Letters to Inger (by DJK)

Summary:  Selected letters from those written by Adam Stoddard Cartwright to Inger Borgstrom Cartwright, deceased

Rating:  G  (23,775 words)

Letters to Inger

 

 

Dearest Mama,

I miss you. I miss you so much. Hoss misses you too. He does really but not the way I do. He misses you the way I miss Mother. I hope Mother does not mind that I write to you and not to her. I would not wish to hurt her feelings. You see, when I write to you I can see your face, your smile, and I can feel your hands and hear you say my name. Really I can, Mama, so I write to you, but I miss you both. Tell Mother please to not be hurt because I love and miss you both. I do not see why God could not let you come for a visit, or I could come visit you. I would, you know, if God would let me. I do not think it is fair of God to take people to Heaven and not even let them send letters back. I know I was just disrespectful to God and would strike out that sentence except God already knows I wrote it. I shall pray for forgiveness instead and also that Pa never finds out.

Right now I miss Pa too. He has been gone for, well, for an awfully long time. I cannot write the number of days. The number scares me. I wrote you before that he went to New Orleans and why. He has not come back yet, and he has never been gone this long before in my life. It is terrible for Hoss and I. Oh, it is not terrible because we are alone or uncared for because Pa would not let that be. We are in our new house and have Miss Martha, Hop Sing, and all the hands to watch us and see that we are safe and eat and have lessons and take baths and go to services and everything. It is terrible because we do not have Pa, and we miss him, and Hoss does not understand because he is just five. Sometimes I do not understand either, even though I am eleven. Pa explained it before he left, and he would think since I am smart I should understand and that I am just being stubborn. Sometimes I almost do understand, but sometimes I do not, and tonight I do not. Today was bad, and I do not understand why Pa is not here. Of course, if Pa were here, he would have spanked us both too, and Pa spanks harder than Miss Martha, but I do not think Hoss and I would have behaved like we did if Pa was here, and then we would not have been spanked. Miss Martha does not really spank hard. I did not even cry. Hoss did, but he is only five. I held Hoss and rubbed his back. We are forgiven, and tomorrow we will behave like Pa has taught us.

Mama, would you watch over Pa until he comes home. You could ask Mother to help you. If you can help him to come home faster, it would be very nice.

Love,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

We got a letter from Pa today. When Carl brought it back from town, Hoss and I jumped and shouted nearly as if Pa himself had come. I was the one who read the letter out loud to Hoss and Miss Martha and Hop Sing. The first thing Pa said was that by the time the letter reached us he would be well on his way home, which was a very fine thing to read. Then he wrote something not so fine. He said that he would not be returning alone because he had married. He is bringing a new wife here to be our mother. Everyone was very surprised. Hoss does not really understand and is just happy to hear Pa is coming. I do not know how everyone else feels. They tell me it will be wonderful for Pa and Hoss and me, but they pass looks, and I think they may be telling me what they hope not what they feel. I am not sure it will be wonderful. There has been a knot in my stomach ever since I read that Pa is married now. Pa told us some things about his new wife. She is French Creole. It sounds like she is very different from you and not very like Mother either. I may not like her, Mama. What if I do not like her? I already loved you when you and Pa got married. You made everything change. You made everything better. She will make everything change. What if she makes it change for the worse? I talked to Miss Martha about some of this. Miss Martha is a nice lady like you were a nice lady when Pa and I first met you. She asked me if I thought Pa could love somebody who was not nice or who would be mean. I told her I did not think that he would, but I have heard some of the hands talking about how a woman can turn a man’s head. What if she is the kind of woman who turns a man’s head? I want Pa to come home so very much, but now I do not know if I am ready for him to be here.

Hop Sing talked to me too. He said some things cannot be changed, so one must make the best of them. The Bible says God joins married people, and it cannot be put asunder. Pa is married until death, so I will have to make the best of it. Mama, I just had a very bad thought. It is too horrible to write down. I am glad only God will ever know that it was in my head. I need to go and pray for forgiveness very fast. Please tell God that I am not a bad person, and that I shall not let such bad thoughts into my head again.

I love you, Mama, so much and miss you always. Tell Mother I love and miss her too.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

She is not like you! Her name is Marie. She arrived with Pa the day before yesterday. Everyone says she is beautiful. I suppose she is, but she does not belong here. She belongs in the city. I am sure she is one of those women who turn men’s heads. What if she wants to go back to the city and turns Pa’s head a little more? You can see that Pa loves her, and I think she loves Pa. Miss Martha said I should be happy that Pa has found someone to love and who shall love him. Hoss and I love Pa, and he loves us. I told her that should be enough, but she shook her head and said I was not old enough to understand. I understand, though. I have heard the hands talk about how it is between men and women. I remember how it was between you and Pa. I want to be happy for Pa. Really, Mama, I do, but I do not want her here. I want you.

Pa talked to me this morning. I guess he could tell I was not happy that she was here. Pa can always tell when I am not happy. He told me I do not have to love her. That is good because I do not think that I shall ever love her. I love you and Mother. That is enough. Pa said I do not have to love her but that I must respect her and obey her. She is his wife and the mistress of the ranch, and she is my elder, and pa expects me to remember what he has taught me about how to treat people especially my elders. I shall remember, and I shall be polite. I can be very good at being polite at least in front of Pa. I do not want her to think that I want her to be here. That would be deceitful. Pa has taught us not to be deceitful. I shall very politely let her know that I do not want her here. I know it will not make her go away. Pa would never let his wife go away. She is here to stay, and you and Mother are in Heaven. That is how things are, and I shall have to make the best of it.

You do not have to worry about Hoss. I do not think she is a mean person. I do not think she will even try to be mean to Hoss, and I would protect him if she did, so would Pa. Hoss is very sweet and easy to love, Mama. I think she will probably love him at least some. Hoss loves almost everybody he meets, so I suppose he will love her some too. Do not be hurt if he loves her some. He loves you, Mama. I love you and miss you very much. Tell Mother I love her too.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

I am not doing a very good job of making the best of things. I am not even doing a good job of being polite to Marie. Many times I am not polite. Sometimes I am rude or sassy. Pa does not know about the really rude and sassy times because I have managed to be that way only when Pa is not around, and Marie has not told him. I am not sure why she has not. Even so, Pa had a talk with me this morning. He said I have been walking on thin ice and that he expects my attitude to improve before we have to have a more serious and necessary talk. You know what he means by that, Mama, and so do I. He said that he was disappointed in me, and I could see in his eyes that he is. I hate that, Mama. I hate it so much, but I cannot seem to stop letting my temper control my mouth. I am angry, Mama, and I cannot stop feeling angry whenever I am around Marie. I am always angry at her over something or other. I guess mostly I am angry over her just being Pa’s wife. I get angry with Pa about it too and even with Hoss a little. Don’t be hurt, Mama, but Hoss is calling Marie “Mama”. It is not because he does not love you. Hoss loves you, but you are in Heaven, and Marie is here. I shall never call her Mama. I mostly call her ma’am.

Sometimes I think about running off, but I would never do that. I could never leave Pa, and I would never leave Hoss, Mama. I would never do that. I shall have to try harder to make the best of it.

Sometimes I dream that you are here with Pa and Hoss and me, and not in Heaven. That is when I am happiest. Do you send me those dreams? Does God let you send them to me because you cannot send me letters? If he does, please ask him to let you send them more often. I miss you, Mama. Tell Mother I miss her too.

Your son,

Adam

***********

Dearest Mama,

Today the ice broke. I did not know Pa had come back from town already, and Marie made me angry. She tried to treat me like a little boy. She is always doing that. She told me I could not go squirrel hunting alone. She knows I have been hunting for years, but still she ordered me not to go. I was rude and told her she should just tend the house and, well, I said she should just tend the house and service Pa because I could take care of myself and Hoss. She got really angry and shouted at me in that French of hers. Pa heard and came. He made me tell him what I said. Pa was very angry. I know I deserved a spanking, Mama, I know I did, but Pa did not just spank me. Mama, he tanned me for real. Then he made me apologize to her. I was polite when I apologized. I was real polite. She knew I only apologized because Pa had tanned me and would have tanned me again if I had refused. Pa knew it too. When I apologized, her eyes looked like she had been crying. I guess I made her so angry that she cried. Hoss cried too because Pa tanned me in my room, and Hoss could hear. Supper was real miserable, and I went to my room right after. Hoss came to talk to me, but when he called her mama, I sent him a way. I hate to hear him call her mama. You are our mama. You will always be our mama.

Was I ever rude to you? I do not remember ever being rude to you. If I was ever rude to you, I am sorry. If you were here, I would never be rude to you. I might sass you a little. Sometimes I even sass Pa some, but I would never be rude. That is because I love you, Mama. Tell Mother that I would never be rude to her either and that I love her.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

I sulked all day today. Pa does not let me sulk after he spanks me, but when he really tans me, he lets me sulk some. I sulked more than I ever have. I did not sulk with Hoss though or even Hop Sing. I only sulked with Pa and Marie. After supper, Pa took me for a walk. When he asked me to go with him, I knew I did not have a choice. We walked for a while, and then Pa talked to me. At first I did not want to listen, but it is hard not to listen to Pa, and he always keeps talking anyway. He asked me why I thought he had been so angry. I just shrugged, but Pa only answered his own question. He told me it was because I had hurt someone he loves. I said that I did not mean to hurt her, but as soon as I said that I knew it was not true. Pa made me look at him and admit it. Then he talked to me about why it had been so hurtful to Marie, and why what I said about Marie servicing him was tanning disrespectful not just spanking insolent. Pa said for me to say such a thing to the woman he loved insulted him too. I could see in his eyes that I had hurt him. I felt so sorry, Mama. I begged Pa to forgive me. He held me and forgave me, Mama. Pa always forgives me.

After we went back to the house, I did something very hard, Mama, something very, very hard. I went to Marie and begged pardon. I did not cry like I did with Pa, but I did mean it when I said I was sorry. She said she accepted my apology, and we would put it behind us. Then she looked at Pa and smiled. She loves him, Mama. There was something in her smile that was the same as the smiles you gave to just Pa. They love each other the way you and Pa loved each other and the way Mother and Pa must have loved each other. It was not hard to understand Pa loving you. It is hard understanding that Pa loves her. Perhaps that is because I love you even though I love Mother.

I shall try to remember that Pa loves Marie and that hurting her hurts Pa. I shall try not to let my anger control my mouth at least enough not to say something that is tanning bad.

Send me a good dream, Mama. I send my love to you and Mother.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

Today I am twelve and nearly a man. Pa says the age of majority is twenty-one, so it is nine long years before the law will think of me as a man. The law is one thing, but folks are another. There are lots of cultures where you become a man much younger than that. Don’t you like the word cultures, Mama? I learned it from one of my books. In some Indian cultures, a boy becomes a brave at fourteen or even thirteen. Johnny Marton is only seventeen, and he has a girl back East he plans to marry. I shall be a man long before I am twenty-one, don’t you think? Pa teases and says that even when I am a man I shall be his child. I said son, not child, and Pa did not even frown at me for being impudent. I don’t think I shall mind always being Pa’s son, and Hoss will always be the younger son anyway.

I am not writing to you because something is wrong. Do you mind that I mostly write when something is wrong? Today was a very good day. I did not even really get angry with Marie today. I shall tell you about why it was a good day, and it will be like you are here. I wish that you could have been here.

