Lessons (by BettyHT)


SUMMARY:  A lighthearted story which follows An Unnecessary Deception, this is set almost seven years later and Adam has left the Sandwich Islands with his family and moved back to America.  First stop is the Ponderosa where Ben and Adam’s younger brothers are getting acquainted with the newest members of the family, and as usual, things don’t go smoothly.

Rating = K+      Word count = 2365



Sitting in the main room of the Ponderosa, Ben Cartwright was happier and more relaxed than he had been in years. With Adam home with his wife and children, Joe married and settled in his own home, and Hoss talking at least about getting married, it seemed his dream was finally nearing completion. With his two-year-old daughter asleep in his arms, Adam was in his old familiar spot leaning back in the blue chair by the fireplace. Despite Sierra telling him he was spoiling their daughter by doing so, he had let her fall asleep in his arms once again. Whenever Sierra complained about it, he would inform his wife that he would bring their daughter up to her bed as soon as he was sure she was sleeping soundly. Today that had been a half hour earlier, and Ben noted he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to comply with his own rule.

“You never did tell me why you call your son, Tell.”

“It’s a bit of a long story. I better take Lizzy to her bed or there may be hell to pay.”

“I doubt that.”

Grinning because he knew his father was correct, Adam still knew he ought to take his daughter up to her bed. He was downstairs again quickly though and settled back into his chair.

“The children have settled in so well here, you would think they were born here instead of in the Sandwich Islands. They act now as if that was an interlude and this is home.”

“That doesn’t bother you, does it?”

“Not at all. It simply surprises me. Tell had six years of living in the Hawaiian culture yet he is adapting here rapidly. Perhaps he felt the tension that was building there more than we realized.”

“Was it that bad?”

“No, but there’s going to be a clash, and there’s a lot of bad feeling already. More and more, the Americans there are taking power away from the Hawaiians. There is a Kingdom of Hawaii, but I don’t know how long it can last. The people there keep getting sick from diseases that whites have brought in. Their population is being weakened.”

“Much as what happened with the natives here.”

“Yes, but at least there are no wars there. However alcohol is doing even more damage. Lunalilo is king but he drinks too much and has no heirs. Sierra and I talked it over and decided to get out before he died. We’re not sure what’s going to happen when he dies. David Kalakaua will probably be the next king. That’s my bet.”

“Is he the one you worked out the business arrangement with?”

“Yes, he and I are now partners in the sugar business. If there is ever reciprocity, he will buy me out at a price we’ve already set. I’ll keep the shipping business and the warehouses in the harbor, and we’ll keep the house that I built even if it isn’t used much. We have a caretaker living there.”

“You’ve done very with what you inherited from Rett.”

“Yes, the scoundrel did make amends in many ways before he died. He wasn’t a bad man, but he had no moral compass, no way to set limits on himself.”

“Your grandfather wasn’t so kind in how he described him.”

“I worked on designing buildings too. The timing couldn’t have been better. I had finished all my projects and was committed to no new ones yet. We were free to stay or leave. I handed the construction business over to the men who had worked there with me since I started it. We don’t need the money, and that will keep all the men there working.”

About that time, Tell came into the house and interrupted them. “Papa, may I ask a question?”

“I think you already did.”

“What? Oh, I guess I did. Can I ask another one?” Only he giggled when he said it making both his father and grandfather grin. He knew he had asked it with the request to ask it.

Adam didn’t make him suffer any longer though. “What’s your question?”

“Is dadburnitalltoheckagainandagain one word?”

“No, that would be a bunch of words strung together. What are you and Hoss doing?”

“I’m teaching him more Hawaiian words. He’s teaching me more cowboy talk. I tried to tell him that humuhumunukunakuapua’a is the longest word there is. He said he had a longer one. That’s when he said dadburnitalltoheckagainandagain was a word.”

“Your word may not be the longest word, but it is a word. Tell your Uncle Hoss to stop cheating even if it is in fun. Now, did he bet something with you about this?”

