Baptism by Fire (by Storm)

Chapter 12:

Hoss rode into the logging camp and instantly spotted his brother. His oldest brother was a hard man to miss. Hoss had spent the better part of the past two days convincing his father that he should come up and give Adam a break because after being up here for almost three weeks he was sure Adam needed some good nights sleep and a few days rest. Hoss had eagerly volunteered for the job which seemed only fitting since he was the one who had created it. Truth be told things were anything but peaceful at home and Hoss was getting tired of it. Little brother was now convinced he was old enough to do all he wanted and that included drinking, gambling and fighting. Hoss felt that Joe was just sowing his oats and if he just wouldn’t insist on sowing so many at one time their pa might let it pass without too much conflict but not when Joe was trying to sow fields the size of the Ponderosa every night of the week.

Adam stood and stared and waited as his brother sat astride his horse. He could see that Hoss had something on his mind and he didn’t want to interrupt but if he waited any longer it would be morning. “Hoss…HOSS.”

Hoss looked down at his brother and slowly dismounted. He wondered how long had Adam been standing there staring up at him. “Oh sorry Adam I got something on my mind.”

Adam grinned as Hoss’ feet hit the ground. “I figured as much and from that look it has to do with our little brother.” Adam was afraid to think of what Hoss would say next. He knew it wouldn’t be anything too serious. If it was Hoss wouldn’t have ridden in the way he had. Adam had been able to see the way things might go and had been glad when it came time for him to come up and oversee the logging. Ever since Joe’s eighteenth birthday he had been one massive contradiction. First he’d do something so responsible it had everyone wondering in amazement that maybe he was finally growing up then the next he was doing something so stupid and juvenile everyone was left wondering if he’d ever grow up.

 

“Yeah he sure has been pushing pa’s limits these past few weeks.” Hoss knew that Adam would know just what limits Joe was pushing.

“I see. So you want to take over here so I can go suffer through it for a while.”

Why was it Adam could see right through anything. Hoss suspected it was because he wasn’t very good at hiding things. “Come on Adam I gotta have some peace.”

“So you would rather come and run things here? You’d rather sleep on the ground and give up Hop-Sing’s cooking? Boy it must be real bad.” Adam knew this was really over and he was going to lose because no matter how big Hoss was he was still his little brother and as such it was his job to protect him, even if it was from the consequences of their other brother’s actions.

“It is. Little brothers been going to town every night and he don’t get home ‘til real late. Pa’s at the end of his rope. He just keeps saying he don’t know what he’s gonna do with him.”

“I suppose he’ll do with him the same as he did with us.”

“Adam we was never this bad.”

“No but then we never felt we had as much to prove either.”

Hoss watched as one of the biggest men he had ever seen approached him and Adam. He sure hoped there wouldn’t be any trouble because he wasn’t sure he could stop it.

“Hey excuse me Mr. Cartwright but where you want me to go next.”

Adam looked at the man in amazement. “You’re done with that section already?”

“Yes sir.”

“I must say you’re the best lumberjack we’ve ever had working for us.”

“Thank you sir but where do you want me?”

“Why don’t you go help the others? I’m sure they’d appreciate it. Besides once they’re done we’ve cleared all we need to for today.”

“Ya sure you don’t want me to start on tomorrow’s section?”

Adam knew the man preferred working alone but maybe some time with the other men might make him see the others weren’t so bad and make the others less inclined to shun him. “We’ve already cleared tomorrow’s section thanks to you so why not help the others.”

Hoss stared after the man as he walked away. “Boy Adam I know I’m big but that guys a giant.”

“I’d agree Hoss. He’s a good man and an excellent worker. He just likes to work alone a little too much but with him working for us we’re going to finish ahead of schedule.”

“At least that’ll make pa happy.” Hoss knew he’d be staying because that was Adam’s way of telling him how to handle at least that man on the logging crew.

 

********

Adam rode into the yard feeling sorrier and sorrier that he had agreed so easily but the thought of Hop-Sing’s cooking and a soft, warm bed were just too tempting. Besides the way things were sounding both his little brothers were in need of his protection. He could hear his father’s raised voice and also his youngest brother’s answering in kind. Boy little brother was really temping fate. Adam sat still as the front door slammed open and Joe came storming out.

“I don’t care pa I’m going!”

Ben followed his son outside. “JOSEPH you get back inside!”

Adam stared stunned as Joe mounted up and rode past him without a glance. He slowly dismounted and turned to his father. “So what’s new pa?”

Ben just glared at his eldest then turned and marched into the house. Adam felt a grin creep onto his face but only because he knew his father couldn’t see it. He then took his horses reins and led him to the barn. He’d see after him first hoping it would give his father some time to cool down.

********
Ben looked up as the door opened. “It hasn’t taken you this long to bed down a horse since you were nine.”

“Sorry Pa.” Adam knew it was better to sound contrite over defensive.

“No son I’m sorry.” Ben shook his head and sat down.

“So what’s been going on?”

