Word Count: 15,000
Little Joe Cartwright sat on the sleigh with his father in silence as they watched Adam and Hoss trudge up the steep hillside, pulling sleds behind them. Ben and Joe were sitting in the horse-drawn sleigh, bundled under blankets to keep warm. When Adam and Hoss reached the top, they disappeared for a few minutes and then they came back into view, racing down the hill on their sleds. Hoss was in the lead but Adam was not far behind him. They passed swiftly by in front of the sleigh, their laughter echoing loudly in the still air. They landed in a heap at the bottom of the hill; then they rushed over to the sleigh, laughing and talking. Their faces were red from the wind and from the excitement.
“Well, how was it boys?” Pa asked as they stopped at the sleigh to get their breath.
“Pa, that’s the most fun I’ve had in years. This hill is the perfect place to sled, much better than the south slope, isn’t it Hoss?”
“Yessirree, Adam. Come on, let’s go again, only this time, I’ll give you a head start. Did ya see how much I beat him, Joe?”
Little Joe didn’t reply, but sat there with his arms crossed and his jaw set firmly, showing his disapproval of the current situation.
“Joseph, I believe your brother was talking to you, Son. I believe you owe him an answer.” Ben gave his youngest son a look that dared him to not respond.
Joe swallowed and looked at Hoss and said, “Yeah Hoss I saw you. I bet I could beat you though.” He looked at his father hopefully as he said this, trying to see if he were making any headway. His father’s expression told him that he was wasting his time, so he went back to his peeved expression.
Ben just rolled his eyes and said “You boys go on; Joe and I will watch you from here.”
Needing no further encouragement, Adam and Hoss went back up the hill, then rapidly down again. In all they made several more trips up and down the hillside until their father signaled them to come back to the sleigh.
“I think that’s enough for now. I think Joe has been out long enough and I could use some warming up myself. Aren’t you two ready to call it quits today?”
“Yeah Pa, some of Hop Tseng’s hot cocoa would taste mighty good right now.” Hoss said.
“I tell you what Pa, how about we take one more quick run down the south slope and we’ll just about beat you home that way.” Adam said.
“All right, but come on in then. No use in you two catching cold too.” With that, Adam and Hoss began their final climb back up the hillside and Ben urged the draft horses pulling the sleigh back onto the path to the ranch house. The horses needed little urging because they knew that a warm barn and fresh hay awaited them. The harnesses jingled merrily as they pulled the sleigh toward the house. As they rode Ben again tried to get Joe into a better mood, though he knew it was probably a hopeless cause.
“Little Joe, as soon as Doc Martin says it is okay, I’ll take you to the south slope and you can sled as long as you like.”
Instead of making things better as he planned, that made Little Joe even madder. His eyes flashed intensely and his jaw set as he looked at his father, “The south slope is for babies. I want to sled on the same hill that Hoss and Adam sledded on Pa. I can do it just as good as they can!”
Ben sighed, wishing he had left well enough alone, instead of adding fuel to the fire. “Joseph that hill is too steep for someone your age. The south slope is plenty steep enough for you yet.”
Joe said nothing, but gave a deep sigh of exasperation at this new injustice.
“Joseph, that is about enough of your bad temper. You’ll have plenty of time to go sledding when the Doc says you’re well enough. And you’ll have plenty of time when you are older to go down the north slope. Now you just quit being such a sourpuss or I’ll send you to bed. Is that clear?” He looked at Joe and Joe knew he had crossed that thin line between wearing his father down to his way of thinking and making him mad.
“Yes, sir, Pa. I’m sorry.” Joe smiled at his Pa, showing his contrition.
“Well just see you don’t let it happen again, Son.” Ben was quick to accept his apology, hoping to spend the rest of the afternoon on a more pleasant note. He put his arm around Joe and hugged him close, then pointed out some fresh tracks by the woods and asked Joe to identify them. By the time they reached the house, Little Joe was in a much better humor. When they reached the house, Ben let Joe out and sent him toward the house. Joe was met at the door by an anxious Hop Tseng who quickly whisked him into the warmth of the house. Ben unhitched the sleigh and took the horses into the barn to care for them. As he worked, he heard Adam and Hoss approaching, laughing and talking excitedly. He was glad they had been able to enjoy the afternoon; it had been a long time since either of them had been that carefree, especially Adam. Despite Joe’s temporary bad mood, it had been a pleasant afternoon.
Joe was recovering from a bout with a bad cold that had made Paul Martin fearful he would develop pneumonia. His coughing and lung congestion and fever had them all worried, but after a couple of weeks of rest, Dr. Martin’s careful attention, and Hop Tseng’s broth and Chinese teas, he seemed to be recovering finally. Paul had just that morning given them permission to let him outside for the first time in three weeks, though he had cautioned Ben to watch him carefully and make sure he didn’t get over-tired or cold. He had vetoed his participation in the sledding expedition, but had told Ben if he kept him warm, he could go for a ride in the sleigh. Not wanting to spoil Adam’s and Hoss’ fun, Ben had combined the two events. He was inclined to overlook some of Joe’s bad temper since he knew being restricted to bed rest for two weeks and then another week inside had been an ordeal for the normally active seven-year old.
Hop Tseng had checked to make sure Joe’s clothes were dry and had settled him in front of a roaring fire with a cup of steaming hot chocolate. Hoss and Adam had changed and had just come downstairs when Ben came inside. Soon Hop Tseng had them all drinking hot beverages. Adam, 19, preferred coffee; but Hoss, at 13, still preferred hot chocolate. Both Adam and Hoss who had noticed Joe’s disappointment at not being allowed to sled made sure to include him in the conversation. They relaxed and enjoyed the fire and the warmth of the house after the cold, biting wind of the afternoon.
Hop Tseng called them for dinner and they moved over to the dining table, where Hop Tseng had made hearty beef-vegetable soup and cornbread for dinner. Ben encouraged Joe to eat more several times, but tried to downplay it so as not to make an issue out of it. At least he was eating again and he thought a little more time was needed to perk up his appetite. Joe had never been a huge eater anyway, and his inactivity had probably compounded his lack of appetite. Hoss and Adam more than made up for Joe’s lack of appetite, as their physical exertion had given them voracious appetites.
Over the next few days, Ben allowed Little Joe to accompany him or his brothers to the barn and bunkhouse and Joe continued to improve. Finally Doc Martin was satisfied that he was fine and told him he could return to normal activities, within reason. Little Joe heard only the part about returning to normal activities, but his father heard the “within reason” and that of course raised an inherent conflict between father and son. The weather proved to be Ben’s ally in this because the weather improved so that the snow on the hillsides was not adequate for sledding. The temporary reprieve in the form of warmer temperatures and sunshine rapidly turned the hillsides to slush, making sledding impossible.
The break in the weather was a benefit to the Cartwrights, making it easier for them to check on the herds and make sure they had adequate feed and water. The next several days there was a flurry of activity on the ranch; everyone was too busy to think about the pursuit of recreational activities. Adam and Hoss were kept busy riding to the various herds and checking to make sure the weather breaks were in good condition, that there was sufficient running water, and supplies of feed.
Ben took on the job of taking fresh hay to the herds, taking Joe along with him to help. Joe would have much preferred to ride with Adam and Hoss, but at least he was not left at home under the close scrutiny of Hop Tseng. He chattered away to his father, asking questions and frequently answering them or asking another one before Ben could think of an answer. When they came to a stop, Joe jumped into the back of the wagon, right along with his father, raking the hay out to the cattle. Ben kept a close eye on him at first, trying to make sure he was really feeling all right, but since Joe showed no signs of distress, he began to relax and not worry excessively.
Joe asked everyday if he could go out with Adam and Hoss, and finally when they had come home for lunch, Hoss decided to try to help him out with Ben.
“Hey, Pa, Adam is going to be spending the afternoon working on the books with you, ain’t he?” Hoss asked, innocently.
“Yes, Hoss, I told you, he and I need to get that bid for the Army ready by next week and I thought this would be a good afternoon to do it, since the herds are all in good shape. Why do you ask?”
“Well I just remembered I have one more place to check. Remember that small herd of range cattle over behind Hopper’s Creek? It ain’t too far and won’t take but about an hour. I was wondering if I could take Joe along to help me.”
Ben knew he had been set up at that moment. Joe had immediately got a pleading look in his eyes and was watching his father, smiling in anticipation. Ben looked at Hoss and made a slight frown, just enough to let him know that he knew he had been had, then he winked.
“Well, Hoss, I don’t know. I don’t mind, but you’d have to ask Little Joe if he wanted to go with you.”
