The McDermott Gang

By:  Theresa




The smell of horses permeated the air and the sun was shining brightly as the four men walked slowly down the streets of the bustling little town. They all had very confused looks on their faces, as did the townspeople who encountered them.


"I don't like the looks of things, Colonel."


"Me either, lieutenant," Hannibal replied and looked around the town.


“Pa!”  Adam yelled as he noticed the gunman slink up behind his father. He didn't have a chance to say anything else before the butt of the gun rendered him unconscious.


The team heard the commotion coming from just up ahead.  “I think we’d better check this out,” Hannibal ordered and the four men went running.


Hannibal tackled the gunman that was threatening to take the life of the oldest Cartwright, but not before he was able to fire his gun.  Ben grabbed his shoulder and fell to the ground. 


BA took out the other gunslinger before he could shoot the young man lying on the ground in front of him.


“Murdock, Face, get those two out of here!” Hannibal ordered, pointing to Adam and Ben.


They nodded their understanding to Hannibal and dragged the two unconscious men into the livery.


Hannibal and BA continued to struggle with the gunmen, eventually they both managed to get away. 


All the commotion aroused the attention of the local sheriff.  Hannibal noticed Roy Coffee heading in their direction. “BA, the sheriff…get out of sight!”


The two men ducked into the livery.


Minutes later, Adam started to come around.  He moaned a bit and then opened his eyes. "Arghh…what..."


Hannibal stooped down and put a hand on Adam's head. "You took quite a hit there, kid."


Adam became more aware and panic took hold. "Pa!" He cried out. "Where are you? Answer me, Pa!"  He fought hard against Hannibal who was holding him in place. "Let me go...I've got to find my father!"


"Shhh…take it easy, kid...your father is safe. He's being taken care of by my lieutenant."

Adam looked into Hannibal's clear blue eyes and saw the truth.  He relaxed slightly and slumped back against the wall.


"Here's some water, Colonel," Murdock said as he brought over a bucket and ladle.


"Drink this!" Hannibal commanded and placed the ladle to Adam's lips.


Adam obediently took a sip.


"Good…that's good, kid."


"Murdock, see if you can find something to bandage his head."


"Right Colonel."


Adam reached out and put a hand on Hannibal's arm. "May I see my father?"


Hannibal smiled. "After we get that head of yours bandaged...right rest."


Adam sat back again. "Yes sir," he relented, not having the strength to argue.


"How's he doing?" The colonel asked as he approached Ben.


"Fine, Hannibal," Face replied. "The bullet only grazed him.  He'll be sore for a few days, but fine."


"The kid's fine too, but he'll have a hell of a headache."


Murdock found a few clean rags and used them as make shift bandages. "Did anyone ever tell you, you look like Johnny Cash?" The Captain asked.


"I'm sorry...who?"


"Johnny Cash...the country singer that dresses all in black...didn't you ever see him on TV?"


"On what?"




Adam stared blankly at him.


"You know the square little box that has the talking pictures."


Adam raised an eyebrow at Murdock.  "I have no idea what you are talking about, Mr.?"


"Murdock, just plain Murdock."


"Cartwright...Adam Cartwright," Adam replied, holding a hand out to the confused captain.


"Cartwright?" Murdock smiled. "And I bet you are from the Ponderosa, right?" He teased.


"Oh, I see you have heard of our ranch."


Murdock smiled nervously and then went over to Hannibal. "Maybe we should get him to the hospital, Colonel?"


"For what?"


"He thinks he is Adam Cartwright."


Hannibal laughed. "I'm sure there are people named Adam Cartwright, Captain."


"Do those people think they own a ranch called the Ponderosa?"


Hannibal put his cigar in his mouth and shrugged. "So kid, my Captain tells me you are Adam Cartwright and you own a ranch called the Ponderosa?"


"That's right, sir...I live there with my father and my brothers Hoss and Little Joe."


Hannibal turned to Murdock and whispered. "Maybe you're right about the hospital?" He smiled at Adam.  "I think we'd better get you to a doctor, kid."


Adam put a hand up in protest. "No, I'll be fine.  I just need to see my father and we need to get back to the brothers will be worried."


Hannibal shrugged. "You think you can stand?"


"Yes sir, I think so."


Murdock and the Colonel helped Adam to his feet.


"Take me to my father."


They escorted Adam across the livery to Ben who was lying in a bed of hay.  Adam knelt down and put his hand on Ben's arm. "He's been shot."


"Just a flesh wound," Face replied reassuringly. "He'll be fine after a few days rest."


Adam stood up. "We need to get him back to the ranch.  If I could impose on you a bit longer, sir?"


Hannibal grinned. "My team and I would be happy to help you, kid."


"Good. Our wagon is outside the general store...if one of you wouldn't mind bringing it around.  We could be back at the Ponderosa in time for supper. Hop Sing is the best cook in the entire territory."


"BA and I will get the wagon, Colonel."


BA and Murdock found the Cartwright wagon outside of the general store. "So do you know how to drive one of these, BA?"


"I can drive anything sucka," BA replied and climbed onto the wagon. "Come on, Fool!" BA took hold of the reins and brought the wagon over to the livery. They carefully loaded Ben onto the back of the wagon, making him as comfortable as possible. Adam rested next to Ben.


The team climbed onboard and soon they were off for the Ponderosa.




"Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!" Murdock exclaimed as they pulled the wagon up to the ranch house. "It certainly looks like the Ponderosa."


Hannibal grinned. "It sure does, Captain."


Hoss and Joe came out of the house, seeing Adam bandaged they hurried over to the wagon. "What happened?"


"Pa's been shot...let's get him in the house."


Little Joe went around to Ben. "How bad is it, Adam?"


"A good crease."


"Are you alright, brother?" Hoss asked touching Adam's head.


"I'm fine...just get Pa into the house. Joe, get the liniment and some bandages."


"Right Adam."


Adam smiled at the team. "If you would please come in and accept our hospitality?"


Hannibal looked at his team, they all nodded. "Sure, kid...that would be great."


"Make yourself at home...while I tend to my father," Adam said pointing to the furniture.  He turned and headed up to Ben's room.


"Well, I don't know what to make of all this guys?" Hannibal commented as they looked around the ranch house.


"Me either," Face replied.


BA and Murdock nodded in agreement.


"Hey Hannibal, check out these lamps, man...they are all filled with oil."


"There are no electrical outlets anywhere," Face added.


"And there's no TV, no phone, no radio…nothing."


"And how about the way that town looked and the way everyone is dressed and no cars.  This is really strange, man."


"I have to agree with you there, Sergeant."


"Hey guys, this is even a little crazy for me, but I think we are really on the Ponderosa," Murdock commented.


Face came over to Hannibal. "You don't think this could be one of Decker's traps, do you?"


"Well, this would be one hell of an elaborate trap....I don't know what to think.  Let's just play this thing out and see where it takes us."




"Pa," Adam said gently as he sat next to Ben.


Ben opened his eyes and smiled at his son.


"How are you feeling?"


"Fine son...a little sore, but fine...what happened?"


"You were shot, but it's just a crease."


Ben nodded his understanding, but then noticed Adam's bandages.  He started to sit up, but Adam put a hand on him.


"I'm fine, Pa."


"Yeah, you know Adam has a hard head," Little Joe teased coming over to Ben's bed.


"Yeah Pa, it would take more than a bump on the noggin' to stop ol' Adam here," Hoss commented, joining his brothers.


Ben smiled, but then a stern expression came to his face. "Put Adam to bed, boys, and see to it that he stays there."


"But Pa," Adam protested.


"To bed now, young man."


Adam sighed, but knowing it was of no use to argue with Ben, he relented. "Fine Pa, but the same goes for you." He said nearly as sternly as Ben and smiled. Adam turned to his brothers and put up his hands in surrender. "I'm all yours."




Once the boys got Adam settled and after another check on Ben, they went down to see to their guests.


"Sorry to keep ya waitin’ so long, but Joe and me have two patients that are both stubborn as mules," Hoss commented coming down the stairs. "The name's Hoss and this is my brother Little Joe, sir." He put out his hand to Hannibal.


"Colonel Hannibal Smith," Hannibal replied taking the younger man's hand in his. "And this is my team....Lt. Templeton Peck, Sergeant BA Baracus and the one in the baseball cap is Captain HM Murdock."


“Howdy, pleased to meet ya,” Murdock enthused and shook the hands of the two Cartwrights.


"Howdy," Joe and Hoss said in unison.


"You fellas from around here?" Hoss asked noticing the strange way they were dressed.


Hannibal looked to his team. "Well...we're not exactly sure where here is?"


Hoss smiled. "Southern Utah, sir."


"This is going to sound like a strange question, but can you tell us what year this is?"


Hoss and Joe eyed each other. "It's 1853, sir," Little Joe replied confused.


The team sat down dumbfounded.


Hoss went over to Hannibal. "Are you fellas alright?"


Hannibal looked up at Hoss. "Yes, we're fine...just a little tired from everything that happened today."


"It's been a hard day," Little Joe interjected. "Why don't we have some supper and then you can turn in. Hop Sing's gonna be real sore if we don't eat."


"Yeah, good idea, little brother...we'll all feel better after we had us a good meal."



After dinner, Hannibal went up to visit Adam and Ben.


"Just checking in on my patient," Hannibal said as he entered Adam's room.


Adam put down the play he was reading and smiled. "I'm feeling much better, thanks to you and your friends."


"Good...your father and you had me worried there for awhile.  Who were those men?"


"The McDermotts...a gang of cattle thieving bank robbers."


Hannibal grinned. "Real slimeballs, huh?"


Adam looked puzzled. "Did you say slimeballs, sir? Don't think I have ever heard that expression before."


"'s just something I say all the time."


Adam smiled. "I haven't had a chance to say a proper thank you for what you did for us today.  I owe you a debt of gratitude, sir."


"Glad to be of service, kid," Hannibal replied and put a hand on Adam's shoulder. "You just get some rest."


Adam nodded.


The Colonel closed the door and headed down the hallway. "Just coming to see how you are?" Hannibal asked as he came into Ben's room.


"Fine...real fine. Please, won't you sit down?" Ben pointed to the chair next to his bed.


Hannibal nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Cartwright."


"Ben please..."




"So, how are those boys of mine treating you, Hannibal?  They had better be minding their manners, if they know what's good for them."


Hannibal grinned. "Ben, your sons are the most hospitable, polite young men I have ever met."


Ben laughed. "Well, you wouldn't say that when you see all the trouble those rapscallions can get themselves into."


Hannibal sat back in his chair. "Oh, I think I know a thing or two about that exact same thing…wait until you meet the rest of my team."




The next morning, after breakfast, Murdock bounded up the steps to Adam's room.  "Knock Knock...may I come in?"


"Sure Murdock."


"Well… good morning, Johnny," the Captain said as he came in and sat down on the edge of Adam's bed.


Adam grimaced at the nickname, but didn't say anything.


"So, I heard you like to play checkers?"


"Been talking to Little Joe I see."


"Yup, the Joester told me that you're not that good."


Adam sat back in his bed. "Oh, he did, did he?"


Murdock nodded his head. "Yes, and it's a shame, because I was really looking for someone to play a challenging game of checkers with." He teased. "But I wouldn't want to make you feel bad when I beat the pants off of you."


"I'll have you know that my little brother only said that because he is jealous of my checker playing brilliance."


Murdock put his hand to his chin. "Oh really?" He asked smugly.




"Well, I just happened to have a checkerboard here." Murdock grinned mischievously and pulled the game from inside his jacket. "Care for a game?  I mean... if you think you are up to it?"


Adam grinned. "Black or red?"


Meanwhile, down the hall almost the same conversation was occurring in Ben's room.


"Care for a game of chess?"


Ben smiled at Hannibal. "I most certainly would."


"I must warn you...I haven't lost a well... it's been so long I can't remember."


Ben sat back in his bed. "Well now... I have been known to win a game or two myself on occasion."


Hannibal grinned. "Black or white?"


"Johnny, can I ask you something?"


"Sure, Murdock."


"You think your Pa would mind if I stopped in to see him?"  Murdock was dying to meet Ben Cartwright, even if he couldn't figure out how it was possible for them to be there.


"No, in fact I think he would be delighted to meet you.  I tell you what...I'll take you to his room and introduce you."


"But shouldn't you stay in bed?"


"If I stay in this bed one more minute...I will go crazy."


Murdock grinned. "Well, then you could room with me at the VA."




"Never mind."


Adam put his robe on and the two men headed down the hall to Ben's room.  Adam knocked on the door and opened it. "Pa, there is someone who would...oh, excuse me...I didn't mean to interrupt your game."


Hannibal smiled. "No, please come in...your father is about two moves away from breaking my winning streak."


Ben looked disapprovingly at his son. "And just what are you doing out of bed?"


Adam grabbed Murdock and pushed him into Ben's room. "Well, one of our guests would like to meet you, Pa, and it would be rude of me not to honor his request," Adam replied, with all the sincerity he could muster.


Ben sat back in his bed. "Well then... by all means, come in, boys." He eyed Adam, who smiled nervously.


"Pa, this is Murdock, Murdock, this is my father Ben Cartwright."


"Howdy, Mr. C...pleased to meet you...Johnny here has told me all about you."


Ben gave Adam a quizzical glance.


"I'll tell you later," Adam mouthed, but then quickly smiled when Murdock turned to face him.


"Well, howdy yourself, Murdock...I'm glad to meet you as well.  But just what has this son of mine been telling you about me?"


"Well, he said you were the kindest, most compassionate, loving father anyone could ever have."


"Oh really?" Ben replied skeptically. "Did he also tell you how I deal with sons who disobey my orders?"


Adam smirked. "No sir, I was saving that until later.  I didn't want it to ruin a beautiful moment."


Ben laughed slightly, but then pointed to the door.


Adam turned sharply on his heels. "Once more into the breech," he announced and headed back to his room.


The three men laughed.




The next day at breakfast everyone was happily eating the flapjacks that Hop Sing had made.


"Are you serious...vinegar?  You like vinegar on your flapjacks?" Murdock asked, crinkling his nose.


"Well now, pardner...that's the secret to a good tastin' flapjack.  You just don't know what you're missin'." Hoss smacked his lips.


Murdock shrugged. "Let me try it."  He poured some vinegar over his plate. "Hey, it ain't bad...wanna try it, Face?" Murdock shoved a forkful at the lieutenant.



Face put a hand over his mouth. "No thanks...I'll stick with molasses."


"Don't blame you, Face," Little Joe agreed, trying not to lose his breakfast.


Hoss smiled. "Little Joe and me have some brandin’ to do in the south pasture, if'n ya wanna come along and watch," he said, as he finished off one last bite of flapjack.


The team looked at Hannibal. He still wasn't sure about this whole situation, but the request seemed harmless enough.  "Alright, but we rendezvous back here at 13:00 hours, understood?"


"Right Colonel," the team acknowledged.


"You coming, sir?" Little Joe asked from the front door.


"No, I think I will stay around here, maybe do a little reading."


Joe was just about to leave when he heard a horse galloping up in the yard. "It's Sheriff Coffee."


The team eyed each other nervously. 


"Howdy Sheriff," Hoss greeted, coming out of the house and tipping his hat.


"Howdy boys, your Pa and Adam around?"


"They're upstairs in bed, sir."


Roy sat back on his horse. "Feeling poorly are they, Joe?"


Hoss laughed. "Nahh…just tryin’ to get out of doing the brandin’ in the south pasture."


Roy smiled. "Witnesses say your Pa was almost killed by that Jett McDermott and Adam was knocked senseless by that no account brother of his."


"Yes sir." Joe answered. “The McDermotts were just got done robbing the store when Pa and Adam got there.”


Roy nodded. "The townsfolk say they were saved by some strange looking men...they say those men rode away with your Pa and Adam some time later."


"Yeah, Sheriff...we've asked them to stay with us for a spell." Hoss pointed to the house. "They're right inside if’n you wanna talk to 'em."


Roy looked towards the house. "Don't reckon they can tell me anymore than I already know.  I really just rode out to see how your Pa and brother were and to make sure I had the story straight."


"You sure you don't want to come inside, sir...Pa'd be happy to see ya."


"No thanks, Little Joe...I gotta get back to town...form a posse and set out after those McDermott Boys. Tell your Pa and brother I was askin’ after 'em."


"Yes sir...we sure will," Hoss replied and tipped his hat again.


"See ya, Boys."


"See ya."


"So, what was all that about?" Hannibal asked, coming out of the house.


"Oh, Sheriff Coffee came out to see how Pa and Adam were and to see what happened in town," Joe replied. “He’s gonna form a posse to go after the McDermott Brothers.”


“Well, I hope they catch them…those boys sound like bad news,” Face commented.


“They sure are, Face, been bustin up towns all over the territory for the better part of a year now.  Ain’t no one had a bit of luck catchin’ ‘em.”


Joe nodded and then clapped his hands together.  "Hey Hoss, we'd better get to that branding or Pa's gonna skin us alive."


"You got that right, little brother...come on, fellas."


Little Joe padded his jacket. "Doggone it!  Lost my gloves again. I can't do the roping without them."


"That's the third pair this month, little brother...Pa's gonna do some yellin' about irresponsibility...he might even do more than that."


Joe gulped. "Yeah, but let's not think about it."


Hannibal grinned. "Here, kid…take mine...might be a little big for ya...but they're better than nothing."


Joe shook his head. "No sir…I couldn't do that."


Hannibal put the gloves in Joe's hands.  "That's an order, kid."


Joe grinned. "Well know Pa always said I need to learn to follow orders."


Hoss laughed. "That he did, little brother, that he did."


Joe winked at Hannibal and mounted Cochise. Hoss and the team followed suit with their horses.



“Watch this, BA!” Murdock exclaimed as he climbed up on the corral fence. “Ladies and gentlemen…the daring and courageous Howling Mad Murdock will delight and amaze you with his death defying feat while he walks high above without a net!”


“Get down from there, man!”


Little Joe and Hoss giggled as they watched Murdock pretend to walk across the fence like a tightrope.


BA shook his head. “Crazy fool!”


“Aww… come on, Big Guy…it’s fun! You should try it.”


BA looked imploringly at Face. “Murdock, would you stop fooling around and get down from there…you’re making the cattle nervous.”


“Sure thing, Faceman!” Murdock saluted.   He turned to jump down and fell onto BA, knocking him into a pile of manure.


Murdock got up from the ground quickly, backing away from a very angry sergeant. “Now BA, it was an accident….don’t get mad.”


BA went over and picked up the branding iron.


“Hold on a minute, BA….be reasonable.  Let’s talk about this.” Murdock eyed the hot branding iron.  “You wouldn’t really do that… would you?”


Hoss, Joe and Face laughed as Murdock took off running, being chased by BA.



“So, how was the branding, guys?” Hannibal asked as the five boys came in the front door.


“Fine, Colonel! We had blast!” Murdock replied and bounced down on the settee.


“Good!” Hannibal grimaced.  “What is that smell?”


“Oh that’s BA, Colonel…he had a little run in with some manure," Murdock replied grinning.


“Ahh…Sergeant…I suggest you get cleaned up before lunch.”


BA growled at Murdock.


Hoss came over to BA and put an arm on his shoulder.  “Come on, BA…I’ll show you where ya can wash up and I’ll get ya some new britches.”


Hannibal looked at Murdock. “My instinct tells me that somehow you were involved in this, Captain.”


Murdock gave his best innocent smile. “Who me?”


Little Joe laughed. “Come on, Murdock...let’s get washed up for lunch.”



"Hi, ya feeling?"


"Good, son."


"I brought you up some supper." Little Joe smiled and brought the tray over to Ben.


"Oh good...I'm starving. So, how is the branding coming along?"


"Fine, Pa, and the entertainment ain't bad either."


"The what?"


"Our guests, Pa...that Murdock sure is a character."


Ben laughed. "So, have they told you much about themselves?"


Joe shrugged. "Well, not much, Pa...but I have a good feeling about them."


Ben nodded his head. "Yeah, me too, son.  Did you check on your brother?"


"Sure did, Pa, I even brought him an extra helping of those mesquite beans he loves so much...told him Hop Sing had a terrible headache, so Hoss made dinner." Joe giggled.


"Now Joseph, that wasn't very nice," Ben scolded.


"I know, but since he's not allowed out of bed, he can't clobber me." Joe smiled mischievously. “Come on Pa, it was the perfect chance...I couldn't let it slip by, now could I?"


Ben shook his head. "I just don't know what to do with the three of're gonna give me grey hair."


"Ah Pa?"


"Yes son?"


"Too late!"


"Why you little scamp...I should tan you!"


"Oh, you couldn't do that, sir," Joe replied seriously.


"And why not?"


"Might hurt your shoulder even more, Pa, and at your age the body doesn't mend like it used to."


Ben threw a pillow at him, but Joe was already out the door.


Little Joe popped his head back in. "I think I'll go check on Adam and see how he is doing with those beans, Pa." He grinned, tossed the pillow back to Ben and headed down the hall.


Ben sat back in his bed and looked up to the heavens. "Lord, give me strength."  He smiled and picked up his fork.




Adam opened his eyes, the room was still dark.  He got up, put on his robe and opened the door.  Quietly, he went down the hall and opened Ben's door.  His father was

not in his bed.  He went down the stairs and saw a faint light coming from the kitchen.  Adam went in the kitchen and found Ben sitting at the table eating a huge piece of pie. "And just what are you doing out of bed?" Adam asked sternly and folded his arms across his chest.


Ben looked at his son sheepishly. "Well...I was hungry and I found this pie…and...ah..." He composed himself. "Now, just hold on there, boy...I could ask you the same question."


Adam grinned. "Peach?"


"Best one Hop Sing ever made," Ben replied. He cut a piece and handed it to Adam.


Adam took a bite and smiled. "I'll have to agree with you, Pa...Hop Sing really outdone himself with this one. Which reminds me...I didn't see this on the menu this evening...guess I need to have a little talk with that youngest brother of mine."


"He sure loves to torment his brothers, doesn't he?"


"Oh, don't worry, Pa...I can think of ways to torment him as well."


Ben laughed. "I'm sure you can, son."


Adam grinned, thinking about the ways he was going to pay Joe back for his little stunt.


Ben looked at Adam thoughtfully. "So, how are you really feeling, son?"


"I'm fine, Pa...really...anxious to get back to work. What about you?"


Ben rubbed his shoulder. "It's a little tender, but other than that, I'm as anxious as you."


"Good, but there is something we both need to do first," Adam replied seriously.


"What's that, son?"


"Finish off the rest of this pie." Adam smiled and gave Ben another piece.


Ben laughed and the two of them eagerly ate their midnight snack.




The next morning at breakfast everyone was in good spirits.  Hannibal had decided that the team needed to do some early morning exercises, so it was just the Cartwrights at the table.


“So, what’s on the agenda for today?” Adam asked, taking a bite of toast.


“Well, there is more branding to be done in the south pasture, but I want you to take it easy today, Adam.”


Adam rolled his eyes. “Pa, will you ever stop fussing over me like a mother hen?”


Ben took a sip of coffee. “No.”


Adam smirked.


Joe laughed. “We like you just the way you are. Pa...…even if you can be as ornery as a mean ol’ bull.”


Hoss winked at his brothers. “Oh, I don’t know about that, little brother…I think Pa can make a mean ol’ bull look downright tame.”


“And just you three remember that.” Ben wagged a finger at them in warning. “Get to work and make sure Adam doesn’t over do it.”


“Yes sir,” Hoss answered for them.


The fire warmed the great room as the eight men sat relaxing after a hearty dinner.  Murdock noticed the guitar leaning against a corner wall. “So who’s the musician?”


Adam smiled, but didn't say anything.  He just went back to the book he was reading.


Joe grinned. “Well, that would be older brother Adam.”


“Yeah, and he sure can sing too.  In fact, he has a real purty voice…dontcha, big brother?”


Adam ignored them.


“Aww…come on, brother, don't be shy,” Joe teased as he came over to Adam, guitar in hand.


Still Adam continued to ignore them.


Joe grinned mischievously. “I bet ya if there was a pretty girl around, ol’ Adam here would be playing up a storm.”


Hoss laughed. “Yeah…cause you know that's how you can tell when Adam's tryin’ to spark to a filly ain't that right, Pa?”


Ben sat back in his chair. “Why yes, I do believe that's how your oldest brother tries to win the attentions of a young lady.”


Adam got up and grabbed his guitar. “Give me that thing, will ya?” He exclaimed, pretending to be more annoyed than he was. “Anything to get the three of you to stop discussing my private affairs with the fairer sex.”


“See!" Joe said triumphantly. "I knew we could get Adam to play for us.” He went to sit on the fireplace next to Ben's chair.


Hoss smiled. “Yeah, you just have to know how to ask him.”


Adam rolled his eyes.  He strummed a few notes to make sure he was in tune and then began to play. The men listened intently as Adam serenaded them with a few tunes. He stopped and shrugged.  “I play at it.”


Murdock smiled. “You are good…really good.”  He nudged Face. “Why don't you teach him to sing You Are My Sunshine?”


Face looked at Hannibal and grinned. “Shall we?”


“Of course, my boy…of course.”


Face went over and sat next to Hannibal. The two of them cleared their throats and began to sing. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine you make me happy when skies are gray, you’ll never know dear how much I love you…please don't take my sunshine away.”


Adam laughed. “I think I may be able to play that…sing it again.”  About half way through the song, Adam began to accompany them on his guitar.


"The other night dear as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms, but when..." The singing was interrupted by a knock on the door.


"I wonder who that could be at this hour?" Ben commented looking at the clock. He went over and answered the door.  "Roy!" Ben exclaimed as the sheriff practically fell into his arms. "Help me get him over to the settee."  Hoss helped carry Roy over to the sofa.


"I'll get some water," Hoss offered.


"And I'll get the liniment and some bandages."


"Roy, what happened?" Adam asked.


Roy put a hand to his head. "Me and some men were out after those McDermott Boys, when we was ambushed.  I was lucky to get out of there alive."


"Drink this!" Ben ordered, taking the cup from Hoss and putting it to the Sheriff's lips.


Roy sat up slightly and took a sip. "Thanks."


Joe brought back the medical supplies. "Here's the liniment, Pa."


Ben checked Roy's wounds. "I think we should send for the doctor."


Roy put a hand up. "No, Ben...I just need some rest and some food...ain't had nothing except beef jerky and beans for the past couple days."


"Joe, go in the kitchen and get some food for Sheriff Coffee."


"Hoss, see to his horse."


"Yes sir," the boys acknowledged.


"What about the other men that were with you?"


"I ain't sure, Adam...I saw Todd Henry shot dead and Claude Michaels too.  Those McDermott Boys rustled themselves up some accomplices."


Adam looked at Ben. "Pa, we need to go after them."


Ben went over to the fireplace.


Adam gave his father a quizzical look. "What's wrong? I have never seen you hesitate before, it's usually me that says let the law handle it."


Ben smiled slightly. "I just have..." he stopped himself when he saw the look of

concern on Adam's face. "It's nothing, son...nothing."


"We need to do this, Pa...before they hurt anyone else."


Ben nodded his head. "Of course you are right, son."


Adam squeezed Ben's shoulder. "You should stay here, Pa, what with that shoulder of yours still on the mend."


"Now, just wait a minute, young man...your old Pa ain't ready to be put out to pasture just yet."


"But Pa, whose gonna stay here and look after Sheriff Coffee?"


"Hop sing is quite capable of doing that. Now, are we going to stand around here arguing or are we going to get packed?"


Adam sighed. "And everyone says I'm stubborn as a mule."


Ben put his arm around his eldest son. "And just where do you think you got it from, boy?"


Adam grinned.


"So, when do we leave?" Hannibal asked, clapping his hands together.


"These are some pretty tough men we are going after."


"Oh, don't worry about us, Kid.  We've taken on a few rough characters in our day, right guys?"


The team nodded.


Murdock put his hands on his hips. "Yeah, we eat men like the McDermotts for breakfast."


Ben and Adam laughed.


"Good, it's settled then."


Ben nodded. "We leave at first light."


"Leave for where, Pa?" Little Joe asked, sitting Roy's plate on the coffee table.


Hoss came back from the barn in time to hear the question. "Yeah, Pa, for where?"


"To get those McDermott Boys," Adam answered for his father.


"Can I come along, Pa?" Little Joe asked.


"I don't know,'re a might young for this."


"Let him come, Pa...we'll keep an eye on him...besides I think our little brother deserves to come along.  After all, he's really been helping out while the new school is being built. He's also gotten quite good with using the gun you gave him for his birthday."


"Yeah Pa...been practicing a whole lot."


"No Joseph...this is too dangerous."


"Aww Pa...even mean ol' Adam thinks I'm old enough."


"Well, it's not Adam's's mine and the answer is no...understood?"


"Yes sir."


Adam tousled Joe's hair. "Sorry, Joe...maybe next time, huh?"


"Sure Adam."


Early the next morning, Ben put his saddle on Buck. "Adam."


"Yeah Pa?"


"I don't want you telling Little Joe that he is old enough to do things you and I both know he is not ready for."


"You coddle him too much, Pa...why when I was his age I was doing a lot more dangerous stuff."


"Well son...things were different then and you probably did some of that dangerous stuff without my permission."


"But's he gonna to learn to be a man?"


"He's a still a little boy, Adam."


"He ain't that little,'re just being an ol' mother hen as usual."


"Adam, I am his father and I will make the decisions concerning what I think he ready to do or not do...understood?"


"Even if they are the wrong ones?" Adam shouted.


"Yes...even if they are the wrong is my decision...understood?"


Adam nodded.


"And, young man, I suggest you remember that I am your father as well and keep a civil tongue in your that clear?"


"Yes sir."


"Good. Then let's get moving the team is waiting for us."




"Jett, we need to get out of here," Reese said putting down the beans he was



"Not yet, Reese...I got us some plans."


"But Jett, after what we done to the Sheriff and that know

there's gonna be men out looking for us."


Jett got up and grabbed his younger brother, dragging him to his feet. "Listen,

here boy...we ain't leaving until I say we're leaving. So, sit down and have

your breakfast."


Reese nodded.


Jett pushed him back down hard and spit on the ground. "Good...I'm gonna tend to

the boys," he said pointing to the other members of the gang. "Keep

and eye out for strangers."


Reese picked up his breakfast and continued eating.



"Pa, I am going to check out the north ridge."


"Alright, Adam."


Adam took Sport along the ridge until they came to the creek. He saw a figure standing by a horse.  Adam drew his gun and rode up closer. "Joe?  What in blazes are you doing here?"


"Err hi, brother."


"Don't hi brother me, have really done it this time, boy.  Pa is going to tan the hide off of you. Get on your horse!"


Little Joe nodded and hopped on Cochise. "You gotta help me, Adam."


"I'll do what I can."


The two brothers quickly rode back to where Ben and the others were. "Stay here, I'll go talk to Pa."


"Right Adam."


Adam stopped Sport a few feet from Ben. "Pa, may I see you a private, sir?"


"Sure son."


Ben and Adam rode away from the others.


"Now Pa...promise you won't get angry."


"When one of you three says that to me, it's because you know it is something that will make me, spit it out, boy...I ain't making no promises."


Adam exhaled. "Pa, I found Little Joe by the creek."


"You what?" Ben exclaimed.


"I found Little Joe by the creek...he must have followed us."


"Where is he?"


"I told him to wait until I talked to you."


"Bring him to me, Adam."


"Pa, I know you are ready to skin him alive, but you can't do that and expect him to be able to ride with us."


Ben took a deep breath. "I won't tan him...for now.  Bring him to me, Adam."


Adam nodded and rode off to get Little Joe.


"Is Pa gonna clobber me, Adam?"


"For now, no...but I'm afraid he probably will when we get home."


"I really messed up, huh?"


"Big time."




Little Joe stopped Cochise quite a few feet from Ben.


"Young man, bring that horse closer to me."


Joe nodded and came closer to his father.


"I am sure I do not have to tell you how angry I am with you for disobeying me."


"No sir."


"I am also sure you are well aware that we will be having more of a discussion when we get home."


"Yes sir."


"For now, I want you to stick close by Adam or me the entire time."


"Yes sir."


"Did you bring your gun with you?"


"Yes sir."


"Another thing you know you are forbidden to do."


"Yes sir."


"Maybe I was wrong to give you the gun for your birthday.  You've had a hunting rifle for over a year and you've been good with that.  I thought you were a big enough boy to start getting the feel of a revolver and follow my rule.  Adam and Hoss were when they were your age."


"I am, Pa...I only brought it along because I thought I might need it.  I didn't put bullets in it, it would be safer."


Ben had to suppress a smile at the logic.  "Well, since you have it...load it and put it on."


"Yes sir."


Little Joe reached into his saddle bag and pulled out his holster. He fashioned it about his hips.


"Be careful with hear?"


"Yes sir."


"Oh, don't worry about Little Joe, Pa...he's a really good shot," Adam said trying to lighten Ben's mood.


"Is this true, Joseph?"


"Yes I said before Adam and me have been practicing."


"Well, you and I will have to have a little target practice when we get home and you can show me how good you are."


Little Joe smiled. "Sure Pa."


Adam looked up at the sky. "Pa, I think we need to make camp for the night?"


"You are right, Adam." Ben replied and dismounted, as did the others.


"Aren't I always?"


Ignoring his wise-cracking son, Ben folded his arms. "Take your youngest brother

and find some wood for a fire. Hoss and I will get the gear unpacked."


Adam grabbed Little Joe by the arm, dragging him along. "Let's go and make it



"Hey wait! My hat!" Joe exclaimed as his hat fell off onto the ground.


Adam picked it up and stuck it on Joe's head. "Do I always have to take care of

you, younger brother?"




"Come on!"


Hoss looked at Ben. "Boy, those two sure can fuss at each other."


Ben laughed. "Yeah, but they would do anything for each other, as brothers

should. "


"Yeah, I reckon that's true, Pa...for all of us. But don't tell them fellas

that, I wouldn't want them thinkin' I cared about 'em or nothin'."


"Your secret's safe with me, son." He smiled. "Let's get unpacked."


"The team and I will take care of the horses," Hannibal stated.


About an hour later, the horses were watered and fed and the team was sitting

around the fire.


"Do you think this is the reason we're here, Colonel? To help catch the

McDermotts?" Murdock asked, poking at the campfire.


"I don't know, Cap'n."


"Well, there has got to be a reason."


Hannibal nodded.


"Yeah," Face interjected, coming over with the coffee pot and sitting it on the

fire. "This whole situation has got me spooked."


BA nodded. "Yeah man, I mean how did we get here?"


"What's the last thing you remember, Big Guy? I mean, before we arrived."


"Well, we were on a mission..."


"Yeah," Hannibal interrupted. "We were hired"


"That rancher..."


"Yeah, Faceman," Murdock snapped his fingers. "The rancher in help

run off those...those..."


"Cattle thieves, man."


"Yes, BA!" Hannibal clapped his hands together. "And we were chasing them on

horseback when...when..."


"We came upon that abandoned mining shaft."


"Right Murdock," Face added. "Hell Fire."


"Hey, why ya fellas talkin' about Hell Fire?" Hoss asked coming over and joining

their conversation.


"Why, Hoss, do you know where that is?"


"I sure do,'s an abandoned mining shaft way out yonder on the



The team looked at each other. "It's on the Ponderosa?"


"Sure is, Murdock...been there a few times. Used to go there when I was a

young'un and play in the creek bed.


"What creek bed, Hoss?"


"Hell Fire, Adam." Hoss smiled. "Hey, remember when we was kids we'd sneak off

to there with..."


Little Joe came over. "Sneak off to where with who?"


"To Hell Fire with Jenny Perkins and Kathy Dawson." Adam grinned.


