When We All Grow Up
I do not own the Cartwrights but they do linger in my mind, readily
available whenever I choose to imagine. My
thanks to David Dortort for creating the Cartwright family.
This expanded revision to my original story includes the addition of new
scenes and a change in the sequence of events.
I believe this expanded revision tells a better story.
My thanks to Gwynne L. for her offer to beta this revision.
I appreciate so much her willingness to share her expertise in the fine
art of writing stories.
Note: My thanks to my friends at the Dollar Bar Ranch in Nevada for keeping me straight.
there had been occasions in the past when they had gotten into some pushing and
shoving tangles, minor in nature though they were.
Even though he was large for his age, Hoss was six years younger than
Adam, so he never won any of those tangles.
In spite of that, he always gave Adam a run for his money, so to speak.
and all, now that Hoss was ten years old, going on 11 as he liked to tell
everyone, he found his 16-year-old brother to be a bit bossy when it really
wasn't required. The matter soon
came to a head in the barn.
stop throwing things around in here. You
barely missed my shoulder with that damned rake."
I'm gonna have ta work on that. I
was aimin' for yer head."
intentionally threw that at me? Why,
you damned little—"
you better stop using swear words, or I am gonna tell Pa.
You think ya know everything and ya don't!
So ya can just stop orderin' me around alla time!"
you start getting things right, then I'll start thinking you have something in
your head besides noodles. That
hasn't happened yet."
climbed back to his feet and wondered what the hell had happened.
In the past, they had grappled with each other but had never used fists. He
sprang toward Hoss with the intention of getting him in a headlock.
was on the ground again. Fine.
If Hoss wanted a fist fight, then he was perfectly willing to accommodate
him. He quickly rolled to his feet
and waded in.
flew hard and fast. They both landed on the ground more than they would later
admit. Between punches, they managed to exchange a few opinions.
up, Hoss! I'm older. You
can't win." SOCK!
hell I can't. In case you ain't noticed lately, I'm bigger."
it! You're not old enough to use
swear words." SLAM!
you are?" POW!
Hoss, we both need to stop swearing."
of what Pa will do?" GRUNT!
you're not?" CRUNCH!
stop swearin' if you will." SOCK!
continued to punch each other. It
was getting harder and harder for each to get back up from the ground.
As their panting intensified, their sentences got shorter and shorter.
need to stop fighting." BAM!
'til you say 'uncle'." CRUNCH!
answer came in the form of a particularly hard upper cut to Hoss's chin.
The minutes dragged on as they continued to punch each other.
mean it? 'Cuz I ain't sure I can stand up much longer."
mean it. I'm already on the
Well, so you are. Ya
want some help getting' up?"
I'm just going to lie here for a little while."
gonna stand. Ain't sure I could get back up otherwise."
step on me."
now knew for certain-sure that Adam could no longer physically make him do
something if he wasn't in agreement. From
this day forward, Adam would have to ask him, not tell him, and then it
was going to be up to him to decide if he was going to do it at all.
At least that's what he was thinking at the time.
would some day understand that it took more than brawn to command respect, but
right now he was understandably very pleased with himself.
course, neither of them wanted to face Pa after the fight but knew they had no
choice. They had to go into the
house in order to get cleaned up. As
they walked toward the source of their doom, their boot heels dragging in the
dust, each tried to walk slower than the other.
Neither wanted to be the first one to go inside.
They came to a standstill in front of the closed front door.
stepped backward, bowed slightly, then swept his open hand in an upward motion.
"After you, older brother. Age
a disgusted snort, Adam said 'coward' under his breath as he opened the door and
stepped over the threshold. He
didn't see the look of triumph that flashed across Hoss's face for having just
bested him in the door-war.
Pa cleaned their wounds and then dabbed that evil-smelling, sting-like-a-bee
medicine on all their scrapes and bruises, they wished he wouldn't shout so
close to their ears. And, as contrite as they both tried to act, neither expected
to escape with only a lecture.
the past, Ben had made it perfectly clear that they would deeply regret it if
they ever used fists against each other. There
were enough dangers on a working ranch without his sons deliberately inflicting
damage to each other. Both
understood Pa's position on this, so neither was much surprised when he
reinforced their understanding by adding aching tails to their already existing
collection of scrapes and bruises.
