Summary: Sometimes fathers know more than sons realize, but they need to give their sons space to grow too.
Word Count: 1067
As the stage pulled into Virginia City, Adam was nervous. He had left when he had just reached age eighteen. He was returning now as a man of twenty-one, having completed his courses of study in college. He had not seen his family for those three years, for travel across the country was much too difficult. He could have gone to school in California, but he wanted to see his mother’s birthplace, as well as her grave, and get to know his grandfather, who had prayed that Adam would choose Boston as the city where he would attend college. He had done all of that, and sadly his grandfather had passed only a few months earlier. Adam had taken care of his grandfather’s estate and saw to the bequests he had made. But then it was time to head home. He saw his father in the small crowd of people waiting for the stage. He was riding outside as the stage was full. The fare was lower because he had agreed to that, and Adam was frugal. He also enjoyed the fresh air blowing in his face instead of the stale sweat and other odors that were inevitable inside the coach. When the stage came to a halt, he swung down from the top, taking his bag with him. None of what he had shipped to the Ponderosa had arrived yet, for that ship was going around the horn. Adam had traveled to New Orleans and then Panama before crossing and getting passage on a ship up the Pacific Coast to San Francisco.
Ben pulled Adam into a hug. He knew it might make his son a bit uncomfortable but it had been four years. “Adam, my son, you’re so grown up. I would know it was you, though, no matter what. Welcome home, son, welcome home.”
Disengaging from the hug but still grasping his father’s hand in his hand and holding his arm with his other hand, Adam was reluctant to let go. Finally, he looked at his two brothers standing behind his father. Hoss was now taller than Adam and quite a bit wider as well, but the smile was the same as he remembered. He reached for Hoss and the two brothers hugged. When Adam broke the hug, he saw the nine-year-old brother who had been a child when he left. Now he looked like mischief personified, and looked a great deal like his mother but even smaller in features and build.
Little Joe looked at Adam with concern. He had remembered him as being much taller. He also thought that he should look a lot more powerful than he did. “Did you get shorter and skinnier because you went to Boston?”
“No, not at all. In fact, I weigh a bit more now than when I left, or at least my shirts and trousers tell me that. However, you are about twice as big as I remember, so perhaps it wasn’t so much me shrinking as you getting bigger. Not as much as Hoss, though. I didn’t realize I would have to look up at my younger brother who is now my big brother.”
Soon after, Adam was riding in the buckboard with his family and headed back to the Ponderosa. As they traveled, Ben and Hoss talked of the changes they had made since Adam had left. At fifteen, Hoss had finished his schooling and was working full time on the ranch. Little Joe remained quiet and observed the brother he could hardly remember, and this one hardly resembled the memories he did have.
The joy of returning to his home and family quickly waned for Adam. His father didn’t seem interested in any of the ideas Adam had developed in the years he had been gone. Hoss didn’t like having his position as his father’s right hand man being usurped by a brother who had been gone for more than three years. Little Joe resented being told to do anything by a brother he hardly knew. By the end of the first week at home, Adam needed some time away from his family. He told his father he was going for a ride.
“A lot of trees got knocked down in your secret glade.”
“What?” Shocked, Adam wondered how much his father knew. He had a quiet spot for reflection. Shielded on three sides by tall trees and rocky outcroppings, there was soft grass there and a small pond. He often sat in the sun there, thinking about things to get his thoughts in order or trying to calm himself and put events into perspective. He had thought it was his secret.
“I’ve known about it since you were twelve and upset that I brought Marie home. You rode off to be alone, and I respected that. However, you were twelve years old, and I wasn’t about to let my twelve-year old son out there all alone. I watched from a distance to make sure you were safe. It got a bit more uncomfortable when you were older and would stay there all night. I envied you those campfires then, but I couldn’t let you know I was there nor could I break that habit of watching out for you.”
“What about the trees?”
“A big storm toppled some of them a couple of years ago. I’ve worked to clear them away. Used them for firewood. It won’t look quite the same, though.”
“Nothing ever stays the same, Pa.”
“I know that. I understand.”
Hoss walked out then and asked where Adam was going.
“Hoss, how would you like to spend a night out under the stars in a quiet peaceful little spot I know?”
“Hot diggity, just wait til I get my stuff.”
Little Joe came out to see why Hoss was so excited. He wanted to go too.
“Why not? Go get your stuff too while I ask Hop Sing for more food.”
“Adam, while you’re gone, I’ll be thinking about some of those suggestions you made that I was too hasty in rejecting.”
“Thank you for taking your brothers with you.”
Adam grinned. He and his father had reconnected. Camping out and just being brothers would likely help the three to reconnect as well. For the first time since arriving home, he felt at home.