Families often share and share alike, but sometimes you get, sometimes you get got, and sometimes you get even.
Rating: T Word Count: 2592
This is my first ever Camp in the Pines story! I had no idea what I was going to write or whether I would have anything to post, and this one just sort of happened. I’d like to thank Hoss who provided me with some great fishing words and also Cheaux for the inspirational “cowboy wisdom” on which this story turns. Set in the Ties That Bind universe, it’s an homage to those early Bonanza episodes when things could get a little silly. And for those of you absolutely averse to stories with a sister attached, she is mostly out of sight so don’t be afraid to suspend belief for five minutes if only for the sake of our boys. (I promise there will be no long term ill effects to you or any of the original Cartwrights.) As always, thank you for reading! 🙂
A lot of people ask me about the Cartwright brothers, and I suppose it’s only natural though lately it’s getting to be a little tiresome. What I could tell them might surprise or even shock them, because I happen to know a thing or two. But I’m smart enough not to let anyone know how much. Not even Adam, Hoss, or Little Joe.
For the most part they’re what they appear to be. Hard-working, stouthearted, stalwart young men. Reputable citizens. Friendly neighbors. Good Samaritans like their Pa. People who don’t like them (yes, there are a few) are probably just jealous. But a book’s cover doesn’t tell the whole story. And not everything that glitters is gold.
Take Hoss for example. Don’t be fooled by his size. He’s the best dancer of the three. I know because I’ve danced with all of them more than once. Hoss is graceful and light on his feet, can sweep a girl across the floor as if on air, never once stepping on her toes. And would you believe he’s also the smartest? On my word, it’s true. Of course, being a big man he has a big appetite and it takes a lot to feed him. But his appetite for things other than food is something he keeps very close to the vest, and underneath that “Aw, shucks” sometimes bashful exterior is a man pretty much like any other in that regard. Obviously I have no personal experience with him in such matters, but I do recall an overnight stop in Placerville and some “ladies” (no names, as we weren’t introduced) who seemed very happy to see him. We settled into our respective hotel rooms and didn’t meet again until the next morning at breakfast, where he consumed more than I’d ever seen him eat in one sitting. Afterwards he whistled and grinned all the way home. I didn’t ask him about it. He would’ve just blushed and made up something for my “too delicate” ears anyway.
Let’s talk about Adam. Granted, he is a bodacious, handsome fellow so I can understand why some women would fall for him. Dimples aside, he is cultured, has impeccable manners, and cuts an equally dashing figure in chaps or a morning coat. He’s also skilled in the art of conversation and isn’t shy about giving his opinion whether anyone wants it or not because he knows so much about everything. His enormous lung capacity comes in quite handy for long winded lectures (and I’m sure the ladies love those). Most people wouldn’t guess he nearly flunked his first year of college, with so much of his education being extra-curricular if you know what I mean. A woman I met in San Francisco recently told me she was an “old friend” of his, and the way she said it combined with the way she was dressed left no doubt in my mind about the nature of their friendship. (Confession time; I discombobulated her with a wicked lie about him so she would stop drooling. You should have seen her face!) Thankfully Adam has learned to be more discreet in his liaisons, at least as far as I can tell. (And as to that nasty rumor he wears a hairpiece, well, you didn’t hear it from me.)
Then there’s Little Joe (who by the way hates that nickname and I can’t say I blame him. It’s not like there’s a Big Joe around to get mixed up with). That’s what people have called him since he was baby and it seems to me he’s spent most of his life trying to grow up quick so he could live it down. In fact he likes to do everything quick. But I think he should slow down when it comes to women. He has been the object of female affection since he was too young to appreciate it and now he expects it, thinking every girl that looks his way wants him. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty that do, because he’s naturally good looking with charm like a second skin. That boy has imagined himself in love more times than I can count but so far no one has held his interest past a certain point. If this was a sport I’d say he enjoys the hunt more than the kill. Joe could talk a leopard out of its spots and has even persuaded me to do a few things I’ve regretted. He prides himself on being careful, but we know what the Good Book says about pride, don’t we? I just hope his dalliance with Ellie Marks put a good enough scare into him (though somehow I doubt it), or he may find himself on the business end of an irate father’s shotgun where no amount of sweet talk will do him any good. Things won’t be so hunky-dory then. Some might say he deserves a comeuppance but I’d hate to see it happen, and if you ask me his big brothers ought to pound some sense into him before it’s too late. You’d think they would’ve done it by now. But what do I know?
