Child in the Middle (by Linda V.)

Summary:   A retelling of Hoss’s birth from “Journey Remembered.”
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  4860


Another pain hit and it was stronger than the last! Inger knew that her child would be in this world before long.  She wasn’t anxious to wake Ben but she knew that soon she would need assistance and she didn’t want to wake the whole camp unnecessarily. Another pain! “Oh, God, give me the strength to give this new child a good start in this world. Ben! Ben! Sweetheart, I hate to wake you up but the baby is coming!”

“Inger!”  Ben’s voice boomed, “Why didn’t you wake me? I could have helped you before this.”‘

Little Adam sat up and looked around. He saw his stepmother and she didn’t look good. Adam became scared and went over to her and got a rag and wiped her face. “Mom! Mom! Are you okay, Mom! Pa!” he screamed, “go get her some help, she is hurting so badly!” Inger was in the middle of a contraction and was unable to respond to the child; the contractions were about a minute apart.

When she could get a deep breath, she looked at Ben and yelled, “Go Now! Go get Sally; she has had the most experience since she has six children of her own.  She will know what to do!”  Ben quickly turned and jumped out of the wagon and went over to the Carver wagon.  He knocked, loudly.

Frank opened the flap and upon looking at Ben’s face, he knew that Inger was in labor.  “How is she, Ben?”

 “She is close and has asked for Sally!  Is that okay?” Ben hated to ask but being a man he was lost on childbirth.”

“Sure, just a minute.”

Sally came to the end of the wagon tying her robe.  “Ok, Ben, answer some questions for me.  How many minutes between contractions?  Is there any blood?  And where is little Adam?”

Being a man, Ben, just stood staring at her and had no answers.  All of a sudden there was a loud scream and both Sally and Ben ran to the Cartwright wagon. Little Adam was crying and trying to sooth his mother by telling her that it would be okay.  Sally climbed into the wagon and quickly handed little Adam to his father. She told Ben that she would need boiling water and a knife, and any towels and sheets that some of the others could spare.  She then turned her attention to Inger and shut the cloth of the wagon affording them some privacy.  She checked Inger and could feel the head of her child crowing!   “Inger, Inger, sweetie, you can go ahead and push!  Your baby is ready!”

Sally was praying that this child would not tear Inger badly but she was sure that he would be big and she could only do so much. Inger began her pushing, it took about six good pushes and her son entered the world screaming.  He was big!  “Oh, Inger,” squealed Sally, “he is beautiful!  Big, pink and beautiful!” She placed the newborn on Inger’s’ stomach and prepared to cut the umbilical cord.  As she turned around, she saw that Ben had placed the boiling water on a ledge with the knife inside and she quickly grabbed it and cut the cord. At that time, she tied the cord and began to wait for the next set of contractions to deliver the placenta. With this complete, Sally wrapped the new baby in a dry blanket and put him to his mother’s breast and encouraged him to drink. Like a pro, he grabbed on and from that moment on, had no trouble eating. She washed Inger off. She knew that this would give Ingrid the most comfort; it always had when she had had midwives help her.

“Ben!”  Ben!” Sally called.

Ben came to the wagon opening and looked up with anticipation. “Is she okay?  Is the child fine?” Ben climbed into the wagon to see his wife and child. He crawled to his wife and kissed her and told her how happy he was that she had given him a new child. “I am so proud of you, Inger, to go through this out here in the wilderness without complaint.”

“Oh, Ben,” Inger cried,” I am so glad I met you. I will give you all the children you want and I will follow you to the end of the world.  Please never leave me…I love you.” With this Inger handed her new child to his father and Ben looked at his second born son, all pink, and beautiful and undoubtedly big.  “Hey, Sally!” Ben asked, “How much would you say this child weighs?”

Sally came over and smiled and said, “I would imagine he is about 10 or 11 lbs., Ben. I have never delivered one so hefty!”  They both laughed.  With this, Ben called his son Adam over and told him to come inside the wagon to see his new brother.  Adam was so pleased to see his mother not in pain.  He kissed her and snuggled with her and then looked at the baby.  The baby seemed to look at him directly and Adam said, “He sure is big.”

 “Yes”, said Ben, “W will have to find a proper name to call him.”

