Summary: Hoss asks Adam for help with women.
Word Count: 3871
“Can you help me?”
“Aaaah, I don’t know Hoss. It all depends on what you need help with.”
“Well, actually… I need some advice.”
“And, just what exactly do you need advice on?”
Hoss stuffed his massive hands into his pants pockets and humbly approached his older brother. Adam read quietly by the fire in the living room of the Ponderosa ranch house. He did not remove his eyes from his book as he conversed. He casually turned the page and never missed a beat in the story he was so obviously engrossed in.
“Women.” Hoss replied bluntly.
“Women, huh.” Adam said as he finally lowered his book into his lap using his forefinger as a marker to hold his page. “What makes you think I can advise you about women?” He asked with a skeptically cocked head and quizzically scowled brow.
“Well, you know.”
“Well, actually no. I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Little Joe? Isn’t he your usual advisor on such tribulations?”
“Tribu… what?” Hoss rebuffed with a scrunched face.
“Problems.” Adam clarified with a patronizing grin.
“Yeah, but this is different.” Hoss nodded as he took a seat on the stone fireplace hearth right next to Adam’s arm.
“Oh? How so?” Adam quarried.
“I’m real serious this time, Adam.”
“Well…” Adam said as he cleared his throat. “Just how serious are you?”
“I think I’m in love.” Hoss confessed.
But, he immediately defended his remark as Adam threw him a sideways glance.
“NA!” Hoss held his hand up to prevent Adam from commenting on his declaration. “I know you’ve heard me say it before but I ain’t never, EVER felt like this.”
“And, Little Joe can’t help you?” Adam reaffirmed.
“Boy. You really must be serious.” Adam stated as he bent forward to get the scoop. He wasn’t even aware that Hoss was seeing anyone. “Alright. Who is she?”
“I don’t know.”
“Haaawwwsss.” Adam scoffed. “Come on. How can you be in love with somebody you don’t even know?”
“Well, that’s the problem, Adam. Every time I see her in town, I just c’aint seem to drum up the courage to introduce myself. Joe just laughs at me. I want to talk to her but…” Hoss sounded lost. “… I just cain’t”
“Hmmm. I see.” Adam pondered like a professor. “This – is – quite – a – conundrum, isn’t it?”
“I guess so.” Hoss answered not sure what conundrum meant. “Can ya help me?”
“What makes you think I can help you?”
“Ah, come on Adam. I seen the way the ladies act around you. You know how to charm them female women with all your poems of yours and playin’ guitar and such. They love you.”
“They do?” Adam said with honest modesty.
“YES! They do!” Hoss said positively with a hint of jealousy.
“And, you supposed that I can make them ah… love you?” Adam didn’t sound very sure.
“Couldja?” Hoss asked brightly.
“Well, I guess we could put you into training to be a lady’s man of sorts.”
“Great! When can we start?”
“Now Hoss, these things take time.” Adam announced with deliberate enunciation. “We have to be patient.”
“But, I ain’t got time. I gotta get in there before someone else does. When do we start?” Hoss repeated as if Adam’s first piece of advice had glanced off him like a passing bug.
“Why don’t we start in the morning at breakfast.” Adam suggested with mock enthusiasm. “You go to bed and get a good night’s rest and I’ll stay down here and devise a plan.”
Adam narrowed his eyes to a squint to give his brother the false impression that this new project was top priority. In fact, Adam’s sarcasm was lost on his lovesick sibling.
Hoss seemed satisfied with Adam’s offer though and smiled broadly. He slapped his knees before he stood to retire. He placed his massive hand on Adam’s shoulder.
“I knew I could depend on you.”
“Some natures are too good to be spoiled by praise.” Adam replied philosophically.
“Ralph – Waldo – Emerson.”
“Good night Hoss.” Adam dismissed.
He watched Hoss lumber up the stairs and shook his head at Hoss’ lack of grace. That was what made Hoss, Hoss. Adam thought it was moderately charming but he guessed the opposite sex might not agree. He hadn’t given his brother’s attractiveness to women much attention before. Maybe he should have. But, now was a good a time as any to educate Hoss in the fineries of being a lady’s man. Adam couldn’t help but smirk. He realized he had undertaken a large endeavor. After a muffled chuckle, he returned to reading his book.