"Aww, come on...I can't imagine my straight as an arrow oldest brother sneaking off anywhere. Hey Hoss, I bet you could...."


"Tell you stories about older brother here that would..."


"Cause you years of pain and suffering, brother." Adam grinned evilly at Hoss.


Hoss swallowed hard. "Never mind about those stories, Joe...they ain't that

interestin' anyhow."


Joe smiled. "So, what else did you two do at Hell Fire?"


Adam smirked. "I remember when..."


"I tanned both of you when I found out you were going there instead of doing

your chores." Ben put an arm around Hoss and Adam.


Adam grimaced. "Yeah, I remember that too unfortunately."


Hoss gulped. "Me too."


Ben laughed. "I'm sure you do, boys. And there is one question I still have about that…whose idea was it to sneak off there?”


Adam looked down guiltily. “Mine, Pa.”


Ben smiled.  “So, what's all this talk about Hell Fire?"


"It's the last place we were when," Hannibal looked around and shrugged, "transported back through time apparently."


Ben and the boys looked at each other. "'re saying that you are from the future?" Ben asked skeptically.


"That's exactly what I'm saying, Ben."


Ben put his hands up. "That's not possible!"


"Believe me, Mr. Cartwright," Face commented, "we are finding this whole

situation just as perplexing as you, but Hannibal is telling you the truth. We

are from the future, if my calculations are correct 131 years to be exact."


Adam thought for a second. "So, you are saying that you are from the year 1984?"


"Yes, Johnny...1984."


Adam sat down on a hollow log. "1984...I bet there is so much you could teach



"Oh yeah, Johnny....I could tell you about a whole lot of neat stuff..."


Hannibal put a hand on Murdock. "Now, wait a minute, Captain...I know this is

going to sound strange, but do you remember the Prime Directive?"


Murdock thought for a minute. "You mean the Star Trek rule that says you are not

supposed to interfere with primitive cultures by influencing them in anyway?"




"But, Hannibal...that's not real!"


Hannibal shrugged. "Well, I know that, but it makes sense if you think about it, Who knows what damage it could cause?"


"The Colonel is right, Murdock," Adam agreed. "You may have already altered the

future by your actions. After all, you saved mine and Pa's life. Who knows if

that changed history? You can't risk telling us things we shouldn't know about."


"Son, you really believe they are from the future?"


"Well, Pa...I don't know what to think."


"But how did you get here?"


"Well, the details are a little hazy, Ben," Hannibal replied. "But the best we

can recall is that we were chasing cattle thieves off a ranch."


"Oh, so you guys are ranchers?" Little Joe asked.


"Well no, kid....let's just say...we are what they call, in our time, soldiers

of fortune... basically, we help people in need."


"Yeah," Murdock grinned. "We're the A-Team."


"The A-team? Well, that's a mighty strange soundin' name."


"Hoss, that is our military designation."


"Oh, so you are in the military?"


"Well, yes and no, Little Joe...look, we really can't go into all that without,"

Hannibal laughed, "violating the Prime Directive." He looked at his team. "Now,

there's something I never thought I would ever say in a million years."


"Sir, you were just about to fill us in on how you arrived here?" Adam stated,

trying to bring the conversation back on track.


"Like I said, kid, the details are a little hazy, but the last thing we

all remember is being near Hell Fire."


"And this is where it gets strange." Face looked bemused. "Hell Fire is on the



Adam shrugged. "Well, that means the ranch you were on was the Ponderosa."


"Hey," Joe snapped his fingers. "Maybe one of our distant relatives still lives



"Daggum! Could you imagine that...the Ponderosa still alive and kickin over

hundred years later? That should make ya happy, Pa."


The team looked at each other knowing they couldn't tell the Cartwrights that

the Ponderosa never really existed.


Ben shook his head. "But time travel is not possible....I can't believe it."


Hannibal got up and went over to Ben. "Look at me, Ben, look into my

will see I'm not lying. I may be a lot of things, but my word is my bond. You

and I are a lot alike, Ben, you know I wouldn't lie to you or your sons."


Ben smiled. "I believe you would not lie to me."


"Colonel, why didn't you tell us this before now?"


"Well...Adam, until now we didn't know what to make of the whole situation."

Hannibal looked at his team. "I think we need to at least tell them part of the



They nodded.


"Alright, my team and I were accused of a crime that we did not commit and we

are on the run from the army. When we first arrived here we thought maybe this

whole thing was an elaborate set-up to catch us. However, after spending time

with you all, we just feel like we can trust you. I told you all this because we

may need your help to get home, if we ever get home. Ben, I understand if you

want us to leave, but we would really like to stay and help catch the men who

almost took yours and Adam's life."


Ben shook his head. "No, of course I don't want you to leave. Look, it's late, we

all need to get some sleep. This has been a lot to take in."


"You're right, Ben."


"Lieutenant, you take first watch...I'll relieve you at 0200 hours."




"Night Ben...Night Boys."




"Colonel," Murdock whispered.


"Yeah, Murdock?"


"How do you explain the fact that the Cartwrights or at least the ones we know

in our time are not real?"


Hannibal inhaled. "I can't explain it, Murdock, anymore than I can explain why or

how we are here unless this whole thing is a really strange dream."


BA nodded. "I wonder which one of us is doin' the dreamin'?"


"Well, I know it's not Face, because he only dreams about pretty girls."


"Hey, I heard that, Murdock." Face commented from his post.


"Are you saying it's not true, Lieutenant?"


"Nope." Face smiled wryly. "Merely that I heard ya. You're gonna wake everyone



"Right.  Murdock, get some sleep, we'll talk about it in the morning."


"But Colonel...what if it ain't a dream?"


"That's an order, Captain."


Murdock nodded. "Yes sir...goodnight, Hannibal."






"Yes, Joseph?"


"Remember you and I both said we had a good feeling about them?"




"Well,  then maybe they were sent here for a reason."


"But what reason?"


"I don't know, Pa...but maybe God knows."


"We have to have faith, Pa..." Hoss added. "Somethin' you always tried to teach us."


"Or maybe this whole thing is a really strange dream," Adam commented sleepily.


Hoss inhaled. "I wonder which one of us is doin' the dreamin'?"


"Well, I know it's not Joe, because he only dreams about pretty girls."


"Hey, I heard that, Adam."


"Are you saying it's not true, Little Brother?"


"Nope." Joe smiled wryly. "Merely that I heard ya. You're gonna wake everyone



"He's right. Boys, get some sleep, we'll talk about it in the morning."


But Pa...what if it ain't a dream?"


"In the morning, Hoss."


"Yes sir...Night, Pa."


"Goodnight, boys."



Tuck snuck quietly around the outskirts of the campsite.


Face heard the sound of leaves rustling.  He gripped his gun tighter and got up

to investigate.


Tuck stayed out of site and managed to elude the lieutenant.


After a few minutes, Face looked around one last time and shrugged. "Must be

the wind."  He returned to his post.


"Anything wrong, Lieutenant?" Hannibal asked, getting up from his bed.


"No, just thought I heard something, but everything checks out."


"Alright, you go get some sleep. I'll relieve you."


"Night, Hannibal."


A few hours later, Tuck arrived back at the McDermott hideout. "Reese, we got



"Why? What's the matter?"


"There's men camped out about twenty miles south from here.  They got

supplies and rifles.  I think they's lookin' for us.  I recognized the one fella...Ben



"The Cartwrights! I'll wake up Jett...we'd better get moving."



"Hey Pa!"


"Yes, what is it, Hoss?"


"Fresh tracks, Pa...looks like they lead all the way up to Hunter's Canyon."


Ben looked at the tracks. "Yeah, not more than a few hours old."


"What did you find?" Hannibal asked coming over to join the Cartwrights.


"Tracks, Colonel...not more than a few hours."


"Looks like we found their trail," Hannibal replied, looking toward the



Ben nodded. "Alright, then let's follow them."



"Jett, we need to keep moving."


"Boy, I told ya...I've got me some plans."


"But Jett, those men are right on our trail."


"Look, I got me some unfinished business with those Cartwrights.  We'll just

wait for 'em to show up and then we'll kill 'em."


"But Jett..."


"Boy, you're gonna get me riled up and don't think I won't whip ya just like

Daddy used to."


Reese backed down from his older brother. "Alright, Jett."


"Now, get moving and keep an eye out for those men."


"Jett, they're coming!" Harper shouted.


Jett spit on the ground and hankered down into his hiding spot behind the boulder.


"The tracks end here, Pa," Adam stated, looking down from Sport.


Jett took aim and fired at Adam. Startled, Sport bucked and Adam had to fight to

control him. "Woahh, boy...woahhh." Adam urged Sport forward and took cover behind

a mound of  rocks.


Another shot rang out.


The men took cover and returned fire.


"Alright, this is where we need to split up and surround them," Hannibal



"Ben, you, Joe and Adam go East. Face, you Murdock and Hoss head West and BA and

I will cover this area. We'll circle the area and meet back here in one hour."


"Right." The men acknowledged and headed off in their assigned directions.


Soon, the team and the Cartwrights had the McDermotts on the run.


"Jett, what are we gonna do?" Reese asked nervously.


"I'm thinkin', Reese...would you just hush up and let me think."


"But Jett, they' got us surrounded."


"The lake…we'll have to swim across it."


"But that lake will be mighty cold this time a year. We won't make it."


"Listen, Boy...we'll make it or would you rather us get shot?"


Reese nodded. "What about Tuck and Harper?"


"They ain't my concern, little brother.  I just want to make sure we get out

of this one. If'n I'm not there by the time the sun hits the tops of those trees,

you go without me."


"Why, Jett...where ya goin'?"


"I'm gonna double back and see if I can finish what we started in town.  Take

out young Cartwright and his Daddy."


Reese grabbed Jett's arm. "Just let them be, Jett… we have to get out of



"Those two nearly got us killed."


"But all they did was walk in on us when we was robbin' the place."


"It don't matter none, they shoulda minded their own business."


"Jett, don't do're gonna get yourself shot!"


"Don't question me, boy. Now get!"




Pa, we need to split up to cover more ground," Adam suggested.


Ben nodded.


"Alright, Joe, you and Pa go that way and I'll head this way.  We'll circle

around and meet back here."




About fifteen minutes later, Adam was heading around a large boulder when he heard

the sound of footsteps behind him.  He reached for his gun.


"Hold it right there, Cartwright!" Jett hissed and cocked his gun.


Adam froze in place.


"Turn around!"


"Why?  I wouldn't think a man like you would have problems shooting someone

in the back," Adam stated sarcastically.


"I said turn around!" Jett repeated more forcefully.


Adam slowly turned around to face him.


"Drop your gun belt!"


Adam stared defiantly at Jett.


"Do it, Cartwright!"


He undid his gun belt and let it fall to the ground.


Jett raised his gun. "Say your prayers, boy, because you're gonna die."


Adam stared at him, his face void of emotion.


Little Joe was coming down from the rocks when he saw Adam and Jett. "Adam,

get down!" He ordered and fired his gun.


Jett's gun went off as he grabbed his chest and fell to the ground.


Joe ran over to Adam, who was lying face down in the dirt, and grabbed on to him.

"Are you okay?" He searched him frantically for bullet wounds.


"Yes yes...I'm okay...thanks to you, little brother."


Joe smiled. "Well...that's a relief. For a minute there, I thought I was going

to have one less brother to torment."


Adam grinned. "Help me up."


"Doggone it... you're heavy." Little Joe struggled to help Adam to his feet.


"Be thankful I'm not Hoss."


Joe giggled. "Ain't no way I could help him up."


"Me either."


Adam went over to Jett and checked for a pulse.


"Is he dead?"


"Yes Joe, he is," Adam put an arm around his little brother. "Remember what Pa told you, if you are going to carry a gun, then you also have to be ready to kill or be killed. 

It's a big responsibility to carry a gun, but you only use it when you have to and you try never to have to use it, understand boy?"


Little Joe nodded. "I understand, Adam."


"Good. I'm sorry you had to learn a hard lesson so young, Joe, but you did the right thing...Jett would have killed me if you hadn't stopped him."


Little Joe hugged his brother. "I'm just glad you weren't hurt."


"Me too."


Little Joe smiled.


"You remember too, until you prove yourself, Pa wants you only to carry it when you are with me or him when we tell you to...not with Hoss and never by yourself, understood?


"I'll remember, Adam."




"Pa's gonna remind me about that too, huh?"


"I'm sure he is, Little Brother."


"Adam!" Ben yelled, coming over to his boys. "Are you alright, son?" He brushed off Adam's clothes.


"Yeah, Pa...thanks to the kid here."


Ben looked at Little Joe. "Are you alright, son?"


"I'm fine, was Adam who almost got killed."


"No boy...I didn't mean physically...I meant..."


"Don't worry, Pa...Adam already talked to me about it.  I'm fine really."


Ben put his arm around his youngest and hugged him tightly. "That's good, boy."


"I'm just glad you are with us...if not, I would have been a goner."


"Well, someone's gotta look after you, older brother." Joe grinned. "After all, you know I'm already a quicker draw than you."


"Oh really?"


"Yeah, you're slowing down in your old age."


"Well, you just remember that I can still thrash your behind, younger brother."


"Nah-uh!" Joe challenged and playfully punched Adam.


Adam returned the punch, but then Ben stepped in between them. "The only one

who is going to thrash anyone's behind is me, if you two don't stop fooling around

and let us get out of here."


Joe took one last punch at Adam. "Sure Pa...I wouldn't want to see ol' Adam hurt himself anyway."


Adam grabbed Joe and put him in a headlock. "Say it!"




Adam laughed and gave Joe a squeeze. "Thanks."


Joe winked.


"Boys!" Ben scolded. "Get!" He pointed ahead.


The brothers eyed Ben's hand nervously. Joe winked at Adam. "Hey Pa...look over

there!" He pointed.


Ben turned to look and the boys quickly ran past him, successfully avoiding being

whacked on the way by.


"What Little Joe?  I don't see anything. Little Joe? Joe?" Ben turned back around to

see Joe and Adam up ahead. "Lord, remember what I said about the strength?...Double

it!" He grinned and caught up to his boys.



Hoss looked down at the footprints in the dirt. He followed them over to the

water's edge. A few seconds later, everything went black as he fell into the

lake unconscious.



Ben and the boys met up with the team. "Jett is dead. Little Joe shot him."


"I'm afraid Reese got away, Ben," Hannibal replied.


Ben nodded his understanding. "Where's Hoss?"


Murdock pointed to the East. "Hoss went to scout that location. He shoulda been

back by now, Colonel."


Ben looked at Hannibal. "Let's move!"


They came upon a clearing where they saw Hoss laying face down in the water.

"Hoss!" Ben shouted and began to go to him. He was stopped by gunfire coming

from behind a grove of trees. "I have to get to my son."


Hannibal nodded. He motioned for Face and Murdock to go off and different

directions and take out the gunman.


"You ain't taking me alive!" Reese McDermott yelled out from his hiding spot.

"Where's my brother?"


"He's dead...I shot him and your gonna be dead too, if you don't let us get to

my brother," Joe called out angrily.


His statement was answered by gun fire. "Your brother is as dead as mine...I saw

to that."


Joe got to his feet. "I gotta get to Hoss."


He was quickly pulled back down by Hannibal. "Let Face and Murdock take him out

first,'ll get yourself killed if you go out there me."


Joe nodded his head and moved in closer to Ben.


"Alright, hold it right there!" Murdock ordered, pointing his gun at Reese's

back. "Don't make any sudden moves or we'll see what kind of pretty holes my gun

can make."


Reese started to put up his hands in surrender, but then turned and fired on the

Captain. Face fired simultaneously. Reese fell to the ground dead.


"Thanks," Murdock said as Face helped him up from the ground.


Face winked. "All clear, Colonel!"


"Let's get him out of the water," Hannibal ordered.


They picked up Hoss and carried him to the bank. Other than a gash on the back of his head, he was not injured. However, Hoss was pale blue.


"Pa...he's not breathing!" Joe shouted.


"Son, Son....Hoss, answer me, boy...." Ben pleaded and shook him.


There was no response.


Hannibal grabbed Hoss. "Help me turn him over, BA. Stay Back!" He ordered.


Ben collapsed on the ground. "He's boy...dead."


Adam and Joe held onto their father as BA and Hannibal began CPR.


After about two minutes, Hoss spit up water and took a breath. "Take it

easy...just breathe...that's it and out." Hannibal put a hand on BA's

shoulder. "Nice, BA...real nice."


BA smiled and nodded.


Ben came over and grabbed Hoss cradling him in his arms. "Son, I thought I lost



Hoss shook his head confused. "Pa." He clung to his father as Ben continued to rock him.


Adam and Joe came over and put their hands on Hoss, squeezing him, feeling his

warmth, trying to convince themselves he was alive.


Adam was the first to recover from the shock. He went over to Hannibal and stuck

out his hand. "I don't know what you just did to save my brother's life, but I

will forever be indebted to you, sir, and you too, BA." He turned to the sergeant and shook his hand. "To all of you."


Hannibal grinned and patted Adam on the back. "Just happy to help, kid."



"Well, Ben....your son here is one lucky young man...just suffering from

exposure and that gash, but other than that he should be fine." Doc Martin

commented and closed his medical bag. "Just see to it that he stays in bed and

gets plenty to eat and drink."


"Oh, don't worry about that, Doc...I'm as hungry as a bear...ain't had nothin'

but a couple a three breakfasts since mornin'."


Ben laughed. "I'll show you out, doctor."


"So, you say they banged on Hoss' chest and breathed into his mouth and that's

what brought him back?" Doc Martin asked as him and Ben walked down the steps.


Ben shook his head. "I still can't believe it either, doctor, but I saw it with

my own eyes."


"Amazing." The doctor put on his hat and coat and headed out the door.


"Thanks for coming, Paul."



Adam looked at his father. "So, what did the doctor say, Pa?"


"He said that Hoss is going to be fine, but I want you two not to excite him at all, understood?"


"Sure Pa."


"Can I go up and see him now, Pa?"


"No Joseph...I want him to rest and besides you and I have to have that talk about disobeying me by coming along and carrying your gun."


"Aww...but Pa, everything turned out you have to give me a lickin'?"


"It doesn't matter that everything turned out okay, young still disobeyed me and put yourself in a very dangerous situation."


"But Pa...he saved my life...surely, that has got to count for something," Adam interjected.


"Adam, one thing does not have anything to do with the other."


"You could let it go and chalk it up to a mistake. He's just a boy."


"Oh, now he is just a boy....the other day, you said I coddle him too much. What exactly do you want me to do with my son, Adam?"


"I want you to stop being so unreasonable!"


"Unreasonable? This young man could have been killed and you think it is unreasonable of me to punish him?"


"No, but do you have to tan him, especially, the way I know you are going to?"


"In this instance, yes."


"Do you enjoy making your sons cry, Pa?"


"How can you say a thing like that to me?"


"Because you seem to tan one of us at any chance you get!"


"Adam, I suggest you end this argument right now and tend to your chores, understood?"


"Or what,'ll make me cry too?"


"Don't push me, boy."


"Fine, Pa...go enjoy yourself." Adam stomped off to the stables.


"Let's go, Joseph," Ben said and put his arm around his son.



"Can I take his supper up to him, Pa?"


Ben looked at his oldest. "I don't know, Adam...I don't want you to undermine the lesson I am trying to teach him, by telling your brother I was wrong to tan him."


"I promise I will not tell him anything of the sort...I just want to see how he is."


"Fine, but I am holding you to that promise, understood?"


"Yes sir."  Adam grabbed the tray and went up to Joe's room. "Hey there, Little Brother, I brought you up some supper."


"I ain't hungry, Adam."


"Listen, Joe...I know how bad you're feeling, but not eating won't help things."


"Why does Pa have to be so mean all the time?"


"Pa is not mean all the time, he just gets mad when we don't listen to him...which you have to admit is pretty often."


Little Joe smiled. "Yeah, I guess we do give him a hard time."


"We sure do...unfortunately, he usually gives us an even harder time when we do."


"Especially,  this time...this was the worst lickin' I ever got, Adam." Joe buried his face in his arms and cried.


Adam sat next to his little brother and rubbed his back. "Pa is just trying to teach you not to do anything dangerous. You could have been killed, Joe."


"I know," Joe replied and wiped his tears.  "I bet you never did anything this stupid, huh?"


Adam grinned. "That's a bet you would lose."


"Will you tell me?"


"Oh, I don't may give you ideas."


"I promise I won't do whatever it is you did...on my word of honor." Joe spit in his hand and held it out for Adam to shake.


Adam did the same thing and shook Joe's hand. "I'm holding you to it...a man never goes back on his word, once he's given it."






Joe nodded.


"Alright, Pa found this white horse out on the range...the meanest, orneriest horse you ever wanted to meet.  Pa named him Jasper's Ghost and he forbade me even to go near him."


"Don't tell me you went near him?"


"Worse than that...I tried riding him."


"No you didn't...what happened?"


"Well, I was thrown off and nearly trampled to death...if Pa hadn't come along when he did and got me out of there I would have surely been killed."


"Betcha Pa was awful sore."


"Sore wasn't the half of it...I don't think I ever saw him so angry and so scared by something I had done, or in fact, ever did since then."


"Did he give you a lickin'?"


Adam nodded. "The worst lickin' I ever got in my life."


"Did Pa...err...well..."


"If you are trying to ask me if Pa made me drop my britches...the answer is yes...the one and only time I had to do that, and something I never want to do again."


Joe grimaced and rubbed his backside. "Me either."


"Listen Joe, I was wrong about this entire were too young to come along and Pa was right to tan you, but I am glad you were there to save my life."


"I'm glad of that too and having you still here is worth more than any amount of lickins from Pa."


"So, you are saying you would do the same thing again if you had it to do over?"


"If it meant that I saved your life again...then yup, but I think you owe me."


"Oh I do, huh?"


"Yes, you have to spend the entire day fishing with me, and building a fort and playing stick ball and helping finish that raft I was working on and..."


"Alright, alright...I promise as soon as I am caught up on all my work, we will spend an entire weekend doing those things."




"Promise.  Now, eat your supper."


"Okay Adam." Little Joe happily ate his dinner.



"So, anyways Miss Lulu says to Mr. Davis that he was just about the ugliest cuss

that she ever did see and that his horse smelled better than he did." Joe slapped

Adam on the arm. "Pa says he was madder than a hornet."


Adam let out a loud laugh.


"Yeah and then she said..."


"Hey, whatcha two fellas talkin 'bout?"


"Oh sorry, Hoss, did we disturb you?" Adam asked quietly.


"No, no...just sounded like you two was sure havin' yourselves a mighty

interestin' conversation."


"Nah, we were just talking about something that happened when Pa was in town this morning getting supplies," Joe replied dismissively.


"I've been mighty lonely up here the last five days. Why don't ya fellas come on in and tell me all about it?" He patted the edge of his bed.


Adam looked at Joe. "Well actually, brother...Joe and I have some work to



"But, it's nearly supper time."


Joe smiled nervously. "Oh well, Pa wants us to...ummm..."


"Finish cleaning out the stalls..."


"Yeah, you know how Pa is about clean stalls. A clean stall makes for a happy



Adam nodded. "Come on, Joe." He grabbed Joe by the arm dragging him down the

hall. Once they were out of earshot of Hoss, Adam stopped. "A clean stall makes for a

happy horse? Why don't you embroider that on a sampler, Little Brother...give it

to Pa for his birthday. He can hang it in the barn."


Joe shrugged. "Well, it's the best I could come up with."


"A clean stall makes for a happy horse," Adam muttered and headed downstairs.



"You cheated!"


"What? How could you say such a thing?" Face asked shocked.


"Because it's the truth!"


"Hannibal, would you tell the kid here that I would never do such a underhanded



Hannibal looked up from the book he was reading. "Ah, could you repeat that,



Face put his hands on his hips. "Would you tell the kid  here that I would never do

such a thing as cheat at checkers."


"Joe, Face would never cheat at checkers."


"Thank you, Colonel." Face looked smugly at Joe. "See, there that proves it, Kid," Face said and tousled Joe's hair.


"Doggone it! Cut that out!" Little Joe pouted.


Hannibal went back to the book he was reading. "Now cards...there's something he cheats at."


Joe giggled.


"Thanks a lot, Hannibal."


"Well, Kid, I can't lie to the boy. What kind of example would I be setting?"


"I'll remember this, the next time you need me to set you up with a fancy penthouse to impress the ladies."


Hannibal grinned.


"Joseph, this is the one time I haven't had to tell you to take your feet off the furniture," Ben said as he came into the living room.


Joe smiled. "That's because I still ain't able to sit down long enough to get that comfortable, Pa...but give me a day or two and you'll be yelling at me again."


Ben laughed. "So, what are you two up to?"


"Well, we were playing checkers, Pa."


"Checkers, huh? Hey, Face, you didn't let him cheat, did ya? Because he does it

all the time."




"What? I can't lie to the man." Ben grinned. "Where's your brother?"


"Upstairs inbed."


"Smart alek...I meant your brother know, smart fella, likes black?"


"He's in the barn, Pa...polishing his saddle."


"Would you fetch him for me, please?"


"Why, Pa?"


Ben cleared his throat. "Because I said go, before I tell Face how you

cheat at cards as well."


Face grinned. "Ha!"



"You wanted to see me, Pa?" Adam asked, coming over to Ben's desk.


"Oh yes, son...I need you to ride out to Genoa and meet with Mr. Fallon."


"About the timber contracts?"


"Yes, I think it will be a good deal."


"Me too, you want me to leave tonight?"


"If you wouldn't mind, son. Mr. Fallon sent a letter saying that he wants to meet with you at 10 a.m. sharp."


"Sure Pa."


"Hey, Johnny?"


"Yes, Murdock?"


"Well, I was wondering, if ah...if it wouldn't be too much trouble if...ah..."


Adam grinned. "Yes, you may come along with me." He looked at Hannibal. "If that

is alright with you, sir?"


"It's fine by me...if you sure you want to take him. Murdock can be quite a handful."


Murdock smiled. "Oh, I promise I'll be good...cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye."


Adam laughed. "I could use the company."


Hannibal nodded.


Ben came over and put an arm around Murdock and Adam. "I'd better not hear about

any mischief out of you two."


Murdock grinned. "Oh, no sir, Mr. C., certainly wouldn't hear about it.

Johnny and me would keep any mischief to ourselves. You'll get only the good



Ben smiled. "You sure you want to take this scamp with you, Adam?"


"Don't worry, Pa...if I can take Little Joe along on a trip and keep him out of

trouble. I'm sure I can handle Murdock."


Joe looked up from the checkerboard. "Are you trying to say that I'm a trouble

maker, Adam?"


"Yup, that's exactly what I'm saying."


"Ha Ha Ha!" Joe sneered and looked back at the board. "Hey, there's something

different about this board. Face, you're cheating again, aren't ya?"


"I would never do such a thing...tell him, Hannibal..."


"You would so cheat."


"Would not."


"Would too."


"Hey kid, could you use some more company on your trip?" Hannibal asked, getting

away from Face and Joe.


Everyone shook their heads and laughed. "Come on, Murdock...let's get packed."


"Sure thing, Johnny."


"How's about you and I see if there is any left over cake in the kitchen,



"Good idea, Ben."


"Would so cheat!"


"Would not!




Adam was standing in front of the mirror shaving. "Alright, Murdock, I have to

meet with Mr. Fallon at his house at ten. I should be back here at the hotel

by noon and then you and I can have lunch, sound good?"


Murdock sat on the edge of his bed. "Sure," he said sadly.


Adam turned from the mirror. "What's the matter, Murdock?"


"Well," he sighed, "it's just that it's real boring here and I ain't got

nothing to do while you're gone."


Adam grinned. "Would you like to come with me?"


Murdock jumped up. "You mean it, Johnny?"


"Yes, I mean it, but," Adam wiped his face with a towel and folded his arms,

"only on three conditions."


Murdock sat back down on the bed. "Name them."


" need to put on a clean shirt. have to promise to behave

and have to promise not to call me Johnny in front of Mr. Fallon or

his wife. If you agree to these conditions, then we have a deal."


Murdock stuck out his hand. "Deal."


Adam shook Murdock's hand firmly. "Check my saddle bags, there is a shirt in

there that will fit you."


"Stop fidgeting, will ya?" Adam admonished as he attempted to tie Murdock's tie.

"You're worse than Little Joe is when I do this for him."




"Well, there we go, now how do we look?" Adam asked turning Murdock toward the



"Murdock smiled.  "I'd say you and me make a couple of handsome muchachos."


Adam straightened his own tie. "Yes, we do look a might dapper this morning, if

I do say so myself." Adam put his hand up and indicated toward the door. "Shall



Murdock smiled. "After you. Now, you, no, I insist...after you."


Adam looked at him puzzled and then shrugged. "No, no, I insist...after you."


Murdock bowed. "Thank you."


Adam returned the bow.


They walked out the door. "What was that all about?"


Murdock grinned. "Guess you never heard of the Goofy Gophers?"




"Never mind."



Adam and Murdock walked up the steps of Mr. Fallon's house. "Now, remember what

I said."


"Don't worry about me, Johnn.."


"Ah ah..."


"I mean, Adam. You won't even know I'm here."


Adam sighed and knocked on the door. A very proper dark-haired woman in her

mid-fifties answered. "Good morning, you must be Mr. Cartwright?"


"Yes ma'am," Adam replied, taking off his hat.


"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Cartwright."


"The pleasure is mine, ma'am."


Mrs. Fallon smiled. "Won't you please come husband is expecting you."


"Thank you, ma'am, and this is my business associate Mr. Murdock."


"Nice to meet ya, ma'am," Murdock reached out and grabbed her hand, shaking it

rather hard.


Adam winced.


Mrs. Fallon was taken aback. "Oh's...very nice to meet you too,

Mr. Murdock. Won't you gentlemen follow husband is in the study."


Adam smiled. "Yes ma'am. Thank you."


"Boy oh Boy, this sure is a nice place," Murdock whispered to Adam. "Bet they

got lots of money, huh?"


Adam put on a fake smile and whispered. "Behave."


Mrs. Fallon knocked on the door to her husband's study. "Dear...Mr. Cartwright

and his business associate are here to see you."


"Please, come in," the rather large gentleman, with a distinctly Southern

accent, gestured for them to enter.


"Thank you, sir," Adam replied.


"Mr. Cartwright, these are my associates, Mr. Beal, Mr. Hanson and Mr. Davis."


"Gentlemen. Oh, and this is Mr. Murdock, he's visiting from out of town and I

asked him to join me. I hope you don't mind, Mr. Fallon?"


"Oh, not at all, son. Please, won't you sit down?"


"Thank you."


Adam and Murdock quickly sat down.


"How is your father, Adam?"


"He's doing quite well, sir...he sends his regards."


"I was surprised he didn't make this trip himself. Couldn't drag him away from

those ponderosas of his, I suppose."


Adam laughed. "Yes sir...he does love his trees."


"Speaking of which, I guess you're anxious to discuss cutting down some of those

trees and selling them to me?"


"Well, sir, that is why we came."


", what we are looking at is the first delivery in three months. Do think that can be's a rather large order?"


Adam smiled. "Sir, we will have the timber here on time. All you need to do is

agree to the price and set a date."


"Excuse me...I thought you gentleman might like some lemonade," Mrs. Fallon said

as she came in and set the tray on the table.


"Yes, thank you, ma'am," Adam replied, taking a glass from the tray.


Murdock got up to open the door for her and was unknowingly standing on a very

large portion of the bottom of Mrs. Fallon's dress, needless to say when she

went to leave most of her skirt stayed on the floor.


The gentlemen in the room quickly averted their eyes. Mrs. Fallon fainted from

shock and Adam wished he could curl into a ball and die.


"Mr. Cartwright! I suggest you leave my house this instant and take this

bohemian who dishonored my wife with you!"


"But Mr. Fallon, surely you can see it was an accident."


"Son, where I'm from a man can be shot for doing what you, I suggest

you leave before I forget we ain't in Mississippi."


Adam grabbed Murdock by the arm. "Yes sir...I'm sorry,'am," he said to

the unconscious Mrs. Fallon. "Gentlemen...let's go, Murdock!"


"And I will make sure your father hears about this!" Mr. Fallon yelled out as

the front door slammed shut.




"Of all the idiotic, stumped brained could you let this happen?" Adam



"I'm sorry, Adam, I didn't realize I was standing on her dress."


Adam paced back and forth furiously. "Do you know what Pa is going to do to me?

To you? To both of us? When Mr. Fallon tells him about this?"


Murdock gulped. "That bad, huh?"


Adam nodded. "Murdock, it's been quite some time since Pa has taken me out to

the barn and tanned me, but I'm pretty sure that possibility still exists. Do you realize that you embarrassed one of the most well-respected, wealthiest women in Genoa? Not to mention her husband, who holds the key to many future business deals. Deals my father will never make, because of what happened here this morning?"


"Geeze, I am really sorry, Adam, maybe if I tell your Pa what happened?"


"No, Murdock, that isn't good enough. We need to fix this entire situation

before we go home. I can't have Pa lose out of thousands of dollars worth of

timber contracts because of something we caused."


"How are we going to fix it? Mr. Fallon was awfully angry."


"Well, I'm not sure yet, but I will think of a solution."


Murdock looked down at the dirt. "I shouldn't have come with you, Adam...I

really messed things up."


Adam's anger subsided when he saw how sorry Murdock was. "Murdock, you didn't

purposely set out to embarrass Mrs. Fallon, did you?"


"No." He kicked the ground with his boot.


"Then it was a mistake and I'm used to fixing lots of mistakes." Adam smiled.

"You're forgetting who my brothers are."


Murdock looked up and smiled. "And if not, you could always come back to 1984

with me, your Pa wouldn't be able to give you a whuppin' then."


Adam put his arm around Murdock and grinned. "Even that wouldn't stop Pa when he

sets his mind to something. What we need to do is come up with a solution out of this mess."



"So anyway, Hoss, you should see Jamie Lynn...she's just about the prettiest girl I ever did see."


"Joseph, are you bothering your brother?"


"No Pa...I was just telling him about..."


"Joe," Ben interrupted, "are you feeling up to riding?"


"Sure Pa...I reckon my hide has recovered enough." He punched Hoss on the arm and laughed. "For short trips anyway."


"Good...I need you to ride over to the Giles place and ask Mr. Giles if he will meet me tomorrow at 11 a.m. to discuss trading some stock for that prize bull of his."


"But Pa...I was planning on going over to the Hawkins place, because Adam wants me to apologize for..."


"Son, with Adam in will have to help out more."


"But Pa..."


"No buts, can go to the Hawkins' place another, do as I ask."


"Yes sir."




"Yes, Hoss?"


"I can ride over and see Mr. Giles."


"No Hoss... you will stay right there and rest. Little Joe will ride over to the Giles' place."


Hoss nodded.


"Sure Pa. So, anyway back to Jamie Lynn..."


"Now, Joseph."


"Yes sir...I'll see ya later, Hoss."


"And apologize for what, young man?"


Joe smiled nervously. "Err...nothing, Pa...Mr. Giles is waiting!" He quickly left the room.


" should be taking it easy."


Hoss sighed. "Yes Pa."



"Alright Murdock, this is what we are going to do," Adam said as he and Murdock walked down the middle of town.


Murdock leaned in closer.


"We are going to go back to the Fallon house and politely ask Mr. and Mrs. Fallon to forgive us for what happened yesterday. I want you to be on your best behavior and please do not shake Mrs. Fallon's hand again. That is not the proper way to greet a lady of her caliber."


"Oh, I'm sorry...I keep forgetting I'm not in 1984," Murdock grinned. "Because if we were...Mrs. Fallon would have been wearing a lot less under her dress...a lot less."


Adam looked thoughtfully for a moment. "Maybe I would like to hear about 1984 after all."


