By Jennie A.



I am really trying hard to stay focused on the lesson but my eyes keep looking out the window at the trees that surround the schoolhouse. The wind is blowing so

hard the trees appear to bow as if they are thanking me for watching them. Twice now Miss Jones has rapped her wooden ruler down on her desk in an effort to

bring the class under control. I canít help myself but to be honest with you school is the furthest thing on my mind at the moment.


It is over an hour ride back to the Ponderosa. My father and my brother Adam had named it that when they first filed the claim on the land years before I was even

born. Anyway, I am watching the wind pick up speed and it sends chills down my back and ties my stomach into knots. I recalled the teasing that my older brother

Hoss taunted me with earlier this morning as I saddled up my pony, Snowflake. His laughter echoed through the yard as he sniffed the air certain of his prediction

that we were in for one heck of a storm. I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck knowing that Hoss is seldom wrong when it came to the weather even

though there wasnít a cloud in the sky. My pleas to stay home fell on deaf ears as Adam pointed his finger in Snowflakeís direction ordering me to get my butt in

gear before I was late for school. Quickly I looked around the front yard in search of my Pa but disappointment was visible on my face as my eyes fell on the

hitching post where Buck had been tied just before I had gone into the barn to retrieve my pony. The absence of the horse clearly told me that Pa had already left to

round up the cattle in the high country. Pa mustía known that we were in for a round of snow when he rushed through his breakfast this morning so he could hurry up and move the last of the herd down closer to the ranch house.


I was confused with all the talk about the ranch hands being hyper, thatís what Adam called it when Pa was buttoning up his coat, that no one remembered to tell me to stay home today. I was so sure of myself that it was an oversight on País part but my oldest brother Adam would not hear of it. Using the clear sky as his excuse I was told to get a move on it. I heard him talking to me but my mind was on other things. It wasnít until I felt the sting of his hand on my backside did I turn to look at Adam. The smile was gone from his face and I was being threatened with more swats to follow if I didnít get upstairs and put on my long johns like I was told to do when I was rudely dragged out of my warm bed this morning. Gosh, I donít understand what the big deal is about wearing those itchy underclothing anyway, I personally canít stand them. All I do is find myself itching and scratching all day in school. Miss Jones gets that potbelly stove fired up and the classroom tends to get hotter than a summerís day.


Unwillingly I followed Adamís orders and to show my disappointment by taking my time getting dressed. When his voice thunders up to my room warning me that

he is in a hurry I quicken my self and still wearing a pout join Adam downstairs. I was led outside to my pony by Adamís hand firmly but gently placed on my

shoulder. With goose bumps covering my body and shivers of fear racing down my backbone I climb up into the saddle. I nervously gathered the reins into my left

hand and turned to face my brothers once more before turning my pony in the direction that would lead me to town and that dreaded schoolhouse.


Adam stood his ground hands on his hips much like Pa does. The corner of his mouth twitched and I knew that he was fighting to hide the smile as he watched me

begging to stay home. Yes I was begging, call me a kid if you want to, but the fear of being stuck in town in the midst of a raging blizzard overwhelmed my body and I could not control the tremors. I turned my head just enough to make eye contact with Hoss and then quickly lowered my head to hide the tears that swelled up in my eyes. Hoss was still laughing and when he made eye contact with me quickly excused himself to start his chores in the barn. I knew that I had lost the battle and without another backward glance, dug my heels in the sides of my pony and headed for school. No words were spoken throughout the length of the ride. Iím sure that Adam knew that I was mad at him for not letting me stay home. It kinda hurt my feelings some when he said that it would be better for all concerned if I was at school, less likely to get in the way if I stayed home he said. I sometimes feel that he doesnít want me around, not that he donít like me or nothing, but I guess he just donít like little kids. Ainít really my fault that I was born when I was. Seems to me that he should be mad at Pa for that. Iíve tried to show him that even though I am a kid, and a short one at that according to Hoss, I can be of some help on the ranch if he would just give me half a chance. Adam always seems to find excuses for me to be elsewhere when he has things to do, mind you, he said they were important things at that and he could not take the risk of being distracted.


I was in no hurry to get to school and many times the thought of getting sick wandered through my mind but the cost outweighed the six hours that I would have to

stick it out in the over crowded school room, especially if Hoss was wrong and that storm didnít hit until much later, if at all. Adam had pulled Sport to a halt and

waved goodbye to me as I entered the stable. He had important business to tend to at the mercantile before heading back to the ranch. Why is it everything he does

is important? Many nights when I canít sleep I wonder if he will ever think of me as important. Donít get me wrong I know he loves me and all but even knowing

that doesnít stop the tears from running down my face as I bury my head into the soft comforts of my dog Scruffy, which by the way was a Christmas gift from



I knew as I bedded down Snowflake at the stable that a note was already bound for home. Being late was something that Miss Jones did not tolerant and Pa was

never happy about my dilly-dallying around. I still havenít figured out what he means by that, I wish they all would remember that I am only seven not twenty seven

and I donít know the meaning of all those big words that they use. Heck if I did I wonít have to go to school, right???


