Synopsis: Escape to the Ponderosa a What Happened Instead. What would have happened if the army deserts/escapees had not made it to Netta’s ranch… and instead had managed to get back to the Ponderosa?
My take on a new angle begins shortly after Ben tells Hoss to bandage Adam’s head and get him up to bed…
ESCAPE TO THE PONDEROSA – …an alternative version
“Hoss, would you quit with the liniment already,” growled Adam, as he tried to push his brother’s hand away. Adam had already had enough of the liniment’s sting when his father had tried to clean the gash on his head. He knew that Hoss was only doing as he had been instructed by their father, but his headache was growing stronger and Hoss’ ministrations had begun to annoy him.
“Aw, c’mon Adam, ya know that Pa told me I had to do this,” replied Hoss, as he dabbed at the gash again. Hoss could feel his brother flinch from his every touch and tried to be gentle. Finally, he placed a folded piece of cloth over the cut and secured it in place with a bandage.
“There, all done,” stated Hoss proudly, as he admired his handiwork. He grinned when he saw Adam look at him with a beleaguered expression. “C’mon, we better get you up to bed, before you keel over right here in front of me.”
“Hoss, how much is Pa paying you to do this to me?” Adam scowled as he accepted Hoss’ help to get up out of the leather chair.
“Adam, in yer case, not near enough,” chortled Hoss. He wrapped his muscular arm around his brother’s waist and helped him to climb the stairs.
“I’m not an invalid, Hoss, I can do this by myself,” growled Adam. He hated having to rely on everyone else to help him. It made him feel vulnerable and weak. As a child, Adam had been able to take care of himself as well as his brothers, not only when they were hurt but also when they were scared or in trouble. Most of all, he hated himself when he was forced to rely on the support of others.
“Oh, so yer not an invalid eh? Well, big brother, who is the one that has his head all bandaged and looks like death warmed up?” gloated Hoss. He didn’t mean to belittle Adam by making his brother lean on him for support, but at the same time Hoss was enjoying his new ‘take charge’ role.
“Just get me to bed, Hoss,” sighed Adam. “Obviously I am not going to get anywhere with you, so I may as well give in now.”
“Yup, brother, it sure looks that way, don’t it?” chuckled Hoss. Although he knew how much it infuriated his brother to be unable to help himself, he was pleased that Adam admitted he needed his help.
“Doesn’t it,” Adam automatically corrected.
“Yup, see, ya even agreed with me. It doesn’t look as though you’re going to win this argument. Sheesh, that must be a first.” Hoss thoroughly enjoyed getting the better of his older brother, an all too rare occurrence.
After Hoss had settled Adam in his bed, he gave him a cup of water with some pain relief powder mixed into it. Hoss then sat down in the chair beside Adam’s bed and quietly talked about the ranch activities until his brother dozed off in a peaceful slumber.
Back downstairs Hoss found himself sitting at the dining table with an ample helping of Hop Sing’s chicken dumplings. “Mmmm, these sure are mighty tasty,” Hoss said to Hop Sing, the Chinese cook, between mouthfuls.
“Missa Hoss, you eat any more and you be sick,” Hop Sing scolded and took the bowl off the table before Hoss could get his hands on any more dumplings.
“Aw, c’mon, I’m a growin’ boy,” rebutted Hoss as he tried to make a final grab at the departing bowl.
“You glowing boy, you glowing out,” Hop Sing joked as he patted his own stomach to emphasize the point. “You eat any more these now and you no eat your dinner. Missa Ben he be angry at Hop Sing and Hop Sing no likey,” he admonished as he waved his index finger under Hoss’ nose until he was afraid he’d go cross-eyed.
Not wanting to upset the cook any more, Hoss left the dining room and adjourned to the main room. He was just starting on building his house of cards again when he heard a knock at the front door. “Dang blast it, I’ll never get it built,” grumbled Hoss as he went to open the door.
