Summary: Tricked and left with the shortest match, Hoss is the one to be away on business on Pa’s special day, but does he forget his father?
Rated: G (2,960 words)
A Letter from Hoss
The rain had just about stopped and Ben, pulling his hat down low over his brow, dashed out into the street. He darted around the puddles and once had to stop to let a rider pass. The horse plodded through the water, splashing droplets of mud onto the front of his trousers. Ben looked down at the mess and sighed as he continued on to the post office.
Hoss had been gone nearly a month now and Ben was missing his middle son something fierce. It was strange that the house had seemed so empty, so quite with Hoss being away. Ben figured he should have been used to it by now, his sons were hardly home anymore, but this time it was different. Hoss was a man who stood out amongst men, even at home he seemed to fill a room to capacity with his very presence and when that presence was missing, the entire house seemed strangely unoccupied with just the three of them there.
Adam and Joe had pulled one over on Hoss, wetting their fingers before the matches were lit and thus being able to hold onto them longer. Hoss had no clue that his brothers were setting him up, the big man was so trustworthy that he’d never be able to believe that one or both of his siblings was anything but the same. One of these days, thought Ben, Hoss was going to catch on to Adam and Joe’s little tricks and when that day arrived, there would be hell to pay.
Hoss might be mild mannered and easy going, but one should not let the calm exterior fool you. Hoss could be every bit as fierce as his size deemed him to be. Joe and Adam would one day find that out and only then would they realize that they had bitten off more than they could handle. That, Ben wanted to see.
“Any mail for me?” Ben asked at the window.
“I think there’s a letter for ya, Mr. Cartwright, hold on, let me check,” the clerk said as he turned and flipped through the stack of letters.
“Ah…yes, here ya go,” he smiled and handed the letter out the window to Ben.
Ben glanced down at the envelope, recognizing the handwriting right away.
“Good,” he muttered to himself.
He slipped the envelope into his vest pocket and glancing up at the sky and noting that the rain had finally stopped, Ben hurried on down the street to the saloon where he was to meet up with his eldest and youngest sons.
The Silver Dollar had only two customers sitting in a back corner. The rain must have kept most of the regular patrons at home where things were drier. Ben moved into the saloon, and toward the back where the two sat. The pair was sipping on a beer and Ben hurried to the table, anxious to share the letter.
“Hey, Pa,” Joe smiled, seeing the water dripping from his father. “Still raining?”
“No, it finally stopped,” answered Ben as he pulled out a chair.
“Did you think to stop by the post office and get the mail?” Adam wanted to know.
Ben took off his hat and placed it on the table next to his sons’ hats. He leaned back in his chair and withdrew the envelope. Ben held it up so that Adam and Joe could see.
Joe’s face broke into a wide smile as he reached out to take the letter from his father’s hand. Ben drew back, holding tightly to the letter, only he knew who it was from.
“Aw, come on, Pa…is it from Hoss?” Joe excitedly wanted to know.
“Might be,” teased Ben.
“Come on now, Pa…don’t keep us waiting. You know perfectly well, that we miss that big ox every bit as much as you do,” Adam proclaimed.
Ben laughed and then slowly opened the envelope.
“I know you do, but this is addressed to me, not to you Adam, nor you Joe and not to us, just to me,” grinned Ben.
“Hush Joseph, I want to read it, and then I’ll tell you what he says. Thanks Cosmo,” Ben said, glancing up at the barkeeper who just placed a frothy mug of beer down in front of him.
Ben took a sip, scanning the letter first and then going back to the beginning.
“Read it aloud, please, Pa,” begged Joe.
“Alright, Joseph, hold on,” laughed Ben.
Ben cleared his throat and began to read.
Ben glanced over the paper at his two sons, noting that he had their undivided attention.
‘I cain’t believe I let Little Joe bamboozle me like he dun.’
Ben glanced again, but this time he looked straight at Joe and almost laughed aloud when he saw the boy gulp.
‘Is he really your son?’
Ben lowered the letter to the table and looked once more at Joe. Joe had lowered his head, but Ben saw him cut his eyes over at his older brother.
“I think I’ll read this first and then…if there’s anything that the two of you would like to tell me, we can talk about it then, how is that?” Ben said in his deep, ‘I’m warning you’ voice.
Joe suddenly pushed back his chair and stood up. He grabbed his hat off the table; only then did his meet his father’s probing eyes. Had he not been feeling so guilty about having pulled the wool over his middle brother’s eyes, he might have seen through his father guise and known that he was being teased.