Pa let me sleep in late, and then I did not have to do any chores, not even one. We had baked apples and biscuits with honey at breakfast. We had something else special for breakfast too. We had these French things call beignets. They are like fried donuts but not round and are covered with sugar that is pounded into powder. You eat them hot. The powered comes off on faces and noses and everything. Then more blows around when you laugh. We laughed a lot. Marie helped Hop Sing make the beignets because she said she always had beignets for breakfast on her birthday. It did not make me angry that it was her idea. I liked the beignets. Then Marie said that Pa should take Hoss and me off for the day because she and Hop Sing would be very busy and did not want Pa underfoot. Pa laughed and took Hoss and me up to the lake. We could not swim, of course, but we had lots of fun. We fished and played and roasted trout on a fire for lunch and pretended to be pirates. Hoss and I were going to have a pine cone war, but Pa said no throwing pine cones at each other. Then he started throwing pine straw, and we had a pine straw war instead. Pa did not frown at anything we did. He only pretended to scowl when he was a pirate and when Hoss and I won the war.

When we got home for supper, the table was all set with the best dishes and candles like a grown-up dinner. In the middle of the table was a pile of wrapped packages for me. Marie had on a fancy dress. She said it was a celebration. Hoss and I did not even mind having to take a bath before we changed because Hop Sing put in this smelly liquid that foams up, and Pa said it was fine to make a mess with the bubbles and the water. We did. Hoss looked like an old man in a bubble beard. You would have laughed, Mama.

We had my favorite things to eat. Then we had a really fancy cake. It was good. It was not as good as the cake you made on my birthday, but it was almost as good. Marie bakes fancy things. Liking the things she bakes, even though she is the one who bakes them, is making the best of things. Don’t you think so, Mama?

Then I opened my presents. There were books and clothes and a fine new rifle. Marie frowned when I opened the rifle, but she did not say anything, so I did not get angry. Hoss made me a present. He made a little wallet out of leather. He did very well. I think Pa showed him how and helped with the cutting, but he did all the stitches. You can be proud of him.

It was a very good day. Mama, do you think that Mother minds that I had a happy day and that Pa was not sad. It is not that we forgot about her. If she minds some, will you talk to her and tell her that I love her and miss her even if I was happy today? I would put flowers on her grave if I was in Boston. Pa said once that Grandfather puts flowers there in our name. I hope he did today.

Love,

Adam

***********

Dearest Mamma,

She is in charge. Pa went away for a week on business. I asked to go with him. He said no. I told him all the reasons I should go with him. He still said no. I started to have a tantrum, but Pa gave me his look, and I gave up and sulked instead. Pa let me sulk for a while, but then he put an end to that too. He had a talk with Hoss and me about behaving while he is gone. Then he had a private talk with me about my attitude and about being respectful to Marie. I do not like her being in charge. If she treats me like a little boy, it will make me angry.

Hoss was sad today because Pa is gone. She cuddled and played with him. When I saw that, it made me feel angry, and I went off by myself. I know I should not be angry that she treats Hoss nicely and can make him feel better. I should be glad for Hoss. He is a little boy and needs to be cuddled sometimes. I cuddle him sometimes, and so does Pa. We have always done it a lot really because Hoss likes to be cuddled. It is different to be cuddled by a lady. It was different when you cuddled me. You are not here to cuddle Hoss. I should be happy for Hoss, but I was angry, and now I am just sad. It has been so long since you cuddled me. Would you still cuddle me if you were here even though I am twelve? I think maybe you would. You would be like Pa and say that I shall always be your child. I shall always be your son, Mama. I shall always be Mother’s son too. I suppose Marie will always be my stepmother, or at least Pa and God will see it that way.

Ask God to let you send me a good dream tonight, please. I need a good dream to make me happy, and then maybe I shall not lose my temper with Marie. That would disappoint Pa and get me a tanning if she told. I think Pa will ask straight out, so she will tell.

I shall try hard to make the best of things. Tell Mother I love her. I love and miss you so much.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

Pa will be home tomorrow, and I shall not be the one in trouble. I managed not to be disrespectful. Well, in truth, I was a little impudent a few times but not enough to be in trouble tomorrow. Hoss will be in trouble, though. Hoss wandered off. Marie and I had to search for him for almost a half-an-hour. I was afraid for him, Mama. Marie looked afraid too. When we found Hoss, he was watching a skunk. I shushed Marie before she made the skunk spray. I crawled up and told Hoss to come. We backed off, and the skunk did not bother with us, which was a good thing. Marie hugged Hoss, but then she became very angry. I was angry with Hoss too. She took his arm and marched him home. She was speaking French all the way but not shouting. I guess she is like Pa, and she is angrier when she does not shout. She sent him to his room and paced in front of the fireplace. I went up to talk to Hoss. He was crying in his room. He knew he was in big trouble. I was doing my studies and was not suppose to be watching Hoss, Mama. Hoss had permission to play between the house and the barn. Hoss knows better than to go off, but he did. I waited with him. I was wondering what Marie would do. Pa told us before he left that Marie could punish us if we did not obey. Hoss was sniffling because he knew Pa would spank him and Marie might too. I went down the stairs to ask Marie not to spank Hoss. I stopped on the landing to look down, and I saw her sitting in Pa’s chair. She was crying, Mama. I went back upstairs and sat down outside Hoss’ door. She came up in a bit. She had washed her face. I stood up. I was very polite and asked her to please not spank Hoss. She looked very sad. She said, “Hoss lets me be his mama.” Then she walked by me into Hoss’s room. She did not spank him. She scolded him, did not let him have any of the pie Hop Sing made, and put him to bed right after supper. He is not allowed to play outside tomorrow. Hoss and I know she will tell Pa when he comes home. I hope that Pa will not spank Hoss because I know Pa promised him a spanking for wandering the last time. Maybe it would have been better for Hoss to have taken his spanking from Marie. Would you have spanked him, Mama? You only ever spanked me two times. One time was when I wandered. I guess wandering off is a bad habit for Cartwrights because Pa told me once that Grandpa Cartwright tanned him for wandering off more than once.

Hoss needs you to send him a good dream, Mama. Mama, did you and Mother watch out for Hoss while he was wandering? If you did, thank you very much. Tell God thank you too. I prayed a thank you, but you are there in Heaven with Him. Remember that I love you, Mama, and tell Mother that I love her.

Your son,

Adam

***********

Dearest Mama,

Pa signed a big contract for timber. He will make a lot of money from the contract, but it will mean that he will be away at the lumber camp at night sometimes perhaps for several nights in a row. I am happy that the ranch is growing, and the money will help us grow more. It means we do not have to worry about what the preacher calls material things much anymore. Pa says we are not rich, but we are comfortable. It is good to be comfortable, but I wish making money did not mean that Pa had to be away from the house sometimes. Hoss feels the same. Marie does too. She does not like for Pa to be gone either. She dressed up for Pa last night when he came home. We had a happy supper because Pa was there. Pa had so much to tell about the contract and his trip that he did not ask if Hoss and I had behaved until after supper. Marie told Pa about how Hoss had wandered. Pa was angry, but Marie told him that Hoss had already been punished and learned his lesson. Hoss looked so miserable when Pa asked if he had been spanked. I knew why Pa asked. Pa does not forget when he promises a punishment. Marie said no and told Pa how Hoss had been punished. Pa told Hoss to come to him. I held my breath. Hoss went to Pa and faced him like a big boy. I was proud. Pa asked Hoss about his wandering. Hoss answered him, even though he was sniffling. Then Pa took Hoss’ chin in his hand and gave him a stern look. He told Hoss that Marie did not know that Hoss had been promised a spanking for wandering, but that she did now. Pa said since Hoss had already been punished this time and was sorry, he would not spank him. Then he warned Hoss that the next time he wandered and made us worry he would be spanked, no matter what. Then he excused Hoss and me. I think he did not excuse me before, because he wanted me to know that he expects us to accept punishments from Marie. Pa gave Marie a look as we left, and I think next time Pa is gone, if Hoss wanders, Marie will spank him. I shall keep an eye on him and help him to remember not to wander, so do not worry, Mama.

Pa is happy much of the time, Mama. I think Pa likes to be a married man. I should be glad that Marie helps Pa to be happy. I just wish she helped me to be happy too. You helped me to be happy, Mama. I am sure Mother would have helped me be happy. Send me a dream to make me happy tonight.

Love always to you and Mother,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

She and Pa had a fight. Pa was very, very angry. She was angry too. Hop Sing kept Hoss and me in the kitchen, but they were shouting some of the time, and we could hear. She was shouting mostly in French. Someday I shall learn French, and then I shall understand when she speaks it. Many important people learn how to speak French, and sometimes people say things in French in books. She could teach me French. Do you think letting her teach me French would be making the best of things? We did not hear the end of the fight. Marie ran out of the house and slammed the door. When Pa heard her horse, he went out and did not even close the door. He hollered her name, but she rode off like a bat out of Hades. Do not frown, Mama. I used a better word than Pa did when he saw her. Pa rode out after her. It grew very late, and Hop Sing gave Hoss and me supper. I put Hoss to bed. I did not go to bed. When they came in, I went to the top of the stairs. Pa and Marie were not angry anymore. They laughed. I started to go downstairs, but Pa kissed her. My face got hot, and I went to bed. I heard them come up the stairs and go to Pa’s room. I tried hard not to listen anymore, but it was a long time before I went to sleep.

This morning I asked Pa if I could talk to him. Even though I knew he might get angry, I told him he had scared Hoss when he went off mad and did not come back for supper. I told him he should not make Hoss worry so. Pa did not get angry with me for being impudent. He said he was sorry that he and Marie had scared me and Hoss and made us worry. I did not tell him I had worried, but he knew. Pa almost always knows what is in my head. He asked me to forgive him and said he would talk to Hoss.

He must have told Marie what I said, Mama. She came to me and said she was sorry that I had been upset. She said she and Pa should have thought that we would worry. She asked for my forgiveness. I told her I forgave her. It would have been impolite to say that I did not, but that is not the only reason I said that. I guess I had to forgive her if I forgave Pa. I do not really like that Pa would tell her what I tell him, but she is his wife, and she did beg pardon. Maybe Pa just wanted her to beg pardon, or he would not have told her.

She has a very quick temper, Mama. She is not like you. Hoss is like you that way. Pa and I are very thankful that he has your temper and not Pa’s. Hoss is a very big boy for his age, and Pa says he will surely be a very big man. I don’t know if I like it that my little brother may grow bigger than me, but Hoss is Hoss, and no matter what he will have to listen to his big brother. I have told him that many times, and he understands already.

Tell Mother I love her and that I do not believe Pa when he tells me that my temper comes from her. I have seen Pa’s temper enough to know better.

I love you too, Mama and always shall.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

I think that she is with child. Pa and Marie have not said anything, but I think that she is with child. I know how women get sick and are tired but are still happy when they are with child. I think that she is with child, and I shall have another brother. She might have a girl, but I think she will have a boy if she is with child. Pa will be very happy to have another son. Hoss will be happy to be a big brother and not the baby anymore. I do not know how I shall feel. We were all very happy when you were with child. I wanted a brother very much. Now I have Hoss, and maybe he is enough. But if one brother is good, maybe two brothers would be better. Hoss is very like you, Mama. Pa says that I am like Mother. This brother might be like Marie. That would be very different than having Hoss for a little brother. I might not like a brother that was like Marie, but then he might be like Pa. I cannot imagine a little boy like Pa. I want to ask Pa if Marie is with child, but I do not know if I am ready to know for certain that she is with child.

I received a letter from Grandfather Stoddard. I was very happy to hear from him. He wrote to me about Boston. He said he hopes someday that I might come to see him there. It would be fun to see the harbor and the ocean and the house where Mother and Pa lived. I would very much like to meet Grandfather in person. Pa has described him to me but he does not have a daguerreotype of him, so it is hard to really see him in my mind when I write to him. It is a very great distance to Boston. It would take much time and money to go there and visit, but Pa says that travel gets faster as the years pass and our ranch keeps growing. Perhaps someday I shall be able to go to Boston and meet Grandfather. I think that would make him very happy. I think it would make Mother happy too. Would you tell her about the letter and that I would like to go to Boston someday?

