A Winter's Tale
The wind whipped throught the trees sending branches flying through the
air. Rain and debris pounded the house. Mother Nature was having a tantrum
and she didn't show any signs of letting up. The residence of the territory
were in for one heck of a night!
Ben Cartwright sat in his chair, smoking his pipe, as the fire crackeled and threw it's heat into the large room. He was content to be home on a night like this. He was also thankful that his three sons were all at home with him and the livestock bedded down for the night. The two youngest sons were engrossed
in a game of checkers while the oldest appeared to be equally engrossed in his newest novel. With a smile Ben picked up the most current issue of the towns only newspaper and settled a bit deeper into his seat.
"Pa"? Ben heard his youngest son, Joseph, call to him from the other side of the room.
"Have you ever seen a storm this fierce?"
Ben smiled a bit to himself. Joe looked almost frightened at the fury of the storm raging outside the walls. And Ben did have to admit that it was a mighty storn. Ah, but nothing like seeing a ship through a hurricane. No, that was something all to itself.
Ben hadn't realized his son was awaiting an answer. He had become lost in his own memories.
"Yes son. I do remember. Not here on the Ponderosa but out to sea."
At this time Ben noticed he had Hoss' attention as well as Adams. Joe's eyes became wide with wonder and prompted his father to go on. At 15 Joe still loved to listened to his pa's tales of the sea. And this would be the perfect night for one!
"Before you start Pa, I'll go get us some coffee," Adam said as he headed for the kitchen. He too was looking forward to the tale ahead.
Hoss settled on the sofa with a blanket draped over his lap, also anticipating hearing of another of his father's adventures. Joe perched himself on the arm of his father's chair, one stockinged foot beneath him, the other on the floor. He would hang on every word.
Part 2 (I used the Voyage of the Bounty as Inspiration)
"The worst storm I ever hope to see happened the first time I rounded Cape Horn. It was also my first voyage under Captain Stoddard. We were on our way to the Sandwich Islands."
"Hey Hoss," Joe couldn't help but interject, "That sounds like a place you'd be right at home. All the sandwiches you could eat!"
"Is that really where they got the name, Pa?", Hoss asked, after making a face at Joe, "From sandwiches? Like what we eat?"
"The Sandwich Islands are named for the same English lord who supposedly invented the sandwich we eat," explained Adam, displaying his best long-suffering smirk.
"So they might eat sandwiches there, in honor of that lord feller?"
Adam smiled, his face lighting up with a sudden recollection. "I don't know about that, Hoss, but I remember my grandfather telling me that the islanders have a rather more casual attitude toward wearing clothing than we do."
"Waddya mean, Adam? That they dress sloppy?"
"No. Apparently a lot of the time they don't dress at all."
Hoss's eyes opened wide, and his face reddened.
Joe also looked surprised, but not embarassed. "Is that true, Pa? Men AND women? And you went there? That sounds like a much more interesting story then some old storm."
Ben shot a glaring look at Adam before replying to Joe. "Yes, Joseph, it is true. And no, Joseph, there is no story, leastwise any story that I care to share with my sons. Now, do you want to hear about rounding the Cape or not?"
Joe, Hoss and Adam each needed only one glance at their father's glowering face to know there was only one acceptable answer.
"So this was some storm at the Cape, eh Pa?"
Ben's glower faded to a glare, and then to a far-away look, as he transported
himself back in time and space until he was again a young 2nd mate on a
New England sailing ship heading south along the east coast
of South America through ever-rougher seas.
"One night, I was awakened by a jolt that threw me onto the deck of
the cabin I shared with the other junior ship's officers. The ship was rocking
and pitching like the worst Nor'easter I'd weathered closer to home.
It would soon be my watch, so I went above decks. It was hard to keep my footing, and I fancied myself having a pretty fair set of sea legs. I looked up through the driving rain and saw that someone had set an extra sail. I yelled to the first mate, Mr. Jergens, and asked him why. I can hear his answer to this day:"
Ben's voice shifted to a fair imitation of a supercilious Boston Brahman.
"What, are you a coward like the old man? I have no desire to linger
in the horrid region any longer than I have to. With the extra sail we'll
`round the Cape before the captain even wakes up!" No sooner had he said this then a huge wave, it must have been 30 foot, washed over the port side. We listed almost half-over, and when we righted, there was a loud crack. The top of the main mast snapped almost in two. There were two seamen in the rigging. One fell to the deck. I learned later that he split his skull open and died right there. The other got tangled in the ropes and was hung by his foot from the rigging."
Captain Stoddard appeared on deck at that moment and I believe took in
exactly what had happened in an instant. He began barking orders to the
men to rig for weather. I climbed the mast along with a wiry fellow
named Charley Bonnet, and we managed to free the trapped man. My hands were so cold I couldn't feel them and between the wind and the sleet and waves and the rocking it was hard to tell which way was up, but somehow the three of us got back down to the deck. It was a night of more cold and noise and yes, fear, than I ever hope to live through again. But the next morning we were through the worst of it. We limped up the west coast and eventually were able to put in for repairs at Valparaiso. Captain Stoddard
dismissed the first mate and promoted me in his place and we sailed on for the Sandwiches."
"Don't stop there, Pa!" exclaimed Joe. I want to hear about the Sandwich Islands. I'm sure it will be very educational!"
"Yes, Pa, do go on…", added Adam.
Ben's glower returned, but was replaced by a look of puzzlement when he heard a knock on the door.
"Who would be out on a night like this?" he wondered aloud.
