment set in as Joe and Hoss realized that their little jokes were not having the least affect on their brother.

Joe pushed himself up into a sitting position, the aggravation clear on his face. Hoss scratched his head, unsure of what to do next. He felt uncomfortable knowing his brother was below with a girl.

After a brief moment of inaction, Joe perked up as anther idea occurred to him. Hoss, watched his brother not sure what he was up to. Joe grabbed the pail of worms he had hastily set-aside after first seeing Adam riding with Katie. Hoss watched in horror as his brother opened the pail, searching for a worm.

Shaking his head and sternly mouthing the word, "No!" Hoss tried to prevent his brother from making this drastic move. Joe ignored him, only thinking of the scream Katie would emit when she saw or preferably felt the slimy creature.

Hoss, reiterated his protest, motioning for Little Joe not to try it. Joe shrugged him off. Setting the pale by the doorway, he began to position himself to drop the grub below. Hoss seeing his brother was not going to listen to him decided to take action. He quickly reached for Joeís arm, intent on stopping him. Joe struggled to get out of Hossís reach, but to no avail, Hoss held him in a firm grip. Joe, sighed and nodded his surrender. Hoss eyed him for a moment making sure his brother really was giving up his insane idea. Releasing his grip, he relaxed.

Joe pouted for a moment, and then shrugged his shoulders, deciding his older brother didnít know how to have any fun. Figuring they were going to be there for a while, Hoss decided to make the most of it, and make himself comfortable. Stretching out his legs, he didnít see the bucket of worms precariously placed on the edge of the doorway. Before he could react his right leg made contact with the bucket, sending it over the edge. Joe and Hoss watched in horror as the entire bucket of earthworms and grubs fell from the tree house to the ground below.

The bucket fell to the ground with a clatter. Immediately a cry of surprise then anger and cursing were heard from below as the contents of the bucket spilled over the two young lovers. Both brothers were quickly on their hands and knees looking with dread over the edge of the tree house.

"Oh, nooo..." Hoss muttered, his life flashing before his eyes.

Down below, Katie screamed in terror as Adam yelled in anger. The pail had covered both Katie and Adam with dirt and wriggling worms. Realizing where the bucket had come from Adam jumped up in anger, immediately spotting his two shocked brothers. "HOSS!! JOE!! IíM GONNA KILL YOU!!" His eyes filled with rage, Adam began to climb the ladder to the tree house.

Little Joe, able to easily spot trouble when it was headed his way, quickly scooted further into the tree house. With panic he looked for an escape route, spotting the small window. "Iím gettiní outta here Hoss!" He said, as he started to climb through the window.

"Joe! Wait! Dabburnit, Joe, you cainít just leave me here!" Hoss cried.

"Just watch me!"

Hoss watched his brother easily slip out the small opening, envying his brotherís small size. He wasnít so sure he would be able to make it through, but anything was better than facing Adam at the moment. He hesitated for an instant, thinking he might be able to calm Adam down. Then his common sense took hold once again. Seeing Adamís hand reach the top of the ladder, Hoss decided the window was his only option.

Adam wanted blood as he reached the top of the tree house. Katie was still screaming from below trying to rid the earthworms from her hair and dress. Seeing his middle brother trying to squeeze through the small window Adam balled his hands into fists. Coming up behind Hoss, he grabbed him by the shoulder pulling him away from the window. "OH, no you donít!!"

***

"I donít think I could see outta that eye for bout a week!" Hoss laughed as he rubbed his left eye.

"You know, just to see older brotherís face as he tried to get those worms off his head... and then seeing Katie Matthews scream..." Joe chuckled, as he rubbed the seat of his pants, "It was almost worth the talk I had with Pa later that night."

Both Hoss and Little Joe howled in laughter remembering the chaos they had created. Adam however, was not at all amused as he watched his two brothers roar with laughter. "Itís not funny. Because of you two idiots, Katie wouldnít talk to me for over a month and it was two weeks of catering to her every need and whim before I could convince her to ever go anywhere with me by herself!"

Hoss and Little Joe tried to sober for a minute but were quickly back to giggling. "Yeah, Adam, but you got to admit it shore was funny! Besides Katie Matthews werenít your type no how." Hoss replied, smiling widely, as he tried to keep from laughing again.

Joe nodded in agreement, his brief attempt to be serious however quickly digressed into laughter once again. "Yeah Adam... we did you a favor by dumpiní them worms on your head!"