I drag my feet prolonging the unenviable and with much hesitation open the lightweight door to the schoolhouse and slip in. The door slams shut no thanks to that gust of wind that seemed to show its revenge by alerting Miss Jones that I had finally made my appearance. The look that was thrown in my direction was enough to say it all without her speaking a word. Embarrassed by the stares from the other kids I half ran to my seat and sat down opening my reader. Thatís when the rest of my troubles began.


The sting of Miss Jonesí ruler on my left hand snaps me out of my daydreaming but only for a short while. It doesnít take long for me to allow my eyes to wander

back to the window. I gasp when I see the snowflakes floating through the air and realize too late that I have drawn attention to myself once again. I cringe more

from the discomfort than the embarrassment when Miss Jones grabs my right arm and leads me to the far corner of the room. Iím a little mad at her for putting me

there but more upset that I canít watch the snow falling. I am sure glad when she announces that it is lunchtime and I am dismissed from the corner. The other kids

want to avoid me and I sit alone at my desk nibbling at my fried chicken that Hop Sing has packed for me. Every one is on edge and to keep from getting into any

trouble they stay away from me.


I feel like crying but manage to hold the tears back as I stare out into the yard. I am stunned to see how heavy the snow is coming down when just minutes before it

was just a few flakes drifting by here and there. The snow is starting to cover the ground and the howling of the wind just got louder. I look back at the door

expecting to see Adam walk in to gather me up to take home. But by the time lunch is over Adam still has not come for me. I am really trying hard to keep up with

the rest of the kids but I am starting to get scared again. The wind is blowing the snow so hard that I can hardly see the trees outside.


I hear the clicking of Miss Jonesí shoes on the wooden floor as she walks across the room and stands in front of my desk. As her eyes meet mine she turns and

looks out of the window. I see the look that dances in her eyes as she turns her attention back to the class. She looks at me but only for a brief second before

ordering the kids to get their belongings. She announces her concerns about the children that do not live in town and orders us to stay in the building with her. Once

everything is secured in the schoolhouse, Miss Jones motions for the three of us to stand by her. She reaches out and holds Timothy by his hand and directs Mitch to hold tightly to Timothyís other hand. I am told to grab hold of Mitch and not let go. Miss Jones is going to take us over to the International Hotel to wait out the

storm. It is common practice for the hotel to help out in times of need.


The wind is now blowing the snow with such force that I cannot see Mitch and he is just walking inches in front of me. I lower my head to keep the snow from

blinding me even though I canít see a thing already. With out warning I trip over something on the ground and feel my hand slip free from Mitchís. I cry out as my

chin strikes the frozen ground but my words are lost in the howling of the wind. I have split my chin open and it is bleeding but with the cold and all I donít find that

out until later in the day. Forcing myself back on my feet I try to ignore the stinging in my knee as I start to move forward. I stop after a few steps afraid to go any

further. I canít see a thing and the cold is penetrating my clothing until it is roughly caressing my skin. The goose bumps that I had this morning have reappeared as I

fight back the urge to cry. I have heard horror stories about people being lost in a blizzard and found days later frozen to death. Without even giving it a second

though I scream as loud as I can for my Pa. Minutes pass by, yet they feel like hours, before I turn around and head back in the direction of the schoolís stable.

Snowflake is still in the stall and I want to be with him so bad. I am scared and alone and Miss Jones has not come back for me. I lower my head to the wind and

begin what I pray will be just a short walk down the road.


My walk continues and I finally admit to myself that I am long past the stable and am lost. Fear tightens its grip around my insides, yet the will to survive makes me

move on. I remember from camping trips with my family that in order to survive in the cold one must find shelter and never stop moving until you do so. I fight with

the urge to lie down and rest, afraid that I will fall asleep and never wake up. Each step is harder to take and I let the tears of frustration flow freely only to be swept

away by the powerful hands of Mr. Winter.


I am hungry and I curse myself for not eating all of my lunch. I had been mad at Miss Jones for putting me in the corner and at that time was still holding a grudge

against my brothers for the teasing earlier this morning. I stop for a minute and struggle with the thought that just a few hours ago I was complaining about having to

put on my thermal underclothes and go to school. Just a few hours ago I was home and there wasnít a cloud in the sky. Loneliness overcomes me as I look up into

the heavens and scream out for my family. First Pa, then Adam and then Hoss. I know that I will not get an answer but have to give it a try anyway.


I wait alone somewhere in the middle of nowhere half expecting, maybe I should say wishfully thinking, that a member of my family will suddenly appear and sweep

me into the safety of their love. I force myself to gulp down the lump that has formed in my throat and push myself forward. That same loneliness is now beginning to

frighten me. For once I am giving thanks to my brother Adam for making me put on my long johns. Without them I know I would have been colder than what I am. I make a mental note to thank him when I get back home, cuddled up in front of the roaring fire that Pa always has going on such a cold winter day.


I push myself until I can no longer feel my feet taking the steps. I am falling a lot and every time I do I could hear País voice yelling at me to get up and keep moving.

