Shadows of Friendship (by AC1830)


Summary:  In The Paiute War, Adam and Young Wolf, son of Chief Winnemucca, were once friends. What made Young Wolf end his friendship with Adam, although Winnemucca continues it with Ben and Adam? 

Rating – T, Word Count – 4799

Shadows of Friendship

From The Paiute War:

Joe:  It’s said that Young Wolf and Adam Cartwright used to ride the Washoe together as brothers.

Young Wolf: Children do foolish things.  But they become men.


Young Wolf:  You remember this knife?

Adam: Yes, my father gave it to you.

Young Wolf:  I’m going to return it to him now.


Shadows of Friendship


As the morning sun cleared the top of the rocky canyon dark brown eyes peered out from behind a stony outcropping.  He silently watched the proud stallion guard his small herd of mares.  The Paiute had been watching this regal horse for two years.  He felt his wild spirit and understood it.  Now this Paiute was a warrior and he would select his mount to match his position in the tribe.  The Chief’s son moved as silently as a shadow across the rock shelf, preparing to rope the wild stallion.  By the end of this day Young Wolf would ride his new mount, his new spirit brother up to his father, his Chief to affirm his warrior status.

Early morning sunlight glinted off the taut muscles beneath the dapple gray coat of the stallion as he shook his proud head allowing his long black mane to fly through the air.  Somehow he knew he was powerful and uncatchable.  Man’s rope had never lain around his neck though many had tried.  The stallion pawed at the earth and sniffed the air sensing the nearness of the enemy.  Snorting and neighing loudly he began to run all out, strong muscles carrying him over the open terrain.  His mares recognized his nervousness and followed his lead.  They too began to race, hooves thundering over the dry, packed ground, manes of all colors flying in the wind.  After a few miles, feeling a sense of freedom and safety, the stallion sprinted onto an overlook and surveyed his mares as they slowed their pace and began to graze again.

Pointing across the small valley to the west, Adam Cartwright spoke in hushed tones, “There he is brothers.  That’s the stallion we need to catch.  We get him and the rest of the herd will follow.”

“Wow!  He sure is somethin’ else. But Adam, look at him.  We’ll need at least twenty men to run him down.”

“Yeah, Adam.  How’re we s’posed ta capture him when there’s just you, me an’ Little Joe. ‘Sides Pa would have our hides ifn he knew little brother here was ridin’ for a stallion.”

Adam looked reflectively at his two brothers.  He still couldn’t get over the changes in them. They had both grown up so much during the years he had been away at college. Hoss was now sixteen, as tall as Adam, and working the ranch with their father and ranch hands.  Little Joe was no longer so little.  At ten years old he was acting more like he was Hoss’ age.  He carried a rifle for hunting and Adam quickly learned his youngest brother had a sharp eye for shooting.  Adam took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  Hoss was right.  Despite their ages, Pa would be livid if he knew his twenty-two year old son had brought his younger brothers on a hunt for wild mustangs.  But Adam had been watching this stallion for weeks as he checked on the cattle in this area.  He understood the stallion’s ways and knew the best plan was to force him into a small box canyon nearby.  There he and Hoss could rope him and settle him enough to bring him home.  As Adam had studied the mustangs, he also learned that the small herd of mares went nowhere without their stallion.  They moved as he did.

“We need the horses and Pa knows I found a good herd.”  Adam crossed his arms across his pommel and surveyed the herd of a half dozen mares in the valley below them.  The stallion was on an outcropping near the mares and not far from the narrow canyon Adam wanted to use.

“But Adam, Pa said he’d send men up here tomorrow to round ‘em up.”

“I know Hoss but they won’t be here tomorrow.  I’ve seen signs of Paiute in the area and I think they may be looking to catch the same herd.”

Joe suddenly became fidgety in his saddle.  “Adam, if there’s Paiute around we best be high-tailin’ it back home.  We don’t wanna get tangled up with any Paiutes.  Pa said to leave them alone.”