Hoss opened the door and saw a young woman, about Joe's age, dripping and shivering. It was Sarah Winnemucca, the daughter of the Paiute chief, who had been sent for a "white" education, and had recently returned to her tribe. She had barely stepped over the threshold at Hoss's invitation, followed by two distraught looking Paiute women, when she began to speak in fast, anxious, sentences.
"They took them! The men from the Indian school in Sacramento came to our camp and persuaded these women's five children to go with them. And now they are trying to cross the mountains in this storm! We begged them not to leave today with the weather turning bad, but the men did not want to spend even one night with us. Now I fear they will be trapped in the snow on the pass. Our men are away hunting! You always say you are our friends. Will you help us find them?"
While listening to Sarah the other Cartwrights came to the door.
"Of course we will help you to find them. Please, come in. Joseph, tell Hop Sing to make some more coffee for our visitors", Ben said to his youngest.
Joe went straight to the kitchen to bring Hop Sing the message. The squaws came in and felt the warmth coming towards them. Adam and Hoss looked at the squaws and knew that they were in for a new
adventure. Ben closed the door and joined his sons who were making the visitors feeling comfortable. Then Hop Sing came in with hot fresh coffee.
"First you drink the hot coffee and then we leave. Don't worry about the children as we surely will find hem", Ben reassured them. Sarah nodded. The other two squaws did drink their coffee but said nothing. They just stared into the burning fire.
Although it was a heavy storm and the Cartwrights prefered to stay insdoors,
they felt obliged to go out and help their friends. Especailly now there
were children involved. At his desk Ben took out the map of the ranch. His
sons stood around him.
"The men are in the mountains with the children. That's about here", Ben said pointing at the mountains.
"They could be sheltering for the bad weather", Adam suggested.
Sarah came to them and said a bit impatient and worried at the same time, "When are we leaving? The longer we leave it, the bigger chance is that we won't find them."
"Sarah, we promise you that we will find them. Even if we have to look for them till the next century", Hoss replied. His brothers looked at each other and thought the same thing.
After all the coffee had gone Ben said, "Weare gonna search for the
Everyone got up and made themselves ready for the trip. To make sure that especailly Hoss wouldn't get starvation Hop Sing had made packest of sandwiches for underway. The cook came into the living room with the packets of sandwiches.
"Mr Cartwright, Hop Sing made sandwiches for trip", Hop Sing said.
"Hoss, they arrived fresh from the Sandwich Islands", Joe joked.
Despite the seriousness of the missing children they could laugh about it. The packets disappeared into the saddlebags. Hoss and Little Joe went outside to saddle the horses. The wind was blowing so hard that the boys hardly made it to the stable.
"It blows so hard that you blow out of your last clean clothes", Hoss yelled.
"If you are wearing them", Little Joe replied.
They both laughed which only the wind could hear.
Now the Cartwrights were leaving Sarah was a bit more relieved but still worried. The other two squaws still were silent but the worry about their children could be read in their eyes. The calmth of Adam's presence made sure that the squaws got the feeling that the children would be found alive.
By Blue Velvet
The wind howled so fiercely outside that nothing could be heard above the
terrible din. In the sheer blackness of night it was futile to make any
headway in any direction. Driving rain poured down in sheets from a cloudburst
high above. The water ran with rushing force off the tile roof and crashed
into the rain barrels and water troughs as if it were a waterfall cascading
over a cliff. The water spilled over the lips of the rain barrels in a roil
that gouged the ground inches deep and turned the Ponderosa court yard into
mud ankle deep. Far away over Mt Davidson claps of thunder shook the tree
line as if it were so much fruit in a gelatin bowl. Lightning shot through
the air in blinding fits of energy.
Hoss and Little Joe were wasting their time if they believed they could get horses through a deluge like this...
"And I suppose, "little" brother you'd want me to believe that breadfruit from Hawaii is what's used to make those Sandwhich Island sandwhiches? You little varmint!" Hoss' eyebrows knit together and his blue eyes became cunningly sharp.
"Yeah, that's right, you big pork chop. What're you going to do about it?" Joe weadled with a smirk. The younger brother's chin upturned daring the older boy.
"Why, you!" Hoss snarled
He grabbed at Joe's jacket but the teen jumped out of reach and ran to the back of the barn, Hoss, hot on his heels with arm outstretched. Little Joe giggled puckishly and jumped out of reach again before Hoss could grasp his collar. The smaller boy landed a quick left jab to his sibling's solid rib cage but Hoss deftly blocked his brother's right swing with his left arm and turned the boy about pinning him with a firm neck hold. Joe squirmed in Hoss' grip.
"Pork chop!" Joe taunted
"Joe! You're so ornery you're cousin to a mule!"
Little Joe laughed and ducked lower to the floor. Hoss, laughing too ,let the boy slip; Joe jumped up and grabbed his brother around the neck forcing Hoss to hug the boy's waist.
"You think you're so smart, short shanks?" he blurted Throwing his strong arms backwards, Hoss tossed the smaller boy over head. Joe tumbled into a dive and landed on his backside in a pile of hay. Hoss doubled over laughing clapping his hands together. He couldn't catch his breath as the bewildered expression on Little Joe's face sent him into hysterics.
"Ha ha ha. I'll get you for that!" Joe was like a terrier when riled. He threw himelf at Hoss, pushing him down with a shoulder tackle. Hoss landed in a fitful heap next to Joe still chortling at the youngster's
attempts at wrestling.
Both boys were oblivious to the scene being played out in the house...
Lightning flashed turning the inky blackness white as it crashed its fiery bolts towards the ground. A window pane shattered in the kitchen door throwing shards onto the plank floor. The red curtain smoked as lightning sparks bounced off the glass sending a stream of fire crawling towards the ceiling.
