Thanks, Brother! (by Jane)


Summary:   Adam’s thoughts during the episode ‘Honor of Cochise’.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  5653



‘He’s just a kid!!’

One part of my brain is screaming that fact, while the other part simply accepts that he’s not. Not really. He’s a man. A young man, no doubt, but a man. Still, he’s my kid brother. Youthful and daring, undaunted by fear, he’s made his way through the hail of bullets to lean over me, offering his strength. Offering me a chance at life. But how can I take it when the risk is so high? My brother’s life for my own? Could I live with that? Could Pa? No. Yet how can I refuse?

It’s no longer an issue. What little strength I had is gone now. The mere opening of my eyes and a faint movement of my hand is all I can muster. I don’t think either is noticed.

I can feel Joe’s presence, hear his harsh breathing as he briefly examines my wound. There’s blood. Lots of it, but he doesn’t have time to do anything to staunch the flow. The whiz of another bullet is close, too close. His hands are on me now, pulling my arm around his shoulders, dragging me upwards until he can manage to get his arms beneath me. The pain is unbearable. White hot. Searing. Whatever breath I had seems to be sucked from my lungs. I want to scream, to yell at him to please stop. ‘Dear God, stop. Don’t move me.’ But I keep the sound inside. My brother is here, braving the terror, risking so much.

Somehow – only God knows how – the kid manages to lift me. I’m not as big as my brother Hoss, but I’m no lightweight either. Yet Joe gets me up into his arms, and as he starts to run back towards camp, he even manages to get off a shot or two. The Indians answer with shots of their own, but still my brother runs.

‘He’s just a kid!’ 

Part of my brain screams, while the other part answers back

‘He’s not a kid, he’s your brother.’  

You did good, Pa. Looks like you did real good.


Somewhere in that flight of terror, I must have blacked out. When I manage to make sense of my surroundings again, I’m stretched out in the dirt, my head and shoulders propped up against a saddle. Through half-open eyes, I see them hovering: Pa, Hoss, Joe. It only confirms my suspicions. It must be bad. Not that I really need their presence to tell me, the pain does a fine job of that.

Faces swim before my eyes and I struggle to bring them into focus. It’s Pa that I want to see, and I’m not disappointed. He’s there close. I want to tell him about his son. How proud I am of his youngest. But my mouth seems filled with dust and I don’t even try. Instead I strive to pay attention to the conversation above me. I can’t make sense of it, and I feel myself floating again. Someone moans, and I wonder who else has been injured in this insanity.

We were going home, a simple trip back to the Ponderosa. It had been a rare opportunity for a few days alone, just Pa and his sons . . . and then this. I don’t understand it. There hadn’t been any Indian trouble. Things had been quiet in this area. We never would’ve come this way if it hadn’t.

Time has no meaning. I have no watch to mark its passage, not that I’m in any shape to use one. I’m sure that I’m floating in and out of consciousness. Everything seems hazy. Unreal. I’m still lying in the dirt.

There’s a new voice. This one is angry and insistent, arguing with someone. He’s arguing with my father. Pa’s upset. Indignant. And in my usual Cartwright fashion, I want to join the fray. But I don’t know what their fight is about. I do know that my father is struggling to control his temper. Maybe I sense it. His tone pulls at me until I force my eyes open to see the two of them glaring at each other. The new voice belongs to a soldier. He’s vaguely familiar and I know I’ve seen him before. Somehow I sense that this man is important to us. I need to remember who he is, and why he’s here in our camp. Yet there’s nothing but haze where memory should be.

The pain that was burning before is now a deep-seated ache that takes away all rational thought. My father . . . I need Pa. But I still can’t form the words. My thoughts come and go. The world spins around me, but all I manage is a groan. Doesn’t matter. Pa hears. I feel him next to me, and though my arms move, I can’t muster the strength to pull myself up, or to offer my help. I long to ask him what the fight’s about. What happened? Why are we here?

Water. I went for water. This much I suddenly remember, but then the memory fades. The only thought that remains is that my pa is with me. His hands are touching me. Trying to offer comfort. I let myself focus on that, letting the closeness of my father take my thoughts back to other days.

Drums. I hear the steady beat deep within me. I want it to stop, but I’m trapped in this cocoon of pain. I’m hot, burning. Why isn’t anyone helping me? Why can’t they hear me? I’m calling, begging. Pa! Hoss! Joe! Help me! The pain, the pain is so bad. The weight is unbearable, like a heavy anvil placed on my stomach. Get it off! Take it out! But no one comes to me. No one answers my call. I sink back into the dark hole, wondering if it too will be lined with the dirt and rocks that make up my bedding.