Murdock smiled. "I only need to say one word, my friend...string Bikini...ahhh, what a marvelous invention."


"String Bikini?  Is that some sort of saddle?"


Murdock put his arm around Adam. "Son, I ain't talking about sirree...I'm talking about the greatest invention of all times."


The Captain was just about to fill Adam in on the finer points of the bikini when they heard a shout coming from a nearby side street.


Adam and Murdock quickly ran to see what was going on. 



Hoss sat back in his bed and sighed. "Dagburnit! I can't stand it no longer." He got up and went to the door.  He opened it quietly and looked down the hall. Not seeing anyone, he tip toed out.


"Just where do you think you're going, young man?"


Hoss cringed at the sound of his father's voice.


"I was just...ummm....goin'...out for some fresh air, Pa."


"Well will do no such thing."


"But Pa..."


Ben pointed down the hall.


Hoss exhaled in defeat.


Ben followed him into his room. "Now, you just get right back into this bed." Ben tucked him in, pulling the covers tightly up around him.


"But Pa...I'm feelin' a whole lot better."


"I'll decide when you're feeling a whole lot better."


"But Pa..."


"No buts." Ben warned and left the room.


"Dagburnit!" Hoss exclaimed and tossed the covers off himself.




The grungy young man knelt down beside the graves of the two McDermott brothers. "Don't you fret none, neither, Reese...I'll make sure that whoever did this to you, pays the price."  He took out a knife and plunged it into the earth.  That's a promise from your baby brother." He got up, put his hat back on his head and rode off to town.



"What's the matter, Sweetheart? Don't you wanna gimme a kiss?" The filthy man asked, grabbing the lady by her arm.


"Unhand me!" She ordered and tried to pull away from him.


"Listen here, little filly, you'd better stop fightin' me before I really get riled up!"


Murdock and Adam came upon the scene, immediately Murdock lunged for the man knocking him to the ground. Within a minute, he had knocked him out.


"Are you alright, ma'am?" Adam asked, helping the lady to her feet.


"Oh yes...I'm fine...thank you," she replied, still shaking with fear.


It took Adam a few seconds to recognize her. "Mrs. Fallon..." He immediately took off his hat. "Did he hurt you, ma'am?"


"No, no...Mr. Cartwright...I'm fine, thanks to you and Mr. Murdock."


Murdock came over and took off his hat. "I'm glad that we could help you, ma'am."


"I'm glad you we're here to help.  I don't know what he would have done, if you hadn't been. "


Adam smiled. "Well, don't worry about that now, let's get you home."


"Yes, thank you, Mr. Cartwright...I would appreciate that very much."


"Our pleasure, Ma'am."


"Ummm..."Murdock said nervously.  "Maybe I should stay here?  I don't think your husband would want to see me."


"Oh, don't worry about my husband. I'm sure once he hears what you gentlemen have done all will be forgiven."


"Are you sure, ma'am? He was pretty angry," Murdock added nervously.


"Yes, yes…my dear,, if you wouldn't mind?" She held up her arm for Murdock to take it.


Murdock smiled and took her arm. "I really am sorry about your dress."


She patted him playfully. "Oh, that old thing? Don't you worry, it will give me an excuse to buy a new one."


Murdock smiled shyly.


Adam breathed a sigh of relief and the three of them went off to the Fallon house.



The next day Adam and Murdock arrived back at the Ponderosa. "Alright, now remember... not a word of this to Pa. I think it's best off if we don't say anything to him.  There is no sense of upsetting him over a situation that resolved itself quite nicely."


"Mum's the word...I'll tie the horses up, Adam," Murdock offered.


Adam nodded.


Ben came out of the house. "Well, Adam...I'm glad you're back, son!" He said and gave Adam a pat on the back.


"Glad to be back, Pa."


"How was your trip?"


"Good, everything went real well. Mr. Fallon agreed to our price and wants the first shipment in three months."


"Wonderful.  I was just heading out to do a little riding.  I'll be back in an hour."


"Howdy Mr. C., didya miss me?" Murdock asked excitedly.


"Well, yes I did, Murdock.  It's been quiet without you around here."


Murdock smiled, slightly embarrassed by the teasing.


"So, where is everyone, Pa?"


"I'm not sure exactly.  It's Sunday...everyone is off getting into mischief, I suppose. Speaking of which, you two behave yourselves in Genoa?"


"Yes sir," they answered innocently.


"Nothing happened that I should know about?"


"No sir."


Ben eyed them suspiciously. "Why don't I believe you?"


"Old age, Pa, it's causing you to be a might cynical."


"Old age?" Ben exclaimed.


"Well, Murdock and I need to get unpacked." Adam grabbed Murdock. "See ya later, Pa."


"Adam! Murdock! Boy, am I glad to see ya!" Joe exclaimed as they came in the front door.


"Well, hello to you too, Little Brother."


"We need your help. Where's Pa?"


"He just went off to do a little riding. Why, is there something the matter?"


"It's Hoss, Adam, he's not doing too well."


"What's wrong?"


"Come with me...I'll tell you all about it."



"Are you sure you men know what you are doing?" Adam asked them apprehensively.


"Aww...come on, saw how easily they took out the McDermott gang, besides it's for Hoss," Joe replied.


Adam grimaced. "I don't know, brother, the McDermott gang is one thing, but this is an entirely different situation. Frankly, I believe it's way more dangerous.  I don't think I should allow this to happen.  After all, I'm the oldest and supposed to be the sensible one.  What would Pa think, if anything were to happen?"


Little Joe put his hands on his hips. "Look Adam, if you don't want to come along...then go read or something, but don't try and stop us.  We're doing this and that's all there is to it!" He stated with finality.


"Fine, but don't blame me if you get yourself hurt.  You just remember I am opposed to this whole idea in the first place. I don't know how I let you talk me into things like this."


"Of course you are, always are."


"Let's do this before we lose our window of opportunity." Adam shoved Joe forward.


The five boys huddled at the top of the steps. "Alright, this is what the Colonel would call, your classic half pincer movement inside a guarded perimeter," Face said seriously.


"Sounds dangerous," Little Joe gulped.


Adam nodded in agreement.


Murdock's expression grew serious. "Well, it can be if you don't know what your doing and you also have to take into account the strength of your enemy."


BA took out the paper and laid it on the floor in front of them.  "This is a map of the area."


They all studied it intently.


"Now, what we need to do is synchronize our watches." Face held up his arm.


"Watches?" Joe giggled. "Pa wears a pocket watch on Sundays for Church...I can go get it if you want."


Face shook his head. "Never mind."


Murdock looked at the Grandfather clock in the foyer. "Ok Faceman, it's 15:30 hours....that's 3:30," he explained looking at Joe and Adam.


"Ok good...that gives us exactly ten minutes to make it into enemy territory, complete our mission and rendezvous at the predetermined location. Any questions?"


"What happens if one of us is caught?" Adam asked, concern creeping into his voice..


"Only give them your name, rank and serial number." Murdock put his hand on Adam's shoulder. "Even under extreme torture, Johnny."


Adam looked at Little Joe. "Let me reiterate my earlier statement. Why do I let you talk me into these things?"


Joe leaned on Adam's shoulder. "Come on...have any of my other ideas ever went wrong?"


Adam was just about to reply when he was silenced by Joe putting up a finger. "Don't answer that."


Face looked at his team and smiled. "Ready?"


"As I'll ever be," Adam replied dryly.


"Let's move."


Murdock took position at the front door, BA went around to guard the back, Face took point at the outside kitchen door, while Joe and Adam went into the kitchen.


Adam looked around nervously. "Do you see him?"


Joe climbed up to the window.  "He is outside hanging up the wash."


"You sure?"


"Yeah, I can see him from here....just hurry up, will ya?"


"I gotta find something to put them in, Joe."


Meanwhile, Ben stopped his horse at the hitching post and tied him to the rail. "Howdy, Hop Sing...doing the wash I see?"


"Yes, Hop Sing nearly finished....time to start supper soon."


"Good, Good...I'm hungry as a bear."


"Hop Sing make donuts, glad big boy in bed still or he eat all before dinner. You try one, Mista Cartwright. You like very much."


Ben laughed. "I may just do that, Hop sing."


Face saw Ben and opened the kitchen door. "Your father is coming in the front door...ETA one minute."


Joe looked at Face. "ET what?"


"Never mind. I'll have Murdock stall guys find a way to get out of there." 


Adam grimaced. "What do you say we abort this mission?"


Joe shook his head. "Nope...we came this far, we ain't turning back now."


"What a time for you to want to finish something you started...turning over a new leaf? He asked sarcastically.


Joe grinned. "Just trying to be like my big brother."


Adam smirked.


Face ran over to the front door and opened it. "Murdock, Mr. Cartwright is coming."


"No problem, Faceman...leave it to me."


"Howdy Face," Ben said as he came up on the porch.


"Oh Hello, Mr. Cartwright...nice weather we're having, isn’t it?"


"Yes, fine weather, still a bit nippy...but plenty of sun...I'm glad of that, after the bad snow storm we had last month."


Face nodded in agreement.


"Well, I have some paperwork to finish...excuse me."  Ben tipped his hat and opened the front door. 


He was assaulted by Murdock. "Mr. C., I have been admiring this piece that's hanging on the wall...can you tell me about it?"


"Well Murdock, I really have a lot of paperwork to do...perhaps after dinner..."


"Oh, but Mr. C.!" Murdock shouted. "It will only take a few minutes...please." He guided Ben over to the barometer, making sure his back was to the living room.


Face opened the kitchen door. "Hop Sing is coming...get out now!"


Adam grabbed the plate, covering himself in powdered sugar in the process.


"Alright, boy...don't get so excited." Ben laughed. "It's called a banjo barometer and it's used to predict the weather patterns."


Joe and Adam popped their heads around the corner wall and saw Murdock and Ben looking at the barometer.  Murdock waved them on.


"Really? Mr. C.,...please, go on."


"Well, you can tell when we are going to have bad weather, good weather, fair weather..."




"Yes, yes it is...but I'll tell you this...if it could predict what my sons are up to at this moment, than it would really be impressive. Boys!"


Adam and Joe stopped by the edge of the steps. Adam smirked. "How does he do that?"


"Years of practice, young man."


Adam handed Joe the plate of donuts and turned around to face Ben.


Joe ducked behind his brother.


"Hiya Pa," Adam replied nonchalantly.


"Adam, may I ask what you are doing?"




Ben folded his arms across his chest. "That's not powdered sugar I see all over your shirt, is it?"


Adam looked down. "Oh that...powdered sugar? No, of course how would I have powdered sugar all over me?"


Ben eyed his son. "Well, maybe it’s from those donuts that your brother is holding behind your back. Joseph, come out here, please."


"Err...Hi Pa."


"Just where do you think you are going with those?"


"They're for Hoss, cheer him up."


"Oh, for Hoss to cheer him up...I see, and the two of you talked our guests into participating in this little scheme?"


"Actually, Pa...I was opposed to the whole idea in the first place," Adam replied.


"Is that so?"


A smug look came to Adam's face. "Yes, I thought it was a childish and utterly ridiculous idea."


Ben nodded. "Childish and ridiculous, huh?  But here you are standing in the middle of the living room covered from head to toe in powdered sugar." Ben shook his head. "My oldest and most sensible son, indeed."


Joe laughed.


"And you," Ben pointed at Joe, "talking your brother and our guests into going along with this nonsense."


"But Pa..."


"No buts... march into the kitchen and give those back to Hop Sing."


"Hop Sing's gonna be awful sore, Pa," Joe replied and put on his most pathetic face. "He's gonna give us a lickin' with his spoon, sir."


Ben put his hands on his hips. "Well, that'll teach you two a lesson, now won't it? Go!" He ordered.


Adam and Joe hung their heads and started for the kitchen, when they heard a loud shout. "Where Hop Sing's donuts?"


Ben cringed at the sound of Hop Sing's voice.  "Sons, I suggest you make a hasty retreat," he said pointing to the steps.


They looked at Ben confused.


Ben shrugged. "I'm feeling go, before I change my mind, and make sure you eat all the evidence."


"Oh, don't worry, Pa...Hoss will have these gone in no time."  Little Joe grinned. "Thanks, Pa!"


Hop Sing came storming out of the kitchen. "What going on 'round here, Mista Cartwright?" He asked angrily.


Adam and Joe laughed when they heard Ben's reply. "Nuthin'."  They quickly headed down the hall to Hoss' room.


"Some classic half pincer movement, Face," Murdock whispered.


Face shrugged. "Well, it worked just about as well the last time Hannibal tried it...remember Borneo?"


Murdock grinned. "It must have something to do with kitchens.'




"Ah, I think we'll go join the guys and have some of those donuts," Murdock replied nervously, as they ran past Ben and Hop sing.


"Boys have donuts?" Hop sing yelled.  "That's it! Don't have time for foolishment! Hop Sing quit...go back China."


"Now, Hop Sing... let's be reasonable," Ben pleaded, as he followed the angry cook into the kitchen.





Ben heard the sounds of laughter coming from Hoss' room. "Hey, someone having a party and not invite me?" he asked coming into the room.


"Oh hey, Pa...we're just havin' ourselves some of these de-li-cious donuts...want one?"


"Don't mind if I do, son," Ben replied and took a donut from the plate. "So, did these fellas tell you how they managed to get these donuts for ya, son?"  He eyed the boys.


They all looked at Ben guiltily.


"Sure did, Pa, and its nice knowin' I got kin and friends who would be willin' to risk life and limb just to make me happy."


"Oh, come on, don't think we did this for you, do you?" Joe teased. "We were just hungry and wanted a snack."


Hoss laughed. "Well, it don't matter none anyhow, because I know your just pullin' my leg, little brother...ya love me and ya know it."


Joe keeled over and fell on the floor. "Oh, make him stop, please...I can't take all this mushy stuff."


Adam grinned. "I thought you liked all the 'mushy' stuff, Brother?"


"Well... only when it comes out of a pretty girl like Miss Jamie Lynn Hawkins." He looked dreamily. "Now, there's someone I could really talk mushy to all night long"


Ben cleared his throat. "Now... there won't be any of this 'talking really mushy to all night long' nonsense, young man."


Little Joe swallowed hard. "Pa, you know I meant 'all night long' as in until a decent know me, Pa...I'm a gentleman "


Adam rolled his eyes. "A gentleman, huh...that's not what Mr. Hawkins said when he caught you two smooching out behind the barn at midnight." Adam cringed, immediately regretting his statement. "Sorry, Little Joe...that slipped out."


Ben put his hands on his hips. "Oh really? Care to elaborate on this, Joseph?"


"Err... not really, Pa." He glared at Adam. "Thanks a lot, Big Brother."


"I think you and I need to have a talk about the proper way to treat a lady, young man.”


“It was just one little kiss, Pa.”


 “One little kiss?  You shouldn’t be kissing girls yet, Joseph.”


"But I’m almost twelve, Pa."


"Well, then by all means you are ready for marriage and you won't be twelve until next year, young man."


"Sorry sir. “


“We also need to talk about what you were doing out at midnight…when you are supposed to be in bed at 9 o’clock! I don’t even like Adam out that late!”


 Right now, Pa?" Joe squeaked.




"Yes sir. Pa?"




"Are you gonna give me a lickin'?"


"Yes. Now, go and wait in the hall!"


"Yes sir."


"And you too, Adam."


"Me?" Adam asked innocently.  "Why? What did I do?"


"You know better than to keep things like this from me."


"Pa, is this lecture really necessary?"


Ben pointed to the door.


"You're the boss."


"Watch the sarcasm, boy."


Adam stared at his father.


"Do you want to say something, young man?"


"Nothing you'd care to hear," Adam replied.


"Excuse me?"


"Sorry sir."


"Join your brother in the hall."


"Yes sir." Adam went out and stood next to Little Joe.


Ben glared at his middle son. "Did you know about this, Boy?"


"No sir," Hoss replied, spitting out donut crumbs.


"It's a good thing or you'd be joining your brothers for that talk."


"Yes sir."


"Well, at least no one has to tell me how to treat a lady, younger brother," Adam said smugly.


"Oh please, you probably wouldn't be able to tell a girl from a horse!"


"Is that so?"


"Yeah, that's so. Here's a hint... a girl smells better and has longer hair."


"For your information, Brother..."


"Boys!" Ben bellowed. "I'll be the one doing the yelling around here."


Hoss was grinning like a Cheshire cat.


"Whatcha smiling at, Hoss?" Murdock asked between bites of donut.


"Well, I reckon it's because Pa done yelled at me."




"Yeah, Pa's been tiptoein' around me for the past week. So's Adam and Little Joe, drivin' me plumb loco... I think they thought maybe I'd up and die on them again if'n they made too much noise.  Now, Joe and Adam's teasin' me and fussin' at each other like they do.  And Pa's madder than a hornet. It's just the way things oughta be."


"Did anyone ever tell you, you are a born philosopher, Hoss?" Face asked.


"Nah...I just see things differently than other folks do sometimes is all."


"Pass me another donut, Hoss."


"Sure, Face. These sure are mighty tasty, ain't they?"




"Son, may I come in?" Ben asked quietly as he opened Hoss' door.


"Sure Pa...come on in."


"Thank you, son."


Ben came in slowly and stood uneasily by Hoss' bed.


"Something wrong, Pa?"


"Son, I came to apologize for yelling at you the way I did a little while ago," Ben replied nervously.


Hoss slapped his legs frustrated. "Pa, you ain't got nothin’ to apologize for."


"Yes, I do, son...I shouldn't have lost my temper like I did...I shouldn't upset you."


"Dagburnit, Pa! Now, you just hold on right there....there ain't nothin' wrong with me. Sure, we had a little scare, but I'm alive, Pa...alive!" Hoss reached out and grabbed Ben's hand and put it to his chest. “Feel that, Pa?  That's my heart beatin' and it's good and strong. So, don't you worry none about a little yellin' would take a might more than that to upset me."


Ben smiled.


"Now, Pa, would you do me a favor?"


"Sure, son...anything?"


"Stop all this pussyfootin' and tiptoein' around's drivin' me plumb loco!"


Ben moved his hand to Hoss arm and squeezed tightly. "Sure son."




Ben stood up straight and pointed to the door. "Well, since you are so healthy as you claim.  Then I say you get out of this bed, get dressed and join us for supper.  No more of this lollygagging for you, young man."


"Sounds like a mighty fine idea to me, Pa."


"Good!  And Son?"


"Yeah Pa?"


"Thank you."


"For what?"


"For setting me straight...sometimes us fathers need a little lecturing as well."


Hoss smiled. "Speakin' of which...where's those brothers of mine?  You didn't tan Little Joe, did ya?"


"No, but I should have.  Little Joe will be the one to help the hands dig the new well in the north pasture. For now, I sent those two out to chop wood. I figured they could take out their frustrations on the wood pile and not on each other. And if you’re not downstairs in fifteen'll be joining them. Understood?"


"Yes down right quick."


Ben nodded and shut the door.


Hoss sat back in his bed. "Yup, everythin's just as it oughta be."  He quickly got up and dressed for dinner.




"So, you fellas have fun choppin' wood?"


"Loads," Adam replied sarcastically and went back to cutting his chicken.


Hoss smiled. "Hey, Little Joe...Pa here tells me that you're gonna

be the one to help dig that new well?"


Little Joe sneered and put a forkful of mashed potatoes in his mouth.


"Hey, guess that'll teach ya two to stop fussin' at each other and I

betcha you won't be goin' out late no more, Little Brother." Hoss

hung his head. "Shameful the way you two cause so much

trouble 'round here."


Adam dropped his silverware onto his plate. "Can we send him back

to bed, Pa?"


"Yeah, Pa...I think Hoss is gonna be feeling poorly again," Joe

glared at him, "real soon."


Hoss laughed. "Gotta watch that temper of yours, Little

could get you in a whole heap of trouble."


Joe turned and was going to say something, but was silenced by

Ben. "Listen Boys, I'm going into town tomorrow morning and I won't

be back until late evening."


"Anything wrong, Pa?"


Ben smiled. "No, Adam...I just have some business to tend to and

then I am meeting Roy for supper."


"You want me to come along with ya, Pa?" Joe asked.


"No. You have a well to start digging bright and early, young man."


"Bright and, those are two words that do not go with Little

Joe Cartwright," Adam teased.


"You got that right, Big Brother."


"I'll have you two know ...that I can get up just as early as any man."


"Man? In case you haven't noticed, younger brother," Adam said with just the right touch of superiority, "you still have quite a ways to go before you can call yourself



Little Joe threw his napkin onto his plate. "Listen, Adam..."


"Boys!" Ben scolded. "Do I have to send you two back out to the

woodpile? You are forgetting your manners." He motioned to the team.


"Sorry, Pa," Little Joe said quickly.


Ben looked at Adam.


"Are you expecting me to say something?" Adam asked calmly.


Ben took a deep breath. "I expect you to apologize for your rudeness."


"Oh, I'm sorry..."


Ben looked back down at his plate.


"....I didn't realize I needed to be told when to apologize for something."


Ben put his fork down and glared at his son. "Well, apparently you do, young man."


"Apparently you have forgotten that I am not a child."


"Well, you certainly are acting like one."


"Hey Adam...I was just funnin' ya...ain't no need to get your dander up," Hoss said trying to lighten the tension at the table.


"Yeah too, you know how I like to rile ya," Little Joe added.


"Shut up, the two of you!"


"Adam...that's it...leave this table and do not return until you can act civilly."


Adam exhaled. "Do you want me to go to my room, Pa?" he asked with impertinence in his voice.


"Yes actually, and you can remain there until tomorrow morning...maybe you will be able to behave properly at breakfast."


"Fine." He turned to everyone. "If you will excuse me." Adam got up from the table and went up to his room.


Ben looked at his other two sons "Let's see if we can finish this meal without anymore arguing."



The next morning, Adam was sitting at the table, picking at some food, when Hoss came down the steps. "Well, good mornin', Big Brother.  Ain't surprised to see you here bright and early, seein' as you must be hungry after bein' sent to bed without supper."


"You know, Hoss, did anyone ever tell you that you have a knack for stating the obvious?"


"If'n by that you mean I tells it like I sees it...then I reckon I have a knack for it."


Adam smiled slightly.  "I just didn't feel like facing Pa this morning or anyone else for that matter."


"Well, I tell ya what, Brother, how's about you and me leave Pa a note and get an early start on fixin' that patch of fence in the south pasture?"


Adam looked at his brother. "You knew I would be up this early and down here, didn't you?"


Hoss grinned and pulled the note for Ben out of his pocket. "Let's go."


"Aren't you gonna have breakfast?"


"Ate me somethin' an hour ago...thought you be up earlier."


Adam smiled.



Little Joe came bounding up on Cochise. "Howdy, big brothers!"


"What are you doing here, boy?" Adam asked putting down the fence post.


"I was just coming over to see my brothers and say howdy."


"Aren't you supposed to be digging that well like Pa said, Joseph?"


"Doggone...older brother, don't get yourself so riled up...I'm heading over there right now."


"Well, you best do that, boy."


Little Joe reached into his saddle bag and handed Adam a napkin with a sandwich in it. "When I didn't see ya at breakfast this morning, Adam...I figured you might be hungry. Pa said you were working here."


"Well, actually, Joseph...I'm starving!" He grinned and took the sandwich. "Thanks."


"Sorry, it ain't much of a sandwich, but Hop Sing chased me out of the kitchen."


"He didn't get ya with that spoon of his, did he?" Hoss gulped.


"A few times, but I reckon I've been lick'd worse." Joe grinned. "Speaking of lickins, let me get over to the north pasture before Pa catches me.  You ain't gonna tell him I was here...are ya, Adam?"


"Well...I might if there ain't any cheese on this sandwich."


"Now, why in tarnation would you want cheese on ya sandwich?" Hoss asked making a face.


"Well, I declare, Hoss, that's just about the one thing you won't eat."


"Yeah, the one and only thing," Adam teased and winked at Joe.


"But I'm still growin'."


"Yeah, you're growing, Hoss, but in the wrong direction," Adam said and patted Hoss stomach.


Joe giggled.


"Take that back, Adam."




"Dagburnit Adam! I'm gonna pound ya right good and you stop all that infernal gigglin', Little Joe."




Hoss, Adam and Little Joe were soon wrestling around on the ground and didn't notice the horse behind them.


"Well, it looks like you three are really hard at work!" Ben thundered from atop Buck.


The boys got up from the ground and stood in front of Ben.


"Aren't you supposed to be digging that well, Joseph?"


"Yes sir."


"Then what are you doing here?"




"I sent for him, Pa," Adam answered for his brother.


"Oh you did, did you?"


"Yes sir."


"For what may I ask?"


"Pa, must I explain every decision to you?"


Ben sat back on Buck. "Joseph, get over to the north pasture immediately!"


"Yes sir." Little Joe quickly mounted Cochise and was off in a flash.




Adam took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose, preparing himself for another confrontation with Ben. "Yes sir?"


"Little Joe forgot to bring you some dessert along with that sandwich." He handed Adam a napkin full of cookies.


Adam looked up sheepishly. "Thanks Pa."


"Get to work the lot of you!" Ben ordered and headed off for town.


" can't get nothin' past Pa, can ya?"


Adam grinned. "Nope."


Hoss looked at the napkin. "Gimme some of those cookies!"




"Why not?"


"Because I'm the one that was sent to bed without supper...I need the nourishment."


"Yeah, but I'm hungry...gimme them."


"You'll have to catch me!"


Hoss and Adam were soon chasing each other around the pasture.


Ben watched his boys from a slight distance and sighed.  "Lord...I'm still waiting for that strength I asked for...patiently, but still waiting."



Cole McDermott walked up to the bar and threw a few coins onto the

counter. "Give me a whiskey."


"Sure thing." The bartender reached under the counter and grabbed a

glass. He poured the young man a drink and set it in front of him. "So, I ain't seen you around here before?"


Cole took a sip and looked at the bartender. "I'm looking for some



"What kind?"


"I wanna know who the men are that murdered the McDermott brothers."


The other man at the bar came over upon hearing the conversation. "They weren't murdered, mister, they were shot for trying to kill two of the Cartwright boys."


"The Cartwrights? They from around here?"


"Yeah, they have a big spread a few miles outside of town. The



"Who shot them?"


"Well, from what I heard, it was the youngest Cartwright boy...Little Joe who shot Jett and a fella by the name of Peck they got staying with them on the Ponderosa that shot Reese."


Cole downed the rest of his drink and slammed the glass down on the

bar. He spit on the floor and left.


Ben was coming out of the general store when he bumped into Cole

knocking him to the ground. "Oh, I'm sorry,  son...I didn't see you,"

Ben apologized, as he helped the young man to his feet.


"Why don't you watch where you're going, old man!"


Ben was taken aback by the disrespect. "I said I was sorry,

son, there's no need to get yourself so riled up."


Cole grabbed Ben by his vest. "Listen hear, old man...don't go

telling me what I can and can't get riled over...understand?"


Ben glared at him. "I suggest you take your hands off me,

Boy...before I get riled up."


Cole grabbed him tighter.


"What's going on here?" Roy Coffee demanded, coming over to Ben and



Cole let go of Ben and spit on the ground. "Ain't nothing going on

around here, Sheriff."


"Is that true, Ben?"


Ben looked at Cole, but then smiled. "Nothing, Roy...just a

misunderstanding between the boy and I, that's all. Nothing to

concern yourself over."


Roy didn't seem convinced. "Listen, son, you just watch who you are

grabbing...why this is Mr. Benjamin Cartwright."


Cole put on a fake smile. "Cartwright? Of the Ponderosa?"


"Yes, that's right, Boy," Roy replied. "And I suggest you mind your

manners while you're in my town. I won't tolerate a young

whippersnapper who thinks he can go around grabbing folks."


Cole put out his hand to Ben. "My apologies, sir."


Ben hesitated for a moment, but then took his hand. "No harm done."


Roy put his arm on Ben's shoulder. "Let's get some supper, huh?"


Ben nodded.


"And you, boy...don't go forgetting what I said."


Cole nodded. "Sure ain't got to worry about me." He looked down and saw a small package on the ground. "Mr. Cartwright."


"Yes son?"


"You dropped this, sir."


"Oh, thank you." Ben took the package and put it in his pocket.




Later that evening, Ben arrived back at the Ponderosa. He put Buck

up for the night and went inside. He was not happy about the news he

had received in the telegram. "Where's your brother?" Ben asked Hoss

and Joe, who were busy playing checkers.


"Upstairs in his room, Pa. Do you need him for something?" Joe asked.


"Do you know what happened in Genoa when those two were there?"


Hoss looked up from their game. "No, Pa, Adam ain't said much."


"Well, that comes as no surprise."


Joe grinned. "Why, Pa, something happen?"


"I'll say something happened. Your brother and his scallywag of a

partner managed to, " Ben cleared his throat embarrassed, "somehow

disrobe Mrs. Fallon, leaving her standing there in front of a crowd

in only her...umm...bloomers."


"No," Hoss and Joe said in disbelief.


"Yes, and then they somehow redeemed themselves by saving Mrs.

Fallon from an assault."


Joe and Hoss were shocked and amused at the same time. "How did you

find out, Pa?"


"Mr. Fallon sent me a letter thanking me for having such a fine

son who would rescue a lady in distress and to assure me that his

wife has recovered from the bloomer incident."


Hoss and Joe burst out laughing.


"I don't think this is funny at all, boys."


Little Joe was giggling. " is funny, Pa...since it happened to Adam. He is such a stick in the mud sometimes."


"Yeah, could you see ol' Adam's face when Mrs. Fallon was standin'

there in her bloomers? Probably liked to curl up in a ball and died."


Ben laughed slightly, but then joined in more as Joe and Hoss



"Alright, Alright, I guess I'm not that mad, but still I think Adam

needs to be taught a lesson about keeping things from me."


"Whatcha gonna do, Pa?" Hoss asked.


Ben grinned. "Not a word out of either one of you."


"Right Pa."


Ben went over to the steps and shouted. "ADAM CARTWRIGHT! GET DOWN



A minute later, Adam appeared at the top of the stairs. "You



Ben folded his arms across his chest. "I most certainly did. Come

down here! You have some explaining to do, young man."


Adam rolled his eyes. "Pa, whatever it is, can't it wait until

morning? I'm tired."


"Adam, I'm not asking you, come down those steps."


Adam inhaled frustrated. "Fine."


Ben pointed to the settee.


Adam looked at him defiantly for a moment before he went and sat

down. "Can you please tell me what this is all about, because

frankly, Pa, I do not appreciate being summoned like a child."


"Oh really? Well, I'll have you know, young man, that I received

some very interesting news today that has caused me to do just



Adam smirked. "Let me guess, I walked through Mrs. Johnson's tulip

beds on my way home from school today and she's really angry?"


"Watch the sarcasm, boy."


Adam flinched at Ben's tone.


"Did you hear what I said?"




"Yes what?"


"Yes sir."




"Pa, can you please tell me what this is about?"


Ben took a deep breath. "This is about my son going to Genoa and embarrassing one of the most respected women there. Almost losing thousands of dollars in timber contracts and then purposely avoiding telling me the truth. Leaving me to find out from a letter sent to me by Mr. Fallon! Son, I felt like I was reading a note sent home by the teacher!"


"I have an explanation for all this if you would just listen to me

for a moment."


"It's too late for explanations!"


"I'm sorry, Pa. I should have told you about this when I came home."


"Well, why didn't you?" Ben asked angrily.


Adam looked down at the floor not able to meet Ben's penetrating gaze. "Because I...ummm...."


"Son, I am very disappointed with your behavior. Stand up!"


Adam was stunned by the command.


"Stand up!" Ben repeated in a tone that none of his sons would disobey.


Adam quickly got to his feet.






"I think we need to finish this discussion in the barn."


"But can't."


Ben folded his arms. "Oh, I most certainly can. It hasn't been long at all since I tanned one of you three." He looked at Little Joe who frowned. "I'm sure I remember how."


"Let me wouldn't."


Ben nodded. "Oh, I would....especially, after what you did!"


"Pa, I have had enough of this nonsense...I'm going to bed!" Adam stated angrily and started for the stairs.


"You will not leave this room until I excuse you!"


Adam contemplated ignoring the command, but he couldn't ignore the look on Ben's face. He turned back and went to stand in his previous spot.  Figuring anger would get him nowhere, he brought his temper under control. "Now Pa...let's calm down and think about this rationally. Then you will see, that you can not seriously believe that I would allow you to..."


"Allow me? Allow me?" Ben thundered. "Boy, you do not allow or not allow

me to do anything!" He took a few steps closer to his eldest. "Is that understood?"


"Yes sir." Adam stepped backwards and put his hands protectively on his backside. "Perhaps, allow was too strong a word. I should have said..."


Ben burst out laughing as did Hoss and Joe.


Adam looked at them confused.


"I'm sorry, son."




Ben was still laughing. "I couldn't help myself."


Adam moved his hands from behind his back to on his hips. "Are you saying this whole thing was a joke?"


"Yes, son...partly, it was."


"Enlighten me?"


Ben put his arm around Adam. "Well, the part about the barn was a joke." Ben smiled when he felt Adam breathe a sigh of relief. "But I am angry about the fact that you kept all this from me and I figured you needed to be taught a lesson."


"It wasn't very funny, Pa."


"Doggone...older brother, you should have seen your face."


"Yeah Brother, I haven't seen that look since Mandy Kline asked you to kiss her when you was twelve."


"Hey," Joe snapped his fingers, "is that one of those interesting stories you were talking about, Hoss?"


"Yeah, you see.."


"Never mind that, Hoss," Ben ordered. "Will you forgive me, son?"


"Nothing to forgive, Pa, I shouldn't have kept what happened in Genoa from you."


Ben nodded. "No, you shouldn't have." He smiled. "Well, either I must be getting better at these lectures or you are becoming less hard headed, because it would have normally taken a lot more to make you nervous."


Adam grinned. "My guilty conscience got the best of me, made me an

easy target," he teased. "I'll have to work on that."


"Well, a guilty conscience is a just punishment for wrongdoing."


Adam cleared his throat and stood up straight. "May I be excused, sir?"


Ben smiled. "Yes, you may, son." Ben raised his eyebrows at his eldest. "I will want to hear your explanation for what happened in Genoa, first thing in the morning."


Adam rolled his eyes. "Sure Pa." He headed upstairs.


A few moments later, Ben smiled inwardly and turned to Hoss and Joe. "Don't you think it's about time you two were in bed?" he asked sternly.


"Yes sir," they replied. "Night Pa."


Ben laughed as his other two sons scooted up the steps. He went over, took the package out of his pocket and put it in his desk.



The next morning at breakfast, everyone was gathered around the table.


"Murdock?" Ben asked putting down his coffee cup.


"Yes, Mr. C.?"


"Since you and Adam did such a wonderful job in Genoa, I was

wondering if you wouldn't mind doing something for me today?"


"Sure name it!"


"Well, there is a load of grain that I need brought in from town and

I was wondering if you two boys wouldn't mind getting it for me?"


"Oh, no problems...Johnny and me can have that back here at the

Ponderosa quicker than you can say hound dog."


Adam grinned. "This wouldn't happen to be the order for 200 sacks

of grain would it, Pa?"


"Why yes, I do believe it is."


Adam nodded and smiled.


Murdock looked sheepishly at Ben. "So, you found out, huh?"


"Son, I always find out...don't I, boys?"


"Unfortunately." Adam grimaced.


"I'm not mad at what happened, that was an accident, but you two shouldn't have kept it from me and lied about it.  That is why you are being punished."


"We know, Pa...come on, Murdock, looks like you and I have our work cut out for us."


Ben winked at everyone. "Oh and Murdock?"


