TWO BY TWO
A Chain Story written by:
Debbie B ;0) DLB1248@aol.com
Marian V. firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan L. email@example.com
Marcia Lee firstname.lastname@example.org
Carla Ledford email@example.com
Katja van den Berg firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Kay Bottoms email@example.com
Joan Sattler firstname.lastname@example.org
Josefina Marzo Bonanzaluv81@msn.com
Kathy E. email@example.com
Marian… "Joeie" Joexing12749@aol.com
Deborah A. Demko firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennie A. email@example.com
"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
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,
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.
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,
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
17.Hop Sing’s good cast iron skillet
21.Bag of pebbles
25.My nightshirt, bedroom slippers, robe and stuffed dog, Scruffy
26.Paper and pencil
28.Bottle of liniment
30.Sack of grain
31.Hop Sing’s garden basket
32.Ball of twine
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
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
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)
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
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
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
"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
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
younger two Cartwrights debated with each other in regards to the fence
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
the wiggly worm crawl around in his hand.
Hoss stopped, a look of confusion now showing on his face. "Explained? Explained
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
"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
"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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
for just a fraction of a second, Adam thought that perhaps he was experiencing
"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
"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
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
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
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
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,
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
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,
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
"Dadburn cow patty," fumed the monarch as he wiped his hand on the leg of
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
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
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
Instantly, laughter echoed throughout the valley until the sound reached
the ears of two happy campers, and left the others doubled up from laughing
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
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
"Maybe, maybe not," Hoss admitted, swishing his arms in the air a little
"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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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.
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,
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,
"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
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,
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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
"Why you!" Ben was enraged.
He reached for his disrespectful son. The two grapple briefly, rolling on
"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
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
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.
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
laid out his trump card. "And can you picture it if this story reaches the
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?"
"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
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
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
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
The boys were soon settled on the bank with their lines dangling in the
"You know Hoss, I was sure I heard Pa and Adam before, didn’t you think
"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
"You might be right," said Hoss. "He weren’t that keen on us going, was
"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,
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
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,
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
known he'd get us in a peck of trouble. Why do I let him talk me into these
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
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
"Well," Hoss stated hesitantly, "I don't think these shirts belong to Pa
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
sleeves? ‘Sides, I don't think either one of 'em have green shirts like
Joe jumped up and took the larger of the two shirts from Hoss and inspected
"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
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
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
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
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
"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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
he’d reached into his pocket a little earlier, but he just knew Hoss wouldn’t
"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.
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.
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
"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
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
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
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
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
‘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,
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
"Bump ‘em on their heads, Hoss, and see if you can’t knock some sense into
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
up and tied off the rope again.
"I’d start unbuttonin’if I was you," Hoss advised. "I can let go quicker
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
"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
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
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,
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
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
"They’re not here, Adam," he hissed.
"So much the better," Adam whispered back, just in case his father’s deduction
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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,
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,
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"Cause of the bags of money," replied Hoss.
Ben frowned. "Money?" he said.
"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
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
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?"
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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.
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
"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
"Scruffy!" called Little Joe. "You’ve killed my Scruffy!"
His anger overcame his fear as he lashed out, hitting his capture full in
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
Joe drew back from Ben, looking him in the face. "Promise? Scruffy's gonna
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
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
"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
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,"
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
"NO BUTS! GO!"
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
Joe reached the side of the cave still hidden by the brush when he heard
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.
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.
into the cave.
He looked back and quietly moved closer to the mouth to see what his brothers
"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
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
grace one would hardly expect of such a large animal, she slid around on
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
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
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
the potatoes. Adam was alternating between peppermint sticks and the rock
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
He gently lifted out the small toy and placed it on his fathers lap next
Then he put the bundle containing clothes for his father down to use for
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
his neck, Ben caught up to the foursome that had managed to gain space between
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"Huh?" asked Hoss.
"Did you say something, Pa?" questioned Adam.
Ben took a deep breath and shouted, "HAVE YOU LOST YOUR HEARING? I SAID
THE BOY IS DRIVING ME NUTS WITH THAT SONG!"
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
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
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
into his office earlier in the afternoon and had begged him to place them
"PA!" shouted Little Joe as he tugged on his father’s shirt to gain his
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
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
could hear Hoss’ boisterous voice as well. The only one not laughing was
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,
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!
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