Time and time again I use País strength to force myself back to my feet, until at last I fall and though I try I am not able to pull myself upright. The tears of frustration

that I let escape earlier are now tears of panic. My whimpers are lost in the wind yet I swear I hear my brother Hoss calling out to me. Unable to stand I begin

crawling across the white barrier that holds me prisoner in her hand. The wind is so cold and I have lost feeling in my hands and feet. I bite my lip in an effort to stifle

my cries as the snow cuts my skin. I brush away the snow from my eyes and notice as my hand is placed down in the snow that my hand is now streaked with



Inch my agonizing inch I crawl towards a blurred building in the distance. Just when my hands become too cold to hold my body weight, my fingers scrap against the

side of the building causing them to bleed again. My will to survive surfaces and with renewed strength and will power I drag myself across the frozen surface until I

find the door.


I am surprised to find that the floor of the building is made of dirt, but being out of the wind I quickly push that thought aside. My clothes are wet and cling to me like

a second skin. I remember Hoss telling me that the first thing I would need to do is to warm myself up if I ever got caught in the cold. It is dark in the building and I

canít see too well. I hate the dark and long for Pa to be holding me telling me that everything is going to be all right. Still unable to stand, I drag myself away from the door where the wind has managed to sneak in along the bottom. I stop when I cannot go any further due to a wall being in my way. I curl up into a ball and lay

shivering in the dark while I think about what I can do to get out of my wet clothes. The longer I lay here the more fear overcomes me. I canít seem to stop the

trembling that has taken hold of my body nor my teeth from chattering. I can faintly see my breath as I breathe out and it frightens me even more. I donít know what

is worse, being out in the cold and getting wet, or being in the dark and being cold and wet.


I mustía fallen asleep because when I opened my eyes the room is so dark that I canít see my hands when I hold them in front of my face. When I try to move my

clothes make crinkling sounds and I get scared all over again when I feel how cold and stiff they are. My stomach is talking to me and my mouth is dry. I force

myself to crawl across the dirt floor until I find the door. The wind is still howling with such force that I fear the roof will be blown off at any given moment. My hands and feet have those funny pins and needle feelings, which I remembered Adam telling me was a good sign. If my body lacks those sensations I will be in trouble.


I grab hold of the latch on the door and pull myself up to my knees. My feet hurt too much to even try to stand on them. I take a deep breath and pull the door open, immediately the snow covers me with a blanket of white. Inching my way outside I use my hat to put snow in. Once back inside I shovel a hand full of the cold stuff into my mouth wanting to quench my thirst. It sure feels good in my mouth but when it makes its way to my stomach the cramps cause me to double over. I feel so stupid as I suddenly recall Pa telling me never to eat the cold snow. It has to be melted first to prevent shock to my insides. Slowly my eyes are adjusting to the darkness and I survey the room by what little light filters in from outside. I smile just a little when my eyes find a bunk bed in the corner of the room, opposite from where I had been sleeping earlier. There are several blankets folded neatly at the foot of the bed and an old horse blanket that has been thrown carelessly onto the middle of the bed. I gather the blanket and hold it close to my chest before completing the now difficult task of closing the door.


It takes me awhile to peel off my clothes, which by the way are for sure frozen. I had never given it much thought on how hard this could prove to be, you know

getting undressed. Exhaustion is trying to claim my body but I manage to get undressed and climb into the bed, using all three blankets to cover myself with. Finally I

grab hold of that old worn horse blanket in my left hand pretending that it is Scruffy and let sleep claim me for a second time. The dream that haunted me several

times through what I believed to be the night is making me scared. I dreamt that I was found days too late and watched as my family had to carry me back to my

favorite place on the Ponderosa. I was laid to rest next to my Maís grave, something that strangely put my mind at ease. What happened next is what caused me to

wake up screaming for my family to save me before it was too late. I brush away the beads of sweat that drip down my face as I struggle to control my breathing.

The picture is still so clear in my mind and I canít seem to shake it lose. But what really scares me is how my family will accept me being dead. I rub the tears away

from my eyes and can feel my face burning as the moisture runs down my wind burned face.


My face is so chapped from the cold and snow that even my tears are making it sting. It is now that I notice the blood on my fist where I wiped away the teardrop

that lingered on my chin. I had almost forgotten about me falling and hitting my chin on the ground. Now that I have drawn attention to it that is something else that

hurts me. My knee is stinging just a little but nothing like before. And even though I am wrapped up under three blankets my body continues to shiver. The emptiness in my belly echoes within the bare walls of the cabin and I find myself giggling out loud as the memory of one particular Sunday morning passes through my mind.


I had gotten up late, pretending to be asleep when Hoss had entered my room urging me to get up before Pa came up after me. My feet finally hit the floor when

País voice made my window shake in my room. I guess I took too long in getting dressed and by the time I had made it down the stairs the rest of the family were

reaching for their gun belts and hats. A piece of toast was placed in my hand and I was ushered out the door to the awaiting buggy. Of course my belly had decided

to wait until the preacher called for a moment of silence to speak its mind. The rumbling could be heard throughout the congregation and even biting my lip to stifle

the giggles was useless. The stern look from my father quickly made me swallow the remaining giggles and later back at the privacy of the ranch I was reminded

about my presence at the breakfast table. The result of that lecture led me to kneeling in my chair come time for dinner. Hoss and Adam picked up on my discomfort and both gave me a reassuring smile letting me know that they understood my disruption in church. Even Pa eventually gave in and laughed when he recalled the Reverendís look when my stomach had done some lecturing of its own. The whole congregation had worn smiles for the rest of the service and I knew all was forgiven when Pa let me sit on his lap to finish the rest of my meal. Mind you it wasnít the talking that my stomach did but the being late to breakfast that upset my father.


