The Healing Process (by JoanS)

Summary:  An accident leaves Joe and Cochise emotionally hurt and estranged from each other

Rated: T (22,465 words)

The Healing Process

Chapter 1:

The wind whipped up Joe’s hair under his hat and blew a strand of it down over his eyes.  The young man brushed it back up under his hat impatiently with one hand while controlling his horse with the other and grinned over his shoulder at his friend Josh Michaels who drew up beside him. ‘So,’ he laughed. ‘Believe me now?’




Josh laughed back at his friend. ‘Okay okay,’ he said. ‘So he’s a good horse. I believe you now.’




Joe shook his head as he bent down to pat the pinto lovingly. ‘Nope,’ he said with a twinkle in his eye. ‘He ain’t a good horse Josh.  He’s a great horse.  Best there is!’




Josh shook his head. ‘It’ll take more than one race to convince me of that Cartwright,’ he said and then stood up in his stirrups momentarily to look down over the other side of the slope. ‘How about down that way?’




Joe followed the line of his friend’s glance and then gave him a grin. ‘Is that what it’s gonna take to convince you?’ he asked with a shake of his head. ‘I’ve told you before Josh, there ain’t a horse alive can beat Cochise and me.’




Josh shrugged. ‘Prove it then,’ he said and spurred his own mount into a run.  He laughed over his shoulder at Joe as he did so before flattening his body forward against his horse and speeding up to a gallop.




With one last carefree grin Joe did the same.




‘C’mon boy,’ he whispered as he flattened himself against Cochise’s neck . ‘We can’t let him beat us after all the bragging I’ve done about you.’  The pinto picked up speed as if he had understood the urgency of the situation by listening to Joe’s words. Not that it surprised the young man, for it had always been like this. It was as if he and Cochise had an understanding with each other. Of all the horses on The Ponderosa there was none that he enjoyed riding like this one and in Joe’s mind there wasn’t another mount anywhere that even came close to the horse.




Horse and rider both felt the slope increase beneath them, but neither one backed away from the speed that they were travelling.  Joe kept his eyes firmly fixed on Josh in front of him and smiled as he saw that the distance between them was narrowing. ‘Yes!’ he yelled in delight and Josh glanced over his shoulder to throw him a wide grin. ‘Too much for you Cartwright?’ he yelled.




Joe opened his mouth to yell back a smart retort, but at that instant he saw the light in Josh’s eyes replaced by fear as his horse stumbled and he lurched forward. Joe could only watch in disbelief as both rider and horse fell forward in a tangle of legs and heads before he also was swept up in the tangle and Cochise also hit the ground heavily. Joe had only time to kick his feet out of the stirrups before he felt himself flying free of the tangle beneath him and landing with a thud on the hard earth.  He put out his hands to stop himself, but the momentum of his fall kept him on the move and he found himself rolling downwards at a great speed. He transferred his energy into merely trying to breathe as the force of his fall overpowered him and he gave in to the pull of gravity that took him ever downwards.




Finally, just as he was beginning to think that he’d never hit the bottom, he did so with a jolt that just about knocked the breath out of him.  The world began to regain its rightful place as he stared up at the sky through the treetops and gulped in huge breaths of air. Slowly he felt his heartbeat beginning to slow to something that he could handle and with trepidation he tried to sit up.




‘Ow!’ Joe caught hold of his left shoulder and grimaced with pain.  He glanced down and saw that his arm was hanging at an usual angle and realised that he hadn’t come out of the incident unscathed. He held onto it with his other hand and looked upwards to the top of the slope. ‘Josh!’ he called. ‘Can you hear me?’  There was no response, so he tried again. ‘Josh! Are you okay?’  Again, no voice replied to his call.




With a sigh, Joe tried to move again, this time supporting his arm and taking care to go slowly.  He managed to maintain a sitting position even though things around him continued to move around a bit and he closed his eyes several times to try and stop the dizziness that he was feeling. ‘Stupid!’ he said under his breath. ‘That was a plain downright dumb thing to do, Joe Cartwright.  That’ll teach you to brag about your horse like that.’  He glanced upwards again and listened carefully for any sign that his friend or the horses were all right, but he heard nothing.




Okay,’ he said in a resigned voice. ‘Looks like it’s up to me to get back up there then.’  He pulled himself to a half standing position and looked upwards again. ‘Come on Joe,’ he said. ‘You can do it.’




It took him half an hour to get to the top of the slope, hampered as he was by his injured arm, and when he finally pulled himself over the top he wished with all his heart that he had stayed at the bottom.  Before him were the tangled bodies of a horse and a young man and Joe took a couple of deep breaths as he tried to will the words out that he knew he had to speak. ‘Josh?’ he said tentatively. ‘Are you okay?  Can you hear me?’




There was no response to his question so he scrunched himself over towards his friend and peered down at him. ‘Josh?’ he said again. The young man lay face down on the earth, his body half concealed by that of his horse, which was obviously dead. Joe bent over and turned his face towards him, sucking in his breath as he saw the opened eyes in the young man’s face in which the light had gone out. Josh’s head dangled awkwardly in his hand and he knew in that instant that his friend’s neck had been broken. Joe swallowed hard as he stared down at the face that had once been his friend, willing him to speak to him. ‘Josh?’ he said again in a whisper, even though he knew that his friend was there no longer. ‘Oh Josh buddy.  What did we do?’




Joe Cartwright bent his head and wept bitterly for his friend.












The silence around him was eerie as Joe sat hunched over his friend staring at his body.  He felt a hollowness within that threatened to consume him and try as he would to move he just couldn’t. Even the sharp stabbing pain in his shoulder did nothing to break through the trance that Joe found himself in.  All he could think of was Josh as he stared down at him.




It was a full ten minutes later before he rallied himself to move, and only then it was the sound of a horse whinnying that caused him to do so. Joe lifted his head at the sound and looked into the distance, trying to come to terms with what it was.  He blinked several times and rubbed his eyes wearily as he listened, his mind foggy with regrets and vague thoughts. Suddenly he sat up straight as the horse’s voice reached him again. ‘Cooch?’ he whispered. ‘Is that you?’  He looked around slowly, but saw nothing. ‘Cooch?’




Again the horse’s voice reached him and he turned his head and looked behind him.  Again he saw nothing. ‘Cooch?’ he said in a louder voice. ‘Where are you boy?’  Joe stood up slowly and carefully, the pain in his shoulder causing him to wince as he tried to keep it as still as he could.  He walked over to the edge of the slope again and looked around.  Below him he could see the pinto amongst some bushes, lying on his side. ‘Cooch!’ he called, his anxiety for the horse forcing him out of his trance.




Joe sat down and scrunched downwards towards the horse.  As he reached him he noticed that his reins were tangled in the bushes and Cochise was frantically trying to get up.  Unfortunately the horse’s efforts were only making the reins more tangled and Joe could see instantly that with only one good arm to use he wasn’t going to be able to get him free either. He reached out to touch the animal and was startled when the horse drew away from him with a frightened squeal.




‘It’s okay fellar,’ he said softly. ‘It’s gonna be all right now.’  He tried again to touch the horse, but the animal was frightened beyond reason and struggled to move away from him. Joe nodded and looked up the slope again. ‘Okay fellar I understand,’ he said softly. ‘I’m gonna have to go and get help now anyway.’  He looked at the pinto again and noticed the whites of his eyes were showing as he thrashed about. ‘You’re gonna be okay fellar,’ he said again soothingly. ‘You just gotta be patient and wait for a bit until I get back.’




Reluctantly, Joe made his way slowly up to the top again, avoiding looking in the direction of the still forms of the rider and the horse near him.  He slowly stood up, still supporting his injured arm and began to make his way slowly back the way he had come.












‘Watch out!’ said Adam crossly as he tried to pass Hoss with another forkful of hay. ‘Why do you have to stand right where I’m walking?’




Hoss stepped back a couple of steps as he gave his brother a frustrated look. ‘I ain’t doing it on purpose,’ he protested. ‘I’m trying ta get this finished is all.’  He waved his hand to the bucket of chicken feed that he was carrying. ‘It ain’t even my job ta do it.’




‘Sorry,’ said Adam as he forked the hay into one of the stalls. ‘I’m just trying to get this done quickly.’




‘What are ya in such a dang hurry fer?’ said Hoss.




‘I’m not,’ replied his brother ‘I’d just like to get this done in time for supper that’s all. Seeing as how that younger brother is gallivanting around the countryside with his friends and we got stuck with doing his chores, we’re going to be late if we don’t hurry.’




Hoss scratched his head. ‘Huh?’ he said.




Adam looked at him. ‘What?’ he said.




‘What’d you say he was doing?’ asked Hoss.




‘Gallivanting,’ replied Adam. ‘Riding,’ he explained as Hoss scratched his head again.




The light dawned in Hoss’ eyes. ‘Oh,’ he said and turned towards the door. ‘Well what do ya know? Here he is at last,’ he said as Joe appeared in the doorway of the barn. ‘We’re ya been Shortshanks?’ Joe leant against the doorframe and stared at his brother without saying a word. ‘Joe?’ said Hoss as he put down his bucket. ‘Are ya all right?’




Joe shook his head as he propped himself up on his good shoulder. ‘No,’ he said in a weak voice. ‘I ….’ His voice faltered and he began to sway on his feet.




‘Adam!’ yelled Hoss as he stepped forward and caught his little brother as he fell forward. ‘Come here quick!’




Adam looked up just as Joe fell into Hoss arms. ‘What the …’ he said as he threw down the pitchfork and ran over to join his two brothers.  He watched as Hoss lowered Joe onto the ground gently.




‘Joe?’ said Hoss as they both bent over the young man. ‘Joe? Can ya hear me?’




Joe looked up at his brothers. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I’m okay.’




‘Well you certainly don’t look it,’ said Adam. ‘Hoss get him inside.’




Hoss nodded and began to pick up the youngster. As his body shifted, Joe grimaced and gave a small yelp of pain. ‘What is it?’ asked Hoss anxiously.




‘My… shoulder,’ gasped Joe. ‘I … hurt it when I fell.’




‘Ya fell?’ said Hoss. ‘Where?’




Adam laid a hand on Hoss’ shoulder. ‘Hoss get him inside first,’ he said. ‘We can ask those questions later.’




Hoss nodded again and lifted Joe up into his strong arms, taking care not to disturb his left shoulder. ‘I’ll have ya inside in a jiffy Joe,’ he said as he walked across the front yard. ‘Just relax and let old Hoss take care of ya now boy.’




Adam looked around. ‘Where’s his horse?’ he said as they got to the front porch.




Hoss shook his head. ‘Dunno,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry we’ll round him up later.’




Adam nodded as he opened the front door to let Hoss carry his burden inside. ‘Pa!’ he called. ‘Pa!’




Ben Cartwright appeared at the top of the stairs. In one glance he took in the sight of his three sons, the youngest in the arms of the biggest and came bounding down the stairs to meet them. ‘What happened?’ he said anxiously as Hoss laid Joe down on the sofa. ‘Are you all right Little Joe?’




Adam smiled at his father’s use of the nickname they all usually reverted to whenever the boy was in trouble. It was as if he was a child again and they all felt the need to protect him. Joe nodded briefly. ‘I’m … all right,’ he said. ‘It’s just my … shoulder is all.’  He reached up and grabbed his father by the shirt with his good arm. ‘Pa…’ he said, looking deeply into the man’s eyes. ‘Pa …. It’s Josh.’




Ben saw with surprise that tears had formed in the young man’s eyes. ‘Little Joe?’ he said as he supported his son’s head at the back of his neck. ‘What happened?  Where’s Josh son?’




Joe swallowed and fought back his tears. ‘Dead,’ he said in a low voice. ‘He …. fell off his horse …’  He hung his head and sobs overtook him as speech failed him.




Ben wrapped his arms around his son and allowed him a few moments to cry it out. ‘Are you sure Little Joe?’ he asked.




Joe nodded as he buried his face into his father’s shoulder, all the emotions of the past few hours catching up with him in a rush. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’m sure.’








‘Up near Bluff Peak,’ replied Joe, his voice muffled against his father’s shirt. ‘We were racing and he fell …. Cochise fell over Josh’s horse and we all went down.’  He looked up into Ben’s face. ‘I think he … broke his neck.’




A tremor went through Ben’s body at his son’s words and for a split second he saw again the broken and still body of Joe’s mother Marie that afternoon as she lay in the front yard.  Her neck had been broken too.  ‘I see,’ he said and began to stroke the back of Joe’s neck. He looked over his shoulder. ‘Adam … Hoss ….’




‘We’re on our way Pa,’ said Adam as he strode over to the front door. ‘I’ll take some men up to Bluff Peak Hoss, you get into town for the doctor.’ Hoss nodded and left the room without a word.  Adam gave his father and brother one long look and then followed Hoss. Ben bent over his distraught son again as the front door closed behind him.












Clem Hawkins scratched his head and put his hat back on before turning to the man beside him. ‘All done,’ he said, glancing at the covered body in the back of the wagon. ‘Where’s Cartwright gone?’




‘He’s over there,’ replied the young ranch hand and jerked his thumb in the direction of the slope behind them. ‘Mr Cartwright?’ he called. ‘You want us to take the body back now?’




Adam turned and strode over to them. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Take it to the house and Doc Martin will probably meet you there.  When he’s finished checking over my brother he’ll most likely go with you to the Michaels’ ranch with the body to inform Josh’s parents.’




Clem nodded. ‘You coming?’ he asked.




Adam shook his head. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘I’m going to stay here and try and get my brother’s horse up from down there. Tell Hoss to get back here with some rope when he gets back to the house with the Doc will you?’




‘Sure thing,’ replied Clem. He glanced at the young man beside him. ‘Although if I were you I’d just shoot it.  The horse is finished.’




‘Well you’re not me!’  Adam snapped back at him. ‘And the animal is far from finished I can assure you.  Now get going!’