“Yes Hoss, I’ll go with you!” Joe shouted, so excited he was jumping up and down in his chair.
“Well, if you promise to go straight there and come straight back, I think that will be fine, then Sons.”
Ben and Adam exchanged a smile when they saw Joe’s wink at Hoss. So it had been a setup, but it had been Joe’s idea, not Hoss’. They both knew very well that although Joe was younger than Hoss, Joe was able to persuade Hoss to do just about anything he wanted him to.
Ben and Adam had worked for a couple of hours when Ben got up to get a cup of coffee. As he walked past the grandfather clock he noticed the time and became a little uneasy because Hoss and Joe weren’t back yet. He opened the door and looked to see if he saw them. Adam, seeing his father’s actions and interpreting them precisely, joined Ben at the door.
“Pa, it takes a good hour to get there and a good hour to get back. If Hoss had to do any kind of repair to the fence or shelter, it would take a little longer than 2 hours, you know.”
“Oh, yes I guess you’re right, Adam. But listen. Seems like the wind is getting up, doesn’t it?”
Adam listened for a few moments, then walked out further onto the porch and looked up at the sky. “Whew, Pa, look at those clouds.” He pointed to clouds behind the ranch house. “Looks like our good weather is coming to an end soon. Looks like a good snow storm coming up.”
Immediately Ben’s slight uneasiness increased several notches. He was about to suggest that they go look for Hoss and Joe when they heard the sound of approaching horses. They were both relieved when they saw Hoss and Joe riding into the Ponderosa ranch yard. Then they laughed when they realized that Joe was talking to Hoss a mile-a-minute and Hoss was listening, as if enthralled by every word.
Ben and Adam walked over to greet them and Ben reached up and took Little Joe down from his horse and gave him a bear hug, resulting in a giggle from his son. Then Ben said “You two better get inside and get warmed up. Looks like a big storm coming up!”
“Yeah Pa, that’s why we came on back as fast as we could. Looks like it’s gonna be a whopper!”
Two ranch hands from the bunkhouse materialized and took the horses and the four Cartwrights went inside. The daylight faded quickly that afternoon and by 5 PM, it was as dark as midnight outside. The wind was howling and the first snow began to fall. The snow was wet and heavy and the temperature seemed to drop with every snowflake that fell.
Inside the ranch house though, it was warm and cozy with a roaring fire and the pot-bellied stove both burning. Hop Tseng also lit fires in each of the bedroom upstairs so that the rooms would be warm by bedtime. After having a hot meal, the Cartwrights settled in for a relaxing evening, knowing that they had prepared the herds as much as possible and there was nothing for them to do now until the storm was over.
Hoss and Little Joe played several games of checkers, with Hoss pretending to think every move was going to outsmart Little Joe and Little Joe giggling delightedly with every move. Little Joe won the games by 3 to 1. At about 10 PM, Ben realized the time and said, “Joseph, it’s way past your bedtime. Get on upstairs and I’ll be right there.”
“Papa, how about reading a story down here so Hoss and Adam can hear too?” Joe pleaded; knowing this would give him a short reprieve from leaving the rest of them. He hated to go upstairs before they did, because he knew he missed out on important things then.
“Well, I guess that will be all right, since none of us are going to be getting outside tomorrow. There’s no need to get up early. Pick out a book and I’ll read.” Joe went over to the shelf of books and spent a deliberate amount of time selecting just the right book. Finally after Ben’s admonition to hurry up or forget it and go on to bed, Little Joe brought
Ben began to read with Joe sitting in his lap. By the end of the second page, Joe was drowsy. By the end of the third page, he was out like a light. Because it was so warm and cozy and Adam and Hoss were listening, Ben continued to read until he finished chapter one. Then he quietly closed the book and looked over at Adam and Hoss. Hoss was sound asleep and Adam was drowsy, too. Ben laughed and woke them both up to go to bed. While Ben carried Joe up to bed, Adam locked all the doors. He took a quick look at the storm before he locked the door and saw that the snow was falling fast and showed no signs of letting up anytime soon. There was already an accumulation of 12 or more inches.
Adam banked the fire and went upstairs. He stopped at the door to Little Joe’s room and watched his father as he gently kissed Little Joe good night and covered him up, tucking the blankets in tightly on both sides. When Ben came to the door, he laughed and said, “That’ll last for 10 minutes at best.” Ben laughed with him and said, “Yeah I will have to get up several times tonight to cover him up. No wonder he gets so sick with a cold. But Hop Tseng has his room toasty and that fire should last most of the night. I’ll build it back up when it starts to die down.”
“Yeah, he wrestles with those covers all night. The little rascal.”
Ben put his arm around Adam and said, “Good night, Son. See you in the morning.”
Adam continued on to his bedroom, Ben stopped in Hoss’ room to tell him good night. Hoss was asleep and under the covers, snoring slightly already. Ben said, “Good night, Son. Sleep well.” and then hurried to his own room to get into bed.
True to his word, Ben had gotten up several times that night to make sure Joe was warm enough and sure enough, each time he did, he found the bed covers on the floor or all twisted around. He kept the fire going and added wood as necessary to keep the room warm. Each time he was up he looked to see if the snow had stopped, but each time the snow was still falling heavily. He arose just before dawn and built up the fires in all the bedrooms and then headed downstairs for a cup of coffee.
As expected, Hop Tseng was up with a fresh pot of coffee brewing and the fires burning brightly. Ben gratefully accepted the mug of coffee when Hop Tseng handed it to him. He and Hop Tseng observed the snow together, noting how high the snow had accumulated all ready, with no sign of letting up anytime soon. The ropes that they had placed much earlier in the year for such an event were barely evident under the snow. Each year before the first snows, they placed sturdy guide ropes from the kitchen door to the barn in case they needed to go check on the livestock. Fortunately there were 6 men in the bunkhouse and they had the responsibility for seeing after the livestock since they had direct access to the barn. But the ropes were there in case of emergency so they wouldn’t get lost in the snow.
Ben sat in the dining room to drink his coffee, while Hop Tseng went about his duties. “Hop Tseng, I thought we’d let the boys sleep in this morning, since they can’t get out anyway.”
Hop Tseng nodded his agreement, though he didn’t speak. Hop Tseng retained a mysterious air about him in regards to his relationship with the family. He did not engage in conversation with them frequently, though he always made his opinions known quite clearly. He had a habit of lapsing into Mandarin when he was upset, though the tone of his voice left little room for doubt if he were unhappy. Little Joe was the only one who seemed willing to stand up to him and he frequently “spoke” back to him, though Ben thought it was just imitation on his part. He and Ben had developed a peaceful and comfortable routine over the years. Ben, the inveterate early riser, frequently had a cup of coffee in the mornings, seated at the kitchen table while Hop Tseng made breakfast for the family. The fierce storm still raging outside made that house all the more cozy and inviting this morning.
Soon Ben heard someone coming down the stairs and he went to welcome Adam. Adam was always the second to rise, with Hoss right behind him. Joseph would generally be in bed until someone went to wake him up. This was a task frequently relegated to Hoss since he seemed to have better success at it. Hoss was so sweet and good-natured that it was hard for someone to get angry with him and he was seldom affected by Joe’s ill-tempered barbs since he knew he was just grouchy and didn’t really mean to be insulting.
Since there were no chores to do that morning, Ben and Adam and Hoss decided to have their breakfast and just let sleeping bears lie this morning. It was 10:00 AM before Little Joe came down stairs, dressed but his shirttail still out and he was wearing socks and carrying his boots. He was surprised to see that everyone was in the living room. Ben and Adam were playing a game of chess and Hoss was watching. They looked up and smiled when they saw him coming downstairs.
“Hey Short Shanks. It’s about time you got up. It’s almost lunch time.” Hoss said.
“Morning, Son. Did you catch up on your sleep this morning?” Pa said smiling.
Little Joe was still rubbing his eyes, trying to shake the sleep out of his system as he came downstairs. He felt sort of foggy, the way one gets from sleeping too much. He walked over to Ben and climbed up in his lap. Ben welcomed him and pulled him tight; this was becoming more and more infrequent as Little Joe grew older. Soon Hop Tseng came into the great room and brought Joe breakfast on a tray, which he put on the big coffee table. While Joe ate his breakfast, the family chatted and enjoyed something they had very little of usually, time with nothing to do.