“Hello, can I help you?” Hoss asked when he opened the door and saw two men before him.
“Now ain’t that right neighbourly of you,” Sutton sneered, leveling his gun at Hoss’ massive chest. “Git back inside now,” he continued, directing Hoss back with the gun.
“Hey mister, I don’t want no trouble,” Hoss said, trying to ease the intruder’s mind.
“That’s good, cause if you don’t give us no trouble we’ll try and not give you any. Ain’t that so Tyler?” Sutton said as he looked at his friend. “We just need some clean clothes, some food and something to drink.”
Tyler nodded, confirming his partner’s requests. “Sure is a nice home you have here,” he casually remarked.
“Sure is,” Sutton agreed looking around the room, “bet there’s plenty of money here too.” Sutton continued to train the gun on Hoss while he ventured over to the staircase.
Hoss watched on nervously, hoping that neither man would go upstairs. “Um, what say I get our cook to rustle you fellers up some food,” Hoss offered, drawing the attention of Sutton.
With both of the intruders in agreement, Hoss directed them to the dining room table. “Hop Sing, we’ve got company. Would you get them something to eat please?”
“Who else is in this house, apart from you and the cook?” Tyler asked.
Hoss refrained from directly answering Tyler’s question by offering him something to drink. “Say Mister, after you’ve eaten why don’t you jest take what you want and leave us alone,” Hoss pleaded. His mind was racing with ideas on how to safely overcome the two desperate men. Hoss hoped that his brother was still sleeping and that their unexpected guests would be gone before he woke.
After eating a filling meal Sutton ordered Tyler to check around outside for any signs of life. “This is a big spread, Tyler, so there’s bound to be someone milling around. Go and check it out and let me know.”
“Sure, Sutton, you just keep watch on these two,” Tyler replied as he eyed Hoss carefully. He then exited the house, picking up a rifle as he went and walked towards the barn.
‘One down, one to go,’ Hoss thought to himself. He wanted to be able to tell Adam to stay in his room, but knew if he went upstairs Sutton would surely follow him.
“So is it just you and the cook here, or should I go and take a look around the house?” Sutton asked. While he couldn’t be absolutely certain, he was sure that the big man in front of him was definitely hiding something.
“Mister, my Pa and brother are out on the range with some of the hands,” Hoss answered. “It’s just me and Hop Sing here.”
Unsatisfied with the answer he was given, Sutton went out to the kitchen to search for anyone that could have been hiding in there. He pointed the gun at Hoss and made him walk in front.
From his room Adam had heard raised voices coming from downstairs. Gingerly he clambered out of bed and dressed. Any fast movement he made seemed to intensify his headache.
Silently, with cat-like prowess, he crept down the stairs until he was near the table on which his gun belt still lay. He clasped the gun in his hand he walked silently towards the dining room. He moved quietly with the graceful step of a mountain lion.
Convinced that there was no one hidden in the kitchen, Sutton returned to the main room of the spacious house. Hoss and Hop Sing followed behind him.
Adam was oblivious to the front door opening silently behind him as he aimed his gun at Sutton. “Hold it right there, mister,” he said calmly.
“ADAM!” Hoss cried when he saw Tyler behind his brother.
Startled by Hoss’ anguished cry, Adam spun on his heel and took aim at Tyler. He felt the resistance of the trigger as he pulled it, but never knew if he hit his target. At the same instant he fired, something slammed into his right side. The last thing he remembered was the floor rearing up to smack him in the face.
“ADAM,” Hoss called again when he saw his brother fall to the floor. Hoss turned to see Sutton smile sardonically at him as he raised the gun barrel to his mouth and gently blew on the end of it as if to cool it.
“Hey, ain’t he the guy that we got this morning out near that West fence line?” Tyler asked, as he looked at Adam’s familiar features.
Hoss walked in a daze like state to his brother’s side. “Why? Why did you have to shoot him?” Hoss asked the two men in front of him.