He watched as the two men got up into the buckboard and rode away. With a heavy sigh he turned once more towards the slope and looked down to where Cochise was lying.  So far, all his attempts to get close to the animal had failed and he only hoped that Hoss would be more successful than he’d been when he got here.  It wasn’t as if the animal was badly hurt.  Adam could see that he was covered in scratches and there was blood trailing from somewhere underneath him, but he was fairly sure that there was nothing physically wrong with the horse that time wouldn’t heal.  No, it was more the animal’s state of mind that he was concerned about.




The first time he’d gone down the slope with a knife to cut Cochise free he’d had to come up again very quickly.  The animal hadn’t let him anywhere near him without thrashing about as if his life depended on it. He was obviously frightened out of his wits and Adam could see why.  The fall he and Joe had taken at the speed they’d obviously been going should really have killed both of them and judging from the evidence on the ground around here Joe was lucky that he’d walked out of it alive.  Adam surmised that his brother had probably kicked himself free of Cochise before he’d hit the ground and that had saved him.  The horse however had obviously fallen hard and who knows what he’d hit into on his way down the steep slope before becoming tangled in the brush.




Adam shook his head as he sat down and looked at the heaving animal. Typical of Joe to be riding like that, he thought.  Since the day that boy had got into the saddle they’d had to fight with him to slow him down and now it had most likely cost him his beloved Cochise. For as Adam looked down at the horse the logical side of him said that he really should end it for the suffering animal now. However the emotional side of him who had snapped at Clem told him that to do so would be to break his youngest brother’s heart and that he simply couldn’t do.  So he sat and waited.




Within ten minutes he heard a rider approaching and he turned to see Hoss dismounting. How did you get here so quickly?’ he asked in surprise. ‘The men only left a few minutes ago.’




Hoss came over to him, rope dangling from his arm. ‘I was already on my way,’ he said. ‘I met em back there apiece.  Figured you might need my help.’ He glanced over the slope. ‘Cochise down there?’




Adam nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Take a look.’




‘Don’t seen too hurt,’ said Hoss after a minute.




‘It’s hard to tell,’ said Adam. ‘He won’t let me near him.  I’ve tried a few times to get close, but he keeps getting agitated whenever I get close to him.  His reins are tangled in the brush and I can’t get them free.’  He looked up at Hoss. ‘I was hoping that you’d have better luck … what with your way with horses and all.’




Hoss nodded.  It was common knowledge amongst their family and indeed the whole district that he had a certain way with horses.  All animals in fact seemed to relate to him and there had many a time when he had saved a hurt or distressed animal when everyone else had given up on it.  He prayed that this would be one of those times. He knew what it would do to his younger brother if it wasn’t and he was determined to die trying if he had to. ‘Let’s get going then,’ he said. ‘You go this side and I’ll edge down there. Whichever of us can get a clear go at him cuts the reins and then we’ll try to hold him with the rope.’




‘Agreed,’ said Adam, getting up.




The two brothers slid down the slope slowly, one of each side of Cochise.  As he neared the animal, Hoss began to speak to him in a soft whisper. ‘That’s it boy … just relax now fellar … you let old Hoss take care of ya now boy ….’  The pinto heard the two of them approaching and tried to raise his head, the whites of his eyes showing his distress as he tried to roll himself from side to side. ‘Easy boy ….’continued Hoss. ‘That’s it fellar .. it’s only old Hoss … you remember me don’t ya boy?’  He edged closer to the horse.




Suddenly Adam called to him from the other side. ‘Hoss watch out!’ He ducked just as the horse lurched towards him, almost rolling onto him. ‘Easy boy,’ he said again, holding his knife out in front of him. ‘I’m just gonna …..’  He moved back sharply as Cochise squealed in fright and lunged at him again.




‘You can’t do it from there!’ yelled Adam. ‘Maybe if we get the rope on him we can hold him down and then cut it?’




Hoss hesitated. ‘Maybe,’ he said. ‘I’ll try and get it round his halter.




‘No!’ said Adam. ‘Don’t get too close!’




Hoss ignored his brother and began to talk softly to the distressed animal again as he edged closer to him. ‘That’s it fellar,’ he said. ‘Just lie still now fer Hoss.’  The horse squealed again at his words and began to roll around in fright, tangling the reins even more. Hoss shook his head and stopped.




Adam scrunched over to his side. ‘It’s not going to work Hoss,’ he said.




Hoss gave his brother an appalled look. ‘You ain’t thinking of giving up are ya Adam?’ he said. ‘We can’t do that ta Joe!’




‘I know,’ replied his brother. ‘I just meant that this way isn’t working.’




‘Well then what do ya suggest?’ said Hoss. ‘He sure as anything ain’t gonna let us get close ta him.’  He looked at the horse. ‘I ain’t ever seen him like this Adam.  He sure musta had a fright!’




Adam nodded and stroked his chin as he thought. ‘Maybe if we threw a blanket over him to cover his eyes?’ he suggested. ‘That way he wouldn’t know where we were and we might have more of a chance.’




Hoss shook his head. ‘Just frighten him more I reckon,’ he said. ‘We gotta get him ta trust us.’




‘Hoss look at him!’ said Adam. ‘That horse isn’t about to trust anyone at the moment.’




Hoss nodded. It was true … Cochise was too frightened and was obviously not ready to trust anyone to come close to him.  But the fact of the matter was that Hoss knew there was no choice. It was either get close to the horse or end up putting him down and in Hoss’ mind there was simply no choice.




Without another word he took his knife and began to move closer to the distressed horse. ‘Hoss!’ called Adam. ‘Get back here!’  Hoss continued to move forward, a determined look in his eye.  Cochise heard him coming and began to thrash about again, his eyes rolling and his head rearing.  Hoss got ever closer, oblivious to the cries of his brother behind him and held out his hand towards the horse.




‘Be still now Cochise,’ he said. ‘This is it boy.  Its now or never.’  With that he made a lunge towards the animal and landed on his neck, trying desperately to hold him down while him made a strike at the dangling reins beside him.  Cochise struggled with all his might and Hoss felt himself being thrown off again. Behind him he heard Adam’s voice, but he had no idea what he was calling out to him.  All he concentrated on was the heaving animal beneath him and the reins that he was so desperate to reach.  He felt a crack as the horse’s head collided with his own and for a moment the lights went out.  He shook himself back to consciousness with a determination that came from deep within him and made one last desperate lunge for the reins and cut them.




Behind him, Adam’s hands pulled frantically at his brother as Hoss felt his body falling backwards as Cochise felt the reins break.  The horse scrambled to his feet and reared up over Hoss, his feet landing inches from the man’s face.  Hoss rolled over, feeling Adam’s hands pushing him downwards away from the horse and he shut his eyes so as not to see what might be coming next.  Suddenly there was a crash and he opened them again to see Cochise galloping down the slope away from them.  He turned his head to look into the dark brown eyes of Adam who was panting next to him.




‘That was the craziest thing you’ve ever done brother,’ said Adam between breaths.




Hoss shook his head as he watched the pinto run into the distance. ‘Not crazy,’ he murmured. ‘It ain’t crazy ta do something ya know ya have to.’




Adam patted him on the shoulder and nodded. ‘I know,’ he said simply. ‘You okay?’




Hoss nodded. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘You?’




Adam nodded again. ‘Yeah,’ he said.




Both brothers watched the frightened horse as it disappeared. ‘Wish he was,’ said Hoss sadly.












‘Physically he’ll be fine Ben.  I’ve set his dislocated shoulder and it’ll heal nicely as long as he takes it easy for a while.’




Ben nodded. ‘Thanks Paul,’ he said. He looked across the front yard where the buckboard could be seen approaching with Josh’s body in the back. ‘It seems that I have a lot to be grateful for.’




Paul nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said as Clem brought the buckboard to a halt beside them.




‘Adam said to bring the body here,’ said Clem. ‘He figured you’d want to come with us to the Michaels place and break the news to his folks.’  He indicated the body behind him.




‘Yes,’ said Paul. ‘You go on and I’ll catch up with you.’  He turned to Ben as Clem turned the buckboard again. ‘I’ve given Joe a painkiller so he might be a bit groggy for a while.’  He hesitated. ‘He seems upset which is to be expected.’




Ben nodded as he glanced up to his son’s bedroom window. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘Please give the Michaels’ my sympathy and tell them if there’s anything I can do …’ his voice trembled as he realised just how close he’d come to someone else having to say that very thing to him today. ‘I …’ he looked at the doctor. ‘It seems such a waste Paul.’




Paul nodded. ‘I know,’ he said and sighed. ‘Well I’m sure someone will be in touch to let you know the funeral details Ben. ‘You look after that boy up there.’




‘I will,’ said Ben with a sigh. ‘I’ll probably come over to the Michaels’ place myself tomorrow.’




Paul nodded as he got up into his buggy and turned it around before waving.  Ben returned the wave and then glanced up to his son’s bedroom window again.  With another sigh he walked over to the house and went through the front doorway. ‘I get soup for Little Joe,’ said Hop Sing as he came in from the kitchen with a steaming bowl on a tray. ‘It make him feel better.’




Ben smiled at the cook. ‘Thanks Hop Sing,’ he said. ‘I’ll take it up to him.’  As he walked up the stairs with the tray he wondered just how long it would be before his son felt better …. He knew it would take a lot more than soup to fix his emotions up this time.




‘Feeling better?’ he asked as he entered the bedroom and put the tray on the dresser.




Joe looked up at his father from the bed in which he was lying. ‘A bit,’ he said. ‘Doc Martin gave me a painkiller and my shoulder don’t hurt as much now.’




Ben nodded as he sat on the edge of the bed. ‘Well you just be sure to keep it still then,’ he said as he touched the sling. ‘No getting out of bed.’




‘Until when?’ asked Joe as he laid his head back on the pillow with a sigh.




‘We’ll see how it is tomorrow,’ replied his father. ‘Now here’s some soup that Hop Sing made for you.  How about having it before it gets cold?’




Joe ignored his father’s comment and lifted his head again. ‘Has anyone been out to ….’ His voice trailed away.




Ben looked at him closely. ‘Adam and Hoss are fixing everything up,’ he said. ‘Don’t you worry about it Joe.’




‘I’d like to talk to Josh’s parents,’ said Joe in a low voice.




‘I know,’ replied his father ‘All in good though son.  Doc Martin is on his way over there now with … Josh’s body and I’m sure that they’d like some time alone for a while.’




Joe nodded. ‘Yes,’ he whispered. ‘I’m sure they would.’  He stared across the room and out of the window. ‘You know Pa it happened so quickly. One minute we were riding and the next ….’  He put his hand up to his face and rubbed it over his eyes. ‘The next minute he was gone.’  He gave his father an anguished look. ‘I don’t even know what really happened Pa.  I guess Rusty just stumbled.’








‘His horse,’ said Joe softly. ‘He loved that horse Pa. We was always fighting about which one was faster … him or ….’ He stopped. ‘Cochise!’ he said. ‘He got tangled up in the brush.  Has anyone ….’




‘I told you Joe, your brothers will get everything sorted out,’ said Ben soothingly. ‘I’m sure they’ll look after Cochise for you and make sure he’s all right.’




Joe nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Of course.’ He lifted his head form the pillow again as a noise down below grabbed his attention. ‘Do you think that’s them now?’




Ben stood up and walked to the window. ‘It is,’ he said. ‘Their horses are outside.’  He smiled. ‘Now how about some of that soup?’




Joe nodded absently. ‘In a minute,’ he said, his ears straining to hear. ‘Are they coming up?’




Ben walked over and opened the door to see Hoss and Adam walking along the hallway. ‘How is he?’ asked Adam.




Ben put his finger to his lips and indicated into the room with his head. ‘He’s fine,’ he said in a loud voice. ‘Just a dislocated shoulder that’ll heal nicely Paul says.’




‘Adam!’ called Joe. ‘Hoss!’




‘Hiya Shortshanks,’ said Hoss as they both entered the room. ‘You look better than the last time we saw ya.’




Joe gave his brothers a half-smile. ‘I feel better too,’ he said in a flat voice. ‘Did you … look after everything?’




‘Yes,’ said Adam, stealing a glance at his father before sitting down. ‘We got Josh’s body off to his folks.’  Joe nodded and was silent.




‘How about that soup now?’ said Ben.




Joe shrugged. ‘I don’t really feel like it Pa,’ he said in the same flat tone. ‘Maybe later.’  He looked at his brothers again. ‘How about Cochise?  Did you get him cut free?’




Hoss glanced at Adam before replying. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘It took some doing but we got him free.’




Joe nodded. ‘Is he okay?’ he asked.




Adam took a deep breath. ‘He was pretty frightened Joe,’ he said. ‘He took a bad fall you know.’




Joe shot his brother a sharp look. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘But is he okay?  He wasn’t hurt bad was he?’




‘Didn’t seem to be,’ said Adam. ‘Once Hoss cut him free he took off in a gallop. There was a bit of blood and he’s covered in scratches, but we don’t think it was anything serious.’




Joe frowned. ‘What do you mean you don’t think?’ he said. ‘Can’t you tell?’




Hoss leant forward. ‘He took off Shortshanks,’ he said. ‘Like Adam said, he was a mite upset.’




Joe sank back onto the pillow. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘He musta been awful frightened.  And he probably couldn’t understand why I went off and left him too.’




‘Joe you had to,’ said Adam. ‘There was no way you could have got him free with a busted shoulder.




I know that,’ replied Joe. ‘But Cooch didn’t.  He probably thinks I let him down twice.’




Hoss patted Joe on his good shoulder. ‘Well you can let him know he was wrong when he comes running back in here,’ he said soothingly.




Joe tried to smile again. ‘Let me know when he does, will ya Hoss?’ he asked. ‘I’ll feel better when I know he’s back home again where he belongs.’




‘Sure will,’ replied Hoss.




