Death Wish (by BettyHT)

Summary:  After a question by Ben, Adam reflects on why he has been in so many dangerous situations.  There are numerous references to Bonanza episodes.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  PG
Word Count:  1439

Why did he have to say that? He asked me if I was trying to get myself killed. I wonder if he realizes that I would think about that seriously or was he throwing that out there as a complaint about how I’ve taken too many risks?

Now I know I’ve had a couple of close calls in the last couple of years, but it hasn’t been a deliberate effort to commit suicide by someone else’s hand. Or is it? Now I’m questioning myself and wondering if I do have a death wish. Just two years ago, I took on Poole, a professional gunfighter. I didn’t want him to kill my father, and I thought I might be fast enough to make it a fair fight. I didn’t know I could outdraw and outshoot him. I guess I was thinking I might die on that saloon floor. Somehow I remember that I wasn’t scared. Now why wasn’t I scared? I should have been. I was facing my imminent demise, and yet I stayed cool and calm, and the gunfighter got nervous and fidgety. So he lost, and I won. He lived, but I have to wonder if he fired first, would I be writing in this journal. I’m not sure if that’s a question or a statement.

Only months after that I went down into that mine with Philip knowing that it could cave in at any time. Gil went with us and never walked out. I only survived because of a lucky placement of the debris as the back of the drift collapsed on all three of us. Gil was crushed to death, and I would have been too by the huge beam that landed on me except the weight ended up carried on some rocks on either end of it. Just the small amount of the weight that pinned me was enough to bruise my abdomen. I was lucky not to have broken ribs. Then Philip came up with that square set idea, and I went back into that mine. I’m beginning to wonder if my father hasn’t hit rather close to the truth.

I’ve gone on posses whenever the opportunity presented itself. I’ve stood up to a posse when they wanted to kill the men we pursued. I earned a good bump on the head that time. If it hadn’t been for Joe, I probably would have died out there.

When those sheepherders invaded the Ponderosa and Pa was all set to run them off, I let them take me. I could have shot that boy down and gotten away. I couldn’t do it. It did all turn out for the best. He’s a good neighbor now, but I remember too what I said when Pa was going to sign over thousands of acres of land to get me back. I told him it wasn’t worth it. My life wasn’t worth land! At this moment, I can hardly believe I said that. I pretty much told my father to let them kill me. I’m sensing a sad theme here, but I risked my father’s life too, and afterwards, he told me that he would have done the same. I wonder though if he would have. He was ready to sign over the Ponderosa to save my life. If our positions had been reversed, would he have really hanged Farmer Perkins and risked my life at the hands of Sam Bryant and those thugs.

At Spirit Mountain, I went up there knowing I was violating a taboo of the Shoshoni, and that they would kill me if they ever found out. I took on the warriors who were shooting at the two white men, and I ended up shot as well as banged up from a fall. I told Ruth not to come to the shaman’s camp even though I knew they would kill me without hesitation if she did not. She traded her future for my life. I should be doing a better job of taking care of the gift that she gave me that night.

Perhaps the worst move I made though was when Cochise and his warriors pinned us down with that racist cavalry officer. We had no water, so I thought I could run faster than a bullet apparently and took the canteens to fill them at the pond. Didn’t work out very well for me because I got a bullet in the gut, which was the closest I’ve ever come to dying. I was scared. My belly hurt and it seemed I was in hellfire already because I was so hot and thirsty. I had to ride in that Army hospital wagon that bounced me around enough to damage my kidneys as much as any dirty fighter in a saloon has ever done. I was sure I was dying at that point, but somehow that doctor pulled me through.

But he only pulled me through so I could put my life at risk again and again. One of the more stupid moves I ever made was publicly announcing to Joe in that saloon that I had thousands of dollars on me, that I was going hunting alone, and that I was headed toward the area around Signal Rock. I pretty much drew a treasure map and put that X right on my back. It shouldn’t have surprised me so much to be bushwhacked. Luckily they didn’t kill me, but they left me out there to wander into that madman’s camp. I should have left Kane’s camp the moment he made that crazy proposition to me. I wonder now if I was so dehydrated that I wasn’t thinking straight then already. What he wanted was crazy and his reasons were ludicrous. I still wonder how I ever thought he was a sane and reasonable man. I should have bashed his head in with a rock as soon as I knew that he was trying to beat me down. I didn’t. I had opportunities and I never did it. It went on and on until I was a little crazy too. That’s what saved my life. He never expected that charge from me. He thought he had me playing by his rules. I showed him. I did it my way. If my family wouldn’t have been so persistent in looking for me though, I would have died out there just like Kane did. Sometimes I still feel guilty at drinking most of the water we had left, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to drag that travois. It didn’t matter though. He died anyway. One way or another, he was marked for death.

Now a rational and reasonable person might have thought I would have learned a lot from that experience. But no, just a month later when I recovered from that ordeal in the desert, I helped Joe and my father drive some cattle to market to get the money we needed to pay taxes. Now taxes aren’t very high out here, but when you own as much land, property, and livestock as we do, the total really adds up in a hurry to a small fortune. Pa endorsed that money order so anyone could cash it. I objected but not very strenuously. Lots of people have been killed in robberies for a lot less than ten thousand dollars. It was a set-up for a disaster right from the start, and then I made it worse. I told that miner what I had in my saddle pocket. I never meant for him to tell Trask, but of course if you put the information out there, the wrong person can certainly find it out. That man Nabors saved my life. I would have been lynched by some of the men in that posse or shot by Trask otherwise. I did get to Genoa to pay the taxes on time, but then I rode home and told my father what had happened.

That’s when he asked that question. I have to wonder now. He must know he did that to me too. He knows I can never let a thought like that pass without thinking it through from every angle, analyzing, and drawing a logical conclusion. He must have been thinking this about me for some time now. He doesn’t ask questions like that lightly. Now I really do have to wonder.

***The End***

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