Hoss's way of thinking, it was just a derned good thing for both of them that
Adam was such a fast learner. Now
that he was king of the roost, he did not want to go through the consequences of
another fight to prove it.
this day forward, if he didn't want to do something that Adam wanted, it was
going to be a whole lot nicer now that Adam knew he had to ask.
And if he was in a mood, then Adam would have to be real polite about it.
His older brother was no longer top chicken in the pecking order among
the Cartwright boys, and Adam dern well knew it.
maybe using chickens as an analogy wasn't being fair to Adam, seeing as how he
hated chickens and all. He didn't
mind if they were dead, de-feathered, fried to a golden brown, and sitting on
his plate, but he hated all the live ones.
getting back to the matter at hand, Hoss was soon to discover that, now that he
no longer had to do whatever Adam told him, it didn't really matter much that
Adam continued to tell him what to do anyway.
Most of the time he cheerfully obeyed.
shocked as Adam was that day to discover the true strength of his much-younger
brother, it later came as a pleasant surprise to realize that the status quo had
changed, but the good relationship between the two of them had gotten even
better, if that were possible.
scorcher of a day about a month after the fight, the two boys had managed to
spend most of the day at the lake. It
was now getting on toward late afternoon.
I'm more than ready. I ain't had so
much as a nibble. I think all the
fish musta plumb fallen asleep. Might
just as well go on home. I hope Hop
Sing ain't gonna be disappointed."
we only begged to come fishin' because it was too hot to do our chores.
You know how sharp he is. He
probably knew we would do more swimming than fishin' anyway."
glanced hopelessly at the water. "We
musta really spooked the fish with all our splashing 'cuz we've been outta the
water a long time now and they still ain't comin' around."
doesn't matter. Whatever Hop Sing fixes for supper, it will taste good.
C'mon, it's getting late."
pulled the rest of his clothes back on and told Hoss to do the same.
Even though Hoss was ten years old now, going on 11, he cheerfully did
what Adam told him. Shoot, he had
been following orders from his older brother for as long as he could remember. It was a comfortable fit for both of them and their recent
fight in the barn hadn't changed that. With
good cause, he had always trusted Adam's instincts to know the best course of
action. And, most of the time, Adam
was right. Most of the time.
their fight in the barn, however, he had noticed that Adam now often added the
words 'will you?' after telling him what to do.
As in, 'Hoss, grab the other end of this pole, will you?'
He tried to pretend he didn't notice whenever he heard Adam say it, but
it made him feel good all the same. He
was ten years old, going on 11, and the world was a mighty fine place to be.
Hoss now mounted his horse to return home from their fishing, Adam suddenly
jumped back off of his own horse. "Hold
up a minute. I forgot
grabbed a small cloth bag he had looped around the horn of his saddle.
He quickly opened it and dumped out a small trowel and a tin can.
The top of the tin can was already covered with a scrap of leather
securely tied with far too much string. When
Hoss saw the tin can, his mouth dropped open in amazement.
then settled himself into his saddle as he watched Adam dig a small hole, shove
the tin can in, then quickly throw dirt back into the hole.
Adam smoothed the area with the flat of his hand, then searched around
until he spotted a medium-sized white rock nearby.
He lugged the rock over and carefully settled it directly over the
freshly dug dirt.
was beyond delight. "Golly, I didn't know you was still doing that!
So, what's in the can this time?"
grinned up at Hoss. "Well, I put in a small fish hook, a toy spinning top I
bought at Mr. Cass's store, a fair-sized marble, and five lemon drops."
hope I'm along when you 'help' Little Joe find this pirate's treasure.
That kid just loves lemon drops. And
stories about pirates, too."
suddenly turned pensive. "Makes
me wish I was still a kid. I don't
know how many times ya took me huntin' for buried treasure.
It took me the longest time to figure out that it was you who was doin'
the buryin'. I finally figuring it
out when I recognized an old toy of yours that you had put into the can. You repainted that toy a different color but I recognized the
spot where Pa had mended a broken wheel."
grinned slightly as he continued. "Ya
know, I waited a long time before I told ya that I figured it out though.