‘Now you two get on out of here,’ said Ben in a mock stern voice. ‘This young man needs to get some sleep and …’ he looked at Joe. ‘I’m not taking no for an answer this time Joseph.  You’re going to eat some of that soup.’




Joe nodded silently. As Hoss and Adam made to leave the room he looked over at them gratefully. ‘Thanks,’ he said.




‘You’re welcome,’ said Adam with a smile.  Hoss grinned at his brother as he shut the door behind him.












‘You want some help with cutting that up?’ asked Ben.




Joe looked up. ‘Thanks Pa,’ he said. ‘It’s a bit hard with one hand … specially when I have to use my right one.’  He looked down at his sling distastefully. ‘Once I can get this thing off it’ll be easier.’




‘You leave that sling alone until Doc Martin says,’ said Ben as he cut up his son’s food and then passed the plate back to him. ‘It’s only been three days after all.’




‘I know,’ said Joe as he picked up his fork. ‘You don’t have to tell me Pa.’ He looked up as Hoss entered the room. ‘Any luck?’ he asked.




Hoss shook his head as he joined his family at the table. ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘I’ll go out again after lunch and keep searching.’  He shot a look at Joe’s face. ‘Don’t worry Shortshanks,’ he said. ‘I’ll find him … he can’t have got far.’




‘I know,’ said Joe softly. ‘Thanks Hoss.’  He stood up. ‘I think I’ll go upstairs and lie down for a while,’ he said.




‘Joseph you haven’t eaten anything,’ said his father. ‘Sit down please.’  Joe opened his mouth to object, but caught the look on his father’s face and sat down again with a sigh and picked up his fork. Ben patted him on the arm. ‘Hoss will find Cochise Joe.  Don’t you worry about him now.’




Joe looked at his father. ‘I just wonder why he hasn’t come home by himself,’ he said. ‘I can’t understand why he wouldn’t.’




‘Joe we told you he was very agitated when he last saw him,’ said Adam. ‘It might take him a while to settle down.’ Joe sighed again and picked at his food. ‘I’ll go out with you this afternoon Hoss,’ continued Adam. ‘I got all those supplies Hop Sing wanted this morning so there’s nothing else really urgent to do. That okay with you Pa?’




Ben shot him a grateful look. ‘Of course,’ he said and then turned back to Joe again. ‘Joe will you eat something please?  There’s no need carrying on like this son.’




Joe put a mouthful of food in and chewed slowly. ‘Can we go over to the Michaels’ place this afternoon Pa?’ he said.




Ben sighed. ‘I don’t think so Joe,’ he said. ‘I told you yesterday after the funeral that they’ll need some time to themselves now.’




‘Yeah but I wanna talk to them again about what happened,’ protested Joe.




‘Joe you told them everything you had to yesterday,’ replied Ben patiently. ‘They both told you that they don’t hold you responsible.  It was just one of those unfortunate things.’




Joe looked down at the table. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Unfortunate.’  He stood up again. ‘I’m really not hungry Pa.  I’m going upstairs for a while.’




The three Cartwrights watched as he walked up the stairs. ‘He’s taking all this hard ain’t he?’ said Hoss.




‘It’s to be expected,’ replied his father. ‘I think once Cochise gets back here it might help.’




‘Speaking of which,’ said Adam as he stood up. ‘I’ll get our horses saddled brother. See you outside when you’ve finished.’




Hoss nodded. ‘Okay,’ he said as he took another mouthful. ‘I sure hope we find him Pa.  Joe really needs that horse round about now.’




‘That he does son,’ said Ben thoughtfully. ‘That he does indeed.’












‘I covered down there this morning,’ said Hoss pointing down the slope.  I thought maybe you could head east and I’ll back track down to the west from here.’




‘Sounds fine,’ said Adam. ‘Good luck.’  He turned his horse and rode down the slope carefully, and then headed off to the right.  Hoss watched him go and then headed straight ahead.  He rode carefully, checking for tracks as he went. To his delight, after about half an hours he found the marks of a shod horse and followed them with great anticipation.  They led towards the high country which Hoss had figured would be a logical place for Cochise to head anyway.  The downside of that was that there were many rocky sections over which would become very difficult and there were also a myriad of canyons and crevices in which a horse could be completely hidden.  It was for these reasons that he followed the tracks with a sinking heart.




Fortunately, within an hour he realised that the animal had veered off towards the east again and down towards the pasture country.  He was just about to follow when he had the strangest feeling that he was being watched and stopped to look around. ‘Hmm,’ he said half-aloud. ‘Must be my imagination.’  He turned in the saddle and put his hand up to shield his face again and looked into the distance, but there was no sight of Cochise anywhere. With a sigh he took off again, anxious to get to the horse before more distance came between them.




Within half and hour he had tracked Cochise to one of the smaller pastures which had several canyons leading off it.  As Hoss checked the horse’s track yet again he saw with delight that he was headed into one of them … and Hoss hoped that it was one in which he would be able to corner the horse.  Fortunately, that was exactly where Cochise had headed.  Hoss found him in one of the smallest canyons, one that was complete with a small stream running through it where the horse had stopped to drink.




‘Well I’ll be,’ said Hoss with a grin as he carefully took his rope off his saddle horn and began to undo it. ‘Looks like you and me are gonna make it home today after all fellar.’  He carefully dismounted and tied up his own horse, gently easing the rope undone as Cochise lifted his head and looked at him warily. ‘Come on fellar,’ Hoss said in an easy tone. ‘It’s okay now.  I’m gonna take ya home ta Joe.  You’ll like that won’t ya?’  Cochise took a few steps away from him as he approached and rolled his eyes. Hoss frowned. ‘What’s the matter fellar?’ he said soothingly. ‘Come on now.  Ya ain’t forgotten me have ya?’  The horse began to get agitated and Hoss saw the whites of his eyes as he rolled them.  He stopped.  This wasn’t like the Cochise that he knew at all and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it.




After a few minutes of man and horse eyeing each other up, Hoss tried again. He made a lasso with the rope and eased it gently into position, talking quietly to the agitated horse all the time.  He gently swung it around as Cochise began to run backwards and forwards in an agitated fashion, watching Hoss all the while. Hoss threw the lasso in the horse’s direction, but it fell short.  Cochise reared up at the movement and began to snort angrily.




‘Whoa there Cochise,’ said Hoss as he swung the lasso again. ‘I’m only trying ta help ya fellar.’  After several more attempts, Hoss stopped and scratched his head. ‘’Cochise was becoming more and more agitated with each throw of the rope and he didn’t quite know what to do next.  He walked away from the horse and sat down on a rock to watch him as he ran backwards and forwards near the stream.




‘Black and white one plenty proud,’ said a voice behind him and Hoss turned sharply to see an old Indian standing behind him.  He immediately checked his gun and stood up to face him.  The Indian looked at Hoss for a moment and then his eyes travelled over to Cochise. Hoss stared at him as he stared at the horse.




‘Where did you come from?’ Hoss asked finally, when is had become clear to him that the Indian wasn’t about to speak again.  The man didn’t take his eyes off the agitated horse and said nothing. Hoss tried again. ‘My name is Hoss Cartwright,’ he said.




The Indian looked over at him again. ‘The black and white one is yours?’




Hoss nodded. ‘Sorta,’ he said. ‘He belongs to my brother.’




The Indian nodded shortly. ‘He has a free spirit,’ he said simply. ‘He is ….’ He searched for the word … ‘In his mind he is strong and … determined,’ he said finally.




Hoss nodded and grinned at the man. ‘Like his owner,’ he said.




The Indian sat down and crossed his legs while he continued to stare at the horse.  Cochise continued to run up and down in an agitated fashion. Finally, Hoss sat down next to the man and there was a long silence between them. After about five minutes, the Indian spoke again. ‘You wish the black and white one to go with you?’ he asked.




Hoss nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said simply. ‘But he ain’t gonna I reckon.’  He eyed the Indian off. ‘He got hurt in a fall,’ he explained. ‘Seems like he don’t trust me none now.’




The Indian stood up and held out his hand for Hoss’ rope. ‘He will choose,’ he said and looked directly into Hoss’ eyes.




Hoss felt a shiver go down his spine, but for the life of him didn’t know why.  There was something about this Indian that made him feel …. He didn’t quite know how he felt, but something in him told him to trust the man.  He handed him the rope. ‘Don’t get too close ta him,’ he said. ‘He don’t know ya.’




The Indian merely looked at him. ‘He will choose,’ he said again and turned to walk towards the horse.  Hoss watched in amazement as Cochise reared up several times as the man approached him. ‘Get back!’ he called, but the Indian didn’t hesitate and continued to walk towards the horse. As he neared Cochise, the horse stood still and looked at him, the whites of his eyes still rolling and his head tossing angrily. Without hesitating, the man reached out and put his hand on the horses’ neck and Cochise instantly stood still.  The Indian put the rope around his neck and led him over to Hoss.




‘He has chosen to go with you,’ he said and handed the rope to Hoss.




Hoss looked first at the horse and then at the man in amazement. ‘I guess he has,’ he said finally.  He opened his mouth to speak again, but the Indian turned from him and began to walk away. ‘Wait!’ called Hoss. ‘I ain’t even said thank you yet!’




The Indian turned and looked at Hoss and Cochise and shook his head. ‘I did nothing,’ he said and indicated Cochise with his finger. ‘He chose.’




Hoss frowned, not sure what the man was getting at. ‘Yeah but ….’ he began.  The Indian turned and walked away from them again. ‘What’s ya name?’ called Hoss, but the man didn’t turn around again.  He walked out of the canyon and disappeared behind some rocks.  Hoss turned to Cochise who was beginning to get agitated again. ‘Well fellar,’ he said. ‘Let’s get ya home eh? I know someone who’s gonna be mighty glad ta see ya.’  He led the horse over to where his own mount was standing and got up into the saddled.  He took one last look in the direction that the Indian had disappeared and shook his head before turning for home.












Adam and Hoss leant on the corral fence and watched as Cochise ran up and down inside, looking for all the world as if he were seeking a way out. ‘He looks like he did the other day,’ commented Adam. ‘Still not himself by any means.’




‘He will be,’ said Hoss confidently. ‘Just as soon as Joe gets home with Pa he’ll settle him down. I swear sometimes them two know what the other’s thinking.’




Adam grinned. ‘I know what you mean,’ he said. ‘Joe never could see that this animal was less than perfect could he?’




I remember when Pa gave him to him as a little fellar,’ said Hoss. ‘Remember how he wanted ta get right on up there and ride him straight away?’




‘Mmm.  But it didn’t take long before he was able to, did it?  I seem remember Pa telling me to make sure Joe broke him in slowly, but it seemed like the two of them knew each other right from the start.’




Hoss nodded. ‘Well I only hope Joe gets home soon,’ he said. ‘I hate ta see him like this.’  As if he had understood Hoss’ words, Cochise began to snort and rear up a couple of times. ‘Steady boy,’ said Hoss softly. ‘Settle down.’




Adam shook his head. ‘I don’t know Hoss,’ he said. ‘He sure looks agitated to me.  I hope Joe can settle him.’




There was a sound behind them and they turned to see their father driving the buggy into the yard with Joe beside him. Ben waved at them both. ‘We went into town,’ he said as the buggy stopped. ‘Paul Martin took a look at Joe’s shoulder.’




‘Hey look Shortshanks!’ called Hoss.  ‘Look who’s back.’




Joe looked over at the corral and gave the first real smile that they’d seen on him for days. ‘Cooch!’ he said delightedly as he got down from the buggy. He turned and began to walk over to the corral.




‘Be gentle with him Joe,’ warned Adam. ‘He’s still pretty skittish.’




Joe nodded and leant on the fence with his one good arm. ‘Hey Cooch,’ he said softly.  Cochise stopped and looked at him for a moment and then began to pace up and down again while tossing his head.  Joe reached his hand out to the horse. ‘Cooch,’ he said. ‘Come on over here boy.’  Again the horse stopped and looked at him, and then began to pace up and down once more. Joe frowned. ‘What’s wrong with him?’ he asked.




His father moved to stand beside him. ‘He’s still upset,’ he said. ‘Just be patient and give him time Joe.’




Joe nodded. ‘Yeah,’ he said bitterly. ‘Of course he’s upset.  I don’t blame him after what I did to him.’




‘Ya didn’t do anything ta him Shortshanks,’ said Hoss. ‘He just needs time ta settle down is all.’




Joe gave his brother a sad look. ‘Thank for getting him back for me Hoss,’ he said. ‘But I reckon you might have wasted your time.  Seems like he don’t wanna know me no more.’




‘Joe don’t be stupid,’ said Adam. ‘You heard what Pa and Hoss said.  He just needs some time that’s all.’




Joe nodded and leant on the fence again as he watched the horse in the corral. ‘Sure,’ he said in a flat tone.












Ben came out of the barn and stopped to watch Hoss in the corral. He frowned as he noticed Cochise pacing as far away from Hoss as could get, tossing his head and pawing at the ground as Hoss spoke to him in a soothing tone. ‘No luck?’ he asked as he approached the corral.




Hoss shook his head and walked over to join his father on the other side of the fence. ‘Nope,’ he said sadly. ‘He just don’t want anything ta do with me at all.’  They both stood and looked at the horse silently. ‘I just don’t understand it Pa,’ said Hoss finally. ‘It’s been three days now and he’s still like this.  I can’t even get him into the barn.’




Ben sighed. ‘Has Joe been out to see him today?’ he asked.




Hoss shook his head. ‘Nope,’ he said. ‘He don’t seem ta wanna try no more either.’




Ben nodded. ‘He’s really down about all this,’ he said. ‘First Josh and now Cochise.’  He shook his head. ‘I’m worried about him Hoss.’




Hoss glanced at his father. ‘He’ll be okay Pa,’ he said. ‘It’s like ya said before.  He just needs time.’  He looked over at Cochise. ‘They both do.’