Adam rolled, his eyes, trying hard to let his brothers know he did not find it the least bit funny.

"You know, I think I could hear Katieís screams almost all the way back to the Ponderosa!" Joe laughed. "How long did it take you to calm her down anyhow, Adam?"

Adam sighed, "About an hour at least... Course then the yelling started..."

Hoss and Joe broke into laughter again. "Oh Lordy, Adam!" Joe said, finding it hard to catch his breath.

Adam finally gave in and smiled, "Yeah, I had to stop about three times on the way back to her house because she kept findiní worms that had had made their way down her dress. Then after that the yelling started again. ĎAdam Cartwright, in ALL my years! I NEVER!í" Adam finished in a falsetto voice. Rubbing his temple, he continued, "I was about ready to kill her myself by the time we got to her house!"

All three erupted into laughter as they thought of Adam and the distraught girl.

"Well, I am so glad to see that my sons are enjoying themselves. However, I thought I also instilled in them a strong work ethic." Ben said from atop his horse.

All three sons straightened up at the sobering affect of their fatherís voice.

"Uh, hi Pa." Joe said, meekly.

Ben, shook his head gruffly as he dismounted. "I thought I sent you boys out here to do a job. You and Adam have been out here all afternoon and from the looks of it havenít gotten a lick of work done." He said sternly giving Adam and Joe hard looks. "Instead, I see you three out here having a good olí time at the expense of the ranch. Need I remind you three that this IS a working ranch?"

Adam scratched the back of his neck, avoiding eye contact with his father. Joe stared at his boots shifting the dirt below with his heel. Hoss suddenly found an interesting leaf to examine.

Ben shook his head, suppressing a smile at his sonsí behavior. Clearing his throat, he said, "All right. Hoss, I believe you have the barn to finish. Joe, Adam, I expect you two know what needs to be done here. How about getting to work on it."

Adam smiled, sheepishly, "Right Pa." Glancing to Joe, he turned back to his father, "Weíll, uh, make some progress before its time for supper."

Ben, nodded, "Good." Slowly, he climbed back into the saddle. "Donít be late for supper boys." With that he turned Buck around and headed back to the ranch, all the while wondering what his sons had been laughing about. He almost hated to interrupt their obvious enjoyment but as he had told them before, work had to get done.

Little Joe watched as his father rode off, letting out a sigh of relief he said, "Boy, I thought we were going to hear an ear full from him."

Hoss nodded, "Yeah me too, that wasnít too bad at all, considering." Smiling, he walked over to Chubb, "Well I better get back to work myself so I donít catch an ear full later. See you two fer supper!" he said with a wave.

Adam and Joe waved their good-byes and returned their attention back to the large Oak tree that had brought back so many fond memories. Adam slapped Joe on the shoulder, "Well, I guess we better get to work. We should make SOME progress before dinner tonight..."

Joe nodded, walking over to the axe he had set by the tree earlier that day. "Yeah, youíre right." Picking up the axe he eyed the large tree trunk, sighing as he did so. The axe felt especially heavy in his hands at the moment. Looking to Adam, he said, "How bout you take the first swing?"

Adam shrugged, not sure why his brother seemed to be hesitating. Picking up his own axe, he chose the best place to begin cutting into the tree. Finding what he thought to be a good starting point, he heaved the axe into the air for the first swing.

Joe watched with dread, he wasnít looking forward to taking down the magnificent tree. He held his breath as his brother began his first swing. Adam, hesitated for a moment and then began the forward motion with the sharp tool. As the blade was about to hit its mark, Adam suddenly pulled back, halting the ax in mid-swing.

Joe, let out the breath he had been holding, and looked at his brother with surprise. "Whatís the matter?"

Adam dropped the axe to his side, and then looked up at the tree before answering his brother. "I canít do it." Adam said, his voice a mere whisper. Turning to Joe, he shook his head. "I canít do it. I canít chop this thing down."

Joe scratched the back of his head, thinking. "Yeah, me neither. Guess Pa ainít gonna be too happy about this..."

Adam thought for a moment. "No probably not, but maybe thereís something else we can do..."

Looking at his brother skeptically, Joe asked, "Like what?"

Adam walked over to the stream and watched as the water flowed over the fence. He turned back to his brother, "Well, what if we..."