I just enjoyed those treasure hunts so much.
Those was some mighty good times ya made for me, Adam.
Yep, that little brother of ours has no idea about the fun ya have in
store for him. It really does make
me wish I was still a kid though."
laughed. "You're ten years old!
You are still a kid."
eyes rolled skyward as he mentally added another digit and quietly said '62' to
big brother, I meant ta say a 'little' kid.
If I ain't ever said it, thanks for all that nice stuff ya did
for me. I had so much fun believin'
I had really found buried pirate treasures.
continued, "When we was travelin' on our way out here to Nevada, I didn't
understand at first that pirates didn't run around on prairies.
When we finally got here, I remember thinkin' that Lake Tahoe was big
enough ta probably have lots of pirates, and those treasures ya kept buryin' for
me proved it."
"Ya know, Adam, before I
recognized that old toy of yours and finally figured out that you was my pirate,
I never even once wondered why the candy wasn't ever stale.
Ain't that a hoot?"
shot a quick look in Hoss's direction, then said, "Well, our youngest
brother isn't going to figure that part out either. Children
don't think along those lines." He
paused, grinned at Hoss, then added, "I hope you know, Hoss, that it was
all of your excitement on our treasure hunts that always made it so much fun for
they arrived home, they spotted Little Joe, who had just barely turned five
years old, morosely sitting on the lowest rung of the empty corral.
He wasn't crying now, but his dirty little face was streaked with dried
stopped their horses at the front of the barn.
Hoss leaned to the side and spoke in a low voice. "Looks
like our little brother is in trouble again.
What do you suppose he did this time?"
shook his head. "Probably two or three things, knowing Joe.
I think I'll take the little guy for a short ride."
better not take him far. Ya don't
know why he's in trouble. Ya might
end up with Pa on yer own tail."
to worry, Hoss. Not to worry. I'm
only going to take him to the pasture and back.
We won't even lose sight of the house."
rode his horse close to Little Joe and leaned down toward him.
"You look like a lost ball in high weeds, buddy.
Seems to me you could use some cheering up.
Want to go for a short ride with me?
Or do you think you can comfortably sit?
I don't happen to have a pillow with me, you know."
Joe's face lit up like the sun had decided to shine on the world after all.
He jumped up, scrambled up to the third rung of the corral, and then
launched his small body toward Adam before his brother was completely ready to
catch him. Adam's long arm snatched
him in mid-air, and he swung him up and into position to sit in the saddle in
front of him.
Adam's way of thinking, it always seemed like Joe just launched himself at life
and never stopped to think about any possible dangers.
Joe's way of thinking…well, he didn't think about danger at all when Adam was
around. His trust in his oldest
brother to keep him safe was total and absolute.
Well, except for some occasional swats to Joe's little backside.
Even though Adam's swats were hard enough to bring tears, he never held
it against his big brother for long. He
usually knew he had it coming.
Joe twisted in the saddle in order to look up into his brother's face. "I
wanna go a long way from here. Hurry!"
couldn't help but grin. "Not
likely. What have you done to get yourself into trouble this time?
Were you talking back to Pa again?"
Best to leave out that last word, little brother.
"C'mon. Tell me the
truth. It looks like you've already been punished anyway."
I wasn't talkin' back ta Pa. I
was just tryin' ta make him understan' somethin'."
did Pa tell you to stop talking?"
he didn't understan'. I was just
trying ta explain somethin'."
I hope you learn soon that when Pa tells you to be quiet, you better get
quiet fast. "Well, I'm not going to interfere with Pa on this, so how
about we talk about something else?"
what?" It sounded like Little Joe was about to start crying again.
tightened his arm a little more around Joe and pulled him closer.
"Oh, I don't know. How
about we talk about what you and I are going to do when you grow up?
How would you like to take a trip with me? Just you and me."
Hoss or Pa?"
Just you and me. I'm
thinking that you and I should get on our horses and just ride until we get to
where we want to go."
that sounds like fun. Where
let me think. I've always heard that, uh, Australia is a fascinating place
what I said. Austia."
