A Chain Story written by:

Debbie B ;0)
Marian V.
Susan L.
Marcia Lee
Carla Ledford
Katja van den Berg
Sharon Kay Bottoms
Joan Sattler
Josefina Marzo
Kathy E.
Marian… "Joeie"
Deborah A. Demko
Jennie A.


 "Please Pa, pretty please. Can we, heh, Pa heh?" begged Little Joe giving Ben his most angelic smile while batting his long lashes to add emphasis.

Ben scratched his head looking doubtful and then studied the expressions on his two youngest son’s faces. "I don’t know boys…I think…"

"Aw shucks Pa, we ain’t gonna be far from the house, what could possibly happen?" Hoss interrupted his father’s statement, knowing that Ben was about to refuse
them their request.

"All our friends get to go campin’ without their Pas, or big brothers," he added, giving Adam a pitiful look hoping that his oldest sibling would side with Joe and

Adam remembered those days when he had always felt as if he were old enough to do some of the things that his friend’s fathers would allow them to do, but Ben
had mostly refused him and Adam sensed that even now their father was on the verge of refusing his brothers this one request.

"Aw, Pa, why not let them go, Hoss is plenty old enough to look out for Little Joe," Adam spoke up on behalf of the two little imps that had suddenly smiled at him.

Ben turned his gaze from the two younger boys to his older son and the look he gave to Adam was enough to make the oldest swallow loudly.

"And just who do you think is going to watch out for Hoss? Or have you forgotten that he is just thirteen years old?" Ben shot back at his son.

Before either adult could speak, Joe suddenly fell to his knees, folded his hands as if praying and began his begging routine once again.

"Please Pa, please. Mitch got to go with his older brother just last weekend. I promise, I’ll be good and I swear I’ll listen to everything Hoss tells me. What’ca say
Pa, can we? And I promise if’n I get hurt, I won’t cry while Hoss runs all the way back home to get ya."

Ben took a step away from the advancing boys, almost feeling smothered but was stopped short and nearly falling when Joe, who remained on his knees, suddenly
wrapped both arms around Ben’s legs.

"Joe, will you please let go before you make me fall?" ordered Ben as he reached down and pulled Joe to his feet and stood the boy in front of him.

"I will have to think about this before I can give you an answer, now both of you," he pointed at Hoss, "go upstairs and get ready for bed, you have school

Joe and Hoss both recognized the look that their father wore on his face and neither was about to push their luck to far.

"Yes sir," said Hoss taking Little Joe by the hand and leading the way to the stairs giving Joe a look that told him not to utter a word.

Joe pulled his hand free of Hoss’ grasp when they reached the landing.

"Papa," he called softly, gaining his father’s attention. "Is your mind gonna take all night to think up an answer like it did the last time ya had to think? Cause if’n it is
and ya gonna say no, then maybe you outta just say yes now so’s ya don’t gotta stay up all night just to tell us no in the morning," smiled Little Joe innocently. "That
way ya can just go to bed and get a good night’s rest and not think about what you gotta think about."

Ben fought to keep the smile from his face at hearing his youngest son’s reasoning. Rather than speaking, Ben pointed to the top of the stairs and both boys fearing
they might anger their father took off running. Ben waited until he heard the door close to their bedroom and turning suddenly to face Adam, burst out laughing.

"How in the world am I going to get out of this mess?" he questioned, his dark eyes dancing merrily.

"Easy Pa, we’ll just follow them. They will never know and besides, if they should get into trouble, we’ll be right behind them," beamed Adam, pleased with him self.


By Friday afternoon the yard was buzzing with excitement and Adam, who sat on the side porch sipping his afternoon coffee, could not keeping from laughing softly
to himself as he watch his brothers scurry back and forth between the barn and the house gathering what they concluded were needed essentials.

Dying of curiosity but not wanting to interfere, Adam sundered over to peer into the overly stuffed gunnysack that Joe was attempting to pull behind him. Adam’s
arms were folded across his chest as he stopped within inches of his brother who had his back to him and peeked over the top of Joe’s curly head and into the sack.

Adam felt his laughter begin to rumble deep within his chest and he was forced to disguise the laughter by a bout of fake coughs. The sack was full to near over
flowing and when Adam spied a crumpled piece of paper lying in the dirt, he bent to pick it up. In Joe’s scratchy writing, the boy had listed the items he planned on
taking with him. The list read as follows:

   1.Pulley from the barn loft
   2.Checkered game
   3.My pillow
   5.Picture of Mama
   6.A shirt from Pa’s dresser
   7.Adam’s book, Moby Dick
   8.Bag of rock candy
  11.A large bag of leaves
  12.4 corncobs
  13.Chamber pot
  16.2 cups
  17.Hop Sing’s good cast iron skillet
  19.Fishing line
  20.Sling shot
  21.Bag of pebbles
  22.Lye soap
  23.One towel
  24.Long johns
  25.My nightshirt, bedroom slippers, robe and stuffed dog, Scruffy
  26.Paper and pencil
  27.Medical supplies
  28.Bottle of liniment
  29.My Bible
  30.Sack of grain
  31.Hop Sing’s garden basket
  32.Ball of twine
  36.Oil lamp

After reading the list that Joe had made and seeing what his little brother had crammed into the gunnysack, Adam leaned down to inspect the contents of the food
basket that Hoss had so generously filled. Again laughter boiled deep within the wall of his abdomen.

   1.One jar of pickles
   4.Jar of jam
   8.Slices of baked ham
   9.Sweet potatoes
  10.Fried Chicken
  11.Apple pie
  12.Sack of sugar
  13.Jar of honey
  14.Fresh baked cookies
  15.Loaf of bread
  16.Slab of bacon
  17.Basket of eggs (unknown to Adam, eggs are hard boiled)
  18.Peppermint sticks
  20.Popcorn and popper
  21.5 pounds of potatoes
  22.Can of worms (to be used for fish bait)
  23.Salt and pepper
  24.Small bucket of lard (for frying the potatoes and hopefully the fish)
  25.Pipe tobacco
  26.Carrots and onions

Joe looked back at his father, a wide grin spreading across his face as he waved good-bye. "See ya Pa," called out the happy tike.

"Good-bye son, you be a good boy and do what Hoss tells you to do. Hoss, you take care of your brother and we’ll see you in a couple of days," Ben forced the
smile to stay in place as he waved back at his departing sons.

"He’ll be fine Pa, we both will, now don’t ya worry yourself none," Hoss called out as the two brothers rounded the barn out of sight.

The smile faded once the pair was no longer visible, "you might be fine, not likely that I will be," he muttered to himself as he turned back toward the house.

"Did you say something Pa?" asked Adam as he gave his father a puzzled look.

Ben shook his head and kept walking, muttering unrecognizable things under his breath and avoiding answering his oldest son.

"Pa, wait up, I want to show you what I found earlier," Adam ran to catch up to Ben who had finally stopped and waited for Adam.

"Look," smiled Adam and then handed his brother’s list to his father. "They will be okay, look at all of this stuff. You’d think they were going to be gone for a week
rather than just one night."

Ben took the scrap of paper and scanned it with his eyes. Suddenly his laughter broke the silence of the afternoon and soon Adam joined in.

"That’s just Joe’s list, you should have seen the size of that food basket Hoss filled up, there’s enough there to feed the multitude!"

Ben laid his arm across Adam’s shoulder and grinned. "Let’s get what we need and get going, I don’t want those two to get into trouble before we even catch up to

Together the father and son sleuths hurried to prepare their own meager supplies, confident that they would be back home with the younger Cartwrights before
sunrise the next morning.


"Two dollars says they cross it," whispered Adam softly from behind his hiding place where he crouched in the under brush with his father and watched as the
younger two Cartwrights debated with each other in regards to the fence in question.

"I’ll take that bet young man," laughed Ben somewhat reluctantly. "I don’t believe Hoss will let that little scamp you call brother, talk him into going across."

Ben watched the debate between his two youngest sons that was taking place and prayed that Hoss would not once again give in to his little brother. Joe had a way
of persuading his older brother Hoss, to go along with just about anything and more times than not, Hoss often found himself in deep trouble over whatever
misadventure his younger sibling had connived him into.

Hoss was shaking his head no while Little Joe waved his hands and arms around frantically in the air, trying, Ben was sure, to convince Hoss to agree to his fool
hearty plan.

Ben could not hear any of what was being said. He had no need; he knew his youngest off spring too well. Joseph and Hoss knew the pasture that they were about
to venture into, was off limits to them. Somewhere, roaming around in the green grassland, was Hiram Miller’s prize bull, King Leo. King Leo was the biggest,
meanest and most ferocious bull in all of the Nevada territory.

The magnificent bull had been brought up from Mexico by Hiram Miller, a neighboring rancher and long time friend of the Cartwrights. King Leo had arrived less
than a year ago reeking havoc on anyone who dared to enter his domain. Several older, but not likely any braver young boys, had tempted fate, only to find
themselves racing for their lives as the master of his domain charged after them. Since those first attempts, many of the youths in the area had made a game of
‘running with the bull’ and some had found themselves in trouble with their fathers once word had leaked out. It was common knowledge that the Miller property
was listed as a dangerous area and forbidden to anyone under the age of 18, which from what Ben was seeing now was posing a threat to his youngsters.

"I believe that little rascal has talked Hoss into it, Pa," whispered Adam.

"Maybe I should stop them, it’s too dangerous. Look," Ben pointed at his middle son, "Hoss is opening the gate!" exclaimed the worried father as he started to rise
from his hiding place next to Adam.

Adam reached for his father’s arm and yanked him back down out of sight.

"No Pa, King Leo is about a quarter mile up to the south. I saw him earlier, he won’t see the boys, they’ll have plenty of time to sneak across."

Adam turned and smiled at his father, it was rare that he won a bet against his father and he could not keep from gloating, just a little. Besides, he knew his brothers
were in no immediate danger as King Leo was preoccupied with a lovely young heifer.

Ben frowned, he knew Adam had just taken him for two dollars and he was slightly peeved at his youngest off springs for tempting fate and giving him cause to be
concerned. He and Adam would stay hidden, but would keep a close eye on King Leo, just in case he noticed the boys and decided to take action. If so, he and
Adam could distract the big animal long enough for the boys to reach the other side of the pasture.

Hoss replaced the latch on the gate as soon as Joe had led the horse through to the other side.

"We’s best hurry Short Shanks, if’n ole King Leo catches wind of us, we’re liable to end up cow fodder afore we reach the other side," whispered Hoss in a muted
voice as he nervously surveyed the entire area for the famous bull.

"Aw Hoss, that ole bull ain’t gonna bother us none…he done found him a lady cow, way over yonder on the utter side of that hill," Little Joe smiled up at his big
brother, pointing to a grassy knoll in the distance.

"He ain’t interested in us no ways," beamed Little Joe, knowingly.

"He ain’t?" questioned Hoss, wondering just how Joe could be so sure of himself. "How’s come?" he asked as he moved into step beside of Little Joe.

"Don’t ya know anything?" Little Joe said casting innocent eyes up at his best friend.

Hoss noted the funny look on Joe’s face and wondered at his brother’s meaning. Not wanting the younger boy to see his confusion, Hoss laughed out loud, "Sure, I
know, I know." And then thought to him self, what is it that I am suppose to know? Hoss pulled his hat off, scratched his head and tried to make the smile on his
face appear wiser than he really felt.

Joe returned the smile, stopped to pick up a fat red worm that had just crawled from beneath a cow patty. "Adam dun explained it all to me," gleamed Joe, letting
the wiggly worm crawl around in his hand.

Hoss stopped, a look of confusion now showing on his face. "Explained? Explained what?"

Joe took one more step and then stopped to face his brother, "You know, things about boy cows and girl cows," Joe stated nonchalantly as he started walking once

"Boy cows and girl cows?" Hoss scratched his head for the second time feeling sure he had missed something important in this particular conversation with his baby

"Hold up just a dang minute Short Shanks. What ‘things’ about boy cows and girl cows?" inquired Hoss, not sure whether or not he really wanted to know. "Don’t
you mean bulls and heifers?"

Joe stopped suddenly and spun around to face his sibling while slipping the worm into his pocket. He then hocked up a small wad of salvia and spit it into his hands
rubbing them together in an attempt to rub away some of the dirt before placing both hands on either side of his waist.

"Hoss Cartwright…are ya saying that Pa ain’t never told ya about the birds and bees?"

Hoss nearly choked on his own salvia. What did his seven-year old brother know about the birds and the bees?

"Um…um…sure, Pa and Adam explained certain things to me about that…but…what in tarnation does the birds and bees have to do with King Leo?"

Hoss felt his face turning red and he looked in the opposite direction to hide his embarrassment. Off in the distance he had seen something dart from behind the
bushes and for just a brief second thought the something had resembled a man. The sun shone brightly in his eyes and Hoss was forced to rub at them. Shielding his
face from the sun with his hands, Hoss gazed into the distance, momentarily forgetting his strange conversation with Joe.

"Hey," shouted Joe, drawing Hoss’ attention back to the present day and wiping his hands dry on the front of his shirt. "So, Adam said that when King Leo fell in
love with a girl cow, they would get married and have baby cows all their own."

Joe gave Hoss his most winning smile, proud that he had explained something new to his older and wiser big brother. They had reached the other side of the pasture
and Joe stood patiently while Hoss opened the gate and allowed Joe and the packhorse to venture through.

"Adam told ya that? Ya sure Little Joe? Adam said it just like that?" quizzed Hoss, not sure how much of the information that Joe gave him he had missed, but
something didn’t seem right to him.

"Well, maybe not word for word. But he did say that Mr. Miller bought King Leo so’s that his girl cows could have babies and he did say it was sorta like the birds
and the bees ‘cepting I don’t know what the birds and bees hav’ta do with boy cows and girl cows.

Joe led the horse laden with supplies, through the opening and waited until Hoss secured the gate before moving on, the conversation lost as something new caught
the attention of the two brothers.



"Pa, what was that racket?" asked Adam turning to look over his shoulder at where the sound seemed to be coming from. Beneath his feet the ground trembled and
for just a fraction of a second, Adam thought that perhaps he was experiencing an earthquake.

"Sounds like thunder…" started Ben.

"Ut-oh," muttered Adam out loud.

"What?" Ben barely had the words out of his mouth before he noticed the color draining from his son’s face. Quickly, Ben glanced in the direction where Adam

"Oh good Lord! RUN!" shouted Ben as he grabbed Adam’s arm and yanked the younger man forward.

Both father and son broke into a run. King Leo snorted then charged at them from behind, where he had silently come up behind them. The sight of the grass being
ripped from the surface of the earth and of the dust flying into the air behind the raging bull sent the father and son spy team into action.

Ben and Adam bolted, running as fast as their legs could carry them toward the fence in the distance. Adam dropped his coat but did not waste valuable time to
retrieve the article.

Ben stumbled and Adam reached out his arm to prevent the fall. Casting a quick glance over his shoulder at King Leo, Adam stopped and stared, anger at him
self-beginning to build deep within him.

The big bull had Adam’s jacket wrapped around his horns. King Leo lowered his head to the ground and pushed deeply into the dirt. Adam heard the bull snort and
watched as his jacket was being ripped to pieces by the disgruntled bull.

Adam’s thoughts turn to his brothers, ‘I’ll pound those two, just wait!’ muttered Adam under his breath, referring to the siblings he felt was responsible.

Ben smothered a laugh, the disgusted look on his oldest son’s face was priceless and Ben could not help but to be amused.

Off in the distance, King Leo vented his rage loudly. By that time Adam and Ben realized the sound meant that they were not out of danger as of yet.

When King Leo started his charge for the second time, both Ben and Adam were in the process of escaping.

"RUN!" shouted both father and son in unison. Ben spied the fence way out in front of him and took off in that direction, the only thing on his mind, reaching the
fence before King Leo reached him.

Adam was gaining on his father, King Leo gaining on Adam. Adam could almost feel the raging bull’s hot breath on his neck and quickened his pace. Just when
Adam felt sure that the King was about to get him, Adam grabbed the low hanging branch of a large oak tree and swung himself up into the tree just as the charging
bovine passed beneath his perch.

As Adam settled himself onto the limb, King Leo charged toward Ben who was high-tailing it to safety. Just as Ben reached the security of the fence, Adam watched
in stunned silence as his father’s feet flew out from under him sending him plummeting to the ground, their small sack of food supplies sailing through the air directly in
front of the charging bull.