The rest of that day was spent trying to entertain each other and trying to entertain an active 7 year old who was spoiling for adventure. By mid-afternoon, Ben realized that the rest of the family and Joe were on a collision course. Adam had read to him; Hoss had played checkers with him and even played with some of his tin soldiers, but Ben could see that even Hoss was tired of trying to entertain Joe. Joe wasn’t exactly misbehaving; he was just too active for inside the house. Ben was looking for some thing to serve as an outlet for his high energy when he remembered the books and toys that he had bought Joe the last time he went to San Francisco. He often picked up things for the boys when he was on business trips since the selection in Virginia City was not always satisfactory.
Ben sent Joe to the kitchen on an errand and then quickly got up and went into the storage closet under the stairs and brought out the package. When Joe came back he called him over and said, “Hey Joe come look what I have for you!”
Joe excitedly took the bag and began looking through it. There were two brightly colored mechanical toys. One of them was a monkey and when you put a coin in the monkey’s cap, the monkey turned his hat, allowing the coin to fall into a bank. There was one item in the bag that none of them recognized. It was a round wooden disk, with string wound around the middle of it. All of these items held Joe’s interest momentarily, but he was mesmerized when he came to a book in the bag. This surprised both his brothers and his father. The book was a book about horses and on the cover was a black and white pinto. Joe looked at the horse and then at his Pa and said, “That’s the horse I want Papa. That one right there. That is the bestest horse I ever saw.” He spent much of the afternoon staring at the horse on the cover and reading with either his Pa or his brothers about the pinto pony. They each pointed out other handsome horses, but Little Joe maintained his assertion that the black and white horse on the front was the horse for him.
Later that afternoon, when Joe had finally become bored with the book about horses, he sorted through the other items. He played briefly with the mechanical toys, getting change from his brothers to put in the monkey bank. After he had demonstrated the action of the monkey to Hoss, using Hoss’ money, Hoss said, “Hey wait a minute Joe, give me my money back!” Joe smiled at him and said, “Hoss I can’t take away the monkey’s money. Why that’d be cheatin’!” Little Joe gave his brother a mischievous grin and Hoss pretended to be put out with him, but the twinkle in his eyes gave him away.
Next Joe picked up the disk and turned it all around, trying to figure out what to do with it. As he did this, the string came loose so he unwound it, expecting something to happen, but all it did was wind up in a heap on the floor.
“Pa what’s this thing good for?” Adam and Hoss were watching too, just as perplexed as Little Joe was.
Ben said, “Hmm, Son, I’ll have to think about that. The man at the toy store said it was the toy all the boys in San Francisco are playing with. He called it a jou-jou or something like that. You hold the string in your hand and the disc rolls up the string.” He took hold of the string with the disc dangling at the other end, but the disk just dangled.
Just then Hop Tseng came into the great room bringing coffee and hot chocolate for the Cartwrights. Hop Tseng smiled when he saw the toy in Joe’s hand and said, “When you get disc, Little Joe?”
“You mean this, Hop Tseng?” and held out the disc. “What’s it s’posed to do, Hop Tseng?”
“Boys and girls play with this in China for long time.”
“How do you play with it, Hop Tseng?”
Hop Tseng skillfully wound the string around the tube holding the two sides of the round disk together. He then wound the end of the string around his finger and began to make the disk climb up and down the string, and then he wrapped it around his other hand and began to demonstrate even more elaborate tricks. All the Cartwrights were fascinated as Hop Tseng demonstrated his prowess with the toy. Finally he showed Little Joe how to wind the toy up just right and how to do the basic movement.
“You keep practice and Hop Tseng will show you more tricks later. Hop Tseng must get back to kitchen.”
Little Joe and his brothers took turns practicing with the toy for the rest of the afternoon. Ben was satisfied to leave the playing to them, though he did cheer them on.
The bag of toys was just the diversion Ben had hoped it would be and they made it through the rest of the day with no major temper tantrums. The storm seemed to be abating as the long day turned into evening. Ben decreed an early bedtime and since everyone was bored anyway, no one objected strongly.
“I think the storm is winding down and we will see what the yard looks like tomorrow. We’d better go on to bed, we’ll have to dig our way to the barn tomorrow, boys.”
So a long winter day had passed peacefully on the Ponderosa and Little Joe had discovered his favorite horse. For a bedtime story, he insisted that Ben read to him the details about the pinto pony on the cover of the book. He drifted off to sleep as his father read to him, dreaming of black and white horses and bright colored toys and snow-covered mountains.
Ben Cartwright was out of bed even earlier than usual because he wanted to see the effects of the storm. He welcomed Hop Tseng when he brought a cup of strong black coffee to his bedroom. He went to the small balcony of his second floor bedroom to get a good look at the snow. He was not surprised at the sight of the yard; judging by the permanent measuring stick painted on the side of the barn, there were at least 6 feet of snow, not counting the snow drifts. Although they had taken every precaution to protect the herd prior to the snowfall, he knew they had to get to the herd now to see what needed to be done. The herd would need fresh hay and grain and they would need to break up ice off the water to make sure the cattle could drink. First of all, they had to dig their way out. He could see that was going to take all three of them working together to get that done.
He went to wake Adam and Hoss but was not surprised to meet Adam in the hallway.
“I already woke Hoss, Pa. He’ll be out in a minute. Do you want me to wake up the squirt?” Adam had a cheeky grin on his face as he asked this last question.
Ben hesitated only briefly, then replied with an answering smile, “No, Adam, let’s don’t unnecessarily complicate things. Let him sleep as long as possible.”
Ben and Adam both felt guilty about this because they both knew that Little Joe loved snow and would want to be out in it as soon as possible. But they also knew that the snow was higher than he was right now and his efforts to help shovel the snow would be more of a hindrance than help. Much better to get as much of it done as possible before he was up. Ben and Adam and Hoss ate a quick breakfast of biscuits and ham and hot coffee and got right down to work. Ben and Adam started to shovel a pathway to the barn while Hoss began to shovel towards the woodpile, since both were essential. Ben periodically stopped Adam to listen for sounds of the ranch hands, who he expected to be shoveling from the opposite side. Finally they heard them and they began to communicate their whereabouts, hoping to meet in the middle.
The frequent shouts right below his window eventually filtered into Little Joe’s dreams and he woke up. For just a moment he lay in the bed, trying to figure out what the sound was. When it finally came through to him, he jumped up and ran to the window. Seeing the snow and his father and brothers out shoveling, he hurriedly ran down the stairs and out the front door.
“Pa. Pa! Wait for me. I wanta help!”
About the time Ben saw him and turned to go to him, Hop Tseng came rushing from behind and grabbed him up, fussing in Chinese. Ben shook his head and told Adam, “Can you and Hoss finish this up? I think we’re almost to the middle and I’ll go in to help with Little Joe.”
Adam laughed and said, “Sure Pa. For a minute there I was afraid you were gonna ask me to go help with Joe and let you finish here.”
Ben said, “Hmmm, too bad I didn’t think of that sooner.” He headed back to the house where Hop Tseng was headed with the wriggling, barefooted, pajama-clad boy in his arms.
“Well good morning Joseph!” he said, taking hold of Little Joe from Hop Tseng.
“Pa, why didn’t you get me up? I can help shovel. That’s the most snow I’ve ever seen, Pa.” He said excitedly as his father carried him upstairs. Ben sat him on the bed and began to lay out clothes for him to wear starting with warm woolen long johns and thick socks, dressing him in layers of shirts and pants. Little Joe complained about the woolens, saying they made him itch, but when his father told him he couldn’t go outside without them, he acquiesced. When he was finally satisfied, Little Joe looked about twice his normal size. However he was so glad to be finally dressed that he didn’t stop to complain, but went running downstairs and was just at the front door when his father’s voice stopped him.
“Joseph! You have to eat breakfast first.”
Little Joe let out a loud sigh, but knowing that never once had his father let him get outside without eating breakfast, he decided to just try to get it over with as quickly as possible. He ran to the dining room table, calling Hop Tseng as he ran. Hop Tseng met him with a bowl of piping hot oatmeal and a mug of cold milk. Ben sat down at the table and Hop Tseng poured him a fresh cup of coffee. About this time, Adam and Hoss came in and said they had the paths finished. They all sat down for a warm-up while Little Joe ate his breakfast. Hoss joined him in a bowl of oatmeal since he had worked up an appetite doing all that shoveling.
When Joe had eaten enough to satisfy his father, and Hoss had eaten two helpings of oatmeal, they went back outside. Ben asked Adam and Hoss to check with hands and make sure the stock were cared for, while he and Little Joe filled Hop Tseng’s woodbin. Ben would carefully load 3 logs into Little Joe’s outstretched arms and then he would load up seven or eight logs and take them to the woodbin. After a few trips, they had the woodbin fully replenished.
