A Father’s Parable (by Missjudy)

Summary: When Ben finds Adam to let him know it’s time to head home from a neighbor’s party, he can see that his son is upset and trying to hide it. Although his son won’t offer any information, Ben suspects Marie knows what happened, and once home, they’re able to put together the pieces of what 15 yr old boy overheard, and why he looked so stricken. The truth makes Ben seek Adam out for a father-son talk.

Rating: K           Word Count: 6024

A Father’s Parable

Ben stepped outside Harvey Benson’s barn after admiring the young farmer’s new plow, and squinted when the bright afternoon sunshine stabbed at his eyes. The Cartwright clan had been at the Benson homestead since mid-morning for a church service led by a traveling preacher, followed by a party to mark the baptism of the Harvey and Eleanor’s new baby. While it had been a pleasant day, the sun was already dropping into the western horizon, and Ben knew that even after he’d suggest to Marie that it was time to head home, it would take another 45 minutes before the goodbyes were completed and they were on the road.

When he could finally see clearly, he made a visual sweep of the yard hoping to round up his family quickly. The only one he spotted was Hoss, running in a pack of other kids his age. They might have been playing a game, but since it was the time of day when farm and ranch children knew chores needed to be done, he guessed they were simply enjoying their last minutes together in a free-for-all kind of fun.

As he made his way across the yard, he saw the female member of the family standing in the doorway of the house, swaying side-to-side: a good indication that Little Joe was straddling the hip he couldn’t see. This was confirmed when Marie moved to let another woman make her way inside carrying a crock, and he saw their three-year-old resting just where Ben imagined he’d be. He wasn’t surprised that after playing hard all day, Little Joe had sought his mother’s comfort.

Only his first son remained unaccounted for. He’d last seen Adam hunkered into a corner of their wagon reading when the men had passed by on the way to the barn. The wagon was empty now, and a wider scan of the yard provided no further clue as to Adam’s whereabouts. Since Hoss was closest, he headed there first.

“Hoss,” he called, when he got near enough to be heard. The boy ran up to him; his cheeks covered ear-to-ear with a smile, and flushed bright red with his activity. “Are you having fun?”

“I surely am, Pa.”

“Then I don’t suppose you’ll enjoy hearing that we’ll leave soon.” The effect of the news was immediate, with the smile falling to a deep frown. Ben pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to dry the beads of sweat from his son’s cheeks and forehead, and brushed away the crumbs from whatever sweets the boy had eaten recently. “Everyone else will be going just as we are, so go back and enjoy your fun until we’re packed up.”

The tall, sturdily built 9-year-old turned back as he ran back to his friends. “Just holler when you need me!”

As Ben continued to look for Adam, he thought about the young couple who were hosting this get-together. There’d been few people around when Ben and his boys had arrived in the area, but the beauty and resources nearby, along with a well-established trading post, had encouraged other sojourners to put down roots. Will Cass had purchased the post a couple years back, turning it into a good general store, and the community was growing slowly, but steadily.

The Bensons arrived two years ago and were building a fine homestead. With the impending birth of their first child coinciding with the expected spring visit from the itinerant preacher shortly after that; the couple had seen the opportunity to host the church service and celebrate their baby’s baptism. What they hadn’t planned on, was that the birth would be long and hard, and Eleanor would still be recovering when word had come that the preacher would arrive in a few weeks. Despite being worn and fragile, she’d assured her neighbors she could handle the upcoming event.

Little Joe’s birth three-years earlier had been equally as hard, so Marie knew exactly how exhausted the young mother really was. She worried that with spring chores, a new baby, lingering physical problems, and a large event to plan and orchestrate, Eleanor would wear herself out and experience a health setback. Rather than waiting for this to transpire, Marie had stepped in and rallied the troops to take the pressure away. Ben had watched in awe as his petite powerhouse convinced the others that each of them bringing a dish to the picnic lunch would share the labor and allow the women to show off their cooking and baking skills. She’d even convinced several of the husbands to deliver chairs and tables to the Benson’s the day before, and help Harvey set up.

When Marie had gone to tell the couple about the community’s support, she’d seen first-hand how much they were struggling with new parenthood added to all their other responsibilities at this busiest time of year. Ignoring their protests that they’d manage, she’d promised to send two hands from the Ponderosa to help Harvey catch up with spring chores and field planting.