Ben groaned as the wind was knocked from his lungs. Dazed, Ben lifted his head and grunted, sounding much like Leo as he pulled himself into a sitting position.

"Dadburn cow patty," fumed the monarch as he wiped his hand on the leg of his pants.

Thundering hooves drew Ben’s attention back to his reason for sitting in the middle of the half dried cow pile. Instantly, Ben dropped to the ground and rolled
beneath the fence to safety as Hiram Miller’s prize bull, King Leo, charged passed taking with him the remains of their food supply.

An hour later, Ben heard the sound of footsteps behind him and looked into the dark eyes of his eldest son. Adam was dirtied from head to foot; his shirt had a small
rip just above the heart. His hat sat lopsided on his head and his handsome face was smeared with what Ben prayed was mud. It took every ounce of will power for
Ben to keep from bursting into laughter, for Adam, always primed and proper, now looked the worst for wear.

The minute Adam’s eyes met with his father’s, and he saw how Ben struggled to control his amusement, there was no stopping either the younger or older man.
Instantly, laughter echoed throughout the valley until the sound reached the ears of two happy campers, and left the others doubled up from laughing so hard.


Although it had only been a few hours since the boys had left the ranch house Hoss decided to stop for a snack. After all, there was no one around to tell him not to
ruin his appetite, or telling him to wait until dinner to eat. He called for Joe to stop and they both sat down to rest. Joe halted willingly, happy to have a bit of time to
use the slingshot he had made with the help of his eldest brother Adam.

Pulling the jar of honey out of his sack, Hoss dipped his large fingers into the gooey softness and proceeded to lick them clean. The usually forbidden sweet slid
easily down his throat and Hoss smacked his lips in appreciation. It sure is nice being on your own, he thought with satisfaction. Raising the jar high above his head,
Hoss admired the different colored amber hues created when the sun’s rays penetrated the thick honey. Hoss glanced briefly at his younger brother and smiled as he
watched Little Joe’s attempts to stalk a jackrabbit. Why, the poor kid couldn’t hit the side of a barn with that pathetic looking slingshot he was holding, let alone
such a fast moving critter as elusive as the black-tailed hare.

"Hey Little Joe, you ain’t gonna hit nothin with that poor excuse for a slingshot," teased Hoss. "Why, I’ll bet you’d stand a better chance of gettin’ him by jest runnin’
him down," he joked with a laugh.

"Oh, I’ll hit somethin’ with this slingshot all right," promised Little Joe hotly. "You jest wait an’ see. Adam and me made the best slingshot ever, why he said it was
powerful enough to take down an elephant!" boasted Joe.

Removing the bag of pebbles from his sack, Little Joe carefully selected what he considered to be the most perfect stone to bring down a jackrabbit. With
concentration he placed the pebble in the slingshot, pulled back the rubber strip and aimed at his target. Joe had to admit that the slingshot was not big on looks but
Adam had used his mathematical and architectural skills to create a very accurate weapon that was capable of flinging an average sized pebble a great distance.

Startled by the distant sound of what appeared to be laughter, Little Joe quickly turned toward his brother Hoss. The pebble that was meant for the jackrabbit flew
with astonishing speed from the slingshot, striking and shattering the jar of honey that was still suspended above Hoss’s head. The viscous syrup cascaded like a
slow moving waterfall over the wide brim of the 10 gallon hat worn by the middle Cartwright. The honey continued its downward path, coating the broad shoulders
of Little Joe’s brother and stopping only when Hoss’ boots were partially filled with the sticky substance.

"Dadburnit Little Joe! That ain’t funny!" shouted Hoss angrily as he tried to wipe some of the honey from his hat and clothes.

Streaks of honey smeared across his face as he wiped his brow and one eye was partially stuck shut. "Just you wait til I git my hands on you!" he yelled as he
advanced toward his little brother.

"Hoss, it was an accident, I swear!" professed Joe with sincerity as he backed up a few paces. "Didn’t ya hear Pa and Adam laughing? It took me by surprise, I
didn‘t mean to hit the jar, honest I didn‘t."

"Hear Pa an’ Adam laughing?" questioned Hoss with disbelief. "Oh no you don’t little brother. I ain’t fallin for that ol’ trick of yours. You know Pa an’ Adam ain’t
nowhere near here," said Hoss as he continued his angry advance toward his brother.

In the back of his mind, Hoss did think briefly about the strange sound he heard right before Little Joe let loose with his slingshot. Naw, Pa and Adam wouldn’t be
here, reasoned Hoss. They had too much work to do without tagging along after us. Of course, the noise he had heard did sound like laughter but that was
impossible, it must have been some type of wild critter.

"Ain’t no one around to save your ornery hide this time little brother. An’ you’re gonna be one sorry boy when I git done with you!" threatened Hoss although his
anger was slowly dissipating. He knew in his heart that what had happened had been an accident but he wasn’t ready to admit it quite yet.

Both eyes were now partially sealed shut by the congealing honey and Hoss moved forward with a staggering walk. The chamber pot that Little Joe had carelessly
tossed aside while searching his sack for the slingshot lay directly between the two brothers.

"Watch where you going Hoss," warned Little Joe as he continued backing away from his brother.

Hoss tripped over the chamber pot just as Little Joe’s warning left his mouth. He fell face forward into the powdery dust, coughing as the plums of dirt entered his
nose and mouth.

"Dadburnit!" exclaimed Hoss as he sat up.

The fine dust blanketed every inch of the honey covered Cartwright and the feather of a jay hawk was stuck to his forehead. Bits and pieces of dried grass and small
twigs also clung to his body when he stood up. Straight lines of dirt covered Hoss’ face where he had attempted to wipe off the honey and the color of his shirt was
indistinguishable beneath the soil. Little Joe let loose with a cackling laugh, clutching his sides with glee.

"Hey Hoss, you look like a wild Indian with your face stripes and feather!" said Little Joe with great amusement. Then he began to dance around Hoss, whooping
like an Indian.

"I done told you Little Joe, this ain’t no laughing matter!" shouted Hoss.

Once again he started towards his laughing brother, stopping to swat at a pesky insect that was flying around his face. The insect was soon joined by others and a
quiet humming sound started, intensifying rapidly.

"BEES!" shouted Hoss.

There weren’t many yet, but Hoss knew before long the rest of the hive would be alerted and would arrive to partake of the sweet feast that covered him.  

"I gotta wash this off," he said to Little Joe, forgetting his anger toward his brother with the advent of this new problem.

Joe’s eyes grew big as he watched his older brother do a little dance around the clearing, trying to stay out of the bugs way.  The bees wouldn’t be deterred
however, and more and more steadily joined the swirling mass circling Hoss.  

"Will they sting ya?" Joe asked, suddenly concerned.  He remembered last summer when he had stepped on a bee barefoot and how much pain that had caused him.

"Maybe, maybe not," Hoss admitted, swishing his arms in the air a little more frantically.

"They just want the honey, but if they get mad, they might decide to take a bite out of me instead."  

He gave the surrounding forest a desperate look.  "Ain’t there a little creek in that

"Uh-huh," Joe agreed, toying with his slingshot.  "Pa ‘n me went fishing there, at a pool at the end of this path."  

He had a sudden idea, and fitted a small stone into the band.  Raising it slowly, he tried aiming at the insects surrounding his brother. There were so many now, surely
he could kill a few with his trusty little weapon.  

"Hold still Hoss," he said, closing one eye and sticking the end of his tongue out of his mouth in extreme concentration.  "Just call me Dead-eye Joe when I get those
bees off of ya."

"Don’t you dare, little brother," Hoss growled menacingly when he realized Joe’s intent.  "Else you’ll be known as ‘Dead Joe’."  

It wasn’t easy for Hoss to look fierce with sticky goo dripping off his hat onto his shirt and the rest of his body liberally smeared with dirt and debris, but it was
enough for Joe to reluctantly lower the slingshot.  

"Okay," Joe said disappointment plain in his voice. Sure would have been good bragging in the schoolyard if Hoss would have just let him try, he thought glumly.

The bees’ activity had increased and now so many were attempting to land on Hoss’ clothes that he couldn’t even brush them all away.

"That hive must be real close," Hoss speculated.  "We’ll have to remember this
and come back for more honey."  

Little Joe nodded in agreement, still a little dejected over his failed attempt at proving his slingshot prowess.  When the bees started showing an interest in him
however, he moved backward into the shelter of the trees.  

"Do something, Hoss!" he cried, swatting a few insects off his hat.

Hoss tried not to panic, as the buzzing of the insects became more insistent.  "You brought some soap, right?" he called over his shoulder heading in the direction of
the water.  "Bring it quick!"

"Yeah, okay" Little Joe said a bit dispiritedly.

Now that the bees had left him alone to follow the sweet smelling boy to the creek, the realization hit him that Hoss was going to be taking a bath and it wasn’t even
Saturday night.  That thought alone was enough to raise his spirits and elicit a giggle from the young boy.  This adventure was turning out pretty good after all, Joe
thought as he picked up the sack and followed his brother down the pine-covered path.

Once Adam and Ben had recovered from their fit of hysterics, they slowly began threading their way to where the younger boys had stopped.  The two men circled
around through the pine trees to a jumble of deadfall tree limbs and brush that would provide perfect cover.  They arrived just in time to witness Hoss’ tumble in the
dirt and the resulting argument between the two brothers.  Ben, seeing the fury on his middle child’s face, rose and started to intervene before Adam caught his arm
and drew him back.

"It’ll be fine," Adam whispered in his father’s ear. "Just watch."

Ben settled back down a little reluctantly, his concern growing again as Little Joe aimed his slingshot at Hoss and the swarm of bees grew larger.  The older man
wasn’t quite close enough to hear what was being said unfortunately, and was caught off guard when Hoss suddenly started in their direction.

"He must be going to the creek to wash off whatever is attracting the bees," Ben said, alarmed.  

With horror he realized that the path that Hoss and Joe were taking would bring them right past where they were hiding.  The men were sure to be seen unless they
moved fast.  

"The boys are coming this way!  We need to get out of here," Ben said in a low tone.

Adam, who had just settled his weary limbs onto a soft cushion of pine needles groaned softly.  "Can’t those two stay put for even a minute?"  

Ben rose slowly and carefully, his legs already stiff from the day’s exertions.  Walking as softly as he could, he stepped into the shadows of the trees.    Adam’s legs,
abused from the confrontation with the bull and a speedy ascent tree coupled with an unexpectedly
long walk didn’t cooperate as readily.  He lurched unsteadily to his feet, and noticed with a shock that Hoss and Joe were nearly to the hiding place.  As quickly as
he could Adam pushed him self upright concerned only with getting away unseen.  Slipping and
sliding over the uneven ground Adam never saw the rock that tripped him, sending him crashing backward, first into his father and then into a half rotted tree trunk
leaning over a small embankment.  As the two men lay dazed for a few moments amid the remnants of tree bark, pine needles and something sticky, an ominous
buzzing filled the air.  They had knocked over the tree containing the hive and the bees not already in pursuit of Hoss, honed in on the men who had destroyed their
home and honey stash.

On the dirt path, Hoss paused a moment.  "What was that?" he said, puzzled.

"I dunno," Little Joe responded, stopping just short of bumping his nose into Hoss’ shirt. "Sounded like a tree fell over or something."

"More like something ran into a tree," Hoss answered as the sound of thrashing leaves continued.  "And it ain’t windy enough for a tree just to fall over."

He took one step off the path to investigate when a bee, tired of his meal ticket moving and jerking around, stung Hoss on the arm.  

"OWW!" the boy cried as his attention diverted back to the crisis at hand.  Deciding the suspicious noise could wait, Hoss took off running for the creek, Joe close
on his heels.

It took only a minute to reach the water and Hoss plunged in without a second thought.  The water wasn’t very deep and he had to crouch to get as much of his
body as possible covered with water.  A few insects went with him in his haste and drowned, and the rest flew in crazy circles.  

"Gimme the soap!" Hoss hollered to his little brother.

Joe quickly dumped the contents of his sack on the ground.  Grabbing up the lye soap he tossed it carefully to Hoss.  Eagerly the older boy worked up suds and
lathered his head and clothes, getting off as much of the sticky, gooey mess as he could.  It wasn’t coming
off easy unfortunately.

Watching from the bank Joe smiled to him self, thinking of a few snide remarks to make when Hoss finished his impromptu bath.  However he soon got bored and
began exploring up and down the creek bank.  When he had been there before with Pa he had spotted an interesting pile of rocks that had fallen from the nearby
slope of a hill.  There hadn’t been time to check it out before but now that Hoss was preoccupied it was the perfect opportunity. Before long though, he was back,
routing excitedly through the pile of supplies on the side of the creek.

Hoss finally clean and bee-free, emerged dripping from the cold water.  "Now whatta ya up to?" he asked.  "We’re supposed to be finding a place to camp."

"I think I found us a place!" Little Joe said, his hazel eyes lighting up with glee.  "I found a cave!"

Ben and Adam were in serious trouble. Unlike the insects pursuing Hoss . . .these bees were mad. For an endless moment the two elder Cartwrights were frozen,
watching the ominous cloud of bees gather and form in the air above them. The voice of the now homeless hive deepened as it gathered to strike vengeance on the
two men.

"We can’t lead it to the boys . . ." Adam’s voice was a strangled whisper.

"Harmon’s Marsh. . ." Ben rasped.

"I know it," Adam replied.

Of one accord Adam and Ben scrambled to their feet and ran. Hoss’ creek issued from a boggy marsh only a short distance uphill. The creek waters were barely
enough to cover Hoss. The two spies needed something more substantial. Arms and legs pumping and lungs gasping for air for the second time in one day the two
elder Cartwrights ran for their lives.

The song of the bees rang loud in pursuit. Ben had to fight the urge to stop and cover his ears. The angry hum seemed to resonate in his bones.

"How did I let myself get talked into this?" He stumbled, despairing of ever reaching the muddy waters of the marsh in time.

"Come on Pa!" Adam appeared at his side.

The vanguard of the bees began landing on their shoulders. The sharp stings galvanized them both and arm in arm the men dove headfirst into the muck of the marsh.
They had to roll and wallow in the mud plunging deep into the marsh seeking refuge from their tiny attackers. The air above the Harmon’s Marsh was clouded with
desperation and bees. The birds fled, a family of rabbits dove for their dens, in his pasture nearby King Leo raised his head and turned tail. The hive spread out,
seeking anything that moved.

At last Adam finally found that the bees were either dead or gone. He climbed out of the marsh, grateful for the feel of solid ground beneath his body. Slowly and
with infinite care he cleaned the mud from his face and vainly he tried to get the foul taste out of his mouth. He found a bee on his arm; the creature still buzzed and
struggled as its stinger tried to penetrate the rapidly congealing mud.

"No you don’t!" With an evil grin Adam scooped the insect off his arm and slapped it into the ground, burying it in mud.

The water reed off to his right began to quiver and shake. Adam gaped as he watched an enormous mud-covered shape heave itself through the muck.

"Pa!" Adam shook himself into action as he scrambled to help his father to solid ground.

For a long moment Ben didn’t speak. His breath came in long shuddering gasps. Adam started to get truly worried.

"Pa? . . ."

Slowly Ben sat up; his glare even through the mud was thunderous. "How did I let you talk me into this?"

Adam stared back at his father. A large glob of mud slid off Ben’s forehead and dribbled down the side of his nose. Adam tried but he could not stop a burst of
stifled laughter.

"Why you!" Ben was enraged.

He reached for his disrespectful son. The two grapple briefly, rolling on the ground.

"Pa, I’m sorry . . .it’s just that…" Adam gasped and surrendered. His father had him pinned.

Ben stared down at his son. Adam’s hair stuck out at crazy angles; his body was covered with mud from head to toe. The picture was a far cry from the normally
immaculately groomed eldest Cartwright son. Ben suddenly realized what he himself must look like.

"Ho…oh heavens…" Ben collapsed to the ground consumed with laughter.

Silence finally reigned over the marsh. A cricket began to chirp; the sunlight slanted through the trees. The day had advanced into late afternoon. A bullfrog croaked,
venturing out of its hole to see the disturbed marsh.



"This has gone far enough . . ."

"Pa we can’t quit now," Adam protested.

With difficulty Ben sat up. The drying mud was becoming a straight jacket. "Why not?"

Adam sat up too, crossing his legs like an Indian. Ben reflected with irritation that even smothered in mud his eldest looked too much at ease.