“Pa, can we play some now?” Little Joe asked, bouncing up and down in his excitement. Joe’s face was red with the cold and with the excitement, his eyes were sparkling green with gold flecks dancing in them, and his curly hair sticking out from under his cap framed his head like a halo.
Ben laughed and said, “And what would you like to play, Joseph? The snow is too high yet for making snow angels.”
Joe paused to consider his options, then pulling his left hand from behind his back, pelted Ben with a snowball.
“Why you…….” Ben said, laughing and bent over to make his own snowball. In the meantime, Joe landed another well-aimed snowball. Adam and Hoss heard the whooping and hollering and came running, knowing what was going on. Little Joe got Hoss right on the leg with a snowball and then Adam landed one on Ben. And the fight was on. Soon the ranch hands came out and they were all involved in a giant snowball fight. The Cartwrights took on the ranch hands with the water trough for a shield and the ranch hands used a wagon for their battle station. After thirty minutes of this activity, everyone was ready to surrender, except Little Joe, who was proclaimed by all the others to be the “best snowball maker of them all.”
The rest of that day was spent indoors again, despite Little Joe’s pleadings; there were no more snowball wars that day. Ben read the chapter on pinto ponies to Joe again and Joe practiced with the disc again, getting much better at it. He tried to teach Hoss but Hoss decided his fingers were just too big to make it work. “That’s ok Hoss, you can make a lasso better’n me” Little Joe consoled him.
Since no more snow fell that day, and the wind died down a little, Ben and Adam discussed the possibilities of getting out to check the herds tomorrow after Hoss and Joe had been sent to bed.
“I think we can probably get to all of ’em except the high places, Pa. And those have the most shelter anyway. ” Adam opined.
“Yes, Son. It’s the low places where we need to put out some new hay and grain and check the stock. Well, we’ll give it a try tomorrow.”
“Why don’t you and I each take half the hands and I’ll take the two south pastures and you take the east ones?”
“Yeah that’s a good idea. We’ll leave Hoss and Joe here; it may be too rough for Hoss and I know it’s too rough for Little Joe.”
“How’s Hoss gonna like that, Pa?” Adam was concerned that Hoss would feel like he was being left behind just to baby-sit Little Joe.
“Oh, I’ll give them plenty to do here, Adam. They can do the barn chores since the hands will be with us.”
And that is what they did the next morning. Hoss accepted the decision gracefully, because he wasn’t really all that fond of cold weather anyway and at least at home they could go in to warm up as often as they liked. Little Joe, on the other hand, loved cold weather and he was downright insulted to be left behind. In fact, he came very very close to getting a tanning over the tantrum he pitched when he heard the plans for the day. Hoss, always the peace maker, saved him from that by suggesting that after they got the barn chores done, they could have another snowball fight.
Completing all the barn chores by themselves took Hoss and Joe most of the day. Hop Tseng called them inside periodically for hot chocolate and to check that they weren’t getting wet. Hoss was always too glad to come in when called; Joe fussed but once inside, seemed revitalized by the warm fire and hot soup and beverages Hop Tseng gave them. In the afternoon, he prepared hot herbal tea and gave it to them in the traditional Chinese teacups. Neither of them particularly liked the hot spicy tea, but they liked the idea of drinking a real grownup beverage, so they pretended to like it.
They finally got finished with all the chores for morning and evening by about 4 PM, and true to his word, Hoss challenged Joe to a snow ball fight. They each claimed their battle station and began to lay in a good supply of snowballs. They had each accumulated a fair amount of snowballs when right in the middle of the battlefield between their two stations; the first group of hands, led by Adam came riding up. Without even speaking to each other, they both started pelting the arriving men with snowballs, laughing and shrieking as they caught them completely off-guard.
One of them caught Adam right on the nape of the neck, and under ordinary circumstances, it probably wouldn’t have bothered him, but he was tired, cold, wet, and hungry. He yelled, jumped off his horse and handed the reins to one of the hands, who went on into the barn. Adam reached down and scooped up a double handful of snow and made a giant snowball and went looking for the culprit who had hit him. Unfortunately the culprit was Little Joe and he was the first person Adam saw. Adam threw the snowball at him and the weight of it knocked his brother off-balance and he fell into the snow, going almost completely out of sight.
Adam’s eyes widened in alarm and he ran to his baby brother and pulled him out, afraid that he had hurt him. When he pulled him over, Little Joe took his arm and wiped the snow off his face. When Adam saw that he was unharmed, he hugged him tightly. Little Joe, laughing by this time, took the opportunity to put a handful of snow down Adam’s back. Adam shrieked again and put Little Joe down to get the snow out of his shirt, then he started off chasing Little Joe, saying “Now you’ve gone and made me mad. I’m gonna get you now.” But they were both laughing so hard they could hardly run.
All of a sudden, Joe flopped down in the snow and started to spread his arms and legs back and forth in the snow as far as he could. Then he stood up and said, “Look Hoss, Look Adam. I made an angel.” Hoss and Adam, laughing, flopped down in the snow and began to make snow angels too. It was just then that Ben Cartwright and his crew came riding into the courtyard. The other hands rode on into the barn, but Ben Cartwright sat there on his horse for a few minutes, watching his sons playing in the snow. He watched the three playing for a few more minutes, then he said loudly, “Well if you three boys are through playing now, I’d like to get inside and get warm.”
That night at dinner the Cartwrights discussed what they had found during their long day of checking. Unfortunately the storm had done considerable damage and the next few days would be busy ones as they got all the stock back in good shape and ready for the next onslaught of bad weather. Winter was for the most part a time to get everything in readiness for a storm, waiting out a storm, then getting ready for the next one. Very little ranching could go on during the long winter months and sometimes they were actually snowed in for several days at a time. Those were some of the most peaceful times they had.
“Pa did you check on that little jersey herd over in Rim Canyon?” Hoss asked at dinnertime. “No, I didn’t have time. Adam did you check it by any chance?”
Adam shook his head, indicating that he hadn’t either. “We’d better check it tomorrow though, Hoss. I plumb forgot about it.”
“Pa it ain’t too far over there and the trail is good. How ’bout if I just take a wagon with some hay and tools over there and I can check on ’em and take care of any minor damage? It won’t take too long.”
Ben considered this and after thinking about all the other work they had to do and deciding that the risks were minimal, he agreed to this.
“What about me Pa? Can I go with Hoss on the wagon? Please Pa?” Joe turned a pleading look on his father.
Ben took no time to consider this request.
“No, Joseph. It’s too cold and too rough out there and you wouldn’t be able to help. You’ll have to stay home and entertain yourself in the morning. Hoss should be home by lunchtime. Then you and he can keep each other company doing the barn chores.”
Joe’s expression immediately clouded over and he burst out “It ain’t fair Pa. Just ’cause I’m the youngest, I have to stay at home all the time. It ain’t fair.” The more he talked the louder he became.
Ben attempted to calm him down. “Now Joseph, you can find….”
He was interrupted by a loud outburst by Joe again; “It’s not fair. I never get to do anything ‘cept watch or stay home. You never let me do anything fun. You always let Adam and H……..”
His outburst was cut short at that point by his father. Ben had come around to Joe’s chair and picked him up out of the chair. He placed him on the floor and with a solid swat to his backside, directed him to his room. “You go get ready for bed, young man and if I hear one more word out of you, I’ll give you a spanking.”
Joe turned around to smart off one more time, but fortunately he saw his father’s face before he said anything. He knew that if he said one more syllable, his Pa would quickly carry out his threat. Instead he turned and ran up to his room, willing himself not to cry until he got to his room. Once inside with the door closed behind him, he sprawled on his bed and cried at all the injustices of being the youngest.
Downstairs Adam and Hoss shared a look of empathy for both their little brother and their Pa. For a few moments no one spoke. Ben broke the silence finally; “I wonder how many more times we will hear that before Joseph is grown?” Adam laughed and said, “Well Pa I don’t know but I remember hearing it many times from Hoss, too.”
Hoss pretended to be offended, making an innocent face. “Was I really ever that loud Pa?”
“No, Son, no one was ever that loud, though you both had your growing pains.” They all three chuckled at this.
Ben finished drinking his coffee and eating the hot apple pie Hop Tseng had made for dessert and then said, “I’m going to go up and get Joe to bed. I’ll see you boys in a few minutes.” When he reached Joe’s room, he knocked softly and entered the room at the same time. He was glad to see that Joe had calmed down. He was lying on his side, sucking his left thumb and twisting his hair with his right hand, still snuffling, but no longer sobbing. He smiled at the sight of the habit of twisting his hair, something he inherited from his mother. In fact, he had inherited his soft curly brown hair from his mother. Ben could still see her playing with Joe’s hair when he was a toddler.
