Summary: Sometimes, a father only needs to know a fraction of what happens so he doesn’t worry too much.
Word Count: 1100
With wide eyes and a high-pitched loud voice, Little Joe told Ben about the camping trip he had been allowed to go on with his two older brothers. The ten-year-old had been amazed and frightened at the things that happened. “Pa, it was a terrible storm. There was a ton of rain and the wind was howling. Lightning lit up the sky so it was almost like daytime. The thunder was so loud, it made my ears hurt.”
Ben looked to Adam and Hoss for confirmation of little Joe’s story. Adam looked at Hoss and shrugged before responding.
“It was a light rain with a little thunder and a bit of lightning, Pa. We needed some rain.”
Sending a sour look of irritation at Adam, Joe continued. “Pa, I got chased up a tree by a grizzly bear. I went out to do my business, and there was a bear. Pa, I thought he wanted to eat me. I screamed for help, but it took forever for Adam and Hoss to get there.”
Once again Adam claimed Little Joe was exaggerating without actually saying that. “I’m sure it was just a black bear, Pa. It was probably about as big as Hoss. We scared it off. We slept in the line cabin every night, and never let Little Joe out of our sight after that. At least one of us was with him at every moment after that, even when he went to do his business.”
“Well, Adam, how about when we went to hunt some antelope, and you got us lost? You said it was an old Indian trail that Young Wolf showed you, but then you couldn’t find it again so we could get back. We had to spend the night in that cave. Pa, we could hear that grizzly out there. We musta been in his cave, and he didn’t like it at all. Adam and Hoss took turns keeping watch. They had their rifles loaded and ready to use, but we put a fire at the opening of the cave, and the grizzly never came in to eat us.”
Hoss took a shot at explaining then. “We were never lost, Pa. It just got too dark to see the trail because we were having so much fun and kinda lost track of the time. But then Adam knew where that cave was. It was a right big cave and had an opening up top so we could even have a campfire inside the cave to keep us warm. We built one at the entrance to keep out the critters, Pa. You never know what kind of critters are gonna come wandering into a cave at night. We were just being careful.”
Adam smiled at Hoss to show his appreciation of Hoss handling that one. Ben noticed. He wondered how much of Little Joe’s story was true and how much was exaggerated. He assumed he might never find out, but all three were home safe and sound, so he could forget about this trip for a while. “Well, go take care of your horses and do any chores that are needed. Then you can wash up for dinner. Hop Sing has pork roast all set to go. He said he would fix the antelope steaks tomorrow.”
Tired after the long hunting trip and the ride home, the three brothers trudged out to the stable where Little Joe made his feelings quite clear.
“Adam, you lied to Pa. How could you do that?”
“Little Joe, I didn’t actually lie to Pa. I just didn’t add all the details you wanted him to know. Now, didn’t we have a light rain before that big storm hit? Weren’t we safe and dry when the storm came?”
“Well, yeah, but what about that grizzly? You said it was a black bear.”
“Wasn’t that grizzly black? And wasn’t he at least as big as Hoss if not bigger?”
“But then Hoss said it was critters who wanted to get back into that cave!”
“Little Joe, isn’t a grizzly a critter like any other? And we didn’t exactly see him that night. It was too dark. It could have been a different bear. Maybe it was a black bear. No one could see him.”
“But, Adam, Hoss said he could smell him and he was close. Then you found those hairs on the rock in the cave and said it was hair from a bear. Doesn’t that mean we were in the bear’s cave?”
“Maybe that’s where a bear hibernates in winter, but it’s not winter now so there was no reason for that bear to come into that cave. He was probably just smelling the food we had cooking and wanted some. You know bear will eat antelope if they get the chance.”
Sitting on a hay bale, Little Joe scrunched up his face and thought as hard as he could. “All right, you didn’t lie exactly, but why didn’t you want Pa to know what happened?”
“Little Joe, do you think he would let Hoss and you come with me on another camping trip if he knew all the things that went wrong on this one? He would never want to think you were in any danger, and with me and Hoss there to protect you, you were never in any real danger, were you?”
Little Joe thought about that a bit more and then smiled. “No, I guess not. Does that mean you’ll take me along on the next hunting trip?”
“Well, if you can keep Pa from getting worried so he’ll let you go with us, then the answer is yes.”
“Little Joe grabbed the rake that Hoss handed to him and began raking the manure out of the stalls. But then he had one more thing to question.
“Hey, what about that trip last spring when you two came home all wet and muddy and said you fell in the river while you were fishing? Was that a true story?”
Hoss and Adam looked at each other. “Yeah, older brother, how about that one?”
The older Cartwright brother started laughing so hard that he had to lean on Hoss’ shoulder. That got Hoss laughing just as hard. When Hoss was able to catch his breath enough to talk, he had a parting comment.
“Little Joe, you ain’t old enough to know about that one. You can ask us again in say, five or six years. You’ll be old enough then.”