I think that night is upon me and while sitting alone in the dark my fears seem to come alive. The only comfort I have is to gather my wet clothes up into my hands

and hug them to my chest. The faint scent of my fatherís bay rum cologne lingers on enough for me to get a sniff of it before I close my eyes. I feel my fingers curl

into my clothes as I force myself to believe that it is Scruffy that I am clinging to and finally I let the darkness claim me for the third time.


I donít have a pocket watch like my brothers Adam and Hoss, not that it would do me any good, I ainít learned how to tell time yet, but I feel that by now when I

open my eyes night has passed. I have to giggle in spite of myself as I force myself to stand; here I am naked as the day I came into this world with an old horse

blanket barely covering my butt. Wonder what Pa would say if he could see me now? Memories from a past Christmas cause me to burst into bouts of giggles when

I recall the day my two brothers and I ran into the great room butt naked and embarrassed Pa in front of a group of his friends. Being the youngest Adam and Hoss

took the blunt of the punishment. I was just restricted to my room for the remainder of the week. Pa laughs about it now but I wish you could have seen his face turn

three shades redder when we came to a stand still just in front of the fireplace facing those women who did nothing but scream. Heck one of them even fainted when

she saw us standing there with nary a stitch of clothing on. Never did figure out what the big deal was anyway, she was married and had four sons of her own. Once

upstairs my brother Adam said to me, Ďdonít worry about it Little Joe, its no big thing.í Hoss burst into laughter and of course Pa was back up the stairs in seconds

flat. To this day I donít know what they found so funny in Adam saying that but I laugh with them so they think I understand too.


I wake to the sound of the building shaking and crawl under the blankets hoping to drown out the noise. I can feel the wind seeping through the cracks in the boards

and I shiver as I pull the blankets up higher until they are covering my head. It is so dark in here and my fear of the dark is wearing thin on me. I close my eyes and

try to image myself curled up on País lap while he reads me a story. I can almost hear the popping and crackling of the wood in the fireplace. I open my eyes just

long enough to make sure that I am not dreaming only to find myself still bundled up under the bed covers lying on a sagging mattress. I want the comforts of home to help chase away my fears of the dark and of being alone so I shut my eyes tightly and go back to dreaming about just that, home. This time I find myself sitting in

Adamís bed with his pillows propped up behind me. He is sitting next to me with a book in one hand and his other hand resting around my shoulders. My head is

leaning on his shoulder and the blanket is pulled up close to my chin. I love the way Adam reads a story even though I always manage to fall asleep before he finishes it. I can see myself fighting off the sleep as Adamís deep voice continues to read and before long my eyes close for good.


I feel the tears running down my face again even though my eyes are still closed. I miss playing checkers with Hoss and snacking on Hop Singís rice pudding before

having to go to bed. Every night it is the same thing with Pa and going to bed. I laugh to myself as I try to mimic País voice telling me to go to bed. At first I pretend

that I donít hear him and when he stands up and starts walking over to gather me up in his arms, I scoot off the table and run around to the other side climbing into

Adamís lap. Pa raises his hands in the air and starts to growl like a mean ole grizzly bear. I pretend to be scared and bury my head into Adamís shoulder while he

wraps his protecting arms around me. I try not to giggle too hard when I feel País breath blowing down the back of my neck but I canít help myself. As the giggles

break free, Pa swooshes me up into his arms and drapes me over his shoulder as he carries me up the stairs. I am dropped onto my bed to undress while Pa gets out my nightshirt and warms it in front of the fire. Pa helps me slip the nightshirt over my head and as I put my arms into the sleeves Pa bents down and pretends like he is going to eat me for his supper. All the while he is trying to get to my belly he is growling.


Wait a minuteÖ. thatís not Pa growling like a bear, thatís my stomach talking to me. I am so hungry I can almost eat a bear. Now I understand why Hoss always

talks about eating a steer or a horse. I always end up laughing at him when he says that Ďcause I try to picture him doing so. If you close your eyes and picture my

brother Hoss trying to eat a whole steer or horse you will see what I mean. I bet you are laughing right now too. I made him promise me once that he would never go after my pony Snowflake and he did when he saw that I was scared. It was then that he explained to me what it was that he meant.


The window is rattling and I am getting more and more scared. No, Iím not. I have been scared since I fell and hurt myself. No one came to me when I called for

Pa. I have been scared the whole time but trying to tell myself that I am not. It isnít working and I cry some more thinking that I will never see my family again. My

head is starting to hurt some and so are my eyes, probably from all the crying I am doing. But I canít help it, I want my Pa and my brothers and I want them now.