“I just remembered that I need to pick up that bridle down at the livery that you wanted me to get fixed. I’ll see ya later, Pa,” Joe said as he backed up from the table. He placed a hand on Adam’s shoulder.
“You coming, big brother?”
Adam raised his head back, looking up at Joe, who looked as if he were turned upside down by the way Adam looked at him.
“Should I?” he asked.
“Umm…it might be a good idea,” Joe squeaked in a strange voice.
Adam returned his head to the normal position, righting Joe.
“Why…oh, yeah…now I remember…um…Pa, if you will excuse me…ere…us?” stammered Adam as he reached for his hat as well.
“You boys run along,” Ben said, trying hard not to smile. “We’ll…um, talk later?” His dark brows moved upward.
“Talk? Yeah, sure…later,” faltered Joe.
Ben returned to his letter, but glanced up just in time to see Joe grab Adam’s arm and practically drag his older brother from the saloon. He snickered, the boys thought he didn’t know what was going on, but he did, and the knowledge caused him to smile.
“Reckon they’ll ever grow up?” he asked Cosmo who had come to claim the empty mugs.
The barkeeper laughed and jabbed a thumb toward the door where Adam and Joe had just exited.
“I thought Adam might, but Joe…well, Ben…we both know that’s another story.”
Cosmo gathered the dirty mugs and returned to his work.
‘Another story,’ thought Ben, smiling. ‘Another chapter in my life…one of many. I suppose it’s the rewards of fatherhood,’ he sighed, picking up the letter once again.
I cain’t believe I let Little Joe bamboozle me like he dun. Is he really your son? What happened to the sweet little boy that use’ta run about the house followin’ us around like he was our shadow? I think we lost’em somewhere over the years, cause now he ain’t nothin’ more’n a swindler, the sorry scamp.
I still ain’t figured out how him and Adam managed to hang on to them hot matches and once again, mine burns my fingers. One of these days, I’m gonna find out how they do it, I know they cheat, cause I seen’em grinnin’ at one another and I knew somethin’ was up, ‘specially when Little Joe has a hand in it.
I’m sitting here in my hotel room, it’s pourin’ down rainin’ outside and it’s just to dadburn wet, even for a duck. I saw a man runnin’ down the street a little while ago carryin’ a small boy in his arms. Guess he was tryin’ to get the boy home before he got too wet or before the boy’s mama got’ta worryin’ too much about him.
Seein’ the man with his son in his arms reminded me of the times when I was a kid and ya toted me around in your arms. I can recalled several occasions of being there, in ya arms, but can’t remember exactly why, except for one, and that wasn’t one of the better memories either. It was when Mama died, Mama Marie that is. I remember when ya came in and told me she was gone and I started crying and ya gathered me up in ya arms. I know I was a hand full, being nearly eleven years old and all, but I’ll never forget how safe I felt right then. I was scared, Pa, real scared cause I didn’t understand what was happenin’. So ya sat us down on the settee, just the two of us, and tried to explain it to me, remember? That’s when Little Joe came in with Adam, they’d been to town when Mama’s horse fell and she got killed. I shall never forget the look of horror on Adam’s face or the shrill scream that Little Joe made when you had to tell’em that his mama was dead and that she’d never be comin’ back.
I cain’t even begin to imagine the hurt, the inner pain and the sorrow that ya must have felt. How did ya manage to live through it, Pa, not just once, but three times? I cain’t think of another man that would have managed as well as you have. I know it wasn’t easy, pickin’ up the pieces of ya life and goin’ on. Ya amaze me, Pa, ya really do.
I know there have been so many times throughout the years that ya must have surely been ready to toss ya hands up in the air and shout, ‘I quit!’, but ya never did. Ya was always there for me, for us, me, Adam and Little Joe. I cain’t remember a time in my life when I needed ya and ya wasn’t there for me. I cain’t remember a time when ya didn’t stand up for me, or defend me, even when I was wrong about somethin’ or when one of us did somethin’ we shouldn’t of, ya always stood by us, no matter what.
I remember a couple years ago, when Joe rode out to bring back that white stallion we bought ya for ya birthday and everythin’ that could go wrong, went wrong. Ya told Adam and me to stay put; but being family and all; we thought we had a right to go along with ya.