"Because, Joe and Hoss would never forgive us." Adam shifted to his knees, starting to scrape the worst of the mud from his father’s body. As he worked Adam
laid out his trump card. "And can you picture it if this story reaches the Cattleman’s Association?"

Ben sighed; the Virginia City Cattleman’s Association was a stuffy conservative group. Their gleeful snickers would last for months.

"All right," Ben challenged. "But we have no food and we both need a bath and new clothes."

Unfazed Adam smiled. "Remember the old cabin?"

Ben blinked.

"It’s less than a mile away," Adam pointed out.

The ‘Old Cabin’ was the first shelter built by Ben Cartwright when he arrived to stake his claim to the Ponderosa. That first winter had been bad. If not for Adam’s
help and encouragement Ben would have given up. In the present day, it wasn’t used much but Ben’s orders kept it in repair and stocked with supplies. Once there
the spies could clean up and start things fresh.

"Ahh . . ." Suddenly aware that he was gaping, Ben shut his mouth.

Without comment Adam pulled himself to his feet extending his hand to his father. Helping each other the two men headed back downhill. Behind them they left a
trail of dried mud and the ripe smell of decay from the marsh.

"First we check on Joe and Hoss," stated Ben.

Adam didn’t argue. They circled around keeping to the cover of the trees and brush. They easily spotted the boys. The cave Joe had found was shallow and dry. It
was a good site to camp.

"Trust Little Joe’s luck," Adam muttered. "He’s picked the best spot around."

The two youngest Cartwrights had picked a good site for a camp. But the two boys weren’t very clean. The ground was already strewn with gear and trash. The old
pack mare trailed her tether across the ground snuffling at the debris.

"What a mess," Ben grumbled. Getting his two youngest to pick up after themselves was a constant battle.

Little Joe lifted his head to sniff the shifting breeze.

"Hey Hoss," Joe laughed, "somethin’ smells dead."

Little Joe’s clear young voice carried easily across the clearing. The two spies exchanged wry glances and faded away into the brush.

"It sure does," said Hoss, wrinkling up his nose. "Must be you, cos I jest had a bath."

"Thanks a lot, but it ain’t me," said Joe.

"Well shortshanks, how about a spot of fishing?" said Hoss. "We can eat what we catch for supper."

"Sounds good to me Hoss," said Joe.

The two boys went through the gunny sack and the food bag until they found the bait and the fishing lines. Some of the maggots had spilled out in the bag and Hoss
scooped them up and put them in the tin.

"Come on fellas, you ain’t getting away from me," he said. "You’re gonna help me catch the granddaddy of all the fish in the stream; I’m working up a mighty
powerful appetite."

The boys were soon settled on the bank with their lines dangling in the water.

"You know Hoss, I was sure I heard Pa and Adam before, didn’t you think ya did?"

"Aw heck no, Little Joe, must’ve been some wild critter. Why would Pa and Adam be following us around?"

"Cos they don’t think we are old enough to be out on our own," said Joe disgustedly. "You know Pa, he’s worse than an old Mama bear fretting about her cubs."

"You might be right," said Hoss. "He weren’t that keen on us going, was he?"

"Well, I’m gonna be mad if they are spying on us," said Joe. "In fact, I wanna get ‘em back for not trusting us."

"What’re you scheming, Little Joe?" said Hoss.

"Not sure yet, but I’m thinking about it," said Joe.


Ben and Adam made it back to the old cabin and soon had some water heating up on the stove. Adam found the tub in the storeroom, at the back of the cabin, and
placed it on the floor.

"Us first and then the clothes," said Ben. "We can wrap up in a couple of blankets while our clothes dry. It’s a warm day, they won’t take long if we lay them out on
those rocks outside the cabin."

They both felt a lot better for a soak in the tub and then they washed their clothes. They weren’t able to get them as clean as Hop Sing could, but at least they got rid
of the awful smell.

Ben took them outside and spread them out over the rocks using a few small stones to anchor them in place.

Adam checked through the cupboards and discovered that there was a plentiful supply of canned and dried goods.

When Ben returned, Adam said, "Shall I rustle up something to eat, Pa? It seems ages since we’ve eaten."

"Sounds good son," said Ben.


Hoss and Little Joe soon had a fair few fish on their string, although the big one that Hoss had hoped to catch eluded them.

"Think we’ve got enough for supper Little Joe?" he said. "Let’s head back to the cave and get a fire started."

Once they arrived at the cave, Hoss prepared the fish for cooking and Joe collected some firewood. He brought it back to camp, but before Hoss lit it he started to
sniff the air.

"Can you smell smoke, Little Joe?" he said.

"Yeah, I can and you ain’t even lit the fire yet. Someone else is camping around here, I bet it is Pa and Adam," said Joe.

"We’ll have our supper and then go and have a scout around," said Hoss.

The boys prepared a tasty meal, which they both enjoyed, and Hoss made a pot of coffee. Neither boy was allowed to drink much coffee at home as Ben did not
think it was good for growing boys, but laced with several spoonfuls of sugar they both declared that they liked it.

They sat for a while, allowing their food to digest and then decided to go and investigate the smoke that they had smelled. As they walked along, Hoss realized
where it was coming from.

"It’s from the old cabin," he said. "You know, the first house that Pa built for us when we came to live out here."

As they got closer, they ducked down amongst the surrounding bushes so as not to be seen. They couldn’t see either Ben or Adam, but Joe’s sharp eyes soon
spotted the clothes on the rocks. He began to giggle as an idea struck him and placed his hand over his mouth to prevent him from giving away their hiding place.

"What are ya laughing about, Little Joe?" said Hoss.

Joe pointed at the clothes and said, "Wouldn’t it be funny if Pa and Adam found themselves stuck out here without anything to wear?"

Hoss began to laugh too and agreed that it was a great plan.

As Joe was the smaller of the two it was decided that he would go and retrieve the clothes. He crawled on his front, Indian fashion, until he was in striking distance
of the items of clothing. One by one he carefully pulled them down off the rocks and took them back to Hoss. Eventually, he had them all and the two boys scooped
them up in their arms and ran all the way back to their cave campsite. They stashed the clothes at the back of the cave and fell on the ground laughing fit to burst.

"I’d love to see their faces when they realize their things are missing," said Joe, when he recovered sufficiently enough to speak.

"Do ya think they might come after our hides?" said Hoss, beginning to look a little worried.

"No, cos they don’t want us to know they’re here and so they’d be too embarrassed to come after us," said Joe.


Back at the cabin, Adam and Ben were just finishing their meal. The stove had gone out, but it was still quite warm in the cabin despite the fact that neither of them
had on anything more than a lightweight blanket.

"Best go and fetch in our clothes," said Ben. "If they’re still not completely dry, we can light a fire in the fireplace and finish them off overnight. We may as well sleep
here tonight."

"I’ll go and bring them in," said Adam, but he was back in just a few seconds.

"Somebody’s stolen them, Pa. We’ve been left without a stitch to wear."

"I sure wish we could a seen ole Adam's face when he found his clothes had gone missing!" Little Joe cackled as tears of mirth traveled down his cheeks.

"Me too! Bet Pa was none too happy though." Hoss suddenly stopped laughing and scrunched up his face at the thought of an angry Pa.

"Well, it serves 'em right," Joe stated boldly as he folded his arms across his small chest. "They shouldn't a followed us like we was a coupla little kids! We can take
care of ourselves."

"True e'nuff, but I ain't gonna be the one to tell Pa that when he comes looking to skin us!" Hoss was worried now. An unhappy Pa made for unhappy sons. Add
Adam to the mix and, well, it wouldn't be pleasant. Hoss was already beginning to regret the prank.

"Aw, quit frettin'. They can't say nuttin without admittin' they were followin' us and we both know they're too stubborn to do that!" Joe declared with a wave of his
hand as he leaned back against the cool wall of the cave and slid to his seat.

Hoss wasn't as sure as his little brother but figured there wasn't anything he could do about it now. ‘Dadburn that Little Joe anyhow!’ he thought to himself. ‘Shudda
known he'd get us in a peck of trouble. Why do I let him talk me into these things?’

Still thinking about how angry his Pa must be, Hoss walked towards the back of the cave where Joe had casually tossed the stolen garments. He frowned as he
picked up first one shirt then the other. Neither he nor Joe had paid any particular attention to the clothes and now that he looked at the shirts, he knew they didn't
belong to his father and older brother. Though both were green, one was a little larger than the other and had three buttons missing. Both articles of clothing looked
old and worn. The smaller shirt had holes around the elbow of the left sleeve. Frowning, he turned to face Little Joe as he held the clothing up by the collar.

"Little Joe, look at these shirts," he instructed.

Joe, who was amusing himself with thoughts of his father and older brother's predicament, stopped giggling long enough to glance at Hoss.

"What about 'em?" he frowned, perturbed at his brother for interrupting his thoughts.

"Well," Hoss stated hesitantly, "I don't think these shirts belong to Pa and Adam."

Joe squinted his green eyes as he scrutinized the clothing, "Whadda ya talkin' 'bout? 'Course they're Pa and Adam's shirts. Who else would they belong to?"

"I don't know, but they ain't Pa and Adam's," Hoss insisted. "Look at 'em, they're way too little. And when have you ever seen Pa or Adam with holes in the
sleeves? ‘Sides, I don't think either one of 'em have green shirts like these here."

Joe jumped up and took the larger of the two shirts from Hoss and inspected it closely.

"What about the pants, Hoss?" Joe asked as he too realized the mystery clothing didn't belong to anyone in his family.

"Ain't looked at them yet," Hoss admitted, walking towards the back of the cave.

He reached down and picked up the pants. If the size of the shirts had not been enough to convince him, then the pants sealed it. The pants, like the shirts, were old
and ragged. On the left knee of the smaller pair, the material had been completely worn away. They were much too short for Adam and Pa. He held them up for
Little Joe to see.

"These ain't Pa and Adam's either," he announced quietly, his blue eyes filled with apprehension.

Little Joe's green eyes went wide. "Who do you reckon they belong to Hoss? What if them fellers staying in the cabin are outlaws, Hoss? You think they made the
noises we been hearin' all day? What are we gonna do if they come after us?" he rattled off quickly.

Even though he himself was worried, Hoss put an arm around his little brother's shoulder in a comforting gesture. "Don't worry 'bout it Shortshanks. Probably just
some poor travelers needed a place to stay for a few days. It ain't likely they'll come after us. ‘Sides," he grinned weakly, "even if they are outlaws, what can two
nekkid desperados do?"

Little Joe shook his head in agreement but his eyes automatically wandered to the mouth of the cave as if he expected the two outlaws to walk in at any minute.


"Darn bees! I swear if we didn't have bad luck, we'd have no luck at all! What are we gonna do now, Pa?" Adam asked his father as he scratched a red, swollen
bump on his arm. "Our horses have run off and now we're stuck out here in the middle of nowhere!"

"Well, we still got the money from the bank hold up." His father grinned sheepishly as he held up two bags with ‘Virginia City Bank’ written across them in bold
letters. Both bags were stuffed with money meant to be the payroll for several large ranches in the area, including the Ponderosa.

Adam and Amos Jamison had robbed the bank early that morning and headed for the hills. They made sure to travel over the roughest terrain they could find in
order to keep tracks down to a minimum. Unfortunately, just as the Jamisons thought they had made a clean get away, a swam of angry bees had suddenly appeared
and the outlaw's frightened horses had bolted. It was shear luck that Amos had removed the moneybags or the men would have been left with only the clothes on
their backs.

After scaring off the horses, the bees turned to the two men for their next conquests. Amos and Adam had high-tailed it to the nearest creek where they stayed until
the swarm of stinging insects decided it was time to head for home. The two men had then started searching the area for a place to spend the night. They first came
to a cabin but saw immediately that it was occupied. There was smoke swirling out of the chimney and clothes lying on the rocks out front. As they stood pondering
their next move, Adam suddenly snapped his fingers.

"Hey, Pa! What say I sneak up there and grab them dry clothes layin' on the rocks? 'Sides getting' us out of these soggy duds, it'll help us out."

"Help us out how?" Amos demanded, rubbing a hand through his thinning red hair.

"Well, suppose somebody in town saw what we was wearin' and told the sheriff. You know the Sheriff will be wiring every lawman within 100 miles to be on the
look out for two men wearin' green shirts. Now if we was to switch our clothes with them over there..." Adam's voice trailed off as he grinned at his father.

As Adam's intentions became clear to Amos, his green eyes sparkled and a toothless grin split his face.

"That's good thinkin', Son!" He crowed. "Even better, them fellers in the cabin will probably be blamed for robbin' the bank!"

The two outlaws quickly shed their soggy clothing and with Amos keeping lookout, Adam crept stealthily up to the rocks. Quick as a flash, he switched the wet
garments for the almost dry ones and hurried as quietly as possible back to his father whom stood waiting in the bushes.

"Got 'em!" Adam exclaimed in an excited whisper. He handed Amos one set of clothes and started putting on the other.

"Don't fit real good, do they? Must be some big fellers in that cabin." Adam complained as he looked down at the hem of the pants covering his feet.

The sleeves of the expensive looking black shirt were several inches too long and the tail struck him just above the knees. He looked over at his father and saw that
his new attire, equally as expensive looking, was much too big as well.

"Who cares? These here are dry and them over there are wet!" Amos exclaimed as he pointed a crooked finger towards the soggy clothes on the rocks.

Suddenly there was a noise in the bushes and both men stood stock-still.

"We best get outta here." Amos whispered and Adam nodded his agreement as they crept away quietly.

Stealing a glance back over his shoulder, Adam frowned as he saw a small boy with brown, curly hair quietly approach the rocks and swipe the wet clothing that
Adam had put there only moments before.



"What are we going to do now, Pa?" Adam asked as he dug a splotch of dried mud out of his ear with his little finger.

Ben sighed loudly. "I don't know yet, Adam. But we can't very well go roaming around the countryside wrapped in these dusty old blankets."

"Just wait 'til I get my hands on those brothers of mine!" growled Adam, his gray eyes stormy with anger. "I bet they're laughing their fools heads off about now."

Ben looked at Adam in surprise. "What makes you think your brothers did this?"

"Oh, come on, Pa! Who else would play such a dirty trick? I don't think there's anybody else out here who'd be line hooking! Those two little scamps know we're
following them."

"What makes you think so?" Ben asked, raising one eyebrow.

"Well," Adam had to grin in spite of himself. "We weren't exactly the quietest creatures in the woods today."

Ben felt a smile twitch at the corners of his mouth, then a deep rumbling laugh made its way up and he burst out laughing.

"We...we…we probably made more noise than old King Leo!" He finally croaked as he wiped tears of laughter from his cheeks.

Adam tried not to grin. He wanted to be mad at his brothers but the thought of his father who earlier had been covered head to toe in mud was too much and he
soon was holding his sides as he shook with laughter.

Suddenly Ben stopped laughing.

"It’s all very well, but what do we do? Like I said we can’t go on wearing nothing but a blanket. We need to get our clothes back."

Adam calmed down a bit.

"Well, maybe we can wait until they’re asleep and steal them back?"

Since Ben didn’t see any other option they left the cabin, treading carefully through the woods, in the dimming light, to the cave.



Little Joe in the mean while had a little problem. He was lying in his bedroll, but he couldn’t sleep. He knew he wouldn’t sleep either. He’d known it the moment
he’d reached into his pocket a little earlier, but he just knew Hoss wouldn’t like it.

"Hoss…." Hoss tried to pretend he was asleep, but Little Joe knew his brother was still awake, he wasn’t snoring yet.

"Hoss….." he said a little louder. Hoss gave in, knowing Little Joe would keep it up until he did.


"Have you seen Scruffy?"

"No Little Joe, are ya sure ya packed him?" Hoss had a feeling where this would lead to and he didn’t like it.

"Course I’m sure, did ya think I’d have left without Scruffy? He was there when we left and I’ve had him all day. But now he’s gone." Little Joe didn’t want to sound
like a baby, but well, he was only seven.

"I want my Scruffy, Hoss."

"Can’t ya go t’sleep without him for just once?" fully knowing the answer was no, he couldn’t help asking.

Little Joe’s lip started to quiver a little, just at the thought of having to sleep without Scruffy. He just shook his head. "I really tried, Hoss."

Hoss sighed. "When did’ya last see him?"

Little Joe didn’t have to think long about that.

"I had ‘m in my coat when we took those clothes."

Hoss groaned. "Are ya sure?"

Now why did Hoss keep asking if he was sure, course he was sure. He nodded.