Ben and Adam raced into the kitchen to find fire climbing the door. Ben ripped the cloth from the windows and threw it onto the floor;he grabbed the broom and beat the burning curtain while Adam picked up the ash can and doused the spreading fire. Clouds of smoke billowed about their heads. They coughed noisily as the flame died out.
"Adam get the plywood board quickly" Ben urged breathlessly. Adam ran out of the room while his father
quickly assessed the damage. Rain water soaked the plank floor. Thunder rumbled in booming waves rattling the house . And flashes of lightning lit the sky in bursts of white.
Ben nailed the plywood sheet against the kitchen door securing it snuggly
against the stormy night. Hop Sing looked about the kitchen nodding his
head then set about to clean up the mess "Where're your brothers, Adam?
Get those two in here. It's time to get to bed if we're going to leave by
first light." "Sure, Pa I'll get them." ...as usual, Adam
Hoss and Joe tumbled about in the hay rolling over each other again and again "I saw you looking at those squaws, Hoss. You wanted to kiss her, didn't you? Didn't you? You show off!" Joe squealed "And what if I was looking at the squaws? What's it to you? short shanks! I got a right to look at our guests." "Not like that..." Joe insisted
A long shadow appeared casting darkness over the two brothers as they rolled over "What are you two up to? Pa wanted you to get our gear packed up for tomorrow." Adam leaned against the stall startling his two brothers. "Well we were just...we were just funnin' Adam. Ain't that right, li'l brother?" Hoss offered sheepishly Joe looked at his bigger brother snappishly and bopped him on the nose "Yeah, that's right older brother." Joe grinned triumphantly as Hoss put his hand over his nose
"All right, fun's over...Let's get inside" Adam sighed "Hoss, Joe, we'll be leaving at first light by way of the Truckee route. The horses and the pack animals need to be packed up. We're not going on a pic nic, you know." Ben said sternly He placed his two hands on Joe's shoulders to ease the blow of what he told him
"Joe, this is going to be a treacherous trip into the mountains. The weather won't likely let up for a couple days. I think it's best you stayed home."
"But, Pa! I can ride as well as Adam and you and Hoss. I can make it" Joe was dejected
"I'm sorry, Joe. Not this time." Ben rubbed the boy's shoulder soothingly "There's plenty of work for you here. And if you can't find enough to keep you busy, I'll find it for you, Understood?" Ben's voice was
"Yes, Pa" Joe grumbled
"Hoss, I need you to be sure of yourself and clear headed. Is THAT understood?"
"Sure, Pa. I'll be ready." he quipped
"Good. Now, Get to bed!" Ben pointed towards the stairway and gave Hoss and Joe a swipe on the backside.
Hoss laid his head down on his gingham pillow with a wistful smile on his
lips. "Five minutes," he thought, "Lord, just give me five
minutes with Turtle Who Lays Her Eggs In The Sand. I'll put a blanket over
her and there wouldn't be much that we wouldn't do on a lazy summer afternoon...mmm...mmmm"
Outside the thunder boomed threateningly and ligtning strikes flashed over head. Hoss blinked his twinkling eyes and fell into a deep slumber. In his dream Hoss found himself on a great volcanic island in the gorgeous blue South Pacific Ocean. He approached the people dressed in grass skirts and sarongs. The
dark skinned men twirled lighted torches in motions that he thought he'd never see. Drums sounded with a fast rhythmic beat. Then he saw them! Dozen of nubile young women in grass skirts and leis about their necks. They moved their bare feet faster and faster to the drums, hips swaying undulently. "Hot Dog! Hawaii!" he squealed gleefully.
"Hoss! Hoss!" Pa yelled "help me with the breadfruit son." Pa was dressed in a naval uniform with captain's cap. A terrier bit his pants leg, tugging and snarling and shaking its head violently, the dog wouldn't let go. Adam was arguing with Pa. He slapped his fist into his hand, insistng on how many breadfruit trees they would plant around Lake Tahoe. But Pa would have none of it. He dragged his leg as the terrier bit his pants.
"Hoss! Hoss! Help me load the breadfruit, son" Pa beckoned his hearty son aboard a sailing vessel.
Adam wandered about the beach holding a coconut as if it were Yorick's skull and he poured the coconut milk over his chest hair rubbing it in.
"The ladies love it" Adam told Hoss tersely. As he wandered about
Adam was droning on and on and on about the history of Hawaii and the Tikis. It seemed he was talking for hours and Hoss was getting peeved. On and on he babbled and Hoss finally could stand it no longer."Who cares about such small details of the tikis, anyhow? Adam! Shut up!" Hoss stuck a cork in his brothers mouth and walked away with a hula girl on each arm.
Hoss laid himself down in a hammock surrounded by hula girls gently fanning him with palm fronds. One of them offered him a drink of a special concoction from a cut pineapple and he obliged her willingly. Hoss was so happy here.
"Hoss! Hoss!" Pa bellowed "Help me load the breadfruit, son" The terrier wouldn't let go its grasp of Pa's pants. Suddenly before him all was darkness. Looming black and enormous was a Volcano Tiki god. "Who will you sacrifice? Choose one or I will choose all thee" The awful voice boomed. "I will not!" Hoss shouted. "Choose or I will choose all three!" It threatened.
Adam did not hear the terrible voice; he still argued with Pa as the terrier held Pa's pants in its grip.
The Volcano Tiki god spewed lava and ash "Choose" it commanded. "Joe? Where's Joe?" Hoss wondered
Little Joe ran past his brother carrying a bull frog as he chased one of the hula girls down to the beach.
"Joe, your're scaring her half to death! And I just rounded up all these gals. Now you scattered them again, Joe!"
Little Joe pushed the bull frog into the squeamish girls face as she screamed. Joe giggled puckishly.
