Summary: (The Rest of the Story)
Word Count: 6400
Joe was alive! No one could keep quiet. There was yelling, crying and loud cries of rejoicing to see the missing member of the family. Joe was left wondering what was going on, but he figured there was a good explanation for it all. For now, he enjoyed Ben’s arms around him as his father held him close to him. In fact, Ben had been the first one to reach him; Hoss and Adam had stood in the doorway for the longest time with a look of what Joe would characterize as shock on their faces. For now, Joe listened to Ben as he whispered, “My son, my son” as the tears fell from his pa’s eyes into his hair.
The ache in Joe’s side began to grow the longer Ben held onto him. Slightly pushing away from his pa, Joe had a catch in his breath as a pain sent him grabbing for his side. He looked over at Adam and Hoss, who still stared at him like they were looking at a ghost. He knew he had been gone for awhile, but surely not long enough to have generated this reaction he received when he walked into the door. “Hey,” Joe sighed, “what’s going on? You’re acting like I’m dead or something.”
“We thought you were,” Adam replied as he shook his head. Running his hands through his hair, Adam was still trying to overcome the shock of seeing Joe standing there before them. The last image he had of his brother, he recalled as he wiped some moisture from his eyes, was when he thought he had seen of his brother was lying there in the morgue. The boy in the green jacket, the one with his face… Adam didn’t want to go there, an image that would stay in his head for a long time afterwards.
“We saw your horse ride into town with someone hunched over on it. Automatically we thought it was you,” Hoss explained. “By the time we made it over to your horse, the person riding it was gone. Someone told us that the fellow who was tied on Cochise was sent to the morgue.”
Joe’s eyes widened upon hearing this. “The morgue?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Adam looked over at Ben as he continued to speak. “Hoss and I went into the morgue and saw, saw someone that looked like you. The injuries that the fellow had described exactly matched the body in the morgue. This same person was wearing a green jacket.” Adam had to pause, then he continued. “We couldn’t positively identify you because…” At this point Adam stopped then looked over at Hoss who hung his head. Carefully he looked over at Ben and swallowed hard. “What we saw was a fellow that had his face blown off. We saw the dark hair, but neither Hoss nor I could look any further.”
Joe began to look peaked listening to Adam’s tale. Clutching his side he gently sat down on the settee, moaning slightly from the aching pain that was generated from his movement.
Just that movement alone made the other three men suddenly aware of Joe’s physical condition. They were so overjoyed in seeing him that they had overlooked the obvious pain he was in. “Joe?” queried Hoss as he pushed his way past Adam to get to his brother. A fine glean of sweat covered his brother’s face as fever flushed eyes stared back. He was obviously sheltering his right side. Hoss followed the movement on his side and pried Joe’s hand away from his side. There, ever so faintly, Hoss could see the faint stain of blood on his side. “You’re hurt!” he exclaimed.
“I’m fine,” Joe muttered suddenly conscious of everyone’s attention on him. It was okay before, but now that they were focusing on his physical ailments, he was ready for them to leave him alone. He was aching all over and the stitch in his side was hurting pretty bad now. Then, on top of that, the coughing spells he was having earlier in the day seemed to be returning, as he gave out a deep cough from the bottom of his lungs.
Stunned by this turn of events, Ben tried to think clearly as he began barking out orders, “Someone go get the doctor out here now.”
Hoss being the closest one to the door did an about-face and dashed to the door, flinging it open as he ran to the bunkhouse for help. Adam remained inside and moved closer to Joe. Helping Ben remove Joe’s shirt, both men were alarmed to see the wound on Joe’s side. There was a bandage covering the wound, but blood still seeped out around the edges, dripping down his side onto the band of his pants. Ben reached down and carefully removed the bandage thus bringing to light the assortment of leaves pressed up against Joe’s wound.
As Ben pressed on it, Joe moaned. “Ow…”
Ben shared a glance with Adam over Joe’s head. “We need to get him upstairs,” he stated without expecting an answer.
Nodding, Adam agreed with the decision, and with the help of Ben, lifted Joe from the settee and helped him walk to the stairs. The heat from Joe’s body radiated through the clothing of the two men, making them all the more aware of just how sick the young man truly was. How his son made it home in the condition that he was in, Ben had no idea. It was a question that would have to wait until he was feeling better.