This isn't working. "Uh,
Little Joe, another good place to go is New Zealand.
I've heard it is a beautiful country, with lots of lush greenery. Can
you say New Zealand?"
I can. Gosh, don'cha remember
teachin' me all those letters?"
let me hear you say it."
Well, he can pronounce it so I guess that's where we're going.
"So it's a deal. When
you grow up, you and I will ride our horses all the way to New Zealand.
Oh, by the way, let's keep this our little secret.
That means that neither one of us can tell anybody else until you grow
even Pa and Hoss?”
Not Hoss, not Pa, not Hop Sing. Nobody!
This is just an oldest-brother-to-youngest-brother thing.
Do you understand?"
bet! Can we leave tomorrow?"
You have to grow up first, remember?"
that gonna take a long time? Besides,
you ain't all growed up yourself yet. I
heard Pa tellin' ya that just last week when he was draggin' ya out of that
WHAT? Oh, Lord.
"Little Joe, how…uh, what do you know about that?
And, by the way, Pa did not drag me out of any saloon."
did so! I was runnin' out of the
alley ta get back into the buckboard after I saw he had finished loadin' up the
supplies. I stopped when I saw him
draggin' ya out of the saloon, and I watched him make ya get on your horse.
Golly, he sure was mad, wasn't he? I
thought ya were supposed to be out tearin' down that old beaver dam that had the
stream all backed up. I think Pa
was real surprised to see ya in town, too.
Why were ya there, anyhow?"
That'll be the day when I have to explain myself to you, little brother.
"My shovel broke, so I had to stop working on the dam.
I rode into town to buy a new shovel.
It's as simple as that." Well,
that part is true. Just keep it
why were ya in the saloon? And
don't tell me Pa didn't drag ya out 'cuz I saw him do it.
Right in front of ever'body, too."
he did not drag me out so stop saying that.
And you better not say that to anyone else, you hear me?"
all of the patience of a small Job, Little Joe quietly said, "Why would I
tell anyone? Everybody was already on
the street watchin' Pa draggin' ya out."
for the last time, Pa did not drag me out."
Joe threw his small arms up in the air to show his frustration.
"Well, I don't know what else ya wanna call it.
He had your hat in his left hand, your arm in his right hand, and he was
walkin' ya a whole lot faster than it looked like ya wanted to walk.
Then I watched him slam your hat on your head so hard your eyes almost
disappeared. Then he told ya ta get
on your horse and get home. And he
sure wasn't smilin' when he said it."
Why had Pa suddenly decided to go to town that day?
He was planning to work on the books when I left to go to the dam.
"Joe, I only had one beer, and I didn't even get a chance to finish
that one. And where exactly
were you while all this was happening?"
stayed in the alley. I ain't dumb,
ya know. When I saw the look on
Pa's face, I figured it was safer for me ta just stay put."
you ever tell me again that you don't eavesdrop.
You do, and you know you do."
Adam had an epiphany. He suddenly knew how to get out of this. "And
what were you doing in the alley in the first place?"
it better not be for the reason I'm thinking."
you would be wise to answer me."
ya know how far away the outhouse is in town.
It's all the way past—"
How many times do you have to be told not to use the alley for that
purpose!" Great recovery, Cartwright. Now
you're back in control. Deflect the
situation away from you and put it right back in his little lap.
I was only pee—"
it! I don't want to hear what you
were only doing. You know
better than to even go into that alley."
Joe was immediately contrite. Contrition
sometimes worked when he had nowhere else to turn.
"Uh, I'm sorry. I won't
do it again. Honest."
Honest? Honest? I give up. Adam
just groaned to himself.
reached the pasture, and Adam slowly turned his horse around and got him started
into a gentle walk back toward the house. Both
he and Joe were lost in their own thoughts.
Little Joe piped up. "So what did happen to ya when Pa came
Oh, Lord, will this conversation never end?
Okay, use your big-brother command voice here.
"Just drop it, Joe."
again lapsed into silence, embarrassed that his little brother had found out
about one of his own misadventures.
Adam didn't say anything for a few minutes, Little Joe threw his head far back
onto Adam's chest so he could look up into his brother's face.