Hoss realized there was no way of getting out of this. They would have to go back to the cabin, in the hopes that Little Joe had dropped the toy somewhere. The
fact that the clothes weren’t pa and Adam’s clothes did make him a little wary about this, but just in case the owners of the clothes were just some poor travelers he
took the clothes with him.

They traced back their tracks to the cabin, all the way searching the ground for the little stuffed dog. It was nowhere in sight though. Suddenly Hoss pulled Little Joe
behind a tree and held his hand over his mouth. Little Joe struggled a bit, but Hoss’ words stopped him.

"Look there."

Little Joe looked, hoping Hoss had found Scruffy, but all he saw was two men sleeping. He looked at Hoss questioningly.

"Look!" Hoss repeated. "That man’s wearing Adam’s clothes. And the other’s got pa’s shirt on. But they sure ain’t pa and Adam." Little Joe finally saw what Hoss

"They must’ve stolen pa and Adam’s clothes first. Those mean thieves."

He was completely ignoring the fact they had intended on stealing them themselves. It was all right for them to do it, that was just getting back at Pa and Adam for
being mean enough to not trust them and follow them but no one else had the right to do that.

"Come on Hoss, we gotta get ‘m back." He had no idea how though. Neither did Hoss.

They stood there behind the tree for a while, thinking, when suddenly Little Joe remembered the rope they had brought with them and he was sure he’d packed the
pulley from the barn too. He whispered in Hoss’ ear.

Hoss nearly started to laugh when he heard Little Joe’s plan. They had to be very quiet though. They didn’t want the two men to wake up.

Quietly they walked over to a tree just behind the two sleeping men. Little Joe took the pulley with the rope and climbed in the tree. He hung up the pulley at a strong
looking branch and then as quietly and carefully as they possibly could, they put the rope around the two men. Once the rope was looped around their feet, Hoss
started pulling the rope through the pulley, swiftly lifting the both men into the air. As soon as they felt their bodies lifting they started to wake up, but they were too
late. Before they could do anything Hoss had lifted them off the ground and tied the rope securely to the tree. The both men started to swear and yell and struggle
but to no avail. They were captured.

Little Joe and Hoss stood back a little to admire the view. They were proud they had pulled this off. But getting the clothes off the robbers without getting hurt might
prove to be a little more difficult.



Ben pulled his blanket tight against the increasingly chilly breeze. "I don’t know, Adam. I’m starting to feel a bit concerned about sneaking into that cave for our
clothes. Joseph tends to be a light sleeper, and if he wakes up to find two men in there, he’ll be terrified. He won’t recognize that it’s us in the dark."

‘And worse for us if he does,’ Adam thought. "Pa, we’ll tiptoe," he urged.

Seeing the skeptical look on his father’s face, he planted his palms on his hips . . . or tried to. The blanket dropped as soon as he moved his hands, and making a
swift grab for the only protection between him and the night air rather spoiled the effect Adam was going for with the firm stance.

As Ben moved toward his eldest son, instinctively wanting to help cover him, he felt something soft squish under his foot. After all the trials of this long day, he was
more than a little afraid to look down and see what his luckless foot had landed in this time. When he did work up the courage to take a peek, however, Ben was
glad he had.

"Oh, Adam, now we have to get to that cave," he sighed sympathetically as he bent to pick up Scruffy. "Joseph will be heartbroken when he discovers his little dog is
missing; he never sleeps without it."

Adam quickly agreed. "And if Joe does wake up and refuses to hand over our clothes, we hold Scruffy for ransom," he declared emphatically.

"Adam!" Ben couldn’t believe this was the same boy who had so lovingly given that dog to Joseph the previous Christmas.

"Only as a last resort, Pa, only as a last resort," Adam assured his father. "But don’t worry; even if it goes that far, Joe’ll cave two seconds after seeing ole Scruffy



"Let us down, you mangy kids!" yelled Amos, dangling upside down above the two youngest Cartwrights.

"We ain’t got the mange; you do," Hoss snorted.

"Yeah, and you’ll get worse if you don’t toss down our pa and brother’s clothes," Little Joe ordered.

"How the blazes we supposed to do that, kid?" Adam hollered, swinging alongside his father at the end of the pulley.

"Just start unbuttoning!" Joe yelled. "No one steals from my pa!"

When neither of the clothes’ robbers reached for a button, Joe turned to his brother.

"Bump ‘em on their heads, Hoss, and see if you can’t knock some sense into ‘em."

Hoss caught Joe’s meaning and moved quickly to the rope. He let it out just enough so the two men’s heads lightly thumped the ground and then pulled them back
up and tied off the rope again.

"I’d start unbuttonin’if I was you," Hoss advised. "I can let go quicker next time."

Adam and Amos began fumbling with the buttons of their stolen shirts. When they were completely loose, Hoss and Joe worked together to tug them off the thieves’
extended arms.

"Okay, now the pants," Joe ordered.

"You’re plumb crazy, kid," Amos bellowed. "We cain’t do that."

A look of grim determination on his face, Joe turned to Hoss. "Thump ‘em again—harder."

Hoss shook his head. "Joe, they’re tellin’ the plain truth. Ain’t no way to get them pants off with their feet tied to the pulley."

Frowning, Joe looked up. Hoss was right. The bad men could unbutton their britches, all right, but there wouldn’t be any way to get them off their legs without letting
them down. They couldn’t do that ‘cause the bad men might break free, and as big as Hoss was, he and his brother still weren’t a match for two grown men, even if
they were just cowardly clothes’ nappers. Still, there had to be a way.

"Couldn’t you thump ‘em just hard enough to knock ‘em out?" Joe suggested.

"No!" Adam and Amos yelled in unison.

Hoss shook his head vigorously. "No, sir; no way. I ain’t gonna chance doin’ real harm, not even to mangy scum like these critters. Head bumps is dangerous, I’ve
heard Doc Martin say."

Little Joe sat down, scratching his head as he pondered the puzzle of how to get Pa and Adam’s pants back.



Silently and stealthily, two figures resembling reservation-blanket Indians crept up to the cave. Still concerned about alarming his younger sons, Ben cringed at every
clatter of loose gravel underfoot. Not a sound came from the cave, however, not even a snore. Ben frowned. It shouldn’t be this quiet. Ordinarily, Hoss could rattle
the rafters during a sound sleep. There could only be one explanation for this unbroken silence, and it wasn’t just that the cave had no rafters to rattle.

"They’re not here, Adam," he hissed.

"So much the better," Adam whispered back, just in case his father’s deduction proved incorrect.

He walked into the cave and looked around in the dim light of the flickering fire the boys had left behind.

"You’re right, all clear. Now let’s find those clothes the little varmints stole."

Ben added a couple of sticks of kindling to the fire to give them better light. "Where do you suppose they’ve gone?" he asked anxiously. "They shouldn’t be
wandering around after dark."

"Probably out looking for Scruffy," Adam surmised, moving toward the back of the cave.

Ben looked at the little dog in his hand and nodded. Of course. From the looks of the boys’ bedrolls, Little Joe must have missed his toy shortly after going to bed
and once he’d realized the loss, had gone in search of his beloved dog. Ben bent over and tenderly tucked Scruffy into one of the bedrolls to await his small owner’s

"I don’t like the idea of Joseph out this late," he muttered.

Working his way back toward the front of the cave, Adam looked up at his father. "He’s with Hoss; you know Hoss wouldn’t let anything happen to him."

"I’ll remind you, young man, that you and I are supposed to be out here to make sure that nothing happens to them," Ben grunted. "So far, we haven’t even managed
to make sure that nothing happens to us!"

"They’re not here," Adam said as he returned to his father’s side.

"I know that," Ben snapped. "They’re out looking for Scruffy—in the dark!"

"I meant our clothes," Adam stated matter-of-factly.

"Oh, fine. Now we can add false accusation to our other mistakes of the day!"

"Oh, they took them, all right," Adam snorted. "No one else around to pull a prank like that, so they did it; they just hid the clothes somewhere else. Well, one good
robbery deserves another." He spotted the overstuffed food hamper and lifted the lid. Snaring a cookie, he took a big bite. "Want one?" he asked, holding a cookie
out to his father.

Ben folded his blanket-covered arms and glared grimly at his eldest son. "I will not take food from the mouths of my children."

Adam licked cookie crumbs off his fingers. "Don’t be silly. They couldn’t possibly eat all this, so it’ll just go to waste." Even in the dim light, he could see father’s
eyebrow arch up.

"Since when can’t Hoss handle a hamper of food single-handed?" Ben asked scornfully.

"Oh, come on," Adam insisted. "They packed enough for a week." He scavenged through the basket and came up with an egg. "What do you say, two apiece?
They’ll never miss them, I promise you."

Ben weakened at the sight of fresh eggs. "All right, take four eggs, and wasn’t there some baked ham, too? Get a couple of slices of that, and we’ll make ourselves a
decent breakfast back at the cabin."

Adam started to collect their breakfast, frowning when he noticed that one of the eggs was cracked. Nothing leaking out, though, which meant the eggs were,
hard-boiled, not, fresh. Oh, well, beggars couldn’t be choosers. Then Adam remembered another very pertinent item from Little Joe’s list: "shirt from Pa’s dresser."
A shirt! Just what he needed most! Keeping a wary eye on Pa, who was still busily munching his cookie, Adam edged toward the gunnysack and began pulling out
articles until he found what he wanted. The white shirt was too large for him, of course, but all things considered, Adam figured the extra fabric would be a blessing.
Dropping the blanket, he started to put his arm into the right sleeve.

"What have you got there?" Ben demanded, blanket falling away as he strode forcefully toward his son.

"I remembered this from Joe’s list," Adam said. "Good thinking, huh? He stole mine, so I’m appropriating this."

"Now, just a minute, boy," Ben growled menacingly as he, too, remembered where that shirt had come from. "That’s my shirt—from my dresser." He grabbed hold
and pulled the shirt away from Adam . . . or tried to, that is.

Adam refused to let go. "I found it," he insisted, yanking on the garment.

"But it’s mine!" Ben retorted, pulling the shirt back his direction.

"Finders keepers!" Adam yelled as he gave the shirt another tug.

"Losers weepers!" Ben bellowed back, jerking the skirt toward him again. A resounding rip echoed off the walls of the cave, and both men fell backward, landing on
their bare rumps, each holding approximately half a shirt.



Hoss and Joe sat side by side, twin pictures of frustration, both with their elbows resting on drawn-up knees. "Just plumb ain’t no use, Joe; I cain’t think of no way
to get them britches off over the pulley."

Chin cupped in his hands Joe nodded glumly. "Me, either. Leastways, we got their shirts back. Pa and Adam deserve to traipse around naked awhile longer, but
maybe the best thing is to take the shirts back and leave a clear trail for ‘em to follow back here to their pants."

Hoss’ expression brightened at once. "Yeah! Good idea, Joe. That way we stay out of trouble ‘cause they’ll blame these two for stealin’ their clothes, instead of us."

Joe stood up. "Hoss, we didn’t steal their clothes—Pa and Adam’s, I mean." He pointed at the pair still dangling in the tree. "We stole theirs, and Pa ain’t gonna tan
us for that!"

He gathered up the black shirt and the tan one. "Get that bag over there to carry ‘em in," he ordered, pointing at the sack beside one of the bedrolls. "Soon as we
drop the clothes off at the cabin, we’ll find Scruffy and head back to the cave."


Heart feeling light as a feather now, Hoss reached for the bag, but his heart sank, heavy as a rock, when he read the words on its side.

"Joe," he whimpered piteously. "We got more trouble." He turned the bag around so Joe, too, could read ‘Virginia City Bank.’

Joe’s eyes flew wide. Bank robbers! They’d captured real bank robbers, not just clothes’ nappers! Now what would they do?

"Bank robbers!" exclaimed Little Joe, his green eyes widening. He looked at Hoss fearfully.

Hoss shook his head. "That’s it Little Joe," he said firmly. "We gotta go and get Pa and Adam. We can’t solve this one by ourselves no more."

Little Joe tugged at Hoss’ sleeve, "but Hoss we can’t!" he cried. "Pa and Adam are gonna be real mad wiv us iffen we do!" He swallowed. "Just think about it Hoss!
Think about what they might do to us!"

Hoss nodded thoughtfully. "Ya’re right there," he agreed. "But we ain’t got no choice Joe. This is a mess too big fer us." He looked at the men fearfully. "We’re
talking bout bank robbers Joe!" The men scowled at them.

Little Joe nodded.

"OK," he said mournfully. "I guess we gotta tell em now."

If the truth were known, both boys were more than a little relieved at their decision. The last few hours had taken their toll on them both and secretly they both
thought that perhaps the trip hadn’t been worth it after all.

Little Joe stood up. "We’d best get it over wiv then, huh Hoss?"

Hoss thought for a moment. "Well I think one of us should stay here and watch em both," he said. "We can’t take a risk on ‘em getting away."

Little Joe’s eyes widened even more and he swallowed again. "I ain’t staying wiv ‘em!" he declared. "You can. I’ll go and get Pa."

Hoss held onto his little brother’s sleeve. "Don’t be silly Joe," he said. "You can’t go! You’d never find ya way in the dark. Anyways…I’m bigger and it’s up ta me
to protect ya little brother." He puffed his chest out with pride at the thought of what it meant to be a big brother and patted the little boy on the head.

"You’ll be fine here Joe," he said. "I won’t take long."

Little Joe looked up at his brother pleadingly. "Don’t leave me here wiv ‘em!" he said. "I’ll come wiv ya Hoss."

Hoss shook his head firmly. "No," he said. "You’ll be fine Joe. There’s nothing for ya to do except sit here and wait fer us to come back. Just make sure that those
two don’t get loose that’s all."

"But I ain’t got nuthin for protection!" whined Joe. "What’ll I do iffen they tries something?"

"There ain’t nothing they can do," said Hoss confidently as he looked at the two men hanging upside down. "Just make sure ya don’t go near em that’s all." He
thought for a moment. "Hey… I know! Get your slingshot iffen it helps ya feel better. Ya can hit em with that if they cause any trouble."

"Good idea!" said Little Joe and pulled his slingshot out of his pocket. "I’ll just get some stones in case I need ‘em," he said. Within moments the little boy had a pile
of stones at the ready.

"That’s the idea!" said Hoss. "Now you just sit tight little brother and I’ll be back right soon with Pa and Adam okay?"

"Hoss!" called Little Joe suddenly. "I just thought of something!"

Hoss turned. "What?" he said impatiently.

"Adam and Pa, Hoss! They still ain’t got no clothes ta wear. How can they come and help iffen they ain’t got nuffin ta wear?"

Hoss scooped up the two shirts on the ground. "Good thinking little brother," he said. "I’ll take these with me." He thought for a moment. "I’d better take these pants
as well. They’re better than nothing I guess." He picked up the pants of the two bank robbers and turned to go again. "Sit tight little buddy," he said. "I won’t be

"Okay Hoss," said Little Joe as he settled down to watch the two men from a safe distance. "Don’t you worry ‘bout these two! They’ll be safe wiv me!"

He sounded a lot more confident than he felt, but had to admit to himself that the slingshot felt very powerful in his hand at that particular moment.

Hoss smiled at him and turned to run into the trees

Little Joe pulled up his knees and stared at the two men silently as they swung in the trees. "You better not try nothing!" he said fiercely. "I’d hate ta have ta bop ya
one wiv my slingshot!" He glared at them with what he hoped was a threatening look.



Hoss ran and ran until he was out of breath. He hadn’t said it to Little Joe for fear of worrying him even more, but he wasn’t even sure where he was going to find his
father and brother anyway. The last place that they had been was the shack and so that seemed to him to be the logical place to start looking. He stopped to catch
his breath for a moment, peering into the darkness to get his bearings when he heard a noise that sound like a wild bear.

In spite of himself, Hoss began to panic. After all, he was only thirteen and out alone in the darkness with nothing to protect himself… he hit himself on the head with
his hand.

"Stupid!" he said out loud. "You need to get to the cave where we left our stuff. There’s a…."

He thought about what was in the bag that he could use to protect himself, but came up with nothing. Suddenly he clicked his fingers. "The hammer!" he said. "It’s
better than nothing! Least I could throw it iffen I had to!"

He changed direction quickly and headed off towards the cave. As he approached it, however, the noise became louder and he was horrified to hear that it was
coming from inside the cave itself. Hoss stood rooted to the spot as he listened and wondered what to do next.