Hoss returned into the house and bounded up the stairs, wanting to do anything to help his brother. He was still feeling the shock of seeing his brother alive and well. Although Joe wasn’t in the best of health, it could be fixed. Death was permanent. As he walked past the storage bin, Hoss reached in and grabbed a blanket, carrying it with him into Joe’s room. Ben and Adam had already undressed Joe and were in the process of putting him to bed. It was then that Hoss could see lash marks across Joe’s back from where it appeared he must have met the fate of a whip. Hoss couldn’t help but cringe in pain for his brother, wanting to do anything to make him feel better.
“I got a blanket here,” Hoss announced as he took a step closer to Joe’s bed. Joe was shivering beneath the thin sheet and the equally lightweight covering that was standard for their beds in the spring. Grabbing the edge of the blanket, Hoss let it roll out before covering his brother up with it. “Seems like we done been in this situation before,” Hoss said, glancing over at Adam.
“Yeah, if he had stayed in bed like he was supposed to,” Adam replied, “none of this would have happened.”
“But you knowed that Joe couldn’t have done that Adam,” Hoss answered quickly. “If he hadn’t tried to do something, he would have been snowed under with guilt for not doing something to protect them Indians.”
At that statement, Adam had to admit that Hoss was right. If Joe hadn’t gone, he would have experienced a great deal of guilt and anger for not doing anything. More than not, the anger would have been directed towards his pa and brothers. A noise downstairs caught Adam’s attention, as he whipped his head around to that direction. “Is that the doctor?”
“It couldn’t be,” exclaimed Hoss. “Cole didn’t barely have time to got get him and bring him back.”
Ben who was hovering near Joe’s bed took a step away and went out side into the hallway, peering around the wall into the great room. “Doc Martin! We didn’t expect you here this soon!”
The doctor slowly came up the steps, sweat glistening across his face. “I normally wouldn’t have, but I was on my way back from the Phelps place. Margaret was feeling poorly, so I went to check on her.”
“You ok, doctor?”
Nodding his head, he wiped a layer of sweat off his face. “Yes, I’m fine. The temperature outside seems to have gone up several degrees. This being spring, I’m surprised it is so warm,” the doctor explained. “Besides, your man said it was an emergency and said it couldn’t wait. What’s wrong?”
The doctor paused in his steps and dropped his mouth. “He’s alive?” He rested his hand on the wall as he overcame the shock, then he shook his head, “You know, I was really hoping that what you boys saw was wrong. How I was hoping.” Pushing his shoulders back, he remembered the purpose of his visit, “Where is he?”
Ben walked back down the hall with the doctor and motioned the doctor into Joe’s room. “He’s in here, Paul.” Pointing to his own side, he spoke again, “He’s been shot in the side and he’s running a high fever. He’s also coughing pretty bad.”
“Don’t forget about them whip marks, Pa,” Hoss piped up.
Ben nodded. “That’s right. It isn’t bad; in fact, it doesn’t look like it tore the skin any, but he’s been whipped on his back.”
The doctor pushed past Ben and his sons to get to the ill young man on the bed. Joe’s face was flushed and was breathing erratically as he sought to bring air into his lungs. Interceded with his breathing were deep hacking coughs that made the doctor cringe in pain. From the sound of the cough, the doctor was afraid of what he had on his hands. In fact, without even checking him over he already feared the worse. Pneumonia.
Grabbing his black medical bag, the doctor pulled out his stethoscope then pulled the covers down so he could listen to Joe’s chest. All it took was a few minutes for him to agree with his initial assessment.
When the doctor pulled back quickly, Ben had a sudden tight feeling in his lungs. “Doctor? What is it?”
Dr. Martin slid his stethoscope back into the case before he slowly turned to face Ben. “It’s pneumonia Ben.”
The doctor nodded. As he pulled down the covers, he prodded at the gunshot wound on Joe’s side. Joe tried squirming away in his sleep from the doctor’s prying fingers, but the doctor was just as determined to tend to the wound. He reached over and grabbed a cloth then began dabbing at the dried blood around the wound, wiping the area free.