When people ask me about those Cartwright boys there is a lot more I could say than what I’ve written here, but if I’m ever tempted (and believe me, some days I am), I take a breath and remind myself that blood is thicker than water. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to dent their halos unnecessarily. So I usually just smile and tell them as brothers go, a girl could do a lot worse. That much is true, and maybe it’s all anyone needs to hear. The rest, dear Diary, should probably remain between us. At least for now.
P.S. I’m sure you were expecting an entry about my big date with Mitch last night, but after serious reconsideration in the clear light of day I’ve decided to keep those intimate details to myself. All I’ll say is it was a night I will NEVER forget, so there’s no need to write anything down. Besides, around here you never know who else might read it. (Sorry to disappoint you, Joe. Better luck next time!)
“Why, that little…. I can’t believe she did that.”
“Uh oh, what did she do?”
Joe scowled at Adam, nostrils flaring. “She set me up, that’s what. This diary is a fake. She left it out on purpose knowing I would read it!”
“How do you know it’s a fake?
“There’s only this one entry, and she called me out at the end. See, right here.” Joe pointed to the last paragraph.
“Hm, she’s wise to you, all right. I warned you not to read it.”
“Oh, come on Adam. You wanted to know about last night just as much as I did. Don’t deny it.”
“Well, obviously we’re not going to find out anything this way.”
“I should have known it was fake, especially with all that stuff she wrote about us.”
“What stuff about us?”
“You don’t wanna know.”
“Give me that.” Adam snatched the supposed diary from Joe. His brows drew together as he perused the page. “…Hoss is the best dancer…also the smartest? That should have given it away right there. She’s got quite an imagination, doesn’t she? Has she ever even been to Placerville?”
“Wait until you see what she wrote about you.”
“...bodacious, handsome fellow…cultured…impeccable manners…I don’t have a problem with that.”
The smile playing on Adam’s lips retreated inside a frown. “…long winded lectures…nearly flunked his first year of college…now that’s taking it a little far…rumor he wears a HAIRPIECE…!”
“What’d I tell ya?” Joe plucked the book from Adam’s hand before he could read further.
“What’s going on in here?” Pa’s voice from the doorway startled them both.
“Joseph, is that your sister’s diary?”
“What, this? No, Pa. This is absolutely not her diary. Isn’t that right, Adam?”
“Does it belong to you?”
The corners of Joe’s mouth fell. “No sir.”
“It’s yours then?”
Adam cleared his throat. “No.”
“May I see it?”
Joe looked like he’d just been offered spoonful of castor oil as he passed the book to his father.
Ben opened it and scanned the page. “This is clearly Jilly’s handwriting, and I have to wonder what you’re doing in her room going through her things without her knowledge.” He directed a flinty gaze at the culprits, as did Hoss who had come in at some point during the discussion crunching an apple.
“Believe me, Pa. It’s not without her knowledge,” Joe protested.
“Oh, she gave it to you?”
“What do you mean, not exactly?”
“She left it out on purpose to hornswoggle me. It’s not her real diary. It’s a ringer. A fake.”
“You weren’t forced to read it, were you?”
“Whatever it is, it’s her personal property, and she deserves her privacy as much as anyone in this family, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Pa, I was only trying to…” Joe’s words were cut off by his father.
“I’m not interested in your intent. It’s no excuse for not respecting boundaries in this household. Adam, how did you happen to get mixed up in this?”
Adam narrowed his eyes toward Joe and then rolled them to the ceiling. “Just lucky, I guess.”
“Well, I’m shocked and disappointed in both of you.” Hoss jutted his chin toward them, frowning. “Maybe you should just mind your own business from now on.”
Ben swallowed a smile. “Can I assume you’ve both learned something, so that nothing like this will happen again?”
Their collective murmur of assent seemed to satisfy him.
“I hope so.”
“So do I,” said Hoss with a final glare at his brothers. “We’ll be back in time for supper, Pa.”