"Plunck your magic twanger, Froggy!" he blurted. Hoss screwed up his face and kicked Little Joe's behind as hard as he could. Joe went flying through the air free falling into the volcano. " Adam is busy arguing with Pa. Somebody's got to make the hard decisions, Joe. It'll only hurt for a minute." Hoss grimaced falsely, hunching up his shoulders. He watched Joe plummet several hundred feet down into the volcano. Turning on his heels, Hoss slunk away quickly.
"Now where was I? Oh yeah." He picked up a ukele and started strumming, singing to the girl next to him "Honalulu baby, where'd you get those eyes? And the dark complexion that I idolize? Honalulu baby, where'd you get those eyes?"
Lying in the hammock again he heard Pa calling to him. "Don't worry, Pa. Little Joe will help you loading the breadfruit. Ain't that right, li'l brother?" Hoss clapped his hands and Joe appeared. His hair sticking up and burnt to a frazzle. Tiny wifts of smoke wafted from his head. "Pa needs you, punkin. Go on and help him. Go on" Hoss pinched Little Joe's cheek affectionately. Then he laid his head down. He was content.
Breakfast came early next day. Hoss ran from his room hastily, pushing Little Joe away to scramble down
the stairs. Joe thought he had to beat his bigger brother to the breakfast table else there wouldn't be much left to put on his plate.
Ben ,Adam, Sarah and Turtle Who Lays Her Eggs In the Sand and Running Quail were already seated. Joe gave Hoss a push to get to his seat. Hoss plunked down in his chair and grabbed up a fork as he quickly spied Little Joe diving for some eggs. Hoss stabbed at Little Joe's fork with his trying to keep Joe's hand away from the food. They battled for a moment intent on the eggs. Adam took advantage of the two dueling brothers and piled up his plate.
Then finding they had been had by Older Brother Joe grabbed the pancakes and Hoss settled for a biscuit and bacon. The mounts had been saddled and were hitched at the rail. Ben chose a trio of good mudders for them to ride. He would take Eagle, Adam would ride Hawkeye and Hoss rode Farfel. The rifles, two repeating Henrys, two Remingtons and a Smith and Wesson were put into the scabbards with one
hundred rounds each. Hoss also brought a Colt revolver as a precaution.
Ben and Sarah would ride point and Adam and Hoss rode behind with the pack animals flanking Turtle Who Lays Her Eggs In The Sand and Running Quail. They would ride the Truckee Route south heading for Silver
Lake and then head west up to Donner Pass...
Two days into the ride the horsemen found the rains made the passes nearly unpassable. A mudslide sent one of the pack horses that Hoss was leading over the edge. Hoss cussed a blue steak. He took the Henry
from its scabbard and pointed the rifle down the crevass towards the horse.
The echo of the shot reverberated with th horse's scream. Tutrtle Who Lays Her Eggs In The Sand was making Hoss miserable. The way she sat in the saddle and the shape of her body under the leather she
wore burned a longing in Hoss' mind. More and more he found himself unable to concentrate. At nine thousand feet there was no time to play.
Joe walked to the end of the porch, looped his arm around the post and swung himself around, a small frown puckering his smooth brow.
“Stuck here like some stupid baby!” he muttered fretfully. “A hard trip into the mountains!! Hard on old bones – maybe! Hard for the poor horse that has to carry Hoss – sure enough! But for a young, fit man like me? No way!” He sniffed contemptuously, then walked to the other end of the porch and stood with his hands on his hips, discontent evident in every fibre of his being.
“It’s not fair - Pa knows I’m a better rider than him, Adam and Hoss all rolled into one!” The mental image this produced was so intriguing that for a moment Joe forgot his sulks and grinned broadly at the picture. But all too soon a feeling of despondency returned and Joe slumped down until he was sitting on the porch, gazing disconsolately at the empty yard, his shoulders slumped in abject misery. He was always being left behind, always being told he was too young. When would it ever end?
The day was dull and dank, the weather seeming to echo Joe’s state of mind. It was a day that held promise of absolutely nothing except chores and unremitting boredom. “It’s not fair!” he repeated, a little louder this time. Not that there was anyone around to hear him – or so the boy thought, totally unaware that two men were sheltering from the wind around the side of the house. “The women could go along – oh yes! No problem at all– but could I? Oh no – I have to be tucked up safe and sound at the Ponderosa, with only Hop Sing for company!”
He slapped his thigh in disgust, got up and strode back into the house, slamming the door behind him.
“Did you hear that?” The tall man turned to his companion in disbelief. “Them darn fools are up in those mountains! Can you believe it? Only an idiot would make a trip like that in this kind of weather! This’ll be easier than we thought – imagine being able to fool the high and mighty Cartwrights like that?”
“I knew Ben and his boys wouldn’t be able to resist rushing out to the rescue,” Pete Carruthers said, rubbing his hands together gleefully. “The richest man in Nevada and he drops everything and leaves his precious ranch unguarded – and all for the sake of a bunch of squalling brats we dumped in a cave not five miles from their village! I’d love to see his face when he realises how we’ve hoodwinked him.”
Finn Bennett smirked happily. “The richest man in Nevada, rushing off to play the big brave hero. And just happening to leave thousands of dollars just sitting in his safe, asking to be taken!! Guess maybe he locked his brains up in there too. Ain’t it a crying’ shame this storm stopped him getting into town to deposit all that money from selling timber to the railroad company?”
“Ain't it just? But you know what they say - one’s man’s sorrow is another man’s joy!” Pete started to move slowly around the house. When he reached the front porch, he unholstered his gun and nodded to Finn to do the same.