“I thought you said it was only you and the cook at home,” glowered Tyler. He had not wanted to see any more bloodshed. To him there had all ready been enough. He watched as Adam lay bleeding on the floor.
“C’mon Adam…, wake up, please. Adam, please wake up,” Hoss said as he fought back the unbidden tears. “Will you give me a hand to move him onto the settee?” Hoss asked Tyler.
With Tyler’s help, Hoss laid Adam on he couch. He checked his brother’s wound before turning once again to Tyler. “I’ve gotta go and get some medical supplies. We keep ’em in the kitchen,” Hoss said. His words sounded drained as he spoke. “If ya, don’t believe me you can come with me.” Hoss added when he caught Tyler’s peculiar look.
“Nah, its okay, I believe you,” Tyler replied. “I take it he’s family,” he surmised as he gestured at Adam.
“Yeah, he’s my oldest brother. His name is Adam,” Hoss said. He took a long look at Adam before retrieving the necessary items to help his brother.
On his return, Hoss saw Tyler applying pressure to Adam’s wound. “Ya don’t have to do that,” Hoss spoke as he knelt beside his brother.
“I know that. I just wanted to help. I’m sorry it came to this …,” answered Tyler not knowing what else to say.
“Hey, Tyler, you goin’ soft on me?” Sutton asked angrily. He didn’t want to see Tyler helping with the injured man. As far as he was concerned it was Adam’s misfortune for getting in the way. All he had wanted was to get some food, fresh clothes, some money and fast horses. He didn’t care about anyone who got in his way – his main concern was to look after himself.
“Sutton, he’s hurt. Even you can’t be so callous, can you?” Tyler asked while he helped Hoss to lift his brother onto the settee. He shook his head when he saw Sutton’s angry expression. He had always gone along with Sutton’s plans. Even the act of escaping from the military prison had been Sutton’s idea – one which he wished he had ignored.
“Hop Sing, I’m gonna need some hot water and some more bandages,” Hoss said as he removed one of the blood soaked dressings. ‘What I really need is Doc Martin and for Pa to be home’ he sighed inwardly.
“Hey, I give the orders around here,” Sutton barked as he leveled his gun at Hoss. “You got that?”
“Yeah, I got that mister. You’ve already shot my brother, so unless you’re plannin’ on shootin’ me as well why don’t you put that dadburn gun away,” heatedly replied Hoss. He turned back to face his brother before Sutton could respond.
“Hoss,” moaned Adam. He had heard what his brother had said and wanted to caution him. His right hand snaked towards where he felt the pain radiate from. Before he could reach the source of his pain he felt his hand being swatted away.
“Adam,” Hoss exclaimed. He was relieved to see his brother staring up at him. “How about you let me tend to that,” he smiled as he lay Adam’s right arm up on his chest. “Ya know I’m gettin’ a mite tired of gettin’ to practice my doctorin’ skills on you,” he lightly bantered.
“Yeah, well…. I’m getting a little tired ….. of having you patch me up,” returned Adam between pain filled gasps. He closed his eyes and bit down on his bottom lip as another wave of discomfort washed over him.
“Here, drink some of this,” Hoss instructed as he held a spoon of Laudanum to his brother’s lips. “It’ll help ease the pain.”
Tyler watched as Hoss gently eased his massive arm behind his bother’s back to prop him up. He stepped forward to help, ignoring Sutton’s gesture with the colt that he held in his hand. He had taken the ever present red and white coloured Indian blanket from the staircase and handed it to Hoss.
“Thank you,” uttered Hoss. He accepted the blanket and placed it on the floor beside him while he finished bandaging Adam’s wound.
Adam opened his eyes just enough to see Tyler standing beside the settee. “I know you,” stated Adam. His words barely audible. “You jumped me this morning.”
Tyler turned his head away and feigned an interest in the fixtures in the house. He hadn’t wanted to take part in Sutton’s plan to attack Adam that morning. He would have instead preferred to stay out of sight of anyone and continue South.
