Kit Carson sat astride his horse in much the same spot he had a little over a year ago. Then it had been August and so very hot and dry, now it was late September and there was a chill in the air. He recalled how that day he had watched a young man struggle to put out a fire with a courage few men possessed. It was then that he had decided that the first chance he got he’d go and see how that young man was fairing when time allowed and while the time allowed was not much it was enough.
Kit rode through the majestic pines to the house he well remembered as being filled with a love one could feel and almost see. He recalled thinking then how he wished he could be one of those men who could be content to stay in one place. Maybe there would come a time he would be. He remembered thinking what kind of a man would allow his son to face such danger alone but that was only until he had met the man and could see beyond question the love he had for his son. After that he found himself thinking that the young man’s father was a very imposing figure able to stop with a single word his son, or most likely any man, from doing what they both knew to be wrong. Kit knew only a few men who had that ability. If only more men could get said what needed saying in as few words as possible the world would be a better place. Funny thing was he found that he liked to listen to Ben Cartwright talk. There was something in what he said and how he said it that made you feel as if he was always speaking to you from his heart, especially when he spoke of his sons or his wife. Kit had finally reached the house and he noticed there were some changes.
“Hello young man.” Although Kit had not met Ben’s other two sons last time he was here, they had already been sleeping when they had arrived at the house, he figured this must be the younger of the two.
“Hello.” Joe knew that strangers could mean trouble so he called out to the one person who he knew would keep things safe. “ADAM! There’s a man here.”
That the boy had called for Adam and not his father for protection did not escape Kit’s attention and when Adam came out with rifle in hand ready to defend the house and those inside Kit was left thinking the boy was very much like his father.
Adam recognized the man and lowered the rifle. “Hello Mr. Carson. I’m glad to see you again.”
“And I you. Adam is there something wrong?”
“Is your father around?”
“Pa’s in town.” Joe was standing very close to his big brother and therefore feeling very safe besides Adam seemed to know this man.
“Little Joe this is Mr. Carson. Do you remember me mentioning him before?”
“Yeah ain’t he the one who helped you put out the fire?”
“Isn’t he and yes he is. Now why don’t you run on in and tell Hop-Sing there will be one more for supper.”
Little Joe ran to do as told because he now had an excuse to go into Hop-Sing’s kitchen and that meant he would leave with a treat.
“Would you like to come inside Mr. Carson?”
“Yes Adam I would.”
“If you like you can go on in and I’ll see to your horse.”
“How about we see to him together.”
“Sure.” Adam didn’t know what had brought the man here again but he was sure glad something had.
As they set about putting up his horse Kit thought maybe he could get the truth. “So what’s wrong?”
“Do you remember my step-mother Marie?”
“Of course I do.” A woman that beautiful was hard to forget.
“Well she’s passed away and…”
Kit could hear Adam’s voice catch. “No need to say more son. Why don’t we go on inside.”
When supper was served without waiting for Ben Kit feared he knew only too well where he could be found. From the look of things this was not the first meal he’d missed either. Kit knew the pain of losing a wife and what it could drive the most dignified of men to. As the evening wore on Kit saw how Adam had taken on the responsibility of taking care of his younger brothers and it brought a sadness to him. Kit sensed that this young man was always being forced to take on too much responsibility for a boy his age. Sure he himself had been responsible for himself at a younger age but he didn’t have his pa to look out for him.
“Hoss will you see that Joe gets ready for bed?’
“Sure thing Adam. Mr. Carson it was sure good to meet you and I really liked listenin to your stories. Come on Little Joe lets get ready for bed.”
“Adam you’ll come up and tuck us in?” Joe was afraid. He’d lost his mother and sometimes it seemed as if they’d lost their father as well. At least he had Adam and he wasn’t gonna let him go.
“Of course I will Little Joe.”
“Adam promises now come on Joe say goodnight to Mr. Carson.”
“Kay Hoss. Good night Mr. Carson.”
“Good night boys.”
“Hoss Adams gonna come up and say good night to us ain’t no need to say it now.”
Hoss took his little brother’s hand and led him upstairs.
“They mind you well.”
“I suppose for little brothers they’re not so bad.”
“So tell me Adam where is your father.”
“Like Joe said he’s in town.”
“At first I believed he must be seeing to business but the only business that one can see to at this hour takes place in a saloon.”
“He just misses Marie. He’ll be alright.”
“Soon I hope because if I remember correctly last time I was here he mentioned that you were thinking of going to college back east.”
“But you no longer are?”
“There’s too much to do here now.”
“Now that your father is trying to drown his grief in a bottle.”
“He’s not! He’ll be okay.”