“Joseph? I came to help you get ready for bed. Let’s get on your pajamas and then I’ll read you a story. I don’t suppose we could read a different one than the pinto story, could we?” He talked to Joe as if nothing had happened. Ben Cartwright believed in discipline, but once punishment was over, it was over; and he didn’t dwell on it. His approach was successful and he was rewarded by a mischievous smile. Joe jumped up and got his pajamas and Ben helped him get into them. Then he reached over to his dresser and said, “Here’s the story I want you to read me, Pa,” and handed Ben the horse book. The book fell open to the page with the pinto information on it. Ben lifted Joe into bed, plumped up his pillow, covered him up, and hugged him tight and began to read the story. “Pinto horses are an American……”
Just as he finished the story and was tightening the covers one last time, he heard Little Joe whisper, “I’m sorry I was bad, Pa.”
Ben knelt down and smoothed Little Joe’s curls off his forehead and said, “Thanks, Son. It’s all right now. Go to sleep.”
“‘Night Pa. I love you.”
“Good night, Son. I love you too.” Ben’s voice almost broke as he said this, so full of love for the little boy who was already asleep.
The next morning, Ben, Adam, and Hoss again ate breakfast early, letting Little Joe sleep. Ben figured the longer he slept, the quieter Hop Tseng’s morning would be and he didn’t look want to have a confrontation with Little Joe this morning. He smiled to himself when he was making that decision—he knew there would be plenty of opportunities for confrontations with his head-strong little boy in the coming years. Little Joe had already shown himself to have a quick temper and a stubborn-ness second to no one he’d ever met before.
Ben and Adam again took out the crews to care for the herds. Each team had one wagon loaded with supplies and lunches that Hop Tseng had prepared. Hoss took a wagon also and headed to Rim Canyon. He didn’t take a lunch, figuring to be home by 1:00 PM for lunch. Hop Tseng had thoughtfully included a morning snack; however, for Hoss’s appetite was substantial. Hop Tseng felt that Hoss was the only Cartwright who showed proper respect and appreciation for his good cooking, so he made sure to keep Hoss well-fed.
“Hop Tseng, just keep Little Joe as busy as you can in the house. I’m leaving Sam to do the morning barn chores. If Joe gets too stir-crazy, you can let him play in the barn for a little while. Hoss’ll be back as soon as he can.”
“You go. Hop Tseng keep eye on Little Joe.”
With that, the older Cartwrights left the ranch, heading to their respective jobs. The temperature was extremely cold this early in the morning. Ben reckoned it was somewhere in single digit numbers; the wind made it seem even colder. The weather was showing no sign of warming up; in fact if anything, it seemed colder today than yesterday. “or maybe I’m just getting too old for this kind of work” he chided himself. The snow had packed down into a solid firm covering and in areas that were undisturbed, the view was breathtakingly beautiful. No matter how cold it was, the view was well worth it to Ben Cartwright.
He and Adam and Hoss reached their destinations and began their work. Hoss was glad he had thought of this herd, the snow shelter in the canyon had been blown over and the hay and grain left earlier had been covered by snow. Hoss set about uprighting and repairing the shed and then spreading out new hay and grain.
When Little Joe was waking up, Hop Tseng was in his room, getting his clothes out for him. He smiled at Hop Tseng who returned his smile and then helped him brush his teeth and get dressed in front of the fire. Hop Tseng dressed him warmly and then they went downstairs for breakfast. Since there was no one except Little Joe, Hop Tseng gave him breakfast in the kitchen. This was something that Hop Tseng did for no one else in the family; he didn’t share his kitchen with anyone—except Little Joe. As Little Joe ate, Hop Tseng worked in the kitchen. They kept up a good conversation, spoken sometimes in English and sometimes in Mandarin. Joe was the only member of the family who spoke Chinese and he was also the only one to know that Hop Tseng both spoke and understood English much better than he pretended to. But this was their unspoken secret.
After he finished breakfast, Hop Tseng told Joe stories of his homeland for a while. At about 10:00 AM, Hop Tseng asked Little Joe if he would go gather some eggs so he could make sugar cookies. Little Joe readily agreed since sugar cookies were his favorite cookie, or at least for that day, anyway. He liked them best when he could help make them, because Hop Tseng would color the sugar and let him decorate them. They just tasted better that way.
Hop Tseng made Joe put on his warmest coat, his gloves, and a hat before he could go to the barn. When attired warmly enough to suit Hop Tseng, Little Joe grabbed the egg basket and went out the back door to go toward the chicken house, which was to one side of the barn. He stopped on the threshold and looked around, wishing he could play in the snow and enjoying the cold, crisp air. He liked the way it made his lungs burn just a little bit as he breathed and he loved the way he could see his breath when he breathed out. He headed on toward the barn, sliding purposely in places where there was ice on the ground. When he got to the barn he started toward the chicken house, but he detoured by the horses, giving each one a sugar cube he had brought from the house. He patted them and then continued to the chickens. He stopped at the stall where Lily, Hop Tseng’s milk cow was watching him with her big brown eyes. He laughed and said, “I didn’t forget you Lily” and held out his hand to let her eat a handful of sweet oats from his hand. Again he headed toward the chicken house and started talking to the chickens when he heard someone calling out faintly. He stopped and looked around and didn’t see anyone. “Hello?” he said, and then waited for an answer. “Help me, Little Joe” he heard, coming from the bunk house. He went over to see who it was and was shocked by the sight of a trail of blood heading toward the bunkhouse. He recovered and ran in to find who was bleeding.
One of the hands, Sam was lying on a bunkhouse bed, bleeding from a wound in his side. “Sam! What happened?”
“Little Joe I didn’t mean to startle you, but I got to have some help. I done got stuck with a pitchfork. Can you help me get in the house so Hop Tseng can fix me up?”
“Sure Sam, I can help you. I’ll go get Hop Tseng and bring him to you, though.” With that, Little Joe turned and ran to the house, calling Hop Tseng as loudly as he could. Hop Tseng came running out and Little Joe grabbed him by the hand and pulled him towards the bunkhouse and Sam. When Hop Tseng saw Sam and heard that he had tripped and while trying to keep from falling had lurched into the pitchfork, right through his abdomen, he knew he was going to have to have hot water and close observation until they could get Doc Martin to the ranch.
“Can you walk if Little Joe and I help you?” he asked the man.
“Yeah it ain’t that bad, Hop Tseng. Danged fool thing for a grown man to do.” He fussed at himself.
With Hop Tseng’s and Little Joe’s help, they managed to get Sam into the house, covered with a blanket to prevent him from getting much colder. Since he had been injured for almost three hours, the fire in the bunkhouse had burned almost completely out and the bunkhouse had been very cold. When they reached the house, Hop Tseng directed him to his own bedroom next to the kitchen. Little Joe was right behind them. Hop Tseng noticed Joe staring at the blood and decided that was not a good thing for him to see. He made Sam as comfortable as possible, covered him up and taking Little Joe with him, went to the kitchen and put on some water to boil. He then got out some clean white strips from his own “medicine cabinet” and added a bottle of antiseptic, some healing ointments, and a bottle of whiskey. When the water boiled, he said to Little Joe, “We will need to keep fire going. Will you bring wood to fill woodbin?” he figured they could always use wood and that would keep Little Joe occupied while he cleaned and bandaged the wounds.
“Sure, Hop Tseng.” Joe replied and went out the back door to do just that. But when he got to the woodbin, it was already full. Sam had already filled the woodbin before his accident. He then decided to go on and get the eggs, since he was out and he didn’t want to see what Hop Tseng was doing, anyway. He went on into the barn and found his egg basket and went into the chicken house to start collecting eggs. He talked to them and collected 10 eggs. He even reached under Miss Prissy and got an egg. He couldn’t wait to tell that to Hoss, because Hoss was afraid of Miss Prissy since she attacked him one time. Everyone had tried to reassure Hoss that it was just because she thought he was endangering her chicks, but Hoss was determined to steer clear of Miss Prissy.