Suddenly the noise became louder and to his relief he heard words. ‘Get off… Stop… I saw it first…’

With a great sigh of relief, Hoss ventured forth to the entrance of the cave. His mouth dropped open in amazement as he saw there on the ground in front of him his
father and brother rolling stark naked in the dirt, fighting over what seemed to be a piece of torn material.

"Pa!" Hoss yelled and threw himself on top of the other two. His weight was enough to knock the breath out of his father and brother who immediately stopped their
fighting and looked up at him in surprise.

"Hoss!" said Ben and he tried to extradite him self from the tangle of arms and legs that formed part of his two sons. "What are you doing?"

"Oh Pa," called Hoss again. "I was so scared! I thought ya were a bear!"

Ben sat up in the dirt as Adam rolled off him. "Do I look like a bear?" he asked crossly.

Hoss sat up as well. "Well…" he said as he looked at his naked father who was covered in dirt. "Ya sure don’t look like you!" He glanced over at Adam. "Neither
do you," he said.

Adam blushed and covered himself with two cupped hands as he looked down at his nakedness.

Ben drew Hoss to him. "I’m just glad you’re all right son," he said. He peered into the darkness. "Where’s Little Joe?"

Hoss swallowed. "I left him back there Pa," he said.

Ben frowned. "You left your brother alone?" he said. "Whatever made you do that?"

Hoss swallowed again. "I hadta Pa!" he said. "Someone hadta make sure that them men didn’t get away and Little Joe was too little ta come looking fer you and
Adam by himself."

Ben held his son’s shoulders tightly. "What men?" he asked sharply.

"The bank robbers," said Hoss.

Adam lifted an eyebrow and gave his father a half-smile. "I think someone’s imagination is running away with them," he said.

Ben returned the look. "Now Hoss," he said soothingly. "Just calm down son. Why on earth would you think that there were bank robbers way out here for heavens

"Cause of the bags of money," replied Hoss.

Ben frowned. "Money?" he said.

Hoss nodded.

"Yes sir," he said. "They said ‘Virginia City Bank’ on ‘em." He looked at his father pleadingly. "I ain’t lying Pa. Honest!"

Ben patted his son on the shoulder. "All right Hoss, I believe you son." He began to stand up. "The important thing now is to get back there and get your little
brother." He looked down and cupped himself with two hands as Adam had done. "I just wish…" his voice trailed off and in spite of himself he felt himself blushing
as well.

Hoss jumped up. "I’ve brought something fer ya to wear!" he said and bent over to pick up the shirts and pants.

"You had these all the time and you let us sit here like this?" exploded Adam as he snatched them from his brother and began to pull on the shirt.

"Hey! These aren’t my pants!"

Ben looked at Hoss as he too began to dress. "Who owns these pants Hoss?" he asked.

"The bank robbers," said Hoss. "I told ya ‘bout ‘em remember?"

Ben began to look really worried. "Hurry up Adam," he said. "We’ve got to get to Little Joe!"

"I’m trying Pa," replied Adam as he pulled on the pants. "But these are so tight they’re likely to do me damage if you know what I mean."

"I do," said Ben, grimacing as he tried to get the other pair of pants on himself. "Whoever these two men are, they certainly aren’t quite the men we are son."

Both Cartwrights stood up and began to move hesitantly. "Ow!" said Adam. "If I wear these for too long Pa you might never have the grandchildren you’ve been
hoping for!"

Ben shot his son a dark look. "Come on," he said. "Hoss…show us the way!"

He hesitated for a moment before following his sons out of the cave and with a quick motion scooped up the little stuffed dog in his son’s bedroll and put it into his
shirt pocket.



Little Joe sat and looked at the men dangling in front of him, wishing that he had Scruffy to cuddle while he was waiting. He was beginning to get cold and a little
hungry, and wished that Hoss would hurry up and come back with Pa and Adam so that they could go home. He shivered in the chilly air.

"What’s the matter kid?" asked one of the men. "Cold are ya?"

Little Joe looked at him silently and held up his slingshot menacingly.

"Well you ain’t as cold as us!" said the other man. "We ain’t even got our shirts on!"

"Shut up Adam," said the first man with a wink at his son. "He don’t care about us. Hey kid! Ever see anyone die?"

Little Joe shook his head, his eyes wide with fright. "You shut up!" he said. "I don’t wanna listen to you!"

"Well you’re gonna have to listen soon," said the man with another wink at his son hanging beside him. "Dying men makes lots of noise whether they want to or not."

"You ain’t dying!" declared the little boy bravely.

"We sure are," said the second man with a grin at his father. He’d guessed where this was heading.

"We can’t survive much longer hangin upside down like this ya know." He gave a fearful groan for effect. "All the blood’s rushing to my head! I can feel my brains
twisting out of my ears! Help me someone!"

The first man joined in with him. "Help me!" he cried. "Help us kid! Our brains’ll drip out of our ears if you don’t and we’ll die!"

Little Joe swallowed. "I ain’t letting you down," he said. "You have to stay up there until my Pa and brothers get back!"

"They won’t make it in time!" said the first man with another groan. "We’ll be dead by then! Please kid!"

Little Joe shook his head and covered his ears to block out the sounds of their cries.

"No!" he said. "Hoss said I wasn’t ta go near you!"

"He didn’t understand that we gonna die!" said the second man. "You want ta be a murderer kid?"

Little Joe shook his head. "No," he said, unsure of himself now.

"Then just loosen the rope a little bit and let us rest our heads on the ground. You don’t havta let us go… just loosen the rope a bit. That can’t hurt can it?"

Little Joe hesitated. "I dunno," he said. "I promised Hoss I wouldn’t."

"Your brother wouldn’t want you ta kill us!" declared the second man. He put his finger into his ear. "I can feel it starting! My brain is dripping out! Please help me!"

Little Joe sprang to his feet. "Just a bit…" he said. "I’ll just loosen it a bit so that your heads are on the ground."

He walked carefully over to where the rope was tied to the tree trunk and began to undo it. "You watch it," he said. "Iffen you try anything I’ve still got my slingshot."

"We won’t try anything," said the first man. He gave another loud groan for effect. "Hurry up kid!"

Little Joe fumbled with the rope until he’d loosened the knot. He began to let the rope slowly out until the men’s heads were resting on the ground. However, just as
he was about to tie it again, the one closest to him lunged at him and the rope slipped out of his hand and the two men came crashing to the ground. Little Joe
stepped back in horror as he watched them sit up and get their bearings.

"Get him Adam!" shouted Amos.

Little Joe turned to flee, but the man got to him first and held him tight. "Thanks kid," he said nastily. "My brain sure feels better now!" Both men chuckled

"Let me go!" shouted Little Joe, trying to kick the man who held him.

"Just settle down there kid," said the man.

"You let me go!" shouted Little Joe, arms and legs flying in all directions. "My Pa will kill you when he gets here!"

"He certainly will!" said a loud voice behind them and the two men turned to see Ben Cartwright step out of the darkness, followed by Adam and Hoss. "You put my
son down!" Ben shouted.

Amos smirked at the man. "You back off mister," he said. "Unless you want this kid of yours back piece by piece!"

Ben hesitated. "Put the boy down," he said. "Take the money if you want, but leave the boy alone."

Little Joe began to whimper. "Pa!" he said.

Ben looked at his son. "It’s all right Little Joe," he said soothingly. "Just calm down son." He felt in his pocket. "See? I brought Scruffy for you. Here." He reached
out with the stuffed dog in his hand, momentarily taking the men off guard.

Amos hit out at him and knocked him backwards, while Scruffy fell to the ground between them, splitting open and spraying his stuffing on the ground around them.

"Scruffy!" called Little Joe. "You’ve killed my Scruffy!"

His anger overcame his fear as he lashed out, hitting his capture full in the stomach.

"Ugh!" came the sound of escaping air from the surprised man.

"Why, you little rascal."

He cuffed Joe and sent him sprawling across the opening and right into the arms of Adam. Hoss lunged for the younger Jamison knocking him to the ground. Adam
tired to settle Joe as quickly as he could, he had to help Hoss. In spite of Hoss’s size Adam Jamison was stronger; he now sat astride Hoss and pounded him with
revolving fists.

Ben struck out and connected with Amos’s jaw, knocking him backward. Amos reeling forward, pitched into the eldest Cartwright’s chest. With the wind knocked
out of him for a while, Ben could do nothing to protect himself against the blows of the other man.

Little Joe had been watching his father and now he rubbed his eyes quick like, his dirty fists smudging his tears across his face. This was his chance to prove himself
to Pa and his slingshot to Hoss. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the largest stone he could find. He pulled back the elastic and aimed; the stone whirred
through the air and struck Mr. Jamison square on the back.

‘Jist above the ponderosa . . .’ thought Little Joe with a grin.

Hoss sat up wiping the mud off of his face.

Where was that big mouth bank robber anyway?

He looked around and spotted his big brother and Adam Jamison holding each others arms like they were wrestling. It looked just like the picture of Jacob wrestling
with the Angel in the big family Bible. He jumped to his feet and grabbed his foe around the middle pulling him down.

"Little Joe, the rope!" called Adam.

Amos howled and reached for his back. Although he didn’t understanding what had happened, Ben finished Amos with one last blow. There was a loud ripping
sound, Ben glanced down and found that he had nothing on but the skin he was born in.

"Not again." he moaned.

Adam and Hoss hurried to tie up the older criminal while Ben crouched in the bushes.

"We’ll take ‘em in tomorrow morning boys."

"I found this creek bed stone underneath him Pa. Where do you suppose that came from?" questioned Adam.

Little Joe rushed over to his father; he still held the trusty slingshot in his hand. "Did ya see how he fell Pa?" he asked.

"Why, yes I did son and I’m still not sure why." Ben replied with a twinkle in his eye.

"I got him Pa! I used the slingshot that Adam made for me and I got him. Did I help Pa? Did I?"

Of course you did son, I don’t think I could have knocked him down without you!" Pa said smiling.

"Ya mean it Pa?"

"Yes son, I really mean it!"

Hoss removed his shirt for Pa to tie around his waist.

"Hey Pa, have you been washing the laundry?" Adam called to Ben with a chuckle.

"Ya look jist fine in that there apron Pa." joined Hoss.

Little Joe just slipped his hand into Ben’s as they walked back to the cave.

The boys hadn't walked more than five steps, when suddenly Joe stopped mid-stride. A look of horror on his face, he blinked his eyes rapidly trying to hold back
the tears that were blinding him. Letting go of Ben's hand, he turned on his heel, racing back to the cabin, he dropped to his knees raising a small cloud of dust as he
looked at the remnants of what used to be his beloved Scruffy.

Holding the dog's remains in one hand, and grabbing up some stuffing in another, he looked up at Ben with pleading eyes.

"Pa? My Scruffy!" he called out barely above a whisper.

Ben, Adam and Hoss walked over to where Joe knelt on the ground. Adam crouched down on his haunches, picking up some of the stuffing he looked at Joe, who
by now had tears running down his face unchecked.

"Th .. the … They killed Scruffy," he stuttered out between shaky breaths.

Ben reached down picking Joe up. Joe wrapped his arms around Ben's neck, crying softly over the loss of his stuffed dog.

Ben rubbed his back, soothing him "It's going to be alright, Joe," he whispered to him.

Joe drew back from Ben, looking him in the face. "Promise? Scruffy's gonna be okay?"

Adam stood up replying, "Of course he's going to be okay Joe. We just need to fix him up. Kind of like when someone gets hurt real bad, Doctor Martin comes and
fixes them up," he reassured Joe with a wink.

"Then we best get home right away, and get Doc Martin!" Joe yelled excitedly, practically making Ben lose his hearing.

"Now hold on there Shortshanks." Hoss tried to calm Joe down. "We don't need the Doc, I'm sure Hop Sing can fix Scruffy right up for ya. Least once we git

"Sure all we have to do is bring him home all the stuffing," Ben joined in on the plan.

Joe stopped crying, wriggling out of Ben's arms. He quickly started picking up the rest of the stuffing, "we gotta hurry, cause Scruffy might get sick from to many

Ben, Adam and Hoss tried to hide their grins. As they helped Joe pick up the stuffing, when suddenly Joe stopped.

"Pa!" He yelled out.

"Joseph there is no need to yell, I'm right here," Ben lightly scolded him.

"Sorry Pa," Joe mumbled, "but how am I gonna sleep without Scruffy tonight?"

"Oh that's no problem." Adam quickly replied, "If memory serves me right, you two had some popcorn in your supplies, we'll just pop some up, and let Scruffy hold
it in his belly until we get home." Adam smiled at his ingenious quick-fix.

"And we can tie him together with the twine. Now it's time to go boys," Ben ordered.

They all made their way to the cave. Within 15 minutes, they had the popcorn popped, and Joe was busy putting it inside of Scruffy.

"One for Scruffy" he said aloud as he put one in Scruffy's stomach, "two for me" he repeated as he popped two kernels into his mouth.

"One for you, three for me," Joe happily continued on.

"One for you, four for me," Joe tossed up a kernel of popcorn catching it on the tip of his tongue, finally catching the attention of Ben.


"Mmmm?" Joe replied his mouth full of popcorn.

"Aren't you supposed to be putting the popcorn inside of Scruffy?"

Joe quickly swallowed his popcorn. "Yes Pa, but I was thinking Scruffy needed to go on a diet. So I was just helping him out."

Adam quickly turned his head, as he laughed at Joe's reply.

"Well let's not worry about Scruffy's weight right now young man, give him some more popcorn, it's almost time for bed," Ben replied with a grin on his face.

"Okay, Pa." Joe replied reluctantly.

"Two for Scruffy, three for me," Joe started out.

Ben shook his head in defeat. Some battles just weren't worth fighting.

"Three for Scruffy, four for me," Joe giggled, looking sheepishly at his father. "My tummy likes dis poppy corn … Pa. Tastes wil good."

A few more pieces and Joe grew weary and began to yawn. . He halfheartedly tried to tie the twine to close the opening in Scruffy’s tummy and placed the now
floppy, half-empty dog on his pillow.

"You be okay dare Scruffy, will get you home soon for some stitches," he told his loving bed pal and softly kissed his nose.

"Gotta go to da big outdoor outhouse," Little Joe announced.

"Good idea son," Ben said, as he tried to curl up on the cave floor for some needed rest. "You run outside and do just that, he said.

Joe started out of the cave but seeing the darkened sky gave him a slight uneasy feeling. He turned and ran back for his faithful friend. " Scruffy gotta go to … Pa."

"Huh?" said a now groggy Ben, rolling back over to see what his child was up to.

"Scruffy has to go wil bad too … Pa," Joe told him, not wanting him to know he hated to go alone into the darkness.

Hoss and Adam sat there grinning, trying to hide the almost explosive laughter now building within them. As Joe ran out of the cave with Scruffy, they burst into
hilarious fits of merriment.

Amos and Jamison didn’t find this to be amusing at all and told the Cartwright’s to keep quiet.

"Oh hush up there," said Hoss, "You’re hardly in a position to give any orders. You two will soon be in jail where you belong."

"I can hardly wait," snarled Jamison. "You’re all totally crazy. We’re nearly killed by a couple of kids, not to mention their other insane family members. Being in jail
will be pure heaven compared to this." Amos nodded in agreement.

Hoss and Adam frowned and just ignored their remarks.

Little Joe scurried off a good distance into the bushes and behind a rock to take care of his affairs. Hoss had always told him to go a fair distance when leaving your
mark so that animals would not come close to your campsite or place of rest at night. He had wondered farther than he thought trying to pick just the right spot.
Having to go in the bushes made him uneasy even though it was dark and no one could see his tiny bottom. The bushes rustled in the gentle breeze as he relieved
himself and let out a soft sigh. Squatting down to finish he found a dry leaf to conclude his business.

Suddenly a twig snapped in the distance, sending a riveting jolt to the small boy’s body. Pants still down and startled, he looked around in a panic and listened for
any further disturbances in the shadows of the night. A snort and more sounds of twigs snapping and leaves being rustled sent his little heart racing as he half stood up
and reached down to lift his trousers from his ankles. The sound was coming closer. Joe figured it was probably just a coon or a deer making it’s way around in the
night, but he was not about to stick around and find out.

Grabbing Scruffy by one ear and pulling his pants up higher he tried to flee the area. Stumbling as he ran along and unnoticed by Joe, his cuddly toy dog was leaving
quite the trail of popcorn behind him as he made his way in the darkness.