“I’m surprised, Ben. Considering this hasn’t been properly taken care of, the wound looks free from any infection.”
“Maybe it was the leaves that were stuck next to the wound,” Adam suggested.
“Yes,” Ben replied. “Downstairs we had pulled off the bandage and there was an assortment of leaves pressed up against his skin. I just assumed that Joe didn’t have any way to stop the blood so he used some leaves.”
Carefully the doctor listened. “That may have been a good assumption, except for the fact that if you said there was a bandage; then, from what Joe would have assumed, the bandage would have been enough. Someone else put those leaves against his skin.” Then looking up at Ben and Adam, he continued, “From what you’ve told me, I’m guessing that it would have to be an Indian treatment. I’ve seen this before from trappers who have come to me. They apply a swatch of certain leaves against their wounds and it has a medicinal quality in them, helps aid in the healing process.”
“Indians? Trappers” Hoss inquired. “When would he have come across either?”
Ben looked over at Hoss, “We don’t know, son. We’re just going to have to wait until he gets better to find out the answer to that.” Then he turned to the doctor for suggestions, “So what are we to do now?”
The doctor sighed. “The only thing I can say is that he needs plenty of fluids and rest. And as for his cough, encourage him to cough. He needs to get the mucus up out of his lungs in order for him to heal better. Also,” he said as he dug into his medical bag, “give him half a spoonful of this medicine every hour.” Snapping his bag shut, he paused, then reopened it. “Let me check these whip marks that Hoss mentioned.” With the help of Ben, the doctor was able to pull Joe to one side as he examined the marks on his back. “I think you’re right, Ben,” the doctor said as he pulled out a bottle of alcohol. “I don’t think these marks are that bad. But I’ll treat them anyway, in case they did break the skin somewhere.” As the doctor dabbed at the whip marks, he noticed a faint trail of blood that started out from Joe’s hair. Curious, he laid aside his cotton pad and began probing Joe’s hair, eliciting once again moans from Joe as he struggled in his sleep. The doctor nodded when he came upon a bump.
“I think our young man here was hit on the head,” the doctor announced. “From my guess, it would have been a few days ago.” Reaching for his cotton pad, he parted the hair and began to dab at it with the medicinal pad. The doctor leaned back and carefully laid Joe on his back. Looking up at the concerned men, he smiled. “If he had a concussion, it has been several days since and he’s actually doing okay. The wound is closed and seems to be healing nicely.”
Getting up from the edge of the bed, Doctor Martin grabbed his bag then walked over towards the door. “Remember, you need to make sure he gets plenty of rest. He doesn’t need to be getting up and doing anything strenuous, at least not until the pneumonia is out of his system. If anything, I’m guessing he won’t feel like doing anything for several days,” the doctor said with a smile. “Even so, DON’T LET HIM GET OUT BED,” he said with emphasis.
Chagrined, Ben nodded his head as he answered, “We’ll do everything we can to make sure he stays in bed.”
It was later than evening, long after the doctor left that Joe became progressively worse, his temperature skyrocketing. He was shivering so badly that not only was his body shaking but also the entire bed. It was a strange sound to go into Joe’s room and hear the springs on the bed and the wood frame knocking together. Cool compresses were being applied constantly, and Joe’s coughing was expelling more and more infection. Finally it got to the point where he was so exhausted that Joe didn’t feel as though he could feel anymore cold or feel any worse. Curling up into a fetal position, he desperately sought warmth, but none was to be found.
It continued to be a fight for Joe’s life on into the wee morning hours, until finally by late morning, Ben could stand watching Joe’s shaking no more or listen to his hacking cough. He then ordered Hoss and Adam out to get some help for their brother. Just as they were leaving the room, Ben slipped off his own jacket then crawled onto the bed and tried to warm his son with his own body heat, hoping that some of it would sink into Joe. But as he lay there, he could feel the heat radiating from his son’s body onto his own body. The magnitude of heat was so great, that Ben felt as though he was going to suffocate from the heat.
Ben was in the process of slipping off the bed when the sound of his son calling him tugged at his heartstrings. Turning back over, he hugged on his son as he answered, “Joe, I’m right here son.”