Kit found himself wondering what it would be like to cross this boy once he became a full grown man because right now his well honed survival instinct was telling him to fear the boy. “I’m sure he will be.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Carson it’s just that…”
Kit could hear the pain in Adam’s voice and understood. It was hard to have to defend someone you looked up to and loved especially against the truth. “I’m not the first to say it am I.”
Kit vowed right then to do everything possible to assure he would be the last one who could say it.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather sleep in the guest room? Hop-Sing has it all fixed up.” Adam knew that if Kit rode away it would most likely be some time before he saw him again.
“No I best be on my way. I only stopped by to see how you were fairing.” And now that I have I am going to do my best to assure that the next time I see you things will be better because there was no doubt in Kit’s mind he would see Adam again.
“I’m real glad to have seen you again Mr. Carson and I hope I’ll see you sometime soon.”
“I hope so too Adam but there is one thing I’d like you to do.”
“What’s that sir?”
“Next time we do see each other will you please call me Kit.”
“Yes sir…I mean Kit.”
Kit followed the man’s finger and couldn’t believe that was the same man he’d met a little over a year ago. He slowly made his way to the table hoping he would find the bartender was wrong in his identification.
Ben looked up from his now empty glass. “Hello. Hey Sam I need another bottle this one’s empty and I got a friend joining me.”
Kit waved the bartender off. “I’ll join you but it’s not another bottle you’ll be getting.”
Maybe if he was sober Kit would find Ben to be as intimidating as his son, but Ben wasn’t sober and it was hard to fear a man who you knew couldn’t see straight. “Do you remember me Ben? It’s Kit Carson. A little over a year ago I helped your son save that ranch of yours from burning down. It seemed so very important to you then but it doesn’t appear to be so any longer. Of course it also appears that bottle of whiskey is now more important to you then your sons.”
“That’s a lie! I love my boys.”
“Then why is it you have deserted them when they need you most.”
“My wife is dead.”
“Yes I know. Adam told me as much but it’s not the first wife you’ve lost.”
“But it is the first one you’ve lost when you could drown your sorrow. It’s the first one you’ve lost when you’ve had someone else you could trust to take care of things. Tell me Ben do you believe that’s being fair to Adam?”
No matter how drunk Ben got he could hear the truth when it was spoken. Trouble was when he was drunk and the truth was something he didn’t like to hear he could try to believe it was a lie. “Just who do you think you are?”
“Someone who after only knowing you a few hours believed you to be the most noble of men but I guess I was wrong. A noble man would never allow his sons to suffer just so he could forget his own pain. A dignified man would not stand drunkenly by while his own son gave up on a dream.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Adam and his dream of going to college. He said he no longer intends to go, that there is too much to be done here.”
“Yes but not so much that you couldn’t do it. Of course you would have to be sober.”
“Has Adam been complaining to you?”
“No the boy didn’t say one word of complaint. He just did as was needed and expected of him without question or second thought. He’s not the type who expects praise for what he does he just does it. That includes defending you even if he knows he’s defending you against the truth. Guess that could be because you’re his pa and in his eyes can do no wrong.”
In spite of wanting to ignore this man’s words Ben found the truth a hard thing to ignore. He had only one defense. “I loved her so very much.”
“I know, I could see that, but I also know that she loved those boys. Would she want you to ignore them in order to forget her?”
“I know she loved them which is why being with them can sometimes be so hard.”
“Yes but would it be easier without them? You keep doing as you are and they will learn that they can’t rely on you only each other. I can see it starting to happen with your younger boys. They depend on their older brother a great deal.”
“They always have. And Adam? Well that boy was just always naturally independent.”
“Perhaps but they still need you. Boys need a pa. Even if it’s only to take a belt to their backsides when they do wrong, or maybe to teach them the finer points of courting a lady.”
“Did Adam really say he was no longer intending to go to college?”
“But he has to go. Marie wanted him to go. She said he was the smartest boy she had ever known. She use to say he could prove that people from the west were just as smart if not smarter then people from the east. Of course I use to argue that was because Adam was born back east.”
“I bet that would put her in a temper.”
And so passed the evening with Ben remembering Marie. The memories spilt from him but not another drop of whiskey was poured and he found sharing the memories to be so much more healing then trying to hold them all inside.
When dawn was breaking the two men left the saloon to say their farewells.
“I find I again owe you a great debt Kit. Last time it was for Adam’s life but this time I believe you’ve saved mine and each of my son’s lives.”
“I believe in time you would have come to see anything you may think I’ve shown you on your own.”
“It may have been too late because Adam is already of college age and the one thing you have made me see is that I need to have a very long and serious talk with that eldest son of mine. If he honestly believes I am going to let him give up on something as important to him as going to college then maybe he is not as intelligent as we all believe him to be.”
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)