“Take it easy,” Hoss soothed. He’d seen his brother become agitated at the sight of Tyler. “Don’t you go movin’ about on me, I just got done with changin’ the last bandage.”
Adam looked up at his brother and furrowed his brow. There were so many questions he wanted to ask but couldn’t think clearly enough to put them into words. He saw Hop Sing sitting opposite him and Sutton’s gun aimed in his direction. He tried in vain to keep his eyes open. To stay awake. After several attempts of trying to keep his heavy eyelids from slamming shut he gave way to the drug induced sleep.
Hoss breathed heavily and ran his hand through his hair. He desperately wanted to do something more to help his brother. Without the skills or the proper equipment he had to be content with just keeping his brother comfortable.
He had looked at taking the bullet out but had found it to be in to deep. He closed his eyes and prayed that help would arrive soon.
“Bolton, you’re escaped convicts are not out here and we haven’t seen any tracks for some time,” Ben growled. He had let Bolton know on several occasions that he had wanted to return to his home. He wanted to be with his injured son. He knew that while Hoss was a force to be reckoned with, he also knew that Adam could be stubborn and insist that he didn’t need to be nurse maided.
“I’ll take that under advisement,” Bolton replied. His voice dripped with sarcasm.
“Take it any way you like. Whether you like it or not my son and I are going back to the ranch,” countered Ben.
“PA!” Joe called. He’d dismounted Cochise and was investigating the set of tracks that he’d found. Two sets of footprints going in the direction of the Ponderosa ranch house. “The escaped men have headed towards home,” he said, the concern evident in his voice.
Ben immediately understood the meaning in what his youngest son had said. He waited for Joe to remount before he spurred his own steed on. His thoughts were focused on his two older sons at home and the danger that they could be in.
As Ben and Joe reached the main entrance to the house they slowed their horses to a walk. Before them they saw the same tacks that they had been following. If the escapees were still nearby they didn’t want to race in and alert them to their sudden arrival. Bolton and his men taken Ben Cartwright’s lead and had also slowed their own horses.
“Go around back and come in that way. But, son, be careful. If the two escapees are inside we don’t want to startle them and do anything rash,” Ben cautioned. He watched his youngest son disappear behind the house before he made his move.
Bolton had ordered his men to set up a perimeter guard. He had assumed the same as Ben Cartwright – that the men he was chasing were inside the house. “Wait for my command,” he signaled before he positioned himself.
“Did you hear that?” Sutton asked. He was certain that he’d heard movement come from the upstairs part of the house.
“Hear what?” Tyler returned. He hadn’t heard anything. He had been lost in thought about how different things could have been had he completed his sentence. Instead he was now on the run and so far nothing had gone as he had expected.
Sutton turned towards the staircase and ascended the stairs one at a time. He stopped when he had not gone more than a few steps. He heard the front door latch open and turned his attention on that.
Tyler also heard the door open and saw Sutton raise the gun he held towards the door. He had decided that he no longer wanted to run and wanted to surrender. He knew that Sutton would not go down without a fight and realized that the only one that could stop Sutton was himself.
Ben opened the door and entered the house in a controlled calm. Desperately he wanted to make sure that his sons were unharmed and knew that if he rushed in he could cause an unnecessary play of gunfire. “Hoss, Adam,” he called in a casual manner. When he saw Hoss crouched beside the couch and Hop Sing behind him he instantly knew that something was wrong.
“Hold it right there Mister,” Sutton warned with his colt aimed at Ben’s chest.
Ben stopped in mid stride and raised his hands to his sides. He had seen Joe creep down the stairs unbeknownst to everyone else, but returned his gaze to the man who held the gun on him. “What do you want?”
“What I want is a safe passage outta here for me and my buddy. Some money and some horses,” Sutton replied.
Tyler stepped forward and raised his own hands in surrender. “I don’t want no part of it anymore. I’m tired of running. Enough is enough.”