Looking up at the ceiling and then around at anything except his father, it was clear that Tell didn’t want to answer.

“If your uncle made a silly bet, that isn’t the same as when you and the boys at home were betting things that cost money. I forbid you to do that, but silly betting is only for fun. Now what was the bet?”

“He bet me for my dessert at dinner.”

“If you win, do you get his dessert?” Adam was having a difficult time being serious, but Ben made no pretense of being serious at all. He was laughing so Tell knew he wasn’t in trouble. He grinned too.


“You tell your uncle that he lost the bet, but, Tell, I will not let you eat two desserts. You can tell your uncle that he can give you something else for losing the bet.”

After Tell ran back outside, Ben turned to Adam. “You were going to explain how he got that nickname.”

“Ah, yes, well he is named after a man named William Rodman. William didn’t like to be called Billy, and it seemed disrespectful to call his namesake that. For reasons I’m sure you understand, I didn’t like calling him Will. William seemed a bit of long handle for a baby. He was a fussy baby too. Many nights he would wake and refuse to be soothed until we discovered quite by accident that if I strummed the guitar softly, he calmed and eventually fell back asleep. It worked during the day too. Anytime he was fussy, he had a cry that could pierce your ears. When she couldn’t soothe him, the woman who worked in the house would say ‘Tell Mister Adam. Tell! Tell!’ So wherever I was, someone would come to me and say, ‘Kahue say Tell‘ so eventually many of the workers would simply yell out that word when I was needed. Of course, in time, they referred to the baby as Tell as a result.”

“So if you came and played the guitar, he quieted?”

“Sometimes as soon as he saw me, he quieted. However, if I didn’t pick up the guitar, the crying started up again. Eventually, the colic got better, but he still likes me to play the guitar.”

“He’s very smart. When he said that long word a little while ago, I was amazed.”

“It’s a fish. He hung around with the Hawaiian boys on our estate so he learned a lot of the language. Sierra and I were tutoring him in reading and writing in English, but he learned quite a lot of the Hawaiian language while he was playing too. It’s good that he learned a lot of Hawaiian because he will probably be traveling there with me on occasion.”

They were interrupted again at that point when Hoss and Tell came into the house. Hoss was carrying packages, which he set on the dining room table.

“Papa, Mama and Mister Hop Sing are back. They shur were a sight for sore eyes. We’re going to be eating high on the hog tonight.” Looking back at Hoss, Tell had a hopeful look. “Did I say those right, Uncle Hoss?”

“Don’t that beat all, you used two of them things I done taught you and used ’em jest right.”

“Thank ya, kindly, Uncle Hoss.”

Hoss and Tell grinned, and Adam groaned. “I brought him here thinking he could go to a better school and get a sound education. Instead, he’s going to be talking like a Texas drover.”

“Dagnabit, Adam, what’s wrong with teachin’ the boy how real men talk?”

“I’d like him to talk like an educated man talks.”

About that time, Sierra came into the house and heard the voices of the two brothers. “What’s this? What kind of example are you setting for our son now arguing with your brother?”

“I don’t like Tell talking like an uneducated cowhand.”

“And I’m sure an educated man can find a way to deal with this other than arguing in front of his son nor insulting his brother.”

Chagrined by what his comment had implied, Adam apologized which was a good example for his son. Hoss accepted with a simple smile and a handshake, which set another good example for the boy, but the matter of the language was not settled. Over the next few days, Tell pestered Hoss for more examples of how cowboys might talk differently than other people. Mostly he was careful not to use those words in front of his father, but inevitably, Adam overheard him use some of them. When he listened to Tell talk with his sister though, he realized he needed to do as Sierra had said and find a way to resolve this before it went any further. Tell was sitting on the floor playing quietly with his sister before dinner on a Sunday afternoon.

“There now, punkin’, you’re cute as a button, now ain’t ya. Here, you kin play with this doohickey thing Uncle Hoss carved up right proper for me. He cut his finger while he was carvin’ it. Fur cryin’ out loud, I like to split a gut laughin’ at the faces he made when he did that.”