Ben was the first at the breakfast table. He usually was. Then Adam made his entrance and uncharacteristically early, Little Joe was the next to join them. Each man greeted each other with muffled good-mornings. Their routine on a workday was always businesslike. The idea was to fill yourself with as much food and coffee as possible to keep you going until lunch some six hours later. The conversation was usually limited to what was on tap for the day.
“I’d like to finish that line of fence we started yesterday.” Ben murmured as he dipped his biscuit into his egg yolk.
“Sur thing, Pa.” Joe replied passively. He licked his lips of bacon grease.
“Where’s Hoss?” Ben inquired after several moments of silence. “It’s not like him to be late for a meal.”
“He’s awake.” Joe confirmed. “I heard him fumbling around in his room.”
Right on cue, Hoss appeared at the top of the stairs. He stretched as far and as long as his body would allow and added a roaring yawn for effect. His display made his family take note. He was unshaven and his shirt was covered in stains.
Ben, Adam, and Joe watched as Hoss plodded heavily down the stairs and into the living room, scratching his belly with one hand and his ear with the other. He had one chunk of hair that stood straight up from the middle of his head. He shuffled to the breakfast table and lazily dropped into his usual chair.
“WRONG!” Adam blared, startling Joe and Ben into dropping their forks.
“Wrong?” Hoss protested. “Whadda ya mean, wrong?”
“THAT, is no way for a gentleman to enter a room.” Adam corrected. “Now, I want you to go back upstairs, wash, shave and comb your hair. I want you to put on a clean shirt and come back down with a smile on your face and… pep… in your step.”
“Pep in my step?” Hoss whined. “Ah heck. Do I gotta?”
“You wanted to start this morning, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but, I’m hungry Adam.”
“Eating like a gentleman will be lesson number two.”
Ben and Joe watched the exchange between Adam and Hoss like a horseshoe match. Both of them wondered what was going on. This was always the way Hoss started the day. It was normal. They wondered what brought on Adam’s beratement.
Then, like a spoiled child, Hoss threw his napkin onto his bare plate.
“Dad burn it!” He hissed as he rose from the table and returned to his room.
Adam casually reached for a piece of toast and continued to eat as if nothing had occurred. Joe and Ben glanced at one another silently begging the question… “What just happened?”. They turned their gaze toward Adam for an explanation but he was oblivious to their inquiring minds. Finally, Ben spoke.
“Might I ask what that was all about?”
“What, what was all about?”
“Why you just scolded your brother for coming down to breakfast?”
“I didn’t scold him, Pa. He asked for my help and I’m… well, helping him.” He surmised. He raised his eyebrows and curled his lips into a crafty smirk.
“Helping him to do what?” Joe asked curiously.
“He just needs a little coaching. That’s all.”
“Coaching?” Ben added to Joe’s inquisition.
“Adam?” Ben said, again trying desperately to get his eldest son to divulge more information. “What, exactly, are you coaching Hoss for?”
“I’d rather not say, Pa.”
Adam continued to chew, enjoying his family’s interrogation and his ability to keep his intentions secret, if only to annoy them.
“You’d rather not say.”
“That’s right. The less you know the better.”
“The less I know the better.” Ben repeated suspiciously.
“That’s right, Pa.” Adam confirmed innocently.
“I have a feeling I’m not going to WANT to know.”
“Yeah, well… I WANT to know.” Joe admitted boisterously.
“Eat your breakfast. And, mind your own business.” Adam instructed his little brother, while pointing to Joe’s plate with his fork.
Joe sneered back at Adam. He was exceedingly curious and the fact that he’d been left out of the loop hurt his feelings. He and Hoss had teamed up on many adventures in the past and he was surprised that his partner in crime had sought the help of Adam instead of him.
Adam wasn’t any fun. Why would Hoss ask Adam for help? Why not him? What could Adam possibly coach Hoss in that he couldn’t?