The drums are silent. Yet, the silence seems oppressive. I want to open my eyes to see what’s pulled me back from the darkness I was enveloped in. But once again my weakness is evident. No matter how I long to see my father beside me, I can’t make my eyes open or my body move. I wonder if anyone knows I’m still in here. . . still living and breathing within this silent body.

Movement. Voices. Excitement, I can feel it. A hand slips behind my head, familiar fingers cupped around the nape of my neck. Another hand is on my forehead, the touch gentle. ‘Pa?’ No, the hand is too small. It must be Joe. There’s something at my lips, at first metallic and cool, then wet and warm. A sip is all I’m allowed, but as the water slides down my throat, I know instinctively it’s all I can handle. My stomach rolls. I feel a new sheen of perspiration on my face, and for a moment I think the fluid will come back up, but the feeling passes. Where’s Pa? Why isn’t he talking to me? I need his deep voice, his reassurance that all will be well. ‘Pa.’   I’m slipping away again.


Someone’s trying to kill me! I can feel the heat of the knife as it enters my flesh. I try to scream, but no sound emerges. Twisting and pulling, I try to escape the horrible pain, but it’s no use. Strong hands are holding me, forcing me to endure what I no longer have strength to bear. I know the hands belong to my brother Hoss. Their hold is strong but gentle. My Pa is close, too. I don’t know where he’s been or when he returned, but the fact that he’s beside me brings comfort. I hear the voice I was longing for. The one I’ve known and trusted since birth. Does he know how much his sons depend on him? Does he know how much I need him?

Still, there’s something missing. Someone I need to find . . .  Joe. Where are you? Will I never be able to speak for myself again? Am I to die on this God-forsaken piece of ground with no last words? Where is my brother? I have something to say to him.

“He’s coming around, Pa. Adam? Adam, can you hear me?”

There he is. Joe. Joe’s here. He’s safe, for now. Whatever’s happening, we’re still together. I try to move, but again the hands hold me still. I look from my father to my brothers and back again. It’s all I can manage for now. I need to rest. I’m so tired . . .

A new voice is speaking. Something about pulling someone through. Who is he and what’s he pulling? I search for the hands that were holding me, but they’re gone now. Something feels tight around my torso, but the sharp pain of before is gone, replaced with an overpowering ache. That anvil is still there. But maybe . . . maybe it’s a little lighter? Snatches of conversation reach me, but nothing’s clear.

“hard time . . . . Mr. Cartwright . . . bullet deep . . .  blood loss . . . . infection . . .

I want to ask someone, anyone, what’s going on. Where’s the kid? Joe. Joe was here, now he’s gone. I need to know. But my body is weak, and the voices are fading. Next time. Next time I’ll ask.


It’s dark again. Everything is quiet. There’s no one around, no questions being asked or decisions being made. The night is cool but I’m not cold. A fire burns close by, and a blanket covers me. Moving a little on my makeshift bed, I realize that the accommodations have changed. No longer dirt and rocks, I’m now lying on a bed of dried grass covered with a blanket. I wonder, idly, where they found a blanket when all our supplies disappeared with our horses.

I try to move, but end up moaning instead. The pain is still intense, and it takes several minutes before I can open my eyes. A face appears above me. My little brother is keeping watch, and I wonder at the changes that have taken place in him.

“Adam? Good to see you awake. You had us worried.”

I watch him closely, but don’t respond. Even if I did feel up to speaking, I don’t know what to say. Yet I feel the need to talk to him. My body is alive with pain, my throat parched, but all I can think about is my brother. He’s not a boy anymore. No longer the child who sat on my lap or tagged along behind me. He’s kneeling next to me now, offering me water from his canteen.

His sleeves are rolled up, showing skin bronzed from the sun, and a picture suddenly flashes before my eyes, of another time he knelt next to me. The memory materializes, and I suddenly know why I’m longing to talk to him. The words are still to be left unsaid. It’s all I can do to handle the sips of tepid water he offers. I lick my lips, surprised to find them stiff and dry.

“It’s been awhile since you’ve had anything to drink, Adam. Doc says we need to get some water in you.”

