Walk a Mile In His Shoes (by BettyHT)

Summary:   A set of letters from one brother to another shows how understanding can develop when love is strong.

Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rating:  PG
Word Count:  1626


Letter One

When you left, at first, I was upset because of Pa. I could see how he was hurting by losing a son. I know Pa told us that he saw it coming for years and knew it would happen some day. He said that he was grateful that you had waited so long to go until we were all men and able to carve out a place for ourselves and ready to run the Ponderosa on our own. I know he was really talking about me as if you had made some sacrifice staying on until I was twenty-four instead of leaving when I was eighteen or something like that. Well, as far as I’m concerned right now, you could have left sooner. I could have learned from Pa or Hoss. I didn’t need you. All you did really was make us all need you to do things, boss us around like you were going to take over for Pa someday, and then walk out on us when we counted on you the most. You’re the one who knows all those people in San Francisco and Sacramento. You’re the one who did all those contracts for us. You’re the bull of the woods in the timber camps. Now we have to make all those contacts and fight those battles to earn that respect so we can do what you did. You’re a damn bastard for dumping a lot on us when you left like that. I hope you’re finding things as difficult as we are, and I hope you’re carrying a load of guilt for what you did to Pa. I hope you make a real mess of things and have to come home like a yellow dog with his tail between his legs. It will teach you what’s really important in life, and it’s not being selfish and greedy like you are. It’s caring about family and doing what’s right. You may be the oldest, but you must have missed learning that part that Hoss and I learned. Well, we don’t miss you at all. We’re getting along without you now and it’s like you were never here at all.

*****

Letter Two

I hate to admit this, but I’m beginning to miss you a little. It’s only a little so don’t get too big on yourself. It’s not like I’m really asking you to come back, but it is awful quiet here some nights. I’d like a good argument now and then to clear the air, and you know Hoss won’t do it. Pa gives me those looks like I’m a child that doesn’t know better. I know now that you were the one who treated me like a man who could take it and let me have it in those arguments we had. I always felt better afterwards because it seemed we got it out of our systems, and things were always better then. Now I’ve got a lot bottled up and nowhere to go with it. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to stop back in now and then to have a good fight, would you? No, I suppose that would be asking too much. I’ll have to find another way to let it out. I miss the music too. You do know that Hoss can’t sing a song to save his life, and Pa mostly sings like he’s talking his way through a hymn. Me, I need a group to sing with only with Hoss and Pa here, there isn’t exactly the kind of group I need. Pa sent me to San Francisco to do the contract for the timber for that new trestle. I met with the railroad representatives and introduced myself. They asked about you, and I didn’t have much to say, and then we got down to business. I can see now that it was better this way than tagging along with you because they would have seen me as the younger brother. This way I showed up as the Cartwright representing the Ponderosa, and that was that. Maybe your way on that at least was the best way, but leaving was still the wrong thing to do. You could have found a better way to do what you needed to do.

*****

Letter Three

This week, Pa and I had a long talk about you leaving. He said he never realized until he saw your back for the last time, how his family must have felt when he left. He said he knew it was coming, but that didn’t help how much it hurt. He told me he understood that you had to go and that the only way we could ever expect to see you back here was to wish you well and hope you were successful in figuring out what you wanted and finding that dream once you did. Pa said he was luckier than you because he was able to come up with his dream and chase it right away, but he had made you help build his dream and that delayed you doing what you wanted to do. I never thought about it that way before. I guess Pa’s dream is my dream.  I never thought about you having a different one, but he reminded me that he had a very different dream than his father had.  I guess you’re a lot like Pa then. I’ve never had what Pa calls your wanderlust, well, except when it comes to the ladies, but that’s an entirely different story. Maybe you can find a lady too because we sure haven’t had any luck here. If you do, maybe you could send her pretty sister here for a visit. I guess I’m starting to see things more like you saw them and starting to understand better what happened.

*****

Letter Four

A few changes have been taking place. You may laugh about this one: Pa wants to build more windmills to bring up more water in some of the drier pastures. Seems like not having you to argue with has made him rethink some of his positions on things. Hoss has been bringing up a few things to him too now that he seems to be a bit more open-minded. We have to thank you for getting that started. On a more serious note, Pa is starting to consider some of those ideas you had that he didn’t want to do. Now that you’re gone, he’s realizing we need to do some things differently. You wanted a real ranch foreman for years. Well we have one now. He’s a real good hand and knows his stuff. He’s someone we can trust, and it takes some of the burden off of Pa and Hoss especially to have another responsible man helping to run things.

Hoss had a big fight at the timber camps last week. He told me it was the most fun he’s had in years. I guess he’s been waiting for a long time for the opportunity. He said as long as you were bull of the woods up there, he couldn’t do anything about it, but once you were gone, he waited for the day that they would challenge him. Two black eyes and a few cuts and bruises later, and we have one very happy large brother. Hoss and I talked quite a lot this week about the ranch, about Pa, about you leaving, and everything. I told him how much I enjoyed contract negotiations and being treated like a businessman by the railroad representatives. I’m looking forward to negotiating a good price for our cattle next. We talked too about Pa following his dream and how you helped him build it until we got the Ponderosa we have today. Then Hoss hit me with a thought I hadn’t considered. We talked about our sadness about you leaving. He said it wasn’t as bad for us as it was for you because we still had each other to lean on like we always did. He said even though you were likely pretty excited about your new opportunities just like we are, you’re probably just as sad, but you’re alone with no one to lean on. I’m really sorry to think about that, and I hope you find someone real soon to be a good friend that you can turn to when you need somebody. I guess I needed to walk a mile in your shoes to understand what you are going through.

Pa told me to write letters to you when you left but not to put the first ones in the mail. He said I would know when it was the right one to post. I’m going to send this one and the last one. I’ll burn the others, and you probably know why. Like usual, my temper burns hot at first, and I say things I don’t really mean. Now though, I know what’s most important, and that’s you. I’m going to write letters as often as I can because I think you need them as much as a sailor on a ship needs to know there are lifelines when the seas are rough. Pa taught me that. I’m sure you remember those stories. You may not get all the letters as you travel, but know that I am thinking about you often and praying for your safety, success, and happiness. If you can come home someday, we will all be waiting with open arms. Know we all hope for that dream, but until then, Godspeed.

Love, Joe.

***The End***

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