___________

Ben glanced up from his desk at his three sons who congregated near the fireplace. Something was up, he was almost sure of it. All through supper the three had been uncharacteristically quite. Usually supper at the table was peppered with upbeat banter from his sons, but not tonight. He had noticed the looks that passed between Joe and Adam, the type that only they were meant to see. It was as if they had something to say to him but couldnít decide what or when to say it. Now all three of his sons were acting strange. They had all stayed close in the sitting area, keeping their voices low. Every once in awhile one of the boys would glance back at him as he worked. Yes, something was defiantly up, now Ben only had to wait for his sons to reveal themselves.

It was some twenty minutes later, when Hoss, Joe and Adam approached their fatherís desk. Ben finished up his letter, purposely making his sons wait nervously in front of his desk. Folding the letter, he finally looked up at his sons, with a questioning look.

"Can I help you, boys?"

Adam cleared his throat. "Uh, Pa, Joe and I wanted to talk to you about the fencing project weíve been working on..."

Ben scrutinized his sons, waiting for them to continue, "Yes..."

"Well, Pa, about that big olí oak tree... Its not going to be easy to cut down and..."

Ben cut him off, "What do you mean its not going to be easy to cut down?" He asked, his voice raising, "You two were out there all day and that tree is still up??"

Adam raised, his hands in defense, his voice also rising. "Now wait a minute, Pa, just hear me out!"

Suddenly Ben was brought back to another time he had heard those very words.

***

Ben sighed with relief when he spotted his son. This was the last place he had thought to look and he almost hadnít come, but something drew him to this place. Pulling Buck to a halt, he dismounted slowly. He wasnít sure what to say to his son, this wasnít going to be easy. A lot of hurtful things were said by both him and his oldest son, neither had wanted to budge on their perspective stances.

The frustration and anger still rang in his ears when Adam had yelled, "Now, wait a minute, Pa, just hear me out!" Ben silently admonished himself for not really listening to his son, if he had, they wouldnít be in the position they were in now. Instead of resolving things between themselves, Adam had stormed off.

Standing next to Buck he hesitated. Adam sat under the tree, his legs pulled to his chest, his arms around his knees, looking at but not seeing the stream of water that flowed near by. Ben could tell he was hurt, although, he would never admit it to himself or his father. Mustering up his courage Ben approached the tree and his son. Adamís only acknowledgment of his Fatherís presence was brief glance he gave him when he approached.

Ben took off his hat, twisting it absently in his hands, "Adam, may I sit down?"

Adam shrugged, continuing to stare ahead.

"Adam," Ben started humbly. "Adam, I came out here to talk to you about what happened this afternoon..."

Adam glanced at his father, letting him know he was listening. Ben continued, "I, I, I came to tell you son, Iím sorry."

Taking in a deep breath, Adam nodded, "Yeah me too." He said softly.

"Son, I shouldnít have dismissed your ideas like that. Youíre a grown man and I really do want you to have a larger role in the running of this ranch. Its just that, well, sometimes, its hard for a Father to admit his sons may just have better ideas about things than he does."

Adam smiled, slightly, "I think I can understand that Pa."

Ben smiled, "I think your idea was a fine one Adam. Its a bit different from how Iím used to running things but after some thinking I can see how it would work and Iím willing to give it a try."

Ben was rewarded by his sonís smile, "I knew common sense would take a hold of you sometime."

Refraining from chiding Adam about that smart-aleck remark, he joked, "Yes, well, sometimes it takes a bit longer with your old man." Turning serious, he said, "Adam, I didnít come out here just to tell you that. I also want to talk to you about something Iíve been considering for awhile now..."

Adam looked at him expectantly.

"Son, ever since you left for college I had expected you would take a larger role in the running of the ranch when you returned. And to some extent Iíve done that, but it occurred to me, after this afternoon, that maybe I hadnít succeeded as well as I had hoped. Iíve always intended to make you more of a partner, Adam. After all, this ranch is not just my dream but hopefully something you and your brothers also share. Something you should be more a part of as you grow older."

Adam didnít say anything, sensing his Father was not quite through.

After a moment of silence Ben continued, "Son, what Iím trying to say, is that I would like to make your participation in the running of the ranch more formal. What you had to say tonight made a lot of sense and I almost dismissed what you tried to tell me simply because I was thinking of you, not as the adult you are, but as the child you once were. I guess what Iím trying to say, Adam, is from now on I want you and I to be partners in the running of this ranch."

Adam turned to his father in surprise, "Partners?"

"Yes, Adam, partners. Itís going to mean a lot more responsibilities on your part; I hope you understand that. It also does not mean you have free reign and can do what ever you wish. But, it does mean, from now on, when you have an idea for the ranch I will try my best to listen with an open ear and give it my full consideration, with out prejudice. It also means youíll have other responsibilities you donít have now, but I think we can discuss some of those later..."

