Summary: A WHN for “The Newcomers”. Hoss finally visits the canyon.
Word Count: 913
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
The Dogwoods in Bloom
Pulling his mount to a halt, Hoss Cartwright stared into the canyon before him. The fields were a riot of colors as wildflowers of various shapes and sizes grew amongst the tall, bedewed grasses. Even from his vantage point, he could smell their heady scent, which seemed sweeter than any man-made perfume ever could. The babbling of a brook caught his attention, and he turned to see the flash of water as it bounded over its rocky bed. On its bank stood a majestic stag—his rack at least ten points or more—drinking his fill of the ice cold liquid; feeling the man’s eyes upon him, he glanced up. A few crystalline drops fell from his muzzle. When he caught sight of Hoss, he snorted, turned, and bolted into the trees, white tail held high to signal danger to any of his brethren that might be nearby. Somewhere over head, a mockingbird greeted the new day with his repertoire of pilfered songs.
A bittersweet smile touched Hoss’ lips. The canyon was just as beautiful as he remembered it being.
Winter had gripped the land in an iron fist, refusing to let go her hold until well into spring. Once she finally relented, everyone on the Ponderosa had worked frantically to get things done that should have been completed during the cooler months of March and April. He had not had a single free moment to do as he pleased til summer had come around. Now as he sat astride his horse, his heart ached; there was something missing.
I’m too late, he thought as he spied the dogwood trees. They were covered with bright green leaves, but there was nary a pink or white blossom to be seen on their branches. He had missed them.
Slipping from the saddle, he let the reins trail upon the ground. Chubb was a lot like his master; as long as there was ample food for him to eat, he wouldn’t go far, so the middle Cartwright son had no fear of the horse wandering off and leaving him high and dry. Hoss waded through the thigh-high grass until he reached the nearest of the dogwood trees. Turning his back to it, he settled down on the ground at its base, and leaned against the rough bark of its trunk.
Without conscious thought, his fingers strayed towards his vest pocket where lay the dreaded telegram. It had been unfolded and reread so many times over the past few months that it was no longer legible, but that didn’t matter to him. The words were burned into his memory long before they had faded away.
She’s gone. Passed in the night. Tell Hoss to visit the canyon.
The news didn’t come as a surprise, she had been ill for a very long time, but that knowledge did little to assuage his broken heart.
“I did it, Emily,” he whispered, peering up into the leaf-filled branches of the tree, “I came, but you ain’t here. You ain’t here and I can’t….” His voice broke as tears coursed down his cheeks.
Emily Pennington had come into Hoss’ life at a time when he had begun to doubt that any gal could ever see past his ugliness long enough to see the real him. She was all sweetness, clothed in the ethereal beauty of an angel. He could sense her fragility; she was as delicate as a butterfly and just as pretty. Though they had gotten off to a rough start, she soon realized that, despite his homely looks and brute strength, there was something more to him, something gentle. In no time, he had fallen for her; miraculously, she had felt the same way. And for that one moment, everything was perfect…and then that moment ended.*
She was dying, the doctor said; she would be gone before the month was over. Suddenly, it was as if someone had snuffed out all of the candles in the room. He was left in darkness where there had once been the brightest of lights.
The telegram had come not long after that, and what was left of his tattered dreams turned to dust and blew away on the wind.
“I just don’t understand, God…Ya gotta help me,” he said, clamping his eyes shut, unable to bear seeing the beauty all around him.
With a cry, he swung his fist against the ground, hitting it over and over again until the pain in his knuckles matched the pain in his heart. It felt good to hurt. For a long time he just sat there, letting everything he had bottled up inside of him for months, flow out in a steady stream.
When it was over, he opened his eyes. He reached up to wipe away the grittiness of tears from his cheeks, but paused when something glinted in the early morning light. Glancing down at his battered hand, he saw a little bit of yellow on his knuckles. He had pounded his fist into one of the gold-backed ferns that grew around him.
It really is just like stardust, he thought, letting out a watery chuckle.
“You just have to keep on living, Hoss*,” said a familiar, still-small Voice.
A wave of peace rolled over him, and for the first time in a long time, he knew that it would be all right. It wouldn’t be easy or painless, but he would make it through. With God’s help, he would.
~ Finis ~
*”And for that one moment, everything was perfect…and then that moment ended.” I shamelessly took this line from the Disney film Tangled because it fit so well with my story.
* Paraphrased from the scene between Hoss and Helene in the episode The Philip Diedesheimer Story: “I talked to God, and He told me I was just gonna hafta keep on livin”.
This was written for a prompt on Bonanza Boomers. I was given the song title “Til Summer Comes Around” by Keith Urban as a prompt and this is what came of it.
Tags: Emily Pennington, Grief, Hoss Cartwright
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- A Howl in the Night (by Annie K Cowgirl)
- Missing (by Annie K Cowgirl)
- The Argument (by Annie K Cowgirl)
- A Father’s Gift (by Annie K Cowgirl)