Joe fought the arms that encased his shoulders as he continued to cry out relieving memories from the days before, “No! Stop…. You have to…” His body swayed in the bed as he fought an invisible foe, “Get away from me… No… Don’t…” The rest of the words were mumbled, leaving Ben desperate to understand what was being said. But other than a few words, the rest was a jumble of misplaced words.
All through this, Ben tried to soothe his son, caressing and rubbing his arms. He was beginning to think that he would be willing to try almost anything to calm him down when he saw the door pushing open.
“Pa,” Hoss said holding a glass in his hand. Walking over to the bed, he brought the brown liquid closer to where Ben sat. “We gotta get Joe to drink this.”
Ben took the glass from Hoss then looked inside it, catching a whiff of the smell. Looking away he handed the glass back to his son. “Oh, that’s awful. What is it?”
“Medicine for Joe, pa,” Hoss said.
Seeing the disgusted look on Ben’s face, Adam spoke up. “Pa, it was the weirdest thing. Hoss and I were going to the barn when a young Indian boy came up to us with a bag. He spoke a little English, and said that we were to give what was inside the bag to the young sick brave inside the house.”
“Joe?” Ben asked incredulously.
“Yeah Pa, Joe. The Indian boy told Hoss and I how to fix it and then disappeared.”
“I don’t want Joe drinking that stuff,” Ben said stubbornly.
“Pa, I think this Indian was thinking the best for Joe,” Adam replied.
It was then that the delirium that Joe had earlier returned with a vengeance. Thrashing about on his bed, he was so out of control that Ben was afraid that he was going to hurt himself. Grabbing hold of one of his arms, Adam grabbed the other trying to keep him from doing any damage to himself. No words came out, just a low moan that was carried through the room. A sound of which sent the hairs on every man’s arm lifting into the air. Glancing over at Hoss and the glass of liquid, Ben motioned for Hoss to hand it to him.
Hoss took Ben’s place on holding down Joe as he gave Ben the glass of liquid. Leaning against the headboard, Ben lifted Joe’s head and brought the glass to his son’s lips. Thirsty, Joe gulped the contents of the glass down, not even realizing it wasn’t water until he had finished.
Slowly the substance seeped down into his system. The thrashing and moaning slowly began to subside as an air of calm filled the air. Joe’s fever was still up but the delirium seemed to subside. The hours passed, and with it, the fever slowly seemed to subside. Hoss had elected to stay up while Adam and Ben headed to bed. It wasn’t an easy decision considering Ben had wanted to stay up, but upon persuasion from both his sons, Ben realized that he did need to get some sleep. If anything, he needed good health for his son.
Around daybreak, a sound broke into Hoss’ subconscious. Shaking the sleep from his eyes, he looked across the room to see Joe awake, his eyes clear from fever.
“Hey Hoss,” he replied weakly. Pointing to his glass, he asked, “Could you get me a glass of water?”
Ejecting himself from his chair, Hoss brought the water picture over and poured Joe a tall glass of clear water. With no energy to pull his body up, Joe was dependent upon his brother. Hoss leaned over and helped Joe to lean forward, then holding the glass gave it to Joe who in turn drank the contents slowly.
“Thanks Hoss,” Joe whispered. “I’m about as weak as a newborn kitten.”
“You ought to be, Joe,” Hoss replied sternly. “You’ve been sick for the last few days. We been worried about you.” Pouring some medicine into the spoon, he urged his brother to drink it, “Now I need you to take this, Joe, ‘cause it will help you get better sooner.”
Joe sighed, but did as he was told. He had no energy to fight it. Then as Hoss turned his back, Joe closed his eyes and fell asleep a deep peaceful sleep, one that had healing qualities within it.
For several days Joe continued to wake up for brief periods in the day, but it wasn’t long before he was staying awake for longer periods and was even begging for more substantial food. As his food intake increased, so did his energy level. It wasn’t long before Joe was getting antsy and began to protest the extended time he was forced to stay in bed. One particular morning, his pa and two brothers gathered into the room. He could tell by their behavior that they wanted something just by the looks they kept sharing one another.
“Ok, what do you want?” Joe demanded.
