A Portrait of His Mother (by Visage)

Synopsis:  The brothers discuss Grandma Cartwright.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  G
Word Count:  1,055


“Don’t you ever wish you could have met her?”  Joe Cartwright suddenly spoke, breaking the silence of the main room of the Ponderosa Ranch House.

Adam looked up from his book, Hoss from the checker board, both focusing confused looks at their younger brother.  It was Adam who voiced their question.  “Met who?”

“Grandma and Grandpa on Pa’s side.  I wonder what they were like, don’t you?”  Joe leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table, resting his head in the palm of his hands.

“That would be nice,” Hoss spoke. “To see where Pa got all his qualities from.  He don’t talk about his Ma and Pa at all.”

“Well,” Adam put his place marker in his book, sensing a deep conversation coming set his book down on the table.  “I know that the first Joseph Cartwright was a hard man…  But he cared for his kids, just like our Pa.”

“Wonder if that’s where Pa got his famous temper from.”  Joe giggled.  “Or the phrase ‘necessary talking to’…”

Hoss couldn’t keep the laughter out of his voice.  “I’m sure that’s a Cartwright trait that goes back generations!”

“What about Grandma, Adam?”  Joe said.  “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything about her.”

“Sarah Cartwright.” Adam’s eyes fell to the ground in thought for a moment. “You’re right; Pa doesn’t talk about her all that much.  He did once though.  When we were going west, I asked him about her one night.  He got all quiet for a long time.  I felt bad for asking him, but he told me.  Said she was like a ray of sunshine, always smelt like fresh baked goodies, bread or cookies.  Her voice was like the summer breeze, soft and warm.”

“You think…”  Hoss broke off, embarrassed by his train of thought.  “Would she of liked us?”

“If she was anything like Pa said… or even just like Pa in general…”  Adam said with a smile, “she would have loved us.”

“Did he ever say what she looked like, Adam?”  Joe asked.

Adam began to shake his head.  “I don’t…”  He stopped for a moment, his eyebrows narrowing in thought. “Wait a second.  I think he had a picture of her once.  A picture that he put away in one of the trunks out in the barn.” Adam jumped up from the blue velvet chair and took off out the door. Hoss and Joe exchanged curious looks before following their brother.

Adam quickly headed toward the barn, immediately heading for the trunk where Ben Cartwright kept old keepsakes and kick-knacks that he just never had the heart to throw away. He pushed open the lock and lifted the lid to the old trunk, peering inside. Adam pushed away an old journal, a few treasures from the old sailing days, and some other possessions before he came across what he was looking for.

“Wha’d you find, Adam?”  Hoss asked. Both he and Joe looking close over his shoulder.

Adam pulled out a small silver frame, not as detailed or expensive as the ones that held the likeness of the three Mrs. Ben Cartwrights in the Ranch House.  The boys kept their eyes focused on the picture, each lost in their own thoughts.

“I guess Cartwright Men have a habit of takin’ after their Ma’s, huh?”  Hoss said with a smile evident in his voice.

Hoss was right. The picture in the simple frame definitely seemed like a feminine Ben Cartwright. Long dark hair, piercing black eyes that still held a softness in their depths.  Long lashes fanned over her eyes, her smile sweet and sincere.

“Sure was pretty, wasn’t she Adam.”  Joe broke the silence once more.

“Yeah,” Adam nodded. “She sure was. Pa’ll be back any minute. I don’t think he’d appreciate us rooting through his things. Let’s go before he catches us.”

Adam started to replace the picture when Joe caught his hand. “Don’t you think that frame would look better in the house?”

All three exchanged knowing looks before Adam nodded. “You’re absolutely right.  Could you do me a favor and run up to my room and grab my mother’s picture for me?”  Joe nodded and ran out the door.

Adam stood from his kneeling position and turned to Hoss. “It’s about time this lovely lady took her rightful place at the Ponderosa, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, I do rightly think so at that. Ain’t it uncanny how much he’s like his Ma?”

“Well, Hoss,” Adam answered.  “You said Cartwright Men tend to take after their mothers.  Now we have the proof!”

Joe returned a moment later with the picture of Elizabeth Cartwright in his hands.  Adam took it gently, gazing at the picture for a moment. “Sorry, Mama.  But I’m sure you understand.” He quickly turned the picture around and opened the back, then did the same with the frame of Sarah Cartwright and switched the pictures. Equally as quick, he closed the frames once more. “This belongs somewhere other then the barn.”


Later that night, after Ben had seen each of his boys to bed, he banked the fire in the main room and wearily climbed the steps to his room. He hated how much these meetings always seemed to take out of him.

He opened the door to the master bedroom, the bed illuminated by a splash of moonlight.  He sat down on the bed, letting his bones settle for a moment before he began to tug off his boots.

In the middle of getting off his second boot, a new object caught his eye on his night stand.  He narrowed his eyes in confusion, quickly removing his boot.  Recognizing the delicate gold frame, he wondered why one of his wives pictures was in his room.  Picking up the frame, the confusion melted away.

“Mama,” he whispered. ‘The boys must be responsible for this,’ he thought with a smile.  He held the picture for a moment, returning to his childhood, the wonderful smell of his mother filling his memory.  Her soft touch, her loving hugs, her simple joy of life.

He replaced the frame on the nightstand before he changed into his bedclothes and snuggled under the covers. His dreams that night were filled with pleasant memories of baking smells and sweet understanding.


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