“There’s something wrong!” Adam insisted. “There’s no trace of either the men or the children. The weather’s closing in and there’s another storm brewing.”
Hoss glared at him, his eyes narrowing. “Are you sayin’ I can’t follow a trail?” His hands balled into mighty fists and he took a threatening step forward.
“I’m saying there isn’t a trail here to follow! And if we keep going we’ll be trapped in these mountains, just as surely as the Donner party were. We have to turn around and start for home — right now.” With a great effort, Adam spoke in measured tones, striving to keep his temper. There had been no sign of a trail for hours now. It was obvious they were on a wild goose chase. He looked imploringly at his father, begging him to reason with Hoss, to make him see sense before they all died up here.
“Adam’s right,” Ben said. “We have to turn back. We’ve already lost one horse and I can’t risk any other lives. Sarah – I’m sorry, but…”
Sarah Winnemucca smiled and patted his hand. “I understand, Ben. You tried your best – but it’s hopeless. We should go home now.”
The two other women nodded, silent tears slipping down their faces as they grieved for their lost children and tried to work out how they could break the news to their husbands. Slowly, they began to move back down the mountains, back towards the Ponderosa, as the winds whirled and moaned around them, whipping through clothing and numbing fingers and toes with cruel efficiency.
Ben settled his hat firmly on his head and squared his shoulders. It was a terrible decision to make – to turn his back on those children – but he had to think of his own boys first. There was no way they could continue towards the Donner Pass in this weather. He was just glad that Joseph was back home, protected from this danger. Now, if only he could guide his other two sons to safety as well, Ben Cartwright would count himself a lucky man.
Joe had just picked up the poker and was poking at the logs crackling in the fireplace, when the door crashed open. He turned around to see Finn and Pete brandishing their guns at him and took an inadvertent step backwards.
“You stay still, boy – and I might just let you live.” Pete looked around the room, quickly spotting the safe sitting on the floor of the study. “But first, I want you to open that safe for me.”
Joe stood very still, the long poker hanging loosely from his hand. He looked directly at Pete and shook his head. “I don’t think I can do that,” he said politely.
Under other circumstances, the bemused expressions on the men’s faces would have been hilarious, but Joe had never felt less like laughing. In one smooth movement he placed one foot on the coffee table, then launched himself over the sofa and brought the poker down on Pete’s wrist in a positive whirlwind of fury.
There was the horrid sound of breaking bone as the hard metal made contact and then a heavy metallic clatter as Pete’s gun fell to the floor. In the same instant, Finn stepped forward, calmly squeezed the trigger of his own gun and shot the boy square in the chest.
The force of the bullet propelled Joe backwards, but after only a couple of steps his legs begin to buckle and he sank down onto the floor, struggling for breath. Looking down at his shirt in disbelief Joe watched as a dark crimson stain grew larger and larger, until his blood started to pool on the floor. He reached out a hand in supplication, but there was no-one to take it, there no-one to give succour. The pain in his chest blossomed out and seized his mind with intense fervour, suffusing his body in agony, strangling the breath in his lungs. The last thing Joe heard was a man screaming in fury.
“You fool!” Pete yelled. “You dang fool - you’ve killed the kid – now how are we going to get our money?”
And then Joe Cartwright closed his eyes and the world went cold and grey.
The rain battered the ground, churning it up in to a bog. The horses found it incredibly difficult to keep their footing. The howling wind brought branches raining down on top of the group. Ben kept looking back to make sure no one was missing. He noticed Adam urging his horse forward. When he reached Ben, he shouted to him, “How much further do you reckon it is?”
“We should be home within the hour” Ben yelled back. “Stay at the back of the group so no one tails behind.”
Adam stopped, and let the rest past. When the last horse trotted past him,
he kicked his horse into motion.
The journey back home was a long, tiring process; everyone in the group was worn out especially Adam who was leaning forward on his horse. “I could be home reading a good book” he mumbled quietly. “Instead I am out here in a raging storm!”
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree. All the horses were spooked. Adam’s horse reared, sending Adam flying backwards. He landed on his butt, sending a painful shockwave up his spine.
He moaned in pain. “Pa” he shouted, fighting back the tears of agony.
Ben couldn’t hear him; the wind was too fierce for anyone to hear anything. It wasn’t until he looked back to see if everyone was still together that he didn’t see Adam trailing behind.
“Hoss!” he yelled, “Where’s Adam?”
Hoss swung around on his horse, just to see Adam lying on his back just
“Adam!” Hoss yelled, he jumped off his horse and waded through the mud, up to his big brother. “What happened?” he asked, noticing Adam was in severe pain.
“Its my back Hoss, I have hurt it badly” Adam groaned, “I d-don’t think
I can go on.”
By that point, Ben had ridden to the back of the group, “Hoss, help Adam onto his horse, and quickly. We need to get back soon before this storm gets any worse!”
Hoss yanked Adam to his feet, which made Adam yelp in pain. “Watch it Hoss!” Adam warned.
Hoss pushed his brother onto the horse. “You okay?” Hoss asked,
“Now you keep a good hold now, you hear?” Hoss shouted as he mounted onto his horse.
He let Adam go in front of him just in case anything was to happen again.
After a while, the group came to a raging river.
”Oh no!” Ben sighed, “How are we supposed to cross that?” The once quiet stream was impossible to cross.
Hoss and Adam rode up to Ben. “What we gonna do now, Pa?” Adam asked as he rubbed his sore back with his hand.
“We will just need to go the long way round, and let’s hope the bridge
at Falls Creek is still standing!” Ben replied, putting his heel to his
horse, urging it on.
The rest of the group followed Ben. As Adam’s horse started to move, he winced in pain, and Hoss looked back and smiled, “C’mon Adam, no lagging behind now!”
