Throwing a Houlihan (by BluewindFarm)

Summary:  Chalk one more up to Little Joe and ‘cowboy-isms’.

Rating:  G  (1,525 words)

Author’s note:  I know Virginia City didn’t exist during the time frame of my story, so I ask your indulgence in believing that the town and a school room did exist; because when inspiration struck I just couldn’t see this story working with any other characters or time.

Throwing a Houlihan

Standing outside the cell, Sheriff Roy Coffee watched over Doctor Paul Martin while he tended to the  battered and sure to be bruised oldest Cartwright son; only recently returned home from spending the last few years in Boston attending college.

“I know it hurts, Adam,” Paul quietly acknowledged while strapping his patient’s rib cage. “You’re not going to be able to ride your horse home with your ribs as injured as they are.”  Twisting his head and neck around to speak over his shoulder, “You send anyone for Ben?”

“Not yet, wanted to figure out the damage before sending a rider out.  No need to if’n he was going be able to ride,” answered Roy.  Changing the tone of his voice to address his ‘not quite a prisoner’, “Your Pa’s gonna have some choice words to say to you about this.”

“I’m sure he will,” Adam answered with a grunt while slipping his arms into the red shirt Paul Martin held for him.  “Least this shirt will hide some of the blood I spilled this afternoon.”

Task accomplished, the doctor stooped to pick up the rags he’d used to clean up the bloody nose and split lip, then tossed them into the trash can.  Snapping his black bag closed, Paul turned to leave the eight by twelve foot enclosure.  He couldn’t stop the grin from appearing as he proclaimed, “I think it would be safe to release him into Ben’s custody when he gets here.”

“I’m inclined to keep him overnight just for the principle of it all.”

“Roy!” Adam stopped buttoning his shirt to grab round the front of his ribs before quietly adding, “I didn’t start the fight.  I don’t even know who they were.”

“That don’t make no sense, Adam.  Two strangers beating up on ya?”

Fastening the last button, Adam chose not to tuck the shirttail into his pants, “Tell me about it.”

“I knowed who they is,” fourteen year old Kyle Marsden answered while peeking through the double-door separating the office and jail cells.

Turning to address the boy who most likely would be sent to fetch Ben Cartwright to town, “Just who were they, son?”

Puffing out his chest and grabbing his suspenders near his collar bone, mimicking the mayor’s act of ‘self-importance’, “They’s the uncles of Gunther Strayton.  They weren’t none to pleased about Little Joe bragging on his older brother.  Came to town to set it right.”

“Little Joe?” Adam piped up, definitely interested in hearing the remainder of the story.  “What’s Joe been saying?”

“By what Andrew, my little brother’s been saying, Little Joe began bragging earlier this week during recess about you being the best at fighting the Houlihans.  Even went on to say how a bunch of your wranglers were uh, uh, well I can’t remember the word, but he just kept going on an on.”

Gently pushing himself to stand from the bunk and approaching the boy, Adam asked, “Gunther’s uncles’ last name wouldn’t be Houlihan, now would it?”

Shaking his head at hearing, “Yep,” Adam couldn’t hide the groan as he moved back towards the bunk.

“What’s up Adam?” Reaching for his patient, Paul asked,  “Are you okay?”

Allowing gravity to slowly pull him back down, “Chalk another one up for Little Joe.”

“Whatcha mean Adam?” asked Roy.

Looking between the two men, “You know what a houlihan is? Right?”

Scratching the back of his head, Roy answered, “Yeah, Harry Houlihan and his brother Cain are champion wrestlers if I remember correctly.”

“Not that houlihan.”

The doctor and sheriff looked to each other and then to Adam before responding, “Huh?”

“I guess I can’t fully blame Joe, what with him being raised on a ranch.  It’s not his fault that Gunther and his family were farmers and city folk before heading west.”

Worried that the son of his best friend may have suffered an undiagnosed head injury, “Adam, you need to lie down and rest until your Pa gets here.  I’m gonna stay to make sure you haven’t suffered a significant concussion.”

Moving the boy away from the cell, knowing that Ben needed to be alerted, “Kyle, how about you ride out to the Ponderosa and tell Ben I need him in town.  I’ll pay ya a quarter when you get back.”

“Really? A whole quarter Sheriff?” Kyle exclaimed, his face beaming in anticipation of earning so much money.

Fussing by pushing Paul’s hands away, “I’ll make it an even fifty cents if you don’t tell my Pa about this little dust up.”

“Little dust up?!” Paul asked in disbelief.  “Adam those two men could have killed you.  It’s lucky Sally Bennington’s scream scared them away.”

Raising his bushy eyebrows, “And just how are you going to get home if Ben doesn’t drive the buckboard?”  Doing his best to hide a smirk and not laugh as Adam glared back at him.  “Kyle, you just tell Ben to drive the buckboard in and I’ll explain everything when he arrives.”

Paul added, “And you can tell him that Adam is okay.  Or at least will be all right.”

“Will I still get the full fifty cents if I don’t tell him about the fight?”

Gifting a small smack on the seat of the boy’s pants, Roy pointed Kyle out the door.


“Careful Adam,” Ben offered while guiding his son through the entryway and towards the blue chair that set to the right of the fireplace.  “HOP SING!”