"Yes sir?" Murdock asked, turning back around.


"Watch where you step!"


Murdock flushed with embarrassment.


"Don't worry, Pa, we'll be careful," Adam said putting up a hand and indicating toward the door. "Shall we?"


Murdock grinned. "After you…"


Adam shook his head. "No, no, I insist...after you."


Murdock bowed. "Thank you."


Adam returned the bow. "Oh and never did finish telling me about that invention...umm...the bikini I believe you said it was."


"MURDOCK!" Hannibal yelled. "Remember the Prime Directive."


"Come on, Colonel....just this one little thing?"


Hannibal put his cigar in his mouth and folded his arms. "NO."


"Aww man...not fair...not fair at all." Murdock stomped out the door



"Do you think those two should be left alone, Pa?" Little Joe asked.


"Yeah Pa...they seem to get themselves in a whole mess a trouble."


Ben sat back in his chair. "Well, you two can join them if you want?"


"Err...we can't, Pa...Hoss and me have lots of work to finish today...come on, Brother."


"Right...see ya, fellas."


"Can BA and I join you?"


"Sure Face...come on," Little Joe replied.


After everyone had left, Ben looked at Hannibal. "So, what is this ummm...bikini? Murdock is talking about?"


"Well, probably the best invention known to man."


"Is it some sort of saddle?"


A mischievous twinkle came to Hannibal's eyes. "Ben, my boy...I ain't talking about horses."





Everyone was sitting around the living room when Murdock and Adam trudged in the front door.


"Sorry, we missed supper, Pa," Adam yawned and hung up his hat and gun belt.


Murdock stifled a yawn. "Yeah, sorry about that."


Ben had to hide his smile when he saw how exhausted they were. "I told Hop sing to keep something warm for you."


"Pa, the only thing I want to do is crawl into bed."


"But son, you both need to eat something."


"I can't, Pa...I'm bone tired."


"Me too."


The two tired boys headed for the steps.  Adam stopped and turned around. "Pa."


"Yes son?"


"The next time you want to punish me for some misdeed?"


"Yes son?"


"Tan me."


Murdock yawned. "Me too."


Ben laughed. "Good night, Boys."


A few hours later, Ben went up to check on Adam and Murdock. He quietly opened the door to Adam's room and went in.  Adam had fallen asleep on top of the covers, one boot off the other one half hanging.  Ben took his boot off and stood them both together.  He picked up an extra blanket from the bottom of Adam's bed and covered him.

He touched his arm lightly, squeezing it gently, smiled and turned out the lamp.  Ben found Murdock in nearly the same condition, he quietly covered him and took of his hat, hanging it on the bedpost, he smiled and turned out the lamp.


Ben met Hannibal as he was coming out of Murdock's room. "Just coming to make sure he was okay."


Ben smiled. "Already checked.  He's sleeping like a baby and so is Adam."


"You really wore them out, Ben. Do you think they learned their lesson?"


Ben smiled. "Probably not, but don't worry...I have plenty more chores that need to be done.  There's this path I have been wanting cleared for awhile.  At this rate, I'm sure I will be assigning it to someone very soon."


Hannibal laughed. "You are a sneaky devil."


"Well, I have to be to keep ahead of these boys of mine."


"And with the team here...that's double the trouble."


Ben laughed. "Brandy?"


"Thought you'd never ask."




Early the next evening, the three Cartwright boys and the younger members of the team all stood around the fireplace conspiring.  Ben and Hannibal came in from the porch and saw the meeting.  Ben winked at Hannibal. " So," he bellowed,  "what are you planning this time...a raid on the hen house because Hoss is in the mood for fried chicken?"


"Oh Hello, Pa...Colonel," Adam said turning around.


The others turned around and greeted Ben and Hannibal as well.  Hoss nudged Adam forward.


Ben folded his arms. "Yes son?"


"Well, since it's been awhile..."


Joe stood next to Adam. "And since nobody's sick or hurt..."


"We was thinking," Hoss said joining his brothers, "that we could all go into town..."


Adam smiled. "Of course, you and the Colonel are most welcomed to join us."


Everybody nodded.


Ben turned to Hannibal. "What do you think, Hannibal?  You think the town could handle the likes of them all in the same night?"


Hannibal grinned mischievously. "The question is, you think that the town can handle the likes of you and me?"


"Well, I'm game if you are."


Hannibal put his cigar in his mouth. "Sounds like a plan."


"But I think there is something we need to do first?"


"What's that, Pa?" Little Joe asked.


"I think the team needs to change into some proper clothing...can't have you going into town dressed like you are."


They all looked down at their clothes.  They each had borrowed a few things from Ben and the boys over the past few weeks, but they were basically wearing clothes that would not let them blend in.


"No problems, Pa....I think we can manage to rustle these fellas up some new britches," Hoss said pointing to the team.


About an hour later, the team and the Cartwrights were cleaned and dressed.  Much to Adam's dismay, Murdock insisted that he dress all in black so he and Adam could be twins for the night.


"Well, how we gonna tell you and Murdock a part, Big Brother?" Hoss teased.


"Yeah," Joe giggled. "Murdock's even wearing a black hat."


Adam looked at them annoyed. "I'll be the one who pokes you in the mouth if you keep ribbing me."


"Woowee...ain't we a might touchy!"


Joe snapped his fingers. "You know, Hoss, we could tie a ribbon around Adam's we can tell them a part."


"Good idea, little brother." Hoss patted Joe on the back. "I think I got a purty red one left over from'll go mighty nice with Adam's dark hair."


Adam stopped polishing his boots. "Are you children quite through?"


"You know, Hoss...we could make up a sign and put it on Adam...yeah a sign."


Hoss laughed. "That's an even better idea, Joe."


"Oh yeah?" Adam asked smugly. "And which one of you is going to write it? Can you even spell my name?" He went back to polishing his boots.


"Now, Adam, that weren't very nice, besides you know dern right well that both me and Little Joe can certainly spell jackass."


That last bit sent Joe and Hoss into hysterics, Adam, on the other hand, was not amused.  He put down the brush and advanced on his tormenting brothers. "Alright, which one of you am I going to thrash first?"


"Now Adam....we was only funnin..."


"Yeah Adam...just joshin ya," Joe said nervously.


"Well, I'm not laughing."


Hoss gulped. "Yeah, we can see that, Brother."


Joe grinned, ran over and grabbed Adam's hat. "Hey, Hoss...go get that ribbon!"


"Give me my hat, before I really get angry, boy," Adam warned going after Little Joe.


Joe tossed the hat to Hoss.


Adam turned to his middle brother. "Hoss, you know I am not a patient man."


Hoss grinned. "Catch, Little brother!"


"Joseph! Don't do it!"


"Here ya go, Hoss!"


The three of them were soon chasing each other around the living room.


"Boys!" Ben yelled from the top of the stairs.


Adam looked up to the heavens and sighed. He turned around to face Ben. "I have a reasonable explanation for what is occurring here."


Ben put his hands on his hips. "Oh you do, do you?"


Adam frowned. "Yeah, they won't gimme my hat back, Pa," He whined and folded his arms across his chest.


Hoss, Joe and Ben looked at each other in disbelief, surprised by Adam's childish outburst.


Ben moved his hands into his pockets. "Oh... well... then...ah...boys, give your brother back his hat and apologize," he said calmly.


"Sure Pa," Hoss went over and handed Adam his hat. "Here ya go, Adam...sorry."


"Yeah, I'm sorry too, Adam," Joe said solemnly.


"Thank you, "Adam replied, still pouting.


Ben shook his head and went back upstairs to finish getting ready.


Joe and Hoss looked at each other and then to Adam who was grinning.


"Whatcha grinning at, Adam?" Hoss asked.


"Yeah, what gives?"


"Boys," Adam stated. "You have just witnessed a very first for Mr. Benjamin Cartwright."




"He was speechless.  No lectures, no yelling." Adam leaned backwards against the banister, smiling. "Nothing, but sweet silence."


Hoss and Joe laughed. "Big Brother, you sure are a right smart fella."


"Stick with me, may learn something yet."  He smirked, put his hat on his head and went out to saddle his horse.


Hoss put an arm around Little Joe. "Yup, a right smart fella."




"Well Howdy, Mr. Cartwright," Cole said as he came up to Ben holding out his hand.


Ben stood up and shook his hand. "Hello..." Ben smiled. "You know, you never told me your name, boy..."


"Cole Connors, sir."


"Well, Cole...I would like you to meet my boys...Adam, Hoss and Little Joe."






"And these are friends of ours who are staying with us. That is Templeton Peck, HM Murdock, BA Baracus and this is Colonel Smith."


"Nice to meet you, fellas," Cole said tipping his hat.


Adam eyed the young man suspiciously. "So, Mr. do you know my father?"


"Well, we sort of had a little misunderstanding in town a few days ago." He looked at Ben. "Which I hope your father has forgiven me for?"


Ben laughed. "Of course, I said, no harm done. Won't you join us?"


Cole took off his hat and sat down at the table. "Don't mind if I do...thank you, sir."


"What will it be?" Hoss asked.




Hoss winked and went up to the bar. "Hey Charlie, can I get a beer for my friend?"


Charlie grabbed a glass and handed a beer to Hoss. "That young man was in here the other day asking about the McDermott brothers."


Hoss shrugged. "Probably just interested in the know how folks are."


"Yeah maybe."


Hoss set the beer down on the table in front of Cole.


"Thank you."


Adam picked up his beer and took a sip. "So, Mr. Connors..."


"Cole, please."


Adam smiled. "Cole...where are you from?"


Cole sat back in his chair. "Oh, I'm from a little town called Mitchido."


"Are you here on business?"


"Well, I reckon I'm here for just about the same reasons everyone else is...looking to make a fortune."


Adam nodded. "I see."


Hoss smiled. "You got family in these parts?"


"No, my family is dead."


"That's a downright shame...a young man like you all alone." Hoss shook his head.


Cole shrugged. "Don't bother about me...I can take of myself just fine." He took a deep breath and stood up. "Well, I need to be heading out. It was a pleasure seeing ya again, Mr. Cartwright. Nice meeting you folks."


"Seems like a nice fella, Pa."


Adam sat up and leaned on the table, but didn't say anything.


Ben nodded. "Yes,'s just a shame about his kin." Ben smiled. "Well, young man...I think it's getting kind of late," He said to Joe.


"But ain't even let me have a beer."


"And I ain't going to, young man."


"Yeah Little Joe, you're lucky Pa even let you come with us," Hoss added.


Joe looked at his brother. "You're lucky Pa let you come ain't growed up either you know."


"I'm more growed up than you."                     


"And I'm more growed up than the both of let's go!" Adam ordered. "We have lots of work to do tomorrow."


"Awww Adam," Hoss took a last sip of beer and got up from the table.


Murdock yawned. "I think I'll go too. You coming, BA?"


BA nodded. "Yeah man."


"Come on, Face," Murdock said.


"Me?" Face looked confused. "Why?"


"Because we're a team if one goes we all go and besides you're afraid of the wouldn't want to have to ride all the way back to the Ponderosa by yourself, would ya?"


Face looked indignant. "Murdock, just because I asked to borrow your Scooby Doo night light that one time does not mean I'm afraid of the dark!"


Murdock shook his head. "Alright, but just watch for all those wolves when you are out there all by yourself on that long dark rode."


Face swallowed hard. "Wolves? Well, what are we waiting for...let's



"You coming, Pa?" Adam asked.


"No son, I think I will stay here a little longer...what about you, Hannibal?"


"Well, I think I can hang in there for a bit."


"Alright, Pa...see you in the morning."


"Night son."




A few hours later, Ben noticed that Hannibal was feeling the effects

of the whiskey as was he. "Perhaps, we should head home, Hannibal."


"Aww come on, Benny...I was just having fun."


"Hannibal, we need to head home...the boys will be worried."


The Colonel grinned. "You know, are always thinking about

everyone else. That's what I like about you."


Ben stood up. "Let's go home." He took hold of Hannibal's arm and

started for the door.


"Hey, watch it, fella!" The man at the bar said as Hannibal bumped

into him.


Ben smiled. "Sorry, about that."


"Are you trying to pick a fight with me?"


"No, of course was an accident," Ben replied.


Hannibal looked at Ben and the man. "Hey, you don't owe this slime

ball any explanations!"


"What did you call me?" The man demanded.


"I called you a low life, yellow-bellied, slime ball, pal!"


The man sat down his drink and went to punch Hannibal in the face, but he ducked and the man hit Ben instead.


Ben fell into another person knocking them over. That person got up and punched Ben. Ben returned the punch.


Hannibal punched the drunken man, sending him flying into a table

full of cowboys.


In no time, the saloon was a flurry of punches as an all out brawl erupted.


"Alright, that's enough...break it up!" Sheriff Coffee yelled, as he

grabbed Ben dragging him up from the floor. "What started this?"


"Well, you see...we were trying to leave..."


"And that big cheeseball over there..." Hannibal pointed to the

unconscious man stuffed into the piano, "punched my friend Benny here

and of course I had to defend him...cause you know, Sheriff," He said

putting an arm around Roy. "No one punches my friend and gets away

with it."


Roy looked at Hannibal and then to Ben. "You two have been

drinking...a little too much if you ask me."


"Now Roy, that's simply not true..."


The Colonel slapped Ben on the back. "You tell'em, most certainly is not true." Hannibal straightened up. "I... myself... have had a lot too much to drink." He let out a loud belly laugh and slapped his knee.


Ben smiled nervously. "Now Hannibal...let's not say things like that. Roy, maybe you should let me take him home."


Roy shook his head. "You two ain't going no where, but my jail cell...until he sobers up and I send for Adam to fetch the both of ya."


"But Roy..." Ben protested.


"That's Sheriff Coffee to get!"


"This is absurd!"


Hannibal was singing loudly. "You are my only sunshine..."


Roy turned to the saloon owner. "Send me over a list of damages, Charlie."


"I certainly will, Sheriff."





The sleeping occupants of the Ponderosa were all awakened by an urgent knocking on the door. Adam was the first to come down the steps, boots in hand and his clothes thrown on in haste. "Who is it?" He demanded, his hand resting on his gun, just in case.


"It's Mitchell Perkins, Sheriff Coffee sent me."


Adam opened the door. "Mitchell, what's wrong?"


"It's your Pa, Adam...he's done been thrown in jail."




"Yup, he and the other fella he was with busted up the saloon and Sheriff Coffee has them locked up."


"Are they hurt?"


"Nahh...nothin' more than some cuts and bruises from fightin'."


Adam grinned. "Alright, ride back and tell Sheriff Coffee that I'll be in shortly to fetch those two."


"Okay Adam...night fellas." Mitchell tipped his hat to everyone.


Adam finished straightening his clothes and put on his boots.


"I'm coming with ya, Adam," Little Joe said.


"No," Adam put a hand up. "I can handle this myself, you all go back to bed."


"But Adam..."


"Joe, it'll be fine. Get some sleep."


Joe nodded.


Adam smiled and put on his hat and gun belt.


Hoss put an arm around his little brother. "Boy! I wish I could be there to see Pa's face when ol' Adam shows up to bail him out of jail."


"Me too, Hoss." Joe grinned.


Adam stopped Sport at the hitching post outside the Sheriff's Office, he tied the reins to the rail and went inside.


Sheriff Coffee was sitting behind his desk filling out some paperwork. Adam walked up to him quietly and cleared his throat.


Roy looked up startled. "Oh, Howdy Adam...didn't see ya standing there."


"Hello, I hear you have my father and his partner behind



"I sure do!" Roy pointed toward the cell. "Do you know what those two done tonight?"


Adam sat down on the edge of Roy's desk. "No sir...but I would be really interested in hearing about it?


"Those two got themselves in a downright brawl."


"Please continue."


"They beat half the men in the saloon, even stuffed one fella into the piano."


Adam nodded. "I you have a list of the damage they caused?"


Roy opened his desk drawer and handed Adam a piece of paper.


He glanced over the list. "May I see them?"


"Sure can." Roy opened the wooden doors leading to the cell. "You two have a visitor."


Ben and Hannibal sat up.


Adam went over to the cell.


"Hello, Son."




"Hiya Kid!" Hannibal exclaimed and hiccupped.


"Had a wee drop of the whiskey I see," Adam commented in an Irish accent.


"Just a few," Ben replied.


"Just a few?" Hannibal came over and put his arm around Ben. "Hell, Benny...I think we polished off a whole bottle...or was it two?"


"Hannibal, why don't you go sit over there while I talk to Adam."


"Yessir." Hannibal saluted, grinned and went to sit on the cot.


Ben laughed nervously. "Looks like Hannibal and I got ourselves into a bit of trouble."


Adam held up the list of damages. "Six broken tables, twelve chairs, four windows, eighteen bottles of whiskey, fifty assorted glasses and one piano...yup, I would say you two got yourselves into a bit of trouble."


"Now son, we have a reasonable explanation for all this."


Adam put his hands on his hips. "Oh you do, do you?"


Hannibal grinned. "We sure do, Kid...there was some major butt-kicking that needed to be done and we did it!"


Ben sighed. "Hannibal! Be quiet!"


"Shhhhhhhhh..." The Colonel hiccupped.


"Son, can we talk about this on the way home? It's late and I would love to get some sleep."


Adam put a finger up to his mouth and took a deep breath. "Well, now, I'm not so sure about that...let me ask you this."




"What would you do?" He pointed at his father. "If the situation was reversed?"


"Well, I would take pity on you." Ben folded his arms. "Let you go home, get some rest and talk about it in the morning."


"Nice try, 'Little Joe', but I ain't falling for it."


Ben put his hands on his hips. "Oh alright...I would probably lecture you about the evils of drinking, the foolishness of your actions and the irresponsibility of the whole situation. Then I would come up with some severe punishment and finally, bail you out so you could go home and get some that what you wanted to hear?"


Adam grinned. "Yup."


Ben cleared his throat. "Boy, get me out of here before I..."


Adam wagged his finger at Ben. " Now, Now...temper...temper, Pa...remember that's what got you into your current situation in the first place."


"That, and that Sheriff out there who probably got his tin star out of a cereal box!" Hannibal shouted.


Ben turned around annoyed. "Hannibal, if you don't be quiet, I swear I'll put a gag on you."


"Now, Benny," Hannibal stood up, "that's not very nice, especially, after I stuffed that fella into the piano so he wouldn't kill ya."


"Kill me? If I recall he was about to thrash the living daylights out

of you!"


Hannibal shook his head. "The whiskey must be clouding your judgment."


"Clouding my judgment? My judgment?" Ben put his hands on his hips. "You're the one who drank most of the bottle!"


"I had help with know."


"Hannibal, so help me...I'll..."


"Boys!" Adam bellowed.


Hannibal and Ben stopped fighting and looked at Adam.


"Do I have to get Sheriff Coffee to put you in separate cells until you can learn to play nicely?" He scolded.


Ben cleared his throat. "No, that won't be necessary."


", where were we?"


"We were about to discuss what it would take to get Hannibal and I out of here?"


Adam put his hands behind his back and paced back and forth in front of the cell. "Well... you see... I was cozy and warm in my bed, when I was cruelly dragged away out into the cold. Forced to ride that long, dusty road all the way out here, to spend half the night dealing with," he paused and eyed Ben and Hannibal up and down, "you two rapscallions. Only, to have to ride that long, dusty road back home and arrive just in time to do all my morning chores." He put his hand over his face and sighed. "Now, I ask...does that sound fair to you?"


Ben grinned. "Son," he said softly.


Adam leaned against the bars. "Yes Pa?"


"How's about you sleep in late and not worry at all about those chores? I'll do them for fact, I'll do all your work for take the day off and enjoy yourself. It's the least I could do for dragging you all the way out here."


"You mean it, Pa?"


Ben nodded. "Yes, yes I, would you just please go out there and get us out of here...please...son?"


" are going to make sure that I pay for this, aren't you?"


Ben smiled, reached through the bars and patted Adam on the back. "If it's the last thing I ever do."


Adam grinned. "I'll go see Roy."


"You are my sunshine, my only make me happy when skies are grey...come on, Benny, sing it with me..."


Ben shrugged. "You'll never know dear how much I love you..."





Sometime later everyone, except Adam, was gathered at the table for breakfast.


Both Ben and Hannibal were looking quite haggard from lack of sleep and the whiskey they had consumed.


"Well Pa, I must say you're lookin' right chipper this mornin'," Hoss teased, winking at Little Joe.


Ben sighed.


"Yeah Pa...can't quite remember a time when you look so well rested."


Ben looked at Little Joe, but didn't have the energy to whack him over the head. Oh, how he wished he did.


Face smiled at Hannibal. "So Colonel, want some more coffee? Looks like you could use it."


"What I could use is some nice strong painkillers for this hangover...don't suppose you have any of those around, Lieutenant?"


"Sorry, Colonel, those are in my other suit back in 1984."


The colonel groaned and put his head in his hands.




"Yes Joseph?"


"Why don't you stay in bed and Hoss and me will do all the work today."


"That won't be necessary, brother," Adam said, coming to the table. He winked at Ben. "Now, you didn't think I would actually hold you to it, did ya, Pa?"


"No son, I didn't, but I am going to hold myself to it. After all, I can't expect you three to accept the consequences for wrong doings, if I'm not willing to do the same. So, you, young man, are taking today off and I am going to do exactly what I said I was going to do." He smiled. "As soon as I have about ten cups of coffee."


Everyone laughed.


Hannibal put his hand on Ben's shoulder. "Make that 'we' Ben...after all, us cellmates have to look out for each other. It's mighty rough on the outside."


Ben let out a hearty laugh. "Coffee?"


Hannibal held out his cup. "Yes...please!"


After breakfast, Adam got up from the table and stretched. "I think maybe I may do a

little reading, maybe take a nap, play my guitar...a whole day just to myself."


He went over and put an arm around each of his brothers. "So, what do you two have planned for today? More branding? Hoss...digging that well? Little Joe...sounds like a good time."


"Enjoy it now, Big Brother."


"Yeah, you just're going to feel guilty about us working out there, while you lollygag around here all day," Little Joe pouted.


Adam looked at them thoughtfully. "You know, Little Brother...I don't think I'll have time for guilt, not with my busy schedule today, but I'll try to fit it in, maybe between naps...if that'll make you feel better."


"Ha Ha Ha!"


"Well boys...I'm off to take a long hot bath and read." Adam patted them on the back. "Have fun at work."


Joe went to strangle Adam, but was stopped by Ben. "Let's go, Joseph...we have a lot to get done today. You too, Hoss."


Hannibal turned to his team. "So, what are you three going to do today?"


Murdock smiled. "Well, we were hoping to do some riding?"


"Have fun!"


The team looked at each other. "Guess, that was a yes? Let's go!" Face ordered and they hurried off to the barn.






"I am sick of all your jibber-jabber."


"But BA, be reasonable, horses are very smart animals. Sport was just explaining the Pythagorean Theorem to me a few minutes ago out in the barn. I never quite understood it until he put it in plain English."


"Listen here, Fool, I don't want to hear anymore about talkin' horses. Now, let's get some milk and get out of here."


"Whatcha doing?" Hoss asked as he and Joe came into the kitchen followed by the lieutenant.


"The big angry mudsucka here wanted some milk and cookies."


Hoss whistled. "Well, don't let ol' Hop Sing catch ya snatchin' any of his cookies, he'll be madder than a wet hen in the middle of a thunderstorm."


"Yeah, especially after we stole all those donuts," Joe added.


"I ain't afraid of no little Chinese man," BA growled and started searching for a glass. He found one and set down at the kitchen table, as did Hoss, Little Joe and Face.


"Well, I'll be daggummed! Don't let Hop Sing hear ya talkin' like that...he'll tar the livin' daylights out of ya. Ain't that right, Little Joe?"


"Sure is, brother," Joe agreed. "Why ol' Hop Sing can be meaner than a grisly bear."


BA just growled.


Murdock bounded across the kitchen and grabbed the milk. "Here, let me get that for you, Big Guy." He was carrying it back when he tripped over his untied shoelaces, spilling milk all over BA and Little Joe.


Hoss laughed a big belly laugh.


Joe glared at his big brother.


Murdock put the milk down and started to back away from the angry sergeant. "Oh, I'm sorry, BA, Joe…let me get you something to clean you off with." Murdock grabbed what he thought was a napkin. In reality, it was the end of the table cloth and that mistake sent

dinner into everyone's lap.


"Dagburn it!" Hoss exclaimed. "Hop Sing's gonna have our hides."


Little Joe grinned and picked up a handful of mash potatoes. "Here

ya go, Hoss, why don't you have some potatoes to go with that gravy."


Hoss ducked and the mash potatoes hit BA's mohawk. BA snarled and grabbed a handful of peas. He flung them at little Joe, who in turn got out of the way just in time to see Face get hit with the flying vegetable.


Soon a war erupted in the Cartwright kitchen.


Adam, who was sitting in his favorite chair reading his new book, heard the commotion and ran into the kitchen. "Is everything alright?"


Murdock had a freshly baked lemon meringue pie in his hands, ready to throw at Hoss.


"Murdock, don't!" Adam yelled.


Hoss ducked as the pie flew across the room hitting Adam square in the face. Adam took a deep breath and tried desperately to control his temper. He grabbed a napkin and began to wipe off the meringue that dripped over onto his clean black shirt. "ENOUGH!"


The boys stopped what they were doing upon hearing Adam's command.


Adam stood there in the midst of the chaos with his hands planted firmly on his hips, imitating his father's angry stance. "What is going on in here?"


"Aww Adam, we're just havin' a little fun," Joe whined.


"FUN? FUN?" He asked incredulously. "What do you think Pa would say if he came in and saw all this mess?" Adam threw his hands up in an overly dramatic gesture. "I know what he'd say," He continued without giving the culprits a chance to respond. "He'd say that you are all behaving like children instead of the mature adults you are...even Little Joe is too old for this type of..." Before Adam could continue his lecture, he was blindsided by a handful of baked beans. "Alright, who did that?"


The other two Cartwright boys and the three younger members of the infamous A-team grinned at each other.


Adam wiped the baked beans from his face. "You know that you should really be ashamed of yourselves! I suggest that you stop this nonsense and get this mess cleaned up, before Pa and the Colonel get home…if... you know... what's good... for... you." Adam punctuated the last part for emphasis.


The boys looked down at their feet.


Adam smirked. Satisfied that he had stopped the horseplay, he turned to leave the kitchen. Needless to say, the oldest of the Cartwright boys was immediately pummeled by whatever food items happened to be in Hop Sing's kitchen. He turned back around to see Little Joe throw a huge glob of butter at him. It landed smack dab in the middle of his forehead.


Adam inhaled through clenched teeth and pinched the bridge of his nose. He picked up the other lemon meringue pie and advanced slowly towards Joe.


"Now…now… Adam...remember you are a mature adult," Joe stammered, as he backed away from his angry brother. Without saying another word, Adam smashed the pie over the head of his little brother. The boys grinned and the kitchen was again a flurry of flying foods. Everyone,  laughing and covering each other with a mish mash of mash potatoes, peas, roast beef, gravy and pie.



Ben brought the buckboard to a stop in front of the house. "Hannibal, I hope you're hungry?"


"I'm starved, Ben! Working in all this fresh air sure gives a man an appetite." Hannibal grinned and patted is stomach.


"Well good… because it's roast beef night Boy! That Hop Sing can sure make a good roast beef…melts in your mouth like butter. We'd better get in there before the boys eat it all." The two men were laughing when they entered the front door. "Speaking of boys...I

wonder where they all are?" Ben looked around as he took off his hat and gun belt. He was just about to put it down when they heard a loud noise coming from the kitchen. The Colonel and Ben drew their guns from their holsters and went to investigate. They were

immediately stunned by the sight before them.


"What in the world is going on in here?" Ben queried, as a glob of mash potatoes hit him in the face.


Adam, Hoss, Joe, BA, Face and Murdock were so caught up in their game that they didn't pay any attention to the sound of Ben's voice.


"Alright, now you've asked for it," Joe yelled as he flung the roast beef at Face. The lieutenant ducked just in time to miss being knocked out. It went whizzing past Ben and Hannibal who narrowly avoided the flying object.


"JOSEPH!" Ben's voice shook the walls of the great house and immediately stopped the six boys in their tracks.


"Er… Hi Pa!" Little Joe smiled his best innocent smile, gravy dripping off the end of his nose.


"Don't Hi Pa me, Boy! I asked a question and I expect an answer…what is going on in here? And can someone tell me why I was almost beheaded by a roast beef?"


The boys all looked at each other, everyone afraid to speak. Little Joe looked over to his oldest brother as did Hoss. The team soon followed suit. Adam grimaced realizing they all expected him to do the explaining. He cleared his throat. "Well was like this…"


Hannibal put his cigar in his mouth and handed Ben a napkin. "Oh, this should be good."


Ben wiped his face and glared at his eldest son. "And so help me, Boy, if you try that pouting nonsense again, I'll turn you over my knee right here."


Hoss and Joe laughed, but were immediately silenced by one look from their father.


Adam contemplated saying something that would force Ben to go through with his threat, but then the sensible side of his brain took over and he shrugged. "Pa, we have no excuse for our childish behavior and we are truly sorry."


"Well, I'm not sorry…" Murdock pouted. "It was all his fault." He pointed at BA.


"All my fault, sucka?" BA growled. "You're the one who wouldn't stop all that crazy jibber-jabber about talkin' horses."


"It's not crazy, BA. For your information, the equine breed has been known throughout history to be the most verbose specious in the animal kingdom. Why just the other day I had a philosophical discussion with Cochise about the meaning of life. He has some

interesting thoughts on the subject. You should really engage him in conversation, you may find it enlightening…" He was immediately silenced by two large hands grabbing his well worn leather jacket. "Hannibal…help!"


"Sergeant! Put him down!" The Colonel ordered.


BA growled at Murdock and then released him.


Ben shook his head. "What are we going to do with them, Colonel?"


Hannibal folded his arms across his chest and smiled mischievously. "Well, Ben, since they seem to be so interested in the kitchen, I suggest that they be placed on KP duty. You could give your cook the day off tomorrow. I'm sure he has earned it."


Ben laughed. "That sounds like a wonderful idea...a truly wonderful idea."


"But Pa...ain't not one of us can cook a lick," Hoss protested.


Ben put a finger to his chin. "Well, I'm sure 'I' could come up with a more unpleasant consequence for your childish actions."


Hoss gulped. "We'll learn right quick, won't we, fellas?"


"Sure will, Pa...don't you worry," Little Joe said nervously.


"Good." Ben turned to Hannibal. "So, what's say you and I go into town and get some supper?" He looked at the boys. "Since there doesn't seem to be anything here to eat."


"Just a minute, Pa." Adam came over to his father and put a hand on his shoulder.


"What is it, Adam?"


"Do you think that is such a good idea?" He took a deep breath. "After all, I'm not sure if we can afford to bail you out of jail again." He grinned.


Ben was silent.


Adam put his hands behind his back and looked at the floor. "So, I'm going to be riding fence from sun up to sundown for the rest of my life, right?"


Ben grinned. "Well, not the rest of your life, son," his look became serious, "but pretty danged close."


Adam nodded. "Yup, that's what I thought."


"Now, you six have a very big mess to clean up and I suggest you get to it before Hop Sing sees it. I don't think he will go as easy on you as Hannibal and I did."


"Daggum! I'm plumb starved half to death….I may just lay down here and die if'n I don't get something to eat real soon."


Ben looked over at Little Joe. "Your brother seems to be wearing a mighty tempting looking lemon meringue pie, son. Why don't you ask him if you can have some?" Ben laughed and patted Hannibal on the back. "Let's go get some supper." Ben and Hannibal reached the front door when they heard Adam's voice come from the kitchen. "Now, Hop Sing… if you would just give us a chance to explain..."


A string of very loud Chinese reverberated off the kitchen walls, followed by the sounds of pots and pans being thrown about.


"Dagburn it! Hop Sing....there ain't no need to go and get yourself all riled up. We'll have this mess cleaned up faster than you can say rattlesnake."


The Chinese grew louder and angrier.


"Hop Sing...p..put… d..down that s.s.spoon," Joe squeaked out.


Suddenly, there was a whirlwind of noise as the boys came running out of the kitchen being chased by a little Chinese man wielding a wooden spoon. "Wait to Hop Sing get hands on Cartwright Boys and A-team. You be sorry....first take Hop Sing's make big mess... Hop Sing teach you to stay out of kitchen!"


Hannibal looked at Ben. "You think we should help them?"


Ben thought for a moment and then smiled at Hannibal. "Nope."




It was fairly late when Hannibal and Ben arrived back at the ranch. Adam was sitting by the fireplace watching intently as the flames moved rhythmically, dancing to music only they could hear.


"You should be in bed, son," Ben commented as he came over and stood next to his eldest, putting his hand on Adam's shoulder. "Is something bothering you?"


Adam looked up at his father and smiled. "No, everything's fine."


"Anything you want to talk about?"


"I said everything was fine, Pa," Adam stated with annoyance in his voice.


Ben took his hand off of Adam's shoulder. "I'm sorry, son...I didn't mean to upset you."


Adam shook his head and smiled slightly. "No, I'm just tired." He got up from the coffee table.


"So, how did you make out with Hop Sing?"


Adam rubbed his backside ruefully. "I think he managed to give us all a few good licks with that spoon before we wrestled it away from him."


Ben and Hannibal laughed.


"Well, you all deserved it, young man."


Adam smiled. "It's late and I have to get an early start on that fence riding?" He looked at

Ben hopefully.


"Yes, you do, son. You can start in the north pasture...three hours south of Thompson's Creek."


Adam exhaled. "Yes sir."


"Son, that tongue of yours has been getting you into trouble since you were knee high to a grasshopper."


Adam nodded. "It's late."


Ben smiled and went to sit in his favorite chair. "I'll be up shortly."


Adam went over and leaned forward on the arm of Ben's chair. "But you know, Pa," he grinned mischievously, "sometimes, the look on your face makes it worth it."


"Boy, you'd better get to bed, before you rile me."


"See, that's what I'm talking about, should see the look on your face this very moment." Adam put his hands behind his back and looked upwards. "Yup, well worth it."


Ben raised his hand in a mock threatening gesture. "Get!"


Adam quickly stepped back.  Goodnight, Colonel....Night Pa."




Adam smiled and headed up the stairs for bed.


Ben watched Adam disappear into the darkness. "I don't know what's bothering him lately."


"What do you mean, Ben?"


"Well, he's always walked a thin line between teasing and insolence with me, especially, since he came home from college a few months back, but lately he seems to be purposely trying to rile me."


Hannibal looked thoughtfully at Ben. "Well, I'm sure it must be hard for him to live here and accept your authority without occasionally butting heads with you. Especially, if was away from it for awhile."


Ben nodded. "True, but that young man also knows how I feel about outright disrespect.  Lately, he seems to also be testing my limits there as well."


"I think it will pass...he's still young, Ben...he's trying to find his place...what is he twenty-one...twenty-two?"


"He's twenty- two.


Hannibal grinned. "Ah...twenty-two...I remember that age.  I was prone to quite a few incidences of disrespect and insolence myself...only they were directed at a certain army Captain named Fredricks.  As I recall, I spent six months in the brig for punching him the mouth. I was busted back to second Lieutenant and nearly dishonorably discharged." Hannibal smirked. "But it was worth it to see the look on Frederick's face when I decked him. You gotta have a story like that, Ben?"


"Not me."


"Who you trying to fool...ornery as you must have a million of them."


Ben laughed. "Alright, but if you repeat this to my boys..."


"Don't worry...this is just between us."


Alright when I was about twenty...I despised this curmudgeon of a Captain.  Fulton was his name.  He used to ride me so hard, that one time I loosened the cinch on his saddle, so he would fall off during this formal off-ship ceremony. Unfortunately, his boot

got stuck in the stirrup and he was dragged quite a few feet before the men could corral his horse."