Cringing with every expression that he heard, Adam didn’t know how to deal with the issue without insulting Hoss. However, it wasn’t the way he wished to have his son speak either. After only a couple of weeks home on the Ponderosa, Tell had picked up significant slang. Adam and Sierra had managed to avoid that in the islands and with the sailors who worked for them including on the voyage over, but now in the midst of family, their hard work at educating their son was being undermined in a wholly innocent way. At dinner, Adam thought perhaps he would try something to see how it might work. Looking at his father, he decided it was time to start.

“Say, Pa, I know I dropped smack dab in the middle a things here, and knocked things off kilter, but I’m wondrin’ what kinda job you’d like me ta be doin’ now that I’m back.”

Although Adam looked and sounded serious, his speech was strange. Ben looked back at him. “I’m reminded of something our friend Samuel Clemens said once. It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“You shur remembered that licketty split like. It was a Mark Twain saying fur shur.”

The conversation was making Tell a bit upset. “Papa, you don’t sound like you. What’s wrong with your talking.”

With that, Sierra who had been wondering what Adam was up to, caught on. “Tell, your father is nuttier than a fruitcake sometimes and might have a conniption fit on occasion, but whaddya thinks wrong with his way of speakin’ now?”

“Now, you’re doing it too. You don’t sound like you, Mama.”

Sitting on the opposite side of the table, Joe and his wife listened with amusement to the interplay. By that time, Joe knew too what they were doing. “Hush my mouth, your papa may be older than dirt, but he shur got things going caddywampus here.”

Getting off his chair, Tell moved to Adam’s side. “Please make everyone talk the way they should, Papa. Please?”

“Yes, keiki, we will. Do you know what we were doing?”

“Teaching a lesson?”

“You understand?”

“Yes, we should all talk like ourselves.”

“So you will talk like you have been taught by Mama and me?”

“Yes. Mahalo, Papa.”

“How come he kin use them words and not mine?”

“They’re part of his heritage. He will be traveling to the islands on business when he’s older and needs to remember the language.”

“I know a lot of other words, Uncle Hoss. Do you know what to say to a beautiful woman?” That made Adam and Sierra briefly nervous but Tell continued before they could stop him. “You say nani. It means beautiful.” Tell’s parents relaxed. “Or you can say ipo. It means sweetheart. You can call her that after you kiss her.”

Grabbing Tell then in a hug, Adam put a stop to that line of discussion as his family snickered. “That’s enough language learning at the table tonight.  You’re six years old.  You shouldn’t be giving that advice to your uncle anyway.”

Ben decided to help. “Tell, now that you’ve been here a while, do you like the Ponderosa or Hawaii better?”

“Hawaii was greener and warmer. But here, there is lots more family, and there are horses, and I like it here. But, could you make it warmer?”

Looking over at his oldest son, Ben smiled. Adam got the message. He was getting paid back for all those years of pestering his father with questions and being too smart when he was so young. Meanwhile, Lizzy was sitting on Sierra’s lap and dropped the biscuit she was eating.


Both Adam and Sierra stared at their daughter as the other family members burst out in laughter.

Other Stories by this Author


Author: BettyHT

I watched Bonanza when it first aired. Only within the last several years did I discover Bonanza fan fiction, and started writing storiesin 2012 for fun. If I am ever unavailable and someone needs permission to post one or more of my stories on another site such as Bonanza Brand, AC1830 and/or Mo1427 are authorized to give permission in my absence.

8 thoughts on “Lessons (by BettyHT)

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting too. I’m glad the family fun gave you some enjoyment. Hopefully there may be more.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to write a comment. Yes, children to tend to follow their parents and other adults sometimes with funny results. Adam found that out.

  1. Adam’s son is a bright child and quick learner. The question is, who’s he going to learn from – Hoss or Adam? This is such a fun story, and Adam’s solution is just what a Cartwright would do – teach by example!

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, Adam taught him well, but he learned in the process too with a little prodding to do what an educated man would do.

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