He holds the canteen up to my lips, though I don’t really want more. His gaze is relentless, pleading. I can’t let him down, and so I try. It takes longer than usual to complete the task. As with the rest of my body, the simple act of swallowing water seems to be complicated. Frustration builds within me, but I’m too tired to give in to it. I hope Joe knows how grateful I am when he recaps the canteen. Maybe he reads the thanks in my eyes.

“We’ll try again in a little while.”

Sparks fly from the fire, and I watch lazily as they float upward. I turn my head, but don’t see the one I’m looking for. A hand on my arm brings my attention back to Joe. My brother is sitting beside me again. He’s been talking low, but I haven’t been paying attention. The thing I notice isn’t what he’s saying, it’s what he’s doing. The kid hasn’t lost contact with me since I first woke up. Patting my hand, pushing the hair off my forehead as he checks for fever, keeping his hand on my arm. He’s continually touching me, much in the same way Pa touches him when he’s sick or injured. He’s learned the lesson well, and I’m amazed at the natural way he handles himself. I find myself marveling at the imagined picture of my little brother as a father. He’ll make a good one. Someday.

I must have been comforted by his presence. The need to find my father seems less intense, and I feel myself drifting again. The fire pops, and Joe’s voice drones quietly on. Even the pain seems less, the ache farther away.

Sleep must’ve found me, because as I open my eyes again, I see the pale light of dawn. I barely stir before my father’s hand is stroking my forehead.

“Welcome back.”

The lilt in his voice is encouraging. Either I look a little better, or Pa figures to heal me with his positive attitude. I hope it’s the first. “Mornin’.”

“Well . . .”

Pa’s eyes almost look a little misty as he stares down at me. I know he wants to say more, but he seems a bit choked up. Guess I haven’t been talking much, but I sure didn’t mean to worry him.

“Thirsty,” I manage.

“I bet you are.”

He pulls the stopper on Joe’s canteen and holds it to my lips. The water feels good, tastes good, but it isn’t enough. Pa must know.

“We’ve got some broth saved from last night. It’s just rabbit, but it’ll be a good start.”

“Sounds good.”

“Well now, you’re the one sounding good, son. Glad you’re up to saying a few words. You had us worried.”

I was right. It must’ve been a long night for Pa. It’s one of the things I hate most, causing my father any worry. I’ve tried hard over the years, to keep my problems to myself. For the most part, I think I’ve been successful. I can see this will be one of the exceptions.

It takes several minutes, but my pa’s soon back with a cup of broth. He slowly feeds me, one spoonful at a time. It doesn’t take very many to fill me up. The broth is thin but warm, yet my stomach feels queasy, and I’m ready to quit before the cup is empty. My pa understands me, as he always has, and sets the cup down before I have to ask.

“That’s enough for now. We’ll just take it slow. A little at a time.”

Nodding my head seems the best I can do right now. Just the effort of eating and drinking has left me exhausted. Leaning back into the saddle, I struggle to keep my eyes open as I look around, trying to make sense of where we are.

There’s a noise off to my left. It’s Hoss. I can hear him moving around then see him as he moves closer.

“Morning, Pa.”

“Morning, son.”

“Well, mornin’, Adam. Good to see you awake. How’re you feelin’?”

“Better,” I manage, though my voice is faint, even to my ears.

“Good. We’ll get you a little more comfortable this mornin’ and try to find something decent for you to eat.”

Obviously Hoss was in on the rabbit meal.

“How long does little brother plan to sleep? Joe. Joe!”

“Hoss! Let him sleep.”

Pa moves towards my brother, his voice stern but his tone relatively soft. “He just went to sleep an hour ago.”


Hoss sounds surprised. Wish I could tell him that I’m curious too.

“He didn’t wake me up, but sat up with Adam most of the night.”

“Why’d he do that?”

“Just something he needed to do, I think.”

Hoss nods understandingly, but I wonder what I’m missing. Why would Joe feel the need to sit up with me? It’s usually Pa that keeps watch when one of us is sick or injured. Why would Joe be worried? Yet I remember the way he kept his hand on my arm last night. The way he watched me when he didn’t think I was looking. What is bothering my little brother? Doesn’t he know that he saved me? Doesn’t he know that I’m the one that should be worried? About him. About the risks he takes. The risk he took . . . for me. “Pa?”

Pa looks down at me expectantly. My strength is waning, but I need to know. “Joe?”

“He’s right over there, Adam. Sound asleep, and probably will be for a few hours.”

“O. . .  okay?” I manage.