Adam looked at his parents and said, “Well, he sure is big! Let’s call him Hoss cause he is as big as a small horse. “‘

Inger and Ben laughed. “Actually that is not a bad idea.  I was hoping that I could call him Eric; we could just spell the word Hoss as a Swedish name Haas and his name could be short cut to be Hoss.” Both Ben and Adam agreed to this. Ben looked at his new son and said, “Well, Eric Haas, welcome to the Cartwright family!  I hope you have a long and happy life and that you grow to a ripe old age.”

Sally told Ben that she would bed little Adam down in their wagon giving them some time to sleep in the morning….her children would be up at the crack of dawn and he could play. “Also, we must get you stronger, Inger…I heard we are moving out day after tomorrow.  Time waits for no man. Neither does the weather.”

It was true. The weather would be turning bitter cold and the snow would soon fly. They really would want to get over the mountains before the paths were blocked with snow.  Ben laid down beside his wife and held her hand, the baby laid between them, and all three were asleep in minutes.  Exhaustion was taking over’ rest was imperative.

Morning light was streaming through the cracks of the wagon tarp and Ben could hear sounds of the camp alive with activity.  He carefully slipped out of the wagon and almost stepped on his first-born sitting on the tail bar of the wagon…waiting for his family to wake up.  He was so lonely that when he saw his father he fell in his arms and started to cry.  “Hey”, Ben said, “what’s wrong, Adam?  Its okay; mommy’s fine!  Your baby brother is fine.” As he held Adam, he crooned, “I am sorry I didn’t keep you with us last night…but mommy needed the peace and quiet. Tonight and forever more you will be with us.  Unless you decide you want to sleep elsewhere.  Don’t cry now! Go and see your mom and baby brother.  I must go talk to Sally Carver. “

Adam quietly climbed into the wagon; he hated to disturb his mom but he did so want to have a hug so he lay down beside her. She awoke and kissed him on the forehead.  “Hi, Sweetheart,” she cooed, “how are you?  I missed you last night.”  All of a sudden, little Hoss decided that he wanted to share the limelight and so he gave a squeaky cry, which rapidly got the attention of both his mother and Adam.  Adam watched as his mother changed his diaper and then he watched her as she breast-fed the child.  He couldn’t help be fascinated about how the baby drank the milk from its mommy.  He sat there and asked hundreds of questions but Inger answered them with grace and yet she had not seemed to mind.  She loved these two boys and they were her heart.  Her life had taken such a wonderful turn when she fell in love with Ben.  He set her free and gave her the opportunity to be the type of woman she wanted to be.  Now she was a true mother, and she was overjoyed and overwhelmed with her good fortune.

Around 5 o’clock the following evening, the families of the wagon train met around the fire and began planning on the next step of their journey.  It was windy, so Inger kept both boys in the wagon and quiet.  Ben, anxious to get going, added his input and tried to instill into these families the need to move along a little more rapidly than before. Everyone decided that the train would move out at 5 AM and that they would continue due West. Their guide told them that the farther that they went, the more the danger of being attacked by Indians, having mud slides, and forest fires. But the train was still excited to go and admitted that they had not made this decision to go westward lightly.  They wanted to have their homes there and they looked forward to enjoying the nature and having their children wiser and better well rounded with the world.

The next morning Ingrid felt the wagon lurch as it began to move. She was nestled warm and snug with Adam and the newborn.  Ben had not awakened them; he wanted them to rest. God knew there would be little time to rest in the future.  Soon, Adam crawled up and joined his father on the seat of the wagon and felt very grown-up.  He was a little man…having had to be because often he was left on his own, as daddy had to earn some money for them to eat.  But the two of them had dreams…dreams of what the west would be like…. dreams of what type of house they would live in and dreams of being a strong family: daddy, Inger, Adam and now little Hoss (although he wasn’t all that little).

It began to rain around noon and soon the roads were a mess.  Ben had to work hard not to break an axle by hitting one of the deep ruts.  Also, with the rain came a wind that was brisk and chilly.  It was hard to stay warm so Ben sent Adam back to his mother to snuggle under the blankets.  Hoss cried for a long time; his mother told Adam that this was a young child’s source of exercise.  But it sure was annoying and soon Adam was trying hard to get him to stop.  He rattled keys, pots and pans, spoons, and cup together.  But Hoss was not going to succumb to this, so he fussed on.  It rained most of the day and about four o’clock the wagon train pulled into a circle and blocked the wind and decided to try to eat and get some rest.