The three men were caught off guard by Joe’s bluntness, but Adam quickly recovered. “We were wondering, Joe,” as he glanced at the other two men, “about what happened to you. The last we knew is that you were headed into Virginia City to talk to the mob. The next thing we heard was that you were actually in the battle.”
A look of recognition covered Joe’s feature as he let out an “oh”. He couldn’t help but give a half-grin as he looked at his family members. “I guess there are a few missing pieces, especially considering you thought I was dead.” A faraway look came to his face as he thought back and recalled the events that led him up to trying to argue with Ornsby and his men.
“As you know, I went into Virginia City to see about changing the minds of the men,” Joe said, with a sideways glance towards Ben.
“Yes, something you were expressively told NOT to do,” Ben replied vehemently.
Joe rolled his eyes but continued, “Well, in Virginia City the men were really riled up about fighting the Paiutes. I tried numerous times to get their attention and talk to them, but they didn’t want anything to do with me. So they all headed out to their horses and were on the warpath, so to speak, to find the Indians.
“All along the ride I tried to convince the men, but no one would listen. So finally I made it to the front of the pack, to General Ornsby, and tried reasoning with him. A few men,” Joe said, “did turn back. I guess they are the ones who were willing to listen to common sense.” He paused a moment to scratch his neck then continued with his story. “If I had known what was about to happen, I also would have turned back. But we rode maybe another mile when suddenly the sound of war whooping sounded in the air. There were Indians coming down from the ridge on both sides, and then popped up from the ground all over. They caught us in an ambush, a well-planned ambush.
“By now I realized that I needed to get out of there, but before I could make good on that thought, an Indian came towards me with a spear in hand.” Hearing a gasp, Joe looked up to see Ben’s face turn white. “Don’t worry, Pa; he didn’t get close enough to me. I had to shoot him. It was either me or him.
“Chaos was everywhere, Indians, our men, stray horses. The next thing I knew was feeling a bullet hit me and then from nowhere I was hit in the head. The last thing I remembered was falling to the ground.”
“Joe!” exclaimed Hoss, “that’s just what we were told. You’d been shot and knocked out. But nobody told us you had been left behind.”
Ben held up one of his hands to interject. “We went back to the site the next day, and other than bodies strewn about, there was no one alive,” he commented. “We couldn’t do very much searching because the Indians there pretty much discouraged our remaining around for very long.”
Joe closed his eyes as he recanted his tale, remembering what had happened. As he spoke, he felt himself relieving the moment on the battlefield, the moment from when he had reawakened on the ground.
There was a sharp pain in his side from where a bullet had gone through his body, thankfully exiting on the other side. As he moved, a throbbing pain from the back of his head reminded him that he had been hit on the head. The sudden pain just before he had been knocked off his horse. Rolling over to his side, he slid his hand through his hair, feeling around for the spot when he felt the sticky feeling of blood. When he pulled his hand forward, he was rewarded with wet, red fingers. Slowly he sat up, unconsciously wiping the dirt from his face as he glanced around at the scene around him. There were bodies everywhere, Indians and white men, intermingled on this battleground of death. A few other men were moving around, but most were on the ground struggling to rise. Most had broken bones, or gunshot wounds. One man in particular was trying to rise from the ground, his arm at an angle that indicated it was broken, when an Indian grabbed him up by the arm then shoved him back onto the ground. The man screamed out in agony at the pain that rifted through his body. Without warning, the Indian picked up his spear and plunged the man in his stomach, watching as the man writhed in pain before removing the spear. Then, with the man watching in horrified fear, he again lifted the spear and plunged it into the man’s body. The second attack from the spear took the life right out of the man. Horrified, Joe was paralyzed in fear. He didn’t know what to do. Unfortunately, his decision was made for him. The iron strong grip of a Paiute, wrapped around his forearm, lifted him up from the ground. Then he felt himself being dragged him away from the area before he was dropped back to ground. Thumping Joe on the head, the Paiute let out a cry then released Joe and walked away. The pain Joe was feeling was enormous, but after seeing what happened to the other man who had screamed in pain, it had silenced him.