Ben smiled at his son and patted him on the shoulder. ‘You’re right son,’ he said. ‘Guess we’ll just have to be patient with them both.  Where is your brother?’




‘Inside,’ said Hoss. ‘Up in his room I spose like he always is lately.’




Ben nodded and turned towards the house. It had been like this for days now.  Joe seemed to be withdrawing more and more into himself as time went on and he was beginning to get really worried about the boy. If it wasn’t enough what had happened to his friend, he now had to deal with the rejection of his beloved Cochise and it seemed that he wasn’t prepared to face it any more. During the past few days he had made some half-hearted attempts to reach the horse, but Ben could tell that his heart wasn’t in it. He sure hoped that Hoss would have some success with the animal so that Joe might begin to come out of the depression that he was withdrawing into and come back to them.




‘Joe,’ he said as he entered his son’s room and saw him standing by the window and staring down at the corral. ‘Why are you up here on such a lovely day?’




Joe looked at his father. ‘Just resting a bit,’ he said in a flat tone. He turned to look out of the window again. ‘Hoss is wasting his time down there.’




Ben came over and stood next to his son. ‘He doesn’t think so,’ he said. Joe was silent. ‘You know it might help if you went down there and helped him,’ Ben continued.




Joe shrugged his shoulders. ‘Wouldn’t do any good,’ he said. ‘You saw Cooch yesterday Pa. He didn’t want anything to do with me.’




Ben put his hand on Joe’s shoulder. ‘Joe you’ve got to be patient,’ he said. ‘Cochise will come around in time.’




Joe gave his father a dark look. ‘You think so?’ he said. ‘It’s been days now Pa and he’s still just the same as when Hoss first brought him home. He hates me and I don’t blame him.’




‘He does not hate you!’




Joe faced the window again. ‘Yes he does,’ he said sadly. ‘I let him down and he hates me for it … I can tell … He just wants me to leave him alone.’  He began to breathe deeply and gripped the windowsill tightly.




‘Joseph ….’




Joe shook his head. ‘It ain’t no use Pa. I can’t change the way that he feels about me now.’








Joe turned away from the window and shook off his father’s hand. ‘I’m going downstairs,’ he said abruptly.

Chapter 2:

‘There you go Joe,’ said Paul Martin with a smile. ‘That shoulder must feel better without that sling on now.’




Joe nodded and flexed his arm. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Thanks.’




‘You’ll still need to be a bit careful with it,’ continued the doctor as he put away his things. ‘You can ride, but only slowly for a while.’




Joe nodded briefly and stood up. ‘Can I go now?’ he said in a short voice.




‘Yes,’ said Paul, with a surprised look at him.




‘How about you go on down to the saloon and have a drink Joe,’ said Ben. ‘I’ll meet you down there in a while.’




Joe nodded and left the room without saying another word. Paul looked at Ben with a puzzled expression on his face. ‘Was it something I said?’ he asked.




Ben shook his head. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘He’s just upset. Cochise is still having nothing to do with him.’




‘I thought the horse would have settled down by now,’ said Paul.




‘So did I,’ Ben replied. ‘We all did. I think he might have a chance of doing just that if Joe would have something to do with him, but he just refuses to try at all with the animal now.  Hoss is giving it everything he’s got, but he’s at his wit’s end with the horse.’




‘I’ve ever known Hoss not to succeed with an animal,’ said Paul. ‘Surely there’s something that can be done.’




Ben shook his head. ‘Well if there is I sure would like to know what it is,’ he said. ‘I keep on saying that we all just need to be patient Paul, but I’m beginning to think I’m wrong and there’s nothing that can be done with the horse.  I’ve never seen Hoss so dispirited with an animal before and seeing what it’s doing to Joe … well it’s just about breaking my heart.’




Paul put his hand on Ben’s shoulder. ‘Well now that he can ride again at least he’ll be able to get out a bit.  That should lift his spirits.’




Ben smiled at his friend. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘He should feel better about that. Even if he can’t ride Cochise he’ll be able to ride another horse.’  He stood up. ‘Well I suppose I’d better go and find him,’ he said. ‘Maybe a drink or two will help him to feel a bit better.’




‘That’s the spirit,’ replied Paul. ‘It’ll do you both good.’ He watched his friend leave the surgery and sighed as he turned back towards his examining table again.’












‘Hoss I’d like you to check the herd in the South pasture this morning please,’ said Ben as he helped himself to some eggs.’




‘Sure thing Pa,’ said Hoss.






‘And Adam, could you please take that fencing material out to the men?’ Adam nodded and continued to eat his breakfast. ‘I’m gong into town to get the mail,’ said Ben. ‘Would you like to come with me Joe?’




Joe shrugged. ‘Sure,’ he said without much enthusiasm.




‘This afternoon we can work with Cochise again if you like Joe,’ volunteered Hoss with a glance at his father. Ben nodded at him.




Joe shrugged again. ‘Ain’t much point is there?’ he said. ‘I’d just as soon not.’




‘Joe Cochise will never settle down unless you work with him,’ said his father. ‘You have to try son.’




Joe threw down his napkin and glared at his father. ‘Why?’ he said angrily. ‘Tell me why I should try?  It’s not going to make any difference.’  He indicated Hoss with his hand. ‘Hoss has tried for ages now and still there’s no improvement with him.  I think we should all just face it Pa .. Cochise isn’t ever going to settle down again and that’s an end to it.’




‘Joseph lower your voice please,’ said Ben, his eyes flashing. ‘All of us are trying to help you and you’re only making the situation worse with your attitude.’




Joe lowered his eyes and stared at the tablecloth. ‘Sorry,’ he mumbled.




Ben put his hand on top of his son’s. ‘Just give it time,’ he said gently.




Joe removed his hand. ‘Yeah sure,’ he said in his customary flat tone. ‘Can I go now Pa?  I’ll get the buckboard ready.’




Ben looked surprised. ‘Buckboard?’ he said. ‘There’s no need to take the buckboard Joe … we’re not getting any supplies so we’ll just ride into town.’ Joe looked startled as if the thought hadn’t occurred to him. Ben noticed the expression on his son’s face and realised suddenly that he hadn’t ridden since the accident. ‘There’s plenty of horses in the barn you can choose,’ he said.




‘You can take Sport if you like,’ interrupted Adam. ‘I’ll be delivering those supplies so I won’t need him this morning.’




‘There you go,’ said Ben. ‘It’s all settled then.’




Joe looked anxious. ‘Um … thanks Adam,’ he said. ‘But I’d rather not ride Sport.’




Adam shrugged. ‘Suit yourself,’ he said. ‘Take Brandy then. He hasn’t been out in a while and he needs a good run.’




Joe shook his head. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Not Brandy.’




Ben watched his son intently. ‘Well you choose Joe,’ he said. ‘Get both horses saddled up before I get out there, will you please?’




Joe sat still and didn’t move. ‘Don’t you think we should pick up some supplies?’ he said. ‘Hop Sing is bound to need something.’




Ben shook his head. ‘No he doesn’t,’ he said. ‘I’ve already checked with him.’




‘Um … well if you don’t mind Pa I’d like to go with Adam,’ said Joe. ‘I could help him with that fencing.’




Ben’s eyebrows shot up. ‘If you want to,’ he said. ‘Just be careful of that shoulder.’




‘Thanks,’ said Joe and stood up. ‘I’ll get your horse saddled for you Pa.’ He left the room.




Adam looked at his father. ‘Is that what I think it was?’ he said quietly.




‘What?’ said Hoss.




‘It seems that your brother is hesitating about getting back on a horse after the accident,’ explained Ben thoughtfully.




‘What?’ said Hoss. ‘Shortshanks has never not wanted to get on a horse in his whole life!’




‘Well he does now,’ said Adam.




‘He’s had falls before,’ said Hoss. ‘Plenty of em.  He ain’t never reacted like this before.’




‘He’s never had a friend die in a fall with him before,’ said Ben quietly. ‘And he’s always had Cochise to help him, remember?  He doesn’t have that now.’




‘All the more reason to get that horse well again then,’ said Adam.




Hoss sighed. ‘I dunno,’ he said. ‘I never thought I’d say this, but I just don’t know what ta do with the animal.  Nothing seems ta work with him.’  He looked at his father. ‘We can’t keep him in that corral for much longer either Pa,’ he said. ‘He’s going crazy out there and it’s only making it worse for him.’




Ben looked at his son. ‘Well what do you suggest?’ he said. ‘You want to give up on him?’




Hoss shook his head. ‘No Pa I didn’t mean that,’ he said. ‘I just … I don’t know what ta do is all.’




There was silence around the table as the three men sat in deep thought. ‘Well we’d better get going boys,’ said Ben finally. ‘We’ve all got work to do.’  He stood up wearily and gave them a half-hearted smile.












Ben walked into the barn and watched his youngest son forking hay for a few moments before speaking. ‘How’s the shoulder today?’ he asked.




Joe looked up and stopped momentarily. ‘Fine,’ he said.




Ben nodded and sat down on a barrel. ‘Well don’t overdo it,’ he said. There was silence for a while as Joe continued to work. ‘I’ve been thinking Joe,’ said Ben finally. ‘We really should pick you out a horse to ride until Cochise is better don’t you think?’




Joe continued to fork the hay and didn’t look at his father. ‘I spose so,’ he said unenthusiastically.




‘I asked Adam to put these two in here,’ said Ben indicating two horses in the stalls. ‘Either one would be suitable for you.’  Joe said nothing. ‘Joe?’ said his father. ‘Did you hear what I said?’  He watched the boy intently for a reaction, but got none.




‘Yeah,’ said Joe. ‘Either one is fine.’




‘I’d like to you to ride out to Adam this afternoon and help him bring in those strays.’




Joe finally looked up. ‘Can’t Hoss do it?’ he asked.




‘No.  I’m asking you to do it,’ said his father.




Joe said nothing for a few moments as he continued to work. Ben stood up to leave, but turned as his son said in a low voice, ‘I’d rather stay here and finish up these chores.’




‘The chores can wait,’ said Ben. ‘I’d like you to ride out with Adam.’ He stoped and waited for Joe to speak, but his son said nothing. ‘All right then,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you at supper when you both get back.’












Joe shook his head. ‘I don’t wanna go.  Can’t I just stay here and finish this?’




Ben walked over to his son and put his hand on his shoulder. ‘Joe you can’t keep on doing this. You’ve avoided riding since the accident.’




Joe shrugged his father’s hand off. ‘I haven’t!’ he said indignantly.




‘Yes son you have,’ said his father. ‘You know that you haven’t once been on a horse since then.  You have to at some stage you know, so you may as well start now.’  Joe turned away from his father and stood looking at the back wall. ‘Joseph I know its hard, but you’ve got to try son,’ continued Ben. ‘You’re hurting inside, but the only way to heal that hurt is to get on with life.’




‘I am,’ said Joe in a low voice.




‘No Joseph you’re not,’ said his father. ‘You’re avoiding the very thing that you need to face.  You need to get back on a horse and ride again.  Even if it’s not Cochise.’




‘It’ll never be Cochise,’ said Joe.




Ben sighed. ‘We’ve been through all this before son.  Just because …’




Joe turned to face his father again. ‘Save it Pa,’ he said sadly. ‘I know what you’re going to say.  Just be patient.  Give it time.  I’ve heard it all before.  Well the truth is that no matter how much time we give him Cochise will never be the same again. That’s just something that I’ve decided to face and I wish all of you would do the same. What we had is finished.’




‘Son …’




Joe put his pitchfork down and moved towards the door. He looked outside to the corral where Cochise was pacing up and down frantically. ‘He don’t like being here Pa,’ he said sadly. ‘He feels trapped.’




Ben came to stand next to his son. ‘What do you want to do about it?’ he asked gently.




Joe took a deep breath. ‘I …’  His eyes filled with tears as he looked at his beloved horse. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I hate to see him like this Pa I really do … I’ve thought about turning him loose ….’  He drew a sharp breath as if the very thought of it gave him pain. ‘But I ….’  He turned to look into his father’s eyes. ‘I don’t know that I can let him go,’ he said simply.




Ben rubbed the back of his son’s neck. ‘I know,’ he said. He thought for a moment. ‘Perhaps if we turn him out into the lower meadow?  He’d have to room to run a bit out there, but he couldn’t get through the fences and go too far.’  Joe nodded his assent. ‘I’ll get Hoss to see to it this afternoon,’ said Ben. He looked at his son. ‘But Joseph …’  He searched for the words. ‘You won’t be able to see him up close if he’s out there,’ he said. ‘He won’t be easy to work with if you decide that you want to.’




Joe bit his lip. ‘But he’ll be happier,’ he said.




Ben nodded. ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘I suppose so.  And you can always ride out and see him.’  He felt Joe jerk under his touch and looked at the boy. ‘Joe?’ he said. ‘I want you to think about what I’ve said son.  You have to get back onto a horse.’




Joe turned and walked away from his father without another word.












Ben walked out onto the front porch and looked up at the night sky.  He noticed how the swaying tops of the pines blotted out the moon momentarily, casting huge shadows on the house and the barn and drew in a deep breath as he smelled their delicious scent. ‘Nice out here at this time ain’t it?’




He turned to see Hoss sitting on the far end of the porch. ‘Yes,’ he said as he walked over and sat next to him. ‘I thought you were inside.’




Hoss shook his head. ‘Nah,’ he said. ‘Adam’s gone inta town, so there’s no game of checkers tonight,’ he said. ‘I thought I’d just spend me some time out here instead.’




‘Joe not around?’ Hoss shrugged and said nothing. ‘You miss him don’t you?’  said his father.




Hoss shot the man a surprised look. ‘Yeah,’ he admitted. ‘He just ain’t the same Joe no more Pa. Not since ….’  His voice trailed away and he was silent. ‘I guess I failed em both.’




Ben didn’t need to ask whom he was referring to. ‘You didn’t fail anyone Hoss,’ he said. ‘Both of them are just beyond our reach at the moment.  It’s no one’s fault.’