Hannibal was laughing hysterically.


"It wasn't funny, Hannibal...I could have killed him."


"Alright, alright...but you didn't...So, looking back, you have to see the humor in it?"


Ben laughed. "Yeah, it was pretty funny watching him being dragged all over the place by his boot."


"Did you get found out?"


Ben grimaced. "Sure did, and I was lashed to within an inch of my life."


"Was it worth it?"


Ben grinned. "Sure was, but I did learn my lesson."


"Well, then Adam is just doing to you, what we did to them."


Ben sat back in his chair. "True, but there is a limit to my patience."


"As I'm sure your sons know by now, Ben."


"I would hope so."


Hannibal grinned. "But you have cleared something up for me, I now see where your sons get their mischievous side."


"Who me?" Ben feigned shock. "I'm innocent."


"Oh yeah...tell that to Sheriff Coffee."


Ben groaned. " am I ever going to face Roy again...thank goodness we didn't run into him in town this evening. I took enough ribbing from the other fellas."


"Yeah, we certainly were the talk of the town, weren't we?"


Ben nodded. "I think that was a worse punishment than having to do all of Adam's work for him today."


Hannibal smiled. "Speaking of which, how long are you really going to make Adam ride fence? Because from what you described, it sounds like a boring job I wouldn't want to do all day."


Ben laughed. "Probably, until about lunch time tomorrow, but he doesn't have to know that."


"You're an old softie, aren't ya?"


"Hey, who ya calling old?" Ben stood up, his bones creaked in protest.


Hannibal grinned. "You."


Ben put his hands on his back and stretched. "You know, if I wasn't so tuckered out from all the work we did today, I'd poke ya one."


"Ha!" Hannibal challenged. "Take your best shot, Grandpa!"


"Grandpa?" Ben exclaimed.


Hannibal leaned against Ben's shoulder and grinned. "The Kid's right, Ben...the look on your face does make it worth it."


Ben laughed and patted Hannibal on the back. "Let's say we both put our tired old bones to bed?"


Hannibal put his hands on his own aching back. "Good idea."


"Let me go tell Hop Sing about his day off."


"Night, Ben."






The next morning Joe and Face, being the two who had drawn the short matches, were the first up to make breakfast.


"Good morning, Face," Little Joe said with a yawn as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.


Face smiled in acknowledgement.


Joe grabbed a cup of milk and joined the lieutenant at the table. "So, do you know how to cook?"


Face smiled. "No, I was hoping you would. I eat most of my meals at expensive French restaurants. I don't suppose you have any of those around these parts?"


Joe shook his head. "Nope, the only place around here to eat is Miss Maddie's."


The youngest Cartwright looked around the kitchen. "Well...where do we start?"


"We don't"




"Well kid... here's the thing....what I have learned in life is that why do something yourself when you could just as easily have someone else do it for you."


"I'm confused."


Face smiled a wry smile and put an arm around Joe's shoulders. "It's really quite simple, we go into town, have this Miss Maddie cook up a huge feast and then we bring it back here, heat it up and no one would be the wiser."


Joe shook his head. "Somehow, I don't think that is what Pa and the Colonel meant when they said we all had to take over for Hop Sing. This is supposed to be a punishment."


"Joe, Joe, Joe...really…its 5 o'clock in the morning and you don't have indoor plumbing...don't you think we have been punished enough?"


Joe looked at Face. "Indoor what?"


The lieutenant sighed. "Never mind...let's just go into town and get

breakfast, huh?"


Little Joe grinned. "Let's go!"


Face smiled and tousled Joe's hair.


Joe pouted. "Doggone it! Cut that out, will ya?"




Adam turned over in his bed and yawned. The night had flown by and

he now wished he hadn't stayed up so late thinking about his father. Sighing, he got up dressed and headed downstairs. "I'd better go see what Face and Little Joe are up to. So, you fellas have breakfast ready yet?" Adam asked with a huge grin as he walked into the kitchen. He was surprised to see it still dark except for the early morning sunlight that was just beginning to shine in the windows. He shook his head in annoyance. "Leave it to

those two to oversleep and stick us with no breakfast." Adam considered going upstairs and dragging little Joe out of bed, but he figured they were all already in enough trouble with their father. He knew it would be quicker if he made breakfast for everyone. "You

are lucky younger brother, but boy do you owe me for this one." He said as he looked upwards. Within thirty minutes, Adam had breakfast well underway.


"Well...I'll be hornswoggled...mmmmm…mmmm…that sure smells good," Hoss said as he came into the kitchen. "I didn't know you could cook like that little broth..." He was surprised to see Adam by the stove. "What in tarnation are you doing, Brother? I thought Little Joe and Face were supposed to make breakfast?" Hoss laughed and hit Adam on the back. "Those two managed to con you into cooking for 'em, didn't they?"


Adam turned around slightly annoyed. "No, they didn't manage to con me into cooking for them," he said mockingly. "They I should be surprised!"


Hoss shook his head. "Little Joe ain't in his room, Adam and neither is Face. I checked on `em before I came down, figured I woulda had to drag them out of bed."


Adam removed the pan from the heat and set it on the counter. He sighed. "Well, we'd better see if we can find them before Pa wakes up."


"Yeah, good idea," Hoss agreed and went to start looking for them.


After about ten minutes, Adam and Hoss met back up in the kitchen. "Joe's hat and jacket are gone."


"And the buckboard is missing, Hoss. He didn't take his gun belt did he?"


"No...still there."


"Well, at least that's a plus. Guess the tanning Pa gave him worked.”


“This time.”


Adam sighed. “True.  Now, why would the two of them go anywhere at this time in the morning?"


"Well...with Little Joe it could be for any number of reasons, but we'd better find him before Pa…"


"Before Pa what, Hoss?" Ben asked as he came into the kitchen.


Adam and Hoss were startled by the sound of their father's voice.


"Before Pa what, Hoss?" Ben repeated. "Is there something you are not telling me?"


"Err…no Pa...I mean... no sir…nuthin'..." Hoss replied nervously and glanced at his brother.


Ben eyed his oldest son. "Adam?"


Adam absently rubbed his ear. "No Pa, of course not...why don't you go sit down and Hoss and I will bring out breakfast?" He smiled at his father and pointed towards the dining room.


Ben looked at them suspiciously, but relented and went to sit at his

usual place at the table.


"Dagburnit Adam! I hate lyin' to Pa like that."


"Well, it's not something I enjoy either," Adam replied as he reached for the pan of scrambled eggs and a plate of ham. "Take these to the table and I'll bring out some toast."


Hoss nodded and grabbed the food from his brother.


Hannibal was next to join Ben at the table. "Good morning, Ben…Hoss."


"Mornin', Colonel… did ya sleep well?"


"Yes, Hoss... I slept fine… just fine."


"Good....let me bring out the rest of breakfast. Excuse me."


Murdock came bounding down the stairs, followed by a still sleepy BA. "Well, cock a doodle doo good morning to you," He shouted.


"I'll cock a doodle doo ya, Fool," BA growled and set down at the table next to Hannibal. "Shut up!"


Hannibal figured it would be best to separate BA and Murdock. "Ahh…Captain...why don't you see if they could use your help in the kitchen."


"It would be my pleasure, mon Colonel," Murdock replied with his best French accent. "I'm sure they could use Messieur Murdock's culinary expertise. Good morning, can I help?" He asked as he came into the kitchen.


"Err…sure, Murdock...why don't you take the plates and silverware out there," Adam replied and pointed to the stack of dishes.


"Sure thing, Johnny." Murdock went over and grabbed the plates. "Hey, where's Faceyman and the Joester...I thought they were suppose to be cooking breakfast this morning?"


Hoss glanced over to Adam. "Well…they went fishing, pardner…yeah, that's it… fishing."


" fair!" Murdock pouted and stomped out of the kitchen. "No fair at all."


"What's not fair, Captain?"


"Faceyman and the Joester went fishing and they didn't invite me or BA."


"He went where?"


"Fishing, Pa," Hoss said as he came out of the kitchen, followed by Adam.


"And who told him he could do that?


"I did, Pa," Adam replied and set the toast on the table.


"Oh you did, did you?"


Adam bristled at Ben's tone. "Yeah...after all, I do help run things around here."


"Would you like to repeat that, boy?"


"No sir."


Ben cleared his throat. "He supposed to be still digging that well, Adam...not going off fishing."


"I know, Pa."


"If you know that...then why did you tell him he could go?"


Hoss came up behind his brother. "Pa, I told Adam to let Joe go. I figured Little Joe could use a break...diggin' that well is mighty hard work."


"Well, your brother should have thought about that before he disobeyed my rules and neither one of you should have ignored my wishes."


Adam and Hoss nodded.


Ben sat back in his chair. "Hoss, you can help dig that well today since your brother is off fishing," he said with a tone that would tolerate no arguments.


"Yes sir."


"I'll help you, Hoss."


"No Adam, you will get started on that fence riding...understood?"


Adam rolled his eyes. "Do I have a choice?"


"We could go out to the barn instead, young man."


Adam took a deep breath. "That won't be necessary, Pa...I will be more than happy to get started on that fence riding." He smiled politely.


"Good idea."


Adam and Hoss nodded to the team and quickly headed for the door, grabbing their hats and gun belts on the way out.


"But boys…what about your breakfast?"


The only response was the slamming of the front door.


Hannibal sat back in his chair. "Well Ben, I don't think I have ever seen anyone so eager to go to work before."


Ben picked up his coffee cup and took a sip. "I think those boys of mine are up to something."


"Speaking of work, Mr. C.," Murdock interjected between forkfuls of scrambled eggs. "Is there anything that you want me and BA to do today?"


Ben smiled. "No, of course not, son."


"Well now, wait a minute there, Mr. C., my Daddy always taught me that a man's gotta earn his keep. You wouldn't want me to disobey dear ol' dad would ya?" Murdock smiled. "Besides the big guy here is gettin fat just sittin' around here all day, eating all this good food." Murdock pinched BA's bicep. "See flabby, flabby, flabby."


"Get off me you crazy fool!" BA growled and swatted Murdock's hand



Ben laughed. "No, of course not, Murdock…a boy should always mind his father. Or at least that is what I tell my sons." He grinned. "I tell you what...our chicken coop is in serious need of repair. Do you think you boys could fix it?"


"Can we fix it?" The Captain replied incredulously. "He wants to know if we can fix it." Murdock got up from the table and put his hands on the sergeant's shoulders. "Well, I'll have you know that BA here has got to be the best chicken coop fixer-upper this side of the Mississippi," He said enthusiastically. "Why we'll have those chickens sitting pretty in the nicest, most spectacular, deluxe chicken coop that anyone has ever seen…won't we, Big Guy?"


BA scowled.


Ben sat back in his chair and smiled. "Wonderful…you will find all the tools you need in the barn."


"Roger!" Murdock saluted and grabbed the sergeant. "Let's go, BA!"


Hannibal laughed. "I stand corrected."


"You do indeed, Hannibal." Ben smiled. I have some paperwork to do and then I want to ride over to the north pasture and meet up with Adam...would you care to join me?"


"Sounds good, but umm," The Colonel looked at the table, "whose gonna do all these dishes? You gave Hop Sing the day off... remember?"


Ben shook his head. "I'll wash…you dry?"


Hannibal grinned. "Deal."



Adam and Hoss stopped about two miles away from the house. "The buckboard tracks go towards town, Adam," Hoss said as he looked down in the dirt.


"Yeah, the two of them went into town for some reason. Joe knew that Pa expected him to keep working on that well. Wait until I get my hands on him," Adam stated annoyed at Joe's irresponsibility. "I should have just let Pa find out the truth." He smirked. "Especially, since I narrowly escaped a tanning a few days ago for keeping things from him."


"Now Adam," Hoss replied smiling, "you know Pa was just funnin' ya."


"This time." Adam raised an eyebrow. "And it wasn't exactly what I call fun, Hoss."


Hoss nodded. "You really don't want to see our little brother get in no trouble, do you...because Pa will tan him for sure."


“Well, it would serve him right.” Adam sat back on his horse. "And why should I put my neck or any other part of my body on the line for that little weasel?"


"Because we're brothers, Adam, and that's just what we're supposed to do."


"You had to put it that way, didn't ya, Brother?" Adam smiled.


Hoss grinned.


"Oh alright...let's find him before Pa realizes we're up to something. But I swear," Adam pointed a finger at Hoss, "if I go out to the barn for this, Joe and you will be joining me."


Hoss laughed. "Pa's right, Adam, you are becomin' less hard headed. It didn't take much convincin' for you to agree with me."


Adam shrugged. "I guess I'm getting soft in my old age, but don't go telling anyone that."


"Old age?  You ain't but still a young'un yourself, brother."


"Not you too, Hoss...I get enough of that from Pa."


"That's just Pa, Adam, he don't mean nothin' by it."


"I suppose, but sometimes I feel that he doesn't respect me as an adult."


"Brother, I could tell you all the ways Pa treats you like an adult."


"Oh one?"


"I can name a whole bunch...Who does he send on business deals? You."


"Who helps him with the books? You."


"Who does he go to when there is a problem with somethin'? You."


"Who helps him make a lot of the business decisions? You."


"Who can give the hands orders? You."


"Who does he ask for help with lookin' after me and Little Joe? You."


"Whose allowed to go into town anytime he wants? You."


"whose allowed to have more than just one or two beers, play poker, go out of town on weekends? You."


"Whose allowed to..."


"Alright, Hoss...enough."


"Stop fussin' at Pa so're gonna rile him one too many times, Adam."


Adam smirked.


"I'm just lookin' out for ya, Brother."




"We all have to look out for each other. Now, how are we goin' to do this? We can't be in two places at once?"


Adam thought for a moment. "Alright… this is what we are going to

do. You head into town and see if you can find Joe and Face and tell

them to high tail it over to the north pasture. I'll head over there

now and assign a few extra hands to dig that well, then start that

danged fence riding.


Hoss laughed. "I wonder how long Pa's gonna make you do that?"


Adam shrugged. "Probably, until I'm as old as he is."


"Well, I reckon it could be a whole lot worse."


Adam leaned forward on Sport. "How much worse can it be then having

to ride for hours, upon hours, only to have to get up and do the same

thing the next day and the next?"


"He coulda made you clear that path through Dead Man's Crossin', he's

been wantin' done. But I reckon he's waitin' until we really mess up

to give us that little chore."


Adam laughed. "Guess, I'd better mind my manners for a while."


"Not possible." Hoss shook his head. "Brother, you just ain't

capable of goin' too long without makin' some sorta wisecrack. You

was born a smart alek."


Adam smirked. "Meet me by Thompson's Creek in three hours, whether

you find those two or not."


"Right Adam," Hoss acknowledged and turned Chubb towards town.


Adam nodded and pulled on Sport's reins. "Yahh…"



"Whatcha doing in there, Fool?"


"Don't peek, BA…you'll ruin the fun."


"Whatcha talkin about, man?" BA tried to look between the cracks in

the barn doors but was having little success.


"Now close your eyes and soon you will get a big surprise."


BA closed his eyes, but then scowled. "Get out here, fool... before I

pound ya!"


Murdock opened the barn door and emerged covered in chicken

feathers. "Taa daa!"


The sergeant frowned. "Whatcha doing covered in feathers?"


"Well BA, I figured this way I will be able to better communicate

with the chickens while we are fixing their house. Maybe ease their

nervousness about us invading their space."


"Man, first you think you are talking with horses, now you think the

chickens will be talking to you...what's next, Fool? The cattle?"


Murdock put a finger to his chin and pondered this for a moment. He

cleared his throat. "Moooo...mooooo...mooooo..." He grinned. "I'll

have to try that after lunch...maybe I could find some horns to put



BA advanced towards Murdock who immediately ran back into the barn

and closed the door.


BA was pounding on the barn door when Hannibal came up behind him and

put a hand on his shoulder. "Ah...what's going on here, sergeant?"


"Man, that crazy fool thinks he's a chicken...he's covered himself in

feathers...says he's gonna talk to them while we fix their coop."


Hannibal shook his head and looked at Ben. "Captain, come out here!"


Slowly, the barn door opened and Murdock peered his feather covered

head out of the door. "Yes, Colonel?"


"Murdock, I do believe that you have been assigned to fix the chicken

coop, have you not?"


"Yes, Hannibal."


"Well then, I suggest you carry out your orders ASAP!" The Colonel

commanded, folding his arms across his chest.


"Right Colonel."


"And Captain."




"Lose the feathers, huh?"


Murdock gulped. "Yes sir." He ducked back inside and closed the barn



Hannibal looked at Ben and the two of them burst out laughing.



"Alright, I guess we can start our fence ride here and meet up with

Adam somewhere in the middle. I'll let him go from his punishment

and tell Hoss the same thing. We'll bring them home for lunch."


"What about Little Joe?"


"Oh now...he is going to finish that well. All my sons know there is

a price for disobedience. However, that youngest son of mine usually

has to learn things the hard way."


Hannibal grinned. "Ben, you have done a fine job raising them."


Ben sat back on his horse. "I did what a father is supposed to

do...nothing more, nothing less."


"Oh, don't sell yourself short, should be very proud."


Ben smiled. "I guess we should get started."


"So, exactly what do we do when we ride fence?"


"Well basically… we ride along and inspect the fence for any areas of

damage that need repairing and then repair it as soon as possible."

Ben pointed down the long stretch of fencing. "It's a tedious job,

but someone has to do it."


Hannibal grinned. "No wonder why Adam didn't seem happy about this

task, not with all this fence."


Ben laughed. "It is alot, isn't it? All of the boys hate it, but

after the way they behaved this morning, I have a feeling that they

all may be riding fence for the next year or so." Ben laughed. "They

think I don't know when they are up to something, but their ol' Pa is

wise to their tricks."


"What do you think they are up to?"


Ben shrugged. "I don't know, but I'll find out soon enough….I always



"Well, let's get started."


Ben nodded his head and turned Buck towards the fence.






“Morning Charlie, have you seen that little brother of mine any where?” Hoss said as he walked into the saloon.


Charlie stopped wiping the bar top and looked at Hoss.  “Well, as I recall I saw Joe and another fella heading over to Miss Maddie's early this morning."


"Thanks Charlie," Hoss smiled and left the saloon. He walked down the street to Miss Maddie's.


"Well, good morning, Hoss."


"Mornin', Miss Maddie," Hoss replied, taking off his hat.


"Come to have some breakfast? I made up a fresh batch of popovers."


"Well, those sure sound good, ma'am, but what I came to ask ya is...have you seen my little brother round this mornin'?"


"Yes, I did...him and that handsome fella he was with came in here bright and early this morning.  Asked me to cook them up a mess of vittles, said it was for some shindig your having at your place."


Hoss looked at her confused. "Did you cook it for them?"


"I sure did, but those two never came back. All that food went to waste and it cost me a pretty penny."


"I'm sorry about that, ma'am.  You just make up a bill and I'll see to it that it gets squared away."


"Well, that's mighty nice of you, Hoss...wait here a second."  Miss Maddie went into the kitchen and brought Hoss out a few popovers. "Take look like your wasting away to nothing."


"Thank you, ma'am."


"Why a growing boy like you needs his strength."


Hoss smiled and headed out the door. He was munching on a popover when Sheriff Coffee came up behind him.


"Good morning, Hoss."


"Howdy, Sheriff."


"What brings you into town this early? An errand for your Pa?"


"No sir...I'm lookin' for Little ain't seen him, have ya?"


"Yes, I did in fact...I saw them heading into..." Roy cleared his throat. "They went into Miss Hannah's."


Hoss' jaw dropped. "Miss Hannah's?"


Roy nodded. "Yup, early this morning."


Hoss put the popover away and looked at Roy. "Sheriff, please don't say nothin' to Pa about this...why he'd tan Little Joe for sure if he found out."


"I don't know, Hoss...I reckon that is something your Pa should know about."


"Please, sir...just let me check with Miss Hannah first and see if there is a reason that they went in there."


"You mean besides the obvious?"


Hoss gulped. "Yes sir."


"Alright, boy...your Pa won't find out from me, but you'd better tell him about hear?"


Hoss nodded.  "Yes sir...I sure will."


Roy laughed as he watched Hoss scoot over to Miss Hannah's.


Hoss got to the door and hesitantly opened it. "Oh Lordy," he said as he nervously stepped inside.


"Well...howdy, handsome," the scantily clad girl commented, as she came up to Hoss and put her arms around him. "Can I help you with something?"


" ma'am...I mean... yes ma' Miss Hannah around?"


"Oh... now why do you want to see Miss Hannah...aren't I pretty enough for you?" She rubbed his chest and played with his hair.


"Ma'am, you are right pretty gal...yes''s just that I...I...need to speak to Miss Hannah."


The girl pinched Hoss on the behind, which made him practically jump out of his skin. "Alright, wait right here and I'll go fetch her...we'll finish our talk later." 


Hoss leaned back against the door. "Oh Lordy."


"Well, good morning, Hoss...I never expected to see you in here."


"Mornin', Miss Hannah, did my little brother come in here this morning?"


"Sure did.  Him and that mighty handsome fella he was with."


Hoss gulped nervously


Hannah laughed. "Oh, they didn't come in here for that reason, Hoss...even though the girls certainly wanted to with that handsome fella.  One of the girls was hurt and they brought her home."


Hoss breathed a big sigh of relief. 


"They said they were going to head back over to Miss Maddie's, haven't seen them since."


Hoss smiled. "Well, thank you, ma'am."


"Hey, wait a minute, handsome...we have to finish our talk." The girl came back over and gave Hoss a passionate kiss.


"Oh Lordy." Hoss blushed and quickly left.



Adam was sitting on the bank of the creek when Hoss rode up behind him.




"They was in town alright, Adam, but now there ain't no sign of them.  You think somethin' happened to them?"


Adam exhaled. "Well, let's not worry about them yet.  If I know our little brother he's probably off somewhere with a pretty girl. Speaking of which, that color looks mighty nice on  you."


Hoss looked at him confused.


Adam pointed to his lips. "Just what were you doing in town?"


Hoss wiped the lipstick off his mouth. "I can explain, Adam."


"I'm sure you can, but we'll save that for later. Right now, let's ride over to the Hawkins' place and see if Miss Jamie Lynn has seen him."


"Good idea, Adam."


Adam mounted Sport. "I wish I had eaten breakfast...I'm as hungry as a bear."


"Oh," Hoss reached into his saddlebag and pulled out the napkin full of popovers, "here, brother...fresh made popovers."


Adam sat back on his horse. "Boy oh Boy....I send you into town to look for little Joe and you come back having smooched some gal and freshly made popovers...but no brother. How did you manage that?"


"My charmin' personality." Hoss smiled.


"More like your ability to find trouble no matter where you go."


"Well, if you don't want'em," he said putting the popovers back in his saddlebag.


"Wait," Adam said nervously, "I never said I didn't want one."


Hoss grinned at his brother.


"Alright," Adam replied, looking down in defeat. "It's your charming personality."


Hoss smiled. "I thought you'd see it my way, Brother." He reached in and handed Adam the popovers.


Adam eagerly ate the pastry.


"Mighty tasty, ain't they?"


Adam smiled. "I'm so hungry even that cow food of yours would taste good."


Hoss licked his lips. "You don't know what you're missin'."


"Let's ride."


"Right Adam."


Adam smirked. "On our way over to Jamie Lynn's, why don't you tell me about smooching that gal?"


Hoss blushed. "Oh Lordy."





Ben and Hannibal stopped their horses at Thompson's Creek. "We should have met up with Adam by now.  Let's water the horses and then head over to where Hoss and the hands are digging the well.  Maybe they know where he is."


The ranch hands were hard at work when Ben and Hannibal arrived.


“Howdy Boys”


“Oh howdy, Mr. Cartwright.”  Billy stopped digging and went over to the fence.


Ben looked around surprised that quite a few hands were there. "What are all you fellas doing working on the well?"


"Adam told us to work on it, Mr. Cartwright."


Ben looked at Hannibal. "Oh, he did?"


"Yes sir."


"Where is Hoss...he is supposed to be helping you with this chore."


“Er.. well..." The ranch hand shifted nervously.


Ben sat back on his horse. "Well?"


One of the other ranch hands put down his shovel and joined Billy at the fence. "Hoss ain't here, Mr. Cartwright."


"He ain't?"


"No sir."


"Have you seen Adam, Luke? He is supposed to be riding fence."


"Ain't seen him since this morning. Adam said they

had some business to tend to, Mr. Cartwright."


"Business?" Ben repeated. "What kind of business?"


"Don't reckon we know the answer to that, sir," Billy replied, looking down at the dirt.


Ben looked down at the two ranch hands. "Don't worry about it, boys."


"Do you want us to keep working on the well?"


Not wanting to undermine Adam's authority in front of the hands, he replied, "yes, you work on it like Adam said, Luke."


"Alright, Mr. Cartwright."


"And Billy...if you see those boys of tell them that I want to see them.  I'll be back at the house."


"Yes sir, Mr. Cartwright...we'll tell'em."


Hannibal looked at Ben. "So, what are we going to do?"


"Well," Ben replied calmly. "I'm going home to have some lunch and wait for my sons.  I'm anxious to hear their reasons for completely disregarding my instructions."


Hannibal smiled. "I wouldn't want to be them right now."


Ben raised an eyebrow. "Neither will they when I'm finished with them."



"Well Howdy, Adam...Hoss."


"Hello, Mr. Hawkins," Adam replied and shook the older man's hand.


"What brings you out this way?"


"My brother and I are looking for Little Joe...have you seen him, sir?"


"No...I haven't, Adam...not since I caught those two smooching.  Reckon he's afraid to show himself around here."


Adam smiled. "I'm sorry about that, Mr. Hawkins.  You can be assured that it will never happen again. He's been punished."


"I hope your Pa wasn't too hard on him, Adam."


Adam grinned. "Well, Pa lectured him for a month of Sundays on the proper way to treat a lady and he's been busy digging a new well in our north pasture."


Mr. Hawkins laughed. "Knowing your Pa, I thought he'd tan the hide off of that boy."


"He nearly did, but I convinced him that digging that well would tire Little Joe out so much that he wouldn't have the strength to stay out late or smooch for that matter."


"Always looking out for those brothers of yours...aren't ya, Adam?"


Adam nodded his head. "Yes sir, and for the life of me I can't figure out why. "


"'Cause you remember what it was like to be a young'un, and if I recall there was a few times when you could have used a big brother to protect your hide from your Pa's strap."


Adam sighed. "Ah...the trials of being the oldest, but Pa's softened a bit with age."


"Don't let him catch ya saying that. I don't think your Pa would hesitate to tan you...if he had a mind to."


Adam smiled. "You're right about that, Mr. Hawkins, but there are some advantages to being the big brother."


"What's that, Adam?"


"I get to boss the boys around all day and I get to laugh when Pa catches them at mischief.  Those two can keep me amused for hours."


Hoss flushed with embarrassment. "Adam."


"Oh Jamie Lynn around?"


"No, her and her Ma left this morning to visit relatives."


"Then Little Joe isn't with her." Adam folded his arms. "Well, I guess we had better head out...we need to find him before Pa realizes he's missing.  This time I don't think I could keep Pa from tanning him."


"Then you best head out."


"Nice talking to you, Mr. Hawkins."


"Nice talking with you, Adam, and tell your Pa not to make a stranger of himself."


"I sure will, sir, and as soon as I find that little brother of mine...I'll send him over to apologize to you and Jamie Lynn."


Mr. Hawkins laughed. "Alright, do that."


Adam and Hoss smiled and tipped their hats.





"Just so you know, Adam...Little Joe did try to apologize as I reckon you must have told him to," Hoss said as they mounted their horses.




"Yeah, but Pa sent him out to the Giles' place, before he could...this was when you was havin' all that fun in Genoa."


Adam feel over onto Sport.. "Don't remind me. I'm still worn out from hauling all that grain from town."


Hoss grinned. "I'm starting to see you in a whole new light, older brother."


"What's that supposed to mean?"




"Hoss, don't annoy me...not today."


"Keeping Joe's comin' in late from Pa and talkin' him out of tannin' him and now ridin' all over the territory lookin' for him instead of workin'. You're turnin' into a downright nice, fella."


"Yeah...well, don't get used to it."


Hoss laughed. "Let me ask you somethin', Adam?"




"Did you ever do that for me?"


"Did I ever do what for you?"


"Talk Pa out of tannin' me for somethin'?"


Adam smiled. "Now, why would I ever do a thing like that for you? You're not nearly as cute as Little Joe."


"Aww...come on, Adam...I'm bein' serious."


Adam sat back on Sport. "You remember the time when I caught you drinking when you were about twelve?"


" and Grady Phillips went into Pa's liquor cabinet. We stole a bottle of whiskey and took it out to Thompson's Creek and drank most of it."


"Do you remember what punishment Pa gave you?"


"If I recall, I had to stay in my room all the next day...which wasn't that bad seeing as I was a might hung over."


Adam smiled. "Do you find that strange now...knowing the way Pa is?"


Hoss nodded. "Yeah, I reckon that was a lot strange for Pa. Whatcha gettin at, Adam?"


Adam shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. "Well, let's just say my punishment for that incident was a whole lot worse than a day in my room."


"What would Pa have punished you wasn't even there?"


"I told him that you and Grady found whiskey that my friends and I had been drinking by the Creek.  I told him that you didn't know what it was, because I had mixed it with lemonade."


"Adam, now why did you do a fool thing like that for? You shoulda just told Pa the truth."


"You said it yourself earlier, Hoss...we're brothers and that's just what we're supposed to do.  Besides, you were so sick and scared, I felt you had been punished enough."


Hoss blushed. "You know, just when I think I have you all figured do somethin' to surprise me."


Adam looked thoughtfully at Hoss. "Don't try to figure me out, might hurt what little brains you have."


"Dagburnit Adam! Wait till I get my hands on you!" Hoss shouted.


Adam grinned and pulled on Sports reins. "You'll have to catch me first!"


Hoss laughed and chased after his brother.



"Say it, Adam!"




Hoss let Adam out of the wrestling hold he had on him and they both laid back in the grass out of breath and laughing.


"You know, older brother...this is a whole heck of a lot more fun than fence ridin' or diggin' that well," Hoss said looking up at the sky.


"You say that now, but wait until Pa finds out what we're up to."


Hoss gulped. "Yeah, I reckon he's gonna be pretty sore at us."


"I reckon you're right." Adam teased.


Hoss laughed.


"Alright, enough of this nonsense, let's go check out the fishing spots...maybe if we get lucky, it won't be a lie we told to Pa after all."


Hoss was in the middle of getting up when Adam tackled him and managed to pin him to the ground. "Say it, Hoss!"




Adam laughed. "Close enough." He got up and held out his hand to Hoss. "Let's go!"


"You plumb cheated."


Adam shrugged. "I look at it as taking advantage of a fruitful opportunity."






Hannibal and Ben were sitting at the table enjoying lunch when Murdock and BA came in the front door.


"Well, how did things go?" Ben asked.


"Fine...just fine," Murdock replied, trying desperately to hide the wiggling ball inside his jacket.


"Did you fix up the chicken coop, Captain?" Hannibal asked suspiciously. "No problems?"


"Not a one...well...ummm...I gotta go wash up for lunch." Murdock headed for the steps.


Hannibal winked at Ben. "Halt!" he commanded.


Murdock stopped by the edge of the steps.


"Atten-Hut!" Hannibal ordered coming over to Murdock.


Murdock turned around and stood at attention. He smiled nervously at Hannibal.


"Captain, exactly what do you have in your jacket?"


"Nothing, sir."


"Nothing, you say?"


On cue, there was a loud clucking sound coming from inside the pilot's jacket.


"Yes sir, that's what I said."


Hannibal put his arms behind his back and paced back and forth. "Captain, you know how I feel about you not?"


"Yes sir."


"Do you want to spend the rest of the day running to town and back?"


"No sir."


"Well, then I suggest you take that chicken you have hidden in your jacket back out to the coop."


"But Penelope and I have bonded, Colonel, and she would make a great playmate for Billy."




Murdock looked down at the floor. "You never let me have any fun...I can't even have this one little chicken." He stomped out the door.


Hannibal turned to Ben who was laughing hysterically. "You know, Ben...I may just leave the team here when I go home."


"Oh, no you don't...I have enough trouble trying to keep my three boys in line."


Hannibal grinned. "I had to at least ask."


Ben laughed. "Whose Billy?"


"His invisible dog."


"His what?"






"Thank you for savin' my hide from Pa that day, Adam, and I'm sorry you got a thrashin' for somethin' you didn't do," Hoss said as he pulled the fish out of the lake, took it off the hook, showed it to Adam proudly and threw it back.


Adam put his fishing pole into the water. "Nothing to be sorry for, it was my decision to take the blame, besides I probably deserved a tanning for something else that Pa just never found out about."


Hoss grinned. "You always was the sneaky one, brother.  Makin' Pa believe you are mature and responsible so's he lets you go off and do things, he ain't never gonna let me or Joe do."


Adam looked indignant. "I am always mature and responsible."


"Oh yeah...then how come you wound up in the barn a few times?"


Adam smirked. "Probably, because I let myself be talked into doing something foolish with my little brothers."


Hoss leaned back and put his hat over his eyes. "You have to admit we do make your life more fun...why, without me and Little Joe be sittin' in your chair all day readin'..."


Adam grinned and quietly tied the end of Hoss' line to a tree root that was submerged in the water.


"Yup, or workin....just workin' or readin'," Hoss continued. "Be a real dull life..."


Adam tugged on Hoss line.


Hoss sat up quickly and tried to pull the line from the water.


"Hey Hoss, stand up that seems like a real big one you got there!"


"Yeah, probably that ol' granddaddy catfish ain't no one been able to catch."


"Go out there!" Adam pushed him out into the water a bit.


Hoss pulled on the line causing it to snap and send him backwards into the water and mud.


Adam was literally rolling on the ground laughing.


Hoss noticed the end of the line tied to the tree root. "Dagburn you, Adam!" he shook off the mud from his hands.


Adam composed himself and went over to Hoss. "I'm sorry, brother...come, let's get you out of there." He put out his hand, which was a big mistake.


Hoss grinned and pulled Adam in head first. It wasn't long before the two of them were wrestling around in the lake.



"Dagblasted! We are all but gonna freeze to death in these wet clothes."


"You're right!" Adam agreed through chattering teeth.


"Well, what are we gonna do, brother...we can't very well ride nekkid back to the house?"


Adam shrugged. "It was good enough for Lady Godiva."




"Never mind."


"Well, lucky for you that your older brother always comes prepared for any situation," Adam undid his bedroll. "The blankets ain't much, but it's better than freezing to death." He looked at Hoss. "You'd better take two."


"Ha Ha Ha! You don't have no food with you, Mr. Always Prepared."


"A detail that I overlooked."


"A might important one...wouldn't you say?"


Adam fought the urge to stick out his tongue at his brother and instead opted for hitting him in the face with the blankets. "Hurry Up!"


The boys were soon undressed and wrapped up in their new attire.


"Well, don't you make a pretty sight...nice legs, brother."


Adam sneered at him. "You should look in the mirror, brother...if you could find one big enough."


Hoss sat up on Chubb. "You're just jealous of my manly physique."


Adam laughed. "I don't think neither one of us looks very manly right now."


Hoss looked at Adam and then at himself. "You know, part of me doesn't want to find Little Joe...he'd never let us live this one down."


Adam nodded.


"Well, Where do we go now?"


Adam shrugged. "Well, we've checked everywhere I can think of that he might go."


"How about Marie's grave?"


"Yeah, Little Joe does go there sometimes...maybe he wanted to show Face? I just don't understand why they would go all the way into town for breakfast and then leave without bringing it back?"


