do not own the Cartwright characters but they do linger in my mind, readily
available whenever I choose to imagine. My
thanks to David Dortort for creating the Cartwright family.
soon as Adam’s bare feet touched the cold floor, he shuddered and pulled them
back up and under the warm covers again. Hugging
the blankets around him so as not to let any warmth escape, he glanced at the
faint purple hues just beginning to lighten his bedroom window.
Looking toward the window again, he noticed barely-discernable Jack Frost
ice paintings on the inside of the panes and decided he would stay in bed until
it was just a little warmer. Nearly
every morning, Adam was up before Hoss, Joe, and their Pa.
someone else get up first today,
course, Hop Sing always got up before everybody. The first thing Hop Sing did every morning was to start a
fire in the huge fireplace in the great room.
He would then proceed to his kitchen to start a fire in his stove so he
could begin cooking breakfast for himself and the rest of his household.
Hop Sing was nearly always up before his chickens even realized a new day
bedroom had the advantage of sharing the chimney from the fireplace in the great
room below so his bedroom was usually a little warmer than those of the rest of
his family. It occurred to Adam as he lay there idly passing time in his
head that, if his own bedroom was this cold, Hoss’s bedroom and Joe’s
bedroom must be nearly freezing. This
thought made him grin because he knew he was still
going to be up before Joe. Trying
to get Joe out of bed every morning was like trying to push molasses uphill.
Joe, now 21 years old, was reluctant to get out of bed any
morning of the year, much less a bitter cold one like today.
waited for a little while but hated to stay in bed any longer than he had to.
Here it was, a whole brand new day to be alive and he didn’t want it to
go for naught. He jumped out of bed
and pulled his clothes on as fast as he could.
Hop Sing had already placed a pitcher of hot water at his door and Adam
quickly retrieved it. The warmth
from the fireplace below was already warming the chimney in his room as he
stretched and yawned the rest of the way to wakefulness.
used a good portion of the hot water to shave.
As he was shaving, he continually adjusted the angle of his face to
accommodate the one-dimensional mirror on his wall.
The sun crested the horizon and light poured into his room.
Adam shaved, he happened to glance at the small scar located a little more than
an inch above the arch of his left eyebrow.
His large, expressive, hazel-brown eyes saw that scar every time he
shaved or looked in a mirror but his mind never paid any attention to it.
He had been carrying that scar around for so many years that it just
seemed to be a natural part of the landscape of his handsome face.
hand holding his razor now paused in mid-air and he suddenly grinned at the face
in the mirror looking back at him. A
distant memory had come whizzing out of whatever corner of his mind where it was
stored and that memory captured his immediate attention.
This particular memory had a habit of revisiting him in the most
Adam Cartwright was looking forward to finally being able to leave for college
in the fall. His Pa had promised
that he could go and his Pa always kept his promises.
But first, summer had to come, and before that spring had to come, and
before that winter had to GO. Good
Lord but Adam was ready for winter to be over.
had been one of the coldest winters he could remember and he was ready for it to
just disappear. There had been a couple of times when he had wished his
brothers would just disappear right along with winter.
of winter disappearing, it had rained, then snowed, then rained some more.
It had rained so much that a huge mud puddle appeared at the low point in
the large pasture behind the barn. The
saturated ground refused to soak up any more water but the rain kept coming
anyway. That mud puddle got wider,
and wider, then wider still. That
glorified mud puddle soon turned into a fair-sized miniature lake.
Then it froze. For weeks it
was frozen stiff. Stiff and
winter was fun. Word spread among the few Cartwright neighbors and soon
various children could be found slipping, sliding, and sledding on that little
shallow lake. The adults thought it
was great…what better way to keep their children out of their hair.
The children weren’t the only ones who were thoroughly sick of winter.
was a Saturday and six-year-old Little Joe could hardly wait for Adam and Hoss
to finish their morning barn chores so they could take him out on the ice.
Ben had forbidden Little Joe to be there unless he was accompanied by
either or both of his big brothers. Little
Joe kept opening the door of the house to peek out to see if his brothers were
coming. Ben was getting
open that door one more time, little boy, and you won’t be going anywhere
Joe giggled as he shut the door. “Yes,
also was nearly beside himself with excitement.
He was so anxious to get himself out to that little lake that he was
slamming things around in the barn in his haste to get his chores done.
When Hoss slammed things around, they were slammed around.
why don’t you just go ahead and get Little Joe.
I’ll finish up here,” Adam said as he retrieved the pitchfork from
the floor where Hoss had tossed it.
Adam? You sure?
You don’t mind? I’m
almost done anyway.”
grinned at his middle brother. “I
don’t mind. Go. I’ll catch
up to you as soon as I can.”
ran to the house to collect Little Joe.
grabbed Little Joe’s mittens and shoved Little Joe’s hands into them.
Ben watched as Hoss struggled mightily to get Little Joe’s coat on over
the bulky mittens. Hoss gave up and
started over. He jerked the mittens
off, pushed Little Joe’s arms into the sleeves of his coat, then shoved his
little hands back into the mittens. Hoss
was started to breathe in short, hard spurts.
you make sure you hold on to Little Joe when he’s on the ice.