“I know what Pa said Joe.  I haven’t seen any today.  Besides, the horses aren’t on Paiute land and we’re a long way from it.  Look, we will split up and surround that stallion on the overhang.  He has nowhere to go but backwards. Moving slowly closer together we can force him into the box canyon behind him.  From there, Hoss and I can rope him.  When we get him in there, Little Joe you keep near the entrance but stay out of the way in case he bolts.”

Adam turned his horse around and led his brothers back to their camp.  They laid out the plan and in less than two hours, they had the stallion cornered and lassoed in the canyon.  Adam decided to wait another hour for him to settle down, then he and Hoss could lead him out and down to the herd.  It had been decided that from there, Adam would lead the stallion and his brothers would flank the mares to keep them from straying.  They figured it would take about three days to get home with their new mustangs.

All went well the first day.  They had found a canyon that had been used before to corral horses. It was large enough that the horses didn’t try to run plus it contained a supply of water.  The stallion was secured in a smaller pen to keep him near the nervous mares.

On the second day, the brothers had been traveling for nearly two hours after lunch when Hoss spotted a cloud of dust coming toward them.  They stopped and watched, finally determining it was a group of riders coming fast.  Being in the Sierras, steep slopes alternated with low valleys and pastures.  The brothers would not reach true open ground for a few more hours.  They decided to make a run for a canyon nearby that held a series of caves where they could hide.  Hoss and Joe rode with Adam and the stallion, letting the mares follow.  Reaching the canyon, they released the stallion and mares, just as bullets started flying over their heads.  The boys pulled out their rifles, jumped from their horses and fled to a nearby cave for protection.  Adam guarded the entrance, trying to hold the men off while Joe and Hoss ran inside.  Adam ran after them and collapsed onto the ground his leg twisting under him.  While Joe and Hoss continued shooting, Adam ignored his pain and crawled to the entrance to help them out. It was a standoff of three Cartwrights to three outlaws.

The outlaws decided to try a different tactic.

“You, in the cave.  Give it up.  We have you covered and apparently we have a lot more ammunition than you have.  We have the horses too.  You have no place to go so come on out and we won’t hurt you.”

A brief look at each other and the brothers knew their next step.  They decided to wait.

“Adam, I-I think I can get that one in the red shirt.  He’s not being very careful hiding from us.”

“No Joe. You’re not shooting anyone.  We’ll wait them out and see what they decide to do next.”

“Adam, our horses are over near the canyon entrance.  I can see ‘em from here.  Maybe I can get…”

“No Hoss, they’d pick you off as soon as you left the cave.  No we’ll wait for a bit.”

Adam was feeling light headed but could not fathom why.  He shifted his position and felt pain shoot through his knee to his hip.  “Agh! My leg.”

Hoss jumped over his brother and reached with his hands where Adam had grabbed.  Adam’s pant leg near his knee was soaked through.  Joe quickly found a dead branch and lit it with one of Hoss’ matches.  The light revealed a pool of blood on the ground and Adam’s pale and clammy face.  Hoss cut through the pants with his knife to find a hole on both sides of Adam’s lower leg just above his boot top.

“Looks like a bullet hit ya and went clean through.  I’ll use my shirt to bandage it up.  Joe take off your belt.  I need to put it ‘round Adam’s leg to get the bleedin’ ta stop.”

Adam laid as still as he could while Hoss worked. He felt his world spinning around him dragging him down into a vortex of peaceful oblivion.


“Well, Dawson.  That didn’t work out too well.  We got men holed up in that cave up yonder ready to pick us off one by one.  They didn’t go for yer bluff.  We can’t even get the horses out without gettin’ shot at.”

“Shut up and let me think.  Banks, you think you can climb up there without bein’ seen when it gets dark?”

“Sure boss.  What do ya want me ta do when I get there?  Pick ‘em off?”  Banks chuckled at the thought of that.

“Of course that’s what I want you to do, you ninny!  Whoever’s up there seems pretty smart and we can’t take any chances that they can identify us.”