Ben had initially gritted his teeth when Marie had told him of her offer to their neighbors. He knew it was fruitless to explain that the Ponderosa was also in the midst of the busiest time of the year, because his wife’s kind heart and solid faith gave her surety that her husband would comply with her request.

Marie was not one to simply issue orders for others. She had returned to the Benson’s to help with household chores and watch the baby so Eleanor could sleep. She’d also taken Adam along to work up and plant Eleanor’s kitchen garden.

As Ben moved through the yard, he observed first-hand how much Marie’s efforts had helped this family.  He cringed while asking heavenly forgiveness for his brief moment of indignation over her original request, and followed that with his thanks that his family had abundant resources and manpower … and a driving force like his wife to ensure that they were shared where needed.


“There you are!” Ben called as he rounded the far side of the house, and saw Adam hoeing the garden. “It’s a shame the families with kids your age couldn’t come,” he said sincerely. “But the younger children enjoyed having you organize those games and chase them around most of the day. I’m not surprised you had to slip away for a break from all the giggling and shouting.”

The oldest son nodded and smiled. “Those kids don’t really say anything when they play; they just make …” his lips and nose puckered into a sour expression. “… noise!”

“You might not remember it, but you played hard and noisily with your own little herd of friends when we were in the wagon train.” Ben grinned at his son. “And while I wouldn’t say you were a noisy child in general, you did ask a lot of questions from the time you could talk … and may I remind you that you started talking before you were a year old!”

Ben took a better look at the large plot where with the heads of bright green seedlings were pushing towards the sun in evenly spaced rows. “This is a huge garden!”

“Yup. Mr. Benson had the corners staked out when I came to plant it, and after I ran a string around the perimeter and saw how big it was, I asked Marie if she thought Mrs. Benson could handle the upkeep. She said to go ahead, and that we’d help if they got behind. I was stretching my legs after sitting in the wagon, and noticed lots of small weeds springing up. Figured it would be easier to hoe them now instead of pulling them later.” He grinned at his father. “I’ll come back in a couple of weeks and do the same thing, if that’s all right with you. Mrs. Benson still looks real tired.”

“Most new parents do, son.” Another quick look at the plot led Ben to think Adam had finished, until he noted a good-sized area bordering the house that hadn’t been touched. He pointed to it. “You missed some over there.”

The boy’s gaze darted towards where his father was pointing, and then down at his feet. “I decided to let that go ‘til the end. With the doors open, there’s a draft carrying conversations inside the house, straight out that window where I was working. I moved so no one would think I was eavesdropping.”

Ben’s left brow rose. “I doubt anyone would have thought that of you, yet it was the right thing to do.” The right brow joined its twin as he noticed Adam’s expression. His oldest son had always been a responsible, intelligent and intuitive child. He was also like every other child who occasionally pushed against boundaries of good sense, and then attempted to duck the consequences of their actions. When caught in such moments, Adam would admit the infraction and accept discipline with as much equanimity as the youngster could manage.

But Ben also recalled times when his own fatigue and frustrations had allowed him to accuse Adam of irresponsibility, without seeking the facts. His son had learned early on to trust that his father would discover the truth, and that attempts to talk back or explain in the heat of the moment never accomplished anything. This wise conclusion on Adam’s part had begun a tradition of brutally honest discussions once Ben could think clearly. In these conversations, the truth had been sought and exposed, apologies issued, and life lessons about dealing with decisions, both as a child and a parent, had been learned.

What brought this to mind now, was that he had eventually discovered a tell in Adam’s expression at such times: a wounded look in the boy’s eyes that always indicated an incorrect assumption had been made by his father. Adam’s eyes held that look now. Ben ran their recent conversation through his mind for a clue as to what put it there. All had seemed well until the boy had explained that unfinished strip of garden. He suspected there’d be no answer: still he tried. “Did something happen to upset you, son?”

Adam heaved a sigh as he walked over and leaned the hoe against the house. “I’m just tired. If it’s time to leave, I can ride back tomorrow and finish up.”

A quick smile from the teen did little to dispel Ben’s certainty that something was very wrong. But he would only find out what had happened when the boy allowed himself to speak of it. “Marie has the crates with our dishes and supplies packed and sitting on the table out front. How about you load that in the wagon, and I’ll finish this last bit of cultivating.”