“Remember to pick up the mail this time.”
Ben held up the book in his hand. “I’ll see that this gets back to its rightful owner. And I think you both have some fence mending to do.” A wry grin creased his face on his way out the door.
Adam pulled at his lip. “You know, I’ve got kind of a funny feeling about this.”
“Me too.” Joe pushed the curtain away from the window and stared down into the yard. Adam peered over his shoulder. They watched Hoss climb into the wagon next to Jilly, and both were laughing when Pa came out and handed her the book. Hoss looked up at the window and waved.
“I knew he had to be in on it.”
“A couple of hornswogglers, that’s what they are,” muttered Joe.
“Well, sometimes you get and sometimes you get got. But the next time you get an idea like this, please don’t tell me,” Adam griped. “That’s what our middle brother is for.”
Joe turned from the window to follow him out of the room. “Next time I don’t even think I’ll tell myself. Ouch!”
“What’s the matter?”
Joe rubbed his shin, wincing. “I think I just broke my leg on the bedpost.”
“You broke something, Maybe a slat just came loose. We’d better fix it.”
Joe knelt down and stuck his hand under the sagging bed. “Yeah, I can feel it. Lift up the mattress, will ya? Okay, I think I got it. Wait, something else just fell.” He pulled his hand out and held up a book to show Adam. “Well, look what I found.”
“Is that what I think it is?”
“Put it back right now and let’s get out of here.”
“I would except I’m not sure where it came from, and if I don’t put it back exactly where she had it she’s gonna notice, and you know who’s gonna get blamed!”
“Well, I guess there’s only one thing to do at this point,” said Adam.
“Pa, it happened just like Joe said.”
“And you didn’t read any of it.”
Joe help up his hands. “Nary a word, Pa. Lesson learned. But there’s no sense in leaving temptation lying around, so I want you to hang on to it and give it back to her when she gets home.”
“All right, I’ll do that. I’m sure she’ll be happy to know you didn’t take advantage of the opportunity this time. Of course there is the matter of an apology.”
“Well, I’m not holding my breath.”
Adam nudged him. “He means we should apologize. And we do owe her that, I mean at the very least… don’t you think?”
A grin crept across Joe’s face. “You’re right, Adam. We owe her that and more. In fact, I’m gonna to spend the rest of the day thinking about how we can make it up to her.”
“Just don’t forget about the fences,” Ben reminded them.
“On our way,” Adam promised.
Ben sat down at his desk with the diary in hand. Inside lay the secrets, hopes, and dreams of a girl who had grown into a young woman almost before he’d noticed, becoming more like her mother each day. He fingered the worn leather corners, smiling, then frowning a little before quickly locking it away in a drawer. Joe was right. No sense leaving temptation lying around in plain sight.
After a dinner that included laughter and more fence mending, Ben was glad to note there were no hard feelings between his offspring. Not that he had expected any.
Jilly was the first to retire. “Good night, Pa.”
“Good night, dear.”
Joe glanced up from his chess game with Adam. “Pleasant dreams.”
“Thanks, you too.”
Hoss yawned. “I’m ready for bed myself. Just trying to decide whether or not I want to take a nap first.”
Adam snorted. “You just had one.”
A crash above them shook the rafters, jolting Hoss wide awake. “What in tarnation was that?”
Ben was on his feet. “Nothing good, that’s certain.”
The pair hurried up the stairs to investigate. Joe and Adam kept playing.
“Seems you didn’t do a very good job fixing her bed,” said Adam.
“Au contraire, mon frere. I think I did an excellent job. Did you take care of Hoss?”
“Not yet. He’ll be expecting something now, so I’ll wait a few days until he stops looking over his shoulder.”
Joe smiled his approval. “Good move.”
“Indeed. Check and mate.”
Author’s Note: My fishing words from Hoss were bodacious, discombobulated, comeuppance, hunky-dory, and hornswoggle. Cowboy wisdom — “Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got.” A little bent and off-kilter but no real plot twists.
Other Stories by this Author
- Guarding the Henhouse (by JC)
- The Poetry of Ben and Adam Cartwright (by JC)
- Return to Grace (by JC)
- A Pearl Without Price (by JC)
- Right is the Third Left (by JC)