Sally approached Ben and asked if she could visit with Inger. He was happy she asked. Adam was taken from the wagon and Ben gave him a quick wash-up so he would feel fresh.  Sally asked Inger if her bleeding was slowing and if she felt okay.  Inger was fine and put Sally’s mind to ease quickly. Little Hoss was thriving and had already gained some weight; she knew that he would be an eater. “Boy,” she told Inger, “I wouldn’t want to have to keep this little one full when he’s older. He will probably eat more than two men.”  They both shared the laugh.  Inger asked Sally to stay with Hoss a few minutes so she could go outside the wagon to get some fresh air and to just refresh herself; Sally quickly agreed and enjoyed holding little Hoss for the time.

Ben was surprised when his wife walked up behind him and put her arms around his waist.  He quickly turned around and asked her if she should be out so soon.

Inger said, “Well, if that isn’t the best. I give you a new son, want to get some fresh air and you only ask if I should be out of the nest already!  I love you, too, honey!”

Ben quickly wrapped her in his strong arms and kissed her…she melted as he held her.  She so loved this man.  Ben so loved this woman.  God had been so good to them.  But they still knew that rough times were ahead but they would face them together.

That night, Ben awoke to the howls of wolves. He lay their and felt the shiver of fear go up his spine as they seemed so close.  The smell of human’s being around…he got up and grabbed his rifle and loaded it…he would be prepared if any of them got brave. But morning came first, and again he found himself on the seat of the wagon and pulling out of the circle with the wagon train.  He was the third wagon.  It was a good position, as you could kind of adjust to what lay ahead, but it also was a bad position because if something bad happened you could be hit by the other two wagons.  This proved the case on the tenth day of little Hoss’s life.  They were stealthily trying to climb up a steep hill and the wheels were having a rough time with the wet mud and grass.  They did not go straight up…instead they tried to go around and advance this way up the hill in a circle.  Of course, as they got to the top, the wagons were not too far away from each other. All of a sudden, the first wagons axle snapped and the left wheel fell free making the wagon unstable. It tipped over and rolled easily; the family that was both inside and on the seat were thrown under the rolling wagon and crushed. It was all Ben could do to avoid the wagon as it tumbled down the hill and other wagons did the same.  Everyone went to the aid of the family that the wagon belonged to but it was too late…mother, father, and twin boys all died.  Sadness, profound!!  The wagons stopped and because of their eagerness, they buried them quickly and prayed. Quickly, they started up again and soon found themselves sliding down the other side of the hill.  Adam had played with the little twin boys and he cried all night.  His parents tried to console him but it just was not to be. He could not understand….why would God let that happen?  His mother held him and rocked him to sleep. Everyone was so exhausted from the day and the sadness that dinner was small and soon everyone was asleep.

Can you imagine how hard it was to be on a wagon train in the early 1800s?  No warm water, no toilets, no real beds, no heat; if you had a small baby, you had to wash diapers several times a day to keep him dry. Sometimes they just let the child free especially if he was getting a very severe diaper rash.  Inger tried to keep everything comfortable and tore up old aprons for diapers just to avoid a mess when they couldn’t stop. She worked with Adam on his A, B; C’s and praised him on his eagerness to learn.  He was soon spelling his name, his father’s name, Inger’s name and many of his friend’s names. He could do math…Inger, having run out of multiplication tables, moved him right into division. Adam was a real jewel and she loved watching his face light up with the knowledge she gave him.

Ben walked around camp at evening with his new son and showed him off.  He was so proud of the strong boy.  Hoss held his head up straight and had fire red hair.  He would be walking soon Ben felt…but Inger kept saying to him not to rush the child. “Heavens, Ben, he’s only two months old.”  Adam played with little Hoss for endless hours; their bond was growing daily.  Adam had such patience with Hoss when the little one would grab his toy or pencil. Adam would just say “No, No, baby!”  Most children would have been crying to mom to get the object but not Adam!  He realized that Hoss was small and he had no idea about what he was doing. This pleased his parents and made other’s notice him as well.

One morning Inger heard Sally crying. She was sobbing and this worried Inger. She had a soft spot in her heart for Sally as she had so much smoother delivery with her than she would have had alone. Inger slipped quickly out of the wagon and approached Sally.  “Sally, what is the matter?”