When the letter came, I read all of it to Pa and most of it to Hoss. Hoss was sad that he has no Grandfather Borgstrom. He asked if he could share Grandfather Stoddard with me. I told him that he could. I hope this is all right with you. Pa said that you would not mind and that Mother would not mind and that he had never meet your father but that he did not think that he would mind since he was a good Christian man. He said that it was like Hoss sharing Uncle Gunnar, even though we do not know where he is. Hoss hopes one day he will get a letter from Uncle Gunnar. When I wrote back to Grandfather, I told him I was going to share him with Hoss. I explained, and I think he will understand. Pa said that sometimes when the Wanderer went into a port where some seamen had families they would invited other seaman to share the good things of home. Marie said in New Orleans Pa would still be thought of as related to the Stoddards, so Hoss would be related to Grandfather. Hoss wrote a note to Grandfather, and I put it in with my letter. It was a little messy and very short, but Hoss is just learning to write. I showed Hoss how to spell each word, so Grandfather will be able to read it and know Hoss just wants to send his love.

I send my love to you and Mother. I suppose I have enough love for another brother. God would not send us a baby unless we had enough love for it. I promised you that I would always take care of Hoss. I always shall, Mama. If I have to take care of another brother, I shall still take care of him. No matter how many babies Marie might have, I shall always take care of Hoss.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

It has been a terrible week. The weather has been bad, and not much has gone right. Everyone’s temper has been bad. Even Hoss has been irritable. He has had two scoldings and one swat from Pa and even the threat of a spanking. My attitude has not been good either. I have had three scoldings and two different swats from Pa, and he took my book when I was reading instead of doing the chore Hop Sing gave me. That is not the worst of things, though. I shall tell you what the worst thing that happened this week is.

I was rude and disrespectful to Marie. She was irritable with me, and so I was rude to her. She told me to go and stand in the corner. I told her I did not stand in corners anymore. She said we could go and talk to Pa then. Pa’s mood has not been good either. I went and stood in the corner, but I was very angry. I crossed my arms on my chest and scowled at the wall. She sat down in her rocker and rocked hard. I scowled the whole time I stood there. I do not know how long it was, but I was still there when I heard Pa come into the house. I dropped my arms to my sides then, and my heart started beating very fast. Pa asked her why I was in the corner. She told him she had sent me there to think about my misbehavior. I held my breath, but she did not say what my misbehavior was. Then she said that I had thought about my behavior long enough and asked me to come to her. I went and stood before her and Pa. She asked me if I had anything to say. I said I was sorry and apologized for my behavior. I did not look at her when I said it. Pa would have made me look at him. She said she accepted my apology and that the matter was over. Then she went to the kitchen. Pa said my name, so I knew I was not excused. I thought Pa would ask me what I had done and then spank me, but he did not. He just said that if Marie set a punishment, it would be wise for me to accept it no matter what it was. Then he excused me.

It was very hard to be punished by her, Mama. It was very, very hard, but then it is hard to be punished no matter who is punishing you. I suppose if it was easier to be punished the punishment would not do much good. Pa would say the only thing that makes sense is to not do what you know will get you a punishment. Really, Mama, most of the time I do not do things that I should not do, but Pa is strict. He wants me and Hoss to grow up to be good Christian men and good citizens. His eyes are always a little bit sad when he punishes us, even if they have anger in them too. I did not look at Marie’s eyes when I apologized. I do not know if punishing me made her even a little sad. She was sad when she punished Hoss, but it is different between her and Hoss than it is between Marie and me. She was not angry with me at dinner. She gets angry quickly, but she does not stay angry long, and I had begged pardon. Perhaps it was good that I stood in the corner and then begged pardon. At least supper was much better than it would have been if I had not.

Mother never had to punish me. I am glad that she never had to do that, even though I would take a punishment every day if you or she could be here instead of in Heaven. I love you and Mother and always shall.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

Pa told us today that Marie is with child. She has been getting sick to her stomach very often, and Hoss had started to worry, so Pa told us about the baby. Pa is very, very happy. I could see it in his eyes when he told us. Thinking how he will be a big brother made Hoss very excited and happy too. He does not realize how long it will be before the baby is born or how long it will be just a baby, not a playmate. Hoss has not had to wait on a baby before. Pa could see I was not surprised. He talked to me after Hoss ran off shouting about the baby to Marie and Hop Sing. I told him I had suspected that Marie was with child, and he told me that they had waited to tell us because Hoss is so young. I asked if Marie had been to see Doctor Martin. He said she had and that the doctor said all should be well. He said the time is almost passed when women have to worry a lot about losing the baby. Pa asked if I was happy that I would have a new brother or sister. I told Pa I figured it would be another brother. He laughed and said he always thought of the baby as a boy too. I think pa noticed that I did not say I was happy about the baby, but he did not say any more about it. It is not that I am unhappy about the baby, but I do not know yet if I want Marie to have a baby even if he will be my brother. Perhaps I just do not want Marie to be the mother of my brother. If you had had another baby, I would have been happy, Mama. Perhaps it is so easy for Hoss to be happy because he thinks of Marie as his mama.

Does it make you sad that he thinks of Marie that way? Do you mind that Hoss loves her? Have you and Mother ever talked about me loving you? Does it make her sad? Pa told me that Mother would want me to love you back. He said she could never be so selfish as to not want me to love or be loved. You were never ever selfish, Mama, so I do not think you could be selfish about Hoss loving Marie or being happy about the baby. If you would not be selfish about Hoss, then you would not be selfish about me. Mother would not be selfish either. It is not that I think you or Mother would be selfish. I do not think that of either of you. It is just that I love and miss you, Mama. I love and miss Mother too.

I think Marie would like for me to be like Hoss and let her be my mama. I cannot let her, but I am getting better at letting her be a mama to Hoss without it making me angry. I am not angry with Marie as often as I was before. Perhaps knowing that she is carrying my brother will help me to be angry with her even less.

You have not sent me a good dream in a while, Mama. Please send me one tonight.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

Today Hoss turned six. We had beignets for breakfast again. Hoss got to eat the most because it was his birthday. Then Pa took us for another play day by the lake, but this time we went swimming and Marie came along. Hoss was very happy. Marie does not know how to fish. The only time all day that Pa frowned for real was when I remarked about that. It was not a nice remark. If it had not been Hoss’ birthday, Pa would have swatted my backside. Marie just shrugged and said that no ladies in New Orleans learn how to fish. She said it was probably because the sisters do not know how. Pa laughed. I did not understand why he laughed. Then Hoss asked about her sisters, and Marie and Pa both laughed. Then Marie explained to us about the nuns and the convent schools. Marie is a Roman Catholic. That is why she does not go to services with us on Sunday. She prays with a necklace she calls a rosary. She does pray every morning, and Pa says that Catholics are Christians, so it is just one more way that she is different.

We had a very good time at the lake and a celebration dinner when we came home. We did not have to take baths because we had been swimming in the lake. Hoss got lots of presents. He liked the book I made for him because the boy in the book had blue eyes and was named Hoss, so he knew it was about him even if the boy in the story was a prince. Hoss liked the crown he wore in the pictures I drew. Hoss’ favorite present was from Pa. Pa let Hoss have a puppy. It is from the litter that Mr. Jenner’s hunting dog had. Hoss named him Sam. When I asked why, Hoss said the puppy told him that was his name. Hoss sometimes has silly thoughts about animals, but that is just Hoss.

Tonight after Hoss was put to bed, I went to him and told him about you. He loves to hear about you. I hugged him and gave him a kiss from you, and he went to sleep with a smile. He loves you, Mama. We shall never forget that we love you. Give my love to Mother also.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mamma,

Because he is six and knows he will be a big brother, Hoss thinks he is as grown as me. He thinks he does not have to listen to me or mind me like he did. He is wrong. I am still his big brother. I shall always be older than Hoss and shall always know better about many things. Hoss will be older than the baby Marie will have, but I shall always be the oldest brother and tell them what is best for them.

Mama, Pa is very disappointed in the both of us because we had a fight. I know a boy of twelve should not fight with a little boy of six, but Hoss is not little, and he started the fight. He says I started it by bossing him around and saying I would make him mind me, but he came at me and hit me first, so he started the fight. Marie stopped it. She threw cold water on the two of us. She was very, very angry. She shouted in French at first. Then she took each of us by the arm. She took us into the house to the table. She turned two chairs back to back and told us to sit down. She said we could not move. We had to sit there until Pa came home. I could hear Hoss sniffling, so by the time Pa came home I was not angry only worried. Marie told Pa we had been fighting. Pa talked to both of us and then he had a necessary talk with each of us alone. I felt very bad after Pa talked to us, even before he spanked me. I felt worse after. I did not feel better until Hoss came to sleep in my bed, and we made things right between us.

Hoss and I hardly ever argue for real. This is the first time we have ever fought. I love Hoss, Mama. I know Hoss loves me. We have loved each other every minute he has been alive. You know I loved him as much as you and Pa that day he was born. I know you are as disappointed as Pa that your sons would fight each other. We are very, very sorry, Mama, that we did. We promised not to ever fight again. Please forgive us, Mama. You always forgave me when I was bad, so I know you will forgive us now. I love you, Mama. Tell Mother I love her too.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

I felt the baby move today. I remembered when you let me feel Hoss move inside you. I felt the same inside today as I did then. I shall love this little brother too.

Hoss puts his hand on Marie’s belly dozens of times a day to try and feel our baby move. He has been doing that for weeks. I do not touch Marie like Hoss does. Today she said the baby was moving very much. Hoss went and put his cheek against her belly and his hands on either side. He is very gentle and stands very still while he is waiting. Then he becomes very excited when the baby moves. It is fun to see Hoss so happy. I was watching Hoss, and Marie must have been watching me. After Hoss felt the baby, he jumped up and danced around. Marie come over to me and took my wrist. She put my hand on her belly. I did not pull it away. Then I felt the baby move. I looked up at Marie, and she smiled. Marie has a very nice smile. It is not like yours, but it is nice. I smiled back. Then the baby moved again. I think he felt that we were happy. This is the first time I have smiled just at Marie. Pa saw, and it made him happy. I was angry with Marie latter, but right then I was not angry at her even a little. I have decided that two brothers will be better than one. Perhaps he will have Marie’s smile. He will be a spoiled child if he has Marie’s smile.

Sometimes when Pa sees Mother’s smile on my face, it puts him in a better mood. When we see your smile on Hoss’ face, it makes both Pa and me feel warm inside and ready to say yes to almost anything. I suppose it is a good thing if a boy can smile like his mother especially when the boy wants something from his pa.

Tell Mother thank you for her smile, and thank you for giving yours to Hoss. I love you both and miss you very much.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

I know I should not eavesdrop. Pa would have a necessary talk with me if he knew I had. I know that mostly you hear bad or worrisome things when you eavesdrop, but I did not. I heard something good, Mama. Marie said that I am smart enough to go to college. In New Orleans, many rich families send their sons to college. Marie knew many men who had been to college. She would know how smart they were. Marie is here when we do our lessons. She works with Hoss on his lessons. She knows what my lessons are. She was talking to Pa, and she told him I am intelligent and a good student. Pa said that he knew that. Then she said that if we lived in New Orleans, they would have to think of sending me to college. Imagine me going to college, Mama. I know that all colleges are too far away and cost too much money for me to think about going. Pa needs me here and so does Hoss, so I could not go to college, but it is nice to think that I would be able to do well if I did.

Mama, she did not say that Pa should send me away to college. I do not think she was trying to get Pa to send me away someday. She did not say it like that, and she knows it would make Pa and Hoss sad if I went away. I really think she was just telling Pa that she thinks I am smart enough to go to college.