With Adam on his way, Ben grabbed the hoe, moving it quickly through the soft soil. His eyes popped open as the women’s conversation carried clearly to his ears when he neared the open window—just as Adam had reported. His exhaled breath sizzled through his clenched teeth like a burning fuse, as he stopped to listen. Marie was speaking: her words providing a solid clue as to what had wounded his son.


There were no delays on the trip home, yet it seemed to stretch on far longer than normal. Little Joe had become overtired while playing, and his brief rest on Marie’s hip hadn’t provided any relief. He was cranky; unwilling to accept comforting; unable to sit still, and was either caught in fits of laughing or on the verge of tears while crawling back-and-forth from his parents on the driver’s seat to his brothers sitting behind them in the wagon bed.

Frequent glances over his shoulder allowed Ben to see that Adam’s jaw was set hard even as he ensured that Little Joe didn’t launch himself too far during his trips over the seat. To their credit, both older boys were attempting to entertain the youngest, but he was simply too restless to concentrate on anything they tried.

Ben turned to address his sons as he finally drove into the yard. “I’ll pull up to the house to unload the boxes. Then you two can get the horses unhitched and fed, and the wagon put away while we settle Little Joe.”


There were few instances when Little Joe Cartwright could be put to bed early, but judging from the boy’s droopy eyes and listlessness now that he was home, Marie decided that he would sleep through the night despite an early bedtime. Hop Sing quickly warmed a plate of buttered noodles that the child ate with one hand while resting his head on the table, using his other arm for a pillow.

With the last of the buttery leftovers wiped from his cheeks and chin, Marie whisked him upstairs, changed him into a nightshirt and rocked him until his eyelids fluttered shut and stayed that way. Little Joe and Hoss shared a bedroom, but tonight she tucked her baby boy into the middle of the big bed in his parent’s room. It was at the back of the house, so more sheltered from outside noise or the echoes from downstairs, and its heavy curtains made the room dark. Before slipping out the door, she lit a lamp on the dresser and brought the wick down to shed only enough light that Little Joe would know where he was should he awaken.


Marie stepped off the last stair into the living area to find her husband pacing the length of the room. “You look so serious, Ben,” she said, walking towards him. Her tone was teasing, but when she noticed the look on his face, she became instantly worried. “What’s wrong?”

He took her hand and led her away from the kitchen where Hop Sing was unpacking the boxes and preparing supper. Reaching a distance where they wouldn’t be heard, he finally said, “I found Adam working in the Bensons’ garden just before we left. He was done except for an area under the window, and when I teased him about missing it, he said he’d bypassed it because he could hear the conversation going on inside the house.”

Marie’s forehead wrinkled as her brows nearly met. “Oh dear. This isn’t good.”

“He had that agonized look he gets when he’s hurt or confused, but he claimed he was fine. I didn’t question him further, and sent him to load the wagon while I finished hoeing. The conversation I heard while working under that window, was distressing.”

“How much did you hear?” Marie asked. Her jaw and fists clenched at thinking back to the last part of the afternoon.

“You were talking … defending Adam’s character, from what I could tell. A few other women added their thoughts, and then it got quiet. Who were you addressing, and more importantly, what prompted anyone to speak against our son?”

“The who, was Marjorie Freemont; the what is less obvious.”

Ben’s expression softened. “Tell me what happened.”

“Everything about today was lovely, and the women figured that as long as the kids were still happy and the men were occupied in the barn, we’d get everything put back in order for Eleanor before we left.  By leaving the food out for the afternoon, people kept nibbling and there wasn’t much to offer the Bensons in the way of leftovers, except for Marjorie’s baked beans. That crock was still nearly full, and before she packed it away, she brought it inside to see if Eleanor wanted to keep some for dinner.”

“How does Adam fit into this?”

Marie pursed her lips and gave Ben her steeliest, “be patient” look. “Eleanor deferred the offer, saying they looked good, but she’d heard that a baby can get colicky if the mother eats gassy food. That refusal prompted an expression on Marjorie’s face that resembled a building storm of embarrassment and anger.” She stopped speaking as a look of sadness crossed her delicate features. “I could understand that, Ben. It wounds one’s pride to bring a dish that no one cares for, so I quickly said I’d had some for lunch and would be grateful to take enough home for our dinner. I even said it was a shame that her crock was at the end of the food table, because people’s plates were full by the time they got there.”