The alternative route was a difficult one; the road was no longer visible. At parts it was more like a muddy river than anything else.
They eventually reached the next bridge. It was barely standing.
“C’mon, let’s get moving!” Ben yelled, “The bridge is nearly collapsing.”
The rest of the group kicked their horses into a gallop across the bridge,
once again Adam yelped in pain as his horse shot forward.
Once they were all across, they stopped to get their breath back. “Nearly home,” Ben sighed.
As the approached the house, Ben noticed all the lights were still on and the front door was open. He immediately realized something was wrong. He jumped off his horse and ran to the front door. There, lying in a pool of blood, was his youngest son.
“Joseph!” he cried.
By: Puchi Ann
Holding a knife that dripped with blood, Hop Sing staggered from the dining
area. “Mr. Hoss,” he yelled. “Other bad man, through kitchen.”
Hoss, who had been helping Adam inside, let him go abruptly and ran past Hop Sing, stumbling over the inert body of a man whose blood was draining onto the floor. Confused as he was at the scene into which he and his family had walked, on instinct Hoss barreled through the doorway into the kitchen. The door to the outside hung open, though he was certain it had not been moments before, when they arrived home.
Rushing out into the pouring rain, he saw a dark shape fleeing before him and gave chase. He didn’t know who the man was or exactly what he had done, but Hop Sing, who was a fine judge of character, had called him a bad man, and the crimson evidence back in the house vividly supported that accusation. Just as he reached the corner of the barn, the man slipped and fell into the mud. Hoss charged forward and grabbed him up in a bear hug that was as friendly as that of a mama bear grappling with a varmint that had attacked her cubs.
Cradling his limp arm to his chest, the man screamed. “Let me go, you big galoot. I ain’t done nothin’, and you’re hurtin’ my broke arm.”
The arm was obviously broken, but Hoss, normally gentle with any injured creature, felt no sympathy. “Ain’t done nothin’, huh? Maybe you need a closer look at the kind of nothin’ you done, mister!” He twisted the man around and, holding him by collar and belt, began marching him toward the house.
Adam had pitched forward when Hoss answered Hop Sing’s summons, but Sarah
Winnemucca had quickly loaned him her strong arm and now he stood, supporting
himself by both arms on the back of the sofa, staring down at his youngest
brother, who lay at his feet, blood spurting through his father’s restraining
palms with every heart pulse. His need to staunch that glutinous scarlet
fountain blinded Adam to his own pain, and he started to sink to his knees,
but Sarah held him back with a restraining hand.
“No, you must not,” the Paiute girl ordered. “I will help.” She knelt opposite Ben and applied the pressure of her slim brown hands atop those of the frantic father.
On leaden legs Hop Sing shuffled back from the kitchen, where he had followed Hoss, and held out a pile of dish towels. Ben grabbed one, folded it and placed it over the gushing wound. “What happened here, Hop Sing?” he demanded.
“I in kitchen, for make sandwich for Little Joe supper,” Hop Sing explained as he held one of the cloths to his own bleeding arm. “Hear noise, then voices. First think maybe you back, find children. Then hear man tell Little Joe open safe. I take knife, creep around corner, but Number Three Son all time too hasty. He jump other bad man, break arm; then this one shoot boy.” He cast a baleful glance at the dead body in the dining room. “I run in, stab with knife, fight while other man run past. Then you come. So sorry can stop only one bad man at time. Maybe Mr. Hoss stop other.”
As Hop Sing finished his story, Hoss wrestled Pete, who was still protesting that he hadn’t done anything, through the front door. “Shut up,” Hoss said. “I’d rather hear Hop Sing’s side of this sorry story.”
Hop Sing started to speak again, but he was interrupted by the scream of the Indian women. “Him!” shouted Running Quail, pointing at Pete. “Him man that take our children.” Her fingers curled into claws as she reached forward to rake the man’s face. “You kill my son!”
Turtle Who Lays Her Eggs in the Sand emitted a primal scream and attacked the man, too. It was all Hoss could do to hold Pete out of reach of the grief-crazed mothers. “Oh, so you ain’t done nothin’,” he snarled. “What have you done with them kids?”
“Nothin’!” Pete yelled, kicking at the two Paiute women.
Hoss continued to struggle to hold Pete away from the women. “Ladies, nothin’ would pleasure me more than to let you have this worthless piece of wolf bait, but if you tear him apart, we ain’t never gonna get any answers.” As Running Quail and Turtle backed off, Hoss grabbed two handfuls of shirt lapel and hoisted Pete off the ground, six inches from his own nose. “Now, start talkin’, wolf bait, or I’ll toss you back to them mama bears.”
“No, no,” Pete pleaded, eyes wide with fear. “Anything but that. The kids is okay, I promise. We didn’t hurt ‘em none, just left ‘em in a cave, so’s you’d go out lookin’ for ‘em. Ain’t but five miles from their village.”
Hoss shook the man, ignoring his cry of pain. “That’s all? Just left helpless little younguns alone in a cave on a night like this. Didn’t bother to build a fire in that cave, I reckon?”
Pete’s chin bobbed wildly up and down. “Oh, yeah, yeah, built a big fire. They’s warm as bugs in a rug by the hearth.” It was a bald-faced lie—Pete cared nothing for the comfort of what he normally referred to as “injun brats”—but he hoped that by the time his falsehood was exposed, he’d somehow be in a better position to cope with the results, preferably somewhere far from those bronze banshees with the smoldering black eyes.
“I know the cave he means,” Running Quail declared as she headed for the door.
Holding his hand to his back, Adam took a stiff step forward. “You can’t go alone.”