Remember what we told ya? That what happens to one of us, happens to all of us? I remember, and I remember what ya said to Little Joe when we finally caught up to’em. He was so upset about loosin’ that stallion, that he started cryin’ and sayin’ that it was a gift to you. Ya was holdin’ Joe in ya arms, and said to’em that ya had ya gift, right there.
Pa, I think that was the nicest thing ya could’ve ever said. That Joe was ya gift, that we was family and that family should stick together. Pa, had it not been for havin’ a father like you, and not some other man, who’s to say how this family might have turned out?
Not everyone has what we have. And we have what we have only because of you. Ya taught me and Adam and Little Joe how to be men, but ya taught us so much more than just that. Ya taught us about family, and about what it means to be family, and how families are suppose to stick together, not just when times is good, but when they’re bad as well.
Ya taught us about God and what God means to a man’s life and how we should do right and not wrong. But most important, ya taught us that as men, it’s okay to say ‘I love you’ and ya taught us that just because we’re men, we shouldn’t be afraid to cry. Ya taught us to love one another, to be honest and trustworthy so that when we gave our word, others would know that we were respectable and we were as good as our word.
There’s so much more that ya taught us. Ya taught us that when we’re wrong, we should admit it, and when we’re right, not to boast about it. Ya taught us how to forgive and how to be compassionate to our fellowmen and not to put ourselves above anyone, cause we’re all here for the same reason and no one, regardless of color or race no man is any better than the man standin’ beside us.
We learned that all men are created equal and that we all have our own stations in life and that we’re to make the most out of our lives, that life is what we make it, so make it the best and be the best we can possibly be.
Life is short, ya told us, and the older I get, the more I understand what ya mean. Ya said, ‘don’t waste time worryin’ about what can’t be’, and ‘take the good with the bad’, and there’s so much more that ya taught us that I cain’t put it all into words. But its in my heart, Pa, and in my head and when I need to remember, it’ll come back to me, cause the lessons ya taught us, was taught in love and not anger, in understanding and not condemnation, in patience and not intolerance.
Pa, ya been both father and mother to this family, that I cain’t find the words to put on paper what you, what this family and what being a part of all of ya, really means to me. I know what I wanna say; I just ain’t no good at sayin’ em. I ain’t never been good at tellin’ ya what I really feel, but maybe what I done said in this letter will let ya know to some degree what’s really in my heart.
Pa, for all ya done over the years, for teachin’ me what I need to know and for the sacrifices ya made for our family, for lovin’ me, even when I know I ain’t worthy, I thank ya.
Pa, for all of it, thanks, especially for being my Pa. I couldn’t have done better if’n I had to choose for myself. I guess that must’va been part of God’s plan ain’t it? I’m glad that He done the pickin’, cause I might not have done such a good job.
Pa, ya the best and I cain’t wait until I’m home so’s I can tell ya to ya face, “Happy Father’s Day, Pa and…I love ya.”
Your devoted son,
Ben felt the sting of tears to his eyes, and quickly brushed them away. It wasn’t often that Hoss spoke as he had in the letter. The sentiment touched his heart, the words seemed to flow directly from the big man’s heart to the paper and express what he was thinking and feeling all at the same time.
The letter was something that Ben would keep; he’d tuck it away with his other treasures that he had collected over the years. He’d be sure to put it with his other letters that his sons had written to him when they’d been away on a special day. Joe had written him two, one for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day last year. Adam had been away last month, and he had thought to write home and wish him Happy Mother’s Day, and now, Hoss wishing him a Happy Father’s Day. How happy he’d been to receive each one of them!
Ben always missed his boys, when they were gone, but more so on special days, such as Father’s Day. He was glad that his sons respected him enough to remember him and cared enough to tell him so. It made life worth living, it make things easier to go on when there had been those times that all he did want was to do as Hoss had stated and just quit.
It was his sons, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe, that kept him from tossing in the towel and it was those three that he’d lived for all these years. It was his boys who had kept him from dying of loneliness during the years after his wives had died. It had been his boys that had kept him young, children, regardless of their ages, had that affect on parents, for once a parent, always a parent, thought Ben.
“Thank you son,” Ben whispered as he folded the letter and stuck it back into his pocket.
“Thank you all, Adam, Hoss and yes, even you, Little Joe, for making life worth living. Without you, it would have been in vain, and so very, very dull.”
Ben walked out into the street. The clouds had cleared and the sun was shining again. When he glanced up the street, he smiled, Adam and Joe was headed his way, and soon, Hoss would be home and they’d be all together once again, as it was meant to be. Ben put on a smile and went to meet his ‘boys’.