Adam stared at his Father, not sure what to make of this gesture. "I... I donít know what to say, Pa."

Ben smiled warmly, "Say youíll shake my hand and make it a deal."

Adam grinned widely and thrust his hand forward. "You got a deal Pa." He said, taking his Fatherís hand firmly in his.

"Good, Good to hear son." Ben said, squeezing his sonís hand warmly. Standing up, Ben looked out across the moonlit field. "I think I better get back to the ranch before those two younger brothers of yours burn down the house."

Adam nodded, smiling slightly at his father. "I think Iíll stay here for awhile, Pa. I have some more thinking to do after today."

Ben nodded in acceptance. "All right son." As he walked by he leaned down to give Adam a gentle squeeze on the shoulder, "Donít stay out too late."

"Right Pa." Adam whispered back as his Father walked away.

***

"Pa?" Adam asked, tentatively.

Ben looked up at his son, still lost in thought, "Hmm?"

"I asked what you think of our plan." Adam said patiently.

Ben scratched his head, he had completely missed out on what his sons had been saying. "I... Iím not quite sure I have the logistics of this all down Adam. Perhaps you can show me what you mean and explain it once again."

Adam raised his eyebrows in skepticism. It was a perfectly simple plan, it hardly needed to be illustrated. Shrugging, he grabbed a survey of the Ponderosa from the bookshelf. Setting it on his fatherís desk he laid it out for all to see. "Okay, letís start again..."

After fifteen minutes of careful explaining, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe waited anxiously for their Fatherís verdict.

"I still think it would be easier to just move the fence boys..." Seeing his sonís faces fall grimly, he continued, "But if you would rather extend the fence... I told you both that this was your project and if you want to do extra work its hardly my place to stop you..."

Seeing all three grin, he said, "Although, I will tell you three I am not very pleased with the fact that its going to cost you several extra days of work."

Joe smiled, "Donít worry, Pa. Itís worth it."

Ben nodded, warily, "What ever you say Joe."

Adam who had been leaning against the desk stood up, stretching his long frame. "Well, itís going to be a long hard day tomorrow, Iím going to bed." Hoss and Joe quickly followed, all three sons obviously pleased with themselves.

Although, they would not admit it he had a feeling he knew the real reason they wanted to extend the fence as opposed to cutting it down as originally planned. And truth be told, he was glad they had come up with an alternative. The tree meant a lot to him as well. It was testament to his sonís lives, a fixture in their child hood. He would never admit it but he too thought the tree to hold a special place in his heart. With a sigh, he stood up and headed to bed himself.

That morning Joe and Adam rode out to the field on the buckboard. It was going to be a long day of work, but both felt it was worth it.

Adam pulled the team to a stop. "Well, I guess we better get something done today or Pa might just want to dynamite this old tree." He said with a laugh, "With us tied to it."

Joe laughed, "You know I still canít believe he didnít say more about us wasting the entire day. Normally he would be haviní a fit."

Adam shrugged as he reached into the buckboard for the fencing material. "Well, maybe he realized the real reason we wanted to build the extra fence."

Joe stood next to his brother, looking at the large Oak tree, remembering all the time he had spent there as a younger boy. "Maybe."

Adam turned around, looking at the tree himself, "You know I think I may need to make a few more trips out here in the future. I forgot how powerful the Dreaming Tree is, yesterday reminded me."

Joe smiled at his brotherís use of the Ďdreaming tree,í "I donít think Iíve heard you say that since we were kids."

Adam looked at his younger brother, "Yeah, well after yesterday... it just seemed appropriate after all these years."

Joe slapped his brother on the shoulder, "I knew you were a softy Adam!" he said with a laugh.

Adam arched his eyebrows, "Yeah well, donít go spreadiní nasty rumors like that, ya hear?"

Joe laughed.

Adam smiled, "Come on, we better get to work."

Joe nodded, "Right."

Together the two brothers began work on building the new extensions for the boundary fence. The next few days were going to be long under the heat of sun. Their hands would be blistered from the barbwire and the splinter filled wood, but in this case, it was more than worth it.

 

THE END

 

This story, being my first really sappy one is dedicated to none other then Sappy <Sandy> W. Also, thank you Kathy and Anne G. for helping me out with this story when I asked.

November (?) 1999 and slightly edited March 2004



 

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Michelle K.

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