"I don't know, Adam...maybe they realized how foolish their plan was?"


Adam shook his head. "Dang that kid...he's really starting to rile me."


"Take it easy, Adam.  They might have a good reason for going off."


Adam exhaled. "I suppose, but if he doesn' won't be Pa he'll need protection from."


Hoss gulped. "Let's head over to Marie's's gettin' near to supper time."


Adam nodded.




A few hours later, Adam pulled Sport to a stop by the hitching post and quickly dismounted.  He walked over and tied the horse to the rail, Hoss followed suit with Chubb.


"Hoss, go check and see if the buckboard is here."


"Right Adam."


Adam paced back and forth. "Well?" he asked Hoss who joined him on the porch.


"No such luck, brother.  They still might be inside?"


"I doubt it." Adam grimaced. "We'd better get in there and tell Pa."


"I ain't lookin' forward to this, older brother...Pa's gonna be fit to be tied when he finds out Little Joe and Face are missin' and we lied to him."


Adam shrugged. "Well, there isn't much we can do about it now."


The two oldest Cartwright boys were greeted by Ben's angry stare and snickers from the team at their attire when they came through the front door of the ranch house . "Well, where have you two been? Because I know it wasn't the north pasture like you were supposed to be.”


Hoss chose to ignore his father's statement for now. "Err… sorry, we're late, Pa, but Adam and me have been…"


"Sorry we're late Pa," Ben repeated, his voice filled with annoyance. He turned to the team. "My apologies to you all.   It seems as though all my sons have decided it is fine to gallivant all over the Territory and keep us all waiting." He glared at his sons. "Take your seats, Boys…I'll deal with you after supper."


Adam fiddled with his hat in his hands. "Pa, there is something we need to tell you about Joe and..."


"Yes, speaking of that youngest brother of yours.  I need to have a talk with him as well about his behavior..."


"Pa…" Hoss tried to get his father's attention.


"Going off …shirking all his responsibilities…"


"Pa..." Adam attempted, being as unsuccessful as Hoss at stopping their father's tirade.


"Fishing! I can't believe he went fishing when he was supposed to digging that well." Ben's voice growing angrier with each passing thought. "Then to top it off...not be on time for supper!"


Hoss grimaced and looked over to Adam. "Pa, calm down…there is somethin' Adam and me think you oughta know..."


"And you two...completely disobeying my orders...I think all you boys have forgotten...I'm still running this ranch!"


"Pa!” Adam yelled his voice filled with frustration. "Stop shouting and listen for a moment!"


Ben glared at his oldest, not pleased with Adam's tone. "What is it?" 


Adam shifted nervously and cleared his throat. "Pa, we lied to you....Little Joe and Face did not go fishing. They were gone when Hoss and I got up this morning. We just made up the fishing story to give us time to look for them."


"Yeah, Pa…Adam and me have been lookin' for those two all day."


"What?" Ben stood up from the table. "I just can't believe what I'm hearing...lying, covering up...haven't I raised you boys better than that?"


"Dagburnit Pa! We just didn't want to see Little Joe get in no trouble…that's all."


"That's all!?" Ben was furious. He turned from his sons, not knowing what to say.


Hannibal stepped up to Ben and put his hand on his shoulder. "Let me handle this."


Ben nodded and sat back down in his chair.


"Adam, you know where my lieutenant and Joe are?"


The brothers looked at each other. "No sir, Adam and me have tracked them as far…Oh Lordy..." Hoss flushed with embarrassment. "As far as Miss Hannah's....after that, they just plumb up and disappeared."


"Miss Hannah's?" Ben bellowed. "What in tarnation were they doing there?"


"It ain't what you're thinkin', Pa," Hoss offered.


"It better not have been...well, at least not Little Joe." Ben cleared his throat.


Hannibal raised his eyebrows quizzically at Ben. "Why… what's Miss Hannah's?"


Adam shifted uncomfortably. "It's a brothel."


Hannibal looked at Murdock and BA, who were grinning from ear to ear. "Yup, that sounds like Face."


"Yeah, leave it to him to find the place with all the pretty girls." Murdock laughed and slapped his knee.


"Like a moth to a flame, Captain.” Hannibal grinned and put his cigar in his mouth. "Like a moth to a flame."


Ben was not finding any of this amusing. "So, what makes you think they are missing, Hoss?"


"Because ain’t no one seen hide nor hair of them since daybreak and Adam and me have looked everywhere.”


Ben stood up from his chair. "You two should have told me the truth this morning!"


Adam rolled his eyes. "We know that, Pa!"


"Your brother and Face could be hurt."


"Oh, come on! Don't you think Hoss and I already thought of that!" Adam yelled angrily. "Give us a little credit!"


"Credit for what? Lying? Covering up? Disobeying Me?"


"For riding all over this territory looking for a son you obviously have no control over!" Adam immediately stepped back from his father. "I'm sorry, Pa...I didn't mean that."


Ben took a step closer to his oldest son.  "I will not tolerate any more insolence from you, more time, and no matter how grown you think you will not like the outcome. Do you understand me?"


"Yes sir. I didn't mean to be disrespectful. I'm just worried about Little Joe and Face."


Hoss nodded his head. "I'm worried too, Pa...we thought we would find them right quick."


Ben sighed and brought his temper under control. He smiled at his two sons and in a fatherly gesture, he reached out and put a hand on each of their shoulders. "It's alright, boys," Ben said reassuringly. “Let’s see if we can find that wayward brother of yours and his partner, huh?"


Adam smiled. "Sure Pa."


Hoss nodded in agreement.


A stern expression came to Ben's face. "But you three are going to have a very serious talking to after we find them."  He headed for the door.


"I wouldn't have expected anything less." Adam sighed, closed his eyes and waited for Ben's wrath.


"What was that you said?" Ben asked from the front door.


Adam straightened up. "I said, we'll have to do our best, find them, I mean."


Hoss patted Adam on the shoulder. "Good thinkin', Big Brother...cause you're comin' awful close to the barn."


"Shut up," Adam replied and hit Hoss with his hat.


"Well, come on, boys...let's go!"


"Umm Pa?


"Yes, Hoss?"


"Me and Adam need to go get into some new britches first."


Ben had been so caught up in his tirade that he hadn't noticed they were only wearing their boots and a blanket.


Ben put his hands in his pockets. "Do I even want to know?"


"No sir," Adam replied quickly.


Murdock sneaked up behind Hoss and Adam and yanked off their blankets, leaving them standing there in their birthday suits.


Hoss nearly died from embarrassment, while Adam put his hat on his head and smirked. "Will you gentlemen please excuse us?"


"Of course, son," Ben replied holding back a laugh.


"Thank you."


Ben, Hannibal, Murdock and BA burst out laughing as soon as Adam and Hoss went down the hall to their rooms.



Face woke up with a start. "Aww,  man...that hurts." He went to put up his hand to his head and realized he couldn't. " here?"


Joe opened his eyes. "Yeah Face...I'm over here."


"You alright?"


"My head hurts."


"Mine too...can you get your hands free?"


Little Joe tried. "No, my hands are tied."


"Any idea where we are?"


Joe squinted. "I'm not sure. I can't see much."


"Well, we need to find a way to get these ropes off."


Suddenly, they heard the cocking of a gun from somewhere in the darkness. "I wouldn't do that if I were you, boys."



"Alright, are you two boys ready to go?"


"Yes sir, Pa," Hoss replied putting on his hat and gun belt.


They all mounted their horses.


"Adam, I want you to ride into town and tell Sheriff Coffee what has happened. Tell him we may need his help."


"Pa...that is wasting time...I could be out here helping look."


Ben put up a hand. "Then meet us at Snake Creek in two hours."


"But Pa..."


"Do as I say, Adam."


Adam nodded and tapped Sport with his boots.


"Dang that, boy...he's been more of a handful than Little Joe."


Hannibal grinned. "He's becoming as ornery as his old man."


Ben returned the grin. "Heaven help Ben Cartwright is enough."




"Howdy Adam," Cole said as he bumped into Adam coming out of Sheriff Coffee's office. 




"Got troubles?"


"Oh, my little brother seems to have run off somewhere...Pa sent me here to let Roy know in case we may need his help."


"You want me to come out to the ranch and help you's the least I could do."


Adam looked at him for a moment, but then smiled. "Sure, we could use another pair of eyes.  But if you find that little brother of mine make sure you hold on tight to him...he's mighty wiry."


Cole laughed.



"Just who are you, Mister?"


"Never you mind that, young'un."


"I'll mind what ever it is I, tell me why you have us tied up!" Joe demanded.


"You keep a civil tongue in your head, boy! Or I'll skin you alive."


"I'd like to see you try it you crusty ol' buzzard!"


"Take it easy, Little Joe," Face ordered. "I demand to know why you are holding me and my young friend here captive."


"Those are my, you just remember what I said about that civil tongue, young'un," He warned again and left.


"Well, that's quite a temper you have there, kid," Face teased.


Little Joe smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, I get it from my Pa...but don't tell him I said that he'll whip me for sure."




"Howdy, Mr. Cartwright."


"Cole...what are you doing out here?"


"Adam tells me your son is missing and I've come to offer you my help."


"Well, that's mighty nice of you.  We could use all the help we could get."


"Adam, did you let Sheriff Coffee know of the situation?"


"That's why you sent me to town, isn't it? Senility setting in, Pa?"


"Boy, if we weren't searching for your brother, I'd wear your hide out right here. Now, let's try it again, shall we...answer my question."


Adam shifted uncomfortably. "Yes sir.  The Sheriff is aware of the situation and he said one word from you and he will have the whole town out looking for those two."


"Thank you, son...was that so hard to be civil to your father?"


Adam put on a fake smile. "Easy as pie."


Ben eyed him for a moment, but didn't continue the discussion. "Adam, you Hoss and Cole head down the creek until you get to the end, search the bottom land.  Murdock, you and BA follow upstream until you come to Sheep's head...which is our timber camp.  Hannibal and I will search the entire North pasture and Thompson's Creek.  If anyone finds the send off a volley of three shots.  We rendezvous back at the house in four hours.  Agreed?"


Everyone nodded.


"You and your Pa always caterwaul at each other like that?" Cole asked.


"Not usually," Hoss answered for Adam, "But I reckon my big brother here thinks he's a little too big for his britches since he came back to the Ponderosa. Must be that fancy college education of his...makes him think he don't have to show no respect for his father."


"No one asked your opinion, Hoss," Adam shot back.


"Well...I'm offerin' it anyhow...ain't nothin' I can say to talk some sense into that hard head of his...but I reckon when our Pa's had enough he'll knock some sense into him."


"I'll knock some sense into you, if you don't stop jawing and start looking for Joe and Face."


"Like I said before, big brother...just looking out after you."


"Well, don't bother...I'm all grown up now, Hoss...I can take care of myself." Adam rode off into the darkness.


Hoss laughed. "He won't be sayin' he's grown when Pa takes him out to the barn."


"My Daddy was the same way...why he'd whale the tar out of me or my brothers if'n he thought we'd needed it. I miss the ol' coot."


"Well, Pa's just as likely to hug us as he is to tan us, but he don't take kindly to bein' disrespected."


"Neither did my mama...she'd take a switch to us faster than you can say injun...but she was also sweet, awful pretty and made the best gooseberry pies in the territory."


"Sounds like you had some really good folks."


"Yeah they were honest, hardworking people."


"How'd they die...if'n you don't mind me askin'?"


"They was killed trying to defend our farm from some government men who said it didn't belong to us."


"Weren't there nothin' legally you could do?"


"Tried everything...well look let's stop yakking and start searching."


"Good idea...let's catch up to that mule-headed brother of mine."


Four hours later everyone met back up at the house. "No luck finding them anywhere...I'm guessing?" Ben asked.


Everyone shook their heads.


"Hey Mr. C., look there's a note on the door," Murdock said and went over to the porch.


"What's it say, son?"


"It says I have your son and his partner in my possession.  I will be sending further instructions on what I want you to do next.  If you do not call off the search...they will be executed."


Ben grabbed the note from Murdock and reread it. "Is this some sort of sick joke...who would take Little Joe and Face?"


"Well can't expect us to listen to this note," Adam commented.


"And why not?"


"Because we can't call off the search that's why not...we have to find them."


"Boys, put the horses up and meet me in the house."


"No Pa...I am going back out to look for them."


Ben went over to Adam and grabbed him by both arms. "Do not defy me, move."


Adam took a hold of Sport and Buck and lead them into the barn.  Hoss brought in the other horses.


"Mr. Cartwright...I'm going to head back into town and turn send for me if you want me to help."


"Cole, why don't you stay with us's a long ride back into town."


"Oh, that's mighty generous of you, Mr. Cartwright, but I have some business to attend to first thing in the morning, be easier if I was in town already."


"Thank you for all your help, Cole."


"You're welcome, sir." He tipped his hat and left.


"Are you okay, Adam?"


"I'm fine, Hoss."


"Don't think I ever saw Pa that mad before."


Ben took a deep breath and went into the barn. "Hoss."


"Yes Pa?"


"Go in the house...I need to speak to your brother."


"Yes sir."






"Turn around and look at me when I speak to you."


Adam turned around and stared at his father.


"I'm sorry for losing my temper...I was wrong. However, I have had enough of this attitude from you.  It has to end, son...we can't live another moment like this."


"May I finish what I was doing, sir?" Adam asked coldly.


Ben sighed. "Fine son...put up the horses and meet me inside...I'll send your brother back out to help."


"Thank you, sir." Adam went back to unsaddling Buck.


A few minutes later Hoss entered the barn. “Well, Pa came in a might too fast…so he didn’t thrash ya,” he said smiling.


“Shut up, Hoss.”


“You’re gonna say that to me one too many times, Big Brother.”


Adam looked at his brother. “I’m sorry, Hoss…I didn’t mean to snap at you.”


Hoss smiled and patted Adam on the back. “Guess I’ll forgive you this time…now let’s get the horses put up.”


Adam nodded.



Cole met Tuck about thirty minutes from the house. "Did they get the note?"


"Sure did, Tuck, and my suspicions about the oldest boy are true...he's as ornery as they come...if all goes according to my plan…we should have the other brother and the rest of those fellas by sunup."




Hannibal stood with his arms folded, contemplating the words on the paper. "I don't like to let some sleazeball tell me what to do."


"But Hannibal they may have men guarding the house."


"You are right about that, Ben...but I have a feeling that this is an empty threat...if they wanted to kill Face and Little Joe, they would have by now."


Adam nodded.  "That's what I think as well, Pa...they can't possibly watch us all night and all day.  We would have seen someone by now."


"Or at least signs of someone," Murdock added.


"No, I don't want to risk it."


"But Pa..."


"Adam, I said no and that's final."


"Pa, Adam's right... we need to keep lookin’ for him and Face."


Adam raised his hands up in frustration. "You can't expect me to sit here and do nothing while someone has Little Joe!"


"That's exactly what I expect."


"Colonel, what do you think?"


"Adam, it's a tough call...if he only had Face I would probably keep looking, but I am not willing to risk the boy as well."


Ben went over to the fireplace.  " all read what the note said.  If we don't call off the search, Joe and Face will be executed."


Adam pointed at his father. "So, you are going to let some mad man dictate our actions?"


"For now, yes...until I hear otherwise.  I will not take chances with Joe or Face's life and I expect you to obey me without question, Adam."


"Fine, but I still think you are wrong."


Ben ignored his eldest. "And that goes for you as well, Hoss."


"Yes sir."


"Please, go to bed and get some rest, huh...we'll need a lot of strength to get through this."


"Alright, rest easy too, ya here?" Hoss smiled and headed for the stairs.


Ben nodded. "You too, Adam, please son."


"I'm not tired, Pa."


Ben inhaled and wiped his hands over his face. "Son, that was not a suggestion...I'm nearing the end of my patience with you...go upstairs now!”


Adam stared at him.


Hoss grabbed a hold of his brother. "You heard what Pa let's go to bed and rest before I pound you and don't think I can't do it, Big case you haven't noticed I'm a might bigger than before you left for school."


Adam relented knowing that Hoss rarely lost his temper but when he did he was not one to mess with. Besides, Adam smirked…Hoss now outweighed him by nearly a hundred pounds.


Ben watched the boys go upstairs. "It's not going to take much more for me to tan his hide," he said frustrated.


Hannibal looked at Murdock and BA. "Maybe we should go to bed too...wouldn't want to make you mad, Ben."


Ben laughed.  "Let's all turn in."


Later that night, Hoss sneaked down the hall to Adam's room. He quietly opened the door and went in.  He went over to Adam's bed. "Adam, you asleep?"


"I was until you woke me...what is it?"


"I've been thinkin' about what Pa said and dagburnit...I normally don't like to go against him, but I think he's plumb wrong.  We need to keep lookin' for those two."


Adam threw the covers off and stood up. He was fully dressed, gun belt and all.


Hoss looked at him.


Adam shrugged. "I've been waiting for you for an hour."


"After you, brother." He grinned and pointed to the window.


Adam  grimaced. "You don't actually expect me to sneak out through the window...after all, I am a grown man."


"Then why don't you go wake up Pa and tell him we're goin' to look for Joe and Face?"


Adam looked at the door and then the window. "Let's go," he said and climbed out of the window onto the roof. Adam slid off the edge of the roof, knocking over a flower pot. It went crashing onto the porch.


"Would you be quiet, brother....ain't no use of sneakin' if'n you're gonna cause all that ruckus."


Adam looked up at Hoss. "'s been awhile since I did this sort of thing, ya know and in all fairness, I never did get much practice."


"Well, keep still or you'll wake up Pa." Hoss soon joined his brother on the ground.


"Hey, you're pretty good at this sneaking out of the window thing...just how often do you do this?"


"Never you mind that, Adam...we gotta find our little brother."


"Uh-huh...I have a feeling that our little brother is pretty good at it too."


Hoss gulped.


They quietly went into the barn.


"What took you two so long?" the voice came out of the darkness, causing Adam and Hoss to nearly fall over from fright.


"Dagburnit! near scared me half to death!"


Murdock grinned. "Thought I was your Pa, huh?"


Adam smiled. "Sure did...what are you doing here?"


"Well, probably about the same thing you are...disobeying orders and going off to look for Joe and Face."


"Is BA coming?"


"Right here, man,"


The four of them quickly saddled their horses and left,


Cole smiled and stepped out from behind the barn.  He gave them about a ten minute head start and then got on his horse and followed after them.


"Alright, now we have searched pretty much every inch of the Ponderosa...maybe we need to look elsewhere?"


Murdock nodded. "That's true, Adam...I mean there isn't any proof that Face and the Joester made it back to the Ponderosa…we have just been assuming."


"Quiet, I hear something," Adam ordered.


"Everyone drew their weapons.


"You there...identify yourself!"


"Don't shoot,'s me Cole."


"Cole, what in tarnation are you doin' here?" Hoss asked.


"Well, after we broke up the search earlier...I decided to do a little checking around your Pa seemed so upset...I think I spotted something up by one of your line shacks.  I was just heading out to your place to let you all know when I came across you fellas."


"Which direction and how far?"


"About thirty minutes from the direction I just came, Adam."


"That's the line shack by Coyote Pass, Big Brother...good place to hide out."


"Well, then let's go there and see."


Once they came up to the line shack, they were immediately surrounded.


"What is the meaning of this?" Adam demanded.


"Well, allow me to introduce myself to you fellas.  The name is Cole...Cole McDermott."




"You mean like as in the McDermott brothers?" Hoss asked.


"Hey're not as dumb as you look," Cole replied sarcastically and motioned for everyone to get off their horses. "Not you, Adam."


Adam stopped mid dismount and climbed back on Sport.


"I want you to go back to your daddy and tell him what's happened."


"I won't leave here without the others."


"Oh, you'll do exactly as I say or I'll kill them right now."


"Let me see my brother."


"Tuck, bring out the kid."


Tuck untied Little Joe and brought him outside.


"Adam!" Joe shouted and went to go to him, but was stopped by Tuck.


"Are you alright, boy?"


"I'm fine, Adam."


"What about Face?"


"He's fine too, Adam."


"Alright you saw get going," Cole ordered.


"I'll leave...but you can be assured that I will return."


"I'm looking forward to our next meeting."


"Hoss, take care of Little Joe."


"Right Adam."




Adam rode hard back to the ranch house, he quickly dismounted and went inside.


"Adam, where have you been and where is Hoss and the team?" Ben demanded.


"They've been taken, Pa. They ambushed us at Coyote Pass."




"Cole is the youngest McDermott...he's the one who has all the boys, Pa. We have to go back there and get, Pa!" Adam started for the door.


Ben grabbed him. "Get back here, boy!"


"Take your hands off me, Pa!"


Ben let go of Adam. "Tell me how this all happened!"


"We went out looking for them..."


"What? After I expressly forbade you not to!" Ben slapped his hands to his sides. "Apparently, my sons have been replaced by ones who disobey me."


"You're a fool...I don't have to listen to you anymore!"


"Oh really? Well, if you had listened to me...we wouldn't be having this, would we, boy?"


"Shut up, Pa...or I swear I will..."


"Will what, boy?"


Hannibal stepped in between Adam and Ben.


"Listen, kid, we are not going to go off half cocked.   We need to give them just enough time to make them nervous and then we'll strike tonight."


"Tonight?" But that will be too late!"


"Look, if they wanted you all dead...they would have just killed you...Cole is waiting for us, he has some other plans.  I know what I'm doing."


"Who in blazes put you in charge of making the decisions anyway?"


"Adam!" Ben warned.


Hannibal folded his arms. "I'm sure I know a lot more about what it takes to run this type of rescue operation than you do, kid."


"Listen, these are my little brothers we are talking about!"


"Are you forgetting that my team is also being held, Kid?"


"Knock it off with the kid nonsense, old man!"


"Adam!" Ben warned again.


Hannibal poked him the chest. "Well, stop acting like one and maybe I will cut it out with the nickname, kid."


Adam punched Hannibal in the face, sending him to the floor.


Ben grabbed his son. "Enough, Adam!"


"Let me go, Pa!"


"I said...enough!"


Adam pulled away from Ben and straightened his clothes.


Ben helped Hannibal up from the floor.


"I can't believe what I have just witnessed! My son striking a guest in our house! Your actions last night and right now were immature and foolish and your behavior these past few months has been inexcusable.  I never thought I'd say this, but I am really ashamed of you, son.  I don't know what has gotten into you, but it has lead you down a path you will soon regret going with me, boy!


"I'm sorry, Pa."


"I don't want to hear I'm sorry, Adam. I have enough to worry about with out you making the situation worse. Don't forget they are my sons as well as your brothers, young man!"




"Adam, I'm so angry with you, I can't even look at you right now. Go out to the barn and wait for me!" 


"Yes sir," Adam replied softly and left.


Hannibal put a hand on Ben's shoulder. "Don't be too hard on the boy, Ben."


Ben put his hands in his pockets. "I feel like my word does not mean anything to him anymore."


"It does, Ben, or he wouldn't have done as you asked, knowing what you have in mind for him.  Listen, I suspect your son is feeling that he has truly disappointed a man he respects very much."


"I'm not feeling very respected at the moment."


"Then you have a lot in common with your son."


Ben smiled. "You don't beat around the bush, do you?"


"Nope.  Listen, Ben...I'm not saying he is right for behaving the way he has...just the opposite in fact, but he is still young and bound to make stupid choices. You and I both did.  Maybe your son has learned his lesson?"


Ben smiled. "I believe that young man owes you a debt of thanks for saving his hide."


Hannibal laughed. "Go talk to your son. I'm sure he needs you right now as much as you need him."


Ben looked at Hannibal's swollen jaw. "You should put something on that."


"Your son packs a hell of a wallop, Ben."


"Thank you," Ben said and put his hand on Hannibal's shoulder, "for taking the punch that was intended for me."


Hannibal grinned. "Well, I couldn't let the boy do something that he would have never forgiven himself for, Ben."


"I owe you one."


Hannibal rubbed his jaw. "You'd better make that two."


Ben squeezed Hannibal's shoulder and smiled.


"Go talk to your son, I'll check the guns and ammunition.  Remember, Ben, he only wants to hear you say the words."


Ben nodded, went over to his desk, took out the package and headed out to the barn.




Adam looked out from behind Cochise, his eyes full of sorrow.


Ben folded his arms. "Come out here, son...we need to talk."


Adam nodded his head and came out to stand in front of his father. 


"Son, I know you are worried about your brothers, but you were wrong to take your frustrations out on Hannibal. He is only trying to do what's best for all the boys."


"I know, Pa."


"Well, knowing it and acting like you know it is two different things."


"I let my temper overrule my common sense.  Hannibal is right...Cole obviously has other plans.  I owe Hannibal an apology."


"Yes, you do, son."


"I owe you one as well, Pa. I am sorry for thinking only of myself...I forgot how worried you must be. You can add selfishness to my list of transgressions."


"I accept your apology, Adam."


"Thank you, Pa."


"Son, I apologize for saying I was ashamed of you...I said that in anger and I'm sorry."


"It's okay, Pa."


"I hope all this has taught you a valuable lesson."


“A lesson that may cost the lives of your sons."


Ben put a hand on Adam's shoulder and squeezed tightly. "We are not going to let that happen, Adam. I promise you that."


"I hope that is a promise that you can keep."


"Do you doubt me, boy?"


"No Pa."


"Good." Ben took his hand off Adam's shoulder. "Now son, before we leave this barn, we need to deal with your transgressions as you called them.  I'm not going to tan you, but I want to make absolutely clear what I expect from you from this point on."


Adam nodded.


"I expect you to remember that I'm still your father and treat me accordingly.  I expect you to treat everyone in this house with respect, especially guests.  I expect you to stop the blatant disrespect that seems to have become part of every conversation we have.  And I expect you not to give me reason to have another conversation like this with you.  Are all these expectations clear to you, young man?"


"Yes sir...very clear."


"Good.  Let's go inside and plan our next move."


Adam turned from his father. "I'd like to stay out here for a few more minutes if that's alright, Pa?"


"Sure son." Ben looked at his son thoughtfully and left the barn. He stood outside the door and waited for what would come next. 


Adam went over to Cochise and patted his neck. "I'll bring your master home, boy, or die trying...because I wouldn't want to live if anything happened to those little brothers of mine." Adam tried desperately to fight back the tears that were threatening to come.

"Some big brother I turned out to be, huh boy?" He buried his face into Cochise. Adam did not move when he felt the hand rubbing his back.


"It will be alright, son.  Have I ever broken a promise to you?"


 Without moving from Cochise, Adam shook his head.


"Well, then I am not going to start now."


"How can you forgive me for what I have done?"


"Adam, you made a mistake as did Hoss and Little Joe."


"But they are just boys,'s my place to look out for them."


"I do not blame you for what has would never purposely do anything to hurt your brothers. The blame falls on Cole McDermott and his accomplices."


"But I should have known better than to sneak out...I should have told Hoss no. I read the note.  I should have taken Joe’s disappearance more seriously before we found the note, but I thought he had just run off somewhere.  I had my suspicions about Cole, but I  didn’t pay attention to them...I am smarter than that, Pa.”


"Adam, there is no way you could have known Cole was a McDermott...none of us knew.” Ben smiled.  “Your littlest brother has a tendency to get himself in a bit of trouble…so, it is understandable for you not to take his running off seriously at first and he was with Face not by himself.  I will deal with what all you boys shouldn’t have done later. Right now we need to get everyone home and safe. "


Adam nodded.


"Son, there is also something else I need to say to you." Ben reached in his pocket and pulled out the package. "I wanted to give this to you for Christmas, Adam, but it was delayed with all the storms we had this winter. I picked it up in town the other day. I was just waiting for the right time to give it to you."


Adam opened the package and pulled out a brand new pocket watch. "Pa...I don't know what to's beautiful...thank you."


"Well, you know a man's gotta have a proper watch for church on Sundays." Ben pulled Adam into an embrace. “I am proud of the man you have become, boy.”


"I'm sorry for the way I have been acting, Pa."


"It's okay, son." Ben patted him on the back and released him from the hug. "And, Adam, those sons of mine couldn't ask for a finer big brother than you."


Adam smiled slightly.


"After all..." Ben smiled, remembering the last time he and Adam were in a similar situation, "how many big brothers would take the blame for something they didn't do...I mixed the whiskey with lemonade, Pa, and Hoss didn't know it."


Adam looked at Ben surprised. "You knew? You knew I was covering for Hoss?"


"Of course I knew."


Adam put his hands on his hips. "I can't believe you knew and you tanned me anyway and not lightly...if I recall."


Ben shrugged. "Well, I figured you probably deserved it for something else I never found out about and in all fairness, you did lie to me."


"You could have given me an easier punishment, Pa."


"Would you have expected me to give you any other punishment in that situation?"


"No, not if you really thought that I had been drinking whiskey and allowed Hoss to find it."


"Well then, I was just giving you what you wanted."


"What I wanted? You are really something know that," Adam replied sarcastically.


"I'm what, boy?"


Adam put a hand on each of his father's shoulders and looked him square in the face. "You are an infuriating ol' cuss...I'm going to take care of my horse and then I will be in."


"Son, by that disrespect I can tell we are not finished here."


"But Pa...I was only teasing you."


"Son, there is a difference between teasing and insolence and you have crossed that line for the very last time with me."


"I'm sorry, Pa."


"I thought you had learned your lesson, but I was wrong. Sometimes a young man needs some sense knocked into him...Heaven knows I did on more than one occasion."


"Pa, I meant what I said before...I am sorry for the way I have treated you."


"But then you turn around and show disrespect to me not more than a minute later."


"I didn't mean to be disrespectful, Pa."


"I'm sorry, son...but I believe you did.  I have made allowance after allowance for your behavior because I know it was hard for you to come back here after being away for so long, but I have reached my limit."


"I don't have to stay here on the Ponderosa, Pa."


"No do not, and I would be saddened more than you can imagine if you left.  I have enjoyed so much having you home again and having you help run things.  You have done such a fine job and I am very proud of you.  I missed sharing in the partnership we have always had and I missed you so much while you were away."


"I missed that too, Pa, and I missed you."


"Well, then what is the problem?" Ben asked loudly knowing if Adam was riled enough he would open up and they could finally clear the air.


"You're the problem, Pa," Adam answered his voice matching his father's.






"Adam, tell me what this is all about, because frankly, I have had enough of all this nonsense!"


“Pa, we should deal with this later.” Adam went to leave the barn.


“We will deal with this right now.  I can not even think straight with all the tension that is between us. We have nothing to do but wait to go rescue your brothers...we need to deal with this, son."


"I don't want to do this right now, Pa."


"Well, I do and you are my son so you will obey me.  Now, tell me what is troubling you and I will not take… ‘I'm fine Pa’ for an answer this time!”


"Fine! You don't think of me as an adult! You don't respect me or my opinions! You expect me to obey you all the time! You want to know where I am and what I’m doing.  You treat me like a fact, you are doing that right now!" Adam shouted not able to control his frustration.


Ben spoke in a calm voice. "Firstly, you have considerable more freedom than your brothers me one party, dance, trip or anything else that you wanted to do since coming back here, unless there was some ranch business or family obligation that I have said no to?"


"There isn't one, but why do I still have to ask permission for things?"


"I only expect you to ask my permission for things like trips and I only ask you to let me know were you are...just in case.  Do I go off without letting you boys know where I am?"


Adam looked at his father. "No."


"It's called consideration, son.  And secondly, if I didn't respect you and your opinions, you would have no say in the running of this ranch...which you certainly do...right?"




"Son, I do not want to hear that I do not treat you as an adult. I only treat you like a child when you act like one and if I feel it is warranted by your behavior I will punish I feel it is in this case."


Adam didn't say anything.


“We may or may not have went through this sooner if you had stayed on the Ponderosa. Before you left you were still a boy who respected his father, you have returned home a man who does not."


"I do respect you, Pa."


"Well you have a funny way of showing it."


Adam lowered his head.


"I expect certain things from my sons. Respect, helpfulness, honesty, courage, loyalty, decency, integrity, hard work and be it within my rights or not I also expect a great deal of obedience from you boys as long as you live on the Ponderosa. You exceed my expectations in all these areas, son, with the exception of respect...something you have been sorely lacking since you came home in the fall.  I have tried every method that I know how to get you back on the right road, with the exception of one...which I think may be the answer."


"And if I don't want you to tan me?"


"You have a decision to make, son."


"What is it, Pa?"


"You can either accept my rules and the consequences for breaking them or leave the Ponderosa, Adam, it is your choice." 


Adam walked away from his father and stood by the door.


"Decide right now, son...I will accept whatever decision you make and I will still love matter what you decide."


Adam looked at his father and then left the barn.  He jumped on Sport and rode off.


Ben went over to Buck and patted him. "Looks like you could use some brushing, boy...let's do that while we wait for Adam, huh?"


Adam got about ten minutes from the house when he stopped Sport and looked around the ranch. "What in blazes am I doing? I'm running away from home because I want to be treated more like an adult. Oh yeah...that's the way to accomplish that, Adam Cartwright...tell me again how you managed to graduate from college?   Hell, even Little Joe would have better sense than to treat Pa like I have. I should be punished for the way I have been acting. I just wish it didn't have to be this particular punishment." Adam sighed. "It's what he would do to Hoss and Joe if they had acted this way...I can't expect anything wouldn't be fair.  Hey boy, maybe now that I'm won't hurt as much?" Adam smirked. "And maybe I could take Hoss in a wrestling match without cheating. Guess I'd better go back, huh?  I just hope Pa's not as sore as the time I rode Jasper's Ghost...let's go, boy...the sooner we get back...the sooner I can get this tanning over with and make things right with Pa."


Ben smiled when he heard the horse gallop up.  He didn't turn from Buck when Adam came in the barn.




"Yes son?"


"You're not going to make me drop my britches like you did when I tried to ride Jasper's Ghost are you...because this has got to be the dumbest thing I have done since then."


Ben smiled. "Do you think I should?"


Adam looked down at his boots.


Ben turned and put a hand on Adam's shoulder. "I don't think that will be necessary this time, but if I ever have to tan you again for disrespect..."


Adam looked up at Ben and smiled. "Thanks Pa."


"Guess that really made an impression on you."


Adam grimaced. "A lasting one."


"I hope it does the same thing for your little brother."


"Pa, it's Little Joe you're talking about."


Ben sighed. "True."




"Yes Adam?"


"I promise there won't be a next time."


Ben was tempted at that moment to let his son off the hook, but resolved himself to what he had to do. "Alright, then let's finish this discussion."


"Yes sir."


Ben pointed to the other side of the stall.


Adam went over, took off his gun belt, hung it over the stall and waited for the lecture and his punishment.


"If you are going to live on the Ponderosa, you will not continue to behave the way you have been and you must accept everything I said to you earlier. Are you sure you want to do that, Adam?"


"Yes sir."


"I do not tolerate disrespect from Hoss and Little Joe and I will not tolerate it from you.  Is that clear?"


"Yes sir."


"If either of those boys spoke to their father the way you have done on more than one occasion, they would have found themselves in the barn. Don't think for one moment that you have grown big enough to show me disrespect. None of my sons will ever be that grown...understood?"


"Yes sir."


"Turn around, son."


Adam nodded and leaned on Buck's saddle that was hanging over the stall. He let out a laugh which took Ben by surprise.


"Do you find this amusing, young man?"


"No sir.


"Then why did you laugh?"


"Because Hoss tried to tell me the same things you did but I wouldn't listen to him.  I was just wondering when my little brother got so smart."


"Hoss may not be book smart, but he sees things in a way that no one else does.  You might try listening to him occasionally...he's not the little boy he was before you left."


Adam nodded. "If I had listened to him, I wouldn't be in this mess right now."


