Wisdom Comes With Age (by Patina)

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Summary: All Adam wanted was a quiet evening at home to mark his birthday. Was that too much to ask?

Rating: K+     Word Count=5209

Disclaimer: I don’t own the Cartwrights or Bonanza. No copyright infringement is intended. Original plot and characters are property of the author. This story is for entertainment and no money was made from it.

Reviews from the Old Library are on the last page.

 

Wisdom Comes With Age

“C’mon, Adam—it’s your birthday,” said Hoss. All we we’re suggestin’ is goin’ into town for a few beers.”

“What’s wrong with spending a quiet evening at home, enjoying a book and a glass or two of wine?”

“We never said anythin’ was wrong with it, Older Brother. We jest thought bein’ with other people would be better than stayin’ here all by yer lonesome.”

“Hoss is right. Pa wouldn’t want you to spend your birthday with your nose buried in a book. ‘Sides, he’d probably suggest a night out if he was here.”

“Well he’s here not since the Cattleman’s meeting won’t be over until tomorrow. If you two want to go celebrate my birthday, go right ahead.” Adam re-opened his book, assuming that the discussion was over.

Realizing they were never going to make any headway with persuasion, Hoss decided to change tactics. He shifted his weight and lightly nudged Joe with an elbow. “Let’s go on without him. After all, he’s another year older and’ll have ta turn in early ta be rested up fer chores tomorrow.”

Joe snickered through his nose while Adam sighed loudly from behind his book. Hoss’s eyes glittered in amusement at his brother’s crumbling resolve.

Closing the book, Adam said, “Fine. If it means you two are buying, let’s go before your money burns through your pockets.”

Adam trudged up the stairs to get his wallet. Once in his room, he checked himself in the mirror and ran the back of his fingers over the stubble along his jaw. They were only going into town for a couple of beers, not to a dance, so there wasn’t any point in shaving. Turning a bit to the side, he pulled his shoulders back and took in his appearance. Not too bad for a man of thirty.

His thoughts turned to his father. By the time Pa was thirty, he’d been a seaman, worked odd jobs, traveled West, and built an empire out of the wilderness. He’d also been married three times and widowed twice. Pa had had experiences that most people only go through once in a lifetime.

What had he accomplished in thirty years? He’d helped raise two brothers, helped his father build an empire, attended university, and remained single. He brushed a hand through his hair and then struck a rather Napoleonic pose with his palm laid flat against his chest. With narrowed eyes, he again took in his appearance—tall, trim, muscular, broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, and in need of a shave.

Hoss entered Joe’s room with a large hand clamped over his nose and mouth. His face was beginning to redden from the effort of not laughing aloud.

Joe was finishing his preening and was liberally applying cologne. “What’s gotten into you?”

Hoss pinched his nose before removing his hand, hoping he’d be able to contain his laughter. A snort came out and he again covered his nose. Sure that he could keep from breaking into a guffaw, he began to whisper about their older brother admiring himself in the mirror. A giggle broke forth as he described what he’d seen and Joe’s high-pitched laughter was soon echoing through the second floor.

A knock at the door got their attention. They turned around to see the object of their amusement.

“If you two popinjays are ready, let’s go.”

The clomp of Adam’s boots on the stairs let them know they were alone. Joe broke into loud laughter again as Hoss demonstrated their brother’s pose before the mirror. Hoss wiped tears from his eyes as Joe joined him in the same pose.

“We . . . we bet . . . better get go . . . goin’ before . . . he chan . . . changes his mind.”

Finally regaining control, they hurried downstairs hoping their older brother hadn’t decided to stay home. With relief, they saw he was strapping on his gunbelt.

“Care to share what’s so funny?”

“It was nothin’,” said Joe, reaching for his gunbelt. Feeling his brother’s eyes, he looked up and said, “We were just laughing about Charlie Higgins and that cologne he wore that left him smelling like a distillery.”

Adam’s only response was a skeptically raised eyebrow as he jammed his hat on his head.

Hoss reached for his own gunbelt and practically shoved Joe through the open door. He’d only wanted their older brother to get out of the house and spend his birthday with other people rather than all alone. When they got to town, the first round would be on him.

With a jerk of his thumb, Adam said, “I guess you two weren’t going to take no for an answer tonight.” Sport, Chubb, and Cochise were saddled and waiting for their riders at the hitching rail.