“I’ll eat my breakfast.” Joe seethed. “But, I’m gonna find out what you and Hoss are up to if it kills me.”
“Joseph… please.” Ben sounded discussed. “Let’s just let sleeping dogs lie, shall we?”
“Sleep does.” Joe pouted. “Let sleeping dogs lie he says. More like dog-EAT-dog, then sleeping dogs lying anywhere, that’s for sure.” He grumbled with pursed lips.
Adam bowed a wily grin.
“All these forks are confusing me, Adam.”
“There’s nothing to be confused about, Hoss. Look… it’s simple.” Adam began to explain.
“But, how many forks does one person need to eat supper with enyhow?” Hoss protested., before Adam could continue the table etiquette lesson. “I only need one and sometimes that ain’t even necessary.”
“Yes… I know.” Adam replied dryly.
“Hoss sat at the dining room table in his Sunday clothes. He was spic and span. His hair, greased to a shine, laid flat against his well-rounded scalp – a perfect part made his head look like it was split in two.
“I don’t need to know about forks. I need to know how to talk to women, especially that pretty little gal in town.”
“Do you want me to help you or not?” Adam challenged as he stood with his arms folded, scowling crossly. He hovered over Hoss like a storm cloud.
“Well, yes I do. But, I still don’t see how knowin’ about forks is going to help me with women.”
“It’s all part of the plan, Hoss. To build up your confidence… to make you at least feel more refined and less like a shy country boy. All these little things, like table manners and grooming, help with the whole picture.” Adam outlined with gesturing hands. “Do you understand?”
“Well, you’re just going to have to trust me.”
It seemed Hoss had no choice but to trust his brother. He stared down at the place setting Adam had prepared. All Hoss saw was a mass of utensils surrounding several piled plates topped off with an assortment of glasses and side dishes.
“Elbows off the table, please.” Adam commanded as an aside.
Hoss obeyed with an agitated sniff.
“It’s really simple.” Adam continued the lesson. “You just work from the outside in. Salad fork, dinner fork, dessert fork.”
“What if there’s soup. What fork is that?”
“Well, your spoon is right beside your knife there… see?”
“What’s this puny one fur?”
“The big spoon is for soup and the little spoon is for stirring your coffee. If you take sugar in your coffee or tea, you use the spoon that’s already in the sugar bowl, then stir it in with the… puny one.”
“Oh.” Hoss sound disinterested, his posture was slouched and lazy.
“Sit up straight, Hoss. Come on. At least try, will ya? I’ve got better things to do if you’re not even going to try.”
Again, Hoss obliged.
“Now, place your napkin in your lap. Don’t stuff it in the neck of your shirt like you always do.” Adam instructed.
“But, what if I drip stuff?”
“Try not to.”
“Oh. Okay. I’ll try, Adam.”
“Okay, Hop Sing,” Adam summonsed. “Bring in the first course.”
Hop Sing entered the dining room with an enormous tray. It held a single bowl. He placed the it in front of Hoss.
“Ah… thanks, Hop Sing.” Adam said.
“Soup? First thing in morning?” The Chinaman grunted. “Very strange.” Then he returned to the kitchen grumbling something in his mother tongue.
“Okay, Hoss. Go ahead. Eat the soup.”
Hoss grabbed his spoon like a hammer and scooped up the liquid as if it was going to be heavy. His elbow stuck up in the air like a broken flagpole. He thrust his chin toward the spoon as he raised it to his mouth. Several drops fell onto his freshly cleaned shirt but Hoss didn’t notice. He was so focused on the spoonful. Then he sucked in the soup with a loud slurp.
“NO! NO! NO!” Adam blared. “You sound like a hog at a trough. And, you’re spilling it all over yourself. Now, watch me.”
Adam took the seat next to his brother and demonstrated just exactly how one is supposed to eat soup. He sat up straight and place his napkin in his lap. He dipped the far edge of the spoon into the soup and pulled it slowly to the far side of the bowl. Then he gracefully raised it to his lips and ate the soup without a sound.
“There you see.” Adam surmised. “It’s easy. Now you try.”