The man lying next to him was weaving in and out of unconsciousness, muttering things that Joe couldn’t quite decipher. At one point he began moaning, a moan that increased in volume. Desperate, Joe pleaded with the man to stop, but he continued. From out of nowhere, another Indian appeared and grabbed the man then threw him up onto his horse. This same Indian then grabbed Joe and did the same. As they rode along, Joe continued to hear the cries of desperate men on the battlefield, their cries silenced quickly by the unforgiving Indians.
They rode along for several miles when Joe was able to see the tops of the Paiute shelters hidden beneath the trees. Into camp they rode, with scores of Indian children running alongside the braves, shouting and yelling, while throwing objects at Joe and the other man. Suddenly Joe felt himself being dumped onto the ground, his body jarring against a boulder on the ground. Rolling over, Joe saw the same had happened to the other man. In fact, there were several other men who were brought into camp with them. One by one, the Indian men began to take their captives to various parts of the camp, leaving Joe with his captor.
Cautiously Joe looked up. His Indian was a tall, slender man, his hair tied back, war paint in various colors covering his body. Around his waist he wore a thin strap with a covering that just covered him up. But the thing that struck the most fear within Joe was the look on his face. The man looked angry; pure anger seemed to pour out of his eyes as he looked down at Joe. It was then that Joe had the feeling of fear, strong unadulterated fear.
Giving no evidence of caring that Joe was already injured, a bullet hole in his side, the Indian grabbed Joe and began to drag him through the camp, yelling things that left Joe wondering what was being said. Apparently it wasn’t anything good because out of shelters came varying people — old men, young women and children — all with the same goal on their mind. Throw things at him and try and make him cry out. Having already seen what happened when a man cried out in pain, Joe took the torture in silence, biting the inside of his mouth from crying out. Some of the people aimed well, too well for Joe’s interest.
A yell from his captor stopped the throwing. Tossing Joe to the ground, the Indian went over to a makeshift pole and began to loosen the leather tongs from it. Joe looked up and could distinctly see the color of blood wrapped around the pole; in fact, there was another pole about six feet away in the same condition. Uncertain as to what was about to happen, Joe tried to move away. Whatever was about to happen wasn’t going to be pretty, he thought to himself as he inched backward. A foot behind him stopped his motion.
The Indian finished with his loosening of the leather and moved towards Joe. He then barked out orders. Two other Indians came forward and grabbed Joe by the arms, pulling the struggling man to the poles. Each Indian tried grabbing an arm, while Joe fought with them. In anger. Joe struck out at them, catching one of the Indians in the chin. In return, Joe’s captor caught Joe off guard as he sunk his fist into Joe’s stomach. Bending over in pain, Joe felt his body being forced upwards as one Indian grabbed his right arm and the other Indian grabbed his left. Then together the Indian men tied Joe to the posts, his arms spread away from his body.
Off in the distance, Joe could hear the tortured screams of a man just as his captor picked up a switch and began swinging it through the air. The sounds of the other man faded from hearing when instead the cutting sound of the switch filled Joe’s ears. Getting behind Joe, the Indian sliced through the air then sent the switch flying against Joe’s body. Joe gasped out in pain. Again the Indian hit him, and again Joe gasped, allowing no sound of pain to escape through his mouth. The Indian was determined to make his captive cry out, so he moved around to the front sending the switch flying through the air. Joe cringed, ready for the next onslaught when a sharp woman’s voice interrupted the swinging whip. Joe, unable to lift his head, was trying to find his way through the pain when he watched the switch drop to the ground. Puzzled, he became further confused when he felt the leather thongs around his wrists loosen. He dropped to the ground and lay in a huddled heap on the ground. Slowly Joe looked up to see an Indian girl standing before him. Rolling over on his side, he groaned slightly and tried to squint his eyes. This girl looked familiar. Then from somewhere in the fartherest regions in his memory, it hit Joe. This was the girl he tried rescuing from William’s Station, the Paiute Indian. She was alive.
Joe struggled to his feet, using the bloody poles next to him for support. Breathing heavily, he tried to speak to the girl, to get closer to her. But his captor took a step forward, separating Joe from her. From behind, the girl shook her head and pointed for him to leave. Then pulling a knife from her dress, she held it up to her throat giving a swiping motion.