"Are you ready?"


"Yes sir."


Ben took off his belt. "Hold still and prepare yourself, boy...this is going to hurt."


Adam closed his eyes and held his breath.


Ben licked him hard quite a few times. "Look at me, son."


Adam wiped away his tears and turned around to face his father.


"Now, son...tell me why I just tanned you?"


"For being disrespectful, sir."


"And why else?"


"Because I deserved it."




"For acting like a child."


"Yes son...those are definitely true, but there is also another reason."


"What is it?"


"I expect you to give me the answer."


"I don't know the answer, sir."


"I am sure you do,, answer my question."


"I did answer your question."


"You just don't want to admit it, do you?  Boy, you are stubborn...turn back around, son."




"Do as I say."


He looked pleadingly at Ben, but then did as instructed.


Ben licked him hard a few more times. "Now, answer my question."


"Because you are still my father, sir."


"And you are still my son...remember that from this point on, young man."


"Yes Pa," Adam replied sounding more like a sad little boy than the grown man he was a few minutes ago.


Ben put his belt back on. "You can straighten up now,'s over."


Adam grabbed his gun belt without turning around, and went to leave the barn.


"You are forgetting something, young man."




"What did I say before about leaving the room?"


Adam smiled slightly knowing Ben was just reinforcing the last part of his lesson. "May I be excused, sir?"


"No, you may not, son....turn around and face me."


Adam turned to his father, but lowered his head.


Ben softened his voice. "Son, I want you to remember that you can always talk to me man to man if you feel I am not treating you with respect."


"Yes sir."


"And is possible to have a disagreement with your father and still be civil."


"Yes sir."


Ben put a hand under Adam's chin and gently guided his face upwards. "There is no need for discourse between us, son."


"May I go now, sir?" He asked avoiding his father's eyes.


Ben groaned inwardly at what he had to do next, this was going to hurt more than the tanning. "Before you go, Adam...give me back the haven't earned the right to wear it yet."


Adam reached in his pocket and handed it back to Ben. "I'm really sorry I disappointed you, Pa," he whispered and quickly left the barn.


Ben fiddled with the watch and looked up to the heavens. "Oh Liz...I don't like to make our son cry. I hope I did the right thing and I hope I know our son as well as I think I him figure out what I am trying to teach him, Elizabeth.  Please Lord, help all three of my sons and Lord please, look after the team as well."   


"Why are you holding us, Cole?" Face asked.


"Why don't you tell him, big boy," Cole said to Hoss.


"Turns out that Cole here is a McDermott."


"As in the McDermott Gang?"


"Yup...I'm their baby brother."



Adam looked out across the Ponderosa, feeling completely ashamed of himself, humbled by his punishment and thoroughly regretting his behavior. "I really messed up this time, didn't I, Ma? Me and that danged...excuse me, ma'am...that darn smart mouth of mine. How does Pa deal with such a sarcastic hard-headed son?  He had every right to tan the hide right off me and then some. If you were here, Ma, you'd probably take a switch to me right now, and I wouldn't blame you. I think deep down I was pushing Pa to see if he would." He half grimaced half smirked as he attempted to rub the sting from his seat. "And I certainly got my answer...dang, that hurt like hell." Adam looked up. "Sorry Ma'am." He put a hand over his eyes. "Pa took my watch, Mama." After a few more minutes, Adam wiped his tears and resolved himself to what he had to do. "Well, standing out here crying is not going to put things right." He looked around at the Ponderosa one more time, composed himself and turned to go to the house. Adam stopped at the front door, took a deep breath and went inside.


Hannibal was standing over Ben's shoulder and they were looking at the map of the Ponderosa.


Adam went over, stood respectfully in front of Ben's desk and waited to be acknowledged.


"Yes son?"


"Pa, I need to speak to the Colonel for a moment." He looked at Hannibal. "If that is alright with you, sir?"


Hannibal smiled. "Sure Adam."


"Colonel, I should not have taken out the anger I was feeling at myself and at the situation on you. I don't deserve your forgiveness, sir...but I am offering an apology." Adam stuck out his hand.


Hannibal took Adam's hand and shook it and put his other hand on Adam's shoulder. "Apology accepted, Adam, and you are forgiven."


"Thank you, Colonel. I also owe you an apology for being disrespectful, sir. I seem to have forgotten all that Pa has taught me."


Ben smiled. "I'm sure you'll remember from now on, young man."


"You have my word that I will be minding my manners and a man never goes back on his word once he's given it, right Pa?"


Ben nodded. "Never."


"Pa, I'd like to speak to Hannibal privately."


"Sure son...excuse me." Ben took the map off his desk and carried it over to the table.


"Colonel, may I ask you something?"


"Sure Kid."


"Any suggestions on how to control sarcasm?"


Hannibal laughed. "Unfortunately no...I know mine has gotten me into more than my fair share of trouble. But listen kid, the main thing your father expects of you is that you treat him with respect."


"Something I have not done."


Hannibal looked at the young man. "You have to give respect to get it, Adam."


"Yes sir," Adam replied dropping his head slightly and looking up at the older man. "I've been pretty stupid, huh?"


"You are not stupid, kid...just young and definitely hard-headed like your old man."


Adam smiled.


"Give him time to work out a new relationship with you, Adam.  It's not easy for him to change his ways.  He's an ornery old goat you know."


"I see your point, and there are some things about Pa that I shouldn't expect him to change, out of respect for him, as long as I live on the Ponderosa...I owe him that much and much more."


"Let me ask you something, kid?"




"Why did you come back to the Ponderosa?"


Adam thought about it for a moment. "Because I missed everyone and also to help Pa run this ranch and help with Hoss and Joe. I owe him a lot. He has done so much for me and my brothers, worked hard, raised us mostly alone...he makes me very proud."


"Tell him that, Adam. Fathers need to hear things too, not just sons."


Adam nodded.


"You are a fine young man, Adam, and any father would be proud to have you for a son."


Adam blushed from the praise.


Hannibal put his hand on Adam's shoulder.  "We'd better stop yakking and join your Pa, before he takes us both out to the barn."


"Good idea."


Hop sing brought out some milk and a sandwich. "You eat, Mista Adam."


"But Hop Sing...I'm not hungry." Adam was starving actually but was in no hurry to sit down.


"Mista Adam can not rescue brothers and A-team on empty sit down and eat!"


"Do I have to?" Adam asked, coming as close to a whine as he dared.


“Hop Sing…leave the boy alone…he can eat later,” Ben said, having been on the receiving end of a tanning or two himself, knew exactly why Adam had no desire to sit.


The cook ignored Ben and continued.  "Hop Sing does not have time for foolishment...make good sandwich for number one respect and eat!"


"I will in a bit, Hop Sing."


"Always argue this one now...before you make Hop Sing angry."


Adam nodded in defeat and sat down gingerly. He winced when his backside connected with the chair and wanted to disappear when he saw Ben look at him. "Please, don't ask me, Pa," he said with pleading eyes.


Ben smiled. "I wouldn't dream of it, son."


Hannibal folded his arms. "Alright, Adam, tell me exactly where they are being held, what kind of reinforcements Cole has and give me a general description of the land."


"They are being held in the line shack near Coyote Pass.  As far as I can tell there are five men, including Cole, plenty of places to hide and all armed with rifles."


"Well, we have enough fire power in this house to take over a small country, so, I am not worried about that...besides if things go according to what I'm planning we won't need to do any shooting.  I just don't like the fact that this boy has managed to take out my team this easily."


"He had the element of surprise, Colonel...not to mention Face and Little Joe as hostages."




Hop Sing came back in carrying a cushion. "Here, Mista Adam...Hop Sing can always tell when a boy been out to barn with honorable father."


Ben tried desperately not to laugh as did Hannibal.


Adam took the cushion. "Thanks, Hop Sing."


"Most eat!"


Adam smiled shyly at Ben and Hannibal. "Go know you want to."


"I'm sorry, son...we shouldn't laugh at you...I just never saw anyone turn that particular shade of red before."


Adam put the cushion on the chair, rubbed his seat and sat back down. "Better."


"I thought you weren't going to tan him, Ben?"


"A father's prerogative to change his mind."


Adam looked humbly at his father. "I'm truly sorry for all the disrespect I have shown you, Pa.  You do not deserve to be treated that way, sir...I was wrong."


Ben rubbed Adam on the back for a bit longer than his son would normally accept. "You're forgiven, boy."


Adam smiled, grateful for the comfort of his father's hand and for the forgiveness. "Thanks Pa." Adam winked at Hannibal. "One more thing, Pa, I appreciate everything you have done for me.  I could not have asked for a finer make me very proud."


Ben's eyes teared up, he cleared his throat embarrassed. "You had better eat before you catch it from Hop Sing."


Adam smiled, as Ben wiped his eyes. "Yes lickin’ is enough for me today." He picked up his sandwich, broke it in half and handed a piece to Ben.


"Thank you, son," Ben replied and Adam knew it wasn't for the sandwich.


"You're welcome, Pa."


"Now, let's get our rescue plan set for the team and those brothers of yours."




"Yes son?"


"Do you mind if I stand while we do that, sir?"


Ben smiled. "No son...I don't mind."


Adam ate his sandwich in three bites and was on his feet.




"I'll go take care of the horses, Pa."


"You want me to help you, son?"


"No rest up," Adam replied and headed out to the barn.


Ben turned to Hannibal. "I hope things will be okay between us."


"I'm going to tell you the same thing, I told your son...give it some time for a new relationship to develop...there is a lot of love and respect between the two of you.  Things will be okay."


"I hope so."


"I gotta give the kid credit for coming back here, especially, knowing how you are."


"What? Just what were the two of you talking about?"


"I'm afraid that was a private conversation between me and your son and I am not at liberty to discuss it."


"Not at liberty to discuss it?"


"That's right and there ain't nothing you can say or do to make me tell ya."


Ben put his hands on his hips. "Would you care to make a bet on that?"


Hannibal grinned. "I'll say this...Baaaaaaaaaa..."


"Are you calling me an old goat?"


"If the horns fit...pal." He poked Ben in the chest.


"Alright, that's it...wait until I get my hands on you!"


They were soon chasing each other around the living room.


"Pa...I can't find the..." Adam was knocked to the ground as the two of them barreled out of the door.


"You're going to get a bath in the water trough, Hannibal...I swear it!"


"You'll be in there with me...Baaaaaaaa..."


Adam sighed, got up and rubbed his behind. "Boys!"


Hannibal and Ben stopped wrestling and looked at Adam sheepishly. "He started it." Hannibal said.


"I did not!"


"Did to."


Adam put his hands on his hips and looked sternly at them.


"Sorry," they said in unison.


"Good." Adam turned toward the barn.


Ben grinned mischievously and winked at Hannibal.  They both grabbed Adam.


" wouldn't?"


Not more than ten seconds later, Adam was in the water trough. He spit water out of his mouth and looked up at Ben.  "Pa!" 


Once Hannibal and Ben composed themselves, Ben reached out to help Adam up. "Guess that was kind of immature, huh?"


"And it hurt...ouch," Adam said as he climbed out of the trough.


"Oh son...I'm sorry."


"Me too, kid...I'm sorry."


Hannibal and Ben stood there facing Adam with their heads down.


Adam put a hand on each one of their shoulders. "But not as immature as this!" He grinned and pushed them into the water trough.


"Son!" Ben bellowed.


Adam backed away. "I'm sorry, sir...I shouldn't have done that...I'll go to my room, Pa." He quickly left.


"But's okay...I'm not mad," Ben called out, but Adam was gone. "Help me out of here, will ya, Hannibal?"


"Too old to get out by yourself?"


Ben dunked Hannibal under the water.


"Hey, Cole...why don't you let them go?" Face asked. "I'm the one who killed your brother."


"You killed my one brother, but this one over here shot the other."


Little Joe sneered. "He had it coming...he was gonna kill my brother."


"I'm sure he had his reasons for wanting to do that."


"What?" Joe shouted. "You just wait until you untie me...I will kill you too."


"You had better watch those threats, young'un...I may just kill you right now!"


"I'd like to see you try it!"


"Joseph, be quiet," Face ordered.




"I quiet!"


Joe dropped his head. "Yes sir."




"Hey Cole...let the young'un go...I'll take his place," Hoss offered.


"Well, who says I ain't going to kill all of you...just for the fun of it?"


"’Cause I don't think you are a bad person, Cole...heck, the way you talked about your daddy and mama."


"You just keep my folks out of ain't got nothing to do with them."


"It has everything to do with them...they didn't raise you and you're brothers to be no account murderers and thieves. Why I bet your poor Mama is turnin' over in her grave just watchin' what her sons have done."


"Well, my poor Mama wouldn't be in her grave if it wasn't for what those men done."


"Oh, so you think that tearin' all over the territory robbin', murderin' and cattle rustlin' will bring her back and do you think killin' my little brother will bring your brothers back? You should be ashamed for dishonorin' your Mama's memory."


Cole took out his gun and pointed it at Hoss and cocked the trigger.


Little Joe struggled with his binds. "Please, don't kill my brother, Mister."


"Why shouldn't I?"


"Because I'm the one who killed your brother...Hoss didn't do anything...please, let him go..."


"Joe, be quiet," Hoss ordered.


"No Hoss...I love you...please, Mister, let him go," he begged.  After a few moments, Little Joe pulled himself together and got up from the ground. "Pa said if I am going to carry a gun I have to be ready to kill or be killed. I am ready to die," Joe said calmly, "but you should let me die like a man."


"And just how do I do that?"


Little Joe looked Cole square in the eyes. "Give me a gun and face me."


"No Joseph."


"Be quiet, Hoss." Joe stared at Cole. "Well..."


Cole lowered his gun and put it back in his holster. "Sit down, boy...I ain't ready to kill you yet."


Little Joe collapsed onto the ground in tears.


Hoss looked at his crying little brother. "Cole, let me go to him."




"Please, Cole, he's just a little have my word of honor I won't try to escape."


"And what makes me think I can trust you?"


"Because once a man gives his word...he never goes back on it."


"That something your Pa taught ya?"


"My brother Adam actually...but I'm supposin' it's somethin' he learned from Pa."


"Fine...go to him." Cole untied Hoss.


Hoss went over and put his arms around his brother. "'s okay, Little Joe...your big brother is here."


"I want Pa and Adam, Hoss."


"Me too, Little too."




Ben went upstairs and opened Adam's door.  Adam was fast asleep laying facedown in his bed.  He stood there watching him.


Adam woke up a minute later when he felt someone staring at him.  He wiped the sleep from his eyes. "Pa, whatcha doing?"


"I was just thinking about how much you look like your mother."


Adam smiled. "What time is it, sir?"


"Eight o''ve been asleep quite a long slept right through dinner...I had Hop Sing keep it warm for you."


"Thank you, Pa." Adam looked nervously at Ben.  "Are you going to punish me for pushing you into the water trough, sir?"


"No, of course were only playing. After all, I threw you in there first without thinking about how much it would hurt for you to land."


"Don't worry, didn't mean to hurt me.  Boy, Hannibal brings out a side of you we don't often see."


"Well, you three just didn't get my stubbornness and my temper...where do you think you got your mischievous side from?  Why I could tell you stories about some of the stuff I did that..." Ben stopped and cleared his throat. "Well, never mind are you feeling, son?"


Adam grimaced. "You certainly haven't lost your touch, Pa."


"Your little brothers give me plenty of practice...especially, that youngest one."


"Well, I will not be giving you a reason to practice any time soon, sir." He stood up and rubbed his behind.


"Are you going to be up to riding with us?" Ben put his hand on Adam’s shoulder. "I  should have thought of that before I tanned you.  Guess you could have used a big brother to remind me."


Adam smiled slightly.  "I'll ride with you, sir...Cole McDermott will answer to me...and don't worry, Pa, a tough ride is just another well-earned consequence for my behavior."


"Alright son...Hannibal is getting dressed." He looked at his son. "There is no need for you to change."


Adam smirked. "I knew my color choice would come in handy some day."


"After you eat, why don't you go out and make sure the horses are saddled.  I am going to get dressed.  We leave in one hour."


"Yes sir...and does that mean you wouldn't have tanned me if you had thought about it?"


"Are you saying you didn't deserve it?"


"No Pa...I wasn't questioning you...I was just...I'm sorry, sir...I'll go saddle the horses." He grabbed his boots and left.


Ben sat down on the bed and sighed. "Maybe I was too hard on him, Liz."




"Well, it's like looking in the mirror," Adam commented as he looked at Hannibal and Ben all dressed in black.


Ben looked at his eldest. "No other comments?  I thought I would be in for at least two or three."


"No sir."


"Adam, you can be yourself...just keep it as teasing and not disrespect, okay?"


"Yes sir."


"Did you eat supper?"


"Yes sir."


Hannibal grinned. "Standing up," he teased.


Adam smiled slightly.


Hannibal grabbed a napkin from the table and went over to the fireplace. "We'll use these ashes to cover our faces...helps us blend in.   I'm glad I still have this with me."


"What's that, Colonel?"


"My duck call, will alert the team that we are there.  If they can find away to escape they will know to try it then."


"Son, make sure the horses are watered, please...Hannibal and I will be out in a moment."


"Yes sir."


After Adam left, Ben turned to Hannibal. "I don't think Adam has called me sir this many times in his entire life as he has done since this morning."


"He's just trying to be polite to you, Ben...hell, I would if you tanned me for being disrespectful. I'm sure you made an impression on him."


"I know he is usually upset when I tan him, unlike Little Joe who bounces right back...but he seems more so this time."


"Well, probably because he feels ashamed for behaving the way he has been and that he has disappointed you.  Also, it has been awhile since you tanned's got to be hard on him physically and emotionally."


"I guess you are right...but I think he is more upset that I took away a gift I gave him."


"What is it?"


"A watch I ordered for him from New York...I have every intention of giving it back to him once I see that he has learned the lesson I am trying to teach him...maybe I should give it back now."


"Don't doubt yourself...sometimes you need to be tough even when it hurts."


"I was right to punish him, but it still hurts to see him this way. One of the hardest parts about being a father is moments like this."


"I’m sure it is.  It will pass and you'll know when the time is right to give the watch back to him. Come on, Ben...let's go get the boys."


Ben nodded.


"Alright, let's ride," Hannibal ordered once they got outside.


Adam stood by Sport and waited for Ben and Hannibal to mount up.


Ben looked quizzically at his son.


"Don't want to spend any more time in the saddle than I have to, sir." Adam took a deep breath and climbed on Sport. "Dang," he muttered.


"Will you be okay, son?"


Adam put on a smile for Ben. "I'll be fine, Pa...don't worry."


"You know, kid, you would be much better off if you had a car."


"A what?"


"Never mind.  Alright, Adam...lead the way," Hannibal ordered.


Adam tipped his hat and flicked Sport's reins.


"So, it don't look like that brother and Pa of yours cares enough to come rescue you.  Figured they would be here by now."


Joe looked up at Cole.  "Oh, don't you worry none, Mister...Pa'll be here and so will Adam....right, Hoss?"


"That's something you can bet on, Little Brother."



Ben stopped Buck about an hour from the house.


“Why are we stopping, Pa?”


“Buck is hesitating some…I think maybe he might have a stone stuck in one of his shoes.  Would you check it for me, son?”


“Yes sir.”


“Well, since we are taking a break, I think I'll get off and stretch.  I'm not used to all this riding.”  Hannibal dismounted and stretched. "Wanted to give the kid a break, huh?" He whispered to Ben.


Ben smiled. "I'm trying to make it as easy for him as possible."


"Pa, everything looks fine to me...maybe he might just be a bit sore."


"It seems to be his right front leg, son...look in my saddle bag...I should have some liniment in there maybe you could rub him down for me?"


"Yes sir...I'll walk him a bit will help work it out."


"Thanks son...we still have about another hour ride...can't have ol' Buck giving out on me before we get there."


"Don't worry, Pa...I'll take care of him."


"I'm sure you will, boy." Ben turned to the colonel.  "You think Cole is worried enough, Hannibal?"


"Well, by the time we get there it will be midnight...I'm sure he thought we would come back almost immediately.  His men have probably been stationed at their posts since early this morning with no break.  They are tired and hungry...won't be as vigilant.  We should have no problems taking them out."


"You think waiting was the right thing to do?"


"Yes, I do, me."


"I trust you, Hannibal."


"Pa, Buck seems to be walking just fine."


"Good. Then let's head out."


Adam went over to Sport. "Well, boy, here I go again." He rubbed his seat and climbed onto his horse.


"Ready Adam?"


"Yes sir."



"Alright, we will leave the horses here and walk the rest of the way. This way we won't alert them to our presence," Hannibal ordered.


Adam smiled and stiffly dismounted. "You won't hear any arguments from me...walking sounds just fine."


Ben rubbed Adam's back. "I'm sorry, son...I didn't mean for you to hurt this much."


Adam shook his head. "I'm supposed to feel uncomfortable after a tanning...I'm being punished, Pa."


"I know that, son...but normally I wouldn't make you ride or even sit for that matter until you were able to."


"Don't fuss.  I'm just glad that you didn't tan me as severely as when I tried to ride Jasper's Ghost...that was the worst lickin' I ever got, Pa."


Ben laughed, those same words came out of his youngest a few weeks back.  However, he had a feeling, that knowing Little Joe, there would probably be worse ones in his future. "Well, you certainly didn't go near anymore untamed horses after that."


Adam looked down guiltily. "Err...well...I never went near any other horses that you told me not to...but I did ride Jasper's Ghost again one time when you were out of town on business."


"What?" Ben exclaimed. "I can't believe you disobeyed me...not you, Adam.  You rarely did, and if it was something I tanned you never did it least not that I ever found out about."


"Pa, I swear that was the only time I did after you punished me...mainly because I hate to disappoint you and frankly, because your tannings hurt like hell, sir."


"Language, Adam."


"Sorry sir."


"Then why did you ride Jasper's Ghost again?"


"Because it was a matter of pride...I had to see if I could do it."


"A matter of pride?  You could have been killed!"


"But I wasn't, sir."


"Well, you were one lucky boy! You had better not do anything that stupid hear?" He shouted and wagged a finger at him in warning.


Adam pushed his hat down over his eyes and looked up at Ben.


'So, my little boy is still in there, huh?' Ben hid his smile and stomped off muttering..."of all the idiotic, stumped-brain things...fool boy...I have half a mind to tan his hide again...riding Jasper's Ghost, indeed!"


Adam turned to Hannibal. "Guess I shouldn't tell him that Jasper's Ghost nearly trampled me again before I rode him successfully, huh Colonel?"


"I wouldn't if I were you, kid, not unless you want to spend the next week standing up."


Adam nodded. "I believe that is sound advice."



Ben was standing by Buck looking up at the stars, his eyes glistening in the moonlight.  Adam came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. "We'll get them back, Pa...I promise."


Ben reached up and put his hand on top of Adam's. "I know, son...I'm just so worried about them."


"They'll be fine, Pa...why'll I bet you Little Joe is probably giving them so much trouble that they will be begging us to take him back when we get there."


Ben laughed. "I bet you are right."


"And I bet you are ready to give me to them after all the trouble I've caused you, sir."


"Well, not just yet...but I may rethink my decision by the time we get there." Ben put Adam in a headlock, something he hadn't done since he was a boy. "So behave!"




Ben let Adam go. "Thanks son...I needed to laugh just now."


"Me too, Pa."


"I don't want you to be nervous around me or afraid to be the smart alek you were born to be...just keep it respectful."


"I'm certainly going to try, Pa, because I really don't want to say anything to hurt your feelings, sir."


"Thank you, son."


Adam grinned and took a few steps away from his father. "Or my backside."


"Boy, get yourself together and let's head out."


"Yes sir."


"And Adam, you don't have to call me sir constantly."


"Now, why would I call you Sir Constantly, Pa...have you been knighted?" He asked with a British accent.


Ben shook his head. "Hey Hannibal, maybe you can take him back to 1984 with you?"


"No way, Ben...I have enough to handle with Murdock."


Ben grinned. "I had to at least ask."



"Alright, I can see the line shack from here, Colonel," Adam said as they approached the area where the boys were being held.


Hannibal took out his duck call and alerted the team to his presence.


The team looked at each other and grinned.


Hannibal peered through the telescope. "I can see movement in front of the man armed."


"Can you see the others, Hannibal?" Ben asked as he peered into the darkness.


"I can see four men...there, there, there and there," Hannibal pointed to the various rock formations. "You know what we need to do."


Ben and Adam nodded.


The three men separated and headed around behind each of their intended targets, knocking them out.  They tied them up and gagged them.


Hannibal went to sneak up on Tuck when he accidentally tripped over a tree root. "Damn!" he cursed. "Mighty big trees you have around these parts," Hannibal commented as he faced the rifle being pointed in his direction.


Adam and Ben took cover.


"Another classic half pincer movement that didn't quite work out the way you planned, huh Colonel?" Face asked smiling.


Hannibal grinned. "Yup, and it ain't even a kitchen."


"Sit down!" Tuck ordered and shoved Hannibal to the ground.


"You know the hospitality around here really stinks, Pal!" Hannibal sniffed. "And come to think of do you...maybe you haven't heard of a marvelous invention called soap and water."


Tuck hit Hannibal across the face. "Shut up!"


Hannibal put his hand to his jaw. "Guess he didn't like my hygiene tips."


Face shook his head. "Apparently not."


"Is everyone, okay?" Hannibal asked.


"We're fine, sir," Hoss answered. "Is Pa and Adam here too?"


"Yup...let's just hope they can find a way to rescue us."


"They will, sir...don't you worry about that," Little Joe replied.



“Pa, we need to find away to get to them.”


“I agree with you, son.”


Tuck looked around nervously.  "What are we gonna do now, Cole?"


Cole grabbed Little Joe, untied him and dragged him outside. "Let me go!"


"Shut up, kid!"


Ben and Adam ducked behind a boulder.  “It’s Little Joe, Pa.”


“Well, thank God he is okay.”


“For how long though?”


Hannibal dove for Tuck's gun, he struggled with him until the gun went off.


"Colonel!" Murdock shouted.


"I'm fine, Cap'n....smelly here is the one who bought it...guess he doesn't have to be clean where he's going."


Murdock grinned. "Don't think the devil cares none too much."


Cole went back over to the shack and looked inside. "Anyone makes one move towards the door and I will kill this boy."


Hannibal put up his hands and sat back down.


"Come out here and face me, Adam Cartwright!" 


Ben stood up.  "Let my sons go, Cole!"


"I don't want to talk to you, Mr. Cartwright."


"Well, you are going to talk to are holding my sons hostage and my friends."


"This is between us brothers, Mr. Cartwright.”


“What do you mean by that?”


“Well, since I didn't get a chance to save my brothers...I am going to give your son a chance to save his and you can watch one of your sons die….just like my mama and daddy watched their boys die from Heaven.  They weren’t able to help them and you won’t be able to help your boys.”


"I will not allow Adam to risk his life...I already have two sons in danger I certainly will not put a third one in the same situation."


"Well, I think that is something your son should decide...don't you?"


"No, I am his father it is my decision."


"Too bad because the only way your two little ones will have a chance to live is if Adam faces me."


Adam went to go to Cole but was stopped by Ben putting a hand on his shoulder. "No not do this...please son. There has to be another way."


"There is no other way, Pa.  I have to face him...I'm saying this to you as a man...not as your son, sir...respect me...let me do this."


Ben nodded and let go of his shoulder.


Adam deliberately walked over and stood in front of Cole and Little Joe. "Let my brothers go, Cole."


"Why should I?"


"I will kill you if you don't."


"You don't scare me none, Cartwright!" He fired his gun at Adam's feet.


Adam did not flinch.


"I want to hear you beg for your brother's life."


"Would killing a boy make you feel like a man? Let him go and take my life instead."


"Adam, no!" Little Joe called out.


"Quiet, Joseph! Well Cole..."


"I would think your Pa would be a might more upset to see this baby here get it."


"My father would be equally upset to see any of his sons, like I said...let him go and take me."


"I haven't heard you beg yet, Cartwright."


"If that is what it will take to save my brother..."


"Don't Adam!"


"Quiet boy or I'll kill you right now!" Cole ordered.


"Cole, you said you wanted me to come up here and face you...well, then what are you waiting for...move away from my little brother and draw down."


"Get on your knees and beg me, Cartwright!"


Adam looked at Little Joe and winked. He started to go down to the ground, when Joe bit Cole's hand causing him to lose his grip.


"Joe, get down!" Adam yelled and fired his gun at Cole.


Cole fell to the ground.


Adam went over to his brother. "Are you hurt?"


"No, I'm okay."  He reached his hand out for Adam to help him up.


Adam scooped Joe up into his arms. "Joe, I was so worried about you."


"I knew you would come for me, Adam, and Hoss thought so too."


"I will always be here to take care of you, Little Brother."


"And Hoss too?"


"Hoss too."




Adam put his hat on Joe's head. "Promise."


Little Joe touched Adam's cheek. "What's all over your face?"


"Fireplace ashes."


"Pa's gonna be sore at you for not getting cleaned up proper, Adam."


Adam laughed. "Pa's got them on his face too."


"Were you playing in the fireplace?"


"No, the ashes helped us hide in the was the Colonel's idea."


"Smart idea."


Ben ran up to his sons and grabbed onto them, hugging them both.


Little Joe held tight to his father. "Pa...I missed you...I was so worried that I would never see you again."


"I was worried about that too, boy."


"Let me get Hoss, Pa," Adam said and ran into the shack.


Joe crinkled his nose. "Pa, you smell like the fireplace."


Ben laughed.


"Nice kid...real nice!"


"Thank you, sir," Adam replied and helped Hannibal untie the team and Hoss.


"Is everyone alright?"


"We're fine," Face replied.


"Shucks, big brother, I reckon I done missed you."


"I missed you too, Hoss," Adam replied and hugged him. "I was so worried about you."


"Now, don't go gettin' all mushy on me or nothin'," Hoss said and smiled. "Where's the little fella?"


Adam smiled. "He's with Pa."


Hoss hurried outside and went over to his father. "Pa!"


"Hoss, I am so happy to see you, boy!" Ben said and pulled him into an embrace.


"I'm happy to see you too, Pa."


"Are either one of you hurt?" Ben asked as he checked them over.


"No Pa."


"Thank goodness...stay right here...I need to say something to your brother." Ben went over to Adam and stuck out his hand. "I just want to say thank you to the man who saved my sons."


Adam smiled and shook Ben's hand. "You're welcome."


Ben then patted his son on the back. "You did real good, boy...real good." A moment later he whacked him on the back of the head.


"What was that for?"


"Didn't I tell you not to do anything that stupid again?"


Adam laughed and pushed Ben's hat down on his head. "'re impossible."


Ben looked up at Adam from underneath his hat brim. "But son...I'm too old to change now."


"Don't ever change, Pa."


The team exchanged their fair share of hugs and pats on the back.


Face, Murdock and BA looked nervously at Hannibal.


Murdock cleared his throat. "So, you are gonna kill us, right?"


Hannibal looked at Ben. "I think I'll let Ben take care of you three.  I'm sure he has some interesting plans for his sons, only fitting you should join them."


The three younger team members smiled at Ben who just stood there with his hands on his hips.


Hannibal grinned. "I love it when a plan comes together."


Adam turned to little Joe and put his arm around him. "Now, what was that you said before about me getting slow in my old age, younger brother?"


Joe smiled innocently. "Oh that...I was only joshin' ya, Adam."


"Uh-huh." Adam squeezed him tighter.


" was a joke...just havin' a little fun."


"A joke, huh? A little fun? And speaking of which... Hop Sing had a terrible headache, did he? Hoss had to cook dinner, did he? You know how much I hate cow food, Joseph."




Adam grinned.



Once back with the horses Ben went over to his eldest. "Adam."


"Yeah Pa?"


"I want you to take the buckboard back to the Ponderosa.  Your horse is tired." He winked at Adam, who smiled when he saw that Ben had made a comfortable seat for him.


"Sure Pa."


"Joseph, tie Adam's horse to the buckboard and ride in the back. I made a bed for you...get some sleep.  I know you must be tired."


"Yes sir...I love you, Pa." Joe hugged him.


"I love you too, son."


Joe grinned and grabbed Sport's reins.


"Hoss, do you want to ride or rest back there with, Little Joe?"


"I'm fine, Pa...too worked up to sleep right now."


Ben nodded his approval. "Face, would you mind riding Buck back for me...I would like to ride with my sons."


"Sure thing, Mr. Cartwright."


Ben flicked the reins to make the team go a little faster. "I'm proud of you, son."


"For what, Pa?"


"For the way you accepted the consequences of your behavior."


"You never tan us without good reason, Pa.  I know it's not an easy thing for you to do...I'm sorry I said that to you before."


"It's okay, son."


"I hope I learned the lesson you were trying to teach me."


Ben put his hand on Adam's shoulder. "You did, son."


Adam smiled. "Do you want me to ride into town and tell the Sheriff about the men we have tied up?"


"No have done enough riding...I'll send one of the hands into town to get the Sheriff."


"Thanks Pa, my hide could definitely use a break.  Speaking of which...amazing how quickly Buck's leg recovered...that certainly must be some good liniment, huh Pa?"


"I'll have to let Mr. Jenkins know how good it is, so he'll keep it in stock." Ben smiled and nudged his son. "Are things going to be okay between us, Adam?"


"Yeah Pa...things are going to be just fine.  I just wish I would have seen the error of my ways before you had to give me a lickin'." Adam put his head in his hands and pouted.


"Well, I hope I won't have to tan my little boy again for such nonsense."


"Oh, you won't, Pa...I promise I'll be good from now on, sir...cross my heart," he replied still pouting.


Ben laughed, enjoying their little game, and tousled his hair. "Good, then stop pouting and take charge of the team like a big boy."


Adam grinned and took hold of the reins. "Pa, this may sound stupid, but I think part of me was purposely pushing you to see if you would actually tan me.  Maybe I wanted to...I don't know exactly, Pa...forget I said it is stupid."


"It's not stupid, just wanted to make sure I still loved you as much as before you left."


"I never doubted for a moment that you didn't love me, Pa."


"Maybe your brain knew it, but I think you needed to convince you're heart.  Son, so much has changed in four were looking for that one thing that stayed the same."


"Which is?"


"That no matter how you try to push me away, make me angry or even hurt me...I will always be there for you, be it for a word of advice, to listen, to share things with, to laugh with, to cry with and yes to let you know when you have messed up.  You can't get rid of me that easily...I'm your father.  I love you, son."


"I love you too, Pa."


Ben smiled. "So, any interesting plans in the works?"


"Well, Pa, now that you mention it...there is this two week trip to Los Angeles that me and the fellas have been thinking about taking in May. Can I go, Pa?"


"Right in the middle of Spring round up, son?"


"Please Pa?"


Ben shook his head. "Absolutely not."


"I can be there for the first three weeks of round-up...those are the toughest anyway."




"But's the only time we all can go and I promise I'll be back in time for the branding."




Adam handed Ben back the reins, turned around and took his hat off of his sleeping little brother.  He put it on his head, pushed it down too far and looked up at Ben. "Please?"


Ben pushed Adam's hat down even further. "You know that wasn't fair, son...I can never stay firm when you give me that look."


Adam smirked. "Why didn't I think of that before you tanned me?"


"It wouldn't have worked that time."


"Didn't think, I can go?"


"Two weeks, not a moment longer and you behave while you're there...understood?"


"Yes sir...thanks Pa. One more thing...tell me how you knew?"


"Knew what, son?"


Adam rolled his eyes. "About Hoss and the whiskey."


Ben smiled inwardly, he had only suspected that Adam was covering for his little brother, but his eldest had been adamant that he was to blame.  Adam's owning up to it in the barn had confirmed his suspicions, he had waited six years for a confession...but that was his little secret.  "Now, if I told you would I stay ahead of you three?"