"I know we both hafta grow up first, but ya ain't gonna forget about
Z-land, are ya?"
say 'ain't', Little Joe."
'Kay. But ya won't forget, will ya?"
drawn back into his previous good mood and remembering that his purpose for this
little ride was to cheer his young brother up, Adam chuckled. "I'll
do better than that. I'll make sure
to remind you every once in a while. How
does that sound?"
wish we could go tomorrow."
just because you're in deep weeds with Pa right now.
You apologize to him and start minding better.
wondered why Adam always called getting into trouble 'deep weeds'. He
started to say that Adam needed to mind Pa better too but caught himself at the
last second. He quietly said,
flashed a grin that he knew Little Joe could not possibly see. I wonder how many years it's going to take you to figure
out that we can't get to New Zealand by horseback?
came out of the barn just as they were ready to dismount.
He stepped over, pulled Little Joe out of the saddle, and swung him up
onto his shoulder. "Golly Dern,
Adam. What did you say to this kid?
He went away looking like the last little boy on earth, and now he looks
as happy as a kitten full of milk."
Joe twisted around on Hoss's shoulder, so he could see into Adam's eyes.
Joe's right eyelid slid into his very best attempt at a wink, except his
left eyelid closed to keep company with his right one.
Adam grinned, and his own left eyelid slid into an answering wink.
"Can't tell you, Hoss. Joe
and I have a little secret."
eyes widened, then his face broke into a knowing grin.
He remembered Adam pulling the same thing on him when he had been about
Joe's age. He had gotten an untold amount of pleasure out of thinking
about and planning for that horseback trip to China with Adam just as soon as he
grew up. At the time, he thought
that Adam was all grown up. Adam
had told him so, and he just naturally believed him.
remembered that whenever he had been feeling blue about something, especially
after a run-in with Pa, Adam would start talking to him again about that trip to
China. Just thinking about that
trip sure had made the time go faster whenever he most needed the time to go
faster, especially whenever Pa made him stand in a corner so he could
"reflect upon his mistakes." As
soon as he got to whichever corner Pa had picked out, he immediately started to
think about that trip to China instead.
secret that Adam had given him, one that Pa never even knew about, had turned
out to be worth more than gold.
in a reflective mood, Hoss swung Little Joe to the ground and watched his small
brother run to catch up to Adam who was leading his horse into the barn.
It always gave him a tickle to watch Joe take huge steps in a valiant
effort to match those of their oldest brother.
moved over to the corral and leaned against the top rung. He
had suddenly remembered something else about that secret his older brother had
spun for him regarding that trip to China.
As close as he could recall, it had happened about two years ago, so he
figured he had been about eight years old which would have made Adam about 14.
nearly laughed out loud as his mind settled into the vivid memory he had of that
was so rushed with trying to get a cattle contract out on time, and he was so
mad at both Adam and Hoss that he didn't take time to make up a punishment more
befitting of their respective ages. Instead,
he sent both of them to stand in a corner.
Well, separate corners.
was beyond mortification and yelled that he was too old to be made to stand in a
corner. Hoss had noticed for some
time now that his older brother's thinking tended to get a little warped when he
lost his temper. When Ben turned on his heel to walk back toward Adam's
corner, Adam realized his mistake, shut his mouth, and quickly turned to face
his corner. Sometimes, Hoss just
plumb wondered if Adam was really as smart as everyone kept saying he was.
after they had apologized and had promised to settle down, Ben allowed them to
go back outside. Both knew Ben's rule about maintaining absolute silence while
they were standing in a corner, so Hoss could hardly wait to talk to Adam now
that they were free.
up, Adam. I got it all figured out.
I know exactly what we need ta take with us."
us? With us where?
What're you talking about?"
what else? What were you thinking about all that time we were in our
a stricken look flashed across Hoss's face, "Oh, no!
You weren't really thinking about our transgressions, were
Adam didn't say anything, Hoss's mood suddenly turned mournful, as if he had
been caught in the worst sin possible. Hoss
still had a tendency to mix Pa up with God.
just looked at the woeful expression on Hoss's face in disbelief.