Kneeling next to me, Pa lays his hand on my arm, much in the same way my brother did last night. ”He’s fine. We’re all fine.”

I stare at my father, struggling to make sense of the chain of events. Things are confused in my memory, lights and shadows spinning around the vision of my little brother leaning over me. Uncertainty and fear assuaged by strong arms carrying me to safety. It couldn’t have been Little Joe, yet it was. I am certain of it. How did he manage? Where did he find the strength? There is so much I want to ask, but all I can do is stare at my father.

“You’re safe, son. We all are. The Army’s been here, and the Indians are gone. Joe got you back to camp, and an Army surgeon removed the bullet. You’re going to be good as new, but in the meantime, we’re going to camp here and let you get your strength back.”

While he’s speaking, Pa is smoothing the blanket around me, checking my bandage . . . never letting go of my arm as he reassures me, as if sensing the questions I can’t put into words.

I watch him closely, the blue sky silhouetting him. The worried look seems to be fading from his face. I have more questions, but they’re fading too. My eyes seem too heavy to keep open, and I relax as the sun warms the earth around me. I feel like I’m floating. Yet I know that things are taking place around me.

There are the familiar voices of Pa and Hoss, and a new voice . . . a stranger. Idly I listen to his comments, the pieces falling together when he mentions my wound and the possibility of infection. Pa mentioned a doctor, and I think Joe did too. But time seems irrelevant right now. Is he still here? I want to open my eyes, see what’s going on, but the reward doesn’t seem worth the effort.

And then there’s quiet. Peace. I’m warm, relaxed. Even the pain seems a little less.

Tempted to open my eyes again, I realize the sun is in a different position. Past it’s zenith but still high in the sky, I figure I’ve slept for several hours. Memories of other awakenings, broth and water . . . bits and pieces of conversations. I wonder how much time has really passed. But there is a difference with this arousing. Pulling my head off the saddle, I look around our camp. The quiet is explained by the absence of people. Only one person remains. My youngest brother has made himself comfortable against one of the large boulders. I watch him lazily, wondering why he looks worried. He must sense my eyes upon him, because he’s getting up and moving towards me.

“Adam? How are you feeling?”


“Really? Good. That’s good, older brother.”

His voice is filled with the sound of relief. I don’t have the heart to tell him how bad I feel, yet I’m not really lying. I am better. Some. Though I’m in no shape to get up and about, I finally feel like my mind is clearer. I hope it lasts. “Where’s Pa?

Joe settles next to me, a cup in his hand. I know he’s getting ready to push more water or broth on me, but my expression must show my exasperation, ‘cause he’s answering my question first. “He’s out looking for dinner. Thought you’d like something other than rabbit for dinner.”

“Thought that was Hoss’ job.” I manage to mutter.

“It was. But Pa sent him off to the fort instead. He and that doctor went for some supplies, since it looks like we might be here awhile.”


“What are you sorry for?” Joe’s expression shows his confusion almost as clearly as his voice does.

“Holding things up.”

“Now don’t go gettin’ like that, Adam. None of this is your fault, ‘cept maybe that you went sneakin’ off to get that water by yourself. Should’ve at least said something so we could’ve given you some cover.”

I stare at my brother, and my meaning must be clear, ‘cause he grins.

“Yeah, you’re right. Pa wouldn’t have went along with it. Guess I’m still mad that you thought of it before I did.”

Joe holds the cup to my lips, and I take a few swallows. The broth is still warm, and though it’s not the best I’ve ever tasted, it’s almost good. A little is all I can handle, though, and I’m glad Joe seems to realize that.

“Help me . . . sit up.”

“You sure? Pa won’t want you overdoin’ it.”

“Help me.”

I know I can’t last for long, but I’m tired of staring at the sky. It takes a few minutes, but Joe is gentle and does a good job of getting me settled back against my saddle. It’s hard to take a deep breath, but I manage a couple shallow ones before I speak again. “You alright?”

“Me? Adam, you’re a hard man to figure out. ‘Course I’m alright. You’re the one that just had a bullet dug out of his gut.”

It hurts to laugh, so I look away from my brother’s face. Besides, the laughter might turn into something else if I keep looking at him. As usual, his expression is a direct reflection of his emotions. I can read it all there. The humor is a thin mask for the worry. The fear. The relief. He’s been scared, my little brother. Scared for me. How do I reconcile that with my own feelings?