Unlike you, he doesn’t know to stand bent forward to protect his head
in case he falls. Do you hear
Pa, I won’t. I mean, I will.
I mean I will hold onto him and
I won’t let him fall.”
was anxious to get going and here Pa was, wasting precious time telling him
something that he had already told him a hundred times.
But of course Hoss listened as respectfully as he could.
Pa was not a man to be ignored. Hoss
never said so but he did think that ever since Little Joe’s ma had died, his
pa had become way too protective of his sons, especially his youngest.
Joe, will ya stop squirmin’? The
ice is gonna melt plumb away before I can even get ya ready to go outside.”
Hoss was becoming stressed.
was in such a fury to get out to the lake that he was now making a real mess of
trying to help Little Joe get his boots on.
After Little Joe yelped in pain, Ben rose from his chair and took over
the job himself.
you need to slow down a bit. The
ice will be there for some time,” Ben said as he fixed Little Joe’s boots.
Ben then pulled a knitted cap over Little Joe’s head and tied the
strings beneath his chin.
was starting to wish he had just stayed in the barn and finished his own chores.
He didn’t seem to be making much headway toward getting to the lake.
last, Little Joe was deemed to be dressed warmly enough to satisfy Pa and the
two boys were allowed to leave. They
banged their way out the door and raced for the lake as fast as Little Joe’s
bulky clothes would allow. Little
Joe tripped once and gentle, kind, considerate Hoss just hauled him to his feet
and didn’t even slow their pace.
or six other children had ridden their horses to the Ponderosa and were already
enjoying the little frozen lake by the time Hoss and Little Joe arrived.
Nobody owned a pair of ice skates but it didn’t take long to figure out
that boots did a fine job of sliding. Hoss
dutifully held on to Little Joe while they both took small sliding steps on the
ice. Little Joe shrieked with
other children, all of them much older than Little Joe, soon became involved in
a contest to see who could slide the farthest after a running start.
Hoss plugged along with Little Joe for a while but it wasn’t long
before he wanted to part company. He
wanted to join in on the real fun. He
parked Little Joe on a small rock by the edge of the lake and told him to stay
put. This was Hoss’s first
children soon tired of the sliding contest and decided to play crack-the-whip
instead. Each child grasped
the hand of the child next to him until a human chain was formed.
The larger boys formed the head of the chain and the smaller children
formed the tail of the chain. Because
Hoss was the largest boy, he was chosen to be the first child at the head of the
as an anchor, Hoss grasped the hand of the child next to him and then slowly
turned his body in a tight circle while the rest of the children in the chain
boot-skated in the same direction as fast as they could.
As the speed of the chain picked up, the outermost child would release
his hand as soon as he felt he was going too fast.
The momentum would then fling the child outward.
Sometimes the child managed to slide for quite a distance before he took
a tumble. The next child on the
chain would do the same thing as the chain continued to accelerate. As the chain shortened, the laughing children would then
reassemble to begin again.
was having so much fun that he had completely forgotten about Little Joe.
This was Hoss’s second mistake.
should have remembered that his little brother never sat quietly for very
long. He should have remembered
that but he didn’t. Hoss was
unaware of the fact, but Little Joe had quickly gotten bored sitting by himself
on that cold rock and had wandered back out onto the ice.
the reassembled human chain picked up momentum again, the outermost child
suddenly found Little Joe right in his pathway.
Rather than slam his body into Little Joe, the child made a split second
decision and grabbed a handful of Little Joe’s coat instead.
Suddenly Little Joe found himself rushing across the ice.
He couldn’t keep his feet underneath him but that didn’t
matter…sliding on his knees worked just fine.
Little Joe’s high-pitched giggles burst forth and he yelled out, “Whee-e-e.”
this was happening, Adam appeared at the edge of the ice.
He was horrified at what he saw. He
ran out onto the ice toward Hoss.
Hoss had done nearly all of his life, he instantly reacted to the ominous tone
of Adam’s command. His stomach
did a flip-flop and he released the hand of the child next to him.
This was not a wise decision. The
sudden release of their anchor snapped the chain of children outward away from
Hoss and the children went flying in all directions, some of them at top speed.
of those little scraps of humanity was Little Joe, hurtling on his knees at a
high rate of speed directly toward Adam. Adam
lurched forward on the ice to try to slow Little Joe.
Unfortunately, at that moment, Adam slipped on the ice and lost his
balance in a sudden spin. His feet
went out from under him and he landed hard on his back.
Adam felt the back of his head hit the ice, then dozens of little flashes
of light danced before his eyes.
Adam could move, Little Joe’s body slammed into his shoulder.
The momentum tossed Little Joe up and over Adam’s head, then landed him
in a crumpled heap beside Adam’s ear. Adam
felt a sharp pain just over his left eyebrow.
He blinked several times to clear his vision but blood was running down
across his left eye and he couldn’t see very well.