Grimacing while lowering himself to the soft cushion, “Pa, I can do without the shouting.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Mr. Cartwight, you yell?” the housekeeper and cook extraordinaire inquired while stopping at the end of the dining room table.  His face displayed a mixture of upset at the way he was summoned, again, and concern that one of ‘his’ boys was hurt, again.

“Yes, Hop Sing.  I’m sorry for yelling.  My apologies.”

Seeing his employee nod, “Adam has a few bruised ribs and is going to be quite sore for the next few days.”

“I know just what he need.  I back with supplies and coffee.”


Later, Adam nodded as Hop Sing removed the dinner tray from his lap, “As always, Hop Sing, your supper was superb, very good.”

“How you ribs now?” he inquired.

“Much better.  You need to let Doctor Martin know what herbs you use.”

“Trade secret,” he nodded and left the room.

Ben, Hoss, and Little Joe  pushed their chairs back from the dining table before walking to join Adam in the great room.  Motioning his younger sons to the settee, Ben said, “We need to discuss the root cause of Adam’s injuries, boys.”

“He got in’a fight,” Joe spoke before thinking as he plopped himself not too close to his pa nor Adam, having a feeling that it somehow involved him based on the glances the two had given him ever since he’d come through the front door earlier in the afternoon.

“Not exactly son.”

“Whatcha mean Pa.  I know’d Adam didn’t get throwed from a horse.  I saw ya driving him in the buckboard with his horse tied… oh, I guess he coulda gotten throwed.”  Blushing while lowering his head to look at his hands, Hoss offered, “Sorry Adam, I know yer a good rider and all.  It can happen to the best of us.”

“Yeah, but not likely!” Joe quickly defended his oldest brother.  Turning while pointing towards the front door, trying to get his meaning across,  “I mean if all the wranglers say he’s the best at throwing a houlihan, he ain’t likely coming off a horse.”

Leaning forward Adam rested his elbows on his knees, “That’s part of the cause.”

Sitting back while scrunching up his face in confusion, “Huh?”

Taking a savory draw on his pipe, Ben spoke, “Joe, we know how proud you are of Adam, we all are.  But you need to temper your enthusiasm when talking with your classmates.  Not all of them understand ‘ranch life’ and the terminology we use to describe what we do.”

Looking to his pa, “Huh?  Now I’m really confused.  What does ranch life and termi…termi whatever got to do with what happened to Adam?”

None of the others could stop the gentle laughs at their youngest member.

“Joe, terminology means language or lingo,” Adam answered.

Slapping his hands on the cushions in frustration, “Then why didn’t pa say that?”

“I did, oh never mind.” Ben refrained from getting into a protracted discussion on how if his youngest paid more attention at school…  “Adam was assaulted, I mean beat up by Gunther Strayton’s uncles because you had been boasting during recess about Adam being the best at throwing a houlihan.”

“So, he is, all the wranglers were clapping Adam on the back and shouting it out last week.”

“Yes, but do you know Gunther’s uncles’ names?” Ben asked.

Relaxing to the back of the settee, “Sure, Uncle Harry and Uncle Cain.”

His eyes moving from one family member to another, and after putting the pieces together, Hoss asked, “Their last name ain’t Houlihan, is it?”

Ben and Adam nodded.

“Oh Lordy.”  Looking to his little brother, “Shortshanks, ya really done it this time.”


The End


To enjoy Little Joe’s experience with other cowboy’isms, read my story, There’s Wisdom and Then There’s

This story was inspired by a line in the song ‘Old Paint’, written and sung by Linda Ronstadt:

“I’m going to Montana, to throw a houlihan.”

For more information on ‘throwing a houlihan’, visit  Cowboy Up: Houlihan Throw (




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Author: BluewindFarm

A dressage rider who's a cowgirl at heart.

Though I wasn't old enough during the heyday of Westerns on TV, with the introduction of cable and satellite services in the 1980's, I fell in love with Bonanza, Lancer, The Big Valley, The Rifleman, and The Wild, Wild West, among others. Through syndication and fanfiction; our heroes will live on forever.

I hope you enjoy reading the stories I've written, and look forward to reading your comments.

13 thoughts on “Throwing a Houlihan (by BluewindFarm)

  1. A clever story about how lingo can result in the wrong meaning by some. How any of them survived with Joe in the house is a mystery!

    1. Maybe we need to call in Scooby Doo and company to investigate? Thank you for taking the time to read and for leaving a comment. 🙂

  2. Oh my, I’m still laughing and shaking my head. Out of the mouth of ….babes, er kids. Oh the faces on everyone at the jail, including Adam, when the pieces fell into place. Oh Lordy, indeed.

    1. Linda Ronstadt’s birthday was this past weekend and one of the Sirius/XM stations was featuring her songs along with stories told by friends and family members. When I heard this song, I immediately thought of LJ.

  3. That’s a great fun story but not for Adam, of course. How did the family ever survive Little Joe?

  4. Encore de la casse chez les Cartwright, pauvre Adam. Une bien belle histoire, courte, bien écrite, tout le monde est présent, ce que j’apprécie fortement. La présence du gamin, Kyle, qui sait ce qu’il veut, me rappelle bien des épisodes de Bonanza ou les enfants sont mit en valeur avec parfois des rôles difficiles.
    Il me faut me renseigner sur le “houlihan”, inconnu pour moi en France.

    1. Monika, if you click the last link at the end of my story, there is an article describing the houlihan, including pictures!

      Thank you for taking the time to read and to leave a comment.

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