“Besides, we saw them horses first anyways and need to get ‘em back to California or Mr. Jackson’ll have our hides.  You know, I’d much rather jest take them horses on ta Reno and sell ‘em there an’ keep the money.  I don’t wanna ever see Jackson again.”

“Yeah, I’m with you on that one, Banks.  Dawson, let’s just get these horses and sell ‘em in Reno.  Jackson won’t know what happened.  Maybe he’ll think the Indians got us or somethin’.”  Blake shivered at the thought of going back to Jackson’s ranch and facing his wrath over something, anything, not being right about the horses they bring back. The man was never satisfied with anything, except making others pay the penalty for his anger.

“Okay, that’s what we’ll do.  But first we gotta get rid of whoever’s in that cave. The sun’ll be down in about an hour so Banks you get ready to head over there.  Blake and I will cover you then we’ll meet you at the entrance to the canyon with our horses.”

The outlaws waited out the hour to put their plan into action.  What they didn’t know was that a third group was about to join the other two. Under the cover of darkness Banks headed out and made his way up the other side toward the cave. As Banks climbed the rocks, Dawson and Blake saw two Indians riding into the canyon as pretty as you please.  The two outlaws slunk down behind the rocks and as soon as the Indians passed, the outlaws moved to their horses and rode out of the canyon.  They found a place to hide and wait for Banks to come out. They waited all night.  No one came out, not Banks, not the three men and not the Indians.

As the sky began to lighten up, the outlaws saw a man and a boy mount two of the horses in a field near the canyon entrance and ride south at a full gallop.  Realizing two of the ones from the cave were escaping, they decided to follow and kill them, then return for the mustangs and Banks.

Up on the rocks, a shadow appeared and silently dispatched the climber.  No sound was made or heard as the body was removed and the shadow disappeared.


During that last hour of daylight, Adam woke up and felt better after Hoss had bandaged his leg.  He convinced his brothers that they should leave an hour before sun-up to ride home and get help.  After dark Hoss and Joe slipped down to their horses to secure them and bring back food, water and bedrolls, as well as the rifles and more ammunition.  The outlaws had been very quiet but the brothers kept watch nonetheless.  By sun-up, Hoss and Joe were an hour away riding hard to get home.  Adam was positioned where he could watch the cave entrance but not be seen. He had his and Hoss’ pistols plus his own rifle and plenty of ammunition.  He also had water and what little food they had left.

By the second hour Adam was beginning to lose his focus.  He had begun to feel chilled during the night and his leg was aching.  He managed to hide his condition from his brothers so they would be willing to leave.  To distract himself from his worsening condition he examined the cave and saw some markings behind him.  Upon closer inspection he realized he had made those carvings. This was the same cave in which he had hid as a child and met his Paiute friend Young Wolf.  Memories of that time began to fill his exhausted mind.

He was about nine or ten years old.  He and Pa were laying traps in the mountains north of their cabin.  Adam had followed the line one way and Ben had gone the other.  A sudden storm had surprised them and Adam found shelter in a cave.  The storm seemed to go on forever, or so it seemed to a young mind.  Adam fell asleep and was awakened by the sense of someone watching him.  Startled he sat up and found himself staring straight at an Indian boy about his age.  The Indian stared back but remained silent.  Adam backed away slowly and tried to leave the cave.  His path was blocked by a fallen tree.  Turning back, he found the Indian had moved to stand behind him.  The boy used hand motions to indicate for Adam to follow him.  He led the way out of the cave and Adam followed behind.  Adam realized they were heading away from his traps.  He tried to get him to stop but the Indian insisted he stay with him and continued on. 

After a few hours of walking they entered a camp.  Adam was worn out and the Indian boy showed him to a hut so he could rest.  Later, Adam was startled awake and found himself wrapped in his father’s arms. 

“Pa, where…”

“Son, I’m so glad you’re alright.  We’re in Chief Winnemucca’s camp.  His son found you as he took shelter from the storm.  I’m so glad you’re safe.  The Chief will help us with our traps and show us the way home from here.  He said we can leave in the morning.   Now we must go and join him and his sons for dinner.  Are you up for that?”