Still maintaining pressure on his youngest son’s chest, Ben looked up at his eldest. “You’re not going with them!” he bellowed.
“Pa, someone has to,” Adam insisted. “Someone has to tend Joe; someone has to get him a doctor; someone has to take this piece of filth to the sheriff; someone has to bury that other filth; someone—”
“We’ll get it all done,” Ben snapped, “but you will not be any of those someones, young man. You’re hurt yourself!”
Adam smiled with grim patience. “Do the math, Pa. There’s a distinct shortage of able-bodied someones available, so just how do you propose to ‘get it all done’ without me doing my part?”
"Pa, someone has to go with Running Quail and get those children,"
Adam argued again. Adam winced as he stood on wobbling legs. "Someone
has to tend Joe; someone has to get him a doctor; someone has to take this
piece of filth to the sheriff; someone has to bury that other filth; someone-"
Despite his best intentions, a painful back spasm seared through Adam and
silenced him fully.
Joe moaned from where he lay bleeding on the floor. "Pa! Help me." He pleaded and reached up with his hand.
"We'll get it all done," Ben snapped pressing his hand on the boy's bullet wound, "but you will not be any of those someones, Adam. You're hurt yourself!" The towel he was using was almost fully saturated.
"Who need sheriff?" Hop Sing spat out as he. "Tie bad man in corner. Dump dead one in barn. Dump dead man in mud! Dump bad man in mud! Just take care youngest son! Find children next.The End!"
"We take care of Little Joe. Now! Then you will ride to cave and get our children!" pleaded. Turtle Who Lays Her Eggs in the Sand. Her dark eyes begged desperately. "Please! Before it is too late!"
Adam nodded, unable to say a word as another spasm rolled up his spine. Suddenly his rubbery legs gave way under him and he sank painfully into the settee. The blinding pain immobilized him as he fought to stay conscious.
Running Quail held a gun on Pete until Hoss tied him securely face down on the dining room floor.
"Don't move, you dog," Hoss warned kicking the man in his ribs. "And if'n anything happens to my baby brother, you won't be havin' nothing' to move with or reason to be a movin' "
Then Running Quail grabbed her small beaded deer skin pouch from the pile of belongings near the door and joined Ben and Hop Sing next to Little Joe. She knelt next to Sara and prayed softly in her own language.
"He's loosing a lot of blood," Ben gasped pressing the saturated towel harder against Joe's chest. The motionless boy looked pale and pasty.
"This will help," Sara explained softly.
Running Quail opened the pouch. She scooped up some powder and sprinkled into the wound. Amazingly in a few moments the flow of crimson blood from Joe's chest slowed a bit.
"Pa?" Joe groaned softly. His eyes fluttered.
"Be still son. Hop Sing, help me carry him upstairs," Ben ordered.
"Looks like bullet went right through Little Joe," Hop Sing observed. "Hole in back of shirt!" Ben scooped his limp son up in his arms. Joe's face fell on his father's shoulder. Hop Sing pressed a cloth on the boy's back as they carried Joe up to his room.
"Thanks to the Lord!" Sara whispered. There would be no need to dig a lead bullet from Joe.
"Now! Get children!" Turtle Who Lays Her Eggs in the Sand pulled on Hoss' arm. "Now!"
Hoss looked at the pleading woman and then at his baby brother in his father's arms as the pale boy was carried up the stairs.Torn by the choice, Hoss looked at Adam.
"Go on, Hoss," Adam gasped through clenched teeth. He lay immobilized on the settee. "Get moving, before I go for them myself." Adam gasped.
The storm was in no ways letting up as Hoss galloped into town on a fresh horse. The road was treacherous with mud, but Hoss didn’t let that deter him. Even though Joe was no longer bleeding to death, Hoss knew only too well that gunshot wounds could all too easily be fatal, especially to someone as young as Joe. He spared a thought for the Indian women, once more braving the horrid weather to retrieve their lost children. Hoss prayed that they would find the children alive.
Despite the risks Hoss took, he felt it still took him too long to reach town. He thundered on the door of Dr Paul Martin’s house, hoping that the physician hadn’t been called out on tonight of all nights. “Doc!” he shouted, his worry overwhelming him. “Doc!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” grumbled a voice from inside and a moment later, Hoss heard the locks being drawn back. “Hoss!” Paul exclaimed, taking in his visitor’s dishevelled, mud-spattered appearance. “What’s wrong?”
Quickly, Hoss panted out his story. Paul immediately started to gather up what he would need. “Hoss, could you possibly hitch my buggy for me?” he asked, as he reached for his Gladstone bag.
“Sure,” Hoss replied, although he was so exhausted that the thought of hitching the buggy was quite repellent. But if it got the doc to Joe’s bedside any quicker, he would do it with no complaints. With the familiarity of a long-time friend and patient, Hoss went round to the stable and completed his task.
“Are you coming back with me?” Paul asked, as he noticed Hoss wasn’t making any attempt to mount his lathered horse. “Plenty of room.”
“I’m gonna git Sheriff Coffee,” Hoss replied. “But thanks. Jist take care o’ Joe.”
“I will do,” Paul promised and shook up his horse.
The sheriff of Virginia City was sitting cosily by the stove in the jailhouse when Hoss went in, but he was soon following the middle Cartwright boy down to the livery to get a horse to go out to the ranch and arrest Pete.
“I reckon ya oughta stay the night in town, Hoss,” Roy commented, seeing the fatigue etched on the big man’s face.
“I cain’t, Roy,” Hoss replied. “I gotta know how Little Joe an’ Adam are.”
“Cain’t say as I blame ya, boy,” Roy agreed and together they rode out into the tail of the storm.