Something isnít right. I sit up and look around the shack trying to figure out whatís so different. It takes me many minutes to realize that the howling of the wind has

stopped. Pushing myself to my feet I stumble over to the window. It is covered in frost and without even thinking about what I am doing I use my fingernail to scrape

away some of the frost. I step back and smile as I look at what I wrote on the window. Three words was all there was room for. Bet you canít guess what those

three words are, can you?


I pick up my hat and bring it to my lips so that I may take a drink of water from it. Tears of failure drip down my chapped face as I see that the water has leaked out

of the hat during the night. I make my way back to the corner of the room and pick up my soiled clothing. They feel so cold and they are still wet. But still I need to

put them on so I can go outside to get more snow to melt. My mouth is so dry it feels like Dr. Martinís roll of cotton has been shoved into my mouth.


I pull and pull on the door but it wonít open. I kick at it and call it names that I am not suppose to use, but who really cares. No one is here to hear me using them. I

walk over to the window and make a fist with my left hand but as I swing it at the window I manage to stop myself before it makes contact with the glass. I call

myself stupid when I think just how close I came to breaking the window. If I had broken the glass the cold wind would have only made the cabin colder and I was

most certain to have cut my hand to smithereens. I really need to go outside, not just to get snow but I have to go and there is no chamber pot around to be found. I

laugh out loud as I walk to the small kitchen area and after rummaging through the pantry I find an old coffee pot. I canít help but laugh as I empty my bladder in to

the pot, well a pot is a pot and when you gotta go, you gotta go. I just pray that whomever this places belongs to understands that I canít get the door open to go to

the outhouse. To be honest with you, even if I could have opened the door, I donít know if I would have taken the chance of trekking through all that snow just to

pee. Again I giggle as I put the lid on the pot and place it on the floor near the door. I know that it is not really funny but I am trying to keep my self from going over

the deep end. Everything that I am not allowed to do at home I have found myself doing here. Walking around with no clothes on, Pa only allows me to do that when I use the watering trough as a swimming hole. But that is only when Adam and Hoss are not able to take me to the lake to swim. As far as peeing in the house Ė that is a definite Ďno no.í The only time that is allowed is if I use the chamber pot, which I tend to use more often that I really should, especially during the winter when it is cold outside. I hate putting on that heavy winter jacket just to run outside to pee. Most of the time I end up having to take it off before I can go anyway. Never did make much sense to me, but then again who am I to question my Pa? He knows best, thatís what he always tells me when I ask him Ďwhyí.


I am so bored just sitting here with nothing to do. I donít want to sleep anymore cause I end up dreaming and that scares me. I wish I could start yesterday over

again. Wonder what the hotel gave Mitch to eat for supper? Lucky him at least he got to sleep in a bed last night. I try to amuse myself by singing.


ĎEarly one morning, just as the sun was rising


I heard a lady singing in the valley below


Oh donít you see me


Oh never leave meí


How could you lose a poor ladyís soul?


Hmmm, hmmm, hmmmm


Gray is the garlic and fresh are the roses,


Iíve pulled from my garden to throw up on thy brow


Oh donít you see me


Oh never leave me


How could you lose a poor ladyís soulí


I canít remember all the words so then I just hum the rest of it until I get bored with that. Wish Adam was here with me, he couldíve helped me with the words and

better yet, probably played his guitar. Still bored I remember another song, well most of it anyway, and with a make believe audience, I wrap the horse blanket

around my bare body and skip around the small cabin singing ĎSkip to my Louí. Again I canít remember all the words but am having fun skipping and running in the

house. Something else that I am not suppose to do, although sometimes when Pa is away on business, Adam and Hoss get to horsing around with me and I always

end up trying to run from them. They get the biggest thrill out of tickling me and I can never run fast enough to get away. Thatís a special secret that we keep from



I giggle again as I think back to the time that Hoss and Adam went on a hunting trip with the Devlin boys. I was lonely and missing my brothers so Pa played with

me. We ended up playing hunting games and I was the prey. Pa pretended to be stalking me and when he snuck up on me I screamed and ran from him. Even Pa

laughed when I jumped on the table in front of the fireplace and ran across it, jumping onto the settee before climbing over the back of it to get away from him. I tried to hide under his desk but he heard me giggling and when I peaked out from under my hide-a-away, Pa was on his hands and knees crawling toward me. I

screamed again and then took off running some more. Pa chased me around the great room and when I could no longer scream or run because we are out of breath

and laughing too hard, Pa sat down in his red chair and I climbed up into his lap. As I sat there cuddling up to him, he whispered into my ear that this horseplay was

our little secret. Man, for only being seven I sure have a lot of little secrets to keep, donít I?


