Dumb Old Adam (by BettyHT)

Summary:  A prequel in which the brothers have a discussion before Adam leaves for college.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word count:  1300


“He don’t have to go to that dumb old cottage. We got a school right here.”

“Joe, it’s a college, not a cottage.”

“Hey, Hoss, you don’t hafta tell me how to talk. Adam does plenty of that already. I know how to talk just fine. I’m six years old, you know. Adam’s got more books in his room than we got at the school anyway. What’s he need more of those for?”

“Well, I guess they ain’t got the right books here for what he wants.”

“Books is books. He don’t need no more old dumb books either.”

“What you gonna say to Adam tomorrow when he’s leaving?”

“I’m gonna tell him that we don’t need him no more. If he don’t need us, then we don’t need him. So there. We don’t need dumb old Adam, do we? What you gonna say? You’re not gonna say any mushy stuff are you?”

“Joe, I’m gonna thank him for all the stuff he done for me. I’m gonna tell him I’ll write letters to him telling him about what’s happening here on the Ponderosa. Then I’m gonna tell him that I hope he don’t forget me ’cause I ain’t ever gonna forget him.”

“Oh yes you are. You’re gonna forget him, and he’s gonna forget us. I forgot what Mama looks like already. Sometimes I have to go look at her picture to remember what she looked like. And that’s only been a year. Pa said so just a while back. He said Mama was in heaven for a year now. Adam says he’s gonna be gone for three or four years. I’ll be practically grown up when he comes back. Hey, you think he’s gonna come back?”

“’Course he is. He said he would, and he always does what he says.”

“Hoss, Mama said she would never leave me, and she’s gone. How do I know that Adam won’t do the same thing? Go away and never come back?”

“Mama didn’t want to go. It wasn’t up to her. God took her up to heaven, you know. You can’t come back if you’re in heaven.”

“Well, what if something happens to Adam, and he goes to heaven too? Then he won’t come back.”

“Joe, don’t you talk like that. Don’t you dare talk like that. You say anything like that again, and I’m gonna pound you.”

“You can’t pound me. Pa told you that you can’t hit me at all. He says you don’t know your own strength, whatever that means. That’s a funny thing to say, ain’t it. How could you not know your own strength? Heck, I know how strong I am. And when Adam comes back, I’m gonna be a lot stronger, and if he tries to push me around then, he’ll get a big surprise.”

“But maybe Adam will get stronger too. Did you think of that? He’s already ten times stronger than you so if he was to get stronger, you wouldn’t be able to stop him from doing nothing.”

“Yeah, and he’s got a gun too.”

“Joe, that don’t make him stronger. He just needs that for protection. Last year when MJ got killed, Adam would of been killed too, except he had that gun and he could ride fast. When he takes us to school, Pa always says he gotta look out for us. He has to wear a gun.”

“Does that mean when he leaves, you get to wear a gun? Hey, Hoss, if you get a gun, would you let me shoot it sometime? Adam won’t never let me shoot his.”

“Pa already said I can’t have a gun until I’m fifteen. Until then all I get to use is the squirrel gun for hunting and only when he’s with me.”

“Gees, when do I get to shoot something? I’m gonna be real good with a gun, Hoss. I practice all the time with that wooden one Adam made for me.”

“Hey, tomorrow afternoon, you want to go fishing with me? We could catch some fish for dinner. You could use that new pole Adam cut for you and rigged up with string. He made some hooks too, when he was stocking up on the horseshoes in the smithy.”

“I like fishing. You know I’ll catch the biggest one ’cause Adam’s been teaching me his tricks. He don’t just lay back and wrap the string around his toe like you do. He says you gotta drop the bait right where the fish is waiting. Then you jerk up to ‘set the hook’ when it takes the bait.”

“I catch plenty of fish my way.”

“Yeah, but you never catch the big ones like Adam does. I want to catch a really big one. Then he’ll be so proud of me. He’ll…he’ll…he’ll be gone and he won’t never know I caught that fish.”

“Dadburnit, Joe, it’s gonna be hard to say good bye, ain’t it? He done taught us so much stuff. Who’s gonna teach us stuff when he’s gone?”

“Aww, Hoss, you can teach me all the stuff he taught you. If you don’t remember, you can ask him in one of those letters you said you’d write. Maybe I’ll write some letters too when I learn more words for writing. Darn teacher won’t teach us the words I want to know, though. Says it’s not in our readers so it’s not on our spelling lists. Do you know how to write horses and horse breaking? And stallion? And mares? Stuff like that?”

“I know some of that, but I bet Pa knows all them words. We could ask him when we was writing.”

“Were writing.”

“Dadburnit, Adam, do you always have to sneak up on a person? You could of said something before you was right behind me, fixing to scare me half to death.”

“Adam, we’re gonna write to you when you’re at the cottage. Will you write to us?”

“It’s a college, Joe, and yes, I’ll write. I’ll address a page to you, one to Hoss, and one to Pa in every post.”

“What’s a post?”

“When you send a letter, you’re posting it. Now you know letters are very expensive to send, don’t you? There won’t be a lot of them. Most will have to go to San Francisco, and then down to Panama, and then up to New York before they go to Boston. Sometimes, you may be able to send one along with a wagon train but that is unreliable, even if it might be faster.”

“What’s unreliable?”

“The letter might never arrive.”

“Oh. Then there might not be many letters?”

“No, I’m sorry to say, that’s true.”

“Do you have to go, Adam? Can’t you stay here so I don’t forget you, and you don’t forget me?”

“Now, Joe, I will never forget you. Every time I need to smile, I’ll think of you. Every time, I feel lonely, I’ll think of you, and Hoss, and Pa. Every time I eat a meal, I’ll think of Hop Sing and Hoss. Every time I see a bird flying free, I’ll think of home.”

“Adam, every time I catch a fish, I’ll think of you. Every time I play with my wooden toys, I’ll think of you. And every time I’m scared in a storm, I’ll think of Hoss, because you won’t be here and I need someone to be with during the storm.”

“Adam, I’m going to teach Joe everything you taught me. Everything!”

“Even this?”

“Oh, especially that.”

And that is how Ben Cartwright found his three sons on the day before the mature, eldest son, Adam left for Harvard: all three making fart sounds with their hands under their armpits, and laughing.


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