Summary: Here is my story for the July challenge as always I hope you like it. I will also be using this as the first chapter for the mega challenge. I hope I can make it to gold.
Rated: K+ WC 22,000
Baptism by Fire
Adam knew if he didn’t muster up the courage all his father had worked so hard to build would be lost. With how dry the weather had been it hadn’t taken much to ignite the dried out grass and dry branches that lay everywhere just waiting to fulfill the roll they seemed to have been born for, the roll of kindling. Adam knew his father had told him that fire was natures way of cleaning up and starting over, it’s way to purify, but it hadn’t been nature that had started this fire with some bolt of lightening it had been some careless human who had left before making sure their fire was completely out who had. Adam just knew that things would be so much easier if he had the pump like the one by the house to bring up the water from the stream. His father always told him to try and find the positive side of a situation so, he thought, at least he had a bucket to carry the water up in.
The man sat astride his horse and watched the boy run back and forth from the fire to the stream and found himself amazed that while he never truly seemed to get in front of the fire he never fell behind it either. He knew that if he and the men with him went to help the fire could be put out. He also knew if he did he would most likely catch some hell from the man waiting for them to return. But what could a person do when faced with such determination.
“Come on let’s go help the kid.”
Adam saw the men heading his way and normally he would be wary of strangers riding on the Ponderosa but this time he was thankful. With their help he knew they might stand a chance of getting ahead of the fire and hopefully extinguish it.
All the men noticed that despite being told he could sit down and rest, that they had everything under control, the kid continued to help fight the fire right beside them. They all knew he was exhausted, they could all see the evidence of that on his soot covered face. None of them had any idea how long he had been fighting the fire before they had come upon him but there wasn’t one of them who didn’t know beyond a doubt that he would have kept on fighting it until exhaustion, or more likely the smoke, overtook him. Finally things turned in their favor and the fire was down to a few smoldering embers that were easily stamped out and that’s what the kid kept doing with a vengeance.
“Okay kid its out.”
Adam felt a hand on his shoulder and he stopped stomping on the last of the smoldering ashes. “Yes sir. Thank you for your help.” Everyone could hear by the sound of his voice that Adam had breathed in more smoke then oxygen for quite a while and it had taken its toll on his throat but that didn’t keep him from betraying that he had been raised to be polite. “If you’ll come to our house I’m sure my pa would like to thank you himself.” Adam had directed his remarks to the man he knew must be in charge.
“I’d like to meet your father.” I’d like to meet any man who can raise so civilized a young man in this wilderness.
Ben heard the horses and instinctively got his rifle because his first thoughts were of Adam, he should have been home hours ago. It had taken all his will power, and even more of his wife Marie’s arguing that he should allow his son the benefit of the doubt, that had kept him from going to look for him. He could hardly argue with his wife’s fact filled argument that Adam was almost sixteen and as such was more a young man, a very responsible young man, not a child to be searched for by his father. All Ben knew was that when his eldest son got home he had better have a very good explanation for being late and that explanation had better not include anything about losing track of time because he was reading a book while lying under trees and watching clouds. Sometimes Ben wondered where that boy had gotten such traits, but then he would think of Adam’s mother, his first wife Elizabeth, and he had his answer. She could be such a dreamer at times and yet so determined and hard working and her son was just like her.
Ben opened the door and when he caught sight of his son he didn’t even notice the rifle lower and slip from his hand. “Adam! What happened? Marie!”
“Pa I’m alright.” If there was one thing Adam didn’t want it was to be treated as a child in front of these men. He knew if his stepmother came out he would be.
Ben could see his son wasn’t alright and even if there were no visible traces he could hear it in his son’s voice. But with memories of he and his wife’s ‘discussion’ concerning his son still clearly in his mind he understood a little better why he might not want her out here. “Alright Adam let’s get you inside. Would you gentlemen care to join us?” Ben wasn’t all too sure he wanted these men in his house but judging by his son’s appearance they must have helped him and gotten him home safely so he was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Marie knew her husband had told her to stay upstairs but her thoughts were of Adam too and she couldn’t help but worry despite her own argument against her husband doing so. Adam might not believe it but Marie did understand his desire to not be fussed over but in her heart and mind she was his mother and couldn’t help herself. “Oh Adam what happened?” She ran to him and began to wipe at his faced.
“Adam.” Ben knew it was more then likely whatever his son had been through that had him speaking in such a way but he would give such behavior no quarter in his house.
