Summary: Hoss gets a job teaching unruly boys in Sunday School, but his best student or at least the one most affected by his teaching is not in his class. There are beneficial unintended consequences no one could have predicted.
Rating = PG Word count = 2674
Sunday School Lessons
Riding home on a Sunday afternoon, Adam saw a young boy walking by the side of the road. Pulling up beside him, he waited until the boy acknowledged his presence.
“Where you headed?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, mister, but, yes, I am.” Looking up at Adam then, the boy got a good look at him. “Say, you’re one of those Cartwrights, aren’t you?” He waited for Adam to agree. “Well, it’s your brother’s fault I gotta go. He done told us some things I can’t rightly live with so I gotta head on out.”
Reminded of the scene a few weeks earlier when his father had returned home to say that Sunday school needed a teacher because three had quit over some unruly boys, Adam had assumed he was going to pushed into it. His father said no because he was needed to lead the singing in church, and then told Joe he was rejected too.
“We all know why.”
The snickering had halted as soon as Pa said it was Hoss they wanted. These same boys stirring up mischief on Sundays were causing trouble at school during the week with grudges, fights, and challenges. Many thought Hoss might be the best at teaching them how to behave better because they believed he could communicate at their level better than most men could. To facilitate the process, Sunday school was going to be split into two with boys in one and girls in another. There had been plenty of jibes from the brothers about Reverend Hoss or Preacher Hoss, but eventually they had acknowledged he was probably the right man for the job. They knew Hoss was well suited to teaching boys how to be respectful and how to control their tempers for he had done both far better than either of them. Now here was one of those boys from the class, and he was upset with Hoss. Adam decided to find out why.
“Maybe you could ride with me for a spell until I get to the cutoff to the Ponderosa. You could tell me about the problems you had with my brother. I’ve got some butterscotch candies in case you’re hungry after walking so far already.”
“Well, I guess that would be all right. My feet are getting a mite sore.”
Reaching down an arm, Adam kicked a foot from the stirrup to allow the boy the chance to climb up behind him. Once the boy was settled and the candies had been handed over, he nudged Sport into a walk.
“So, can you tell me the kind of lessons Hoss taught that bothered you?”
“Oh, it was all right when he read the scripture like the minister asked. I think it was Matthew 18 last week and Proverbs 11 this week. He talked about forgiving and pride and humility and all that stuff just like any old teacher. But then he said stuff that got all the other boys listening real hard. He said how you got to handle other people when they get you mad.”
“What did he say about how to do that?”
“When they gets you mad, they got control of you. Ifn you kin walk away, you show ’em who’s really in charge.”
“That’s sounds like Hoss.”
“That ain’t all of it. He said hating ’em means they’re still winning. Hate means you still care. They did stuff to make you feel that so they’re still in control of you. So you got to smile and say what you’d say to any other person. You know, like greeting ’em and saying your please and thank yous, and saying you’re sorry when you need to. He said to act like they’re no different than any other person.”
“They all were hanging on every word he said by then. It got real quiet in there today. He said ifn we wanted to be men, we had to learn what real pride is. It’s in doing the right thing, he said, and knowing you done the right thing. God is gonna know too cause he knows everything. Keep on doing it, and sooner or later, everyone is gonna know cause you can’t hide who you are. After he said all that, well, that’s why I gotta leave.”
“You have to leave? Why?”
“Cause I was the one stirring up all the trouble at school, and everyone knows it, and God knows, so I gotta get away.”
Pausing for a time and hearing the anguish in the boy’s voice, Adam decided to apply what he had just heard. “Did you forget that first lesson about forgiveness? How about the one where you say you’re sorry?” His questions started up a long conversation that the boy clearly wanted to have with someone. Adam was the dispassionate sounding board he needed.
Late for dinner after a trip to the boy’s home and a short discussion with his parents with a good measure of intimidation thrown in, Adam was distracted and had little to say when asked why he was late. With so much time to think on the way home, he was evaluating some decisions he had made. When he went up to his room later, he pulled out a letter he had received many months earlier. Had his pride blinded him? Was it time for him to forgive a mistake?
There’s another story I have to tell you. It’s about another man who came into the saloon tonight. He carried a guitar, and he sang a song about his lost love. It was such a sad song about all the mistakes we can make and how we can ruin what we think should have been. When he was done, all I could do was recall all my memories of you, and it took everything I had to stop the tears. I know that I made a terrible mistake and I thought I loved a man, but he was the wrong man. He brought only darkness and despair. There was that dark cloud in my heart and mind when I met you, and it soured everything between us. I said his name when I should have said yours. I ruined the best thing that could ever have happened to me.
You were like springtime and fresh rain. You made everything clean and bright again. Like the spring rains, there was lightning and thunder too, but that was good. It was like a storm in the desert – just what I needed most – honest reactions to everything. Your emotions are true and right. Oh, if you could only think to give me another chance, to share your laughter with me, to hold me in your arms, and let me love you. I see your grin in my dreams. Those dimples make me smile even as I sleep. I know that I don’t deserve another chance, but if you will let me give my life to you, I will always be with you, and I will die in your arms. All I ask now is that you come let me love you, and I will lay down beside you and be by your side always and forever. I know you value trust, integrity, and honesty. I have bared my soul to you here and left nothing behind. This is who I am and what I want with nothing hidden, no secrets withheld. I will wait for your answer, but know that I can love no other because I gave my heart to you and I cannot take it back. Come let me love you. I know you can love me again. You could search the whole world over, and cross all the blue oceans, but you will never find anyone who will love you like I do. I hope to be able to stand by your side, support you, be your partner, and share joys and heartaches until we walk that bridge to the beyond. I will wait for you.