Boredom once again takes over and I feel my eyes getting heavy. I crawl back in to the bed and draw my knees up to my chest trying to warm myself up. I think

about keeping on my clothes but they havenít dried off yet and they feel so cold against me that I have no choice but to take them off. Lucky for me someone had

left this musty smelly blanket here. Now all I need to worry about is finding something to eat. Heck even hard tack sounds good to me now. I yawn and decide that

eating can wait until later and I give in to my bodyís demand for sleep. I close my eyes and it isnít long before I am dreaming of the warm fire roaring in my fatherís



I sit up in the bed, not sure where I am at first. Feeling the cold air around my face it slowly dawns on me that I am still somewhere in a cabin. My stomach is talking

to me and after sighing out loud, push back the warm blankets and head for the pantry. I find a box of matches and a lamp that is only half filled with coal oil. I am

not suppose to use matches but I donít like the dark. I tell Pa that I am sorry for disobeying before striking the match on the table. I drop the first one as it burst into

flames. It startles me! Finally I get the lantern lit and am able to look into the pantry. I find some can goods and after a long struggle manage to open a can of beans. I hate the thought of eating cold beans and using the light to guide my way I walk over the hearth. I smile as I find a small pile of wood stacked near the wall. There is also a wicker basket filled with kindling. Another battle that I had to fight, but finally get a fire burning. I stick my finger in my mouth hoping to chase away the

burning feeling. I canít believe I burned my finger trying to light a piece of ole newspaper.


Dinner was okay; wish I were home eating Hop Singís food. I had to make myself eat the beans and after looking in the pot, saw that I only put a small dent in it. I

placed the pot on the hearth cause it is still hot and using the light from the lantern I decide to explore the cabin. I pretend that I am a pirate in a small cave just off the coast of some island. I use my cowboy hat and make believe that it is a pirateís hat. I couldnít find nuthiní to cover up my one eye with so I just closed it. I donít have a sword, besides my Pa wouldnít take to kindly to me playing with one anyway, so I use the fire poker and soon I am deep in the woods exploring the cave. I even put my left foot into a wooden water bucket so when I walked it would sound like a wooden leg.


I crawl under the table and act as if I am hiding from the bats that had awakened cause of my thumping around with my wooden leg. They are swarming around my

head and trying to bite me. I donít want them sucking my blood and leaving me for dead so I use the fire poker and kill them all. Now I am free to go back to my

ship and get my men to carry the treasure for me.


"Ahoy mates, this here is your captain speaking. I want all hands on deck". I jump on the chair and then on to the table and play like I am on the top deck of my

ship. All of the other pirates are gathering down below waiting for my next order. I swing my poker out over the crowd that has gathered and bark out my orders

trying to make my voice sound like País when he yells.


"I want all of you here pirates in the rowboats ready to head for shore. I have found the hidden treasure."


Everyone cheers and I laugh as I see some of them slap each other on the back. ĎDonít tell anyone this, but I see Adam and Hoss do that all the time and thought I

would use it to.í Anyway I take the front seat and let my guys row me back to shore.


As I walk through the woods I have to use my sword to cut through some of the heavy vines that are blocking my way. Good thing Pa isnít here to see how I am

flipping the chairs over, which I am pretendiní to be my vines. Some of the pirates are being bad and they try to steal my gold. I draw my sword and having no other

choice, I havíta killíem. I order their bodies thrown over the side. I Ďmember that part from a story that Adam read to me. By the time I get my treasure put away

and have the decks cleaned up from all the bleeding those bad guys did the whole cabin has been turned inside out and upside down. After awhile I tire of that game

and decide to eat some more of the beans before playing something else. Playing make believe sure is hard on a little guy like me.


I pick up the pot and nearly drop it on the dirt floor. Sitting up in the middle of the beans was the blackest mouse I had ever seen. I am not afraid of them, just didnít

give it much thought about finding it in my food. His whiskers are twitching and he is wiggling his nose as he stares back at me. I carefully put the pot back down on

the hearth and go in search of something else for my new friend to eat. All I could manage to find is some jerky that had been packed away on one of the shelves in

the cupboard. I bite off a piece cause its too hard to break and offer it to him. He takes it from my finger without even second guessing it. I then lure him out of the

beans by holding a piece of that jerky in my finger and slowly move it away from him as he tries to take it. It takes awhile but soon he is out of the pot and climbing

up my lap.


I am yawning again and even though I have promised myself that I am going to stay up all night being no one is around to tell me to go to bed, I just couldnít do it.

Bet you that it is close to midnight by the time I did crawl into the bed. Before I even get a chance to pull the blankets up I remember that I havenít said my prayers

since I have been here. I tried kneeling on the floor but it was too cold so I climbed back on to the bed and said my prayers there.


ĎOur Father who does art in heaven


Howíd you know my name?


Thy kingdom come


Thy will it be done


On earth as it is on Heaven


Give us this day our jelly bread


And forgive us our pesters


As we forgive those who pester against us


And lead a snot into ten nations


But deliver us from evilí


Ah Men!!


I try to get Ben, thatís what I decide to call my new friend, to come to bed with me. I call him Ben mostly because I am lonely for my Pa and that is his name. He lets me pick him up but as soon as I put him down on the bed he runs to the end of the bed and disappears over the side. Too tired to chase him I turn down the lamp and bury myself under the pile of blankets. Thoughts of my family race through my mind and I feel tears rolling down my face again as I drift off to sleep.