Would you be proud if your son went college? I think it is something that would make Pa proud and Grandfather and Mother too.

I think I shall ask Marie to teach me French. It would be good to learn and would be making the best of things. I am doing a little better at making the best of things. Pa asked me to help him see that Marie does not overdo while she is with child. Women should not overdo when they are carrying a child. Women should not get too upset when they are with child. I am trying to do what Pa asked and trying not to upset Marie. She must be careful for our baby. I know you worked hard when you were carrying Hoss, but I do not think Marie is as strong as you. You were very strong and made Hoss very strong, but I do not think that Marie has that much strength to give to this baby. It is best that she not overdo or be upset. I do not think teaching me French would be overdoing. I shall try hard, and she will not have to fuss. She may even be glad to teach me. You liked when you helped me with my studies. I still remember the song you taught me to sing in Swedish. I sing it to Hoss, and he has learned to sing it with me. Perhaps Hoss and I should learn a song in French to sing to our new baby. I shall talk to Pa and Marie about that.

Remember always that I love you, Mama, and tell Mother that I shall always love her.

You son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

Looking at Marie, I understand why the Bible says that a woman becomes great with child. Marie is becoming very great with child. I told Pa that we may have a baby even bigger than Hoss when he was born. Pa laughed and said Marie looks more great with child than you did not because the baby is bigger than Hoss but because Marie is so much smaller than you. Pa may be right. We shall see when our baby is born. Marie has become so great with child that one thing has become easier, though. We had much trouble seeing that Marie did not overdo riding her horse. Now she is too great with child to ride at all. Sometimes this makes her sad, and sometimes it makes her irritable. Pa says it is natural for women to be melancholy or irritable when they become great with child. I do not remember you being melancholy or irritable when you were carrying Hoss. Well, maybe just a little irritable a few times, but then you are very different from most ladies. Anyway, Marie was melancholy today and went out to the barn with an apple for her horse. When I went into the barn, she was currying him. I told her she should not overdo. My tone was a little impudent. Well, perhaps more than a little. She answered me in French. Her tone was very sharp. I stared at her, waiting to see if I would be sent to a corner. She stared back and then, Mama, she laughed. She called me a mother hen. She said she missed riding very much. She said she did not think Pa really understood that, but she thought perhaps I did. Then Hoss came into the barn and said Hop Sing had fresh cookies. We all went into the kitchen for fresh cookies and milk. Even Marie drank milk instead of coffee because Doctor Martin told her to drink it for the baby. While we were there, Marie told us that her father was a great horseman as was her grandfather. She said her father started teaching her to ride as soon as she could walk. She said the first paddling her father ever gave her was for trying to mount and ride his horse when she was far too little. I could not picture Marie as a little girl getting a spanking. She was not melancholy or irritable after we ate our cookies.

Hoss asked Marie about her father. She said that he had gone to Heaven when she was sixteen. Perhaps, you or Mother may see him there sometime. This means that I shall have to share Grandfather Stoddard with our new baby as well as Hoss. I do not think three grandsons are too much for Grandfather. After all, he was captain to many men at the same time. I shall write and tell him about it. Would you let Mother know for me?

Hoss is having a hard time believing that our baby will ever come. I wish it would hurry and come too. I told Hoss that he took just as long to come. It is hard waiting so long on a baby. God should have made it so that babies came much faster. I am not being impudent to God, Mama. I know that God knows best. Waiting for something can make you want it even more. I suppose God makes you wait so that you will want the baby more than anything. We all already do, so it would be all right for God to hurry things along.

If you see Marie’s father, you might introduce yourself and tell him that his grandson will have two big brothers to love him. I should think that he would like to hear that.

As always, Mama, I send my love to you and Mother.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

We had a scare, but we were all brave. Marie was braver than I thought she would be. She was very brave until it was all over. Then she cried. She asked me not to tell Pa that she cried. Pa was not here, no hands were here, and even Hop Sing was gone to town to get supplies. We were in the barn, and a bear came. It was a very big bear, Mama, and it did not act like a bear should. I think that it had rabies and was mad. It had foam at its muzzle and acted like a mad dog. Marie and Hoss and I were in the barn when we heard Sam start to growl. Hoss went out first and saw the bear. He did not shout or run. He stopped still and called to Sam. Marie and I went to the door and saw the bear. Marie went straight to Hoss. She told us to move slowly. Hoss would not move until Sam came to him. Then we backed into the barn and closed the door. The bear came at us. He banged against the door. He kept banging against it. We pushed things in front of the door. I wished that I had my rifle, but it was in the house. Marie and I made Hoss get in a stall behind us. She and I both held a pitchfork. Hoss did not cry. He said he could hold a pitchfork too, but there was not another one, so he held onto Sam. After a while, the banging stopped. We waited for a while more. We did not want to open the door if the bear was still there. Then we heard a wagon. When we thought of Hop Sing, we ran to the door and called through the cracks. Hop Sing called that there was no bear. We opened the door and went out. Marie made us go straight into the house. We told Hop Sing about the bear. He said we needed to try and signal Pa. He got our biggest shot gun and went to the porch and fired three shots. Then we locked the door and waited. That is when Marie cried. She did not cry for long. Hoss patted her back, and she hugged him. She hugged me too when I came to stand by them. She stopped crying and asked us to not tell Pa. Hoss will not tell because Marie asked him. I shall not tell because sometimes I do not want Pa to know that I have cried. Pa came with some of the hands because he heard the shots. We explained about the bear, and Pa said they had to hunt it. Old Ned has hunted many bears, and he tracked the bear. Pa shot it, and they burned the body, so any disease could not spread. The bear had not gone too far, and Pa was home for supper. Pa is proud that we were brave. Hop Sing made a big meal with a chocolate cake. Pa told funny stories, and we sang. Hoss is sleeping with me in my bed. Everything is fine now, so you and Mother do not need to worry. Pa said he was very glad that our guardian angels were on the job. I think maybe you and Mother were guarding us too.

Send Hoss and me a good dream and remember I love you. Tell Mother not to worry and that I love her too.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

Marie has had our baby. He is a boy like I knew he would be. I know it is too early, but he came early, and the doctor says that he is healthy. Marie had a very hard time. It took many hours. Hoss was scared because Marie screamed some. I could tell Pa was worried too. I think he was thinking about Mother. I thought about Mother some too. Now everyone is happy because our baby is born, and he is healthy, and Marie is fine too. My brother is named Joseph Francis Cartwright. You know that the Joseph is for Grandfather Cartwright. The Francis is for Marie’s father. We do not call him Joseph much though, and we do not use the Francis. He is very little, and even Joseph is too big a name. We call him Joe. Often we call him Little Joe. Mama, he is very little. He is not just smaller than Hoss when he was a baby. Little Joe is smaller than any baby I have ever seen. The doctor said that is partly because he came early. The doctor told Pa we are blessed that a baby that came so early is healthy. I think perhaps he came early because he was in a hurry to be here, or maybe God listened when I said he could hurry things along.

Little Joe cries much, much more than I remember Hoss crying when he was first born. Pa says that Hoss cried much less than most babies. Hoss hates to hear Little Joe cry. He thinks you only cry when you are sad. I explained about babies crying because they cannot talk, so he will not worry so much about Little Joe crying.

I love him, Mama. I was not sure I would love another brother just as much as I do Hoss, but now that he is born, I do. I have loved Hoss longer, but I do not love him more than Little Joe. Hoss loves him too. I know Hoss loves Little Joe as much as he loves me, and I do not mind. Pa loves all three of his sons. He put Little Joe’s name in the Bible underneath Hoss’ name which is under mine. Then we toasted the baby. Hop Sing, the doctor, Pa, and even I had wine called champagne. Hoss had water with just a few drops of champagne, but he did not know how little and was proud to toast our baby with all the men.

Mama, I told Pa and Marie that I would help Hoss learn to be good big brother. Pa said that I had started teaching him that the day he was born by showing him what a big brother should be like. I try hard to be a good big brother to Hoss. Now I shall try hard to be a good big brother to both Hoss and Little Joe. Will you please help me when you can? Will you ask Mother and God to help me too? I love you and Mother. I am very happy, Mama, even without a good dream.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

It is a very good thing that there is not just Pa and me to take care of Little Joe like we did Hoss. Little Joe sleeps much less and cries much more than Hoss. Pa says all babies are different. Sometimes Little Joe cries for no reason. Pa says there is a reason, even if we cannot figure out what it is. He cries less if someone is holding him, so the cradle Pa and I made gets much less use than it should. It is not so big a problem, though, because we all like to hold Little Joe. Even Hoss holds him, and it is fine because Hoss is big, and he only holds Joe when he is sitting. Hoss is very careful with our brother, and Hoss can be very gentle. He is always gentle with our baby. Marie is very grateful for our help. She told Pa so, and he was very proud. Today Hoss and I even changed Joe’s dirty diaper. Marie had fallen asleep because Joe keeps her awake at night. We did not wake her, even though it was a stinky one. I showed Hoss how to change it. I am glad that I do not have to do that as often as I did with Hoss. Hoss asked how long it will be before Joe uses the outhouse. I told him at least two years. Perhaps, you could ask God to hurry that along. It is more fun to help give Little Joe his bath. He has a bath everyday and sometimes more than one. I had nearly forgotten how messy babies are. Hop Sing has so much more laundry to do that we are helping him more with his garden. Hoss likes the garden, so that is not a bad thing. We are trying hard to get ready for the winter. It will be here soon. We shall all have more time to hold Little Joe then.

Marie is teaching me French. She writes out a lesson for me each day, even though she is very busy with Little Joe. She says my education is very important. She says she would like someone to speak with in French sometimes. We go over my lesson, and I recite to her. We have a little conversation in French. I usually hold Little Joe while we do this part. Hoss and I did learn a song in French to sing to Little Joe. It is about Frere Jacques sleeping. Sometime when we sing it, we sing Frere Joseph instead. Little Joe likes when we sing it. Hoss says it makes him smile. Pa said Joe is still too young to smile. That did not bother Hoss. Pa always says Sam cannot smile, but Hoss thinks Sam does. Hoss shrugged and said Pa is too old to see their smiles. I told Hoss he better not say that where Pa can hear. Hoss said that he is not a fool.

I have thought about Marie having more babies. I suppose it would be fine. Perhaps, it would even be nice to try having a little sister. Hop Sing said his father has thirteen children and is very happy about it. I think thirteen would be an awful lot, but four or five would not. There is room in the house, and the Ponderosa is already very big. Pa and I shall make it even bigger.

Mama, Pa is letting me help more with the cattle and horses. That is real ranch work. Hoss is helping more with the yard chores. We are growing up, Mama. Hoss still crawls into Pa’s lap though, and Pa teases that I should not get too big for my britches. Mama, sometimes Pa pulls me onto his lap like I am still as little as Hoss. He only does it when no one else is there. Pa is a big man and very strong, but he can be very gentle with his sons. You know that, Mama. He was gentle with you.

It is a happy time, Mama. Sometimes when I feel out of sorts, I just go and hold Little Joe. It is hard to feel out of sorts holding him. I agree with Hoss that he smiles at me.