After collecting the eggs, he headed back toward the door of the barn, but gave the barn one last look to see if there was anything that needed to be done that he could do. He was almost out of the barn door when his eyes caught on the sleds—three of them, all stored on the barn wall. One old one, red in color but with spots where the paint was gone. Another one that was not as old as the first one, but wasn’t shiny any more and then one that looked brand new. It was, in fact his brand new sled that he had gotten for Christmas. He’d not even had a chance to use it yet. His thoughts went back to when he had had to sit in the sleigh with his father and watch Adam and Hoss have all the fun. “It ain’t fair.” He thought to himself. “It ain’t fair.” He said out loud. He was now running his fingers along the smooth blue sled, shiny and unblemished—just waiting for someone to ride down a hill on. He put the egg basket down and before he knew what he was doing, he had the sled down from its place on the wall. He didn’t even hesitate once he had it down—he headed towards the hill he had watched Adam and Hoss fly down.
Little Joe hurried toward the hill, unconsciously getting out of view of the house as soon as possible. The cold air was exhilarating; he was the member of the family who most enjoyed cold weather and snow. The view around him was truly beautiful; the ground was covered in a thick blanket of snow and the trees were covered with snow and ice. Although slightly gray, there was enough light to make the ice hanging on the trees sparkle. The gray or black trees stood out in stark contrast to the surrounding snow. The evergreen trees looked even greener with snow on the branches and surrounding ground.
The natural beauty of the scenery kept his attention away from such mundane thoughts as disobedience and punishment during the trek to the hilltop. He did have a flickering moment of guilt just before he reached the top of the hill, but then when he reached the top and looked down, all he could remember was how exciting it had looked when Adam and Hoss had raced down the hillside. With the thoughts of the excitement crowding out any other thoughts, he positioned the sled and climbed in. Leaning forward and holding onto the rope, he pushed off the hillside. The new sled, sluggish at first due to its newness, gathered speed quickly and he was soon flying down the hillside at breakneck speed, laughing with delight. Guiding the sled was a little tricky but since there was nothing in the way, it didn’t really matter. In no time at all, he reached the end of the hillside and lost speed, stopping just before a copse of evergreen trees. His eyes were bright with merriment, and his face was flushed with excitement—he grabbed the sled and headed to the top of the hillside again, all the while reliving the exhilaration of the previous trip. The second and third trip down were essentially the same; he did get a little better at guiding the sled, though it was still difficult to manage at the velocity at which he was soaring down the hill.
He was headed back up the hill for the fourth trip down. He was breathing hard, his nose was red and when he breathed in, the cold air seemed to burn clear down to his lungs. It took him longer to get to the top of the hillside because his legs were tired and pulling the sled was harder because his arms were tired and sore; he was squinting to keep out the glare from the blindingly white landscape. An older person may have recognized the feeling of fatigue and rested a bit; but he was only 7 and he didn’t stop long enough to decipher the messages his body was sending him. All he could think about was getting to the top and going down again.
By this ride, the sled was fully broken in and was as slick as possible. Joe started in exactly the same spot as on his previous trips, which made the snow more slippery too. He pushed off, leaning forward to gain momentum and lightly holding the guide rope. He was about 1/4 to 1/2 of the way down the hillside when he saw, just a few feet directly in front of him, a snowshoe rabbit. The rabbit was big and the same color as the snow except for the tips of its ears, which were black. Had it not been for the black ears, Little Joe probably wouldn’t have even seen him. But he did see him, and he reacted instinctively, snatching the guide rope to the right in order to avoid the rabbit. The sled was going much too fast and his arms were much too tired and he was not skillful enough to safely guide the sled around the rabbit. When he snatched on the guide rope, the sled turned almost completely horizontal and the accumulated momentum propelled the sled and its occupant in a rapid tumble down the hillside. After what seemed like an eternity of flying, tumbling, and crashing into the hillside and the sled, Little Joe landed with a plop into the soft snow. The sled landed a few feet away from him–perfectly upright, perfectly vertical. Little Joe’s last thoughts before he lost consciousness from the blow to his head from the sled and the shock of the cold was if the rabbit was okay. The snowshoe rabbit hearing the noise had nonchalantly hopped away to a quieter place.
Hop Tseng was kept busy at the ranch, washing, bandaging, and stopping the bleeding of Sam’s wound. There were 4 puncture wounds from the pitchfork; two of them looked serious. He had to hold pressure on them to stop the bleeding. Finally he was able to apply a tight pressure dressing to stop the bleeding. He thought that no vital organs had been punctured; however and if he could get the bleeding stopped and prevent infection, Sam would recover. When he finally felt he had the bleeding under control and could leave, he went into the kitchen to put on some broth and to check on Little Joe. It was only then that he realized he had been tied up with Sam for over an hour–almost two hours and that he hadn’t seen nor heard Little Joe since.
He quickly ran upstairs and checked Joe’s room and the other rooms upstairs and checked the downstairs and found no trace of him. He peeked in at Sam and saw that he was dozing comfortably for the time being, then he donned a heavy coat and went outside to the barn, calling him as he went. No response. He quickly checked the bunkhouse, the chicken coop, and the stalls in the barn—still no sight of him. As his eyes swept the barn, he saw the egg basket and hurried over to it—it was then that he noticed the missing sled. He looked all around and then he saw the marks in the snow of the sled being dragged from the back of the barn, headed toward the hills.
He was putting on snowshoes to go after Little Joe, his heart constricted when he heard horses coming into the yard. It was Adam and his crew. Adam was talking to the men, giving them instructions when Hop Tseng ran to him. Adam knew right away that there was something wrong. Hop Tseng began talking to him rapidly, in Mandarin, his most comfortable language. Adam jumped off his horse and said “Slow down, Hop Tseng. Tell me what’s wrong. In English, please.”
Hop Tseng took a deep breath and said as slowly and clearly as he could, “Mr. Sam fall on pitchfork, get hurt.” Adam breathed a sigh of relief when he heard this, although he was concerned for Sam, he had thought that it was Little Joe in trouble. “How bad is it Hop Tseng? I can go get Doc Martin for you….”
“NO is Little Joe.” Hop Tseng started to explain.
“What about Little Joe?” Adam interrupted.
“While Hop Tseng busy with Mr. Sam, Little Joe not come in. Hop Tseng find sled missing. Think Little Joe go sled down hillside alone.”
With that, Adam clearly understood what happened. Hop Tseng had been tied up with Sam, leaving Little Joe unsupervised—an open invitation for trouble. Adam paused only a moment in deciding what to do. His options were to go alone and find Joe or to alert his father and Hoss. If Little Joe were fine, that would mean that they lost half a day of working time for no good reason, but if Little Joe were hurt……”Mark, you ride up and find Pa and tell him what’s happened. Tell him I’ve gone looking for Joe. Bren, you ride into town and get the Doc, we’ll need him for Sam anyway. And John, you ride out and tell Hoss. When you find him, let him ride the horse back and you finish up what he is doing and bring the wagon back. Go now.”
Adam quickly saddled a draft horse so that he could save time by going through some of the higher snow rather than sticking to the safer trails. He headed to the hillside where they had sledded earlier, knowing that that is where he would find Little Joe. He arrived at the hillside in less than 15 minutes, and looked at the South slope, there was no trace that any sledding had occurred there. His heart was in his throat as he rode the horse around the base of the hill to get to the other side. He knew he would find his little brother there, but he was afraid of what shape he would be in. He came around the hillside and quickly scanned the base, and saw that Little Joe had indeed been sledding there. He went to a place where he could see clear to the top and his eyes quickly found what he was looking for. His first sight was of the sled, sitting there as if just waiting for someone to get back in. He got down off his horse and headed toward the sled, all the while scanning the area around the sled for sign of Little Joe. He would have missed it had it not been for the bright coat and his dark hair, in such contrast to the white snow.
From the moment of seeing his little brother lying half-buried by the snow until the time he reached him and felt the faint pulse in his neck, Adam didn’t breathe. He let out a breath and again was faced with a dilemma–how to get Little Joe home. He knew there was a risk of moving him quickly, but he also knew that he had to get him home and warm quickly. He quickly decided that getting him warm was of more importance than not moving him. He turned his brother over as carefully as possible and picked him up, trying not to move him more than necessary. He could tell that he had a broken leg and a huge bump on his head. He could only hope that there were no other injuries, especially to his back or internal organs. He used his own scarf to tie around the broken leg, wrapping it to his other leg as a splint. Anything else would have to wait until he had him home.
Getting on the horse presented another problem, but Adam was able to manage it somehow, though when asked how he did it later, he couldn’t answer. The ride back to the Ponderosa took a little longer than it took for him to get to the hill, as he was trying to keep the jarring and movement to a minimum. He kept a close eye on Little Joe; but Joe neither moved nor made a sound during the ride. When he finally got to the yard of the ranch, Hop Tseng and several of the other hands were there to help him get him down from the horse.