I continue to look towards the skyline, wondering how my own emotions got so out of balance. Maybe being shot does that to a man. Makes him all introspective. Makes him look at things differently. Maybe appreciate people more. Is that what I’m doing? Looking at Little Joe in a different light? Is it being shot that did this, or the fact that my brother laid his life on the line for mine? I know the answer. Know I would’ve done the same. The difference is that we’re talking about Little Joe here. Not me, or Pa or even Hoss.

“Adam? You sure you’re okay? You aren’t talkin’ and that isn’t like you.”

“I‘m okay, Joe. Just thinking.”

“Thinking about what?”


“Me? What’d I do?”

I take a small breath, wishing that I hadn’t spoke up. It isn’t the time to start this now. We have things to talk about, but I don’t think I have the strength. “Tired.”

Joe hesitates, but I don’t look at him. I know that if we make eye contact, I’ll give in and once I start . . . no, we’ll talk later. Moving carefully, I try to get comfortable. I don’t need to look up to know that my younger brother is beside me, first helping me lean forward, then settling me down once more on the blanket. He doesn’t leave my side, even when I close my eyes and let my body relax.

“You sure you don’t want more of that broth?” he asks tentatively.

I swivel my head gently, letting him know both my reluctance to eat more, and that I’m worn out. I hope he doesn’t read anything else into my silence, for I have no desire to hurt my brother.

“Alright then, you get some rest.”

He sounds troubled, maybe even upset, but still Joe remains beside me, one hand resting comfortably on my shoulder. I don’t have any idea how long he stayed beside me like that.


The camp is alive with activity, for this morning we’re finally heading for the Ponderosa. Home.

Almost a week has passed since the good doctor returned from the fort. He brought back a wagon full of supplies, and the rest of our stay has been comfortable at least. But now he’s declared me fit to travel, and Hoss is helping him load the last of the paraphernalia back into his ambulance. The camp once again looks like what it is – a desolate patch of ground, dry and dusty.

I know the whole story now. The way Cochise had us pinned down. I’ve heard about the misguided soldier who killed innocent Indian women and children. I know the risk my father took to get a doctor for me. And about my brother . . . what he did to save me. That part I knew already, but it was good to hear Pa’s telling of it. Made it seem more real than the hazy visions of my memory.

Pa has finished saddling Buck, and is tucking the last items into saddlebags. It’s Joe that I can’t locate. He was here just a few minutes ago, quietly going about the work of saddling and packing. But now he’s disappeared again. He’s done that a lot in the days since we last talked. He’s been close by, yet it’s almost as if he’s avoiding me.

I’m wishing now that I would’ve finished what I started the other day. Why is it so hard for a man to simply say thank you? Why do we get all choked up when it should be so easy to talk to someone close to us? Guess I still have things to learn, at least about little brothers. Seems like I’m always taking the wrong step when it comes to dealing with Little Joe. Or maybe it’s that he isn’t so little anymore, but I just haven’t given up treating him that way. When he picked me up off the ground that day, he proved he wasn’t some wet-behind-the-ears kid. Not that I don’t think he made a stupid move, ’cause I do. Still, it was a move I would’ve made . . . for my brother.

“Adam? You sure you’re ready to try this?”

“Sure, Pa. Can’t be any worse than sittin’ around here eatin’ Joe’s cooking.”

My father laughs at my joke. He knows I’m feeling better if I talk that way. No use worrying him with the telling of my aches and pains. He’s a smart man; knows I’m still hurting. But he also knows that I’m doing better, can handle some short easy days of riding, especially if it’ll get us closer to home.

“Guess it’s a good thing we turned the skillet back over to Hoss.”

Now it’s my turn to chuckle, but I find it dying in my throat when I see Joe’s face. He’s coming back from the wagon, and for just a minute I see a look of sadness there. What he’s upset about, I have no idea, but I know instinctively that it’s my fault. No, our talk can’t wait for later down the trail, or even once we get home. It’s time to get things out in the open. Now. Before we leave. “Pa, I’m gonna walk down and fill my canteen before we mount up. Think it’ll do me good to stretch my legs a little before I get in the saddle.”

“Good idea, Adam. You want some company?”

“Sure, if you don’t mind doing without Joe for a few minutes.”

His knowing glance assures me that Pa has suspected a problem between his sons. Not for the first time am I amazed at my father’s perception.

“No. Looks like he’s about ready, too. How about it, Joe? You mind keeping Adam company?”