“Yes, Pa.  I’m fine, now that you’re here.”

Father and son left the hut and joined the Chief at the large camp fire.  After sharing the meal, Chief Winnemucca introduced his two sons, Young Wolf and Gray Bear.  He then gave Ben and Adam a chance to show their gratitude for helping Adam.

Ben held a knife out to Young Wolf.  “Young Wolf, I thank you for helping my son and bringing him back to me.  I would like you to have this hunting knife as a token of my gratefulness.”

When Winnemucca gave a brief nod, Young Wolf stepped forward to accept the gift.  He bowed his head to Ben then rejoined his father and brother.

For the rest of the evening and into the next morning, Adam and Young Wolf played together.  The young Paiute teased Adam about being clumsy in his hunting and stalking.  Adam challenged Young Wolf that he could learn anything the Paiute would teach him and would do it better than Young Wolf.  Thus the challenge was given and accepted, and a friendship was born.  Over the next many years, the two boys grew up and spent time with each other learning the other’s ways and languages.  Adam taught Young Wolf to shoot the white man’s rifle and to speak the white man’s language.  Young Wolf taught Adam to move across the earth without sound or footprints and about the plants to eat and to bring healing.

Just before Adam left for college, he told Young Wolf that he’d be gone for many years and he hoped to continue their friendship when he returned.  But Young Wolf had begun to change and pull away from all white men.  He brusquely told Adam that what they had known as children was over since they were both now men.  The words stung Adam’s heart.  After he spoke, Young Wolf left and Adam was sure he’d never see him again.

Pain and flames began to fill Adam’s dreams.  He thrashed and cried out; he couldn’t move and fought harder to be free.  Hands held his head and words penetrated his mind.  Words he shouldn’t know but somehow could understand.  They were Paiute words.  He opened his eyes and found Young Wolf’s face inches from his own.

“Adam Cartwright.  You will lie still.  You burn with fever and your wound is angry with infection.  My brother, Gray Bear, will clean your leg but it will burn as the fires of your hell.”

Adam could not comprehend all the Paiute said but he felt as if his leg was being burned off of him.  Mercifully he succumbed to oblivion as the brothers worked to save his life.

Hours later, Adam awoke to a sweet smell of herbs and the bright light of a fire.  A cup was placed at his lips and he drank.  It was bitter but he was so parched he would drink anything to slake his thirst.

Young Wolf sat back on his haunches and studied this man whom he once called friend.  “You will live, Adam Cartwright. But you must not move.  Gray Bear has put a poultice on your leg to draw out the poison.  Tomorrow you will be able to ride to your home.”

“Young Wolf, where did you come from?  We were pinned down by some outlaws trying to steal the mustangs we caught.  How did you get in here without them seeing you?”

Young Wolf glanced at his brother then back at Adam. He scowled and hissed.  “Those whelps are gone. I am but a shadow on the land to them.  I killed the one about to attack you last night.  The other two have ridden off like the cowards they are.  You have taken the horses from me.  I have tracked the gray one for two years.  I am a warrior now and have claimed my mount.  I claim the stallion for myself and I claim the mares for the Paiute.  They will be moved out tomorrow.”

Adam pushed himself off the ground to sit up and face Young Wolf, hiding the pain it caused him.  He saw what Young Wolf was trying to do and it was a matter of honor that Adam wouldn’t let him get away with it.  “The stallion is mine and by default the mares as well.  I caught the stallion and I tamed him to follow us.  You did not challenge me or my brothers when I chased the stallion.  He does not belong to you!”

Despite his pain and weakness, Adam held his position and glared at Young Wolf.  The Paiute spat at the ground near Adam and moved off to the cave entrance.  Adam held his position for another minute then carefully lowered himself down to rest.  That argument and posture of defense cost him dearly but he knew he could show no weakness or he would lose the herd to Young Wolf’s lies.

Young Wolf remained silent the rest of the night.  Gray Bear tended to Adam’s leg but said nothing.  Breaking the silence, Adam called out to Young Wolf.