*

Adam lightly brushed dust from his black sleeves as they entered the Silver Dollar. He saw the place was packed—miners and cowboys spending their pay in town on a Friday night. Several of the girls were already parked on men’s laps, sipping drinks and laughing loudly at poorly told jokes. A couple of beers and then he could go back home, to peace and quiet; Hoss and Joe could stay and while the night away if they so desired.

“What’ll it be, boys?” asked Cosmo, leaning over the sturdy bar.

“Three beers,” said Hoss as he reached into a pocket. “It’s Adam’s birthday.”

“Well happy birthday, Adam,” said Cosmo before getting the beers.

As soon as Joe had his in hand, he raised it in a salute and said, “Happy birthday to the best older, older brother a guy could have.”

“Happy birthday,” said Hoss, raising his glass.

Adam, turning pink with embarrassment, raised his glass and said, “Thanks.”

With a toast out of the way, Joe headed for one of the poker games.

Adam leaned against the bar, his back to the room, intent on enjoying his beer. He thought he might as well stay for an hour or two to offset the ride home.

Hoss leaned against the bar and took in the scene before him. The Silver Dollar was always a beehive of activity when cowhands and miners had money to spend. Cowhands crowded at tables telling stories of bronc busting and roping to each other or ladies they hoped to impress; miners complained about the bosses and which mines had had the best hauls. When girls or liquor were in short supply, cowhands and miners with excess energy were often seen trading punches instead of stories. Hoss took another swig of his beer and hoped tonight would be a quiet one—for Adam’s sake, not his own.

Daisy, one of the gals delivering drinks, approached the bar to get another bottle for one of the poker tables. She’d wormed her way into the gap between Hoss and Adam to lean across the bar and tell Cosmo what she needed.

“Guess what, Daisy?” asked Hoss.

“What?”

“Today’s Adam’s birthday.”

“Well happy birthday,” she said with a big smile to his reflection in the mirror.

“Thanks.” He took a long drag on his beer, hoping Daisy would leave before he had to make small talk.

“How old are you?”

“That’s not polite,” said Cosmo, handing the bottle to her.

She took the proffered bottle and flounced off to the table. Maybe if she’d been able to chat him up, she could have invited him up to her room for the rest of the evening. Then again, he didn’t look in the celebrating mood.

“At least look like yer havin’ a good time,” pleaded Hoss.

Tin-Eared Toomy, an Irishman who was profoundly deaf in one ear but convinced he could carry a tune in a bucket, staggered to the bar in hopes of negotiating the price of another shot. He leaned heavily against Hoss and asked Cosmo, “How ‘bout the promith of two ounshes of dust fer a nip of yer besht whishkey?”

“I don’t trade in dust, Toomy; only money.”

“Come now, lad,” he belted out in what he believed was a conspiratorial whisper, “I’m gonna hith thad pure vein of golt veeery shooon.”

“I’m tellin’ you for the last time, Toomy—no money, no whiskey.”

“Yer a mean ol’ buggar!” he yelled out.

Adam drained his glass and set it on the bar; Cosmo quickly picked it up and refilled it. Setting the refreshed mug down, he said, “It’s on the house.” Adam’s only response was a nod.

“Here now! Why’z id thad he’sh gettin’ it fer free? If I schwitz to beer, will it be free?”

Hoss pulled a gold dollar from his pocket and set it on the bar. “Give him a drink, Cosmo.” The bartender shot Hoss a glare before fetching a bottle to fill Toomy’s glass. “My brother’s beer is on the house ‘cause it’s his birthday.”

“Ish it now?” Toomy turned around, waved his arms like a windmill, and yelled for everyone’s attention. “I jush heared thad itsh Atham Cardwrighdz birfday. Ever’one raise a glash.”

Adam wanted to jump the bar and crawl underneath but he felt Hoss’s elbow poke him in the ribs. He slowly turned around and everyone yelled out, “Happy birthday.” He saluted them with his glass and then drained it.

Toomy began belting out Happy Birthday and gestured for everyone to join in. Cowhands, miners, and saloon girls sang a rag-tag chorus at every pitch within a four octave range; dogs in town howled along. Adam wished he could become invisible.

Hoss sang along with great gusto but one look at his brother’s face had him wondering what forms of revenge would be taken against him and Joe tomorrow. At best, they’d get the silent treatment; at worst, they’d get a wagonload more chores than they already had to get done before Pa’s return.

Quite pleased with himself, Toomy congratulated Adam on celebrating another birthday above ground and then staggered off.

