Summary: Hop Sing is featured in a short piece showing his role in the family.
Word Count: 1204
Watching young Adam Cartwright stalking to the house, Hop Sing knew he was angry because the boy had a way of walking when he had lost his temper that was communicated quite well by the way those long legs stomped stiff legged toward the house. He thought perhaps it would be best if he intercepted the young man before he talked to his father because those two could be like two bulls when they tangled. The young one had learned well from the older one and didn’t easily give ground. He walked outside as if on an errand and of course accidentally was in the young man’s path.
“Ah, Mister Adam, maybe help Hop Sing. Hop Sing need kindling and wood for stove. Can tell rain coming. No like wet wood. Smell bad. Smoke much.”
“Sure, Hop Sing. I can do that for you.”
Always agreeable to help, Adam headed to the woodpile and began chopping some kindling. Hop Sing waited only a minute to be sure he would be busy for a time burning off some of that anger, and he returned to his kitchen. When Adam came in with a basket of kindling, Hop Sing had already hidden the contents of the full basket he already had, and had shoved some of the firewood in his room under his bed as well. Adam dutifully went outside and carried in two loads of firewood stacking the box as high as it could safely be filled.
“There, Hop Sing. That should hold you for the next couple of days. I’ll put one more stack on the porch out of the rain too just in case.”
“Good. Then come to kitchen. Hop Sing give you fresh biscuits. Make today. Very good.” Hop Sing knew how much Adam loved biscuits and doubted that he could resist. He couldn’t and was soon sitting at the kitchen table with two fresh biscuits with preserves happily eating them and savoring every bite.
“You back early today. Work good?” Hop Sing saw the dark look again. He waited for the angry explanation to spill out. It did.
“The men say I don’t know what I’m doing. They tell me I’m too young to give orders. So when I said not to move the cattle across that lower pasture because it was too wet, they did it anyway. Now they’ve got calves and cows stuck in the mud and will have to spend the rest of the day getting them out. I’m the one that will have to tell Pa that we couldn’t get the job done today and will have to move the cattle tomorrow.”
“I hear man say wise thing once. I remember. Fools think they’re so dang smart, but a wise man is smart enough to know he’s still got a lot to learn. Those men foolish. Age not test of good ideas. Maybe next time know better.”
“I hope so. I like that saying too. Maybe I can tell Pa that.” Adam left then to go talk to his father but walked without the anger that had made him so stiff when he had arrived home.
Glad to have been of service, Hop Sing got busy making more biscuits so that he would have enough for dinner. It was difficult work being the cook on the Ponderosa, doing the laundry, and having to manage the personal relationships in the family as well. He didn’t mind though. It was rewarding but gratifying too to have a white man be his friend and trust him to help raise his sons although the oldest only needed little guidance like this now and then. The younger two though still needed more from him and he was willing to give it.
A few days earlier he had given the same advice to the middle son but for an entirely different set of circumstances. Hoss had come home from the church picnic in a sour mood. In the kitchen helping later to pack things away, he had been muttering about various boys until Hop Sing sat him down and asked what had happened to make him so unhappy.
“Hop Sing, all these boys is always calling me stupid. They say I’m so big I oughta know more’n I do. They day my head is big and empty.”
“Size of head not measure of how smart the man. Did you hit boys or fight them?”
“Nah, I could hurt ’em real bad ifn I did that. I know better. “Sides, Adam told me that them that bullies like they do sez things jest ta rile me and that I kin show ’em I’m better’n them by not doing nothin’ when they do that. But they did rile me. I couldn’t help it. It does hurt ta have ’em say things like that all the time even if it’s jest to rile me.”
“What you do?”
“I jest told ’em that I saved ’em a heap a trouble ’cause ifn I was to hit ’em, they’d be in trouble for fighting and they’d be hurting too from me hitting ’em.”
“What they do?”
“Well, they laughed some, but then they left me alone. I wish I knew more on what to do when that kind a thing happens. I suppose maybe I oughta talk to Pa or Adam about it some more, huh? Maybe next time I’ll have something more to say and maybe I won’t get so riled.”
“You wise. Those boys foolish. Fools think they’re so dang smart, but a wise man is smart enough to know he’s still got a lot to learn.”
“Thanks, Hop Sing. You’re the smartest man I know, except of course Pa and Adam who are the other smartest men I know. Oh, and Sheriff Coffee ’cause he’s pretty smart too. Heck, I guess when you’re eleven, they’re a lot of smart men out there.”
“Yes, no matter how smart, how wise, always someone more smart, more wise. We learn from them, and then we teach others.”
“Like you teach me. Oh, oh, that means I gotta teach Little Joe. Hop Sing, that ain’t gonna be easy.”
Ten Years Later:
“Hop Sing, you’ve told me that at least a thousand times. I get it. I know what I’m doing.” Sixteen-year-old Little Joe Cartwright got on his horse and raced off into the foggy afternoon riding too fast for the muddy roads. Not surprisingly, a few hours later, he was in his bed having his various injuries tended by Hop Sing. “All right, you were right. I shouldn’t have gone riding in the fog with the roads so muddy. I should have waited until tomorrow. When Pa and Adam get back from the cattle drive, I know I’m going to get a real good lecture from both of them so you may as well go ahead and give me yours now.”
“Only say what you need remember. Fools think they’re so dang smart, but a wise man is smart enough to know he’s still got a lot to learn.”