Holding that letter in his hand for perhaps half an hour and rereading it many times for the promises within it, Adam mentally went through all the plusses and minuses he could tally. There was no contest when he forced himself to be honest. Packing a bag for a short trip, he hoped he might find forgiveness too. Hearing his father going to his room, he went to see him to explain that he would be gone for a short time and that he hoped to have good news on his return. His father wanted more information but knew his son well enough to know this was not the time to press him for more.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for, Adam.”
“I know I’ll find it, but will it still be there for me is the question.”
Leaving his father with those enigmatic words, Adam returned to his room. Not sure how much sleep he would get, he wrote a thank you to Hoss for lessons learned and told him about the boy he had found that afternoon. Like ripples on a pond, the lessons Hoss had taught had rolled out and over his older brother. Turning down the lamp, he laid back on his bed to wait for dawn and the chance to take those next steps into his future.
“Pa, you think it’s right that we’re going ahead with Joe’s birthday party?”
“Hoss, we had to. I know we would all like Adam to be here, but Joe has been looking forward to this for months, and all the invitations were sent out before Adam left. He didn’t give me any warning or any idea when he would be back. He said he would be back soon, but with him, there’s never any way of knowing what he means when he says things like that.”
“That note he left me made me think he had something real specific in mind to do. Wish he’d told me where he was going. We could have sent him a telegram if we knew.”
Turning to Hop Sing who had been waiting for them to finish, Ben asked his cook if needed help to prepare the food and cake for the party.
“I already start. Make plenty good food. Cake almost done. Mister Adam be home. You see.”
“I wish I had your confidence, Hop Sing.”
The noise in the kitchen over the next hour confirmed what the cook thought of that response. The lack of noise or any conversation from the youngest Cartwright confirmed what he thought of his oldest brother’s absence on his birthday too. Ben stayed in the house to work there, but Hoss had the unfortunate task of working with his youngest brother all day. Finally he stopped carrying chairs from storage and stood waiting for Joe to notice.
“I can’t do all the work by myself.”
“I know, but it sure ain’t much fun to work with a sour cuss like you.”
“You know why I feel this way.”
“He’ll be here if he can.”
“You talk like he had to leave, like it was business or something.”
“It’s his business. It was something he had to do. I believe that, and I believe he’ll be back if he can because he knows you want him here. Maybe he’s bringing you a birthday surprise.”
“You think so?”
“He ever let you down?”
“Well, now that you mention it.”
But the tension had been broken, and the two talked about times Adam had disappointed them, and they joked about their oldest brother’s faults and his peculiar habits or what to them was peculiar. Ben overheard some of his sons’ conversation, and although he found it strange, he decided it was all in good humor and better than the stony silence of the early morning.
The party went well with Hop Sing’s delicious food and the good friends who attended. The musicians set up after dinner and dancing ensued. A carriage came in then surprising Ben who was on the porch getting some fresh air. When he saw Sport tied behind it, he almost ran to the carriage. Adam stepped out and moved around the carriage to offer his hand to a pretty lady. Turning to his father, he introduced Anne.
“Pa, I bring good news as I hoped I would. Anne consented to be my wife. As it would be wrong to travel together without being married, we took care of that in Placerville.”
Almost speechless but not quite, Ben congratulated his son and welcomed Anne to the family. Then he wanted to know the rest of the story.
“It’s too long to tell here.”
“Actually, Mister Cartwright, it’s not that long.”
“Please, call me Ben at least.”
“Well, Ben, if you recall when Adam searched for a man impersonating him? I helped him, or he helped me to find him. We grew close, but I had been close to the impersonator too. It got too complicated. Adam left. About eight months ago, I wrote a letter to Adam and asked if I could have another chance. He finally came to give me an answer.”
“Eight months!” Turning to his son, Ben waited for a reaction but got only a shrug. He looked back at Anne. “I hope you weren’t easy on him after he made you wait like that?”
“She wasn’t. She asked me why I waited and made me explain. I got to lay out my character faults for her or at least the ones she didn’t already know. I told her about my last Sunday here and how I learned of a few Sunday school lessons I should have learned much earlier in life but pride and stubbornness got in the way.”
Smiling and looking back again at Anne, Ben grinned. “And you still married him?”
“I love him.”
“You must. Now, come inside. It’s Joe’s birthday party, but what a surprise you brought him and all of us. We had the birthday cake, but I’m sure we have some wine we can bring out to celebrate this news.”
“We’ve got some in the back of the carriage. We wanted to be sure to have enough.”
Inside, Joe didn’t mind sharing his party with his oldest brother. He was so happy that Adam had made it back in time. There was going to be plenty of time to tease him and make him pay for barging in on his party. For one night, Joe agreed with his father, they would only celebrate. He couldn’t help mentioning to Hoss that a shivareed might be in someone’s future. Adam got nervous seeing how his brothers were whispering together several times during the party. Anne asked him about his worried looks.
“Sweetheart, I confessed my faults, but we never got into the character flaws of my younger brothers. Let’s just say, we need to get a strong lock on the door, and maybe it would be a good idea if we thought about building our own house.”
“Oh, by the weekend would be a good idea.”
“But we can’t.”
“I know. That’s what worries me the most.”
Inspired by the episode: The Search
Note: A shivaree is a noisy mock serenade performed by a group of people to celebrate a marriage. In the west, this often happened after a wedding when friends and family members would go uninvited to the homes of newlyweds, banging pots and pans, shooting their guns, and even forcing entry into the home of the newlyweds sometimes even kidnapping the couple to dunk them in a horse trough or abandon them in the countryside a distance from their home. Did I mention that the people who did this had often been drinking first?
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Ben Cartwright, Hoss Cartwright
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