Joe rushed to the bar and tapped Adam on the shoulder. “I need you to play this hand for me.”

“Why?”

“I’ve gotta visit the necessary and I’m feeling lucky.”

Adam fixed his youngest brother with a look and asked, “Do you really think your luck is gonna land on my shoulders?”

“Come on. Please?”

“Why don’t you ask the others to wait on you?”

“They think they’re lucky this hand, too.”

Adam squinted, pinched the bridge of his nose, and lightly shook his head. Well, he’d never understood Joe’s logic and now was obviously not the time to try to begin. “Oh, all right; gimme your cards.”

“Thanks!”

Looking over the cards, Adam saw that Joe had a chance at a low straight—diamonds and clubs. All he needed was one card—a two of any suit. Well, it was Joe’s money so he felt he might as well risk it.

He sauntered over to the table and said, “Joe asked me to fill in for him. That okay with you boys?”

“Sure is,” said Elmer McHenry, a hand who rode for the FD-connected brand, gesturing to Joe’s vacant chair.
The other three men at the table murmured their assent.

“Joe anted before he left. It’s my turn to lead off,” said Hank Simmons. He looked over his money before tossing a five dollar bill into the pot.

Elmer, John Tate, Perry Kilgore, and Adam added their money to the pot. Each man began scrutinizing his cards before deciding whether there was a chance of winning the hand.

Perry was dealer for this hand and asked each man how many cards he wanted. Hank wanted three, Elmer decided on two, John decided on four in the hopes of getting some winning combination, and Adam asked for one. As dealer, Perry decided on two for himself.

Each man again inspected his cards and the betting began in earnest.

“I’ll raise ten,” said Hank, tossing his money into the center of the table.

“I’ll see your ten,” said Elmer as he added his money to the pot, “and I’ll raise five.”

“I fold,” announced John as he laid his cards down on the table.

“I’ll see that ten and your five,” said Adam, “and I’ll raise five.”

Perry put twenty dollars in the pot and said, “I call.”

The four men laid out their cards for the others to see. Hank had two eights and two fours; Elmer had a diamond flush, Jack high; Adam had managed to draw his needed two and had a low straight; and Perry had three nines. Elmer happily scooped the pot over to his side of the table. Adam looked over his shoulder in hopes that Joe had made it back.

“Another hand, Adam?” asked Perry.

“How about you wait for Joe?”

“Come on,” said Hank, “give us a chance to win our money back from Elmer.

“We’ll even let you deal,” said Elmer, “since we know you’d never play dirty.”

Adam took the offered deck and shuffled while everyone anted up. He again looked over his shoulder in hopes that Joe would reenter the saloon so he could head home for some peace and quiet.

He dealt the cards and looked over his hand. Three kings, a four, and a ten. At least he had a winning hand with the kings; Joe, though, would expect him to make some money.

“I’ll lead off with five,” John announced.

“Feeling lucky?” asked Perry with a smile. “I’ll see your five.”

Hank’s eyes narrowed and he said, “I’d like to see how this goes.”

Elmer added his five after looking over his cards. “Are you staying, Adam?”

“Yup.”

Each man selected the cards he didn’t want to hang onto. After each player received his requested number, there was more intense scrutiny of the cards and each other.

John tapped the table and said, “I’ll raise ten.” He looked around in hopes that some of his fellow players were going to be scared off; none looked as if he might back down.

“I’ll see that ten,” said Perry.

“Ten to stay?” asked Hank. After hearing confirmation, he announced, “I’ll see John’s ten and raise twenty. Hank was sure he was the only one sitting on a real winning hand with his full house of aces and threes.

Elmer exhaled loudly; he sure wanted to stay in this game. He was pretty confident Hank was bluffing but seeing those bets was gonna be costly.

“You in or out?” Perry asked.

After a few more seconds, Elmer announced he’d be staying in and he added his money to the growing pot along with a raise of twenty-five.

Now it was Adam’s turn. He’d drawn that needed fourth king but John and Hank seemed confident that they held winning hands. If he was going to stay in, he’d have to add close to sixty dollars. Well, it was Joe’s money and he wasn’t back yet; served him right if he lost. Adam looked over Joe’s money and added the match plus thirty to cover a raise.

Since Adam didn’t call, the bet was back to John; he met Adam’s raise and added another twenty. Perry matched the bets with pursed lips. Hank raised another twenty and Elmer matched it. The pot was now up to a dizzying amount. Adam added the rest of Joe’s money along with twenty of his own.

