Word Count: 1100
I was sitting at my desk when I heard the angry voices float through the window above my head. Adam and Joseph. What in the world are they arguing about? It’s been a tough winter, I admit, and we’re all tired and our nerves are frayed, but fighting amongst ourselves isn’t going to help. Maybe if I just let them fight it out it’ll be over once and for all. I peek out the window to get a better handle on the situation.
Adam, the oldest, sometimes lets his college education get in the way of his thinking. I watch his tall, lean muscular frame move towards his younger brother like a mountain lion on the trail of his worst enemy. He stops and while I can’t hear his words, I know they are ones of anger for his body language speaks volumes. His arms are folded across his broad chest, back straight, feet planted firmly on the ground, head cocked to one side. The scowl on his face alone would probably frighten small children—but not Joseph. This youngest son of mine has an extremely short fuse on his temper and it doesn’t take much to get him riled. He stands now looking up at his taller, more muscular brother and I can’t help but smile. Joseph has never been one to back away from a fight, no matter the opponent. As I watch the two of them, the story of David and Goliath comes to mind, not only because Joseph needs those dark curls of his cut, but because Adam is a good 3 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier. If bets were being taken, most would choose Adam as the hands-down winner. That is unless they knew Joseph, the feisty little banty rooster.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn to look into the smiling face of my middle son, Hoss. His blue eyes cloud over as he peers out the window at his feuding brothers. He looks back at me, curiosity written all over his moon shaped face. I shrug my shoulders and shake my head, indicating I have no idea why they’re fighting.
Hoss strides outside to the rocking chair on the porch and lowers his large frame, shifting his weight to get comfortable. Leaning back with his hands clasped behind his head, he rocks gently as he watches the show his brothers are putting on. I pull a chair up and sit beside Hoss. I realize he’s puzzled by the fact that I haven’t made an attempt to stop Adam and Joseph, but he doesn’t ask any questions and I don’t volunteer any information.
Suddenly, Adam throws his hat on the ground angrily. I fear fists may begin to fly any minute. If they do, I will be forced to intervene. Joseph turns his back on his brother and I hold my breath. I know in Adam’s eyes, this will be seen as an act of defiance from the youngest Cartwright. But, Adam holds him temper in check, though he shouts at Joseph’s back. Joseph slowly turns around to face Adam and I sense Hoss preparing to intercede if necessary. But, Joseph doesn’t throw any punches. I’m amazed at his restraint. Maybe he’s finally growing up. Ordinarily he would have been on Adam like white on rice. Hoss settles back into his chair, but I know he’s ready should his brothers ‘discussion’ become volatile.
Now Joseph is shouting as he stands toe to toe with Adam. I have to give the kid credit. Not too many people have the nerve to stand up to Adam. Now, don’t get me wrong, Adam’s not a violent person. Oh, he can hold his own in a fight and usually come out on top, but it’s his mind that strikes fear into many a man. Adam’s logical mind has defused several fights before they ever got started. After all, who can fight logic and expect to win?
Joseph, while an intelligent boy, prefers action to logic. His fiery temper demands combat and clouds sound reasoning. I can see his fists clinched by his sides and know he’s fighting for control. More angry words pass between them. Joseph kicks a rock, watching as it goes sailing down the road—I think the rock is probably glad to be away from them. Hoss again prepares to step in.
Suddenly, Adam says something to Joseph and both boys squat down on the ground. Adam draws something with a stick. Joseph takes the stick and draws something else. Hoss and I share a puzzled glance. What are they up to now? Adam points to Joseph’s drawing and nods his approval. Joseph studies Adam’s scrawling, makes some changes then signals his consensus. They stand up, wiping the dust from their hands on their jeans. They shake hands. Adam grins and throws a hand over his younger brother’s shoulder. Joseph echoes the gesture as they both stride towards the barn.
Adam and Joseph are no sooner in the barn then Hoss jumps up from the rocker and heads towards the spot where just seconds before his brothers had been arguing. Resisting the urge to follow, I wait impatiently. Hoss studies the ground with a look of disbelief before throwing his head back and laughing uproariously. Puzzled, I make my way towards him. Looking down at the writing on the ground, I join Hoss, laughing until my sides hurt. From the corner of my eye, I see my oldest and youngest sons watching from the barn. Both are grinning like the cat that ate the canary. It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve all shared a laugh together and as Adam and Joseph come to stand beside me; I put an arm around each and smile my thanks.
Beaming, Joseph holds his hand out in front of Adam, who reaches into his pocket and fishes out five dollars. Shaking his head, he forks the money over as Joseph flashes a grin and a wink.
The four of us look at the ground again. There, scrawled in the dirt, were these words:
Pa looks first—Adam gets $5
Hoss looks first—Joe gets $5
Hoss and I never found out what the real argument was about, but from that moment on, the trails and tribulations of the winter were forgotten and laughter once again filled the Ponderosa.