Hoss nodded slowly. ‘I guess,’ he said. ‘Still don’t help none though.’ There was silence as they both took in the beauty of the night around them. ‘If only I coulda reached Cochise then maybe Joe …’ Hoss shrugged his shoulders. ‘Ain’t no use wishing,’ he said. ‘Guess it ain’t gonna happen.  Ya know Pa I’ve never felt this way about an animal before.  Guess I don’t have the way with em that I thought.’




‘Of course you do Hoss,’ said his father. ‘Cochise wouldn’t respond to anyone at the moment son. He’s beyond it.’




Hoss scratched his head. ‘True,’ he admitted. ‘Only I wish I had some of  …’ He stopped suddenly.




Ben looked at him. ‘What?’ he asked.




Hoss turned to his father with an eager look. ‘Pa!’ he said. ‘I just had a thought.’  Ben waited patiently while Hoss processed his thoughts.  Sometimes it took him longer to come to conclusions that others reached quickly and his father was one of the few people who understood this. ‘Remember I told ya about that Indian who got him under control the day I brought him home?’ he said finally.








‘I’d never seen anything like it Pa.  Honest … he … well it was like he could communicate ta the horse in a way that I couldn’t.  Like no one else could really.’  He sat forward and began to speak excitedly. ‘Maybe … well maybe he’d be able ta help now.’




Ben frowned. ‘Hoss,’ he said. ‘I know you want to help son, but it’s just not logical to think that an old Indian man would be able to help Cochise.’




‘Why not?  He did before.’




‘Son even if you could find him … which I doubt … why on earth would he come here to help?’ said Ben patiently. ‘He’s an Indian and lives with his tribe. He’s not going to come here to help with a horse.’




Hoss thought for a moment. ‘I believe he would Pa,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘I can’t even tell ya why.  There was just something …. Something about the way he was with Cochise that makes me think it.’




‘Hoss ….’




‘Pa I gotta try,’ said Hoss pleadingly. ‘Please?  It’s the only thing I know to do and I just can’t stand doing nothing no more while Shortshanks and that horse are like this.  Every day its getting worse and …. Well I just gotta try Pa.’  He gave Ben a long look. ‘I’m scared that one day I’ll wake up and the Shortshanks that I know will be all gone Pa.  Each day he gets further away from us … you know it as well as I do.’




Ben nodded.  He’d felt it to.  The gradual withdrawal of his youngest son had him more worried than he’d admit even to himself and it scared him witless.  Trust Hoss to be the one to voice what they’d all been feeling, for there was depth to this middle boy of his that occasionally shone through and showed his father what he was really made of.  Ben too had felt that he was losing the Joseph that he knew … perhaps for ever.




‘All right son,’ he said. ‘If you can find this man and persuade him to help, then I’ll do everything I can as well.’




Hoss stood up. ‘I’ll leave first thing in the morning,’ he said.




‘Where will you go?’




Hoss shook his head. ‘I ain’t sure,’ he admitted. ‘I’ll start looking where I saw him last I reckon.’  He walked along the porch and entered the house.




Ben sat and looked out into the darkness beyond the porch and thought about the frightened animal who was out there in the meadow and didn’t know how to make his way back to the person that he loved.  He prayed that somehow his son and his horse would find their way back to each other and in doing so begin a healing process that would save them both.












Hoss looked up at the sun wearily and noticed that it had sunk even lower than he’d realised and that night was upon him.  He’d have to make camp in a hurry or he’d find himself without wood for a fire and unable to cook his supper.  He scanned the area closely and then headed for a clump of trees near a small creek.  It had been a long day … in fact it had been a long three days he had to admit.  He had left home with such high hopes of finding the Indian, but those hopes had been quickly dashed as he searched canyon after canyon in the area and come up with nothing.




He supposed it was to be expected really.  After all, why would he have thought that he’d just be able to simply ride out and find one lone Indian in all of this wilderness?  It had been a stupid idea now that he came to think about it and one that he really shouldn’t have tried in the first place.  Yet somewhere deep within him a voice kept telling him to go on with his search and so he had ridden for three days with hope in his heart.




That hope was now just about gone and as he sat watching his supper cook on the fire he had to admit to himself that it was time he headed for home again.  He sighed as he thought about what he was going home to.  The Ponderosa just didn’t seem the same lately with his little brother the way that he was.  There was an absence of life a that the ranch that only Joe was capable of filling and Hoss wondered if that hole would ever be filled again.




Guess not,’ he said out loud to no one in particular. He looked up at the night sky and sighed again. ‘I’m sure sorry Shortshanks,’ he said. ‘I done tried everything I know, but old Hoss has let ya down I reckon.’




‘You search for black and white one again?’ said a voice behind him and Hoss turned sharply to see the Indian standing behind him bathed in the light of the fire.




‘How do ya do that?’ he said without thinking.  The man had crept up on him so softly that Hoss figured he could have lifted his scalp without Hoss even knowing what was on him if he’d had mind to.  Yet somehow Hoss knew that violence was foreign to this man.




The Indian said nothing, but crossed his arms and merely looked at Hoss. Finally Hoss smiled at him. ‘I sure am glad ta see you,’ he said. ‘I’ve been searching for ya for days.’




The Indian nodded ‘I follow you while you search,’ he said simply. ‘If you had stood still long enough you would have found me.’ Hoss scratched his head as he tried to make sense of the man’s words. ‘You look for black and white one?’ the Indian asked again.




‘Nope,’ said Hoss. ‘He’s back at my home … I was looking for you.’  The Indian stared at him. Now that he had found him, Hoss didn’t quite know how to explain what he wanted from the man. ‘You helped me before with the horse,’ he began. ‘I was wondering … that is … mebbe ya might help me again?’  The Indian continued to stare at Hoss without speaking and Hoss felt obliged to keep talking. ‘It’s my little brother,’ he said. ‘He and the horse … well they’re real close usually, but since they had a fall .. well they can’t … they can’t ….’  He faltered over his words, trying desperately to find the right ones to make this man understand what he needed from him.




The Indian stepped forward. ‘They need each other to heal their spirits,’ he said.




‘Yeah,’ said Hoss with a grin. ‘I reckon that’s just about it.’ He looked at the Indian intently for a few moments. ‘Can ya help?’ he asked simply.




The Indian came and sat down next to Hoss by the fire. ‘Tell me about this brother and the black and white one,’ he said.




‘They’ve always been real close,’ said Hoss eagerly.  He couldn’t believe his luck that the Indian had even asked. ‘Since he was a kid he and Cochise …. That’s the horse’s name … they’ve been best friends it seems. They understand each other I reckon … until now. Cochise just don’t want nothing ta do with Joe … that’s my brother … and Joe don’t know how ta deal with it.  His friend died in the accident and he’s just eaten up with grief I reckon.’ He looked into the fire as well. ‘I dunno,’ he continued. ‘Seems ta me that if he and the horse could get back together then maybe ….’  He shrugged his shoulders.




Maybe the young man and the black and white one need each other to survive?’ said the Indian. ‘Maybe their spirits are one with each other?’




‘Maybe,’ said Hoss. The idea sounded logical to him. ‘So can ya help?’ he asked hopefully.




The Indian stared into the fire and said nothing for a long time. So long in fact that Hoss began to wonder if he was ever going to answer him. Finally the man spoke. ‘No one can heal your brother and the black and white one except themselves,’ he said.




Hoss’ heart sank.  He felt as if the last light of hope had been extinguished by the man’s words. ‘I see,’ he said sadly. ‘Yeah … then I reckon you’re right.’  He stared into the fire again. ‘I was just hoping …’ He added.




The Indian turned to face Hoss. ‘My name is Baime,’ he said.




‘I’m Hoss,’ said Hoss, wondering why the man would suddenly offer his name and hoping that it was a sign of approval.




Baime looked deep into his eyes. ‘You love him,’ he said simply.




Hoss didn’t hesitate. ‘I love em both,’ he said. ‘Any horse that my brother loves then I just gotta love it too.’




The Indian’s eyes flickered for a moment and he nodded slightly. ‘I will come to your village,’ he said simply.




‘Hoss’ eyes widened. ‘Ya mean it?’ he said. ‘But I thought ya said that ya couldn’t help?’




The Indian shook his head ‘No,’ he said. ‘I said that they must heal themselves.  I will come to watch them if they choose to do so.’




Hoss grinned at the man. ‘Thank you,’ he said sincerely.




Baime looked at him and nodded. ‘I too once had a brother,’ he said. ‘I loved him also.’




Hoss nodded as he began to understand.












Clem Hawkins’ eyes widened as he watched Hoss and an Indian ride into the yard.  ‘Well I’ll be,’ he breathed softly. ‘What the hell has Cartwright got here now?’  His eyes narrowed as he watched both men dismount and Hoss beckon to the Indian to follow him into the house and then he spat onto the ground. ‘Damn savages,’ he muttered before he turned away.




‘Pa!’ called Hoss as he entered the house. ‘Pa!  I’m home!’




Ben Cartwright looked up from his desk and smiled as his son walked around the corner of the study.  Hoss!’ he said as he stood up. ‘I was beginning to worry about you son.’ He walked around to the other side of the desk and grabbed his son into a hug. He blinked a couple of times as he looked over his shoulder and saw Baime standing by the front door watching them both.




Ben let go of Hoss and stared at the Indian. ‘Pa this is Baime,’ said Hoss happily. ‘He’s come to help with Cochise.’




Ben looked back at Hoss, an amazed expression on his face. ‘Oh,’ he said feebly.




Hoss beckoned to Baime to join them. ‘This is my Pa, Ben Cartwright,’ he said. The Indian nodded his head slightly.




Ben pulled Hoss to one side. ‘Hoss!’ he said. ‘You can’t just bring him in here like this son.’




Hoss’ eyes widened. ‘Why not?’ he asked. ‘I done told ya Pa, he’s come ta help.’




Ben looked amazed. ‘Yes but ….’ His voice trailed away.  Hoss looked at him expectantly and he shook his head in amazement. ‘Well …’ Ben looked over at Baime. ‘Welcome to our home,’ he said in as calm a voice as he could muster.




Baime nodded again before turning to Hoss. ‘Where is the black and white one?’ he asked. ‘I will go to him now.’




Hoss grinned at him. ‘Sure thing,’ he said. ‘I’ll just show him Cochise Pa,’ he said as if he did this sort of thing every day.  ‘Baime is gonna stay out in the meadow with him.’




‘I see,’ said Ben faintly.  He watched as Hoss and the Indian left the room together and then sat down on the sofa and shook his head.




Suddenly the front door opened again and Adam came into the room. ‘Pa!’ he said. ‘Did you see ….’




Ben looked up. ‘I certainly did,’ he said.




‘I can’t believe he found him for a start,’ said Adam. ‘Let alone convinced him to come back here.’




Ben shook his head again. ‘Neither can I,’ he said. ‘It seems as if your brother has a way with people as well as animals when he wants to I suppose.’




‘Do you think he’ll be able to help the horse?’ asked Adam.




‘I don’t know,’ replied his father. ‘According to Hoss he can.  I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.’




‘Adam sat down next to his father. ‘I suppose we will,’ he said. ‘Well I’ll be!’












Joe stood and stared at the Indian seated in the long grass and frowned. When Hoss had told him why he had brought the man to The Ponderosa he really hadn’t known what he thought about it. If he was begin truly honest with himself though he had to admit more than a little curiosity at the moment about the Indian and what he was doing.  For three days Joe had watched the man sitting in the grass, doing nothing but staring at Cochise who continued to avoid him as he had avoided any other human contact … including Joe himself. Joe couldn’t for the life of him work out what the Indian was trying to achieve by simply being there and he shook his head as he turned away.




As he walked back towards the house, his mind was a jumble of thoughts.  He wanted so much to have Cochise back and have things the way it had always been between them again, but in one way he was scared of it happening.  Joe knew that as long as Cochise was distant from him then he wouldn’t be placed in a position where he would have to ride him again … and much and all as he longed to do so, he was … he was scared. He admitted that much to himself at least now.




Every night he woke up in a cold sweat as thoughts and dreams of his fall came back to him in his sleep and every time he woke up he saw Josh’s blank eyes staring into his.  It was at these times in the cold darkness of the night when he knew that with his friend’s death a part of him had died as well and he was scared to get it back again.  If he found himself in a position where he had to ride Cochise once more, then he might end up hurting them both even worse than he had this time.




He looked over his shoulder again at the horse running free in the meadow.  No .. it was better for them both this way.  At least Cochise was out of harm’s way being out there away from him. He frowned as he caught sight of the Indian sitting in the same position as he always did and wished that Hoss had never met him, let alone brought him back here to interfere in his life.  He realised that his brother was trying to help him, but he just couldn’t understand … it was better for Joe and Cochise if everyone just left them both alone to go their separate ways now.




He saw Hoss coming out of the barn as he approached and gave him a brief smile. ‘Hi,’ he said and kept walking.




‘You been down to the meadow?’ asked Hoss hopefully. ‘Seen Baime there?’




Joe shrugged. ‘I guess,’ he said.




Hoss gave him a grin. ‘He’s getting to know Cochise,’ he said. ‘I reckon he’ll be able ta help once they get ta know each other. You’ll see Joe… Cochise’ll be just fine in time,’ he said confidently.




Joe gave another disinterested shrug. ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Whatever.’  He turned to go into the house, but stopped as Hoss caught up with him.




‘I’m going up to the North Pasture this afternoon,’ he said. ‘You wanna come?’




Joe looked at him sideways. ‘What for?’ he asked.




‘Just to check out them fences,’ said Hoss, knowing full well why his brother was asking the question. Joe was trying to ascertain how they’d be travelling.  Since all this had happened Hoss hadn’t once seen his brother mount up on a horse and it was no secret to any of them that Joe was avoiding riding at any cost.  It was a fact that had the whole family worried and they all hoped that each day would be the one where Joe would get over this fear and get back in the saddle.  So far it hadn’t happened, but none of them had given up trying to get him back on a horse. Hoss knew that his answer to his brother’s question would give him the information he needed to avoid the outing, but he still hoped that this would be the time when Joe would choose to take that next vital step and get on a horse again.