Hoss concentrated on his bowl and swallowed hard as if he were about to undertake something that was life or death. It took several tries but he managed to master the technique. Adam was quite proud and so was Hoss. The meal etiquette lesson continued for several hours until Hoss actually said he was full. It was a complaint Adam had never heard his brother utter.
“We better get out there and help Pa and Joe with that fencing or we’ll never hear the end of it.” Adam advised as he excused his pupil. “We’ll practice tonight at supper and then afterward we might tackle introductions and even work on movement.”
“Yes, Hoss. You need a little refinement on how to… ah, walk.”
“How to walk? What’s wrong with the way I walk?”
“Well, nothing for a cowboy. It’s just a smidge… sloppy.” Adam said with as much tact as he could muster. “A gentleman should move gracefully.”
“Well, when I git graceful, then can I go to town and see if that little gal will pay me any mind?”
“Play out the game. Act out the part and if the gods have blundered, we will not.” Adam philosophized.
“Emerson Hoss, Emerson.”
“You know Adam? Sometimes I c’aint figure out a dang thing yer sayin’ but it sure do sound purdy.” Hoss grinned broadly in awe of his brother’s eloquence. “No wonder them ladies love you so much.”
“You too shall reap the rewards of my humble wisdom.” Adam bowed dramatically in gratitude.
“See. There you go again. Was that written by the feller Emerson too?”
“No, Hoss.” Adam sighed. “That was plain, old me.”
The next several days were filled with dance lessons, speech articulations and party decorum. Adam schooled Hoss in how to dress, move and act like a refined, upper class gentleman. Hoss proved to be a diligent student ready and willing to lap up all the education Adam could throw at him. And, in the end, managed to achieve some semblance of a lady’s man.
Little Joe tried to spy on his older brothers but his father kept him busy with chores. Ben thought it wise to occupy his youngest son in order to keep peace around the ranch. Two out of three scheming boys was enough. From previous experience, he knew the addition of Joe to the mix would inevitably create havoc. And, if there was one thing Ben did not stand for, it was havoc.
So, they left Adam and Hoss to their covert “project”. Sooner or later, Ben surmised, he’d find out what they were up to good or bad. He was a patient man. With three active sons, he chose tolerance over tyranny. He always had.
Finally, the day arrived. Adam informed Hoss that he had graduated from the “Adam Cartwright Academy of Etiquette”. He even made up a certificate for him. Hoss was thrilled and with his newfound confidence seemed anxious to get to town and properly introduce himself to the little gal he was so smitten with.
“Want any company?” Adam offered as he watched Hoss tack up Chub for the ride into Virginia City.
“No thank you, Adam.” Hoss replied with perfect enunciation. “I think I can do this all on my own, thanks to you.”
“Well, I’m glad I could be of service.”
Hoss led his horse out of the barn and mounted up while being extra careful not to muss his neatly pressed, Sunday-best clothes.
“See you later, Adam. Wish me luck.”
“You’re not going to need any. She’d be crazy to turn you down.”
Hoss gave Chub a cluck and a gentle squeeze and Adam watched them trot off toward town.
“Don’t forget to take off your hat!” Adam yelled final instructions out to his brother. “And, stand up straight! HOSS! Make sure you…”
But, Hoss was out of earshot and on his way.
Adam sat in the blue velvet chair at the foot of the staircase. He had a book in his lap but he was preoccupied with the time. Hoss had left on his romantic mission that morning and had yet to return. He’d missed lunch and dinner. That was a rarity. But, Adam wondered if it was a good or bad omen. Ben couldn’t help but notice Adam’s fixation with the Grandfather clock that stood by the front door.
“Everything okay, son?” Ben inquired from his favourite red, leather chair that sat parallel the massive fireplace.
“Ah… sure, Pa. Everything’s fine.”
“I can’t help but notice that Hoss has missed two meals today. Do I have anything to worry about? It’s getting late.”
“No. No. Nothing.” Adam stuck out his lower lip with slight doubt. He forced and insipid grin.
As Adam returned his focus back to his book, he was distracted by the sound of an approaching horse.