The sadness vanished as Marie’s fire returned. “Instead of agreeing with me about the placement, or simply dishing some out for me, Marjorie fixed an evil look on me, and said she didn’t want my pity, and it was unlikely they’d be eaten at our home since it was Adam’s fault they hadn’t been eaten to begin with.

Ben’s jaw dropped. “This was about her baked beans? What in tarnation did he do?”

“Nothing! I actually heard the exchange between them that she recounted to the other women. Marjorie stopped Adam when he was heading off the porch with his lunch, and asked if he’d taken any of the beans she’d brought. It was a recipe handed down through her family when they’d lived in Boston, and she suggested he might like them since he’d been born there.”

Ben groaned. “We all know how he feels about beans. What did he say?”

Marie chuckled tightly. “He thanked her for her thoughtfulness, but explained that he’s never enjoyed baked beans, and the only time he eats them is when he’s out with the herds and has no choice.  He actually winked at her, and said he knew she was a good cook … and then asked to be forgiven for refusing.”

The angry protector of her children huffed. “Adam was sweet and sincere, and furthermore I saw him take a spoonful later when he went back for seconds. Knowing him, he noticed that they’d barely been touched, and he didn’t want her to feel bad.”

“Marjorie brings that same crock of beans to every community meal we have.” Ben allowed a grin amid the serious conversation. “The flavor is fine, but she overcooks them until they’re so sticky they could mortar a house and keep it standing for a hundred years.” His cheek rose in a half-grin-half-grimace. “I’m sorry I got off track there. What happened next?”

“In all honestly, I thought she told that story to get a laugh, and it did. I was laughing when I reaffirmed Adam’s admission that beans don’t sit well in his stomach, and we don’t make him eat them at home.” Marie stopped to draw a deep another deep breath. “But she wasn’t kidding! My simple remark allowed some dark pit to open in her soul as she went on a rant.”

Marie looked down and took a moment to recall the next part of the conversation. “It began with a pronouncement that our son was the rudest child she’d ever met, and his refusal to try her beans had made everyone else think they were bad, and therefore they wouldn’t try them either. Her next issue was with us, saying that my admission that we don’t make him eat them is typical of the way we let him do whatever he pleases, and that explains why he’s so vain and disrespectful.” Marie sniffed, as she ran her hand across her cheeks to clear them of the tears that were escaping. “I’m sure my mouth dropped open when she went on to say that he openly flaunts his disrespect in front of everyone by calling me Marie instead of Mother.”  The small woman stomped her foot. “I didn’t think it could get worse, but it did. Marjorie said she’d seen him sitting in the wagon reading instead of playing with the other children or helping me, yet that’s exactly what she’d expect of him, because he’s always got his nose in a book like he’s something special. She’s sick of hearing about how smart he is, and how he’s going away to school one day. Her conclusion was that she didn’t know how I could abide having such a pompous, charmless child. And unless we start disciplining him soon, he’ll reach a point where no one will tolerate him.”

Ben now fully understood the look on his son’s face. “Did others agree with her?”

“From the nervous-looking women I saw awaiting my response, I believe they were as shocked as I was, Ben. I didn’t want to escalate her diatribe into a war, but I felt compelled to address the criticism that seemed to drive the remainder of her accusations.” She stopped to look up into his eyes. “I waited for everyone’s attention, and then told them flat out that Adam and I had spoken about what he would call me as soon I arrived here with you. He wasn’t a little boy anymore, and his reasons for not calling me Mother have nothing to do with disrespecting me or my position in the family. It was I who suggested we use Marie, and you approved. I finished by saying that what our son calls me is merely a name we’ve agreed upon. How he treats me, shows his respect for me in each and every situation, and I never want to hear anyone disparage his character over this again.”

Reaching for her hand, Ben brought it to his lips. “I’ve always felt bad about trying to force him to call you Mother when we first got back. Thank God you made me ask him about it. It was so like Adam to reserve the title of Mother for the woman who’d given him life, and to make a vow to her and himself that he’d hold it sacred for her alone.1  Inger understood his reasoning too, and worked out a few endearing terms for him to call her.” Ben winked at his wife. “I was fortunate to have married women who are far smarter than I.”