Give my love to Mother for I am sending my love to you both.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

Eagle Station has decided to observe a day of thanksgiving before the snows close off the passes and make all travel difficult. The whole community will celebrate together. There will be a great feast as there was in Plymouth Colony, but we shall not be inviting our Indian neighbors. There will also be a dance, and many people will camp in town for the night. There will be games and contests during the day. It will be Little Joe’s first holiday. The circuit preacher will hold a morning service, so that we shall not forget to actually thank God. We are all very excited, especially Marie. She loves to dance and this will be the first time since she left the city that she will have many people around her. She will be able to socialize. That is a fine word, is it not? I try to learn a new word each day from one of Pa’s books or papers. Pa and Marie help me. Hoss is not as interested in learning new words and learns only those he says sound fun. Hoss is not much for lessons, Mama. He does not learn his lessons as fast as I did. I think it is that he does not care too. He learns other things very fast. Old Ned has already started to teach him to track. He is teaching me too. Mama, Hoss is as good as I am at tracking, and I think some day he will be better at it than I am. He may even be better at it than Old Ned. Hoss gets more irritable when he does lessons than he does any other time. Sometimes Marie and Pa must be very firm with him. I try to help, but sometimes he gets mad with me because I like lessons most of the time, and they are easy for me. Sometimes I get mad with him because I do not think he is trying very hard, but we do not fight about it.

Marie and Pa are arguing though. They are arguing about Little Joe’s christening. Pa said we should have Little Joe christened at the thanksgiving services. He said it would be very fitting because we are all so thankful for him. Marie does not want the preacher to baptize Little Joe. She said that her baby must be baptized a Roman Catholic and that can only be done by a priest. They had a big argument. Nothing was settled, but Little Joe will not be baptized at our thanksgiving service. I do not want Little Joe to be a Roman Catholic. I am not, and Hoss is not, so our brother should not be. I hope Marie does not turn Pa’s head about this. There are no priests nearby, so Joe cannot be baptized a Roman Catholic anytime soon. We would probably have to take him to California to be baptized by a priest. He is too little, and the winter is too close for this to happen before spring, so I think that Pa and Marie will wait to fight about it more until after Christmas.

Mama, I have started making gifts for Christmas. I know what I shall make for Pa and Hoss and Hop Sing and even Little Joe. I do not know about Marie. It would be rude and hurtful not to give her a gift. Christmas is not a time to be rude or hurtful. Perhaps you or Mother could send me an idea with my next dream. I would be grateful, Mama.

The preacher asked that the children sing at the Christmas Eve service. Miss Martha is going to teach us a song. She asked me to sing a solo part. I have not told Pa. It will be a surprise. I hope you and Mother will be able to listen when I sing.

We are well and happy, Mama. Hoss and I love you. I love Mother. Tell her so.

Your son,

Adam

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Dearest Mama,

Thank you for the idea for Marie’s present. I know you must have sent the idea to me because it was just there one morning. Hoss and I are working on Pa’s present together. I shall also let him help me with making a frame for the picture I shall paint for Marie, and then the present will be from both of us. I think that would be best. Since Little Joe will be the model, it will come from him also. He would want to give his mama a present, I know. Little Joe loves his mama very much. He loves Pa and Hoss and me too, but I think he may love his mama the most. I talked to Pa about it. He says it is not that Little Joe loves her more, but that little babies are always closest to their mothers. We did not talk about why Hoss and I had to be closest to Pa.

We have more time now for working on presents because the snows have begun. Marie had never seen snow before. She says it never gets cold enough in New Orleans to snow. She was very excited the first time it snowed. She was like a little girl. She went outside with Hoss and me. Pa came too. Pa and I fought Marie and Hoss in a snowball war. It is not insolent to hit an adult with snowballs if you are playing war. Pa and I won, but Hoss and Marie did not care. They went off and made snow angels. Then we made snowmen. Mine and Hoss’ was the biggest, but Pa and Marie’s was the fanciest. Marie even bundled up Little Joe and brought him out to see the snowmen. Marie whined more than Hoss when Pa said we had to come inside, but Pa only laughed, picked her up, and carried her into the house. I carried Little Joe, and Hoss carried Sam. Marie turned Pa’s head, so Sam is allowed to come into the house now that it is cold. Hoss has taught him to behave. He is as firm with Sam as Pa is with us. He does not go into Hop Sing’s kitchen or get on the furniture, so it is fine.

The snows did not come until after the town’s Thanksgiving. That was a very good day, Mama, and now I am thankful for Thanksgiving. We showed off Little Joe as it was the first time most of the folks had seen him. The ladies all went on about his clothes. Marie had made them, and they are very fine. Marie is very good with the needle. She does not just sew a fine seam, but does fancy things like embroidery. She says it is because the nuns insisted, but I think she likes to make beautiful things like when I draw and paint. The ladies also went on about Little Joe. Little Joe is a pretty baby, Mama. He already has a head of curls. Hoss did not have as much hair until he was almost two. Many people said he looked like an angel. Pa was puffed with pride many times that day. He was proud of Marie and of Little Joe and of Hoss and me. Many folks told him he was lucky to have a beautiful wife and three such sons. Pa said he was a very grateful man.

Hoss and I spent most of our time with the other children playing and watching the contests. Mama, Hoss and I won a piglet. We did, Mama. We worked together. The men had a greased pig contest, and then they greased a piglet for the boys to catch. Hoss had been playing with that piglet before she was greased. Hoss can hardly walk by a baby animal without trying to make friends. When everyone started chasing and trying to grab that piglet, Hoss just knelt down on the ground. I saw him and chased that piglet in his direction. The piglet ran straight up to Hoss. Hoss put his arms around the piglet and hugged. The piglet did not struggle. Hoss was whispering to her. Now Hoss and I have a piglet. We will not raise her for roasting like Hop Sing teases. She will grow up to be our breeding sow. Hoss named her Sadie. I did not even ask why. Pa came in second in the horseshoe contest, and I came in third in the footrace for boys. My friend Ross won, so that was fine. He is taller and skinnier and has longer legs. Hoss ate desserts until his stomach ached. Pa and Marie danced until Pa’s feet hurt. Pa let Marie dance with some of the other men, like the doctor. Her dancing shoes have thin souls, and one of them had a hole in it when she stopped dancing. We did not camp outside like some because we spent the night at Miss Martha’s. I could still hear the music when I fell asleep. Then you sent me a good dream. Thank you, Mama.

Old Ned thinks the first big snowstorm will come soon, so we have already strung the lines in case it is a great one. There is wood stacked in many places and the shed is full too. The barn is stuffed with hay, and the storeroom is full of supplies. Now that we are comfortable and not poor, we do not have to worry about winter so much. That is nice.

When I work on my Christmas presents, I think about what I might have given you and Mother. I would send you presents if I could. Since I cannot, I send you both my love.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

Even Marie has started to see that snow is not always a wonderful thing. If we did not have Christmas to think about, we would all be getting very irritable. Hoss and I are trying to be very good though and have not even been scolded in days. We do more lessons and work on our presents and in the evenings we sing and Pa reads out loud or tells stories. Marie tells stories too. She tells us stories about New Orleans and stories that her mama and papa told her. Some of them are very interesting. Hoss likes to hear about the alligators and other animals in the swamps. Marie had a pet alligator when she was a girl. It was only a baby, though, and just a few inches long. It was also a secret. Her mama was not happy when she found out, and Marie’s papa took it back to the swamp. Hoss asked her if she got a spanking. Marie said something in French and then shooed us to bed. I did not know all the words she used, but I think she turned her Pa’s head and did not get spanked. I told Hoss she did not, and he was glad.

Little Joe is growing bigger, but he will not ever be built like Hoss or even Pa or me. That is okay. We shall always be there if a bigger man is needed, and Hoss and I shall teach Joe to defend himself. You do not have to be the biggest to win a fight. I think Little Joe will be a quick learner, and I think he will talk much sooner than Hoss. We all talk to him when we hold him, and he makes little sounds back. I do not talk baby talk to him and do not let Hoss do it either. I want Joe to speak well, so he should hear it correctly from the first.

I practice my solo part every day. I shall not be nervous when I sing. You do not need to be nervous when you are prepared. I make Hoss practice the song also. He does not need to be nervous either. Mama, could you speak to God for me about not letting us be snowed in at Christmas. We have the sled, so some snow is fine, but ask him please for us not to have a snowstorm.

Mama, we shall have a tree like we had that Christmas with you. We have talked about our plans for Christmas. We shall do things that Pa did as a boy and some things that Marie did as a girl. The tree is from when I was little and a reminder for Hoss of your family. Pa says Mother probably did much the same things as he did, so tell Mother she will not be forgotten. Pa will read the Christmas story to us all as he did to her on their Christmas together also. Pa is going to read the Christmas story to the congregation at the Christmas Eve service. This is a wise choice. Even the people in the back of the church will be able to hear every word.

I received a letter from Grandfather Stoddard, and he sent one to Hoss also. It was the first letter that Hoss has ever received of his own. He was able to read most of it himself for Grandfather made it very simple. Grandfather said in our letters that he will be happy to be a grandfather to as many children as Pa is blessed to have. He also sent a letter to Pa. In Pa’s letter, he said that he thought Pa owed him many grandchildren for taking his first grandchild so far away. He said that Pa should bring all of his children to Boston someday. Pa does not know that I read that part of his letter. Pa reads most of Grandfather’s letters out loud to us all, but he keeps some parts for himself. He allows me to keep parts of my letters to myself also. I should not have read his letter when he was gone, but I could not keep from doing so when I saw it on the desk. I have prayed to God for forgiveness, but I know I should confess to Pa, and I cannot. I shall try to forget what I read, so it will be like I never read it. Do you think that God will think that is good enough? It is not that Pa would give me a spanking, Mama, and you know he would not keep Christmas presents from me no matter what people say about naughty children getting coal or switches. Mama, Pa would be hurt not just angry. Is it not better to not hurt Pa? If I was Roman Catholic, I could confess to a priest, and he would give me God’s forgiveness. Marie has told me about it. She would like to have a priest hear her confession and to receive communion at mass. Pa has promised to take her to California in the summer as soon as the spring work is done. California has many Catholics because of the Spanish, and there are always priests there. Maybe one day there will be more Catholics here and a priest will come sometimes. Marie hopes so.

I shall think of you and Mother at Christmas with much love. Think of me then, Mama.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

Please thank God again for me for keeping us from being snowed in at Christmas. We had a very fine Christmas. Little Joe was a little fussy, but he was good most of the time. Everyone liked the presents I made for them. Mama, Marie cried when she opened our present. My picture of the baby angel is the best painting I have ever done, and the paints Hop Sing helped me make had very fine color. You can even tell that the angel looks like Little Joe. The frame Hoss helped me make looks very well also. I explained how the present was from all three of us. Hoss was worried when Marie cried, but Pa explained that ladies cry when they are very happy also. Marie hugged Hoss and kissed him thank you. Then she hugged me and kissed my cheek. I let her, Mama. She was very happy, and Pa was very happy, and it was Christmas, so I let her.

Marie made dress shirts for Hoss and Pa and me. She gave them to us the morning before Christmas. Hoss’ shirt is blue and almost the same color as his eyes. Pa’s is white. Mine is red. Our initials are done in embroidery on them. Pa says it is called a monogram. He said that very important men have monograms on all their shirts, and Marie said that, to her, we were very important men. She gave us the shirts early, so we could wear them to the Christmas Eve service. Marie even came with us to service for the first time. In New Orleans, she would have gone to mass at midnight. We did not have our service at night but in the afternoon, so people could travel home safely after. Mama, all the children sang very well, and I sang my solo. I watched Pa’s face when I sang it. He was surprised, Mama, and he was proud. Later he said he knew Mother would be proud too. He said he thought she was listening. Were you both listening, Mama? I hope you were. Several people told Marie and Pa that I sang like an angel. Some people told Marie that Little Joe looked like an angel. Hoss heard them. Mama, he walked off and looked sad. I went to him, but he would not talk to me. I said we should go and get some hot chocolate. The church ladies had hot chocolate and cookies for after the service. While we were drinking ours, Miss Martha was talking to some ladies, and she said that Hoss was the sweetest little boy. She said that he was as sweet as an angel. I know that Hoss is not always sweet or like an angel, but I was glad she said that because Hoss heard, and it made him happy again. I guess he wanted to be like an angel if Little Joe and I were going to be like them.