Well, he couldn't tell him that he hadn't been thinking about their
transgressions because, after all, he was much older and probably should be
trying to set an example. Besides,
he was too embarrassed to tell his younger brother that he had really spent his
time thinking about that cute little MaryAnn Archer.
He wondered if she would be coming to the Saturday night dance with her
family. Not that he would ask her
to dance or anything. After all,
they were just pals. He hoped she might notice his brand new string tie though.
was taking so long to respond to the question that Hoss figured he wasn't even
going to answer at all. Hoss was
incredibly good natured about most things, but being ignored by Adam wasn't one
got right up into Adam's face, "Ya ain't even payin' any attention ta me!
And ya don't pay one bit of attention ta Pa either, do ya?
It don't matter if he's yellin' to high heaven, ya still get that same
look on yer face. You know what
look I mean, too. The one that
makes ya look like you're listenin' but ya really ain't!"
when Adam found himself caught, he would try to wiggle out with a little
Hoss, do you remember when Pa was yelling at us before he made us go in the
house to our corners?"
did you notice that I suddenly looked away from him for a few seconds?"
waited a minute, obviously chewing on where this was going.
I saw ya do that. I think Pa
knew ya wasn't payin' attention. Ya
know he always makes us look at him when he's lecturin', so why did ya look
Hoss. I just couldn't stop myself.
When he yells like that, I always look north. I just can't help it. It
always makes me feel bad when Pa wakes up all those nice folks up in Canada.
You would think that if any of them are sleeping in the daytime like
this, it must be because they need their rest.
I just wish he wouldn't wake them up all the time."
both eyebrows slightly lifted, Adam leaned toward Hoss and looked intently into
his blue eyes. He had to struggle
not to show how close he was to laughing.
eyes widened and he spoke in an awe-filled voice, "Golly, you really think
folks in Canada can hear him when he's yellin' at us?"
he made a fist and punched Adam on the arm, "Nah, that ain't possible.
You're so fulla beans!"
picked up a rock to throw it at Adam but stopped when Adam quickly reminded him
that throwing rocks at each other was what had put them in those corners to
came back to the present with a slight grin still on his face.
He removed his boot from the bottom rung of the corral and pushed himself
away from the top rung.
he walked toward the barn to join his brothers, it occurred to him that Adam
would have had to exchange China for a different country for Joe.
At least, he hoped Adam had remembered to do that.
With Hop Sing now part of their family, there was too much chance that
Joe would confide in Hop Sing, who might inadvertently tell him that riding
their horses all the way to China wasn't possible.
wondered what country Adam had picked out for Joe.
He hoped his oldest brother remembered how smart Hop Sing was in
geography. If not, the mental image he had of Hop Sing telling Little
Joe to stop listening to his oldest brother was so clear in his mind that he
laughed out loud in spite of his attempts not to.
Hoss entered the barn, he was surprised to find himself hoping that Adam still
had surprises in store for him too. After
all he was only ten years old.
the truth were known, Hop Sing had always believed that Adam filled his younger
brothers' heads with far too much claptrap about pirates, buried treasure, and
far-away places. Hop Sing wasn't a
man to put up with much nonsense, and he never understood why Ben just didn't
put a lid on Adam.
Sing would never have admitted it, but it bothered him that the boys were going
to some day be all grown up. That
thought caused a deep ache to settle inside of him.
He knew that someday he would miss all of the laughter, the yelling in
anger, the yelling in excitement, the gentleness, the roughness, the sometimes
not-so-gentle pushing, and all of the love.
Shoot, he knew that someday he would probably even miss that infernal
slamming of the front door that all three of the boys did so well.
Sing decided it was best not to think about the boys someday being all grown up.
It was just best not to think about it at all.
When I was a kid, my older brother 'helped' me find a canister with treasures in it buried out in our field. I have long since forgotten what else was in that little canister, but I have never forgotten that small, rusty pocket knife that I just marveled over. I only had it a couple of days before it disappeared, and I never saw it again. I think Mom had something to do with that. That was a long time ago, and I still enjoy the memory of that day in the field when I too believed I had found real treasure. I did not realize back then that the real treasure was my older brother who took a day out of his own childhood to make up a wondrous adventure for me.
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