Sally turned around and with a shriek she screamed, “Don’t come near me, Inger! One of my children is covered with spots and I am not sure what it is. Your children don’t deserve to get sick now.”

Inger just looked at her. “Sally, if you don’t let me help…I will never let you help me again.  Now which child is it?””Well,” said Sally, “it’s Devon; he’s been throwing up all night and now he is covered from top to bottom with spots.”

Inger quickly went into the small child and determined that he had chicken pox. This at that time in history chicken pox was a very serious disease for young and old alike. Word flew around camp that the child was sick and parents were frozen with fear as to who would come down sick next.  Inger took little Adam and gave him a good scrubbing and made him take some Eucalyptus tea. This was believed to have great immune strengthening ability. After this, she made him sleep away from the baby.  Chicken pox is a disease that has a 21 day incubation time and if the child doesn’t come down with the disease by the 21st or 22nd day, then he/she is either a carrier or not been exposed yet.  All parents did their own tricks to prevent an epidemic with their own children and Sally and her family was no longer allowed to be with the rest of the wagon train until the family was well.  This could take up to three weeks and they were especially vulnerable at this time.  However, they realized that the rest of the wagon train was frightened because if a parent came down with this disease, it could mean death.  Ben, however, fought this rule and decided that he would stay with Sally and her family. He owed Sally and her husband a lot, and now it was his turn to give. He strongly believed God would protect them.   As he talked to the other train members, they also realized that they would not want to be left alone and so they too decided to stay together.  The wagon master simply put the Carter wagon at the end of the train and kept a good distance away, quarantining the family. They fed them, and provided any care they needed as the family stayed sequestered in their wagon. At last, everyone felt better.  Not one other person came down with chicken pox and they saw this as God’s blessing.

Some of the worst weather was encountered as they approached the Rocky Mountains, at Denver Colorado. It snowed and rained; freezing rain and hail pelted the train drivers.  Family members spelled each other at the driving as the weather took its toll.  The children had to stay inside the wagons and this caused tension among the families. Every time the sun came out, they shooed the children outside to run off some steam.  Cheyenne, Colorado, was one of the scariest places as they were now in true Indian Territory and this added to the tension.  Some of the Indians that could be seen or anticipated here were the Pawnee, Comanche, Ute, and Pueblo. The Pueblo made their homes on the haunting cliffs of the Mesa Verde. The earlier settlers were not sure where they would encounter the Indians but they felt it was eminent.

The scouts went out often; the night was when they felt the most vulnerable. They circled the wagons as tightly as they could and made sure the animals were tethered strongly.  Children were watched closely and told not to wander away from camp.  They were curious about the Indians and felt that the adults were just making the Indians scary so they would behave.  But little Adam was smarter than that and he stayed close to his family.  Especially his little brother.  He and Hoss were buddies. They laughed together, ate together, slept together and were in every way the true sense of brothers. Every day at first light, the wagons pulled out and moved on…trying to get past this rugged land as soon as possible. The going was rough and the wagons just kept breaking down; the men were always mending something or other to keep them on the trail.  The scouts would get mad that the wagons would break down as often as they did and they just wanted to move on.  The men often ended the day in argument and this created tension with all the families.

One night as they approached Salt Lake City, Utah, they heard the unmistakable hooting and howling of the Indians. It seemed that they were coming from all sides. The wagons were in the process of getting into a circle when the arrows reigned down on the camp. The men tried to load their guns and aim effectively as they also tried to protect their animals. The arrows hit many of the men and so the women came through the wagon backs and took over the circling of the wagons. Inger just told Adam to stay down as low as he could and to protect his brother as best as possible. She moved a table over them hoping that would protect them from the arrows.  Ben was working so hard; he didn’t realize that Inger had jumped from the wagon and was trying to unhitch the animals and lead them to safety.  When he spotted her, he yelled at her to get back inside.  She defiantly shook her head no!  She had about all the animals sequestered when Ben watched in horror as an arrow landed on her, straight through her heart.  She was dead before she hit the ground.  Ben jumped down from the wagon and screamed in anguish as he went to his wife and held her.  She was gone.

His grief had to be cut short, however, because the Indians were advancing and they would be in the camp. He got his rifle and he started shooting; he hit seven or eight and he must have hit the chief because all of a sudden the Indians turned and left.  The sound of silence was deafening.   He looked around; men scattered the ground and then his eyes landed on Ingrid.  She was gone; he was alone, again.  He wept as he again went to her and lifted her up.