Scruffy was flapping up and down limply, dropping one to two pieces of popcorn every few seconds as Little Joe hurried along.

A mother Grizzly and her cubs had picked up the scent of food in the light breeze, while out for their evening stroll. She nosed the air as her two cubs plodded
awkwardly along behind her tying to keep up. She snorted as if telling them to stay close. Sniffing the area where Joe had been, she let out a furious roar. They
nibbled their way along picking up the scrumptious tidbits of food. Her cubs were small and on their first adventure away from the den, just a short distance away.

Joe froze in his tracks at the sound of an animal’s growl. His heart flipped over and he felt a tinge of regret having left the cave with only his bed companion in tow.

His thoughts broke off short as he looked around, unable to move or yell. He scanned the area blankly as if he were in an unfamiliar place. When his eye caught on
something white in the bushes, he stared at it for a moment before he realized that is was his shirttail that had caught on a thorny bush in his hasty escape. Shakily he
picked off the garment and examined it.

‘Not much harm done,’ he thought. ‘Maybe Pa won’t tan my hide ifn’ he don’t see the end of his shirttail hanging out and missin’, he continued in his young

"Scruffy?" He whispered looking around in a panic. In his haste the little toy had fallen on the pathway.

Under the straight-down moonlight, the air in the woods lay breathlessly quiet. Even the breeze had died. He hoped the animal, whatever it was, had not picked up
his scent.

Far back in the heavy shadows crossed by the thin shafts of moonlight streaming down through the pines, something walked. He felt a premonition of something
hiding just around the corner from the rocks. Bright speckles slipped and slid along a furry shoulder and a long curving back. Little Joe stood frozen. Oddly he
wasn’t so frightened now. His little bed buddy was in danger though. In a minute he caught another glimpse of a heavy neck that thrust through the underbrush with
Scruffy in its teeth. She snarled and batted the small toy around. Scruffy lay in a heap as the bear ate up his insides and he grew ever smaller. The cubs feasted on the
small tidbit like treats.

"Bears!" He whispered to himself.

Joe’s eyes widened with fear and yet he stood boldly wanting to save his stuffed toy from the claws of the monster in the dark. She settled back on her haunches
making a breathy sound and the two cubs scrambled to her side. Gathering them into her lap like any mother would, she let them nurse. As they squirmed and
nuzzled her, they growled with pleasure, almost like the purring of cats.

For a moment Little Joe loved that big ol’ bear. This was Bare Bottoms, the she bear that had been shot with a buffalo gun in the rump several years ago. The shot
had left her with missing fur, thus giving her the title of Bare Bottoms. He had heard many stories about how big she was and he suddenly grew fascinated to finally
see her for himself. She was so big and soft looking. Little Joe supposed she was very dangerous yet she seemed so calm, her huge loose body covered with fur so
thick you wanted to plunge your hands into it.

The cubs concluded their dinner and the family made there way slowly along through the shadows.

Keeping as still as he could, he glanced over his shoulder looking for a possible tree to climb. Hoss had told him that grizzly bears could not climb trees.

"Why not grizzly bears Joe had ask?" Hoss had read about grizzly bears somewhere, in a book. They were the most dangerous of all bears.

"Their claws ain’t sharp enough," Hoss had told him.

"Oh!" Joe had said, somewhat surprised.

"Yeah," Hoss told him, "a grizzly can’t retract its claws as it walks along. A bear can pull its claws in just as a cat does, which keeps ‘em sharp. The
grizzly’s claws stick out beyond its foot all the time, so they’re constantly being worn down on the ends. By the time the grizzly is full grown it gets too
heavy for the claws to support it. However, they can still rip open an elk or a deer," Hoss had assured him with his widened blue eyes.

The others grew worried as to Little Joe’s lengthy potty run and went in search for him. Ben stopped at the edge of the cave and yelled into the night.


Suddenly the great roar of a grizzly tore into the silence. Ben’s heart sank as he had horrified thoughts of Joe. The Cartwright’s made their way through the bushes
quietly yelling for Joe. If Joe was in trouble Pa wanted to attract the animal’s attention to himself to protect his son. They spotted Joe.

"Joseph!" He whispered loud enough for him to maybe hear.

Ben was making short motions with his hand for Joe to find a tree to climb. Joe slowly stepped out from the bushes, a step at a time. The nearest trees were either to
big or the limbs began to high off of the ground for him to reach.

Further on there was one with a low stub of a branch. As Little Joe sized it up, the leaves of the bush next to him began to shift in a slight current of wind that crossed
Joe’s cheek like an invisible hand. When the breeze reached the bear her head came around cat quick. In that split second Little Joe felt a tremor of doubt.
Sweeping the cubs aside she reared, unfolding out of the shadows to rise taller and taller. Powerful front legs curved like a fighter’s. She stood towering, her great
head swinging as she sniffed the air.

Joe stood cold in his tracks. The moment he saw her full body rising above him, he was unable to tear his look from her and he could not move. It was the other
Cartwright’s voices that jolted him loose.

"Run! Little Joe! Run!"

He was off and running, the forest floor jarring in front of his eyes, his ears pounding or was it her roar? She sounded so close behind. Little Joe flung himself at the
nearest tree and tried to scramble up by sheer strength. He couldn’t get his knees around and just clung on there stuck, a few feet off the ground.

A sharp crack pierced the air… A shot.

‘Don’t shoot her Pa,’ he screamed inside.

He tore away from the tree and ran on. Blindly he pelted through the brush, almost crashed into another tree, the one with the low stub of a limb. Up on it he leaped
for the next branch and monkeyed his way up higher scraping his face and arms as he went. He hauled himself up with a scorching strength he had never known

Ben and the other boys were screaming, "Higher! Joe, go higher!

In one swift glance little Joe saw the grizzly coming by long leaps. Hoss, Adam and Ben ran after, Ben raised the gun for another shot into the air.

Little Joe squirmed upward through the pine boughs, skinned free of them and out onto a sturdy limb just in time. The tree shook violently, as he looked down into a
snarling face. Up she lunged at him, her long forelegs reaching as if they were hinged on rubber. For one petrified moment he thought she was going to keep
stretching, but the claws dug into the bark just below him. Mad black eyes glowered at him then she grudgingly sank back onto all fours. White gashes were left in
the bark of the tree.

"You all right?" yelled Ben in a strangled voice.

"Yeah," Joe yelled back in a high-pitched squeaky voice.

His heart flipped over as the bear turned and was now eyeing the other Cartwright’s. She let out a low bellow and moved after them.

"YIKES! Run!"

The Cartwright’s scattered in all directions as the bear broke into a bounding gallop. Lifting the gun as he ran Ben fired back into the air. He missed. The grizzly
stopped and reared, then with another roar, she broke into a full run, with long thin strides like that of a race horse.

Little Joe clinched tight inside as he thought his Pa and brothers would not make it. They were now out of his line of vision. His heart sank as he clung helplessly to
his perch. He wanted to cry but he couldn’t. He was too frightened. Thoughts of his family and Scruffy out there in the darkness, alone with a stalking crazy bear
with the white bottom. His face, arms now ached from the thin scratch lines from running through the brush.

Several more shots could be heard in the distance as Joe scanned the area from his high roost. He wondered… had the bear been shot? Where were the cubs?
What happened to Pa and his brothers? Where was Scruffy? Tears finally welled up in his eyes and slid down his cheeks.

Bare Bottoms lumbered toward the three men who had intruded into her territory. Her angry growls growing louder and louder. At the sound of the shot, she
ducked to one side. The bullet narrowly passed just an inch above her head.

"Adam, Hoss!" yelled Ben. "Into the cave! Find something to distract her and keep that bear away from your little brother."

"But Pa…." Adam started in protest.


The two knew better to argue with their father when he bellowed in that deep voice of his.

Racing into the cave, Adam made a beeline for the food hamper.

‘That should distract that ole grizzly,’ thought Adam. He dumped the food basket on the floor, eyeing what a bear might find tasty.

"Hoss, check that sack over there!" Adam waved his hand towards the supply sack.

"What am I looking for older brother?" quizzed Hoss.

"Just dump it out!" Adam nervously yelled back.

He had to move fast. That borrowed pistol from the bank robbers his Pa was using wouldn’t be enough to stop Bare Bottoms. Especially since she was protecting
her cubs. Adam knew there was nothing more ferocious than a ma grizzly defending her cubs. Even a cougar would turn tail if faced with an angry mother grizzly.

During this time, the youngest member of the Cartwright clan was still up on his perch. He couldn’t see where his Pa and brothers were, but he heard the growls
coming from Bare Bottoms. He wiped the tears from his face and strained his eyes hoping to catch a glimpse of what was happening. He didn’t feel too brave
without good ole Scruffy.

‘Scruffy,’ thought Joe. ‘What has that bear done with Scruffy?’ His eyes widened even more torn between two choices.

Should he go and try to help his Pa against Bare Bottoms like he did with the bank robbers? Joe’s hand slid into his pocket where he still had his trusty slingshot. It
gave him a warmth of confidence just to feel that he was armed.

‘Iffen I got Scruffy, the two of us could chase that bear away from Pa, Adam and Hoss,’ reasoned the young scamp.

Joe quickly worked his way down the tree and jumped onto the ground. Looking first left and then right to get his bearings, Joe sped back up the path where he had
last seen Scruffy.

"Sure hope Scruffy’s ok," muttered Joe as he remembered seeing his trusty friend in the bear’s mouth.

"There, by them bushes!" gasped little Joe, slightly winded from all the exertion.

He pushed through the bushes and saw the two little bear cubs sitting up listening to their mother. Just a few feet in front of them lay the remains of Scruffy looking
very flattened out. The cubs had finished the remnants of whatever popcorn was left in the little stuffed dog.

"SCRUFFY!" barked Joe. Anger and sorrow welled up in the little boy at seeing his beloved toy in such a state.

The two cubs turned towards Joe wondering what all the fuss was about.

Joe began waving his arms wildly, making what he hoped were terrible, frightening looks on his face. He advanced towards the bear cubs making a real, wild racket.

"ARRRGH, ROOWWL, YAAAG!!! WOOF, ARF ARF!" cried Joe in hopes of scaring away the cubs.

The two cubs were momentarily startled and backed off about ten feet. Just enough for Little Joe to run up and grasp what was left of Scruffy. Then clutching the toy
for dear life, he headed towards the cave to help his family.

Adam quickly sized up the jumble of stuff scattered on the floor of the cave. Noticing a couple of sticks in amongst the kindling that could serve as slingshots, he
scooped them out of the pile. His eyes frantically searched for the long johns that he remembered from Joe’s list.

"Hoss! Grab the long johns and bring them over here!" Adam called out to his brother.

In the meantime, Amos and Adam Jamison who were all tied up began bellering.

"What’s going on?"

"Pa, it sounds like an angry grizzly!" yelped the younger Jamison.

"I know THAT you fool kid. I want to know what these crazed Cartwrights are doing to get that grizzly all riled up."

"Hey kid!" yelled Amos. "What in tarnation you doing? Let us free afore that grizzly comes after us."

Ignoring the bewildered criminals cries Adam grabbed the long johns from Hoss. Taking a firm grip on the spongy material, he quickly ripped them into two strips.

"Whatcha doing Adam?" asked Hoss. "Pa needs us to help fight off that bear. These strips of cloth ain’t gonna do no good."

Adam sighed as he worked like lightning, tying the material around the improvised slingshots. His heart was racing like mad. How much time had passed? Where
was his little brother? What was happening to his Pa?

All these thoughts raced through Adam’s mind in a split second. Wasting no time, he thrust the one slingshot at Hoss. With the other slingshot in his hand, Adam
scooped up some of the food supplies.

"Quick," rasped Adam, "Grab some of this food and head back to the mouth of the cave."

The look on Adam’s face sent a shiver up Hoss’ spine. Never had he seen his normally calm, cool, collected brother in such a state of near panic. Not wanting to
add to his older brother’s already stressed state, Hoss did as he was told. The two boys ran to the front of the cave, slingshots in one-hand and foodstuffs cradled in
the other arm.

Just then, they heard another shot ring out. They made it to the front of the cave where they saw their Pa racing towards a tree.

"DANG!" hissed Adam. "He’s leading the bear away from us and Little Joe."

Hoss just stood and stared at the sight unfolding before his eyes. His mouth dropped open and he froze on the spot in fear as he watched his father outrunning the


Joe reached the side of the cave still hidden by the brush when he heard the shot.

Placing his one free hand above his eyes to help him see, he peered through the bushes that were around the cave.

What he saw caused the small boy to begin shaking. There in the short distance from the cave was his father running for his life away from Bare Bottoms. Joe
blinked his eyes and looked again. He momentarily thought this would be funny if it wasn’t so dangerous for his Pa.

For there outrunning the bear was his Pa with his bare bottom reflecting in the moonlight whilst ole Ma Bare Bottoms grizzly was chasing him.

"Umph," stifled Joe. One Bare Bottoms chasing another.

Then the seriousness of the situation took hold. Joe scrambled out of the bushes, precious Scruffy still tightly clutched to his chest.

Adam and Hoss had just emerged from the cave carrying some stuff that Joe couldn’t make out. He ran up to them as they dumped the load onto the ground.

"Adam, Hoss!" called out Joe. "Ya gotta save Pa!"

Adam half turned to his baby brother standing there with the fragments of the stuffed toy he was holding.

"Git into the cave Joe," ordered Adam.

"But …" muttered Joe.

"Now!" Adam glared fiercely at his little brother. His face a mixture of concern for Joe and worry for their father.

Joe looked up at his oldest brother’s face and for an instant saw reflected there the same look his Pa would give him when he had disobeyed once too often. Joe ran
into the cave.

He looked back and quietly moved closer to the mouth to see what his brothers were doing.

"Adam?" began Hoss. "What now?"

"Just follow my lead brother."

Adam reached down and his hand first fell onto the jar of jam. Picking it up, he placed the jar in the slingshot and took aim. Hoss stood there looking more puzzled
than ever as he watched Adam fire the jar in the direction of the bear.

CRASH! CLINK! The jar of jam shattered as it hit the hard ground a few feet to the right of momma grizzly. Hearing the sound, she twisted her head and with a
grace one would hardly expect of such a large animal, she slid around on all fours.

Ben, still running along with his apron flapping in the breeze, cocked his head slightly to try to see what was going on. He breathed a momentary sigh of relief as he
noticed that the bear had heard the noise too and had turned away from her mad pursuit of him.

Still he kept racing toward the big pine tree.

Bare Bottoms sniffed the air trying to make out what that sweet smell was and where it was coming from. The smell of food to the hungry grizzly made her forget
about Ben for the moment.

Hoss picked up the jar of pickles and quickly twisted off the top. He took one of the large barrel pickles and placed it in his slingshot and mimicked his brother by
sending the green vegetable flying through the air like a green arrow towards his nemesis.

Adam then began loading his slingshot with the apples he had brought and began firing them towards the bear but a little further away from his Pa. He hoped that
seeing the flying food would cause the bear to think more of snacking on apples and jam rather than his father.

Joe caught on to what his brothers were doing and decided to join in the fray. He ran back to the pile of foodstuffs to see what was there.

First things first, he gently placed Scruffy near his pillow and then began gathering sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and jerky. He didn’t care for any of that stuff
anyways and it would be better if the bear ate it, thought Joe. Little Joe also noticed the bag of marbles and quickly stuffed them in his pants pocket just in case the
food didn’t work.

His arms loaded with the dreaded vegetables and dry jerky, Joe took off on his small legs to help his brothers protect their Pa from the bear.

Adam and Hoss were too busy sending various foodstuffs towards Bare Bottoms to notice him. Hoss had finished the last of the barrel pickles and was now using
the potatoes. Adam was alternating between peppermint sticks and the rock candy.

Joe dumped his stuff on the ground and then pulled his small slingshot out.

‘Better git to work real quick afore Adam uses up all the good stuff’, thought Joe.

Taking the largest sweet potato, he put it in his slingshot, aimed it at Bare Bottoms and let loose. The hated vegetable went sailing between his two brothers right
towards the bear. He smiled with glee when he noticed his garden bullet had hit the bear right in the mouth just as she was opening to let out a roar.

Adam and Hoss looked at the spectacle that had just happened. The odds of that sweet potato landing right in the bear’s mouth right at that particular moment was
too great for them to grasp.

They both paused a moment and as one turned towards Little Joe.