‘No thanks,’ said Joe as Hoss had expected him to and quickened his pace towards the house.








Joe turned again. ‘What?’




‘Please will ya come with me?’ pleaded Hoss. ‘Ya gotta do it sometime ya know.’




Joe gave his brother a dark look. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said defiantly. ‘Just leave me alone will ya?’




‘You do too know what I’m talking about,’ answered Hoss. ‘Ya gotta get back on a horse sometime ya know.  Come on Joe … I’ll help ya feel okay about it and we’ll take it real slow if ya like.’




Joe clenched his fists. ‘Just shut up about it will ya Hoss?’ he said angrily. ‘I’ll ride when I feel like it …. There’s nothing wrong, so stop going on about it will ya?’




‘Well if there’s nothing ta stop ya, then why don’t you just get up on a horse?’




‘Because I don’t want to!’ said Joe. ‘I can outride you any day brother as you well know, so there’s no need to keep going on about it like this.’




‘I know ya can out ride me,’ insisted Hoss. ‘But that ain’t what I’m talking about and you know it Joe.  I’m talking about you being scared of getting on a horse.’  It was the first time that any of them had said it to him outright and he heard the gasp escape from his younger brother as the words left his mouth.




Joe took a couple of steps towards his brother and pointed his finger at him. ‘I am not scared of riding!’ he said angrily. ‘You take that back Hoss!’




Hoss looked at him sadly. ‘Joe ….’ he began. ‘We all understand.  But ya just gotta …’




Joe put his hands on his hips. ‘I will get on a horse whenever I feel like it!’ he exploded. ‘And don’t you go telling everyone I’m scared or I’ll pound you Hoss!  You got no right to say that and you know it!’




Hoss’ shoulders slumped in defeat. ‘Joe I’m sorry,’ he began. ‘I didn’t mean …’




‘Leave me alone!’ shouted Joe. ‘You stay out of my business and just leave me and my horse alone Hoss!’  He waved his hand towards the meadow. ‘That Indian friend of yours don’t know what he’s doing no how and he’s just wasting his time. Cochise is better off out there and whether I want to ride or not is my business not yours!’  He glared at his brother. ‘Just … just leave us both alone!’  He turned and strode into the house, banging the front door behind him.




Hoss shook his head wearily and stood staring after his younger brother for a moment. ‘Don’t let him get to you Hoss,’ said Adam behind him and he turned to see his older brother leaning against the door of the barn giving him a half-smile. ‘He’s too upset to know what he’s saying half the time,’ continued Adam. ‘He doesn’t mean it you know.’




Hoss nodded. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘But if he’d just admit  that he’s scared then maybe he’d be able to do something about it.’ He shook his head ‘I ain’t never seen him like this Adam and it scares me.’




Adam came over and stood next to his brother. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘I think we all feel the same.’  He looked over at the meadow. ‘What is he doing?’ he asked, indicating Baime.




‘I sure don’t know,’ said Hoss wearily. ‘I thought it was a good idea ta bring him here, but he ain’t done anything so far.  Seems like it was a dumb idea after all.’  He stared at the silent and still man. ‘He don’t seem ta be helping anything does he?’




Adam shrugged. ‘I don’t know,’ he acknowledged. ‘Maybe.’




‘Well I’m going on over there,’ said Hoss.




Adam watched as his brother walked over to join the Indian and sat down next to him.




‘How’s it going?’ asked Hoss after a few moments of watching Cochise.  Baime didn’t say anything, but continued to stare at the horse. After a few moments Hoss stood up again and walked away from the man. From upstairs in the house he saw a curtain flick shut at Joe’s bedroom window.












‘Joseph you have to do something about this,’ said Ben. ‘You can’t just hang around the house all the time son.’




Joe stared at the floor. ‘I’m not,’ he said in a low voice. ‘I’ve been helping with the supplies for the timber camp and I’ve been in town doing some of that banking for you this week as well as getting the mail. Besides, I thought you wanted some of the chores around here seen to.’




‘You know exactly what I’m talking about,’ said Ben. ‘You avoid anything where you have to ride.  If you can’t take the buckboard or the buggy then you just won’t do it.  I’ve been very patient with you son, but the time has come for you to face this situation and get back onto a horse.’  Joe said nothing, but continued to stare at the floor. Ben put his arm around the young man’s shoulder. ‘I know its hard Joe,’ he said in a gentle voice. ‘I know you’re scared ….’




Joe flung his father’s arm off. ‘I am not scared of anything!’ he declared. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!  I’ve been doing the jobs that I’ve had to, haven’t I?  Without Cochise I just haven’t decided which horse is the best one to ride yet that’s all.’




‘Joe you’ll never decide if you don’t give some of them a go,’ said Ben patiently. ‘You’ve been avoiding even trying.’




‘I have not!’




‘Yes son you have,’ insisted his father.




Joe glared at his father. ‘What do you want me to do?’ he demanded. ‘Is there something special you need me to do for you Pa?  What is it?  Tell me what and I’ll do it!  Otherwise just leave me alone!’




Ben narrowed his eyes.  Perhaps he’d been wrong in trying to give the boy plenty of time to adjust to getting back into the saddle again?  Perhaps it was time to force him?  ‘All right,’ he said. ‘I want you to ride into town and get the mail,’ he said.




‘Fine!’ said Joe.  He stood up and walked towards the door.




‘Hoss has the buckboard with him and the buggy needs one of its wheels fixed,’ said Ben firmly. ‘You’ll have to ride in.’




Joe turned on his father. ‘I said fine!’ he spat out. ‘Anything else?’




‘No.’ Ben watched his son carefully and then followed him out of the house and across to the barn.




Joe walked into the barn and hesitated before striding over to the tall chestnut Brandy. ‘What’s the matter Pa?’ he said over his shoulder. ‘Come to check up that I’m actually doing it?’




Ben shook his head as he heard the anger in his son’s voice.  Anger that he knew was born of his fear. ‘No,’ he said mildly.  He watched as Joe saddled the animal and then led him outside.  He watched as the young man looked over his shoulder at his father angrily and his heart bled for the fear that he saw beneath his son’s anger. He watched as his son hesitated as he stood beside the horse.




Ben waited for a full minute before going over and standing next to him. ‘Would you like me to ride in with you?’ he asked. ‘I can saddle up Buck and we’ll go together.’  Joe shook his head and continued to stare at the horse’s flank in front of him wile breathing deeply. ‘Joe ….’  Joe looked up at his father silently. ‘Get up on the horse son,’ said Ben gently. ‘You can do it.’




Joe looked back at the horse’s flank again and continued to stare at it. After a few moments he said quietly. ‘I … can’t.’




‘Why not?’




Joe’s face crumpled. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I just can’t.  Please don’t make me Pa.’




Ben put his hand on his son’s shoulder again. ‘Joe you have to try,’ he said. ‘Do it son.’ Joe began to breathe even more deeply as he continued to stare at the horse. He shook his head silently and took a step backwards away from the animal. ‘Joe ….’ Ben said again. ‘Son….’




Joe shrugged off his father’s touch and stepped away from him and the horse. He gave Ben a stricken look and shook his head again. ‘I guess you’re right,’ he said. ‘I … guess I am scared Pa.  Please don’t make me.’




Ben gave his son a look of pity. ‘Joe I’ll help you,’ he said. ‘You’ll be all ….’




Joe shook his head. ‘No Pa,’ he said and backed away a few more steps before turning towards the house.




‘Joe!’ called Ben, but his son ignored him and walked away.










Joe glared at the Indian sitting in grass and felt the anger bubbling up inside him. Every time he looked at the man lately he couldn’t help himself … He felt an overwhelming desire to yell at him and tell him to get away from Cochise.  The animal hadn’t responded to him in anyway during the past week and he was obviously wasting his time, so why didn’t he just go back to where he’d come from and stop annoying everyone?  It was bad enough that the whole family was on about Joe riding all the time without this daily reminder out here every time he looked in this direction at the Indian and his horse that wouldn’t let him near him.  He took a deep breath and strode over to the man and looked down at him. ‘You’re wasting your time,’ he said angrily.




Baime didn’t answer him, but sat silently staring into the distance. Joe sat down next to him. ‘I said that you’re wasting your time,’ he said. ‘You’ve been out here for a week now and Cochise ain’t paying any attention to you.’




‘That is true,’ said Baime quietly without shifting his gaze.




Joe frowned momentarily, for he hadn’t expected the man to agree with him. ‘Then why are you still waiting for him?’ he asked.




Baime turned to face Joe and gave him a knowing look. ‘I am not waiting for the black and white one,’ he said as he looked at the young man intently. ‘I am waiting for you.’




Joe gave him a startled look. ‘Huh?’ he said. Baime turned and stared back into the distance again without saying anything. Joe tried to get his brain around what the man meant, but for the life of him couldn’t come to grips with it. ‘I don’t understand,’ he said after a few moments. ‘Why are you waiting for me?  Waiting for me to do what?’




Baime continued to stare without saying anything.  Finally Joe couldn’t stand it any longer and stood up, facing the man angrily. ‘Why don’t you just go back to where you came from?’ he said. ‘My brother should never have brought you here in the first place!’




Baime looked up at the angry young man. ‘He loves you,’ he said simply. ‘That was reason enough for him.’




Joe swallowed, the Indian’s words taking him once more by surprise.  He took a deep breath and tried to maintain his composure while he clenched and unclenched his fists.  For some reason the Indian made him feel intensely angry and he wanted to reach out and hit the man. He looked over in the distance at Cochise who was running freely. ‘He’s happy out here being free now,’ he said. ‘Just leave him alone.’




Baime continued to stare at Joe. ‘You are not happy,’ he said.




Joe glared down at him. ‘No!’ he said. ‘No, I’m not happy now that you come to mention it.  I wish you’d get out of here and leave my horse alone.’  Baime continued to stare up at him. ‘Leave us both alone,’ Joe continued.  He felt very uncomfortable under the man’s scrutiny and wanted nothing more than to get away from him.  He took a few steps away and then stopped. ‘Thank you for coming,’ he said, trying to sound polite. ‘But there’s nothing you can do here.’




Baime nodded and stood up. ‘You are right,’ he said. ‘There is nothing that I can do here.  Anything that needs to be done can only be done by you and the black and white one.’




‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ said Joe angrily.




Baime smiled at him. ‘You do not hide your hurt well,’ he said. ‘The black and white one is the same.’




‘I am not hurt!’ yelled Joe. ‘What would you know about it anyway?’




Baime turned and walked away from Joe and across the pasture.  Joe hesitated before following him.  Something in him felt like it was about to burst and he wanted to hit the man then and there. ‘Don’t you walk away from me!’ he yelled. ‘You just get out of here and leave my horse and me alone!’




Baime kept walking until he was within a few yards of where Cochise was now standing still. The horse sensed the two men near him and looked over at them, the familiar fear coming into his eyes. Joe looked at him.  He hadn’t been this close to the animal since the day of the accident and he felt a lurch in his stomach as he made eye contact with him. Baime stood still and stared at Joe. ‘You belong to the black and white one,’ he said.




Joe gave him a dark look. ‘He belongs to me,’ he corrected him. ‘My Pa gave him to me a long time ago.’




Baime shook his head. ‘No,’ he said. ‘He belongs to you no longer.  You have given him away for now … but you still belong to him.’




‘You don’t know what you’re talking about,’ said Joe. ‘You don’t make any sense at all.’




‘You think not?’  asked Baime. ‘Perhaps the sense is there … you just cannot see it.’




Joe scowled at the man and then turned back towards Cochise again. ‘Hi boy,’ he said softly. ‘How are ya doing?’  He took a step towards the horse and held out his hand, but Cochise backed away with a snort.  Joe dropped his hand and sighed. ‘See?’ he said. ‘He’s better out here by himself.  He don’t want me know more.’ At that moment Cochise reared up with a squeal and came back down to earth with a thud before turning and running away from them.  Joe watched him go with a lump in his throat. ‘He don’t want to know me no more,’ he repeated. ‘And I don’t blame him.’








‘Because I hurt him,’ said Joe sadly. ‘Surely Hoss told you that?’ Baime was silent and Joe suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to tell the man what had happened on the day of the accident.  As he talked Baime listened, and with each word Joe felt a huge relief being lifted from his shoulders.  He wondered why it felt so right to be telling this stranger about that day and supposed that it was the very fact that he was a stranger that made it easier. He talked of the accident … of Josh … of Cochise … and his feelings about it all.  He talked until he had nothing more to say and still Baime said nothing. Finally Joe turned away from the man and stared at Cochise again. ‘He hates me now,’ he said by way of explanation. ‘I hurt my horse and he hates me for it.  He won’t ever forgive me.’




Baime nodded and spoke for the first time in a long time. ‘No,’ he said. ‘The black and white one will not ever forgive you.’  Joe felt his heart beginning to sink at the man’s words.  Somehow he’d been hoping that that the Indian wouldn’t agree with him.  Now that he had told him the story, he wanted more than anything for the man to give him some hope of reconciliation with his horse, but instead he was confirming Joe’s worst fears.  Cochise would be forever estranged from him and he only had himself to blame for it.




‘No,’ repeated Baime. ‘The black and white one will not ever forgive you …. Not until you learn to forgive yourself.’












Clem Hawkins spat on the ground in front of him and narrowed his eyes as he stared at Baime in the distance.  ‘Damn savage,’ he muttered. ‘Who the hell does he think he is hanging round here all the time.’




‘Hoss brought him,’ said the young ranch hand who was standing beside him. ‘Thank he’s gonna help that horse of Joe’s.’