I wake to something tickling my face and when I open my eyes I find Ben sitting on my chest sniffing at my chin. Boy that sure tickles a lot, almost as much as it does when Adam and Hoss pin me down and tickle me. I try to reach out to pet him but he runs away, probably scared of me still. But thatís okay, sooner or later he will like me. I push back the warm blankets and find that my clothes are finally dry. I had draped them over one of the chairs that were near the fire. At least now Pa canít yell at me for running around with nary a stitch of clothing on.


My thirst was getting the better of me. I still could not get the front door open and the thought of breaking the window keeps entering my mind. I know that this

would be a stupid reaction on my part but the only other thing I can do is to open this funny shaped bottle that I found in the cupboard this morning. I donít know

what is in the bottle but it is almost the same color as Hop Singís herbal tea. Giving in to my thirst I take the bottle from the shelf. It has a cork in the top and I

struggle with removing it. I canít seem to pull it loose with my hand. I put the cork into my mouth and clamp down with my teeth. After fighting with that idea, the

only thing I manage to do is get a mouthful of bits and pieces of the cork. YUCK!! I spit them out on the floor and as I wipe my tongue clean with the back of my

hand the other idea hits me.


Picking up the small pot that is lying on the counter I begin to pound on the cork, much like you do with a hammer to a nail. After many attempts the cork gives way

and ends up floating in the discolored water. I bring the bottle to my nose and take a wift of it and gag when the pukeíed smell enters my nostrils. I have to push that

feeling aside so I can quench my thirst and slowly bring the bottle to my lips. I close my eyes hoping that it will lessen the bad smell as I take my first sip. AH, that

stuff is nasty. It taste worse than it smells. It leaves behind a burning sensation as I swallow and knowing that I need liquids in order to stay alive, force myself to take another drink. Funny how that stuff works. By the time I satisfy my thirst I notice that I drank several mouthfuls from the bottle. It no longer tastes too bad and the smell, well I got use to it. I put the bottle back on the shelf in the pantry and find myself feeling light headed. I giggle as I walk across the cabin towards the chair in front of the fireplace. I feel like I am walking sideways. Hey! Who moved the cabin? I go to sit down and miss the chair all together and end up sitting on the floor. I canít seem to stop giggling and the room doesnít seem to want to stop spinning. Soon tears are running down my face; wish I had someone to talk to; hiccup, burrrrp! Yuk! Now my mouth is burning, what was that stuff? Hop Singís tea never tasted that bad, hiccup.


I just happen to look at the checkerboard that I had found yesterday. It was still sitting on the table and I noticed that someone had moved one of the black pieces. I could feel the smile spreading across my face as I jumped up from the floor and ran to the table. Oooh Papa, my head hurts and I force myself to move more slowly as I carefully moved my piece and the game was underway. Hoss is always fun to play with, he knows I cheat, well sometimes I do, and he never complains. I love the smile he gives me when I go to take my turn and notice that the pieces look like they have been moved. This time Hoss got one over on me, he cheated! I

decided to let Hoss win the two games we played and by the time the second game was over I was ready for a nap. My head was starting to swim by now and I

was dizzy from running back and forth between the two chairs to play the game. For a while I almost felt like Hoss was really here with me and in my mind I thought

I even heard him laughing.


I feel my eyes getting heavy and think maybe I should lie down for awhile. I stumble across the floor to my cot and try to lie down but when I do, the sagging

mattress falls through and I find myself on the floor wedged between the sides of the cot. I canít help it but I start laughing and before I know what happens, I find

myself crying. My head is pounding, my mouth is suddenly dry and I look up and spy the bottle I had drank from earlier. I think it best if I pass taking another drink

just yet as now my tummy is starting to really feel sick. I look around for a pot; just in case I might need to puke but I find none so I quickly pull the mattress free

from beneath the cot and lie down. I rest my head on my folded arms and stare up at the ceiling. Funny, I hadnít noticed it before now, but I can see the snow on the roof through the cracks in the ceiling. Bored, I find that now I am once lying down, I canít go to sleep so I decide to try another one of Adamís songs. He really

does come up with some catchy tunes when he sets his mind to it.


Love oh love, oh care less love,


Love oh love, oh care less love,


Love oh love, oh care less love,


Iíll tell you what care less love can do


Itís gone and bent this heart of twine


Itís gone and brokeíed this heart of twine


Itís gone and hurtíed this heart of twine


Itíll breakíed that heart of yours and mine


I cried yesterday night and the night before


I cried tomorrow night and the night before


I cried today night and the night before


Gonna cry tonight and then símore


I love my brothers and my papa one


I love my brothers and my papa two


I love my brothers and my papa three


I wish they were all here with me


You see what care less love canít do


You see what care less love canít do


You see what care less love canít do


Canít make you leave your brothers and your papa too


Well Iím home again wonít roam no more


Donít want no care less love no more


Donítí want no love, no care less love


Hey, I think someoneís come knocking on the door.


Oh Love oh love oh care less love


Donít want that care less love no more.


Donítí need that care less love no more.


Whew, that was a long song and by the time I finished I was out of breath. Suddenly I hear a racket at the door, sounds like someone is laughing. Could it be that

care less love has come to knock on my door?