"Come on, Pa...tell me."




"Awww, come on...don't you think I deserve to know?"




Adam sat up annoyed. "Come on...tell me."




"What's all the fussin' between you two?" Hoss asked, bringing Chubb alongside the buckboard.


"Pa knew that it was you and not me who took that whiskey and he won't tell me how he knew."


Hoss gulped. "You're still not sore about that are ya, Pa?"




"Shucks, Pa...I was such a little fella...I didn't hardly know what I was doin'."


"Never mind that, Hoss...Pa, tell me how you knew."




"Pa, are you planning to say anything more than yes or no all the way home?"




Hoss looked at his brother. "Enjoy it now, brother...because I have a bad feelin' that, once we get home, our Pa is goin' to have a bunch more to say than that."


Ben grinned. "Yes."




The Cartwrights and the team pulled up to the house.  Ben went into the bunkhouse. "Howdy Billy...before you get started today, would you and Luke go into town and tell the Sheriff that there are men tied up by the Coyote Pass Line shack?  Tell him that they are the men responsible for the kidnapping.  Let him know that I will be in this evening to give him a full account of what has happened."


"Sure thing, Mr. Cartwright."


"Thanks fellas." Ben came back out.


"What about us, Pa?" Hoss asked.


 Little Joe smiled nervously. "Yeah Pa, what do you want us to do?"


"I want all of you boys to take care of the horses, get cleaned up, have something to eat and then go to your rooms.  I will deal with you later!" He ordered.  "Hannibal, you and I are going to have a brandy and relax."


"Sounds like a good idea to me, Ben." Hannibal grinned and the two of them headed off into the house.


"Pa's angrier than a bull durin' matin' season penned up next to a pasture fulla cows," Hoss said nervously.


Little Joe looked around the barn and sighed. "We might as well just stay out here because I have a feeling this is where we are going to be in a little while anyway."


"I reckon you are probably right," Hoss gulped.


Adam grimaced. "I certainly hope not...I'm having enough trouble sitting already."




", get the horses taken care heard Pa!" Adam ordered and unsaddled Sport.



"So, how mad are you really, Ben?"


Ben smiled. "Not as mad as I should be...but they don't have to know that."


"So, you gonna let them off the hook?"


"No, they will be punished, but I'm not going to tan them...which is what they think I'm going to do.  But they don't have to know that least not yet.  I'm just thankful that they are all home and safe."


"Me too."


" they come."




"Yes Hoss?"


"Pa...we...umm...just wanted to say how sorry we was, sir."


"Yeah Pa...we are really sorry...right, Adam?"


Adam nodded. "Truly sorry."


The team nodded as well.


Ben folded his arms. "Go into the kitchen, have something to eat and then go upstairs."


"Come on, fellas," Hoss ordered and everyone followed.


Hannibal shook his head. "Have you ever seen a more pathetic looking group?"


"No...can't say as I have."


"So, come on, Ben, what are ya gonna do to them?"


"Remember that path I said I wanted cleared?"




"I told you I would be assigning it to someone soon."


Hannibal laughed. "Hand me another brandy, will ya?"


"Sure. After this drink, I'm gonna go get some sleep...what about you?"


"Sounds good."



About eight hours later, Ben and Hannibal net in the living room.  "Well, I guess they've had time to sleep and I'm sure they are hungry for some real food...I know I am," Ben said and patted his belly.


"And I'm sure Adam appreciated the time to recover some from his ride."


Ben laughed. "I'm sure." He went over to the steps and bellowed. "Boys! Come down here this instant!"


Everyone came out into the hallway, nobody moved.


"Well, somebody has to go first," Adam stated.


"You should go first," Hoss replied.


"Why do I have to?"


"That's one of them there advantages that you was tellin' Mr. Hawkins get to do everythin' first since you're the oldest."


"I think the team should go first...after all, they're all older than me and they're our guests."


"You're right, Adam...after you fellas." Hoss pointed to the steps.


"Hey muchacho...I may be crazy, but I ain't that crazy." Murdock shook his head.


"BOYS! Ben bellowed louder. "Stop arguing about who is going to come down first and get down here!"


Adam sighed. "How does he do that?" He turned to little Joe and grabbed him. "You're the youngest...Pa will take pity on you."




"Get going!" Adam shoved him forward.


Ben cleared his throat. "It certainly took you long enough," he stated angrily as they trudged down the steps.


Little Joe looked up pathetically. "Sorry Pa."


"Pa, I just wanted to say..."


"Adam, find a seat and don't speak unless spoken to and that goes for the rest of you!"  Ben ordered.


Adam went and sat down as did everyone.


Ben paced back and forth in front of the fireplace.  “Going off without telling anyone, coming up with some cockamamie scheme, lying, covering up, lateness, missing work, sneaking out, disobedience…did I leave anything out?”


Little Joe grinned. “No Pa…I think you got everything.”


“Joseph! This is not a time for jokes!”


“Sorry Pa.”


“You know… I think that is probably about the hundredth time I have heard sorry Pa lately.”


“Sorry Pa,” Hoss commented and was met by a bunch of angry stares.




Hoss gulped at Ben's use of his real name and looked down at his boots.


"You know what I should do with all of you?”


Joe looked up at his father, who seemed to be waiting for someone to speak. “Yes sir?”


"I should take you all out to the barn!"


Face whispered to Adam. “The barn? What for?"


Adam winced. "You don't want to know."


"Quiet!" Ben ordered loudly, which made them all jump. "Your behavior has had serious repercussions and they could have been more serious. Not to mention that you have broken just about every one of the rules I insist on.  I hope you realize that?"


Adam looked at his brothers and winked. "Yes sir, we all realize how wrong we were and we have learned a very valuable lesson, right fellas?"


Little Joe jumped to his feet. "Adam's right, Pa, we sure learned a lot from all this."


"Yeah Pa, and we feel just plumb awful for everythin' we done. There weren't no excuse for us to lie to you the way we did, and for goin' off and causin' you to worry, gettin' ourselves captured...and missin' work on top of it…it's down right shameful!" Hoss glanced at Little Joe.


"Yeah, we all feel really bad about this, Pa."  Joe went over to his father and put a hand on his arm. "And like you always say, Pa, a guilty conscience is a just punishment for wrong doing, and we're feeling just about as punished as one could get, right fellas?"


Everyone nodded their heads.




"Yeah Pa?"


"Sit down." As an afterthought, Ben added, "while you are still able to."


Joe swallowed hard. "Yes sir."


"Nice try, little brother," Hoss commented as Joe came back to sit next to him.


"So, you think you have been punished enough, do you?"


They all shifted nervously in their seats.


"Well, I would have to disagree with that notion.  In fact, I believe that clearing a path through Dead Man's Crossing would be a good start."  


"Clearing a path through Dead Man's Crossing?" Adam exclaimed, realizing that task would be a month's worth of hard labor. "I'd rather go out to the barn," he said dryly and sat back in his chair.


Ben looked at Adam. "Well, that can be arranged I'm sure you are well aware of, young man."


Adam flushed with embarrassment.


"Err…don't listen to Adam, Pa," Joe pleaded nervously.


"Yeah Pa, all the excitement has done gone to Adam's head, he's not thinkin’ straight."


"And then…"


Adam got up from his chair.  "There's a… and then?"


Ben was just about to reply when he was interrupted by Murdock. “Aww...come on, Mr. C., don’t be too hard on us, after all, everything turned out fine...just like in the fairytales. Happily ever after and all..."


Ben glared at the pilot. “Do not interrupt me, boy!"


Murdock’s jaw dropped.  “Sorry sir. I think I’ll just go over here and be very very very quiet…you won’t even know I’m here…see, this is me being very very quiet…shhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Murdock tiptoed over to the stairs and sat down on the steps, curling his legs up to his chin. “Quiet as a Church mouse…shhhhhhhhh.”


Hannibal folded his arms across his chest. “Captain!”


Murdock put his finger to his lips. “Shhhh…”


Adam, Hoss, Face, Little Joe and BA smiled, but immediately went back to their solemn expressions when Ben turned back to face them.


Ben put his hands over his face and shook his head, then he let out an enormous belly laugh.


The boys looked at each other confused.


Ben continued to laugh.


“Whatcha laughing at, Pa?” Hoss finally had to ask.


Ben wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve.  “Well, I was just wondering which one of us has gotten into the most trouble this past month and if it's possible to cause anymore?”


The Colonel looked at his team, to Ben’s sons and then to Ben and himself. “I think it’s a tie and," a mischievous grin came to Hannibal's face, "absolutely!"


Everyone laughed.


“How’s about we all go into town and get an early supper at Miss Maddie’s to celebrate your safe return…my treat?”


“Sounds good, Pa," Hoss added.


Adam groaned inwardly. 'Great, more riding.'


Ben saw Adam's face and put a hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to come, son...if you don't want to."


"Of course, I'm coming, Pa...why wouldn't I?" Adam looked pleadingly at his father.


Ben smiled.


Little Joe winked at Hoss. "You know, Pa?"


"Yes, Joseph?"


"I was thinking that Adam is the one who has gotten himself into the most trouble this past month."


Adam was going to say something, but was stopped by Ben putting a hand on him. "Go on, Joseph."


"Well, let's see, first he tried sneaking out of bed when he was hurt, all that trouble in Genoa and not telling you about it, the raid on the donuts and the food fight, not to mention the hard time he gave you and the Colonel when you were arrested..."


Ben nodded. "Yes, and the whining incident, the broken flower pot."  He turned to Adam. "The next time you sneak out of the window, more careful."


"How did you know I broke it?"


Ben looked at his middle son. "I'm sure Hoss has had more practice."


Hoss swallowed hard.


Little Joe put his hands on his hips. "He's also been sassing you an awful lot too, Pa. You would have given Hoss and me a lickin' if we talked to you like Adam has. Just because he's grown doesn't mean he should be disrespectful."


Ben looked at Adam who wanted to be anywhere but where he was. "Well, I don't think your brother will be disrespectful any more...will you, young man?"


"No sir,” Adam answered quickly.


Hoss grinned inwardly. 'Betcha Adam spent the morning in the barn.'


Ben smiled. "Oh, and I still want to hear your explanation for the two of you coming home naked."


Hoss and Adam blushed.


Little Joe grinned. "Naked? Well now...I would like to hear about that one as well."


"That was Adam's fault, Pa."


"My fault?...You're the one who pulled me in the lake."


"Yeah, but you are the one who tied the end of my fishin' line to that tree root and tried to convince me it was ol' granddaddy catfish."


"Well, I was just trying to get you back for making me say uncle when we were wrestling."


"You plumb cheated."


"I did I said, I took advantage of a fruitful opportunity."


"You plumb cheated...that's what you did!"


"I did not!"


"Did to!"


"Did not!"


"Cheater, cheater, cheater..."


"Well, at least I only needed one blanket...unlike you."


"Well, at least I got us some breakfast from Miss Maddie...unlike Mr. Always Prepared."


"Yeah well, I'm surprised you had the time...what with smooching that gal in the brothel."


"She smooched me...not the other way around!"


"Same thing!"


"Is not the same thing..."


"Is too."




Adam and Hoss stopped fighting and looked at Ben.


"Do I have to send you two to bed without supper or can you learn to play nicely?" He scolded.


"No Pa, that won't be necessary." Adam smirked, at Ben's obvious payback for the jail lecture.




"No Pa."


", where were we?"


Little Joe was crying from giggling so hard. "We were talking about Adam and all his mischief."


Adam glared at his brother. "Thanks a lot, Little Brother."


Joe shrugged. "Sorry, slipped out." He grinned.


Ben put his hands on his hips. "Yes, I do believe that Adam has caused or been involved with quite a considerable amount of mischief lately.  What do you have to say about this, young man?"


Adam considered protesting, but decided against it.  He looked down at the floor. "Dinner is on me?"


Ben patted him on the back. "Well, that's mighty thoughtful of you, son."


Adam put on a fake smile. "My pleasure, and Pa?"


"Yes son?"


"We're even."


Ben smiled. "Oh, I don't know, son...I believe you still have more coming for your lecture."


Adam smiled smugly. "I found it quite I also found yesterday's escapade quite amusing."


"Tell us, Adam..." Joe begged.


Hannibal covered his face with his hand.


Ben was mortified. "Son, you wouldn't?"


Adam folded his arms across his chest. "Oh, I most certainly would."


Ben hung his head. "We're even."




Ben smiled. "And Joseph?"


"Yes Pa?"


"Thank you for reminding me of all the wrong doings of your oldest brother."


Joseph grinned. "Oh, no problem, Pa."


"Yes, because that reminded me of the fact that you still have a well to help dig in addition to clearing that path...looks like you are going to be quite busy for some time to come. And you will apologize to Mr. Hawkins and Jamie Lynn."


Adam grinned.


Joe frowned. "Me and my big mouth."


Ben winked at Adam. "Or you and I could go out to the barn instead."


Joe gulped. "I'll have that well dug quick as a wink...don't you worry, Pa."


"Good." Ben put an arm around Hannibal. "Let's eat."


Face had had enough. "Alright… come on… someone explain this whole barn thing." 


Hoss put an arm around the lieutenant. "Well, let's just say that after a trip to the barn with ain't gonna feel much like sittin’ least not without a pilla in your britches." He laughed and slapped Face on the back.


Face was stunned. "No..."




"Let's go, Boys…I'm starved!" Ben called from outside.


Face was still pondering the whole barn concept when he was quickly ushered out of the door.


"Coming Pa!"



"Hey Adam...what did Pa mean when he said...that's somethin' I'm sure you are well aware of?" Hoss asked, already knowing the answer.


"Nothing you want or need to know about, Hoss."


"Well, if'n I didn't want to know...I wouldn't of asked."


"Asked what, brother?" Joe interjected bringing Cochise between his brother's horses.


"What Pa meant when he told Adam that he was well aware that Pa would take us out to the barn."


"Hey, yeah Adam, what did Pa mean by that?"


", you two just shut up and tend to your own business!"


Ben overheard the entire conversation and decided his son needed one more lesson. "Adam, do you and I need to have another talk in the barn?"


Adam was mortified, one, at the prospect of going back out to the barn and two, that his brothers had just found out he had. "Pa, did you have to tell them?"


"Yes son.  Apologize to your brothers."


"But Pa..."


"Now, young man."


"Yes sir." Adam looked at his brothers. "I'm sorry."


Hoss and Little Joe went into a fit of giggles. "Did you hear that, Hoss?...Adam got a lickin’."


"Yeah, I heard it, Little Joe...don't feel so, do ya, Big Brother?"


"Very funny, Hoss."


"So, you got a lickin’ for sassing, Pa....didn't ya, brother?"


"Yes Joe…I did."


"You should have known better than that, Adam."


Adam looked down at the ground, thoroughly chastised by his littlest brother.


"I was wondering when Pa was going to give Adam a lickin'...weren't you, Hoss?"


"I certainly was, Little Brother."


"Did you cry?"


"Did you cry the last time Pa tanned you, Joseph?" Adam countered.


"I'll take that as a yes...did you hear that, Hoss...Pa made Adam cry."


"Yeah, musta hurt like the dickens then...huh, Brother?"


"Of course it wasn't exactly a feather Pa know."


Joe grinned. "Did Pa make you stand in the corner afterwards and think about it?"


"No, I did not have to stand in the corner."


Hoss peered at Adam's behind. "Must be mighty uncomfortable sittin' in that saddle?"


"I'll manage." Adam shifted unconsciously.  He blushed when he realized he was squirming.


Little Joe and Hoss were laughing hysterically.


"Pa...make them stop," Adam whined and then smacked himself in the head for sounding so immature.


"Alright, alright...stop ribbing your brother."


"Awww, but can't expect us to pass up this chance," Joe protested.


"Yeah Pa, what with all the bossiness and tormentin' he does to us all the time," Hoss added.


"What I expect is for us to have a nice quiet ride into town for supper and for all three of my boys to behave like young gentlemen."


"Aww, but just ain't right," Hoss pouted.


"Hoss, you are the only one of my sons that has not been tanned you want to join your brothers?"


Hoss gulped. "No sir."


"Well as I ask."


"Yes sir."


"Adam, Joseph...behave as that clear?"


"Yes sir," they chorused.


"Good."  Ben smiled and went on up ahead.


Hoss looked to make sure Ben couldn't hear him. "Hey Adam, betcha we could ask Miss Maddie for a nice soft pillow for you to sit on when we get there."


"Yeah, I'm sure she would let you keep it for the ride home." Joe giggled.


"Alright, that's, you two have asked for it...wait until I get my hands on ya!"


Hoss and Joe took off with Adam in pursuit.


Ben shook his head and sighed. "Let's rescue the boys before Adam kills them."


"Right!"  The team urged their horses into a gallop.


Ben looked up to the heavens. "Lord...don't mean to bother you again...but send me that strength...please...I'm begging ya...yahhh Buck!"




"Be quiet or you'll wake up, Pa."


"Sorry, Joe."


The two boys snuck into Adam's room. "Adam, Adam...wake up."


Adam woke up with a start. "what's the matter, Joe?"


"Nothing....come on, Adam, we have a surprise for you."


Adam looked at his brother. "It's late...can't the surprise wait...I have a lot of work to do tomorrow as do you and Hoss, Joseph."


"Aww...come on, Adam...stop being such a grown up and get up, will ya?"


Adam saw his brother's pleading look and relented. "Alright, but this had better be good."


The three boys went down the hall quietly as not to wake up their father.  They went downstairs. "It's dark, Joe."


"Don't worry about that, Adam...are you feeling up to sitting for a bit?”


“I think I can for a little while.”


“Then go sit in your chair.”


Adam smiled when he saw the pillow in it and sat down.


"Hoss, you get ready."




Little Joe went around behind the sheet they had hung up over the coffee table. "You  ready?"


"Roger rooney."


Face opened the front door. "Hurry up, will's cold out here."


"Hold your horses, Face." Little Joe lit the lamps in the living room. "Ladies and gentlemen...tonight we bring to you...for your viewing pleasure a scene from Shakespeare's…Romeo and Juliet. As rewritten by Joseph Francis Cartwright...cause there was too many, I just put in the good stuff."


Hoss opened the front door. "You're on, Face."


"But, soft what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun!"


Little Joe pulled up the sheet and Murdock stepped out onto the coffee table wearing a nightshirt, with a bow tied around it, and rope hung over his head tied to look like pigtails. "Oh Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I'll no longer be a Catapult."


Adam shook his head. "I believe the word is Capulet, Juliet."


Murdock turned and stared at Adam. "Hey, Johnny...I just read it...if you have any complaints talk to the playwright."


Joe looked sheepishly at everyone. "Oops."


"Never mind that…keep goin' before Pa catches us," Hoss added.


Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the boys, Hannibal and Ben were sitting on the top of the stairs quietly watching this whole scene take place.


Murdock picked the paper back up. "If they do see thee here they will murder thee."


Face came over to Murdock tripping over the corner of the sofa. "I can't work under these conditions!"


"Aww come on,'s for Adam," Joe begged.


Face got up off the floor and dusted himself off. "Alright, where was I? Oh yes...I have night's cloak to hide me from...and, but thou love me, let them find me here:  My life were better ended by their hate than prorogued wanting of thy love."


Murdock put his hands up. "My true love's passion: therefore pardon me; And not impute this yielding to light love. which the dark night hath so discovered."


"Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear, that tips with silver all these fruit tree-tops."


"O, swear not by the moon, the inconsistent moon, that monthly changes in her circled orb. Lest that thy love prove likewise variable."


Face put his hand over his heart. "What shall I swear by?"


Hoss turned to his brother. "Pa ain't gonna like all this swearing, Little Brother."


Murdock continued. "Do not swear at all..."


Hoss nodded. "Yeah, good swearing."


Little Joe rolled his eyes. "Shhh Hoss...this is the good stuff."


"If my heart's dear love," Face continued, not sure what the heck his next line was.


"This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.  Goodnight, good night! As sweet repose and come to thy heart as within my breast!"


Hoss got up. "Little Joe, we just can't say no more naughty words...Pa'd have our hides.  Come on, Juliet!" Hoss pulled Murdock off the table, tearing down the sheet in the process.  He fell into Face, knocking him into the couch, which in turn fell over, crashing down the table and statues.


"Boys!" Ben bellowed.


"Now, you done it, Hoss...we're all gonna get it." Little Joe smiled. " Pa."


"Joseph, was all this your idea?"


"Yes sir."


"For what purpose?"


"I wanted to make it up to Adam for teasing him about his tanning. It was mean of me to do that after Adam was so nice to me when I got a lickin’."


"I see."


"I'm sorry, Pa...I'm the one you should punish...everyone else was just helping me."


Ben folded his arms. "Well, young man...there is one thing you should be punished for and severely I might add."


Little Joe gulped nervously. "Yes sir?"


"Rewriting Shakespeare...catapult indeed." Ben smiled. "Get to bed...the lot of can clean this up in the morning."


"Yes Pa. Night Pa!"


All the boys quickly scooted up the steps.


"Little Brother, there's hope for you yet." Adam put his arm around Joe. "Thanks, meant a lot to me."


"Well, don't get used to it...I ain't always gonna be nice to you."


Adam put him in a headlock. "You had better be...say it!"


"Uncle, uncle...."


"Good.  Now listen, since all our free time will be taking up clearing that path...why don't we sneak off one time when Pa thinks we're there and do a little fishing?"


Joe looked at his brother in shock. "You want to sneak off always do the right thing oldest brother?"


"I don't always do the right thing...I think I have proven that with my recent trip to the barn." Adam grimaced and rubbed his backside.


Joe put a hand on his brother's arm. "Pa lick'd you good, huh?"


"He sure did...almost as bad as the time I tried to ride Jasper's Ghost." Adam smiled. "But thankfully Pa let me keep my britches up this time which saved my hide some...I was really worried he wasn't going to. Plus all the riding I did ain't helping things much…especially, when I took off after you and Hoss." Adam smirked. "That was really dumb."


"I'm sorry, Adam...I know you must be hurtin' an awful lot."


"I am, but don't worry about me, Little Brother...I deserve, anyway, like I said I don't always do the right thing."


"True, but that was different."


"How so?"


"What you did was the same as when I disobeyed Pa and put myself in was something I really shouldn't have done, just like you really shouldn't have been disrespectful...understand?"


Adam put a finger to his mouth. "I think so...please continue."


"What you are talking about doing is the fun kind of naughty."


Adam smiled, both his little brothers were growing up. "Hey, I can be naughty on occasion...just for the fun of it.  I joined in on the food fight and the donut raid, didn't I?




"So, what do you will give us a chance to be naughty together like brothers should be sometimes and maybe give us a chance to get to know each other a little better."


"If Pa catches us, we'll get in a whole mess of trouble...probably even get a lickin'."


"Well, if we do, it won't be the first time I've gotten a lickin' with my brother...Hoss and I did sometimes and you and Hoss do sometimes...brothers are supposed to do that."


"I don't know, Adam."


Adam folded his arms. "Are ya yella?"


"I ain't yella."


"I think you might be."


"I am not...I was just saying is all."


Adam grabbed his brother and turned him around and looked down the back of his nightshirt. "Oh yeah...there is a definite stripe down your back and I do believe it is yellow in color."


"Hey, once and for all...I ain't yella!"


"Alright you agree?"


"I agree."


"Good...just remember it's our little secret...don't even tell Hoss...we'll tell him that someone knows where we are, just in case."


"I won't tell him until you say so."


"Alright then...get to bed."


"Night Adam."




Ben quickly stepped back in his room and folded his arms. "If Pa catches them...they mean...when Pa catches them." 


A few hours later, Murdock sat up in his bed and looked around the room. BA was sleeping peacefully.  A strange feeling came over him. He went over to BA and shook him. "BA...BA...wake up."


BA rolled over. "Get away from me, fool."


"But BA, it's serious...come on...wake up."


BA wiped the sleep from his eyes and sat up. "What's the matter, man?"


"We need to go to Hell Fire,'s time to go home."


BA looked at him confused, but he could see that the pilot was serious. "Now?"


"Yes...I'll go wake up the others."



The eight men stood around the mining shaft.


"I'm really going to miss you guys," Murdock said and hugged Little Joe, Hoss and Ben.  He went over to Adam and held out his hand. "Especially you, Johnny."


Adam took Murdock's hand and shook it. "I'm going to miss you too, Murdock." He took off his hat and put it on Murdock's head, playfully putting it down too far.


Murdock grinned and pulled Adam into a big bear hug. "Don't forget me!"


Adam shook his head. "Not possible."


"Well Ben," Hannibal put out his hand. "I guess this is goodbye."


Ben took Hannibal's hand shook it and pulled him into a quick embrace. "Thank you for all that you have done. I owe you my life and the lives of my sons."


"It was nothing. I'm just glad that we we're here to help. And Ben, if you ever make it to 1984...we'll have a night on the town. I know this little bar, just outside of Los Angeles you would love."


Adam cleared his throat. "As long as you two promise not to bust up the place."


Ben and Hannibal smiled sheepishly at Adam.


"Well, remember about giving it some time." The Colonel stuck out his hand.


"I sure will, Colonel, and thank you for everything." Adam shook Hannibal's hand.


"No problem, kid, and try not to give your old man here such a hard time...after all, he's getting up there."


"What?" Ben exclaimed.


"Now, that's a good face as well...not as good as the other one, but good."


Hannibal laughed." I agree,, you remember what I said....I don't want to have to come back here and kick your butt." He rubbed his jaw.  "Because you know I still owe ya one."


Adam smiled sheepishly. "I'll remember, sir, and thank you for that as well."


Hannibal winked.


Face went over to Little Joe. "You behave yourself...huh, kid?" He tousled Joe's hair.


"Doggone it!  Cut that out!" He smiled. "I'm going to miss ya, Face...oh, and thanks for showing me how to hide those aces up my sleeve."


"What was that, Joseph?" Ben asked sternly.


"Err...nothing, Pa." He winked at Face.


The four men looked around one last time and went into the mine shaft.  A brilliant orange light engulfed the entire area and soon the team was gone.


The Cartwrights looked at each other and smiled. "So, I guess they were from the future after all, huh Pa?" Little Joe asked.


Ben shook his head. "I guess so, son, but I still can't figure it all out."


"Faith, Pa...just like I done told," Hoss said softly.


Ben nodded. "Alright, boys...let's go home."


Adam turned from his family and looked out to the sun that was just coming up, his eyes misting slightly.


Ben reached into his saddle bag and then went over to his eldest. "What's the matter, son?"


Adam wiped his eyes, embarrassed. "Nothing, Pa...I just really liked the sound of what you said."


Ben looked quizzically at him. "You mean home, son?"


"Yeah Pa...I'm glad to be home."


Ben put his arm around Adam and hugged him tightly. "I'm glad you are too, boy." He handed him the watch. "I expect you to wear this to Church on Sunday, young man...understood?"


Adam smiled. "Yes sir."


Little Joe and Hoss joined their family. "Sure is a mighty pretty sunrise, ain't it, Pa?"


"Yes it is, Hoss...mighty pretty." Ben looked up to the heavens. 'Thank you, Lord.' He turned to his sons. "Alright...let's go, boys."


They nodded and headed back to their horses. "Pa?"


"Yes Adam?"


"You're proud that I successfully rode Jasper's Ghost, aren't you?" He asked as he climbed onto the wagon.




"Admit it...I proved I could do've gotta give me some credit."


"No...the only thing that I gotta give you is a tanning for disobeying me."


"But Pa..."


Ben pointed. "Get back to the house and wait for me in the barn!"


"You can't be serious?"


"Go now or I'll tan you the same way I did the first time."


"Yes sir," Adam replied and flicked the team's reins.


Hoss went over to Ben and put his arm around him. "So, how long do you think it will take him to figure out you are funnin' him again?"


Ben looked sternly at Hoss. "I'm not, and I do believe you also have a tanning coming for the whiskey incident, young man."


"But Pa..."




"Yes sir," Hoss replied, mounted Chubb and headed off to join his brother.


Little Joe came over and put his arm around his father. "So, how long do you think it will take the two of them to figure out you are only joshing them, Pa?"


Ben looked down at his youngest and smiled. "With those two...I'm not sure, Little Joe...but I bet you when we get home we'll find them both in the barn."


Little Joe laughed. "I betcha you're right, Pa...geesh, and I'm the dumb little kid brother."


Ben laughed and tousled Joe's hair. "Let's go home and let your brothers off the hook."


"Awww...but Pa...can't you let them squirm awhile?"


"Joseph, that's not very nice."


"I know, Pa...but it sure is funny."


Ben grinned mischievously. "Well, you and I could do that target practicing I promised you."


"But Pa...I didn't bring my gun with me."


Ben reached in his saddle bag and pulled out Joe's holster.


"How did you know that we would be doing some practicing, Pa?"


Ben put his arm around his youngest and squeezed him tightly. "Because I know my sons."


Little Joe grinned. "I betcha you don't know how good I am with that gun?"


"Oh really? Well, why don't you show me?"


"Yes sir...let's go, Pa," Joe said and grabbed Ben by the hand.


Ben smiled and let himself be lead away.


Ben setup the targets again for Little Joe.  "So, son...Hoss tells me you were ready to face Cole in a gun fight?"


Little Joe swallowed hard. "I know I'm not supposed to use a gun unless Adam or you say it's okay and I know it was a dangerous thing for me to do...but I would have died to save Hoss if I had to...are you going to give me another lickin', Pa?"


"No, of course not, boy...I am proud of you for the way you handled yourself against Cole.  It took a lot of courage to stand up to him, and even though it was wasn't the same as disobeying me and going along on a mission where you could have been killed.  Am I making any sense, son?"


"You are trying to tell me that I acted like a man instead of a boy, right Pa?"


Ben smiled and hugged his son. "That's exactly what I am trying to say, son."


"Does this mean I can start carrying my gun now by myself?"


"Absolutely not, and you will get an even worse tanning than you did if you even think about doing I make myself very clear?"


"Yes sir...very have my word of honor that I won't, and Adam says a man never goes back on his word once he gives it."


"Well, Adam is right."


"About a lot of things...but don't tell him I said that."


"Your secret is safe with me, son."


"Pa, I think we need to talk about this."


"It ain't Pa,'s me Hoss."


"Hoss, what are you doing here?"


"Pa sent me here too."


"He did?"




"Why that mischievous old do realize, Hoss, that Pa is pulling both our legs."


"You sure...he seemed pretty serious to me?"


"I'm sure." Adam put his arm around his brother. "I think he needs to be taught a lesson."


"Whatcha have in mind?"


"Well, since he wants to persist in this immaturity...let's oblige him.  I think I can recall a few boyish pranks...what about you, Hoss?"


"I reckon I can."




"Alright, Little Joe...let's go let your brothers off the hook."


"Okay, Pa, if we hafta."


Ben tied Buck to the railing and went to head to the barn when he realized he couldn't move. "What in the world?"


"Pa...looks like you're stuck."


"I can see that, Joseph."


"There's glue on the rail," Little Joe said.


"You're not responsible for this...are you, young man?" Ben asked as he took off his vest.


"No sir...I swear I'm innocent."


Ben went over to the water trough and washed off the glue from his hands.


Joe was giggling.


"What is so funny, Joseph?"


"Look at your hands."




"Someone put dye in the water, Pa."


"Dang blasted!"


"Looks like Adam and Hoss might be funnin' ya, Pa."


"Where are those two?"


"Check the barn."


Ben opened the door and was immediately covered by a bucket full of flour.


Adam and Hoss were laughing hysterically.


"Adam, Hoss...are you responsible for this...this...tomfoolery?"


"Yeah Pa," Adam answered laughing.


"Do not answer me like that, Boy."


Adam controlled his laughter as best he could. "I'm sorry, Pa. Yes sir, we are responsible."


"Oh you are, are you?" Ben asked and brushed the flour off himself.


"Yes sir," Hoss answered trying his best to control his own laughter.


"Well, I am not amused." Ben took off his belt and advanced on his two mischievous sons.


"Now Pa...let's talk about this..." Adam said as he backed away from his angry father.


"Yeah Pa...Adam and me was just funnin' ya...just gettin' ya back for joshin us..." Hoss joined his brother in his retreating stance.


Little Joe was laughing hysterically.


"You are both gonna get it!"


"Pa, calm was just a few harmless aren't really gonna tan us...are you?" Adam asked nervously.


"As soon as I get my hands on ya!"


"Hoss, I suggest we make a hasty retreat," Adam ordered.


"Good idea, big brother."


Joe closed the door so they couldn't get away.


Next, came the chorus of, "oww, Pa..." as Ben managed to whack them each a few times before they could get their giggling little brother out of the way and the door open.


Ben and Little Joe stood by the barn door laughing.


"Doggone...those two sure are a handful, Pa."


"Yes, they are, Little Joe."


"I think you should give them both a lickin’."


Ben laughed. "Well, you are probably right, but I think I'll let it go this time. I'm sure their backsides are smartin' some...especially, your oldest brother's...whose idea I am sure it was to pull those pranks."


Little Joe shook his head. "Not enough if you ask me...I think they at least need a good talking to and maybe a few extra chores."


"You know that is a good idea...Joseph, I think you should talk to them and come up with the chores."




"Yes, you have shown some real maturity lately, standing up to Cole, doing that nice thing for Adam and you were ready to accept full responsibility and punishment without protest...I think your brothers could learn from you."


Joe's look became serious. "I'll do it right after breakfast, Pa."


Ben smiled, put his belt back on and his arm around his son. "Good, and don't let them off too easily."


"Oh, I won't...don't you worry, Pa."


"Let's eat...I'm starved."


"Me too, Pa."


"Dagburn you, Adam...I ain't ever gonna listen to you again," Hoss said as he rubbed his behind. "Teach Pa a lesson...yeah, we taught him alright, Brother."


"What do you have to complain about?" Adam put his hands on his seat, the sting of his previous tanning renewed. "I'm the one who will have to stand up during breakfast."


"Serves ya right."


"Serves me right?  You put the glue on the hitching rail."


"Well, you put the flour over the door."




Little Joe put his hands on his hips. "Boys!"


Adam and Hoss stopped fighting and looked at their brother.


"I think you two need to apologize to Pa for being so naughty."


They looked at each other, then at Little Joe again and then at Ben. "Sorry Pa," they said in unison.


Joe nodded. " go in the house and eat breakfast...then we are gonna have a talk about the proper way to behave and I have some chores for you to do."


They stood there stunned.


Ben put his hands on his hips. "You heard your brother...get!"


Adam and Hoss turned and headed into the house.


Joe shook his head. "Kids!" He said in disgust and followed the boys into the house.


Ben stood on the porch and laughed until his sides hurt. He looked up to the heavens. "Did you hear that, Liz...our boy managed to ride Jasper's that's something a father can be proud of." He turned to go in the house and almost bumped into Adam. "How long have you been standing there?"


"Long enough."


"What have I told you about eavesdropping?"


Adam ignored his father's question and continued. "If I recall, YOU never successfully rode Jasper's Ghost...nor did the hands."


Ben just looked at him.


"Yup," Adam said smugly. "I guess that makes me the best danged horse breaker this side of the Mississippi, huh Pa?"


"Now, just hold on there...don't you go getting a swollen head over this, young man."


Adam put his arm around Ben's shoulders. "Oh Pa...don't be like that...I'll tell you what, in a few days when my hide has fully and me will head on down to the corral and I'll give you some pointers."


"Keep up the smart talk, Boy, and it will be quite some time before your hide recovers...just who do you think you learned to break horses from...from me...that's who…" Ben continued his rant as he stormed into the house. "We're gonna talk some more about this fool idea you have in your head...give me some pointers, huh...well...I'll give YOU some pointers..."


Adam grinned.