We did many special things for Christmas, Mama. The tree was beautiful. Pa lit it on Christmas Eve and again Christmas night. It was very beautiful. Some of the decorations are ones you made, Mama. Marie made some new ones. We used Mother’s angel on the top. I am very glad that we never lost her angel or your decorations when we were on the trail. Hoss and I made pop corn strings and colored pine cones. Hop Sing let us put his little jade dragon on the tree also. We sang carols and hung up stockings. Hoss tried to stay awake but could not.

Christmas morning we had beignets for breakfast and cookies all day and many things for Christmas dinner including chowder which Pa said was good even though we did not have any clams, only lake fish. There was a fancy cake for dessert, and Hoss and I both ate two pieces.

We received so many presents, Mama. You would not believe. Things we did not even really need. I got four books, Mama. Two are from Grandfather Stoddard and one from Pa and one from Marie. Grandfather had sent a package when he sent our letters, but Pa had kept it a secret. Grandfather sent Hoss some toy soldiers. We played with them after dinner. He sent Little Joe an ivory teething ring. Pa got a pipe, and he even sent Marie a bottle of scent. Marie said that he must be a very fine man. Pa whispered something to her then. I did not hear what it was. The book Marie gave me is very slim and in French. It has little songs and poems for children. She said I shall soon know enough French to read them all. Mama, there was so much. Hop Sing gave us each a present. Mine was a Chinese puzzle that he made from memory. I have not solved it yet, but I shall soon.

Mama, Christmas could have been better only if you and Mother would have been there, or perhaps if Grandfather had brought his presents instead of sending them. I told Hoss about my Christmas with you after we were sent up to bed. I looked up, and Pa was there. He did not frown because I was not in my bed and we were still awake and talking. He said they were fine memories for me to share, and then he hoisted me over his shoulder and carried me to my bed. He plopped me down and tickled me like he did sometimes when I was little. Then he kissed me goodnight. It was Christmas, so I suppose it was all right for a pa to kiss his son even if the son is twelve years old.

Merry, merry Christmas to you and Mother.

Your son,

Adam

***********

Dearest Mama,

I am so ashamed. I did something very wrong, and I am ashamed. I am humiliated. I am miserable, and Pa does not even know yet. She spanked me, Mama. I did not think she would ever spank me. Mama, I threw a terrible tantrum. I shouted and told Marie that I hated her. Mama, I am very sorry, but I shoved her. She fell back onto the settee. She did not get hurt, Mama. She just fell back and sat down hard on her backside. I know, Mama, I know how bad that was of me. She said things in French and English. I could not think enough to understand even what she said in English. Then she took me up to Pa’s room and paddled my backside with her hairbrush. She said I must stay here and wait for Pa to come home. He is with the hands taking feed out to the stock. She said I must be the one to tell Pa what I did. Oh, Mama, how shall I ever be able to tell him!

I told Pa. It was very hard, and I cried, but I told him, and we talked. He did not punish me. He said he forgave me. I apologized to Marie, and she said I was forgiven. She said that the snows and the cold have kept us all too much inside. She said that is what makes us all so irritable and quick-tempered. I still do not feel good inside. Hoss came and fussed at me and told me I had made his mama cry. You are his real mama. Did I make you cry with shame? Pa said sometimes when you do wrong, the only thing you can do about it is to be sorry and say so. I wish there was a way for me to take back what I said and did, but there is not. I hope no one ever tells Little Joe that I laid hands on his mama. I do not want to see the look in his eyes that I saw in Hoss’ eyes. I shall try to be good to Marie to make amends. I shall think of a penance. Marie told me once about doing penance. I shall do a penance, and then maybe I shall not feel so guilty inside.

Mama, I want to tell Marie that I did not mean what I said, but I did mean it when I said it. I do not mean it now. I only meant it when I was angry. I think she could see that I meant it then and might not believe me if I tell her I do not hate her. Mama, I use to wish there was a way that Marie could leave forever. I do not wish that anymore not even when I am very angry. Little Joe would not have his mama if Marie went away. I never want Little Joe not to have his mama, and Hoss thinks of her like a mama too.

I shall do a penance and make amends, Mama. Everyone will be less irritable when the snows are gone, and it is spring. Things will be happier then.

Ask God to make the spring come early this year, please, Mama. Tell Mother I shall try to be a better boy. I love you, Mama.

Your son,

Adam

***********

Dearest Mama,

Marie has turned Pa’s head, and she has turned it for me. Oh, Mama, she convinced Pa to buy me a real riding horse. We have many cow horses for riding and working the cattle, but this horse is for me alone, and she is not a cattle horse. She is like riding the wind when she gallops. Pa will not let me gallop much, but, Mama, you cannot know how wonderful she is to ride. Pa has always said that a ranch needs only working horses, but then Marie brought her horse to the Ponderosa, and she is not a working horse. When I saw her, Mama, I wanted her so much. I did not actually ask Pa for her, but he and Marie could see that I wanted her. Marie talked to Pa, and the next thing I knew, he said that I could have her. She is not even a Christmas or birthday present. She is just a gift from my parents. I heard only part of what Marie said to Pa. She said that Pa only rides because he needs to do so and never finds joy in it. She said I was like her and could find joy in the riding of a proper horse. She said I should have that joy. She said we could save on something else. She said other things, and then Pa said yes. She turned Pa’s head, Mama, and I am so very glad.

When Hoss fussed because I was getting a riding horse and he was not, it was Marie who talked to him. She told him he could choose a horse when he was of an age, but that he must wait. Hoss said it was not fair. She told him it was because I had waited for more years than he has been alive. She told him he could not sulk about it and ruin my happiness. She was very firm. Pa said that Marie was right and that Hoss would get his turn later. Hoss nodded and said that Little Joe would have an even longer wait.

When we were looking at my horse, Marie said she was a thing of beauty. I named her Beauty, Mama. I shall take all the care of her, and she is mine. Pa put my name on the bill of sale. He made many rules about my riding her, but I do not care. I think if I go riding with Marie, we will gallop our horses. Marie loves to ride fast, even though Pa fusses. I shall be safe though, Mama. You and Mother do not need to worry.

I send my love to you and Mother. Tell her to watch with you when I ride Beauty.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

I may not ride Beauty for two whole weeks! I do not know how I shall manage to feed and tend her every day knowing that I may not ride her. I may not ride her because I broke Pa’s rules and raced her when I was riding with Ross. We also went further than Pa had said we could, and Old Ned saw us. Old Ned did not tattle. He did not know we were not to be there or that Pa said I may not gallop Beauty without Pa being there and giving specific permission. It was safe to run Beauty in the meadow where we were. I would not risk hurting Beauty running her where it was not safe. This did not matter to Pa. He said Ross and I had disobeyed by going there and for that we both got a spanking. He said I knew the rules about galloping and that is why I may not ride Beauty for two weeks. I hoped Marie might try to turn his head for me, so at least it would not be for so long, but she did not.

I am helping Pa about the ranch much more this spring than ever before. Hoss is big and strong and is doing more of the yard chores that I use to do. Little Joe is growing more all the time. He babbles back when you talk to him. He is beginning to get his teeth, and I am glad that Grandfather sent him that teething ring. Even so, teething makes him fussy, and he cries even more than usual. Hoss and I have decided to work on teaching him to talk as soon as possible, so that he will not need to cry for things so much. Sometimes it is fun having a baby, but sometimes it a pain in the behind. It was a pain in Hoss’ behind when he took Little Joe outside without permission to show him some squirrels. Marie was not pleased. She found Hoss sitting in a mud puddle with a naked Little Joe patting mud pies. Little Joe got a bath, and Hoss got a paddling. The funny thing, Mama, is that one time I took baby Hoss to play in the mud without asking Pa, and I was the one that got the spanking that time. I told Hoss about it, and he did not feel so bad about his own paddling.

I think Marie and Pa may be fussing about Little Joe’s christening again, but they do not do it in front of me or Hoss. If California and the priests were not so far away, I am afraid there would be much greater fussing.

Mama, I want to ride Beauty. I do not want to be in trouble with Pa. It is far too soon to even think about risking another spanking for disobedience. I shall not be able to ride her for two whole weeks, and I must make the best of it.

I love and miss you, Mama. I love and miss Mother too.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

I did it because I thought it must be done. Sometimes one must just do what must be done. I spoke to the preacher. He did not know why I was asking about baptizing and who could do it. He said mostly preachers do the baptizing, but if there is a need, any good Christian can baptize another and bring them to God. Hoss and I have brought Joseph Francis Cartwright to God.

You see, Mama, I have heard some of the fuss between Pa and Marie, even though they have tried not to argue in front of Hoss and me. Marie has tried to turn Pa’s head so that Little Joe would be a Catholic. Pa has not agreed because he does not want his son to be of a religion that he is not. I agree with Pa. My little brother should not be a Catholic when Pa and Hoss and I are not. I did agree with Marie, though, that Little Joe needed to be baptized and brought to God, and I started to worry that he had not been. Hoss and I were both brought to God. I worried about it a lot, and I spoke to the preacher about baptizing and christening, and I prayed, Mama. God will tell you that I prayed a lot. Then I decided I must do it. Little Joe needed a sponsor to speak for him. Since I would be doing the baptizing, I needed Hoss to be the sponsor. I explained to him that our brother’s immortal soul was in danger, and he agreed we had to do it even though I do not think he understands about immortal souls.

We tried to do it right. We were very careful with our brother. Hoss held Little Joe the whole way while I drove the smallest wagon into town. We did it on a Sunday, and we did it at the church tent. It was a Sunday when the preacher was not there to hold service, and it was very early in the morning. We baptized Joseph Francis, and now he is a child of God. He is not a Catholic, and Marie and Pa do not have to fuss any longer. Everything is settled, but what Pa will do to me.

I left a note because I knew that Pa and Marie would find us gone when they rose for breakfast, and I did not want them to fear that we had all been snatched away. We were headed back when we meet Pa and Marie on the road. I told them right then and there what we had done. I said I could not be sorry for bringing Little Joe to God. Pa and Marie did not yell. I think they were the angry that goes beyond yelling. Marie rode off without a word. Pa tied his horse to the wagon and drove us home. He sent us to our rooms and asked Hop Sing to watch Little Joe. He rode off. I think he went to find Marie. I am waiting to see how I shall be punished when Pa gets back. Mama, I do not think Pa and Marie are angry with Hoss because he is only six. They know that it was my doing.

It does not matter how I am punished. I shall not be sorry that I baptized Little Joe. It had to be done. God knows that even though I broke the commandment to honor your father and mother that I was just bringing my baby brother to Him. It is hard waiting, though. That is why I wrote to you. I love you, Mama. I wish you were here to hold me.

Your son,

Adam

************

Dearest Mama,

Pa did not punish me for baptizing Little Joe. He could not bring himself to punish me for bringing a soul to God. He did not tan me. For taking my brothers and the wagon to town without permission, I was confined to my room for four days except for meals and chores. I could not write to you about it before because Pa took all my books, paper, and pens out of my room. It was not so that I could not write to you. Pa does not know that I write to you. It was so that I could not draw when I was confined to my room. It was a very long four days, Mama, but Pa has forgiven me. I think part of Pa is glad that Little Joe is baptized but not a Catholic. Marie does not feel that way. She has not forgiven me. Pa and I have talked about how Marie feels. Pa says that some priests say that only baptized Catholics can go to Heaven. Pa said that some preachers say only people from certain religions can go to Heaven. I asked Pa what he believes. He said he believes God’s word that anyone who believes in Him through Jesus and is baptized has eternal life in Heaven. I believe with Pa. You were baptized Lutheran, and you are in Heaven. Mother was baptized Episcopalian, and she is in Heaven. I know you are both in Heaven, and I read the verses in the Bible that Pa showed me, so I believe with him. It worries Marie, though. She was raised to believe the priests, and so it worries her that it might be so. I am not sorry that I baptized Little Joe, but I am sorry that I brought her this worry because it would be awful to worry that Little Joe could not go to Heaven. I hope Pa can help her not to worry. Pa has told her that if she goes to a Mass, she may take Little Joe with her and that she can teach Little Joe about the Roman Catholic religion. When Little Joe is grown, he can ask to become a Roman Catholic if he wants and the priests can make him one. Pa says every man has a right to choose his own church. Until then, Little Joe shall go to our church with Pa, and Hoss, and me. Pa said he has decided to have a formal christening next month when the preacher is here. We shall also have a big party to celebrate. The party will be nice, but I know that Little Joe is already a child of God. Hoss and I shall stand up and speak for Little Joe. We are his big brothers, so it is right that we speak for him. The reverend may think Hoss is too young to speak for Joe, but Pa and I shall tell him that Hoss believes in God as strong as anyone and is very serious about being a child of God.