“Young Wolf.  Do you remain silent as the stone and let your anger burn inside you?  Do you not recall how we made these carvings on the wall when we met and learned from each other?”

Young Wolf turned and moved slowly toward Adam.  He acknowledged the carvings above Adam and frowned as he studied them.  Adam could see there was much conflict within his former friend.  Now Young Wolf’s dark eyes penetrated to Adam’s soul. .

“When we become men and warriors we put away childish ways.  We will no longer speak of that time.”  He turned and left the cave.  Adam sighed and closed his eyes.  His would be a restless sleep this night as he let this friendship go.

When morning came, Adam’s fever had broken but he could barely walk on his leg much less ride the distance to his home.

“Young Wolf, take your brother and leave.  I will wait for my family so they can help with the horses.”

Young Wolf scoffed at Adam’s thinking.  “You think as a stupid child, Adam Cartwright.”  He handed a pack to his brother then waited for Adam to respond.

Although the friendship was over Adam could see that Young Wolf still had some connection to Adam.  Adam knew he wouldn’t win the argument so he changed tactics.

“I will offer you seven head of our cattle for help from you and Gray Bear to take the mustangs back to my ranch.”

Adam could see that Gray Bear was willing to accept the trade, but Young Wolf held out for more.

“Ten head of cattle, Adam Cartwright.”

Adam agreed and offered his hand for Young Wolf to shake.  Young Wolf nodded once, and scowled at Adam’s proffered hand.

“You change from stupid child to old woman who forgets the ways of the People.”

Adam dropped his hand and chuckled at the insult.  Speaking in the Paiute language he said he hadn’t forgotten all the ways of the People.

It took a while to get Adam to the horses.  Once mounted the white man and two Paiutes set out for Adam’s home, with seven wild mustangs following behind. The three men held a tenuous peace between them for the trip to the Ponderosa.  They talked little and Adam knew the friendship he once cherished was over.  A chasm not of his making had grown between himself and Young Wolf, one that could never be crossed in this lifetime.


Joe and Hoss rode hard and fast trying to get home.  They knew they were being followed but managed to keep ahead of the outlaws for most of the trip. They rested only a short time whenever they came upon a stream.  By midafternoon they were nearing the ranch house.  Hoss knew they wouldn’t make it together. The outlaws were closing in.  He told Joe to ride hard and Hoss would keep pushing his horse to get there as soon as he could.  Joe didn’t like the idea but he agreed to it.

Joe rode like fury into the yard screaming for his Pa.  Ben and a ranch hand ran from the barn and listened to Joe’s broken story as it spilled out between gasps for air.

“Hoss behind me….bad……..need help…..”

He sank to his knees and Ben ordered his horse to be saddled.  He got Joe some water then ran inside to get a rifle and bullets.

By the time Ben returned his horse was ready and Joe was mounted on a fresh horse.

“No Joe, you’ll stay here.”

“Pa I have to go.  I can shoot and you’ll need help.”

Joe kicked his horse into a gallop with Ben chasing after him.  Ben caught up to his son just as he spotted Hoss hugging the neck of his horse and riding wildly as two men shot at him.  Ben and Joe jumped off their horses and took aim.  Joe’s first shot went wild but Ben got one of the men.  Joe’s second shot hit the other man in the leg and knocked him off his horse.  All was silent as Hoss steered his horse back to his Pa and brother.

With help from a couple of hands the dead man was wrapped up and put in the barn, the injured man was treated, tied up and placed in the barn under heavy guard.

Although Joe and Hoss were anxious to get back to Adam, Ben insisted they eat while they told him their story.  When the telling was finished and all three were heading out with a wagon and two ranch hands, Hoss and Joe kept looking at their Pa then at each other.  Ben had not spoken except to give orders, and that was in clipped tones.  His eyes were the blackest his young sons had ever seen and his expression was pure stone.  They knew their Pa was furious at Adam and that he and Adam would have serious words as soon as Ben had determined his oldest son was okay. Hoss hoped Ben would have his temper in check when they finally returned to the cave to rescue Adam.