“Excuse me, Pa.” He said politely as he rose from his chair and went outside – curiosity getting the better of him.
It was Hoss. He was putting his horse to bed. His clothes were no longer pristine. His hair was yet again askew. Adam followed his younger brother into the barn.
“So?” Adam probed. “How did it go?”
“Not so good, Adam.” Hoss sounded deflated.
“Why? What happened? What did she say?”
“Well, I did everything you said. I was smooth and charming and as much of a gentleman as I could be. Just like you taught me.”
“And… she said I wasn’t her type.”
“Wasn’t your type?!”
“Yep. That’s what she said, all right.”
“What do you mean you’re not her type?”
“I mean. She said she wants a farmer… a regular Joe. She said she likes an everyday man, not a fancy talker like I was pretending to be.”
“How do you know that?”
“I overheard her talkin’ to her friends.” Hoss sounded deflated. His head sagged.
“Oh.” Adam replied. “Well, tomorrow you can…”
“Nope. I ain’t goin’ throught that again. I’m through with gals, Adam.”
“No buts. That’s it. I tried and that’s it. I just wasn’t meant to be a lady’s man.”
“Now, what kind of talk is that?” Come on into the house and we’ll…” Adam offered.
“No.” Hoss interjected. “Old Chub here has a shoe loose. I need ta fix it.”
“But it’s almost 10 o’clock, Hoss. It can wait until morning, can’t it?”
“No. I want to do it now.”
Adam realized Hoss just wanted to be alone. With a sigh and a shrug, Adam slowly walked back to the house deep in thought. He entered the living room and sauntered across the floor with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the ground. The hardwood creaked beneath his well-worn boots.
He retook his seat in the blue, velvet chair, leaned his elbows on the knees and laced his fingers together. With his chin resting on his knuckles, he let out yet another lengthy exhale.
“Something the matter, son?” Ben asked as he raised his pipe to his mouth and lit it. The scent of rich tobacco filled the air.
“What makes to so smart?” Adam posed, seemingly disgusted with his arrogance.
“Well, lots of things I suppose. But, I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Last week Hoss asked me to help him. He was interested in this girl in town. He thought that if I could give him some tips on being a gentleman he might have a better chance of her liking him.”
“So that’s what you two were up to.”
“Yes. Well, it turns out the lady is not interested in refinement at all.”
“Why didn’t I just tell Hoss to be himself?” Adam chastised. “Why didn’t I just tell him that if a woman didn’t want him exactly how he is than she wasn’t worth having.”
“I guess instead of Hoss getting an education it’s you that got one, eh son?”
“I better go out there and apologize to him.” Adam resigned.
“What was it our friend Sam Clemens said?” Ben gazed up at the rafters in search of the correct quote. “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
“Well, he’s right and I’ve been a terrible one.”
“Oh Adam. I think you’re being too hard on yourself.”
“Am I? Hoss is my little brother, Pa. I’m supposed to protect him not cause him harm or heartache. I’ve been a fool.”
“Protect him? Hoss? He’s a grown man!” Ben quipped with a wink. “Really grown.”
“Yes. He’s a big man but his ego isn’t. I’ve just made everything worse. I’ll go talk to him.”
Adam stood to leave.
“Remember Adam. Have more than though showest. Speak less than thou knowest.”
Ben gave his eldest son a sideways glance as if chiding him with a taste of his own medicine.
“You said it, Pa.”
“Well, actually no, son. Shakespeare did.”
Adam humbly bowed to his sage father. He swallowed his pride and returned to the barn to apologize to Hoss. It was the least he could do. His attempt to transform Hoss into a lady’s man was not only irresponsible but just plain silly. What made him think he could improve on such a good man in the first place. Never again would he assume that someone should change in order to gain anything. Most of all, a woman. He had truly learned his lesson.
“Be yourself. Who else is better qualified.” – Frank J. Gilbin II
One thought on “Lady’s Man (by Barbara)”
Sweet story and it ended up with Adam learning a lesson. Hoss didn’t need to change; he was lovely the way he was