Marie and Pa were not angry with Hoss, and he was not punished at all. I am glad they understood it was my doing and did not punish him. I shall tell Marie that I am sorry for her worry. Perhaps she will forgive me after a time.

Mama, perhaps you could talk to God or one of the archangels about letting all priests and preachers know about all Christians going to Heaven.

I shall try and be extra good for a while. I send my love to you and Mother.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

Pa and I went hunting. We went for three whole days just the two of us. It has been a very long time since Pa and I were alone together. We had a very good time. I shot a deer, and Pa got an elk. We brought the meat home to Hop Sing. We camped for two nights. Pa’s cooking is not as good as Hop Sing’s, but we ate a lot anyway, and Hop Sing had sent some things with us. We even went swimming one afternoon though the water was very cold, and we could not stay in for long. We talked about many things, Mama.

Pa said Marie understands why I baptized Little Joe and is not angry about it anymore. I think she has mostly forgiven me for that and is starting to believe with me and Pa about all Christians going to Heaven. I have tried to be respectful to her to show her that I did not do it out of disrespect. She would have a right to stay angry if I had done it out of disrespect.

I am trying not to be sassy with my mouth. The last person I sassed was Hop Sing, and he swatted me with his wooden spoon. We were on the back porch, and two of the hands saw him swat my behind. Hop Sing went right back inside, but I did not. I heard the new hand tell Clyde that it was wrong for Hop Sing to swat me because he is Chinese. The hand did not say it that nicely. He used crude and nasty words. I started to say something to him, but they were walking away, and Pa called me. I did not say anything to Pa then, but I talked to him about it while we were camping. Mama, Hop Sing has helped to take care of Hoss and me for years. He loves us and Little Joe and Pa and even Marie some though he does not say so in words. We love him. He wants us to grow up to be good men and has always done what he can to see to that. He is an adult who cares about us, so it should not matter that he is Chinese. I should speak to him only with respect. I deserved that swat. Truly, I would rather that he swatted me than that he waited and tattled to Pa. Old Ned has swatted my behind for being sassy before, but only once. Of course that is because I have never sassed him again. Not sassing can be very hard for me, but I am trying because you should not show disrespect with your mouth to people who you really do respect. I am not allowed to be disrespectful to even adults that I do not respect like that hand, but I do not try as hard with them. Hoss does not have the same trouble as I do with sassing people. I wonder if Little Joe will have less trouble or if he will have more.

When we came home, everyone was very glad to see us. I knew that Hoss would miss Pa and me. He begged to go with us and then sulked until Pa was firm with him. Then Marie said she needed him to be the man of the house for her. Marie told Pa that Hoss had done a good job being the man of the house and helping her with Little Joe. She said that Little Joe missed Pa and that he missed me. Little Joe babbles all of the time and is crawling around. He is starting to get into mischief even though he is too young to know he is in it. There must be two eyes on him all the time when he is awake. Hoss says he is getting to be more and more fun. Hoss and I talk sometimes about what we shall teach Little Joe as he gets bigger. I shall teach him to ride. Well, I suppose Marie will teach him some about riding too, but I shall teach him the most.

I have only been caught breaking Pa’s rules about riding Beauty twice. You know the first time I could not ride her for two weeks. That was very miserable for me and for Beauty too. The next time I was caught it was Marie who caught me. Pa had said I would lose the privilege of riding Beauty for three weeks if I broke the rules again. Mama, I asked Marie to please not tell Pa. This is the only time I have asked her not to tell Pa about a misbehavior. I do not want to be beholden to her for not telling, but I could not bear to not ride Beauty for three weeks. She did not tell Pa, but she did not let me off free. She said I must know that I cannot break the rules with impunity. That is what she said that I cannot break the rules with impunity because they are for my safety. I took a paddling from her, Mama. That was not as bad as not riding Beauty for three weeks, but it was enough that I have not broken the rules again. Marie is a little woman and does not look strong, but she can do a thorough job of paddling. When I was Hoss’ age, I thought I would not worry about spankings when I was twelve because they would not bother me. I was wrong. I hope that I am not wrong thinking that I will soon be too old for spankings or paddlings or even tannings. Perhaps it will be when I am fourteen or fifteen. Pa says it will be never when it comes to him, but I know he is teasing when he says that.

I think it was good that Pa and I had a chance to go hunting together. Pa said he will take just Hoss for an overnight trip. This will be good for Hoss. He has never really had Pa to himself very much. Marie could turn Pa’s head and say no to his going off I think, but she has not.

Mama, I do not mind as much when Marie is in charge because Pa is not to home. She is not mean. Even when I do not like how she does, I know she is not being mean. She and I ride together sometimes. We have our French lessons. I am not just making the best of things when we do. I like our rides and our lessons. I suppose this is a good thing.

Remember that I love you and Mother always. Tell her so for me.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

Did you know that I have been very ill? Did you ask God to make me well? I am going to be fine, Mama. The doctor says that I shall be fine, and I have no more fever. I am weak and cannot get out of bed for a few more days. That is mostly because I could not eat when I had the fever. I was very ill.

When I started to feel ill, I did not tell Pa. I tried to hide that I did not feel well because I wanted to go to the roundup with Pa. I was in the barn when I became truly ill. I cannot write what happened, Mama. It only happened because I was ill and could not control it. I was sick, and I was humiliated, and I was praying no one would ever know. Then Marie came into the barn. I could not hide from her, and she saw what had happened. She came to me. She did not make me more embarrassed, Mama. She knew that I was sick, and she knew I was humiliated. She helped me into the house. She walked with her arm around my waist and held her skirt, so no one else would see or know. She took me to my room. After I changed, she took my clothes and said she would wash them herself so that even Hop Sing would not know. She said she would not tell Pa. She said she would not, even though she is his wife and does not like to keep secrets from him. After I was in bed, she sent for Pa and for the doctor.

I was ill for almost two weeks. I do not remember much about those weeks. I had a great fever and was sick in other ways. I could keep almost nothing in me. Pa and Marie and Hop Sing nursed me. Hoss was not allowed into my room, and Little Joe was kept away. The doctor says we are very lucky that no one else on the Ponderosa became ill. Some people in town did, and two of them died, but they did not have such good nursing as I had. I had very odd dreams while I was with fever, and Pa admitted that I was delirious some of the time. Pa said they all prayed very hard. God must have heard them because I am getting well and shall be fine. I should be totally well long before my birthday. Pa has gone to join the roundup now that it is sure that I shall be well and my brothers will not get sick. I shall miss the roundup. Pa says there is always next year. One thing about having been ill that is not so bad is that I can be irritable and even sassy without even being scolded. The only thing Pa is very firm about is following doctor’s orders. Marie said she will be very firm about doctor’s orders too. I must eat, take my medicine, and not get out of bed. Hoss will be allowed to come in and see me tomorrow, and if I am good, Marie will bring Little Joe to see me tomorrow too. I miss my brothers now that I am not with fever.

Mama, something happened while I was ill, and I know it was not part of my fever or only in my mind. There were times when I knew what was going on around me, and I know that this was one of them, even though Marie does not know that I saw and heard her. It was not eavesdropping, Mama, because I was too ill to let her know that I could hear. Marie told God that she loves me. She said it when she was holding her rosary. She said it with the cross of Jesus in her hand. One does not lie to God with a cross in hand. She said she loves me, Mama. She did not just ask Him to make me well or tell Him that Pa and Hoss and Joe love me. She said she loves me. I believe that she does, Mama. I believe it because of how she was when she found me in the barn. Her eyes had love in them. I knew that she would probably love Hoss because he is easy to love. She loves Little Joe very much, but then he is her son, and he is easy to love too. I have not always given her reasons to love me, Mama, but she does. Pa told me that Mother would not mind that you loved me, and I believed him. I really cannot see you not wanting Marie to love me. I hope the two of you do not mind that Marie loves me now. I love you and Mother very much. Do not worry that I shall not get well.

Your son,

Adam

***********

Dearest Mama,

Pa and Marie will not have to travel to California to see a priest. The other day in town Pa heard of a priest who will be passing through on the way to California. This is most unusual but very good. He will not be passing through the Ponderosa, but Pa will take Marie to see him. He will hear her confession and give her communion. There was talk about who all would go. It was decided that only Marie and Pa would go. The priest does not need to baptize Little Joe, so he does not need to go. It is a hard trip, and it is best that my little brothers do not go. I shall need to stay home and take care of them. They will miss Pa and Marie very much, so they will need me. Since only Pa and Marie are going, they can ride and not take a wagon. This will make the trip faster. Miss Martha has said she will come and help Hop Sing take care of Little Joe and look after Hoss and me. I do not think we really need to have her come, for they will be gone only a week, and I could see to everything, but I like Miss Martha, so her coming will be fine. Miss Martha said that it is good for a husband and wife to have some time alone together now and then. I told Hoss that he may not fuss about Pa and Marie going off without us. I told him he must help me keep Little Joe from being too sad. I do not think that Pa and Marie would have made the long trip to California, even though Marie feels much need to see a priest. She has already sniffled some about not seeing Little Joe for the time this trip will take. She said she will miss her boys very much, but she feels the need to get God’s body and his forgiveness. I told her not to worry because we would be fine.

They will be back long before my birthday, Mama. Pa would not go if they would be gone for my birthday. I am glad the priest is coming now and not then.

Mama, would you please speak to God about keeping Pa and Marie safe on their trip. Will you and Mother watch over them too? I would not worry as much if you would.

Remember I love you, Mama, and tell Mother I love her.

Your son,

Adam

**********

 

Dearest Mama,

Pa and Marie are safely back. Marie feels much better for having seen the priest. She heard Mass and took communion three times. Priests say mass everyday, not just on Sunday. Pa said they had a good trip. There were no problems. I am glad. There were no problems here either. Hop Sing, Old Ned, Miss Martha, and I took care of everything. Miss Martha told Pa how good we all had been, even though Little Joe cried a lot and needed much tending. Old Ned told Pa I was a big help and would soon know how to run a ranch all on my own. Hoss and Little Joe missed Pa and Marie very much. The first night, I took Little Joe into my bed because he was crying. Hoss crawled in with us too. It was crowded, but none of us felt alone, and they did not have to be scared because they were with their big brother. We slept together most nights. Miss Martha and Hop Sing tried to make it a good time for us, even though we missed our folks. Hop Sing made special treats, and Miss Martha was good to us and let us do some fun things. She even had a treasure hunt for us. We found the treasure. There was candy and three copper pennies, one for each of us. Little Joe is not even one, and he now has money of his own.