Traveling with the wagon made the journey longer.  The rescue party was forced to stop for the night.  Ben continued his silent vigil even into the next morning.  As the group headed out the next morning and began their climb into the hills, Hoss called out to his father.

“Pa, look ahead.  I think that’s Adam and the mustangs.”

Ben pulled the wagon to a halt and squinted his eyes to see what Hoss saw.  When he saw his son coming closer all his anger melted away.  He had never been so relieved to see his son in his life.

Ben climbed down from the wagon and stood in front of the team waiting for Adam to ride up to him.  He didn’t notice the mustangs or the two Paiutes; he only had eyes for his son.  Adam swung a leg over his saddle and eased himself down to the ground.  He limped toward his father and stood a few feet away wary of what his father might have to say.

A horse snorted and suddenly Ben was aware of the rest his surroundings.  He recognized Young Wolf and acknowledged him and his brother with a nod.  He was amazed at the wild mustangs that waited patiently behind the men.

“Adam, are you alright?  Your leg, is it bad son?”

“I’m fine.  Gray Bear cleared out the infection.  It’s still sore but it’ll heal.  Hoss did a good job when I first got hurt.” He winked at his brother.  “Young Wolf and Gray Bear stayed with me until I could travel.  They killed one of the outlaws that was coming after me.”  Adam looked toward Hoss and Joe.  “What happened to the other two?”

Ben spoke up.  “One’s dead and the other slightly injured.  Both are in the barn back at the house.”  Ben shifted his stance and took in the wild ponies.  “Son, your brothers told me how all three of you captured those mustangs.”

Adam allowed himself a small smile and drew himself up straighter.  “That’s right, Pa.  Young Wolf and Gray Bear have agreed to help me bring them to the ranch in exchange for ten head of cattle.”

Ben took a moment to let that statement soak in.  He had a strong feeling there was much more to that offer than Adam was revealing.  He needed to acknowledge the offer quickly.

“Yes, yes, of course.”  Acknowledging the Paiute brothers, “If you would like to ride with our hands, they will cut the cattle out of our herd and, if you like, assist you in taking them back to your people.”

Young Wolf nodded and turned his horse, ready to leave.  He and Adam locked eyes for a moment.

“Farewell, Adam Cartwright.”

Ben noticed Adam watching the Paiutes ride away.  There seemed to be a sadness about him but then it was quickly gone as Adam turned back to his father.

“Let’s go home, Pa.”

With a last look at Ben, Adam mounted his horse and turned toward home, leading the gray stallion, with the mares following.   Hoss and Joe silently dropped in behind him.  Ben turned the wagon around and slowly followed his sons home.

As much as he thought it was over, Adam and Young Wolf would cross paths one last time.  That encounter would bring heartache to many more than just two former friends.


The End

Other Stories by this Author


Author: AC1830

I'm from the US. I grew up with Bonanza. While I love all the characters, Adam is my favorite (and I like Candy too).

6 thoughts on “Shadows of Friendship (by AC1830)

  1. I’d never thought of it, but it’s funny — two or three groups really could be after the same herd at once …

    It’s always sad when a friendship ends, but not always possible to avoid. In this case, it seems like there’s nothing Adam could do — and there were indeed many barriers between them …

    Thanks for writing!

    1. Thanks PSW. Two different worlds and both about to be pulled apart. I agree, would have been nice if they could have continued but alas….’twas not meant to be.

  2. That was a believable version of what could have happened between them. Such a shame that a great friendship could not withstand the challenges thrown at them.

    1. Thanks for reading Questfan. It was a shame. Those two couple possibly have had as strong a friendship as Ben and Winnemucca had. But the currents of time would have sorely tested it.

  3. It is a shame. I’m sure they had learned a great deal from each other but it seems times and culture were destined to separate them. I wonder if their encounter at the Paiute War would have been different if they had still been friends. Thanks for reading, Betty.

  4. Excellent story of culture clash and how two strong men couldn’t manage to keep their friendship intact with those differences between them.

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