“The important part is that you accepted his promise to Elizabeth, and allowed us to work out a solution.” Marie wrinkled her nose and set her jaw to finish the report. “After that, I had to consider whether saying more would end a lovely day with hard feelings. So … I took a deep breath, smiled and told Marjorie and the others that we’d all had a long day, and suggested that being tired might affect someone’s perception of an innocent incident. I finished by saying that while Adam is smart and unafraid to show how much he knows, it never overshadows his kindness, willingness to help, or detracts from his fine character.”

Ben nodded. “That was a reasoned response.” He grinned widely. “I’m glad you didn’t punch her, which is what I assume you wanted to do.”

She sent her husband a scathing look, and then smiled. “My … reasoned … response allowed others to speak up, saying that Adam had played with the children most of the day, allowing the adults to enjoy conversations during lunch without worrying about their kids. Vanny Johnson stepped forward saying that Adam is always helping out. She was even brave enough to remind Marjorie that Adam had spent days at her house fixing her barn and house roofs after that wind storm came through while her husband was ill.”

“I’m thankful they remembered the real Adam.”

“I’d prayed hard and fast for the words that would let me get my point across without causing more ill-will.  To her credit, Marjorie finally laughed, even if a bit stiffly, as she apologized for letting her tiredness overtake her good sense and her tongue. She apologized to Eleanor for bringing a cloud over their wonderful day, and claimed It was I’d proposed. She’d gotten up early to prepare a dish that no one ate, and as she became embarrassed over that, she’d let a harmless comment by a sweet young man fester in her heart. Her apology continued with her professing that the horrible things she’d said had surprised her as much as everyone else.”

“Did she say that because it was true, or because her words were contradicted?” Ben frowned as he waited for an answer.

“Only she knows that, Sweetheart. We both know that most times the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,2 and while those words ‘slipped’ out today, they probably slipped from a place of familiarity. She also forgot that she’d declared Adam’s flaws came as a result of our bad parenting. I imagine Marjorie holds the common opinion that children should not be allowed to have their own ideas or pursue their own dreams.”

“You and I recognize that a healthy, imaginative mind is as important in raising a child as a healthy body. No child should ever be blamed for being intelligent, having a quick mind or being truthful.” Ben sighed. “It has always been interesting to watch how people respond to our oldest child. If they talk with him, they realize he’s just a kid with a huge capacity to learn and absorb everything he can about life.  Others, like Marjorie Freemont, are insecure in the face of his intellect and candor.”

Marie wrapped her arms around her husband and hugged him tightly. “This is all true and easily seen by us. But Adam, despite his intellect, is a 15-year-old who heard those horrible words. He’s hurt and confused.” She reached up to touch Ben’s cheek. “I know that talking about feelings isn’t easy for you or Adam, but you’d already be out there tending to him if he had a physical wound. Yet wounds to the spirit at his age are just a deadly. So … my love, get going. He needs you.”

“I’ll broach the subject with him after I send Hoss in. When we’ve talked it out, the four of us can bring our supper outside and enjoy the sunset.”

She chuckled. “Are you thinking an outdoor supper will be a lovely way to end the day, or shall we abandon the house to keep Joseph from waking up?”

Ben shot her a wink as he stopped at the door. “Yes.”


Adam was hanging the last of the heavy harnessing on the tack hooks when Ben entered the barn. He asked the eldest to remain, while telling Hoss, “Go wash up and head inside … quietly! If you slam the door and wake your brother, you’ll be in charge of him until he wears out again.”

“I’ll tiptoe, Pa. If Little Joe wakes up now, he won’t settle back down til midnight.” The boy turned back to hold a finger to his lips as he neared the door and approached it with exaggeratedly slow steps.


Ben flipped a heavy feed bucket over near the stalls, and sat down. “Join me, Adam. I’d like to talk before we head in.”

The lanky young man came over quickly, and dropped onto a pile of fresh straw. “Is something wrong, Pa?”

A cagey grin slipped onto the man’s face. “I heard you told Mrs. Freemont you didn’t like her beans.”

The blush was instant. “Not her beans, Pa. Anyone’s beans. I made it into a joke about me, not a comment on her dish.” His cheek twitched up. “Is that what set her off?”

Ben had suspected the truth. “So … you heard what she said.”

He nodded. “That’s why I moved. I didn’t mean to listen, but I when I realized she was saying those things about me, I sort of froze. Was she honestly that angry because I refused her beans?”