Clem gave the youngster a withering look. ‘Don’t be stupid!’ he said. ‘I know how he got here … jest don’t agree with him being here is all.’  He gave the Indian another dark look. ‘He’s likely ta murder us all in our beds thanks to the Cartwrights.’




‘He looks harmless enough to me,’ said the youngster. ‘Too old to do much harm.’




‘It’s the old ones ya gotta look out fer,’ said Clem as he spat again. ‘Tricky they is.  Learned lots of sly ways in his time if ya ask me.’  He straightened up. ‘Nah,’ he said. ‘If ya ask me I’d be doing everyone round here a favour iffen I jest hunted him off.’  He looked over his shoulder. ‘Sides no one’d know why he went.’  He gave the young man a hard look. ‘Haven’t you got work ta do?’




The young man shrugged his shoulders, not anxious to witness whatever it was that Clem had in mind. ‘Sure,’ he said as he turned to walk away. ‘See ya.’




Clem waited until he was alone and then sauntered over to where Baime was seated, as always watching Cochise. He checked his gun in the holster as he approached the Indian and stood watching him for several minutes without speaking. ‘What ya doing injun?’ he said finally.  Baime didn’t move or speak, but simply ignored the man. ‘I asked ya what ya doing?’ he said in a louder voice.




Baime glanced at him and then looked back at Cochise again without speaking. Clem took a step forward as he drew his gun from his holster. ‘I asked ya a question injun,’ he said. ‘Now get up and answer me or I’ll give ya something ta make a noise about.’  He took another step forward and poked Baime with his toe, none too gently.  The Indian didn’t move or speak at all.  Clem shook his head and bent down to drag the other man up by his arm when he heard a voice behind him.




‘What do you think you’re doing?’ He let go of Baime’s arm and turned sharply to see Joe standing behind him, glaring at him angrily.




‘Nothin,’ he said easily, putting his gun back into its holster before Joe could see it in his hand. ‘Just having a friendly conversation with the injun here.’




Joe stared at him for a moment. ‘Haven’t you got work to do?’ he said.




Clem grinned at him. ‘Sure do,’ he said. ‘Just going.’  He tipped his hat in an exaggerated gesture to Baime. ‘See ya injun.  You look after yaself ya hear?’  He chuckled as he walked away.




Joe waited until Clem had disappeared before sitting down next to Baime. ‘Sorry about that,’ he said. He had felt a sudden surge of anger as he’d witnessed the incident and realised for the first time that his anger hadn’t been directed towards the Indian. ‘He looked like he was aiming to cause trouble.’




Baime looked at him. ‘Yes,’ he said simply. ‘But I am used to trouble from the white man.’




Joe frowned. ‘I’m sorry to hear it,’ he said. He hesitated. ‘Why don’t you live with your tribe?’ he asked. ‘Hoss said that you seemed to be all alone out there when he found you.’




Baime gave Joe a half smile. ‘Your brother did not find me,’ he stated. ‘I found him.’




Joe grinned at the man for the first time. ‘Yeah I guess you did,’ he acknowledged. ‘Well … do you live alone?’




Baime turned to stare at the distant hills. ‘I live with my own spirit,’ he said. ‘I have no people.’




‘Hoss said that you had a brother,’ persisted Joe. ‘You must have had some other folks before he was killed.’




Baime frowned slightly. ‘My brother still lives,’ he said and then hesitated. ‘At least I think he does.’




‘Yeah?  Then why don’t you live with him and your tribe then?’ persisted Joe.  He found himself more and more intrigued in this man who had been willing to come into the white man’s world for the sake of a horse.




Baime gave Joe a strange look. ‘I have no people,’ he said. ‘I have no brother.’




‘But you just said ….’ Joe scratched his head as he tried to figure out what the man was getting at. First he said that his brother wasn’t dead, then he said that he had no people. Indians sure were strange people when it came down to it.  He guessed that it was like Adam had always told him when he was younger.  The Indians ways were different to those that the white man were used to. It didn’t make them any better or any worse, just different. Joe figured that there was a logical explanation to what the man was saying, he just didn’t know what it was.




Baime gave a smile as if he were enjoying Joe’s obvious discomfort with his statement. They both sat and watched Cochise for several minutes as he ran around the meadow.  ‘He looks happy today,’ said Joe with a sigh.




Baime nodded. ‘He knows that you are happier,’ he said.




Joe jerked.  It was true. For some reason he felt more like his old self today and he didn’t really know why.  Perhaps it was like Pa had been telling him… time heals and each day would get better. Yet how did the Indian know how he felt? ‘How could Cochise possibly know how I feel?’ he said softly.




‘He shares your spirit,’ said Baime. ‘He knows.’ Joe gave the Indian an intense look and Baime stared back at him. ‘You have always shared it with him,’ the Indian continued. ‘It is not hard to know that.’




Joe nodded. ‘I guess so,’ he mused.  He smiled as he remembered how Pa and his brothers had always joked about how close he was to the horse.  Since the first moment Joe had laid eyes on the animal when Pa had given him to him for his twelfth birthday he had felt a closeness to the horse that he never could fully explain.  It was as if they understood each other.  Everyone always said that they were a delight to watch when they rode together.  They would run like …  Joe stopped his thoughts abruptly.  It was too painful to think in that direction.  The bond that he and Cochise had was finished and would be no more.  It was useless trying to recapture something that was over, even if it was in his mind.




Baime studied the young man’s face and noticed the painful look that came over it. ‘Your spirit is still troubled,’ he said.




Joe nodded.  It was pointless trying to hide his thoughts from this man who seemed to be able to see inside him. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I am still troubled.’ Baime said nothing. ‘After several minutes Joe spoke again. ‘I guess it always will be now,’ he said softly. Baime still said nothing while they both stared at Cochise. ‘I miss him,’ said Joe, so softly this time that he could hardly be heard.




‘The black and white one misses you too,’ said Baime.




Joe shook his head mournfully. ‘No,’ he said as he watched the horse. ‘If he did he’d come to me.  He don’t want nothing to do with me.’




Baime looked at the young man. ‘He is waiting for you to go to him,’ he said.




Joe shook his head again. ‘I’ve tried that so many times,’ he said. ‘He runs away from me every time.  You’ve seen him.’




Baime shook his head. ‘He ran before,’ he agreed. ‘He knew you were holding anger inside you. He will not run now that you are not.’




Joe gave the man a puzzled look. ‘How do you know if I’m angry or not?’ he asked. Baime said nothing. ‘And Cochise … well he doesn’t know.  He’s just a horse.’




Baime looked at Joe. ‘Is he?’ he said softly. ‘I thought the black and white one was more to you than just a horse.’




‘Well yeah,’ admitted Joe. ‘But …’  He looked over at the pinto who was standing a distance away from them and then back to the Indian.  He smiled at him and then stood up and walked over to the horse. ‘Hi Cooch,’ he said softly. ‘Are ya gonna talk to me today?’




Cochise watched the young man warily as he approached him. His nostrils flared and he tossed his head up and down as he sniffed the air between them, stamping his hoof as if deciding whether or not to run as he had so many times before.  Just as Joe thought the horse was about to bolt again, he reached out his hand and called to him softly. ‘Cooch,’ he said softly. ‘Cooch boy.’  The horse continued to toss his head fitfully, watching Joe uneasily as he approached.




Joe reached out and patted the horse softly on the neck. ‘Good boy,’ he whispered. ‘Good boy Cooch.’  The pinto looked the young man in the eye for a moment and tossed his head as if agreeing with him before turning and trotting off.




Joe stood and looked at his horse, tears welling up in his eyes. For the first time in so long he had felt his beloved Cochise in the flesh instead of just in his dreams and the touch of the horse brought such emotion to his heart that he almost cried with the very thought of it. He looked over his shoulder at Baime who had come to stand beside him. ‘You’re right,’ he said softly. ‘He knows I’m not angry any more.’




Baime put a hand on the young man’s shoulder. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It is a beginning.’




Ben Cartwright let out the breath he’d been holding as he watched the scene in front of him from his position at the corral. He looked skywards and smiled into the blueness above him. ‘Thank you,’ he said sincerely.












‘He’s kinda strange,’ said Joe as he helped himself to some eggs.




‘How do you mean strange?’ asked his father.  He grinned at the youngster in delight as he noticed how animated Joe was.  It was almost as if the old Joe was back again and Ben couldn’t remember how long it had been since he’d seen the boy looking like this.






I don’t know,’ replied Joe with his mouth full. ‘Just strange.  He knows things bout how I feel even when I don’t know myself.’




‘Like what?’ asked Adam.




Joe shrugged. ‘I don’t know … just things.  He knows how Cooch feels too.’ He looked across the table at Hoss.  I reckon … I mean … I guess it maybe was a good idea to bring him here after all,’ he said. ‘Thank Hoss.’




Hoss grinned at him as he stuffed in another mouthful. ‘You’re welcome Shortshanks,’ he said. ‘I reckon Cochise is getting better now eh?’




Joe nodded. ‘He lets me get near him now and I can even pat him sometimes.  I reckon he’s starting to be friendly with me now.’




Ben smiled at his son. ‘That’s wonderful son,’ he said. ‘Before you know it you’ll be riding together again.’  He frowned momentarily as he saw Joe jerk at his words and try to cover the fact.  It seemed that not everything was falling into place for the youngster yet. ‘Yeah,’ said Joe without any enthusiasm.  He drank the last of his coffee and stood up from the table. ‘Well I gotta go,’ he said. ‘I wanna get out and see Baime and Cochise before I get to work.’




As the front door banged shut, Ben put down his coffee cup. ‘Well he seems much happier now,’ he said.




Hoss grinned at his father. ‘I was really beginning ta think that Baime wasn’t gonna help after all,’ he said. ‘But I reckon I was wrong.  How do ya think he knows all that stuff Pa?’




Ben shook his head. ‘I don’t know son,’ he said. ‘Joe is right about one thing though.  He certainly is a strange man.  I feel uncomfortable with him being out there but I know that he wouldn’t be comfortable in here with us.  He has me wondering what his story is I must admit.’




‘I know what you mean,’ said Adam. ‘I’ve been watching him.  He certainly has a lot of patience to be out there all this time.  I’ve been wondering why to tell you the truth.’




‘He’s helping out,’ said Hoss. ‘I asked him to and he agreed.  That’s all.’




‘Yes but why?’ persisted Adam. ‘Thank about it Hoss.  A strange white man comes past and asks him to come back with him to help out a horse?’ He shook his head. ‘It just doesn’t make sense.’




Hoss stood up from the table. ‘Why does everything have ta make sense with you all the time?’ he asked as he walked away. ‘Can’t ya just accept that not everything does?’  He closed the front door behind him as well.




Ben raised an eyebrow as he looked at his eldest son looking at the front door in surprise. Adam looked at his father and shrugged as Ben laughed at the expression on his face. ‘I think he’s got you there son,’ he said. ‘I think he’s trying to tell you that sometimes you just have to have faith in things you can’t understand.’  Adam gave his father a quizzical look that only made Ben laugh harder.












Baime sat and watched the horse nuzzle against the young man’s shoulder and smiled as Joe reached up to pat the animal’s neck. ‘I wanted to thank you for helping my son,’ said a voice beside him and he looked up to see Ben standing next to him.




‘He and the black and white one help each other,’ replied the Indian as Ben sat down next to him. ‘I did not help them.’




Ben smiled at the man. ‘Have it your way,’ he said. ‘But I know that they couldn’t have done it without you.’




There was silence for a few moments as both men watched the youngster and the horse together. ‘Their spirits are not yet one,’ said Baime softly. ‘They have not yet finished.’




‘I know,’ agreed Ben. ‘Joe still won’t ride.’




Baime looked at him. ‘He has not tried.’




Ben shook his head. ‘I don’t mean just Cochise,’ he said. ‘He won’t ride any horse. He’s scared from the accident.’




Baime stared at Joe. ‘He fears to hurt again,’ he said simply.




Ben nodded ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’m afraid that he does.’




‘We all hurt,’ said the Indian. ‘He cannot escape it.’




Ben looked at the man beside him thoughtfully. ‘Can I help you?’ he asked. ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’  Baime looked back at him. ‘I mean …. You seem so … well alone.  Is there anything I can do for you?’




Baime shook his head. ‘I am not alone,’ he said. ‘I have my spirit.’  He frowned momentarily. ‘You fear for the boy.’




Ben looked at him with a startled expression. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I suppose I’m worried that he’ll never fully recover from this.’




Baime looked over at Joe again. ‘He will choose to or not,’ he said. ‘You cannot change that.’




‘I know,’ said Ben. ‘But a father worries none the less.’




‘Pa!’ called Joe. ‘Look at this!’  Ben looked over to see Cochise following Joe over to them. ‘He’s staying with me Pa,’ said Joe as he approached them. ‘He wasn’t doing that yesterday.’




Ben smiled up at his son. ‘Maybe you should try taking him into the barn,’ he suggested. ‘I think he looks ready for it now.’




Joe grinned at him. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Come on Cooch.’  He led the horse over to the corral and through it to the barn, the animal following him without hesitation.




Baime stood up. ‘I go now,’ he said.




Ben stood up as well. ‘Go?’ he said anxiously. ‘But you can’t go!’




Baime looked at him. ‘I go now,’ he said.  ‘The black and white one is back where he belongs.’




Ben shook his head. ‘But you can’t,’ he said. ‘Joe and Cochise … well, they still need you.’




Baime shook his head ‘They never needed me,’ he said. ‘They needed each other.’




‘But …’ Ben voice trailed away. ‘Are you going to say goodbye to Hoss and Joe?’ he asked. ‘Will you come back?’




Baime merely looked at him and walked away. ‘Baime!’ called Ben, but the man kept walking. ‘Thank you!’ called Ben, but the Indian never turned to acknowledge his words.  Ben watched as he disappeared into the distance.












‘But I don’t understand how he could just take off like that,’ said Hoss in a distressed tone. ‘I wanted ta thank him and I know that Shortshanks did.’