John laid down his heart flush with a big smile. Perry tossed his cards on the table with a loud snort; he’d gambled and lost on a bluff. Hank set down his cards with a very large smile and began reaching for the pot. Elmer groaned as he laid out his two pair.

“Not so fast,” said Adam, laying each king down rather triumphantly.

Hank looked at the cards, the pot, and then Adam. The man’s eyes narrowed and his mouth formed a bitter line across his face. “You dealt them cards. How d’we know you didn’t arrange it to win?”

“I didn’t cheat, if that’s what you’re saying.”

The other men looked at Adam suspiciously. Maybe this was all a set up by Joe. Odd that he wasn’t back from the necessary yet.

Back at the bar, Hoss noted the glowering faces at his brother’s table. “Looks like there might be some trouble, Cosmo. I’ll go try ta keep it from boilin’ over.”

Hank’s face had gone a deep shade of red. “I say you done set this up with your brother and then arranged them cards so you’d get a winnin’ hand.”

Before Adam could utter a word in his defense, Hank leapt from his chair and grabbed Adam by the shirtfront. Hank’s fist slammed into Adam’s cheek, sending him crashing into a table of miners. Seeing an excuse to work off some pent up energy, one of the miners pulled the dazed man up from the table and punched him in the gut. Another miner broke a chair over Adam’s back, sending him sprawling to the floor.

Hoss crossed the distance quickly and grabbed Hank before the man could really get wound up. “Simmer down! Ain’t no call fer ya to punch my brother on his birthday!”
“He cheated!” yelled Hank.

Hoss let loose a punch of his own and soon the whole saloon was in complete chaos, fists flying and girls screaming as they ran for safety and cover.

Joe finally reentered the Silver Dollar to see Adam, bleeding from a cut on the side of his head, trying to fend off two miners. Before he could get to his brother’s side, one of the miners hit Adam upside the head with a chair leg, knocking the elder Cartwright unconscious. With a loud yell of, “No one does that to my brother on his birthday!” Joe launched himself into the fray.

Cosmo scowled as tables and chairs were splintered. “Daisy, go get Sheriff Coffee. And be quick!”

Daisy ran from the saloon on her mission and returned within minutes. A few chairs and one table were all that remained while the chaos continued.

Roy adjusted his hat, drew his gun, and then entered the saloon. He yelled for everyone to stop but no one was going to listen to more words at this point. Two shots to the ceiling calmed the place down in short order.

“What’s going on? Who started this nonsense? Put that chair leg down, Charlie!”

Hank maneuvered his way over to the sheriff and told his side of the story. “Adam Cartwright’s a cheat! He arranged them cards so he could win the pot!”

“You expect me ta believe that this whole saloon is in an uproar ‘cause you think Adam cheated at cards?”

“I know he done it!”

“Come on now, Hank. You and I both know that Adam is one of the most honest, upright men around. Speaking of Adam, where is he?”

“Down here,” yelled out Joe.

Roy wove his way through the debris to find Joe on the floor with Adam’s bleeding head in his lap. Adam’s eye was already starting to bruise from Hank’s initial punch. “That sure is some shiner he’s gonna have,” observed the sheriff to no one in particular. “Get me some water, Cosmo,” Roy ordered.

“Now I wanna know how all this started. An’ don’t tell me that it’s all ‘cause Adam had a winning hand.”

“Ol’ Hank there slugged Adam and then I slugged Hank. Charlie Higgins hit me when I tried ta calm everyone down,” offered Hoss.

“So Charlie was at the table?”

“No, Sir, I wasn’t,” answered Charlie. “Adam was at my table.”

“Huh?” asked Roy.

“Hank done hit Adam and then he was at my table tryin’ ta start a ruckus.”

“Hank was tryin’ to start a fight at yer table?”

“I said Adam was. Didn’tcha hear me?”

Roy shook his head. “Does anyone know how this whole saloon ended up fightin’?”

Everyone looked around at each other in hopes that someone knew.

Roy fixed his gaze on Joe. If anyone was bound to start a saloon fight it was the youngest Cartwright.

“I had nothin’ to do with it, Roy! Honest! I had to go outside and I came back to see Adam bein’ jumped.”

Roy looked everyone over again, fixing each man with a glare. “Someone started this and someone’s gonna hafta pay Cosmo fer the damages. If none of ya will step up, each man is gonna hafta shell out some money.”