“I wish I knew. Your youngest brother has been…well he’s been…”

“Behaving like an adolescent?”

“Well yes but this is ridiculous.” Leave it to Adam to name something that had been so confounding to him so easily.

“Pa if I recall correctly Hoss and I both went through this.”

“Not this badly Adam.”

“No but then we aren’t the youngest either.”

“And what does that mean?”

“Nothing pa. Listen I’ll talk with him.”

The sooner the better Ben thought. Maybe Joe would listen to his oldest brother easier then he would listen to his father. Adam turned and headed for the door and as much as Ben wanted his youngest son home he was Adam’s father as well and was as equally worried about him. “Adam you just got home why don’t you rest for a while. After all your brother will still be in town for some hours yet.”

Adam grinned at his father. “Pa something tells me even if I do stay I won’t be getting any rest.”

********

Joe rode to town trying to figure out what he was doing. It’s not that he really wanted to do the things he was doing he just seemed to need to. He hated to see his pa so worried and he hated to disobey him but something in him just had too. He didn’t know what he was trying to prove it just felt like he had to prove it. All the inner conflict he was going through only seconds before seemed to be forgotten when he walked into the saloon.

“Well if it ain’t the legend that is Little Joe Cartwright.”

Joe looked at the man sitting at the table with three other men. All men who had lost pretty badly to him over these past weeks. Joe sat in the empty chair. “It’s just Joe now why don’t you shut up and deal.” As the cards hit the table Joe looked to the bar and smiled when he saw a pretty new face standing there looking his way. “Hey babe how bout you bring me a beer.”

********

Adam walked into the saloon and what he saw surprised him. He couldn’t have arrived too much behind Joe and yet his little brother already had a large stack of money in front of him. Adam must have stood still too long because one of the girls took this to mean he was waiting for some kind of an invitation, one she was only happy to give. “You gonna stay long?”

“Sorry ma’am but no. I’ll only be here long enough to talk some sense into my brother there.”

Joe had noticed when Adam walked in and how the young lady who had brought him the beer appeared to be overly anxious to talk to him. Did everything have to come so easy to older brother? “Why you here Adam?”

Oh great, Adam thought, this was starting off bad which meant it could only get worse. “I just came to see you little brother.”

“Well you’ve seen me now go on home.”

“Joe I’m tired and in no mood to argue so either you get up and come on home or I’m going to have to come over there and get you up.”

“Why don’t you just come on and try brother.”

The rest of the men sitting at the table with Joe got up and stepped back. Not one of them was at all eager to get between these two brothers.

“Listen Joe I don’t know what’s gotten stuck in your craw but…”

“You want to know! Pa trusts you to run the logging and he trusts Hoss to oversee the men and the herd but what does he trust me with!”

“A lot more if you’d only prove to him he could.”

“I don’t need him to. This is what I’m good at Adam.”

Adam knew Joe wasn’t speaking of the drinking or the fighting but the poker. Most of the time Joe could out play anyone at a game of poker if given time. The kid just had a way of reading people’s tells. “So this is what you want to do with your life? You want to be a professional gambler?”

“Yes! NO! I don’t know.”

“Welcome to life little brother.”

“What’s that mean?” Joe had expected a lot of things when he saw Adam walk in but talking things through was not one of them.

“It means at your age no one knows what they want because up until then everyone told them what they want.”

“Kit knew.”

“Don’t go comparing yourself to Kit Carson. That man is one of a kind Joe.”

“Yeah I suppose.”

“And so could you be but not if all you aspire to is to be a gambler. Lord knows there are more than enough of those around.”

“You really believe I could be one of a kind Adam?”

“As far as I’m concerned you already are. There aren’t too many men who could have our brother Hoss turning his back on Hop-Sing’s cooking in favor of logging camp fare, or have pa in such a rage and walk away unscathed, or have me in town this late when I’m this tired. Now can we please go home?”

“I guess. Besides I’ve already won almost all of the other guys’ money. They all have easy tells.”

“Maybe you should find more challenging opponents.”

“How about you brother? I still haven’t figured out your tell.”

“That’s because I don’t have one little brother.”

“Everyone has one.”

“No I have several but I know what they are so I make sure to consciously do them whether or not my hand is a good one.”

“You sure are tricky older brother.”

“Yes younger brother I am.”

“Tricky enough to have me out here mounting my horse without me even realizing it.”
“Yes.”

“You think I’ll ever get the upper hand with you Adam?”

“Maybe when I’m old and senile.”

“Way I see it that ain’t too far off.”

“With how tired I feel right now I’d have to agree Joe.”

“So Hoss actually volunteered to go run the logging.”

“Yeah. I’m thinking I can probably get three or four days rest out of this.”

“Boy Adam sometimes you’re as sneaky as me.”

“It’s a family trait little brother. Pa just conveniently forgets that sometimes.”

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Author: storm

1 thought on “Baptism by Fire (by Storm)

  1. Excellent story with characterizations of Adam, Ben, and Marie that help understand not only their behavior but their relationships too.

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