Synopsis: Missing scenes for The Truckee Strip.
Word Count: 1,345
The words were out of his mouth, “I thought you didn’t want any more killing?”
Adam defended, “Now, this wasn’t Pa’s fault!”
“Wasn’t it?” he argued.
How does one justify that an employee of the Ponderosa had gone sick inside, all for fighting over a piece of land. Sure, fight for what’s right, fight for what’s yours. But to fight where innocent people are killed with no second thought and to write it off as not your fault?
Us against them. It was more than right versus wrong. Sure take, Trump to the law, but there was more at stake; a dead boy should be taken home, returned to his family.
Ben put his foot down.
Times change, no longer was it us against the world. It was me against the world of Cartwright, pa and my brothers.
Drawing his gun was purely instinct. If he’d given any thought to the effort, he would have froze long before metal cleared leather. Their eyes conveyed disappointment and disbelief. He’d never seen that combination before. And the fact they were staring back at him, caused him to wince. But this was important; he had to take a stand. If only his brothers would understand, if only Ben would accept that he saw no other alternative.
“The killings rubbd off on all of us.”
“It’s alright Joe.”
No, it wasn’t!
A boy was dead, and for what? A strip of land? Egos? For no other reason than someone wanted what wasn’t theirs to take. When would everyone accept that the world could be a better place? When would the Truckee Strip return to being the life blood of the land, instead of a cause to spill blood on the land?
Pa knew Trump had never been the same since Luther Bishop had shot him in the face, but still Pa hired him. Was that an explanation? It’s not my fault?
“A man buries his son by hisself,” Lo Chow answered in response to Joe’s offer to help.
What if that had been me?
Twice in a matter of minutes those of the Concho had threatened to kill Joe. His first saving grace was Luther Bishop, second was an act of kindness. But the threats still remained, if he ever returned to see Amy or ride the Concho.
“It’s going to be a lot more difficult to break up Amy and I than that Mr. Bishop.”
Break up Amy and I, what about my family and me?
Guilt ate at his conscience… he’d done what he felt was right. He’d taken a stand for his beliefs, to prove that he still felt compassion.
He was too young to remember when all the trouble originally started. He vaguely remembered loud voices whenever Hiram Woods came to talk, louder were the voices when the sheriff showed up to discuss the facts. Events settled after Adam returned from college.
Until recently the trouble had been minor, cut fences, harsh words, fist fights. But why now? Why the change to violence? Why were people being killed?
Unable to return home, not directly; he turned to riding the Ponderosa contemplating the past, his actions and the words recently spoken. He finally found himself at his mother’s grave. His emotions were in turmoil as he talked, leaning his back against the granite marker. The warmth from the afternoon sun soaked through to his soul. The calm of the land, the serenity of the waters; he thought he knew what to say, to face his father.
Arriving home long after the sun had set, he handed Cochise off to their foreman, and the look he received dissolved every ounce of assurance Joe possessed. He’d been in the wrong. One doesn’t go against family.
“I’m glad to see you’re alright boy.” The words were hesitant, questioning; wanting to voice something else instead.
Boy, I guess against my brothers I am still a boy. But I’m more of a man than Soong, he’ll never…
“Would it help to talk about it?”
“YES!” He wanted to scream, to cry out all his hurts and doubts. But he was no longer a child to run to his father to kiss away the pain from a scraped knee or elbow, or discuss a childish crush on a girl at school. He was becoming a man, following his own course; one he feared had destroyed the love of family. They loved the land above all else, didn’t they?
“What couldn’t you tell me boy?”
How could I tell him about Amy? To him she was just a name; a Bishop. Be wary of the Bishops, stay away from the Bishops They and everything Concho are bad. But Amy wasn’t bad. She was sweet, and innocent.
“I love her Pa.” Followed moments later by, “I want to marry her.”
Did Pa understand? Could he understand how a chance meeting set into motion a conflict of the heart? Me and Amy against me and my family.
“Are we so far apart boy? I’ve never held my land above my sons.”
Would he really destroy the Poderosa? Yes, he would. He loves the land, but it can be replaced, unlike a son. He loves us more. He still loves me.
“I guess we won’t have any trouble talking any more, Pa.”
Her killing was an accident. And Pete Jessup… he’s dead. I’d killed him to save my life. But now, there was no future. I should have killed him before. Maybe then Amy would still be alive.
To ease my hurt and the guilt their feud caused, I lied. “She said it could never be; a Cartwright and a Bishop.”
Luther Bishop asked us to attend Amy’s funeral. I never got to propose, to stand before our families and friends to profess my love, to pledge my heart. To love and honor until death do us part. But I did honor and love her. I still do.
Later that night, Pa placed a hand on my shoulder before heading up the stairs; I took solace in the contact. “Good night, son.” I couldn’t answer.
Hoss slipped his hands into his front pockets, lost in how to say what he wanted to say. I read everything in his eyes.
“Night,” I whispered.
Adam sat in his chair, slipping his finger between the pages of the current book he was reading, he watched Joe’s emotions play out. Too many times they’d argued for one thing or another; mostly inconsequential nothings. He knew the strain on their relationship was partly due to a difference in age, and also the differences in when and how they’d been raised. He wanted to try to set things back on their true course.
“You know he does understand.”
“Pa. He understands how one minute a person is just a name and the next, they’ve stolen your heart.”
Joe wiped an errant tear from the corner of his eye while he moved to stand in front of the massive fireplace, wishing the flames would warm the cold feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“He understands your loss, even though you and Amy never married.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Placing a hand on the stones, he leaned in to the support.
“I think it does. You’re more a part of his understanding than you realize.”
“How so?” Joe looked to where Adam sat in his blue chair.
“Momma?” Joe turned to face his brother.
“Think on the stories Pa’s told us about your mother and how they met. The parallel is uncanny, in some ways. He restored her honor, and you restored the friendship between the Bishops and the Cartwrights.”
“In the end, they both died.”
Setting the book aside, Adam stood, approaching his brother, standing side by side. “But they both loved you Joe. Amy did love you, didn’t she?”
“And so do we.” He wrapped an arm around Joe’s shoulders. “Don’t ever forget that.”
“Always.” He leaned to the right, resting against his older brother, taking comfort that he too understood, “Love wins out.”
The dialogue before the epilogue was taken from the episode The Truckee Strip, written by Herman Groves.