It was then that Joe realized if he didn’t leave, he would be killed. Without a second thought, Joe stumbled away from the area, his feet heavy and his body ready to collapse on him. The illness that he had thought he had conquered came back to him with a vengeance as he paused to let out a deep cough. For a moment, Joe paused and looked behind him to see the girl and his captor standing close next to one another. It was then when he realized, the two were in love, and it was his captor’s love for her that allowed him to release his prize, his prisoner of war.
As Joe walked, or more likely stumbled out of camp, he headed in the direction of home. Home to the Ponderosa. How he was going to get there, Joe wasn’t sure. His horse was gone and there were no others to be had. For several miles he walked a teetering course towards home when a root sticking up from the ground sent him tumbling to the ground, and down the hill he had just conquered. Exhausted, he laid there partially in a stream trying to gather the energy to get up and go home. But his energy was gone, spent on that hill he had nearly made it over. Resting his head briefly against a rock, from an area deep within him he pulled from a strength he didn’t realize he had as he struggled to move. If anything, to get out of the limb numbing stream, its waters coming straight down from the snow caps from the mountains. It was as he struggled back to his feet that a boy came into a view. A Paiute Indian boy leading a sad-looking horse came down to where Joe lay. The horse had hair missing in several areas, yet it was with pride that the Indian boy brought it over to Joe.
With the little English that the boy spoke, Joe was able to decipher that his mother was the second Indian woman whom he had tried to save. She had watched from a distance, fearing to come forward. When the younger one had stepped in to save Joe, she knew that the condition that Joe was in, there was a chance he wouldn’t make it home alive. So she sent her son to follow him, to watch over him. From around his neck he carried a mixture of leaves and herbs, which he then applied to Joe’s wound on his side. The blood which was flowing freely seemed to react positively to this treatment, as it slowed down to a trickle. Together, the boy and he made camp, finding an embankment that protected them from any intruders. And together they slept, the young boy keeping an eye on the intriguing white man whom his mother had directed him to protect.
By the next day, Joe was still feeling weak, but had enough stubborn genes within him that he wanted to get home. With some help from the Indian, he mounted the horse and was in enough pain that he didn’t mind the boy taking the lead with the horse. For awhile, he roused from his fog to direct the boy where to go, interspersed with his coughing. He was feeling hot all over and was feeling worse the closer they got to the Ponderosa. It was none to soon when Joe began to recognize the signs of home. As they rode into the yard, the young Indian boy disappeared, leaving Joe to ride into the yard on his own. The horse meandered into the yard, slowly approaching the house when a yell from the front porch brought Joe’s head up from where it was resting on the pommel. It was Hop Sing, sitting outside peeling potatoes who saw him ride into the yard first. Somehow he got off the horse and into Hop Sing’s arms, who brought him inside and rested him on the settee. He hadn’t been home long, just long enough to catch his breath before the rest of the family arrived.
Listening to this tale, Hoss’ mouth had dropped open and had yet to be closed, while Ben and Adam listened with alarm. It was Adam who spoke first.
“Joe,” he paused as the magnitude of what happened sunk in. “Do you realize those two women ended up saving your life? The first one because you would have been tortured and surely killed. The second,” Adam said, as he raised his hands for emphasis, “sent her son to be with you. This same son,” he continued, “brought medicine for you the night that we thought we were going to lose you.”
Joe listened with equal surprise. “Really? I thought for sure he would take his horse and go back to his people.”
Ben shook his head, “No, the horse that you apparently rode in on has been down in the corral.”
“Wait a second, Pa,” Hoss interjected. “The horse is gone now. He was down there everyday that Joe has been ill, but this morning when I check the horse was gone.”
“Gone!” Ben exclaimed.
Adam sat there with a slight smile on his face as he turned to face Joe, “You know, Joe, I think he must have stayed around just to make sure you were going to be okay. I have a feeling that he wanted to go back home to his mother and tell her that you were going to live.”
Joe smiled, “I think the favor has just been repaid.”
“The favor?” Hoss questioned.
“I tried to save his mother’s life,” Joe explained, “and in turn for my trying, they ended up saving mine.”