Mama, I am to have a party on my birthday. I think Marie may have turned Pa’s head. Marie is much in favor of parties. To think that we shall have had two parties in one year is almost unthinkable. Marie says to turn thirteen is special. She says I must have a party. She said that when I went to her and said I was not sure I should have a birthday party. I told her we had had a party for Little Joe’s christening and another party would be too much. She said Little Joe’s party should not keep me from having mine. She said we could save elsewhere if need be. She said the party would not have to be too costly but just fun. Mama, I told her I was not sure that there should be a party on the day Mother went to Heaven. She said mothers want their sons to be happy and have happy times. She said she did not think my mother would want me to be sad on my birthday. You made me a cake on my birthday and celebrated to make me happy, so you must think like Marie. Pa must think so too now, as he has said I shall have a party. Please ask Mother if she will be hurt. If I need not to have the party, you can let me know. We had some happy times even when we were missing Pa. If we have a happy time on my birthday, it does not mean that we do not miss Mother.

Give my love to Mother and remember always I love you both.

Your son,

Adam

**********

Dearest Mama,

I am thirteen. My birthday was a very special day. We had beignets again at breakfast. That has become a family tradition. It is one I like very much. Little Joe had a beignet. He gnawed on it for most of the morning. They are very good when they are warm and soft. They are not so good when they grow cold and rubbery, but Joe gnawed on it for hours and smiled the whole time.

After breakfast Pa took me for a ride, just me alone. Everyone else was getting things ready for the party. Pa even raced with me. When we stopped, we talked about Mother. Pa told me a story about her that he has never told me before. We remembered her. Pa still has love for Mother. He said that love for one person need never stop love for another. Pa still has love for you also, and you know that I love Mother and you both. We remembered Mother, and it was not a sad time.

When we got back, the family had a private little lunch before our guests arrived. The family gave me my presents. Pa and Marie gave me a fine saddle. It is beautiful, Mama, and Beauty likes that she looks so fine in it. Hoss braided a lariat for me, and said that Little Joe helped. Many people gave me presents, Mama. They did not have to do that. It was far too much for one boy. My party was not as big as the christening party, but you are only christened once and a person has a birthday every year. We put a half of a steer on a spit in the yard. The hands came to eat and party and so did seven neighbor families and some people from town like Miss Martha and Doctor Martin. Even the new Sheriff came, and people joked about him keeping the peace. The hands went in together and brought me a new bridle to match my new saddle, and Hop Sing gave me a new saddle blanket. It is all so fine and what a horse like Beauty deserves. I have new books to read and fine drawing paper and pens. I thanked everyone, Mama, and I meant every word. I am very grateful.

Little Joe likes people, Mama. He went to everyone. He has started to say words, Mama. He says pa and mama. He says my name and Hoss’ but not all the way. He has words for some other things. Soon he shall say them correctly. He showed off his words and his steps to everyone. He stands and takes steps if you hold him up. He tried to crawl everywhere, so it was good that there were so many eyes on him. Little Joe has Marie’s smile, Mama. Pa will have a hard time seeing that he is not a spoiled child. I shall have to help him. Cartwrights do not spoil children. Pa has said that Grandfather Cartwright said those very words, so he would not want his namesake to be a spoiled child. I think Marie might spoil Joe some if Pa were not here. She might spoil Hoss some too and even me a little perhaps. My party was spoiling me some. I think Marie likes to do some things that are indulgent. She can be firm though even with Little Joe. She is firm mainly when we might get hurt or hurt another. The day before my birthday she had to spank Hoss for wandering. It was better for Hoss that Marie was the one who spanked him. She only used her hand, and it is much smaller than Pa’s.

Six of the families stayed the night, and there were people sleeping all over the floors. Ross slept in my room with me, and Pa did not fuss even though we talked and laughed long after we were to be asleep. It was my birthday that is why Pa indulged us. Ross is almost a year older than I am. He is sweet on a girl named Delphine. He says he is not, but he is. He danced with her at my party. I danced with her too, but I am not sweet on her like Ross.

Mama, you and Pa use to talk about how fine it would be when we came to our own land in the West. Pa has said that he and Mother did the same. When it was hard on the trail, Pa would tell me about our dream. On my birthday, Mama, it felt like a dream, but it was real. Everything is not always right or happy, but it was on my thirteenth birthday. I wanted you to know, Mama. You and Mother were right. I love you both. Tell Mother about my birthday.

Your thirteen-year-old son,

Adam

***********

Dearest Mama,

I go to be tutored once a week. Mr. Emerson is my tutor. He is an educated man and went to a university in England. Pa knows why he came West, but I do not, though I heard Pa say the words “remittance man” to Marie. He is here in our town, and I go to him each Saturday afternoon. Pa will not allow me to ride in alone. Most often he goes with me and does business while I study. If he cannot go, one of the hands goes with me. Mr. Emerson demands my best effort. He sets lessons for me to do during the week, and they had best all be done. I enjoy my tutoring, though, and my lessons have always been done. Pa pays him, and I would not want to waste Pa’s money. He would not be pleased if I did. I am studying some things that boys who will go to college learn. I think Pa is proud when Mr. Emerson says I do well. Mr. Emerson said that I have the intellect to do well at college if I went. I could tell Pa was proud when he heard that. I am not preparing to go to college, but it is still good to learn things that would help me go like boys back East do. It is not an extravagance for me to be tutored. Pa said education is never an extravagance. He believes in it. Marie did not have to turn his head about it, but she does not think education is an extravagance either. I think she might have thoughts of Little Joe going to college. There is a college in New Orleans, and she might think that he could one day go there.

My little brothers are growing fast. Little Joe is almost one, and Hoss is already seven. The Ponderosa is growing too. There are many ways for us to make money, and Pa is very good at business. I am learning things from him about business. There are many things in life to learn. Hoss is learning too, but he prefers to learn different things like tracking and how to care for animals. He helps Old Ned with sick and hurt animals. He has brought home hurt birds and squirrels and even a baby raccoon and nursed them. He is very good with animals. Pa says he gets that from you. Little Joe likes horses, Mama. As little as he is, he likes them. I suppose that is because of Marie and her father and grandfather.

Mama, I have been trying hard to be good and have not been very sassy. I am thirteen now and should be more mature. My temper can be a problem though; I got into a fist fight with Ross. He said I was flirting with Delphine. I was not. I got a black eye, so I had to tell Pa. He was not pleased. Little Joe is just a baby, but he has a temper already. He can throw a great tantrum when he is in a temper. Even Hoss can lose his temper. Hoss got into a fight after church last Sunday. He saw a boy being mean to a cat and ordered him to stop. The boy laughed and hurt the cat again. Hoss lost his temper. The boy is older, but Hoss is bigger, and he is stronger. Hoss won the fight, but he did not win with Pa. He was in much trouble with Pa, and even Marie could not turn Pa’s head. Pa said Hoss should not have fought and that he could have told an adult to stop the boy. I shall be sure to never fight in the churchyard on Sunday. I tried to talk in Hoss’ favor to Pa. Pa said that it is very important for Hoss to learn to control his temper and not fight. I told him Hoss is only seven. I told Pa sometimes he did not even control his temper. I do not think my talking to Pa helped Hoss. Marie told me that Pa worries more about Hoss keeping his temper because Hoss will be a very strong man. I suppose Pa is right, but Hoss was very sad when he was in such trouble with Pa.

When no one is in a temper, things are very good. Do not think that we are in a temper all the time or that Hoss and I get into much trouble. Mostly we are good. We help each other and mind our elders. We help take care of Little Joe. Little Joe smiles and giggles as much as he cries. We try to make Pa proud. We have times when we play and even times when Pa or Marie play too. Pa even forgets sometimes that I am not a little boy and hugs or kisses me. I know he loves me and Hoss and Little Joe. I think he loves each of us as much as a pa could love a son. I have heard people in town say that we are the apple of pa’s eye. There is a man in town whose wife is dead. He has two sons. He is mean to them, Mama. I feel sad for them. Pa would never be mean to us that way. I am grateful to God for giving me to Pa as his son.

I am grateful that I am your son, and that I am Mother’s son. I love you both always.

Your son,

Adam

***********

Dearest Mama,

There is something I must tell you. I think that I have known it for a while, but I have just come to think it to myself.

Mama, I was with Old Ned. It had been a bad morning. I had already had a fuss with Pa and one with Marie. I had even been irritable with Hoss and gotten a scolding for hollering at Little Joe. He can pester and plague sometimes, Mama, but he is just a baby, and I knew that I should not have hollered at him. Knowing that did not make me behave better that afternoon. I sassed Old Ned. I sassed him straight out. I had my back to him, and he swatted my behind hard. It was not the swat, Mama. I can take a swat to my behind without crying. Old Ned saw the tears in my eyes and thought they were his fault. He stepped behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. He said he would have done the same if I was his boy or his grandson. I know I am thirteen, Mama, but when he turned me toward him, I buried my face in his shirt and cried. Old Ned patted my back. When I stopped, he asked me what was wrong. We talked. He said all folks have bad days. Old Ned will never tell the other hands that I cried.

Mama, Old Ned was the first hand that came to help us build the Ponderosa. He had a wife and a son and a daughter once, but they were killed. He has no family now, but the Ponderosa is his home. Old Ned takes time with Hoss and me and teaches us and talks to us and listens to us. He loves us though he has never said so to me, but then Hop Sing has never said he loves us, not in English anyway. To Old Ned, I think we are like the grandsons that his son could never give him. Hoss and I love him, though only Hoss has told him so, and Hoss was very little then. I was thinking that afternoon about the fact that I love Old Ned, even though some would say he is not a lovable sort. I am not writing to tell you I love Old Ned. Thinking of Old Ned started more thinking.

Mama, I love Old Ned, and I love Hop Sing. I like Miss Martha very much, but I do not love her. Mr. Emerson teaches me and talks with me, and I take correction from him. If I was sassy or did not do my lessons, I would take punishment from him. Still, I do not love him and simply never will. I do not know why there is love with some people and not with others. Perhaps, you must be much older to know that.

Mama, I love Marie. I do not know when this came to be, but it is true. I have not told anyone else, Mama. You had to be the first I told. I started to love you that day when you came to the boarding house to give me my medicine and let me listen to Mother’s music box. I knew I loved you before Pa asked you to marry him. Remember, Mama, the first time I told you I loved you? I do not love you less, Mama. I do not love, Mother less. I just love Marie too. It is not that she lives in our house or that she makes Pa happy or that she is my brothers’ mama. I guess you love someone or you do not. I did not think I could love her. I did not even want to love another mother, but I do. It is not the same as the way I love you, but then the way I love you is not the same as the way I love Mother or anyone else.

Pa will be very happy when I tell him that I love Marie. I think that Hoss may already know because Hoss knows some things with his heart. Little Joe is too young to know that a person might not love someone. I do not think that my loving her means that I shall not get angry or think hateful thoughts about Marie ever again, but it will not be the same as if I did not love her. We shall forgive each other like Pa and I always forgive each other because there is love.

Mama, I hope you and Mother do not mind. Please do not mind that I love Marie. She is not a mother who will cuddle me. You are the mother who cuddled me. Mother was the mother who carried me and loved me even then. Marie is the mother who turns Pa’s head for me sometimes and tells me I could go to college and who I shall ask about what a girl likes to hear from a boy.

Very long ago before we even came to the Ponderosa, I heard a woman say something about a man. I did not understand it then and do not remember who she was or why she said it, but I remembered it just now. She said that the man had not had enough people he loved. She did not say that he did not have enough people love him, but that he did not have enough people he loved. I have many people who love me even though some have already gone to Heaven. I have many people who I love. I do not want to be like that man who did not love enough people. I shall love Marie. I think loving people is truly making the best of things.

Always you son,

 

2 thoughts on “Letters to Inger (by DJK)”

  1. I truly enjoyed these letters from Adam to Inger and the window they offered into life in the Cartwright family with Marie. Adam was a wise young man!

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