Iím scare, the noise is getting louder, Adam didnít say nutiní about care less love shoving open the door, but sure Ďnough thatís whatís happening now. I back up

against the fireplace as the door is pushed opened and I grab the firepoker, just in case I need to Ďfend myself.


Blinded by the bright light that I havenít been able to see in several hours, I canít make out the three figures standing in the doorway. Shucks, one of them suckers is

huge. Not wanting to appear that I am frightened beyond reason I call out to them, using some fancy words, I remember Adam saying in a play he was in while in

Miss Jonesí class.


"Ark! Who cometh in here?" I screamed out at them.


Suddenly the room is full of laughter as I finally recognize the voices to be that of my pa and two brothers. I dropped the fire poker and run to my pa. Pa sweeps me

up into his embrace and I wrap my arms around his neck, bury my face against his shoulder and burst out crying.


"ShhÖitís okay Joseph, your papa is here now. Donít cry sweetheart, youíre safe," my Papa said.


I felt better, I even felt safe enough to raise my head and give my brothers a tiny smile. "What kept ya so long?" I askedíem.


Adam ruffled my hair and took me from País arms and held me in his. I could smell his bay rum aftershave and I sniffed his cheeks. This caused him to laugh.


"Itís a good thing you were singing that song I taught you little buddy. We heard you a mile away and just followed the sound of your voice. Thatís how we finally

were able to find you."


Adam moved over closer to the fireplace and sat down with me on his lap and smiled at me. "I donít remember using some of the words though that you used."


I giggled and snuggled up against my brotherís chest where it was warmer. "Iím sorry Adam, but I couldnít Ďmember all the words you taught me soís I had to make up some of my own."


I watched Pa as he walked around the cabin, inspecting things. "These people donít stock their cabins like you do Pa. Ainít nuthiní here but some beef jerky, beans

and some of Hop Singís herbal tea in that bottle over there. But donít try any, it was rotten and tastes yucky. Looks to me like somebodyís slacking his job.

Whatíca think?"


I saw Pa glance at the bottle of tea then at Adam and I felt Adamís body tremble, when I looked up at him I saw he was smiling, or maybe he was trying not to

smile, Iím not too sure.


"Joseph, this is one of my line shacks, and thatís not tea, its whiskey," said Pa.


I was stunned, "WHAT? You mean Iíve been home all this time and I didnít even know it?" I think my voice was louder than I meant for it to be, but Pa didnít say

nothiní he just dropped his head.


"Appears to be so," laughed Adam. "Guess Pa will make sure his orders about keeping these line shacks fully stocked are better followed after this."


Hoss had gone outside to gather more wood for the fire while Pa searched around for something. "whatís ya lookiní for Pa?" I just had to ask.


"A coffee pot Joe, have you seen one around here? Oh, never mind, here it is." Pa grabbed the pot that I had used to pee in and I started to get really nervous. I

knew I couldnít let Pa really make coffee in it but I was afraid ifín I told him I peed in it, Iíd get a whollping. I didnít wait, Iíd just have to take my lickiní and hope I

kept on tickiní.


"HmÖPa, I wouldnít use that pot ifín I was you," I called out.


Pa stopped and looked at me, I noticed all the while he was moving his wrist around and around and I could hear my pee swishing around in the bottom of the

coffee pot.


"Why not son?" He said as he took a deep whiff of the potís contents. "Pheeeeew!" exclaimed Pa as he scrunched up his nose.


I hesitated only long enough to take a deep breath before I explained. "Cause, I had to go and I couldnít get the door opened. I knew Iíd be in trouble ifín Iída

peed in the floor and the only pot I could find was that one." I pointed to the pot Pa held in his hand.


Suddenly Pa dropped the pot quick, like it had been hot. The pee spilled into the floor and I let out a disgusted sigh. Ifín Iída knowed Pa was gonna spill it in the

floor anyway; I would have just peed in the corner like I first thought.


Pa gave me one of his dark scowls he was famous for when I was in trouble. I buried myself against Adamís chest, trying to make myself appear smaller. It mustíva

worked for in the next second, Pa smiled at me.


"Thatís okay son, I understand. Weíll find something else to make coffee in." Pa turned to pick up the soiled coffeepot and tossed it out the door as Hoss came in

with an armload of wood.


Pa stopped then and turned around to face me, his hands were on his hips, his legs slightly parted and from experience, I gulped, "Joseph, is there anything else I

should know before I do any more?" But he was smiling at me this time so I decided to tell all.


By the end of the day, the cabin had warmed, my tummy was finally full and I was at last on my way home. I was sitting in front of Pa on Buck, I felt all warm and

cozy cause Pa had wrapped a blanket around me and I leaned against him. My eyes grew heavy and just before I closed them for the last time, I slipped my hand

into my coat pocket and when I did, I felt Benís little pink nose sniffing at my fingers. I hadnít told Pa about my little furry friend, I thought Iíd just wait until after we

got home before I showed him to everyone. By then I figured it would be too late for Pa to make me turn him loose. And besides, I wanted to surprise Hop Sing.


THE END, finally, with help from Debbie B ;0)


May 2002