Adam slowly came out from under the table and approached the edge of the wagon not sure if it was okay to leave the wagon.  He was shocked to see his father holding his mom, rocking her, crying. He slowly climbed down and approached his pa, almost afraid of what he would hear.  “Pa!” he cried. “What is wrong with ma?  Tell her I need her!  Tell her Hoss is hungry!  Pa!  Please wake her up!  I’m scared.”

When Ben looked up, Adam knew what was to be told.  He was without a ma, again.  She was gone.  It was going to be just Pa, Hoss and him. His grief was profound and he fell on his knees and sobbed.  Ben didn’t know what he should do for his son.  He hurt so badly in his own heart that he wasn’t sure he could help his son.

All of a sudden strong arms picked Adam up and carried him away. It was Sally!  “Oh, you poor baby! I will help you. Let’s go be with Hoss as your Pa must bury your Ma. We can not stay here son.  It is too dangerous.”

Adam sobbed into Sally’s shoulder for what seemed like hours. He was so broken. He felt like he would never be the same. The pain was overwhelming.  He couldn’t bear to see Hoss. Poor Hoss; he had lost his mommy. What would they do? They had no milk to feed him!  Adam didn’t know how to change his diaper.  Shucks, he couldn’t even lift him!  “Why, Aunt Sally? Why would God take our Ma away?”

“I don’t know why she died Adam, but it wasn’t God who caused this to happen…it was the Indians.”

Adam cried late into the night.  Hoss was fitful and Ben had to hold him. At times, one of the other wives would take him and wet nurse him. Ben knew that his only choice was now to wean his son to a bottle. He didn’t know what to do.  He just sat for a long time with his head in his hands and cried.

Adam was so lonely and he fell silent as depression set in.  Hoss, however, didn’t know that there was a problem and so he just laughed and was himself. At times, Adam found it real hard to be sad around his little brother.  He didn’t deserve for everyone to be sad.

It was about two weeks after Inger’s death that Adam approached his father.  “Hey, Pa! Why don’t you marry one of the ladies on the wagon train that lost their husbands and then Hoss and I can have a Ma again?”

Ben, bending down, picked Adam up and hugged him tightly. Simply smiling he explained to Adam, “Son, I loved Inger, your mom, so much that no one on this train or perhaps in this world will ever be able to fill the hole she left in my heart and in yours. For the time being, you and I will have to take care of little Hoss and be family. Do you think you can do this for me?  We will take care of each other and someday maybe we will be truly happy again. But the memories we have of Inger will get us through and we must look to the future.”

Adam laid his head on his fathers shoulder and the tears ran down his cheeks.  He knew that this was true but it would be so lonely without HER!!  “I love you, Pa!  Please don’t die!  I can’t raise Hoss alone.”

Ben told his son not to worry; that he would do all he could to remain with him and that they would have a good future.

Soon, Ben was getting stronger and one day the wagon train decided that they needed a break.  The weather was especially nice and so he and the two boys decided to play and have a picnic.  As Adam ran around, all of a sudden he came to a stop. “Pa!  Pa!” he yelled. “Come see!”

Ben ran to his son’s side and looked in the direction of his young son’s finger.  Below them the scene unfolded in awe!  To the right there was a large body of water, as blue as the azure sky, and as far as the eye could see there were large trees and lush green fields.  “Pa!”  Adam squealed. “This is it! This is our home.  I can see it, Pa.  It is so wonderful!”  With this, Adam ran down the hill and was soon throwing himself in the grass, rolling around and yelling, “Come on down, Pa!  This is our new home.”

Ben picked up baby Hoss. He also quickly ran down the hill and put the baby in the grass.  Hoss laughed as Adam did summersaults and jumped around; it seemed like this was it!  Their new home.  Ben could see the possibilities, and to see his sons so happy – he figured that they had lost enough -it was time to find happiness.  With this in mind he picked up Hoss, called to Adam and they climbed the hill together. As they approached the wagon train, they called to the wagon master. Ben explained that they were home!  He paid his share of the expedition and eased his wagon out of the line. As they made their way down the slope, Adam waved to Sally and his friends, yelling “We’re home!  We’re Home!”

***The End***

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