“I’m sorry Marie.”
“Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to go upstairs and clean up while I speak with our guests.”
Adam went up with Marie close behind.
“If you’ll excuse me saying so I don’t believe any man likes to be fussed over by a women, not in front of other men, not at his age anyway.”
“Something tells me he is not quite the boy he was when he left this morning.”
“No I would think not, but then again something tells me the courage and determination he showed is not something he only came upon when faced with what he was. Something tells me those traits are ones that have been breed into that young man, ones that have been handed down from generation to generation.”
“Thank you but I’ve come to realize that sometimes he is more his mother’s son. Can you tell me what happened?”
“Not really, we only came upon him after the fire was burning.”
“Fire?!” Ben knew of few words that could strike fear into his heart but this was one of them.
“Don’t worry your son made sure it was out and stood no chance to re-kindle before he would stop. You taught him well.”
“I try but sometimes I think he learns more from the books he reads. I think he prefers learning from them then from me.”
“He did seem to be rather intelligent but no book can teach a child to grow into the fine young man your son seems to be. That takes a caring and loving father.”
“Thank you but where are my manners, won’t you all please sit and I will get you something to drink.”
While the men sat downstairs drinking brandy and talking Adam was upstairs with his stepmother. Not really minding being fussed over but acting like he did. Luckily for him Marie knew this as well.
“Adam what happened?”
“Some fool left his camp before making sure every ember was completely out. There was a stream not that far away. All he had to do was use the bucket that someone, maybe even him, had left behind to drown it out. Sure there was a hole in it, but it was a small one and if you filled it to the top and ran fast enough it would only go down an inch maybe two.”
“Some people just don’t think of all the consequences there actions hold.”
“Yeah well this idiot’s actions could have made us lose everything and if those men hadn’t come along and helped we probably would have.”
Marie went and tried once again to take the wet rag from Adam’s hand. Instead of being told yet again he could take care of himself he let her take it. “Adam why don’t you sit down on your bed and I’ll help you wash up.”
“Maybe for just a minute. I’m so tired.”
“Yes I can see that, besides aren’t such tasks a woman’s job?”
“Yes I guess they are.” Adam well understood what was truly being asked, weren’t such tasks a mother’s job?
Long after Adam was asleep Marie sat beside him thinking that this handsome boy would one day soon be a handsome man; just like his father. She also knew how close they had come to losing him because also like his father he would have not given up the fight to save something he loved and they both loved this land, this home, which they had both in their own ways fought to protect. That realization helped her to understand her stepson’s attitude towards her a little better. She guessed to him she was just another enemy to fight, not for the land but for his father’s attention. She guessed to a boy that was more important then anything.
Ben walked with his guests to the door. “I want to thank you all again. Are you sure you won’t stay the night?”
“As tempting as it is to accept your offer I’m afraid we can’t. We have to get back to the others. We weren’t supposed to be gone this long and I fear the rest of our party may well be lost or riding around in circles even though I told them to stay put until we got back.”
“Are you sure you’ve taken whatever supplies you need?”
“You’ve been more then generous.”
“Well be sure to take a cow or two if you want.”
“We just might do that.”
“I know Adam is going to be disappointed he didn’t get to say goodbye.”
“You tell that son of your’s if I should find myself out this way again I’ll be sure to stop in and say hello.”
“I know he’d like that.”
“Ben your son showed a courage and strength few men twice his age posses. I pray the fire and determination I saw burning in his eyes will never be extinguished from his heart.”
“I pray that as well.”
“Aw but pa you should a woke me.”
“Adam he said if he ever was this way again he’d stop by to see you. Besides you were exhausted and your voice still isn’t completely recovered.”
“Yeah I know but pa…”
“Adam Mr. Carson said he couldn’t stay even though he wanted to very much. He said that without him Mr. Fremont was probably lost.”
Chapter End Notes:
I have used Kit Carson in this story and while he was on his third expedition with John Fremont in 1845/1846 from St. Lous to California I don’t know if they would have gone through Nevada. I hope you don’t mind me using some literary license with these historical figures but I wanted the people who helped Adam to be of some historial importance and I felt that while I may be stretching the facts it wasn’t too far.
Other Stories by this Author
- A Gift Of Memories (by Storm)
- Proud (by Storm)
- Common Traits (by Storm)
- The First Thanksgiving (by Storm)
- The Magic Of Christmas (by Storm)