"See Adam!" shouted Joe. "This be one Jim Dandy slingshot you built me. Betcha now that bear leaves Pa alone."

The older Cartwright brothers shook their heads in disbelief and turned back to where the bear was. She was munching away on the treat that Providence had
placed right into her own mouth. Licking her lips, she began looking around for some more manna from the skies.

From their spot, the bear cubs noticed the flying things that were dropping around their mother. The night wind sent a breeze in their direction and they caught the
scent of the sweet smelling jam that had broken open. Still hungry even after their mother had fed them, the two little cubs raced toward where the food was.

Adam meanwhile shook his head in disbelief and grabbed another peppermint stick to place in his slingshot.

"Not that Adam", called out Joe. "See, she likes these here sweet potatoes. Use them instead."

Joe was hoping for once his brother Adam would listen to him. He sure didn’t want to see his older brother throwing them sweet peppermint sticks at the bear when
these gosh-awful sweet potatoes was just as good for bear bait, if not better.

Joe picked up one of the sweet potatoes and handed it towards Adam. Adam, not in a position to argue while he was still trying to keep the bear away from his
father, took the sweet potato to send cascading towards Bare Bottoms. Adam knew that the only reason Joe wanted him to use the sweet potatoes was cause his
little brother didn’t really care for eating vegetables and wanted to save the peppermint sticks even while trying to save their father. Adam smiled an inward smile at
how his baby brother was enough of a Cartwright to work to save their Pa and still the little kid in him couldn’t help but want to save the treasured sweets.

Joe then proceeded to hand the carrots to Hoss cause he would rather have fried hash browns than yucky carrots. Once again the shower of sweet potatoes and
carrots filled the air as the three Cartwrights continued to lead Bare Bottoms further and further away from the direction they saw their father running.

During a lull in the shooting, Adam held up his hand and whispered, "Hold up you two. What’s that over there?"

"Where?" cried Hoss and Joe in unison.

"There in the distance by the sage brush," said Adam.

Ambling out of the sagebrush were the two little bear cubs. Attracted by the smell of jam, they snuffled their noses around the ground to gather up the bits of food
the Cartwright brothers had sent in that area. Momma bear came alongside her cubs, Ben and the intruders no longer on her mind as she saw her cubs eating away
at these goodies.

Adam stepped cautiously out another step or two and turned his gaze towards where he had last seen their Pa. As his eyes moved along, he caught a glimpse of
movement by a very tall, old Ponderosa Pine. It had to be Pa. Adam waved his arms, motioning Ben to come back to the cave.

Peering out from behind the trunk of the tree, Ben noticed his eldest son’s motions and concluded it must be safe to head back to the cave. Stepping out from behind
the tree,

Ben retied the shirt Hoss had lent him since those tight pants from one of the bank robbers so unceremoniously ripped on him.

"Almost lost this shirt as well," snarled Ben. "How I ever let those two boys talk me into letting them camp out and Adam for saying we’ll just follow them, I’ll never

Shaking his head over all the events of the day and evening, Ben softly began heading to the cave. He noticed that the bear and her cubs were moving away
obviously more involved in something else than him or his sons.

"Wonder what it is that is having them head away from the cave?" pondered Ben.

Back at the cave, Ben sat down to hear what Adam, Hoss and Joe had done with their slingshots and vegetable pellets.

Trying not to laugh as he heard about the barrage of flying food, he was also glad that his sons were safe. At least for the moment.

Joe couldn’t contain his pleasure at how he had helped save his Pa.

"Ya shoulda seen Pa!!" squealed Joe. "Plopped that sweet tater right into her mouth. I dun good, didn’t I Pa? Didn’t I Adam?" as he shifted his gaze from his Pa to

"That was something, Joe" beamed Ben.

"Younger brother, if I live to be a hundred I swear I never saw anything like that shot in my life," responded Adam.

"What in thunderation is you Cartwrights blabbering about now?" snorted Amos. "Using food as weapons? What next?"

"Yeah Pa," piped in Adam Jamison, "at this rate, I’ll be more than glad to see the sheriff and that jail cell afore we wind up being as stir-crazy as these four."

Hearing that, Joe wheeled around and facing the two bank robbers he placed his hands on his hips and barked back.

"Iffen you two hadn’t a stolen my Pa’s and brother’s clothes, none of this would have happened! You jest lucky I’m such a good shot that I saved your hides whilst
saving my Pa!"

Adam and Ben looked at each other and couldn’t resist letting some soft laughter flow out as they saw Joe standing up to the two bank robbers. Of course Amos
and his son Adam were tied up and couldn’t do Joe any harm. Seeing that Cartwright spirit and loyalty to family in addition to Joe unconsciously imitating Adam’s
familiar stance filled the elder Cartwrights with a mixture of pride and humor. What a sight to witness such a young boy telling off two men more than twice his size.

"Hey Joe," Hoss called out. "Let them fellers alone. I’m a mite hungry after all this. Sure could do with some vittles."

"How can you think of food after all this?" asked Adam.

"Well all this exercise dun give me an appetite", said Hoss.

Ben realized that if Hoss didn’t get something to eat, he would be up half the night listening to his middle son’s growling stomach. And after the growls of that bear,
he was in no mood for any more.

"All right, Hoss," said Ben. "Let’s start a small fire at the front of the cave and cook up a few of these leftovers."

"I’ll help Pa," said Joe.

"All right Joe, in a minute," responded Ben. "Adam, take that dishpan and go get some water. Hoss gather up some of that kindling so we can make a fire."

Adam grabbed the dishpan and went out to get the water. Hoss piled up the kindling and then gathered some slightly larger sticks that he found at the mouth of the
cave. Using the matches, he soon had a small fire going.

Ben worked at gathering up the jerky, potatoes and few onions that were left.

"Pa!" yelped Joe. "I wanna help too!"

"All right Joe, don’t you boys have a pan or pot or something to put all this in so’s we can cook it up?"

"Sure thing Pa, be right back"

Adam came back with the dishpan and fresh water. Using one of the knives from the medical kit, Ben, Adam and Hoss sliced up the jerky and vegetables and put it
in the pot that Joe had given them. In about twenty minutes, a pioneer stew of sorts was bubbling along. The smell of the food wafted back to Amos and Adam.

"Say Cartwrights! You gonna share any of that with us or you gonna let us starve!" Amos was getting hungry with the smell of food now filling the cave.

"Hoss, didn’t I see two cups? Get them and lets put some of this stew in for those two." Ben directed.

The cups were produced and filled. Adam took them back to Amos and the other Adam for them to eat. The coffee had been spilled all over the floor and was of
no use being all mixed in the dirt now. Hoss pulled out the coffee pot, cocoa and sugar. Ben who was desperate for anything warm watched as Hoss began making
the hot cocoa.

"Didn’t you boys bring any spoons or forks or anything?" asked Ben.

"Sure we did Pa. Stuck them in the bag of medical supplies so’s we wouldn’t lose them in the big sack," answered Joe.

Four spoons were pulled out and the Cartwrights sat down with the pioneer stew amongst them and ate heartily.

Their late night dinner finished, Ben told the boys to start putting everything back into the sacks and baskets. Ben went outside with his cup of cocoa (after a quick
rinsing from the stew fed to the bank robbers) and the pot to rinse the pot out before returning it to the gunnysack.

As he poured some water into the pot to rinse it out, the moon pulled out from behind the clouds and illuminated the area. Ben’s eyebrows rose up and his eyes
looked like they were going to pop out of his head.

"JOSEPH!!!" bellowed Ben.

Little Joe came running out towards his father.

"Tell me son, please tell me this isn’t what I think it is?" asked Ben.

"Why sure Pa," put in Joe. "That’s my chamber pot. You said to fetch a pan or a pot, didn’t ya?"

Ben’s face began turning a sickly shade of green.

"Ya all right Pa?" asked Joe

Ben turned and going behind the bush, proceeded to lose the supper he had so eagerly partaken of just a few minutes ago.

Joe somewhat concerned ran back for Adam and Hoss.

"Adam, Hoss" started Joe. "I don’t think Pa feels none too good."

"Why do you say that Joe?" asked Adam.

"Well, he turned a funny color. Then he went behind a bush and is making some strange noises." Joe informed Adam.

"Stay here with him, Hoss while I go see what’s up with Pa" said Adam.

A few minutes later, Adam led a slightly white faced Ben back into the cave and had him sit on the floor.

"Pa?" asked Hoss. "You ok? You don’t look too good."

"He’ll be all right Hoss. Just give me one of them peppermint sticks for him."

"That’s a good idée! Adam!" piped up Joe. "Dessert!"

Adam didn’t feel like arguing with Joe right then. He just knew that peppermint was good for upset stomachs and his father’s stomach was definitely not doing too
well right now.

As Joe came back over to Adam, he looked real sad and dejected.

"Now don’t fret younger brother. Pa will be ok just as soon as he has some of this peppermint," Adam said trying to sooth Joe.

"Tain’t that Adam" began Joe.

Adam looked over towards Joe. With all that had gone on, even Joe had temporarily forgotten. For there in his poor little brother’s arms was Scruffy. Or more
accurately what was left of him.

Tears welled up in Joe’s face as a lump began in his throat. In halting tones, Joe blubbered, "He… he… sniff, sniff. He’s really." Sounds of sobs began escaping
from Joe.

"Oh Adam!" blurted out Joe. "Scruffy’s really de…de…dead this time." With that Joe flung himself into his brother’s arms and starting crying uncontrollably.

The sounds of the poor boy weeping for his beloved Scruffy were too much for Adam. Very gently, he wrapped his arms around Joe and tried to console him. As
Joe continued to sob, Adam felt a tear in his eye over what his brother was going through.

"Now Joe," Adam started softly. "You know I wouldn’t lie to you right?"

"Nope" choked Joe between sobs.

"Then listen to me now and believe what I tell you." Adam continued in a soothing voice.

"Wh, wh, what?" Joe asked still sobbing.

"Why don’t you sit here and cuddle with Pa to make him feel better, while I take Scruffy and see what I can do. Okay Joe?" Adam wasn’t really sure what he could
do with Scruffy but he couldn’t bear to see his younger brother so distraught.

"Ya gonna fix him Adam? Like new?" Joe pulled back a little to look into his brother’s dark hazel eyes.

"Well, maybe not like new, but I’ll do what I can." Adam didn’t want to get Joe all upset again but if he could calm him down enough until he could see how bad the
damage was at least.

"Here ya go, Adam. Now Scruffy, dun be scared. Adam will fix ya up."

With that, Joe held out his arms cradling what was left of Scruffy. Adam carefully took the toy from Joe and then settled him with their Pa. Ben’s normal color was
coming back now after having finished the peppermint.

"Pa look after Joe for me a bit. I got something important I gotta do for a few minutes." Adam told Ben.

Adam pulled out the medical supplies bag and began searching through it and the gunny sack trying to find something to patch up this poor ragged, beat up, chewed
up toy. He let out a large yawn. ‘Hadn’t realized how tired I am,’ thought Adam. ‘What a long day this has been.’

He looked over and saw Hoss had fallen asleep on his bedroll. Luckily, he hadn’t started his famous snoring just yet. Amos and Adam Jamison were also fast asleep
in their corner of the cave. Sneaking a look back towards his father, he noticed Ben was lying with his back against the cave wall. Joe had crawled on his lap and
curled himself within his father’s arms. There they were. Father and son sleeping peacefully together.

With a sigh, Adam wished for just one more moment to be that young again and able to sleep on his father’s lap instead of having the responsibility of being the

"Oh well," murmured Adam. "Back to the task of seeing what I can do with Scruffy. Would sure be easier if I could just give him a new Scruffy."

With that, Adam’s eyes lit up. ‘Why not?’ he thought. ‘If I take that pack horse and race back to the house, I am sure that Hop Sing could either fix up
Scruffy or we could make another one. I should be back before dawn. With Joe cradled in Pa’s arms, maybe he won’t miss Scruffy for a few hours.’

Adam snuck out of the cave, the precious toy carefully tucked into his shirt. As he raced towards the ranch house, he also thought it would be a good chance to
bring back some more clothes for his Pa.

Adam pulled up with a start at the house. Out of breath, he jumped off the packhorse and carefully tied him up also making sure to give the faithful animal a drink
after the journey. He ran up to the front door and threw it open with a great thud.

"HOP SING!!! HOP SING! Where are you?" yelled out Adam.

Hop Sing appeared wiping the sleep from his eyes and stumbling along with the lamp in his hand.

"Mista Adam?" started Hop Sing "What for you wake up poor Hop Sing in middle of night?"

"Got something really, really important Hop Sing", began Adam.

Hop Sing now wide awake, "Someone sick? Hurt? Need Hop Sing doctor?"

"Well, not quite like that Hop Sing." Adam said. "I need your help to fix up Scruffy here."

"Scruffy? Scruffy? You wake Hop Sing for toy?" said a very agitated Hop Sing.

"Look Hop Sing. It would take too long to explain. But after what Joe has been through today, we just gotta get Scruffy back together for him," pleaded Adam.

Hop Sing let out a looong sigh. He knew how Little Joe was attached to that toy that Adam had given him. If Joe didn’t have Scruffy, no one would sleep in the big

"All light, mista Adam." Hop Sing relented. "Let me see".

With that, Adam pulled out Scruffy from his shirt and handed it to Hop Sing.

"Dis? Look like got trampled over. How Hop Sing fix dis?"

"Please Hop Sing? If you can’t do it, no one can." Adam began pulling out every ounce of persuasion at his disposal.

"Otay, Otay. Hop Sing take back to loom. See what can do." With that Hop Sing, shaking his head took the small toy and headed back to his room.

"Umm, Hop Sing?" interjected Adam. "How long will it take? I gotta get it back to the cave before Joe wakes up."

With that Hop Sing twirled around and faced Adam with his quizzical eyes almost leaving his head.

"Cave? Cave? You left Lil Joe in cave?"

"It’s all right Hop Sing." Adam quipped. "Pa and Hoss are with him. Now please. I promise I’ll tell you the whole story tomorrow. Just please don’t ask any more
questions tonight and fix Scruffy for Joe. Please?" Adam was on the verge of near begging. This was something that Adam would normally not do but this was his
brother he was doing this for.

"Otay. Otay," relented Hop Sing. "I see what Hop Sing can do. May few hours."

"Thanks Hop Sing," sighed Adam with relief.

That will give me enough time to take a decent sponge bath and get into a pair of my own pants before these rip on me like Pa’s did. Then I can hunt up another shirt
for Pa and a pair of his own pants.

Adam gathered the articles of clothing for his father. Wouldn’t do for his Pa to come back home riding, um, bare back? Adam busted out laughing at the thought of
his father being a male version of Lady Godiva.

All cleaned up and the bundle of clothes attached to the pack animal, Adam went back inside. ‘Sure feels good to be wearing my own size pants!’ Breathed
Adam with a sigh of relief.

Just as his head popped into the great room, Hop Sing came around the corner with a sack.

"Here, Mista Adam. You take Lil Joe. Plenty quick, almost dawn." Hop Sing held out the bag to Adam.

Adam looked inside and pulled out the object that Hop Sing had placed in there.

"Well I’ll be…" started Adam his eyes widening. "I always knew you were good with needle and thread Hop Sing, but this!! This is a miracle."

For there in his hands, just as if he were brand new was: SCRUFFY!!!!

"Is no big deal for Hop Sing, Mista Adam".

Adam threw his arms around Hop Sing and gave him a great big hug.

"I can’t thank you enough for this Hop Sing. Wait till Joe sees Scruffy all back together again," said Adam.

"No more time for talk. You go now. Hurley back to lil Joe." Hop Sing ordered.

"Sure thing Hop Sing. Thanks again." With that Adam put the toy back in the sack and ran out the door.

Tightly clutching the sack, he mounted the packhorse. Then Adam securely tied the sack containing Scruffy to his belt and headed back out into the night towards the

Hop Sing stood on the front porch as he watched the eldest Cartwright son leave.

It was better that Adam never found out. The old Scruffy really couldn’t be saved but

Hop Sing had some material left over and made a brand new one for Joe. With any luck, none of the Cartwrights would ever know that it was a new Scruffy that
Hop Sing made for Joe. With a glow of immense satisfaction, Hop Sing turned and headed back into the house and to bed.


Adam raced along with breathless anticipation. He couldn’t wait to see the look on Joe’s face when he would wake up with Scruffy all back together. Just like the
nursery rhyme Ma used to read him when he was real little.