Hop Tseng had prepared Joe’s room, not knowing what to expect. He had the temperature of the room as warm as possible and the bed covers pulled down and warming stones ready to be inserted into cases and slipped under the covers. Hop Tseng took over as soon as Adam had gotten him into the room. “You go get changed. Hop Tseng get him warm.” Adam left reluctantly; he hadn’t noticed how cold and wet he had gotten going up and down that hillside, but he was shivering visibly.
Hop Tseng sat in the chair right beside the bed, holding Joe carefully and removed his wet clothes and boots and wrapped him in a warm blanket. As the heated blanket began to cool off, Hop Tseng carefully placed Joe in his own bed, covered with a mountain of blankets and comforters and then he put the warming stones in around him. He was careful not to move the broken leg any more than necessary. Since Little Joe had not moved nor made any sign of waking up, he didn’t bother to put a splint on the leg at that point.
Adam hurried back into the room as soon as he had changed clothes. As soon as Adam came back in, Hop Tseng said, “I go bring warm broth. Must get Little Joe warm inside-out and outside-in.” Adam stood by Joe’s bed; the only part of him visible was his head. Remembering something he had read about the head being where a lot of body heat was lost, he pulled a knit cap out of a dresser drawer, held it in front of the fire to get it warm, then put it carefully on Joe’s head. The sight of the gaily-colored toboggan hat on Joe’s dark curls, compared to his white sheets and gray face looked incongruous to Adam.
Just then he heard horses come riding into the yard and a few seconds later, he heard footsteps running up the stairs. He turned to see his father come running into the room and go directly to his Joe’s bed. He glanced briefly at Adam and said, “Where’d you find him, Son?”
“About 3/4 way down the North slope, Pa.” Looks like he had tumbled from just near the top. He was just lying there, half-buried in the snow. He hasn’t moved nor made a sound since I found him.”
“Can you tell how bad he is hurt?”
“Well he’s got quite a lump under that bruise on the side of his head and his left leg is broken. That’s all I could tell for sure. But he was nearly frozen Pa. Hop Tseng had the room hot and he’s got every blanket we have on top of him I think and he’s got bed stones around him, but he’s still so cold, Pa.”
Just then Hop Tseng entered with a bowl of steaming broth and said, “Must get him to take, warm up from inside-outside and outside-inside best way.”
“You’re right Hop Tseng. Here I can give it to him.”
“I’ll help you, Pa.”
Ben reached his left arm around behind Joe’s neck and shoulders and held him slightly upright with his arms. Adam carefully opened Joe’s mouth with one hand and spooned the broth slowly into Little Joe, closing his mouth until he swallowed after every spoonful. As they did this, Hop Tseng replaced all the warming stones with reheated ones and removed cold blankets and replaced them with warm ones and stoked the fire higher. Within a few minutes, the men had sweat streaming down their faces.
They heard a lone horse come riding into the yard, followed by the door opening and slamming and heavy footsteps up the staircase. “Hoss” they said simultaneously.
Hoss burst into the room and ran to the bedside. “How is he, Pa?” he asked with tears in his eyes. “What’d he go and do a fool thing like that for, anyhow?”
Hop Tseng spoke up, “Is Hop Tseng fault. I take care of Mr. Sam and not watch Little Joe. Now he hurt bad. Is all Hop Tseng fault.”
Ben left Joe’s bedside and put his arm around Hop Tseng, an unaccustomed gesture for the two of them. “Hop Tseng, now you know it isn’t your fault. You had to take care of Sam or he would have bled to death from what the boys told me. Little Joe was being—well he was just being Little Joe.” He gave the diminutive man a final squeeze then said, “Now is there anything else we can do ’til the Doc gets here, Hop Tseng?”
Hop Tseng gave a brief nod and said somewhat huskily, “I bring more broth. Keep stones and bed covers warm. Warm inside-outside and warm outside-inside is best way.” With that he turned and went to the kitchen. The three Cartwrights spoke little while they waited and watched over the still form on the bed. Hoss said, “Why’s that hat on his head?” Adam told him the theory about heat being lost through the head. After thinking about that for a few moments, he said “Well I can see that in the winter time, Adam. But then it don’t make sense in the summer time.” Ben and Adam shared a glance at each other and Adam shrugged and said, “Well it can’t hurt anyway.”
Hop Tseng came and they gave him more warmed broth, this time a little warmer than before. Gradually they saw his color improve. Although still whitish-gray, it was less blue than it had been. They still had seen no movement. They were encouraged that his pulse was stronger and steadier now though. After what seemed like an interminable period of time, they heard two horses riding into the yard below.
Hoss was the first to the window and he said, “It’s the Doc, Pa. I’ll go get him.” He turned and ran down the stairs and was back quickly with Paul Martin in tow. Paul came quickly to the bedside and began to assess the situation as he spoke, “I thought I was coming out here to see Sam. Shoulda known better.” He was attempting to lighten the mood of the four people watching over the little boy with the cap jauntily on his head lying still and pale in the bed. He did get a short chuckle and a grin out of Adam and Hoss, but Ben retained his serious expression, anxiously waiting for Paul to perform some miracle and bring back the lively, mischievous boy he had left in bed that morning.
Paul cleared the room of everyone except Hop Tseng so he could do a thorough examination. With Hop Tseng’s assistance, he re-set the leg fracture. Rather than splinting the leg with the fracture as he had done in the past, he decided to try a new technique he had just learned about at a medical conference at Johns Hopkins. Hop Tseng, under his direction cut a white sheet into long inch-wide strips, as he mixed some white powder he had in his medical bag with warm water, making a thick paste. Then as Hop Tseng wound the strips of cloth around the leg, Doctor Martin applied the thick white paste. Carefully they continued, covering the fractured area as well as the area below the knee and including the foot. Hop Tseng understood instinctively that the foot had to be included to limit movement that would disrupt the healing bones in the leg. When they had finished, Joe Cartwright’s left leg was covered with the first plaster of Paris cast in Virginia City. (This method of casting was developed by Dr. Matthijsen, a Dutch army surgeon in 1852 and remained practically unchanged for 100 years.)
As he and Hop Tseng worked, they kept a close eye on Joe and continued the warming up process already started by Hop Tseng. When they had finished, Paul went downstairs to brief the waiting family and to begin treatment of Sam, while Hop Tseng positioned Joe comfortably and sat with him, singing a low Chinese song about a butterfly to him.
The three Cartwrights jumped up when they saw him coming down the stairs. Adam had the insight to get him a cup of coffee, which Paul accepted gratefully. “Well Ben, I found no other injuries other than the fractured leg and bump on the head, with some slight bruising on the face and chest. I set the leg and put it in one of those new gypsum casts; I figured that would hold up longer as well as help hold him down longer. I believe the head injury is a mild to moderate concussion and there are no internal injuries that I can find. The biggest concern is the extremely low temperature, shock, and exposure. Any idea how long he was out there?”
“Well it could be as long as three hours, or as short as about an hour, depending upon when he left. It looks like he’d has several successful runs down that hill before he had the accident, Paul.”
“Well, Ben I’ve done all I can do right now. We just need to continue warming him up and Hop Tseng’s methods are as good as any. When he gets back to normal body temperature, we’ll know more. He should start coming around by then. Then we’ll have to worry about him getting pneumonia. His lungs sound a little wet now, but when he warms up and starts breathing deeper, that may clear up. We’ll just have to watch and see and pray right now.”
“Thanks, Paul.” Ben said while nodding his head. “Hoss, will you show Dr. Martin to Hop Tseng’s room so he can check on Sam? He seems to be doing fine, Paul. I looked in on him and he was comfortable. Said he now knew why the ladies wouldn’t dance with him.” They shared a small chuckle at this remark. As Paul went into Sam’s room, the three Cartwrights went upstairs to see Little Joe.
He was lying in the bed, still unmoving, though his color now was vastly improved, there was even a little pink in his cheeks. Hop Tseng was replacing the stones and they could see that his respirations were slower, deeper and steadier than before. Hop Tseng excused himself to go fetch more hot broth. Ben pulled up a chair by the bed, while Adam and Hoss took chairs on the other side of the bed. Ben slipped his arm under the covers and took hold of his hand and clutched it tightly. They sat like that for a long time, periodically giving him broth and re-warming the bed stones and replacing blankets with the ones Hop Tseng warmed in front of the fireplace. All three of them were visibly sweating in the room because of the warmth emanating from the fireplace.