“What are you talking about? I thought we were in this together. You’re nothing but a yellow bellied coward,” Sutton snarled. He wavered the gun between Ben Cartwright and Tyler.
“I mean what I said, Sutton. I ain’t gonna run no more. The only way I can be truly free is to serve my sentence and start over again,” replied Tyler. He had given his present situation a lot of thought and had decided that it was better to finish his sentence, alive rather than on the run and possibly dead.
Joe watched as Sutton pulled back the trigger on his gun and aimed it at Tyler’s chest.
“Well I won’t be going back and neither will you,” Sutton cried, his voice full of hate. A shot rang out from his gun but didn’t get a chance to find it’s intended mark.
Tyler was surprised to see Sutton thrown to the floor by an unseen attacker. He watched as the two men struggled for the gun and closed his eyes when he heard it discharge.
“Joe?” Ben called when he saw that his youngest son was not moving.
“I’m okay, Pa,” answered Joe as he righted himself. He then moved to where his oldest brother lay deathly still on the settee. “Hoss?”
“He’s alive – just,” Hoss quietly replied. “The bullet’s in to far for me to get out. He needs a doctor.”
Ben collapsed to his knees in front of Adam and wiped the perspiration from his son’s brow. “Joe, ride into town and get Doctor Martin. And son, be as quick as you can.”
When Ben had finished instructing Joe to ride into town, Bolton appeared through the door.
“Is he dead?” he asked as he indicated at Sutton he lay motionless on the floor.
“He is and this man wants to give himself up,” replied Ben in between giving Hoss and Hop Sing orders for items that he required. “Put the gun away, Bolton, there’s been enough bloodshed already,” Ben added. He was surprised when Bolton so readily followed his command.
While Bolton ordered for Tyler to be taken into custody he signaled for his lieutenant to come inside and care for Adam. “Peterson is a doctor and can take care of your son,” Bolton said. “He was attached to my detail by my superior. In case he was needed,” he added when he saw Ben’s confusion.
Ben was grateful that fate had stepped in with a doctor in the small company of soldiers. With Hoss’ help he got Adam to his room and settled in bed and waited for the doctor to operate. A few hours later the doctor emerged from Adam’s room and had descended the stairs as the town doctor approached from the opposite direction.
“How is he?” Ben asked.
“He’ll be fine but it will take some time. He lost a lot of blood and has a small concussion as well, more than likely from the attack that he’d received earlier on,” Peterson answered.
Paul Martin made mental notes on Adam’s condition and excused himself from Peterson’s presence. He wanted to check on his patient for himself. In a short while he was joined by Ben.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner, I had an emergency in town,” Paul said as he took Adam’s temperature. “Peterson did a fine job, Adam should recover well.”
“Paul, would you mind staying with Adam for a few minutes. I have something I need to take care of.”
“Go ahead, I’ll call you if I need you,” Paul smiled at the retreating from of Ben Cartwright.
As Ben exited Adam’s room, Hoss and Joe entered and seated themselves near their brother’s bedside. Hoss recounted the events and told Paul and Joe of Tyler’s help.
On his return he informed Paul that he had sent with Tyler a letter of support that he be allowed to carry out the rest of his sentence in deference to a firing squad. He had seen that Tyler was indeed truly remorseful for his actions and that he should be given a second chance.
“I guess it is true,” Paul smiled, “better the devil you know than the one you don’t. At least now he may have a real chance at freedom again. He’s lucky to have a man like you in his corner – any man would be.”
“I’ll agree with that,” Adam spoke, his voice no more than a whisper. “Very lucky indeed.”
Other Stories by this Author
- Man’s Best Friend #2 – If Tomorrow Never Comes (by Starbuck)
- Man’s Best Friend #1 (by Starbuck)
- Lily of the West (by Starbuck)
- Payment for Past Deeds (by Starbuck)
- The Bounty (by Starbuck)