With Joe settled into his bed, Ben hovered anxiously over him, but the youth dropped into an uneasy sleep. Ben hurried downstairs to try and help Adam up to bed. He found his oldest son lying flat on the floor, with Hop Sing poking carefully at Adam’s lower back.
“What are you doing?” Ben asked, curiously. “Adam, are you all right?”
“I’m not sure,” Adam replied, in a strained voice. “Hop Sing said he could help me…” His voice trailed off as Hop Sing did something. There was an audible ‘crack’ and Adam let out a yelp of pain.
“All better,” Hop Sing announced, rising from his position on Adam’s hips. “Get up now, please.”
“Get up?” Adam echoed as Ben hurried over to him. “But my back… feels better!” he exclaimed in delight, rising quite easily to his knees and only feeling the mildest of discomfort – more an echo of remembered pain than actual pain itself. “What did you do?”
An enigmatic smile was their only answer as the Chinese factotum went over to check on the prisoner lying on the floor. “Bad man!” Hop Sing scolded, as he went past and Ben thought how glad he was that it wasn’t him that Hop Sing was angry with. Hop Sing had ways of making his ire felt. Many ways!
“Are you all right?” Ben asked Adam.
“I’m fine, Pa,” Adam replied. “Don’t worry about me. My back feels as good as new. Better than its felt for ages, in fact.” Adam patted his father’s arm. “And even if it didn’t, your priority is Joe. I quite understand, Pa. He needs you.”
“I just wanted to check you were all right,” Ben told him. “And now I know you are, I’m going back to Joe.” He hurried back upstairs and sat by Joe’s bed.
His youngest son was running a temperature. Ben called for cool water and began to bathe his son’s forehead as Joe tossed and turned in a restless sleep. The wound on his chest began to seep a little clear fluid. Ben cursed the storm that had prevented him getting into town. If there hadn’t been a storm, Joe would be safe and well. He would give away every cent of the thousands of dollars that rested in his safe downstairs if only it would guarantee the life of his youngest son. Falling on his knees, Ben began to pray.
The arrival of Paul Martin was a huge relief to the worried father. He stepped aside to allow Paul access, quickly outlining the story. Joe woke and let out a groan. “Pa, it hurts,” he breathed.
“I know, son, I know,” Ben soothed.
“I’m sorry if I’m hurting you, Joe,” Paul said. “But I’ve got to examine you.” He carried on with his examination, noticing that Joe bravely bit his lip and didn’t utter another sound. Finally Paul straightened. “Well, I’m going to have to do some tidying up of the wound. I don’t know what that stuff was that Sarah Winnemucca used. It saved Joe’s life in the short term, but there seems to be an infection brewing and I don’t know what’s causing it.”
“Will he be all right?” Ben asked, in a low voice, throbbing with anguish.
“I don’t know,” Paul replied, starkly. “I just don’t know.”
The storm had abated completely by the time Hoss and Roy Coffee arrived. Hoss accepted a warming cup of coffee and slumped down in front of the fire and fell asleep almost at once. Ben gazed into the flames of the fire as if they held the answers he sought. Adam tried to read, but gave up after a time, his eyes fixed blankly on the ceiling.
Unwilling to intrude on the family’s grief, Roy still stayed on, waiting to find out Joe’s fate, for upon that depended the charge that he would lodge against Pete. At the moment, it stood at attempted murder. If Joe died…
Sometime in the wee small hours before dawn, Sarah Winnemucca arrived with a couple of braves. She looked exhausted, but her smile told them all that they had found the children safe in the cave. Her voice expressed outrage as she told of how the children had been tied up, but none of them were hurt and they were now safely home again. She thanked the Cartwrights for their help and left.
As the sun sent fingers of light across a colourless sky, Paul Martin at last descended the stairs. He looked exhausted and for a moment, Ben’s heart stopped beating. He found himself on his feet without being aware of rising. “Paul?” he queried and Adam was shocked at how thin and old Ben’s voice suddenly sounded.
“It was touch and go for a while,” Paul reported, his voice hoarse. “But he’s past the crisis, Ben and he’s going to be all right.”
Tears of relief cascaded down Ben’s face and he sank back into his seat as if his legs could no longer carry him. Hoss woke and looked at Ben, and instinctively feared the worst. He sat up abruptly and looked at Adam, who was just starting to smile. “Joe?” he ventured.
“He’s going to be all right!” Adam crowed.
“Come on, you,” Roy said, to Pete, poking the man to his feet. “I guess the town’s going ta have ta do without a hangin’ after all.” He sounded disappointed, for he thought hanging was too good for a man who shot a 15 year old boy. “Its good news, Ben,” he added, but he was pretty sure his friend didn’t hear him.
“Can I see him?” Ben asked, once he had his emotions under control.
“Yes, for a while,” Paul replied. “And then you’re all going to get some sleep.” He watched as all three Cartwrights headed rapidly for the stairs and then sank down into the blue velvet chair at the foot of the stairs.
Every action has consequences, he thought. But Ben could not be faulted in the actions he had taken. He had done his best to help save those missing children. How was he to know of the nefarious plan at the back of their disappearance? He couldn’t know.
A hand appeared in his vision bearing a cup of coffee and Paul took it, thanking Hop Sing profusely. Hop Sing had been a real hero that night, but was still doing what he did best, making sure his family were kept properly fed and watered.
Upstairs, the family were gathered round Joe’s bed. Joe was asleep, but this time, his sleep was deep and healing and his skin was already a better colour. He would take some time to recover, but recover he would.
“Boys,” Ben said, quietly, so as not to disturb Joe. “Promise one thing; next time there’s a storm – don’t ask for any sea stories…”