The saloon had gone so quiet that a feather would have been heard if it fell to the floor.

“I’ll own up to punchin’ Adam,” said Hank, “but I didn’t do nothin’ more’n that. If anyone should pay up, it should be him, from the poker pot.” He pointed at Adam for emphasis.

“But some of that’s my money,” groused Perry.

“If Adam won, it’s my money,” piped up Joe.

“I’m confiscatin’ it so it won’t be nobody’s money.” Elmer’s face fell and Hank’s shoulders sagged, but at least Adam wouldn’t be able to lay claim to any of it. “You let me know how much damages are, Cosmo, an’ I’ll see you get paid from those winnin’s.”

“You bet, Sheriff.”

A loud groan got Roy’s attention. Joe was still tending his brother’s wound with a damp rag but began to lightly slap his face to bring him around.

Adam tried to raise a hand to his head but only groaned louder. He slowly opened his eyes to see a blurry image of his youngest brother. “Wha . . . what . . . .?”

“You took a chair leg to the head. Just hold still.”

“Let’s get ya to the doc’s place and fixed up,” said Hoss.

“Bring him by the jail when yer done,” said Roy, “I’ve got some questions fer him.” With that, the sheriff stalked back to his office, shaking his head and grumbling under his breath.

Hoss and Joe helped their brother slowly stand and then supported his weight.

“No hard feelin’s,” said Hank, extending his hand.

Hoss reached for Adam’s right hand and held it forward. Hank gave it a quick shake and then headed towards the door; he called out, “Happy Birthday,” over his shoulder then stomped out into the night.

“Let’s go, Older Brother,” said Hoss as he placed a firm hand on Adam’s lower back to steer him towards the entryway.

“Was there a party?” Adam slurred out.

“You could sorta call it that,” offered Joe.

“We goin’ home?”

Hoss got the saloon doors open and said, “We’re goin’ to Doc Martin’s first.”

While the doctor stitched up Adam’s head, Hoss and Joe explained what had happened at the saloon. Adam glowered at the two sets of brothers he saw before him; at least both sets had the sense to look uncomfortable and taken aback by the night’s events.

Finishing up, Paul declared his patient fit for travel. “Good thing you boys have such hard heads.”

“Ain’t it, though?” said Hoss in absent reply.

“Keep an eye on him. Don’t let him fall off his horse.”

“We won’t,” promised Joe.

“Happy birthday, to me,” muttered Adam under his breath.

Hoss and Joe escorted Adam to Roy’s office, as requested. Adam was bruised and banged up with a thin white bandage around his head.

Deciding that Adam was in no shape to be riding back to the Ponderosa in the dark, Roy suggested, “I think you oughtta stay here fer the night, Son. Get some rest. Your brothers can go on home without havin’ ta worry ‘bout you fallin’ off yer horse.”

“I’d rather go home,” said Adam.

“Why don’tcha stay?” asked Hoss. “Roy’s right. We’ll go on home and get all the chores done before Pa gets home, that way you can sleep here as late as ya want. How ‘bout it?”

Adam fixed Hoss with what he presumed was a glare but realized the offer sounded very tempting. He was sore, tired, and pretty sure he’d fall asleep as soon he lay down. “Okay.”

Roy led them to one of the cells and they gently deposited Adam on a cot. “You boys don’t worry. I’ll be here in case he needs anythin’.”

“Thanks,” they both said, hurrying for the door before Adam could change his mind.

“You feel okay, Son?” asked Roy when they were alone.

Adam laid an arm across his eyes to block out the dim light trickling through the cell window. “Helluva way to spend a birthday.”

“You jest rest up and go on home tomorrow.”

“Why didn’t I just stay home? Why’d I let them talk me into comin’ to town?”

“Could be worse. You could be laid up at the Doc’s with a bullet in ya.”

Adam lifted his elbow and scowled at Roy.

“I’m just sayin’ there’s worse ways ta spend yer birthday than with yer family, even if ya did get banged up a bit.”

Adam’s only reply was a groan.

*

The next morning, Hoss came out of the barn to see Pa going into the house. “Hey, Joe, Pa’s here. What are we gonna tell him?”

“Maybe he won’t notice.”

“Yer better at charmin’ him. You go on in and keep him busy.”

“I don’t know what you’re so worried about. We can just say Adam’s in town checking the mail. That’s not a complete lie—he’s in town and he might check the mail before coming home.”