“You’re an intuitive person, Adam. Do you believe it was about beans?”

The boy’s head moved side-to-side. “She shot a wide load of buckshot for a simple offense, and made it clear that she finds nothing redeemable about me.”

Ben reached forward to touch his son’s arm. “You should know that Marie defended you, and Mrs. Freemont admitted that her pride was wounded when no one ate her dish, and she took it out on you.” Instead of seeing relief, the haunted look he’d seen earlier returned to Adam’s face. “That doesn’t seem to ease your mind.” No words came from Adam’s lips, but his father could see the infinitesimal changes of expressions that revealed how hard his son was thinking through his answer.

“I appreciate that Marie stood up for me, Pa. It’s just that … well … she shouldn’t have to. My refusal might have sparked Mrs. Freemont, but those accusations didn’t just pop into her head.” He grabbed a piece of straw and began breaking it apart as he sighed. “I don’t think I’m being odd or disrespectful or superior, but if that’s how others see me, then maybe I’m fooling myself and Mrs. Freemont is right in her opinions.”

The youngster’s eyes were dark and searching when he looked over at his father. “Pa, should I stop reading and talking about things that excite me so I don’t make other people uncomfortable?” He blew out a long breath and seemed to deflate as he leaned forward onto his knees. “It’ll probably be best if I stay home when there’s a party, and keep my mouth shut when I have to be around others.”

Ben’s mind raced back to a time when he’d told his parents he wanted to sail the seas. He’d been unable to stop talking and reading about it, and he and his folks had engendered similar judgments from their “friends.” He too had heard harsh criticisms that he’d gotten too big for his britches and that he was a horrid son for denying his parents their investment by leaving when he was finally old enough to earn his keep. There’d also been the suggestion that his parents were too lax in his upbringing, thus ensuring his rebellion.

Years onboard a ship had given him plenty of time to consider those ugly opinions, and a sermon in a dockside chapel in Boston had helped him realize an important personal lesson that might help Adam now. He finally cleared his throat and pointed at a covered barrel. “Adam, how could you estimate the amount of feed in there without looking inside?”

Adam’s cheek pulled up and his lips formed a thin line as he eyed his father warily. “It’s heavy when it’s full, and it would lift more easily if it’s on the empty side.” His cheek rose further. “Do you want me to check?”

Ben chuckled. “That would let you know that it wasn’t full, but how can you estimate how much is actually in it?”

A one-sided smile broke the serious set of the boy’s face. “I’m not sure where this is leading, but I could knock on the outside. It will sound the most solid where there’s feed, and have an empty echo where there’s air.”

“Perfect. Now, if you heard a wagon approaching, how could you tell if it was empty or full without ever seeing it?”

The smile was firmly etched as he responded quickly. “The same way as the box. A loaded wagon has volume … solidity. I’d hear the wheels grinding hard against the stones and packed soil. An empty wagon rattles and creaks. It rides lighter and you can hear the wheels bounce over uneven ground.”

Ben relaxed back against the stall boards. “A wise preacher once told me that people are containers just like a barrel or a wagon, and you can tell a lot about them by listening to how they sound. When a person has a full life; they’re solid and sure. You hear that in their words and see it in their actions. Those solid-sounding people know who they are. They have faith in God that fills them with truth, love and kindness, and their fullness is never diminished by using their gifts. But there are others who attempt to fill themselves, thinking they have all the answers. This usually leads to filling their emptiness with distrust, anger and judgment. But those things aren’t solid. They’re like yeast; they ferment and grow until all those mixed-up feelings overflow in a sour mess.”

Stealing a quick look at his son to make sure he was still listening, he continued, “It would seem easy to say that these people are bad, but we can’t judge them either. Maybe they were horribly hurt along life’s road or they were never taught how to seek the good in others. Saddest of all, they probably were never shown how to find their own goodness and purpose.”

Ben slid from the bucket down into the straw to wrap his arm around his son. “When someone’s life isn’t full of good things, they may view others who are solid and sure with suspicion. It’s even harder for them to understand how a young person can be filled with the confidence that they still struggle to find.” His arm tightened around Adam’s back. “You aren’t perfect, son, but your vessel and wagon are filling with wonderful qualities, and your question about whether you should change how you act to ease another’s discomfort in their response to you, is fruitless.  Trying to lighten the load in your wagon … or empty your vessel of who you are, will never help to fill anyone else. It’s better to forgive those who hurt you, keep them in your prayers and move forward.”