As the afternoon turned into evening, Adam got up to go do the barn chores, but when he got to the barn, he was met by one of the hands and told that everything had been done. They all were anxious to hear news of Little Joe and Adam told them what the Doc had said. Just as he got back to the front door, Hoss came running downstairs, “Adam, he’s waking up. He’s waking up!”
Adam and Hoss made it back to the bedroom at the same time.
When they got to the room, Little Joe was moving around slightly and was on the verge of opening his eyes and making minor moaning sounds. Ben stood by the bedside, saying “Joseph, it’s time to wake up now. Open your eyes, Joseph.” Little Joe blinked his eyes rapidly several times, then finally opened them about halfway until they adjusted to the light in the room.
“Hello, there young man.”
Joe’s eyes closed again and then with great effort, he opened them and looked his Pa in the face and said, “I’m sorry I was bad, Pa. Is the rabbit ok?”
Ben shushed him; “We’ll talk about that later. How’re you feeling, son?” Hoss, unable to contain his excitement gushed out, “Hey Shortshanks. How ya doing?” and Adam added, “Hey little buddy. You feeling okay?”
Joe didn’t answer for a few seconds, and they could see he was taking inventory. Finally he said, “my leg hurts and my head hurts, I’m hot, I’m hungry and I gotta pee, Pa.” Ben laughed and explained his injuries and helped him take care of his personal needs after sending Hoss and Adam to get Hop Tseng to bring more broth.
Doctor Martin came upstairs as he was sipping the broth and smiled when he saw the little boy talking and eating on his own. He let Joe finish the broth and then asked everyone to leave while he re-examined Little Joe. He listened carefully to his chest and re-checked all his injuries and was relieved that his lungs sounded clear as a bell again. His reflexes were normal and he seemed to have no memory loss from the accident and only complained of a headache, which was quite normal under the circumstances. He took his temperature and it was almost up to normal now at 970 Fahrenheit. He explained to Little Joe the purpose of the cast on his leg and gave him instructions that he knew went in one ear and out the other. But he felt it was part of his job to tell the patient, but he knew he would repeat them to his father who would see that they were followed to the letter.
And so he did. Joe improved swiftly over the next several days and was chomping at the bits to get out of bed long before Dr. Martin would allow it. Dr. Martin was thrilled with the success of his new method to immobilize fractures, telling anyone and everyone that “if it works on Little Joe Cartwright, it’ll work on anyone”. Sam’s wounds healed with no infection, thanks to the meticulous care Hop Tseng had given him before the Doc got there.
After a week of enforced bed rest and drinking enough liquids to float a boat, Joe sighed when he saw his father coming in with yet another glass of juice. “Here, Little Joe, fresh squeezed orange juice. Hoss bought the oranges in Virginia City just for you.” Ben said with a smile and was surprised to see the frown on his young son’s face. “Now what’s the matter, Joe? I thought you liked orange juice.”
“Pa, I do like orange juice, but I’m not thirsty.” His tone of voice gave away his cantankerous mood. Ben smiled to himself and set the orange juice glass down on the bedside table.
“I see, Son. How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine Pa. Just fine and I wish everybody’d stop askin’ me that!” his voice an octave higher than normal, clear evidence that he was really out of sorts.
“I see, Son. Well then if you are feeling all right, there is something I need to talk to you about.” He said with a noncommittal expression on his face.
This should have made warning bells go off in Little Joe’s head, but he was so bored that he welcomed something different.
“What, Pa?” he asked, interested.
“I want to discuss your punishment for disobeying my instructions and going off alone and going sledding on a hill that was forbidden to you in the first place.” He said, boring his eyes into Little Joe’s.
Little Joe averted his eyes from his father’s and mumbled, “I’m sorry, Pa. I didn’t mean to….” He started, but was interrupted by his father.
“Look at me Joseph. Always have the courage to face up to what you did wrong, no matter what it is, Joe.”
Joe forced himself to look into his father’s eyes, seeing disappointment and concern in those eyes usually so full of love and light. With tears in his own eyes, he repeated, “I’m sorry Papa.”
The use of the word “Papa” was a throwback to a little bit younger period, when Joe had routinely called him Papa. That was how Marie had referred to him when she spoke to Joe about him. Without Marie to reinforce the use of Papa, Joe had gotten into the habit of calling him Pa as Adam and Hoss did. Ben longed for the days when he was Papa to Little Joe, back to a safer time, back to the time when Marie was there to help with this mercurial son of theirs. Ben pulled himself out of his momentary reverie, and addressed Joe again.
“Joseph, do you remember my telling you that you couldn’t go down that hill?”
A small “Yes, sir” replied.
“And do you remember my telling you that I would take you sledding as soon as possible?”
“And have I ever given you permission to go anywhere alone, Joseph?”
“I see. So you knew you were being disobedient when you went sledding by yourself on the north slope?”
“But Pa, I didn’t mean to do it; I just……..”
“Whoa. Stop right there. Did someone force you to go sledding alone, Joseph? Did Hop Tseng tell you that you had to go sledding alone?”
“NO Pa, Hop Tseng didn’t tell me that!” Joe sounded shocked; afraid that his father would think it was Hop Tseng’s fault.
“So if no one made you do it, Joe, and you didn’t mean to do it—how did it happen that you did it?” Ben asked in measured tones.
“I don’t, know, Pa. Honest. I just didn’t think about….”
Again Ben interrupted, “So you did it, but you didn’t think about it first. Is that right, Son?”
“Yes, sir, Pa.” Joe was clearly miserable now. He hated to have his father angry with him but he hated worse than anything to have his father disappointed in him.
Ben could tell that Little Joe was near the breaking point, so he softened his approach. “Joseph, the reason I wouldn’t let you go sledding alone or go sledding down the north slope is that I was afraid that something like this could happen. When you are young, you can’t always see the dangers in things so you don’t think of them. But as you get older, you begin to realize the dangers of some things. My rules are made not to keep you from having fun, Joe, but to keep you safe and healthy, Son.”
He paused a minute, watching Joe’s reaction and as anticipated, Joe’s tears came to the surface. He began to cry earnestly and said through his sobs, “I’m sorry, Pa.”
Ben took Joe in his arms and patted him on the back. “There, there. We were lucky this time Little Joe. You’ll be well again by springtime. But I want you to remember this lesson, Son. It could have been worse, so much worse. You could have been paralyzed or killed, Joseph. Or you could have caught pneumonia and died from that. Do you understand, Joseph?”
Joe sniffed and said, “Yes, sir, Pa. I am sorry.”
Ben took a deep breath and said, “Well now how about that fresh orange juice?”
Joe hated to bring it up again but he had to know what punishment his Pa had in mind for him and when he could expect it. “Are you gonna punish me, Pa?”
Ben had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. Here was his normally active son, confined to bed rest with a broken leg—what could be worse punishment than that? Out loud he said, “Oh, yes, Joe, I did forget that, didn’t I?”
“Yes sir.” Joe agreed miserably.
“Well, Joseph, Doctor Martin said you would be in that cast for at least six weeks, meaning you are going to miss all but maybe a week or two of sledding time with that leg. I think for your punishment, I’m going to not let you go sledding for that last week or two. You won’t be able to go sledding at all until next winter.”
Joe looked devastated for a moment, then he shrugged and looked at his father in the eyes and said, “All right Pa.”
Ben said, “All right now that is settled, drink this orange juice before Hop Tseng brings in a glass of milk.”
Ben and Joe were both glad to have that talk behind them. Ben was relieved that he didn’t have to worry about Joe going sledding any more this year. Even if his leg healed and Doctor Martin gave him the go-ahead, Ben didn’t think his heart could take it. Perhaps by next year, he would be able to forget the way Joe had looked when he had first come home after the accident. Joe was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to sled anymore this winter, but he had the experience he’d had before the accident to remember, and he had a whole year to convince his father that he was old enough to sled down the north slope.
Joe had just finished the glass of orange juice and set it down when Hop Tseng came to the door with a glass of milk and plate of cookies. Joe made a face and said “Bu niunai, wo bu ke”.
Hop Tseng handed him the glass and said “DRINK MILK.”
Joe took the glass, drank a few swallows and tried to hand it back, “Niunai xie gou-le”.
Hop Tseng wouldn’t take the glass; instead he pushed it back towards Joe and said, “Drink all. Make broken bone heal stronger.”
Ben sat in the chair at the window and watched the exchange and wondered how Little Joe could get away with that and the rest of them wouldn’t have the nerve to mock Hop Tseng. He laughed though as Joe frowned then upended the glass and drank the remainder in one long swallow and handed the empty glass back to Hop Tseng, who left the room with a smug look on his face.