Hoss gulped and hoped Joe was right.

The sound of a horse brought Joe out of the barn. “Adam! You’re home awful early for a man in your condition.”

“My condition? All I needed was some peace and quiet and a good night’s sleep. Thanks to you two, I at least got the good night’s sleep.”

“Did it get noisy over at the jail?”

“I don’t remember anything after you two left.” He handed Sport’s reins to Hoss and then saw Pa’s horse. “Looks like Pa got home earlier than he’d planned. You two got the chores done?”

Hoss took in Adam’s black eye and bruised cheek then noticed Joe’s swollen mouth and black eye; he noted his own scraped up knuckles as he put Sport in his stall. Someone was going to have to explain all of this to Pa. What was worse was that Pa would want to know just what he and Joe had done to get Adam in that condition on his birthday of all days.

“Um, Adam . . . how are we gonna explain this . . . .”

“Explain what?”

The three younger Cartwrights slowly turned around. Hoss and Joe shared a glance of panic while Adam sedately crossed his arms over his chest.

Ben took in his sons’ appearances and then scrutinized each individually. Hoss withered under his stare, jammed his hands into his pockets, and looked at the floor. Joe looked at a point on the wall past his father’s head. Adam met his father’s stare and slipped into a casual lean.

Shaking his head, Ben took Adam’s chin in hand and turned his face slightly to get a better look. Noting a glimpse of white under the black hat, he pushed it back to see the bandage.

Since there were no bruises on Hoss’s face, he reached for Joe and took in the split bottom lip, swollen upper lip, and bruising around his left eye. Joe tried a confident grin but quickly raised a hand to his mouth from the pain.

“You two care to tell me what kind of nonsense you dragged your brother into?”

“We didn’t . . . we wanted . . . we only meant . . . ” Hoss stammered out weakly.

Adam glanced sideways at his brothers and then calmly said, “They didn’t drag me into anything. I suggested that we go to town for a couple of beers but you know how the Silver Dollar can be on a Friday night. We were minding our own business when a fight broke out. Next thing we knew, we were trading punches along with everyone else.”

“Uh-huh,” said Ben. “Did you throw the first punch, Joseph?”

“I didn’t do anything, Pa! Honest!”

“Do you honestly expect me to believe . . .?”

“He’s telling the truth,” said Adam. “He wasn’t even in the saloon when it all started. Just ask Cosmo next time you’re in town.”

A moment of uncomfortable silence passed. “How much are the damages going to cost me?”

“Not a cent, Pa,” answered Adam. “Just ask Roy next time you see him.”

“I’ll do that.”

Ben carefully looked his sons over again and then asked, “Are you alright, Adam?”

“Paul assures me that I’ll be fine in a couple of days. In the meantime, Joe and Hoss have offered to do all of my chores as a birthday present. That’s really decent of them, don’t you think?”

“Hmmm . . . it sure is.” Ben continued to eye his two younger sons with suspicion. “You’re sure you’re alright?”

“All I need is a hot bath and a shave. Let’s go in so I can hear about that Cattleman’s meeting.”

“What?”

“I want to know if old Franklin Davis was finally successful in convincing everyone that ranchers should set the price for steaks served in San Francisco.”

Ben shook his head and took Adam by the shoulder, steering him out of the barn. They walked side-by-side with Ben’s arm draped across his eldest’s shoulders.

“Would you like to go out tonight to celebrate your birthday?”

“No thanks, Pa. I’d rather have a quiet night at home.”

Joe and Hoss watched the retreating backs until the front door closed. “You don’t suppose Adam was serious about us doin’ all his chores for the next couple days, do ya?”

“I figger we’re dadburned lucky that’s all Older Brother suggested.”

The two tended Sport, rubbing him down and giving him some grain. Joe finally broke the silence. “If he wants to stay home on his birthday next year, let’s not persuade him to go to town.”

“But it was yer idea,” protested Hoss.

“It was just a suggestion; you did the persuadin’.”

“Why I oughtta persuade you . . . ,” growled Hoss as he balled up his fist.

“Someday you’re gonna be thirty, Big Brother. If you want me around to help you celebrate, you’d best take it easy on me.”

Hoss struck the pose he’d demonstrated in front of the mirror the night before and the two quickly dissolved into a fit of laughter. Both hoped Adam would be just as entertaining at forty.

The End
May 2009

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