Adam bit his upper lips, and sighed without speaking.

He’d hoped the explanation he’d given would bolster his son and relieve the pain and doubt caused by Marjorie’s word, yet Ben could see that there was still a sliver stuck in the wound. “What’s wrong, Adam? I can’t help if I don’t know what’s bothering you.”

“Thank you for everything you’ve said … but … Mrs. Freemont’s words weren’t just about me. She thinks it’s your fault that I act as I do.” Another sigh. “You’ve always allowed me to pursue the things I enjoy as long as I do what’s expected in our family too. I guess I never realized that others would judge you because my ideas aren’t exactly like everyone else. So, despite what you said, I think it would it be easier for this family if I would keep quiet.”

Ben snorted. “Nothing will become easier by denying the gifts God has given you. Marie and I will continue to do as we see best for this entire family, and your job is to keep filling yourself with truth, compassion, and knowledge. There is no easy path through life, Adam. But you’re on a good one.”

The boy’s posture relaxed and he leaned into his father’s embrace. “If I’m on a good path, Pa, it’s because I’m following yours. I’ve seen how you handle everything and how you treat people my whole life, and following your analogy: your wagon is full too. The same was true of Inger, and now Marie.”

He couldn’t speak for the pride he felt. Ben rose, pulled Adam up and nudged him towards the door. “Your mother was so full of life and love that I had to become a better man to deserve her, Adam. She always found the good in each person and situation, and was the smartest, and gentlest person I’d ever encountered. You are definitely her child.”

As they moved together into the yard, Adam began chuckling.

“What’s so funny?”

The young man faced his father, and grinned widely. “I was thinking about how people must picture you as a wagon pulling up behind them, especially if they’re pretty sure they’ve done something wrong. At those time, they hear a team of 20 draft horses pulling a heavily loaded, steal-clad, monstrous wagon bearing down on them, and they shake in their boots wondering whether you’ll pass by or are coming for them.”

Ben grinned back. “Does that description come from personal experience?”

Adam smiled. “Way too many times to count, Pa.”

The End

1The explanation of why Adam never called Marie, Mother, comes from my story, Sacred Promises/Malicious Games.

2For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  Matthew 12:34



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Author: missjudy

I'm from Southeastern Wisconsin, and have been writing Bonanza fanfic for several years. Adam's my favorite character, but I always to write in a way that will honor the men behind the roles.

12 thoughts on “A Father’s Parable (by Missjudy)

  1. Loved the talk between Ben and Adam. Adam is at a tough age, Ben being so wise,loving, and understanding of his teenage son. Marie is as loving and protective of her children as all mothers are of the young ones. Loved the way that she stuck up for Adam. thanks

  2. Aw, poor Adam, what a thing to have to experience when you’re a sensitive 15-year old, But Ben showed all that wisdom and insight which makes him such a great dad. Plus, when you’ve got Marie on your side, woe betide anyone who crosses one of her loved ones! Lovely prequel story missjudy.

  3. Adam is lucky to have two parents looking out for him. I love how you showed Ben’s wisdom in both those conversations without him. And it was fun to see a bit of the future Adam being cheeky and pushing back just a touch. But those two will always be two peas in a pod. I like the way you write Marie in these stories. She’s full of love and encouragement as well as protective of her sons, all three of them but I like the way she took up for Adam in this story, gently but firmly.

    1. Thank you, AC. I appreciate your insights, and I think we have similar feelings in the way we portray Adam and Ben, and Marie as well. There would be great moments of sadness in this family, great learning, and fun.

    1. Thank you Chris. In my thinking, Ben made mistakes, as all parents do, but as you note, he admitted them, and went on to lead through his example.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this story! Adam is lucky to have such a wonderful father with some wise words to pull him through this little setback.

    1. Thank you so much. the Adam we loved in the series, would have definitely been an interesting kid! But I thin the series did show provide evidence that although Ben kept a close eye on his adult sons, he’d let them figure out their own ways, lending guidance along the way.

  5. Thanks, Betty! Ben can be loud and blustery at times, but he was also gentle, listened and tried to get the boys to understand the truth rather than just telling them what they should think.

  6. Beautiful story as Ben showed himself to be a sensitive and wise father who knew how to help his son.

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