For a moment I wonder if my little brother will refuse. After all, it’s a thinly veiled excuse. I’m a grown man, and though I was shot only a few days before, I’m still well enough to walk to the creek for water on my own. But I’m relieved nonetheless, when Joe nods in agreement. Wordlessly he picks up his own canteen and joins me.

It’s not lost on either one of us that we’re taking the same trail we shared before. This time we’re walking side by side, instead of . . . well, instead of the way we did before. And of course, it’s quiet this time. An occasional birdcall or rustling of bushes as a small animal moves about. But definitely no gunfire.

We remain silent, which that alone makes the walk seem strange. Joe’s very seldom quiet. I’m thinking as I walk, struggling to find the right words to say what I have to say without making a big deal out of it. That’s another thing brothers aren’t good at. But we’ve already made it to the big oak, and still I haven’t started the conversation.

I’ve walked at least ten feet or more past that tree before I realize that Joe’s no longer beside me. Turning around, I see him standing quietly, gazing at the ground as if there’s something important to see.


No answer, so I walk back to stand beside him.

“Joe, what’s wrong?”

He still doesn’t answer me, just gazes at the rock-strewn ground. And that’s when I see it. There’s something dark there, a stain in the dirt. Funny that it’s still here, but then there’s been no rain to wash it away. I’m the one staring now, as Joe squats down, his gaze now searching the area around us. I wonder what he’s looking for, but don’t have the nerve to ask. Maybe it’s better that I don’t. Maybe there’s no words needed, just a sharing of the experience.

Joe stands up, and starts to walk away. The look on his face is one of sadness and I wonder again what’s bothering him. It’s not like him to keep things bottled up inside. That’s more of my way . . .


He turns slowly to face me, and I know I have to get it said.

“Joe, I’m sorry I didn’t finish our conversation the other day.”

“That’s okay, Adam. I know you’re upset with me.”

His words hit me hard, and for a moment I’m speechless. He starts to walk away again, but I have to stop him. “Upset with you? Joe, why would you think that?”

He stops, but when he finally looks at me, I’m surprised at what I think I see. Sadness. Regret. Confusion. He thinks  . . . I don’t know what he thinks.

All this time I simply wanted to tell him how proud I am of him, but in my failed attempt, I conveyed something far different. “Joe, I’m not upset with you. Maybe myself, but not you.”

He’s silent, my brother. Looking from me, to that oak tree, and back.

“That day, out here . . . you took quite a chance little brother.”

“Figured you were worth it.”

I know he’s trying to make light of the situation.

“Now Joe . . .”

He walks away from me, back towards that stain on the ground. When he stops there, I’m finally aware that it’s not just me who’s having a hard time expressing his feelings. All this time I’ve been worried about what I wanted to say, and it might be my little brother who needs to talk.

“I didn’t have a choice, Adam,” he begins. “It all happened so fast. When the shooting started and I saw you weren’t in camp, well . . . I just ran. And then, when I saw you laying here. I . . .    Adam, I did what I had to do. What you, or Pa or Hoss would’ve done. I did what you all taught me to do. Watch out for each other.”

“Yeah, I guess we did do that, didn’t we?”

“Adam. I . . . it was . . .  You scared me, Adam. I thought I was too late. And then that first night, when we didn’t have any water and you were suffering . . . I thought. . . Well, I was afraid we were going to lose you anyway.”

So that’s why he stayed so close to me at first. Guess I need to do a little growing up too. Time to treat the kid a little different.

I cover the distance between us. The area is quiet, no Indians to fight, no bullets whizzing past. Looking at the remnants of my blood in the sand, I’m grateful all over for the risk my brother took. Laying my arm across his shoulders, I know I’ll never again think of him as little. Younger? Yes. Immature? Probably. Irritating? Definitely. After all, he is my little brother. He’s just not a little man.

“Joe, the other day . . . when I tried to talk to you. I didn’t mean to give you the wrong impression. I wasn’t upset with you, and I wasn’t doubting you. I was just, well, I just wanted to . . . I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. And to thank you.”

This time Joe sounds relieved. Though maybe a little surprised. “You don’t need to thank me, Adam.”

But when he turns to look at me, I can see the look of pride on his face.

“Let’s go home brother.”

Walking back into camp, I see my father waiting for us. Evidently the look on our faces tells him all he needs to know, and his smile is contagious.

“Come on, Pa. Hoss” Joe calls out happily. “We’re going home.”


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