Through the woods, brush and trails, carefully avoiding King Leo’s territory, the young man went flying through the moonlit night.

As he approached the cave, Adam slowed down and walked the packhorse softly towards the cave. He didn’t want anyone to wake up just yet.

Adam dismounted and after giving the horse a drink, tied its reins around a bush and crept into the cave. Sounds of Hoss snoring permeated the inside. With one
backward glance, Adam noted that the sun was just barely beginning to chase away the night.

Moving further inside, he noted that his Pa and Joe were also still sleeping. Tiptoeing along so as to not wake anyone, Adam took the sack from around his waist.
He gently lifted out the small toy and placed it on his fathers lap next to Joe.

Then he put the bundle containing clothes for his father down to use for a pillow.

As a large yawn escaped from Adam and he gently laid down on the floor for some sleep, he smiled with satisfaction that Joe would once again have Scruffy.

‘Now if I could only grab a couple of winks myself,’ thought Adam as he closed his eyes.

Adam no sooner closed his eyes than he felt the presence of someone kneeling on his blanket. He felt the tiny fingers that pried opened his eyelid and then saw Joe’s
face as he leaned in closer to stare into the dark depths.

"Pssst!" Adam tried to blink as the spray of spittle landed in his eye.

"Is you in there, Adam?" whispered Joe, careful not to wake up the rest of the family.

"Lookie here at Scruffy," he continued to whisper, shoving the stuffed animal into Adam’s face. "Did ya do that for me?"

Adam sat up and smiled as he took the toy from his brother’s hands. "Yes Joe, I did."

"Thanks Adam," said Joe as he wrapped his arms around Adam’s neck. "I love ya, and so does Scruffy," he added as he planted a wet kiss on Adam’s cheek.

"And I love you too!" replied Adam returning the kiss to Joe’s brow.

"Don’t ya love Scruffy, Adam?" questioned Joe as he looked into his brother’s face.

"Of course I love Scruffy," Adam assured his little brother as he tried to lie back down on his bedroll. "Why don’t you curl up here with me and go back to sleep for
a little while?" he added patting the ground next to him.

Adam closed his eyes as Joe crawled under the blanket. ‘Thank you Lord,’ he thought as Joe cuddled up next to him.

"Hey Adam?" began Joe as he sat back up. "Do you love Scruffy like you love me?"

Adam sighed and thought to himself, ‘as a matter of fact I love that toy more than you, he never wakes me up.’

But instead he answered, "Of course I love Scruffy as much as I do you. Now will you please be quiet and go back to sleep?"

"But Adam, do ya reckon that Pa loves Scruffy like I do?" Joe asked as he moved to his knees and leaned in closer to his brother.

"I am sure that Pa and Hoss for that matter love your Scruffy just as much as you do," Adam replied and again patted the ground indicting that Joe needed to lie
down. "Go to sleep now."

"Can’t Adam," stated Joe. "Lookie the sun is awake now and the angels have already turned the stars off."

"Good for the sun," answered Adam as he reached up and gently pulled Joe down to the ground. "But if you take notice, everyone else in the camp is still asleep and
that means that you should be too."

Within seconds he felt Joe’s fingers on his eyelid again. Adam opened the one eye and raised his eyebrows. "What is it now?" he questioned the boy who was now
kneeling again.

"Will ya give Scruffy a kiss too?" inquired Joe as he held the animal up to Adam’s mouth.

‘Anything to quiet you down,’ thought Adam as he gave Scruffy a quick kiss. "Now will you please go to sleep?" he pleaded, pulling the blanket up to cover them.

Joe laid down and begun to sigh loudly. He tossed and turned annoying Adam as he kicked the blanket off.

"Go to sleep," Adam said hardly a whisper.

"Can’t I’m hungry, can we go home now?" he whispered again as he tried to open Adam’s other eye.

"No we can not go home now," replied Adam sitting up. "It is barely light outside and I need to get some sleep. Are you not tired, little boy?" he asked Joe, amazed
that his brother always seemed to have an endless amount of energy.

"Nope, I ain’t tired no more. Besides my stomach keeps talkin’ to me and won’t let me sleep," Joe answered and shook his head for emphasis. "We best get on
home anyway, cause when Hoss wakes up he’s gonna wanna eat too!"

Joe stood and stomped his foot to show just cause. "I’m gonna wake up Pa, so we’s can get rid of those bad guys and collect my reward," added Joe as he moved
toward the sleeping figure that was his father.

Joe stopped and snapped his fingers as an idea popped into his head. He turned around and walked back to Adam, squatting down on his haunches.

"Hey Adam, if’n you hurry up and get ready, I’ll even buy ya breakfast in town, beings we’ll be there anyway."

Adam came to realize that no matter what he would have to say, Joe would end up having his way. He sighed deeply and stood to his feet.

"Okay, Buddy. You go and wake up Pa and Hoss and I’ll start packing up the camp," explained Adam and then stopped when he realized that Joe was already
straddling Ben’s hips.

Joe eased open one of Ben’s eyes and placed his face near his father’s until his eye was up against Ben’s.

"Psssssssssst! Is your eyeball awake, Pa?" Joe inquired, nuzzling Scruffy up against Ben’s neck.

Ben blinked and opened the other eye. "They are now Joseph," answered Ben, adjusting Joe further back on his legs. "Do you need something?" he asked handing
the stuffed animal back to his son.

"Yep, looky at Scruffy Pa!" the boy did all but shout. "Adam’s done fixed’ed him for me," explained Joe shoving the toy back in front of Ben’s face.

"That’s fine son, now, why don’t you go help one of your brothers?" suggested Ben as he stood Joe on his feet and rearrange his shirt which he still wore around his
waist and which had shifted somewhat during the night.

With nothing left to eat, it did not take the Cartwrights long to have their prisoners as well as themselves packed and on the trail headed home.

They had not walked more than a few yards when Little Joe pulled free of his father’s hand and ran to Adam and Hoss who were leading the bank robbers. Joe
danced merrily along in front of the obnoxious pair of bad guys. Joe was facing the duo as he marched backwards.

Amos gave the happy boy a mean look and Joe reacted by sticking his tongue out at the little man.

"Ha…ya cain’t scare me no more. My Pa says ya goin’ to jail and I’m going to tell the sheriff what ya did to Scruffy and then he’s gonna hang ya!"

Adam Jamison’s expression changed dramatically at Joe’s statement and he cast worried eyes at his father. "Hang?" he stammered.

Amos rolled his eyes upward and sighed deeply at his son’s ignorance and then turned his displeasure on Little Joe who still gloated at him.

"Aw…shut up ya pesky little brat…they don’t hang ya for murderin’ a stupid toy, you nitwit," shouted Amos.

Suddenly there was a tug on the ropes that held the father and son team tied together and without warning, Amos fell to his backside.

"Hey!" he shouted, "What’ca go and do that fur?"

Hoss pulled up on the rope, "Don’t let me hear ya talk to my baby brother like than again. Ya hear me?" growled Hoss, pulling the old man to his feet.

"Yes’a they do!" shouted Joe as Amos regained his footing. "Sheriff Coffee said so!" Again Joe stuck out his tongue as he continued to march backwards. "Besides
hangin’ you’re gonna get a tannin’ for stealin’ that money."

"Why can’t you go and bother someone else for a while kid," mumbled the bad Adam as he stumbled over a small rock on the ground. "I can’t take much more of
you and your squeaky little voice.

Adam felt the tug on his rope and suddenly found himself sitting on his backside. "If’n you don’t stop that boy, I’m gonna…"

"You're gonna what?" answered Adam as he pulled up on the rope, bringing the robber to his feet.

"Well you just wait and see," replied Amos’ son as he started walking again. "I aim to press some charges of me own when I see that sheriff."

"You can’t press charges," Joe replied as he shook his finger at the man. "You’re already in trouble and that means you have to be punished first."

"Will someone shut the kid up," Amos nearly shouted but then changed his tone of voice when he felt the tug on the rope again. "Please," he added trying to keep in
step with his son.

Joe soon got bored with antagonizing the two men and ran back to his father. He held out Scruffy for his father to take and slipped his hand into that of his Pa’s.

"Hey Pa," Joe started to speak as his father accepted Scruffy. "Do you love Scruffy?"

Ben unaware of the reasons behind this particular question, simply answered, "Of course I do Joseph."

"But do you love him like you love me?" Joe persisted and started swinging his arm back and forth forcing Ben to follow suit.

"Yes Joseph, I love Scruffy like I love you," Ben replied hoping to pacify his youngest son.

Joe continued walking along side his father, arm swinging in time to his steps. "Hey Pa, do you love Scruffy more than me?" he asked looking up to watch his father’s
expression on his face.

"No son, I love you more than Scruffy," Ben answered returning the look. "Why are you asking so many questions concerning Scruffy, Joseph?"

"Don’t know, just was curious is all." The boy released his father’s hand and handed Scruffy up to his father. "Can you watch him for me, I have’ta to use the bush?"

Ben took the stuffed toy and waited patiently for his son to return to his side. He squatted down for Joe to climb aboard his back. With the boy holding on around
his neck, Ben caught up to the foursome that had managed to gain space between them.

"You can put me down now Pa," commented Joe as he slid to the ground with his father’s help. "I can walk, I’m a big boy," he added when he saw that Amos and
his son had turned around to watch the exchange between them.

Joe returned his hand in his father’s and after only a moment of silence, the boy began singing as he hugged his toy to his chest.

"I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family,
with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you,
won’t you say you love me too!"
"I love you, you love me, we’re best friends as friends should be,
with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you,
won’t you say you love Scruffy too!"
"I’m ashamed of you, you are as bad as bad can be,
shame on you for running off with a bear like that,
you darn near gave me a heart attack."
"Amos and Adam Jamison, mean as can be,
they’re gonna hang from the ole oak tree.
They’re gonna swing in the warm summer breeze
and in the winter they’re bones are gonna freeze."

"That’s enough Joseph," Ben said watching as the boy skipped off to join his brothers.

As soon as Joe was out of the way, Ben stopped long enough to tug at the shirt he still wore tied around his waist and wished desperately that he had his own
clothing. His backside was beginning to feel a draft as the afternoon breeze brushed at his exposed flesh.

Joe continued to sing his ditty driving Amos and his son batty. Several times along the trail Adam and Hoss had to give a swift jerk on the rope to remind the
twosome to hold their tongues.

"Well can’t you shut that kid up, he’s driving me insane?" questioned Amos as he stumbled trying to regain his footing.

"He ain’t hurtin’ ya none," replied Hoss, giving the rope another jerk warning the man to be quiet.

Unobserved by the others, Hoss quickly stuffed the small piece of Scruffy’s fur that he had picked up earlier, deeper into his ears and continued on his way.

Suddenly Amos and Adam stopped in their tracks, forcing Hoss and his older brother to bump into the backs of their prisoners.

"What in tarnations…’" began Hoss and then inhaled deeply.

"Fire and brimstone!" shouted Ben loudly and grabbed for Little Joe’s hand.

"You idiot," shouted Amos giving his son a swift kick to his shins. "You forgot to shut the blasted gate. Ain’t no way ya came from my seed. I knowed I should’ve
slapped ya ma for takin’ up with that tinkerman!"

Adam began hopping about on one foot. "Awe Pa…" started the Jamison boy.

"Shut up and run ya fool," bellowed Amos as he turned to flee, his son hobbling along behind him.

King Leo had escaped his domain and was now in hot pursuit of the fleeing men. Hoss and Adam ran in one direction, Ben dragging Little Joe behind him was
heading in the opposite direction.

The King stopped and pawed the ground, tossing his massive horns from side to side as he tried to decide whom to pour his frustrations out on. The King sized up
his victims, the Cartwright boys were no challenge as they slipped through the gate of his homeland.

Leo tossed his head at the fleeing boy whose guardian was only half dressed and decided the pair poised no threat. But the duo that shouted and slapped at each
other had stopped to untie their ropes. The younger man was bent over, in his hind pocket a red handkerchief waved in the breeze like a brightly colored flag. King
Leo, master of all bulls had picked his target. Pawing at the ground, head hanging low, the bull of all bulls snorted loudly, causing everyone to stop and stare in awe.
All that is but the bank robbers, they had started running again and when they finally glanced over their shoulders, the King was closing the gap on them.

"Run Pa, faster, faster Pa!" Shouted Adam Jamison as he and his father disappeared over the hill and out of sight.

There was a boy who had a dog and Scruf was his nameo
S-c-r-u-f, S-c-r-u-f, S-c-r-u-f and Scruf was his nameo
There was a boy who had a dog and Scruf was his nameo
S-c-r-u clap, S-c-r-u clap, S-c-r-u clap, and Scruf was his nameo.

Adam looked over at Hoss and Hoss smiled handing two more pieces of Scruffy’s fur to his brother. Adam quickly stuffed him into his ears.

"Thanks Hoss, I owe you for this one," he whispered.


By the time that Ben and his sons had nearly reached the opposite side of King Leo’s pasture, Little Joe was still singing. His nerves frayed, Ben wonder how Adam
and Hoss had managed to ignore the constant high pitched little voice. Hoping to change the subject, Ben glanced down at his youngest son.

"I sure hope that pack horse made it home all right. I stuffed the bank’s money down in the flour sack for safe-keeping," Ben told Little Joe.

"Papa," complained Joe stomping his foot in the dirt. "Now lookit what’cha made me do. I lost my place, now I gotta start all over," whimpered the sad little boy.

"Oh there was a boy who had a dog, and Scruf was his nameo.
S-c-r-u-f, S-c-r-u-f, S-c-r-u-f, and Scruf was his nameo."

Ben rolled his eyes back in his head and quickened his pace to catch up with Adam and Hoss.

"How can the two of you stand that racket? I’m beginning to agree with Amos, the boy is driving me nuts. Hoss? Adam? Hey HOSS!" shouted Ben as he placed his
hands on each arm of his sons and twirled them around to face him.

"What’s wrong with you two?" he asked as Joe skipped on past them, still singing.

"Huh?" asked Hoss.

"Did you say something, Pa?" questioned Adam.


Adam pulled the stuffing from his ear, Hoss did the same, "Why ya shoutin’ at us Pa? Little Joe’s the one makin’ all the racket. Here, try some of this."

Ben took the rolled fur from his son’s hand and held it out in front of him. Adam and Hoss stuffed their ears once again and continued on their way. Ben shook his
head from side to side and sighed deeply as he stuffed the mock fur into his ears and hurried to take his place beside his youngest son.

Joe was still singing and smiled at him when Ben fell into step beside of him. Ben returned the smile with one of his own, thankful at last for the golden silence.

It was later than he had hoped it would be by the time that the Cartwrights walked into the yard of their home. Ben was carrying Little Joe in his arms, the boy was
still singing his little song but more softly than before. Ben knew it would not be long before his son would fall to sleep and he was more than anxious to do the same.

Roy was waiting with a posse and hurried to greet Ben as he placed Joe on the ground. Ben could see Roy’s lips moving. It was obvious that the sheriff was
speaking to him but Ben had no idea what he was saying.

Joe watched the exchange between his father and the sheriff and wondered why his father had not responded to the news that Adam and Amos Jamison had walked
into his office earlier in the afternoon and had begged him to place them under arrest.

"PA!" shouted Little Joe as he tugged on his father’s shirt to gain his attention.

Ben glanced down at his little boy; again Ben could see the lips moving but could hear nothing. Out of the corner of his eye, Ben spied Adam and glancing up,
noticed his oldest son was pointing to his ears. Ben’s laughter could be heard ringing throughout the yard as he pulled his earplugs from his ears.

"Now, what were you saying Roy?" Ben slid his arm around the sheriff’s shoulder and led him toward the house.

Sudden he stopped, the posse had broken into a robust round of laughter and Ben had no idea what had caused the men to do so. Even Little Joe was giggling; Ben
could hear Hoss’ boisterous voice as well. The only one not laughing was Adam.

Adam suddenly remembered his father’s clothing he had snatched from Ben’s room the night before. With everything that had happened, the loss of sleep, hunger,
the bank robbers daring escape from King Leo, the constant ringing of his baby brother’s shrill voice, Adam had forgotten to give Ben his clothes.

Ben shrugged his shoulders and turned toward the house, Pa Bare Bottoms was home at last.

"Hey Pa, can we go campin’ again next weekend? Heh Pa, heh?" shouted Little Joe as he ran to catch up.

Oh there was a bear that had no hair
And a man who wore no pants
The bear she was a ma
The man he was my pa!