‘I sure did,’ said Joe. ‘He … well without him, Cochise and I wouldn’t ever have got to be friends again.’




‘He wanted it that way,’ said Ben. ‘It’s his way of doing things.’




‘Do ya think that he lives up there alone?’ asked Hoss, indicating the hills in the distance.




‘By the sound of it,’ said his father. ‘I can’t quite work it out, but for whatever reason he’s estranged form his tribe.  Still … whatever the reason or however he lives he sure is one fine man.’




‘That he is Pa,’ said Hoss. ‘That he is.  He sure taught me a thing or two about animals.’




‘What could he have possibly taught you?’ asked Joe. ‘I thought you knew just about everything there was to know.’




Hoss shook his head. ‘Not by a long stretch of the imagination  Joe,’ he said. ‘I know I sure as anything don’t have the patience that he done has. Look at how long he sat out there waiting for Cochise ta come around.’




‘He weren’t waiting for Cochise,’ said Joe softly as he patted his horse on the neck.








Joe smiled at his brother. ‘Nothing,’ he said.




Hoss scratched his head. ‘Now you’re beginning ta talk like him,’ he said. ‘I don’t understand it.’




‘Well don’t try and strain ya brain trying to figure me out brother,’ said Joe with a grin. Cochise nuzzled against him and he patted the horse lovingly again.




Ben noticed the action and smiled at both his sons. ‘How about we go for a spot of fishing this afternoon boys?’ he suggested.




Hoss hesitated. ‘I’d like to Pa,’ he said. ‘But I aim ta follow Baime for a bit.  I’d really like ta thank him fer everything he done.’




Ben patted his son on the shoulder. ‘Whatever you say Hoss,’ he said. ‘That’s a nice thought. How about you Joe … ready for an afternoon of fishing?’




Joe hesitated for a moment before replying. ‘Maybe another time Pa,’ he said.




Ben smiled at him. ‘I think that Cochise would enjoy a run,’ he said. ‘How about giving it a try?’




Joe hesitated again and patted the horse’s neck absently. ‘Not today Pa,’ he said. ‘Cooch and me ain’t quite ready yet. Maybe another time.’




Ben sighed as he watched his son walk into the house. ‘Sure Joe,’ he said softly. ‘Maybe another time.’ He looked at the horse and patted him gently. ‘Be patient Cooch,’ he said. ‘One day he’ll get there.’












Hoss shielded his eyes form the sun and scanned the horizon before looking down to study the Indian’s tracks again and frowned as he saw the prints of a horse in front of him as well. He wondered who would be riding way up here.  He urged his horse forward and quickened his pace, an anxious feeling in the pit of his stomach. For whatever reason he felt that he had to find Baime quickly although of anyone had asked him why he wouldn’t have been able to tell them a reason.




Within half an hour he came close to the spot where he first stumbled across the Indian. He looked around hoping to see the man again, but there was nothing in the clearing to give him any indication that Baime had even been there.  With a reluctant sigh, Hoss was just about to turn and head for home again when he heard a shot in the distance. He spurred his horse forward in the direction that he’d heard it, checking his gun as he rode.




As he got to the stream he saw Baime lying on the ground and Clem Hawkins standing over him, his gun still smoking in his hand. Hoss dismounted and advanced upon the man, his gun drawn and menace in his eyes. ‘What the hell have ya done!’ he shouted as he glanced down at the Indian on the ground and then back at Clem again. ‘Baime!’




Clem snarled at him and spat on the ground near Baime. ‘Jest teaching this savage a lesson,’ he said. ‘I saw him leaving the ranch and followed him.  He’s likely to have stolen anything from back there.’




Hoss shook his head. ‘You damn fool!’ he said. ‘Put down that gun.’




Clem looked startled. ‘What?’ he said.




‘Put down that gun!’ ordered Hoss again. ‘You’re coming in with me ta the Sheriff.’




Clem gave Hoss an astonished look. ‘But he’s only an injun!’ he protested. ‘You ain’t serious Hoss.  You’re gonna have me arrested fer an injun?’




‘I sure as hell am,’ snarled Hoss. ‘Now put down that gun!’




Clem gave Hoss one last sneer. ‘I don’t think so!’ he said and drew his gun up level with Hoss’ chest.  Before he could pull the trigger, Hoss let fire with his own weapon and the man fell to the ground dead.  Hoss looked at him briefly before kicking his gun away from him and then knelt down next to Baime.




‘Baime?’ he said softly. ‘Can ya hear me?’




The Indian opened his eyes and stared up at Hoss. ‘My spirit is weak,’ he said.




Hoss hung his head, forcing the tears back. ‘Don’t you worry,’ he said. ‘I’ll get ya to help.  You’ll be fine.’




Baime nodded his head slightly. ‘No,’ he said. ‘It is time for my spirit to be freed from my body.’




‘Don’t talk like that,’ said Hoss, cradling the man’s head in his big hands. ‘I’m gonna get ya to a doctor in town.’




Baime shook his head again. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I will stay here and wait for my spirit to be freed.’




Hoss looked down at the man in his arms and decided that to move him would be a futile exercise anyway. The bullet wound was severe and even if he got him to a doctor there was no guarantee that he’d make it even so. He nodded and laid the man back down on the ground gently. ‘I will wait with you,’ he said.




All through the long night Hoss stayed by the Indian and warmed them both with a small fire.  He prayed for the man who had helped his family so much and tried to make him as comfortable as possible while they both waited for the inevitable to happen.












‘He’s been hurt Pa.  I just know that he has,’ said Joe for the tenth time that hour. He glanced at the clock again as he paced up and down in front of it.




‘Joseph I’ve told you many times that your brother can look after himself,’ replied Ben. ‘Now would you please sit down?’  He motioned to the sofa next to him where Adam was already seated.




Joe sat down, but continued to fidget. ‘I just don’t see how you can both just sit there,’ he said. ‘Hoss is out there somewhere, maybe hurt or even … dying, and you do nothing!’




‘What would you like us to do?’ said Adam in a calm voice. We can’t very well go out and look for him until it gets light can we?  Besides, Hoss has been out all night before.  He’s a big boy like Pa says.’




Joe scowled at his brother. ‘I know that!’ he said, glancing at the clock again. ‘It’s just a feeling that I have.’




‘Joseph in a little while it’ll be light outside and we’ll all go and look for him,’ said Ben, trying to keep the worry out of his own voice. He also feared for Hoss, as it was so totally out of character for him to be so late. ‘Just be patient son.’  He knew that he was asking the impossible of Joe.  Patience had never been one of the boy’s virtues and he guessed that he wasn’t about to develop it now.




Joe rubbed his hands over his eyes and then stared into the fire. ‘I just wish he’d get home,’ he said softly. ‘I’m worried about him is all.’




‘We all are son,’ said Ben gently.












Adam tightened the cinch on his horse and glanced at Joe before looking at his father with a questioning look.  Ben returned the look and then walked over to where his youngest son was standing. ‘It’s all right Joe,’ he said. ‘Adam and I will bring him home, you’ll see.’




Joe looked at his father with a great sadness in his eyes. ‘I wanna come with you Pa,’ he said. ‘But …’  His eyes faltered and he looked down and the ground again.




‘I know son,’ replied Ben, ‘It’s all right.’




Joe shook his head. ‘No Pa, it ain’t all right,’ he said miserably. ‘That’s Hoss out there and I can’t even ….’  He stopped.




Ben patted him on the back. ‘You stay here with Hop Sing,’ he said. ‘We’ll bring him home soon, you’ll see.’  He mounted up and motioned to Adam with his hand. ‘Come on son,’ he said. ‘Let’s find that brother of yours.’




Joe’s heart was heavy as he watched his father and brother ride out of the yard.  He turned and walked into the barn again and stood looking at Cochise who was saddled and waiting for him, standing as quietly as if they had ridden out together without any problems. Joe walked over and put his face on the horse’s flank and closed his eyes. ‘I’m sorry Hoss,’ he whispered. ‘I tried …. I really did.’  He began to sob, all the emotion of the past few hours catching up with him in a rush. He thought about his brother out there somewhere waiting for help.  He thought about Cochise who was standing here ready to give him the support he needed.  He thought about his own inadequacies and the look in his father and brother’s eyes when he had failed to make it into the saddle a few moments ago.




‘I’m sorry Hoss,’ he whispered again.  Cochise snorted softly beside him and he patted the horse’s flank again. ‘I’m sorry Cooch,’ he said. ‘I know you wanna go … but I just can’t.’  The sobs came faster now and he buried his face against the horse’s flank as he gave way to them. ‘I’m so ….’  He hiccupped. ‘I’m so sorry Hoss … Cooch … Josh,’ he said over and over again.




After a few moments he felt something nuzzling his neck and he looked up to see Cochise’s face turning around towards him.  ‘You don’t care do ya boy?’ he said as he patted him. ‘You just love me don’t ya? Just like Hoss does.’  He smiled through his tears. ‘I love ya too boy,’ he whispered. ‘And I love that big dumb brother of mine.’  He took a deep breath. ‘Guess we gotta get out there and get him don’t we?’




Joe took a deep breath and stepped back from the horse.  He slowly put his foot in the stirrup and hoisted himself up into the saddle, releasing his breath as he settled. ‘We’ll take it nice and easy boy,’ he said with a trembling voice as he turned the horse towards the door. ‘Nice and easy.’  The young man and the pinto left the barn together.












Hoss looked up at the hills around him and sighed.  The sun was just beginning to peek over the top of them, spreading their rays all around him and glistening on the water with a thousand small sparkles of light.  It promised to be another beautiful day, but one that Baime would never see.  Hoss looked down at the dead Indian in his arms and gently closed his eyes.  He could have sworn that he had felt the man’s spirit leave him a few moments ago as he’d taken his last breath and smiled to think that now his last wish had come true.  His spirit was indeed free.




A sound behind him made him turn and he laid Baime’s body on the ground and stood to face the two riders who were approaching. ‘Hi,’ he said as they dismounted.




Ben and Adam took in the scene before them.  The two dead bodies on the ground and Hoss’ haggard face. ‘Son?’ said Ben as he stepped forward.




‘Clem shot him’ said Hoss simply. He shook his head. ‘No reason fer it really.  I came upon them and had ta kill Clem when he drew on me.’ Ben put his hand on his large son’s shoulder as they all gazed down at Baime’s body silently. ‘His spirit is free now,’ said Hoss softly. ‘I need ta bury him though.’




Ben nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said. He glanced at Adam. ‘Son, take Clem’s body into town and let Roy Coffee know what’s happened,’ he instructed. ‘Tell him we’ll be in directly to answer his questions.’




‘Sure thing Pa,’ said Adam. He walked over and got Clem’s horse and led him back to where his owner’s body was lying.




Ben patted Hoss on the back. ‘I’ll go back and get some equipment,’ he said. ‘You’ll want to stay here with Baime for a while.




Hoss looked at his father, fighting back his tears and glad that he understood. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Thanks Pa.’  He looked over Ben’s shoulder and pointed suddenly. ‘Look!’




The three Cartwrights looked in the direction that Hoss was pointing and saw Little Joe riding towards them on Cochise.  Ben nodded slowly and a sad smile spread over his face. ‘Baime would approve,’ he said softly.




Hoss nodded. ‘He sure would,’ he said.




Joe brought his horse to a halt beside them and looked down at his father and brothers and the dead Indian on the ground. ‘He’s dead?’ he asked, giving Hoss a pained look.




Hoss nodded his head. ‘Yeah Shortshanks he is,’ he said. ‘But he ain’t lonely no more.  His spirit is free now.’




Joe swallowed and nodded his head, looking up at the hills all around them. ‘Yeah,’ he said softly. ‘I guess it is.’  He reached down and patted Cochise on the neck, his heart full with more emotion than he could possibly have expressed. Tears began to fall from his eyes in spite of his efforts to contain his emotions about all that had happened.




Ben reached up and patted his son on the leg. ‘Joe don’t be sad for him,’ he said. ‘Grieve for him of you want to, but don’t be sad. He’s in a better place now.’




Joe nodded and wiped his eyes against the sleeve of his jacket. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘It’s just that ….’  He looked down at Cochise again and then back at his father. ‘Me and Cooch … we’d never …. you know Pa.’




Ben nodded. ‘Yes, I know son,’ he said. ‘You get down and stay with Hoss now while I go back and get some tools.  We need to bury him.’




‘Joe shook his head. ‘No Pa,’ he said. ‘Please let me and Cooch ride to get them. Baime would want us to. He wanted us to be able to ride together again.’




Ben nodded again. ‘All right son,’ he said. ‘You go and get them.  Hoss and I will wait here for you.’




Joe smiled at his father and turned Cochise around.  Ben and Hoss stood and watched as the young man and the pinto rode off into the distance together. ‘He’s right Pa,’ said Hoss. ‘I’ll bet Baime’s spirit is right pleased ta see a sight like that.’




‘We all are Hoss,’ said his father. ‘Joe has a lot to be thankful for right about now.’ He looked at his son affectionately. ‘He has a wonderful brother in you son.’




Hoss looked embarrassed. ‘Aw Pa,’ he said. ‘I love that little guy.  You know I’d do anything fer him.’




Ben patted Hoss on the back. ‘Yes I do know that Hoss,’ he said. ‘And you have sure proved that lately. He looked down at the Indian’s body at the feet. ‘Go in peace my friend,’ he said softly. He looked up to see a ray of sunlight pierce through the clouds and shine down upon the land in a sudden burst of brilliance and he smiled at the sight of it. ‘Go in peace,’ he said again while in front of him his son and his beloved horse rode across the clearing towards home.


The End



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Author: Joan S

From her Australian base, Joan is one of the most prolific writers of Bonanza Fanfic over the past few years. Although you can read 67 of her stories on Bonanza Brand, she also has a website where you can access her whole collection of stories.

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