He threw out an arm to hug Joe to him, trying to calm his little brother
who by now was crying loudly in Adam’s ear.
Joe’s mouth was bloodied and Adam’s forehead and left side of his face were
covered with blood. Hoss took one horrified look at both of his brothers, then
quickly left the ice and ran as fast as he could to get their father.
and Hop Sing both came running to the scene.
Ben checked Joe over quickly, then handed him to Hop Sing to carry back
to the house. He then kneeled
beside Adam who seemed to be a bit confused.
Adam kept trying to sit up but wasn’t making much progress.
Ben placed his large hand in the middle of Adam’s chest and pushed his
son back into a prone position.
Joe’s hurt. I need to
help…him.” Adam looked
down, son. Adam!
Stop arguing with me! I need
you to lie still for a minute and tell me what’s wrong.”
sure, Pa. I see two of you
and…and I don’t know which one of you is you.”
run and get Charlie. Tell him we need Dr. Martin out here as soon as he can get
here. After you find Charlie, you
meet me at the front door of the house. I’m
going to carry Adam up to his room and I need you to open any doors for me.
Go, son. NOW."
carried Adam into the house and up to his room and stretched him out on the bed.
He quickly tied a long strip of clean cloth around Adam’s head to stop
the copious flow of blood coming from the wound on his forehead.
kept trying to sit up and Ben kept pushing him back to the pillow.
Adam wasn’t entirely making sense.
As Ben worked to undress him, Adam insisted that he could help.
As soon as Ben got Adam’s boots off, Adam reached for one of his boots
and tried to put it back on. As Ben
carefully got Adam’s coat and shirt off, Adam reached for the discarded shirt
to put it back on again. Ben was
getting nowhere. He finally pushed
Adam to a prone position one more time and instructed Hoss to hold him there
while Ben finished undressing him and got him into a nightshirt.
placed a cold compress on the growing lump on the back of Adam’s head, then
cleaned up the blood on his face and in his hair.
The tight bandage around Adam’s head had stopped the bleeding from the
wound on his forehead so Ben loosened the bandage a little.
He decided to leave the wound undisturbed until Dr. Martin could get
Hoss to stay with Adam to prevent Adam from sitting up again, Ben quickly went
downstairs to check on Little Joe’s progress.
Hop Sing was tending to Little Joe but it was obvious that Little Joe
wasn’t really hurt much. Although
he still had tears in his eyes, he was drinking a cup of warm cocoa and had a
half-eaten, cocoa-soaked cookie clutched in his little hand.
‘dam okay, Pa?” I didn’t mean
ta hurt him. Is he cryin’?”
Little Joe, this wasn’t your fault. The
doctor is coming and I’m sure Adam will be okay soon.
Now, let me take a good look at you.
Why are you talking baby talk?”
ain’t talkin’ baby talk, Pa. My
loose toof is losted and my tongue mithes it.
Now I have one toof gone and one more wiggly toof that wasn’t wiggly
before. Can we go back to the ice
so I can look for the losted one? The
toof fairy won’t come ‘less I have a toof for her to pick up.
Can we, Pa?”
think I have a fair idea where your tooth is, son.
We’ll talk about it later."
Paul Martin soon arrived. He did not have to be escorted to Adam’s room.
He had been the Cartwright’s doctor for years and he was well aware of
who belonged in which bedroom.
Martin examined the lump on the back of Adam’s head and noticed his somewhat
bewildered state of mind. He told
Ben that he suspected that Adam had sustained a mild concussion but, with quiet
and complete bed rest, he should be okay in a few days.
next turned his attention to the lumpy cut on Adam’s forehead.
how did this cut happen? It’s
rather deep and it has an odd shape.”
Paul, from what I can gather, the two boys collided pretty hard.
Joe is missing one tooth and has another tooth that is now loose. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you find that missing
tooth when you clean out Adam’s wound.”
I’ll be darned, Ben,” Paul said as he gently extracted a small tooth from
Adam’s forehead and handed it over to Ben.
“I’ll have to do a little stitching here.
It looks to me like Little Joe’s tooth is going to leave a lasting
impression on Adam.”
worried as Ben was for Adam, he couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the
scrapes his boys managed to get themselves into.
Cartwright boys recovered nicely.
permanent teeth eventually grew in straight and firm.
recovered from his concussion with no further complications.
The wound on his forehead healed into a small, flat scar, the shape
perfectly matching the shape of Little Joe’s front baby tooth.
wasn’t able to sit comfortably for a couple of days after Pa had a little
discussion with him about ignoring responsibilities.
Hoss was, however, the only one of the three boys who made it back out
for a quick boot-skate on the ice before it all melted away.
thoughts returned to the present and he chuckled to himself as he resumed
shaving. A small twitch of a smile
played at the corners of his mouth as he thought of how lucky he was to have
that scar. That little scar and the
memories that went with it would go with Adam wherever he went for all of his
life. It would always be there to
remind him of his littlest brother, and his littlest brother’s exuberance for
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