Four hours later everyone met back up at the house. "No luck finding them anywhere...I'm guessing?" Ben asked.
Everyone shook their heads.
"Hey Mr. C., look there's a note on the door," Murdock said and went over to the porch.
"What's it say, son?"
"It says I have your son and his partner in my possession. I will be sending further instructions on what I want you to do next. If you do not call off the search...they will be executed."
Ben grabbed the note from Murdock and reread it. "Is this some sort of sick joke...who would take Little Joe and Face?"
"And why not?"
"Because we can't call off the search that's why not...we have to find them."
"Boys, put the horses up and meet me in the house."
Ben went over to Adam and grabbed him by both arms. "Do not defy me, boy...now move."
Adam took a hold of Sport and Buck and lead them into the barn. Hoss brought in the other horses.
"Mr. Cartwright...I'm going to head back into town and turn in...you send for me if you want me to help."
"Cole, why don't you stay with us tonight...it's a long ride back into town."
"Oh, that's mighty generous of you, Mr. Cartwright, but I have some business to attend to first thing in the morning, be easier if I was in town already."
"Thank you for all your help, Cole."
"You're welcome, sir." He tipped his hat and left.
"Are you okay, Adam?"
"I'm fine, Hoss."
"Don't think I ever saw Pa that mad before."
Ben took a deep breath and went into the barn. "Hoss."
"Go in the house...I need to speak to your brother."
"Turn around and look at me when I speak to you."
Adam turned around and stared at his father.
"I'm sorry for losing my temper...I was wrong. However, I have had enough of this attitude from you. It has to end, son...we can't live another moment like this."
"May I finish what I was doing, sir?" Adam asked coldly.
Ben sighed. "Fine son...put up the horses and meet me inside...I'll send your brother back out to help."
"Thank you, sir." Adam went back to unsaddling Buck.
A few minutes later Hoss entered the barn. "Well, Pa came in a might too fast…so he didn't thrash ya," he said smiling.
"Shut up, Hoss."
"You're gonna say that to me one too many times, Big Brother."
Adam looked at his brother. "I'm sorry, Hoss…I didn't mean to snap at you."
Hoss smiled and patted Adam on the back. "Guess I'll forgive you this time…now let's get the horses put up."
Cole met Tuck about thirty minutes from the house. "Did they get the note?"
"Sure did, Tuck, and my suspicions about the oldest boy are true...he's as ornery as they come...if all goes according to my plan…we should have the other brother and the rest of those fellas by sunup."
"You are right about that, Ben...but I have a feeling that this is an empty threat...if they wanted to kill Face and Little Joe, they would have by now."
Adam nodded. "That's
what I think as well,
"Or at least signs of someone," Murdock added.
"No, I don't want to risk it."
"Adam, I said no and that's final."
"Pa, Adam's right... we need to keep lookin' for him and Face."
Adam raised his hands up in frustration. "You can't expect me to sit here and do nothing while someone has Little Joe!"
"That's exactly what I expect."
"Colonel, what do you think?"
"Adam, it's a tough call...if he only had Face I would probably keep looking, but I am not willing to risk the boy as well."
Ben went over to the fireplace. "Listen...you all read what the note said. If we don't call off the search, Joe and Face will be executed."
Adam pointed at his father. "So, you are going to let some mad man dictate our actions?"
"For now, yes...until I hear otherwise. I will not take chances with Joe or Face's life and I expect you to obey me without question, Adam."
"Fine, but I still think you are wrong."
Ben ignored his eldest. "And that goes for you as well, Hoss."
"Please, go to bed and get some rest, huh...we'll need a lot of strength to get through this."
Ben nodded. "You too, Adam, please son."
"I'm not tired,
Ben inhaled and wiped his hands over his face. "Son, that was not a suggestion...I'm nearing the end of my patience with you...go upstairs now!"
Adam stared at him.
Hoss grabbed a hold of his brother. "You heard what Pa said...now let's go to bed and rest before I pound you and don't think I can't do it, Big Brother...in case you haven't noticed I'm a might bigger than before you left for school."
Adam relented knowing that Hoss rarely lost his temper but when he did he was not one to mess with. Besides, Adam smirked…Hoss now outweighed him by nearly a hundred pounds.
Ben watched the boys go upstairs. "It's not going to take much more for me to tan his hide," he said frustrated.
Ben laughed. "Let's all turn in."
Later that night, Hoss sneaked down the hall to Adam's room. He quietly opened the door and went in. He went over to Adam's bed. "Adam, you asleep?"
"I was until you woke me...what is it?"
"I've been thinkin' about what Pa said and dagburnit...I normally don't like to go against him, but I think he's plumb wrong. We need to keep lookin' for those two."
Adam threw the covers off and stood up. He was fully dressed, gun belt and all.
Hoss looked at him.
Adam shrugged. "I've been waiting for you for an hour."
"After you, brother." He grinned and pointed to the window.
Adam grimaced. "You don't actually expect me to sneak out through the window...after all, I am a grown man."
"Then why don't you go wake up Pa and tell him we're goin' to look for Joe and Face?"
Adam looked at the door and then the window. "Let's go," he said and climbed out of the window onto the roof. Adam slid off the edge of the roof, knocking over a flower pot. It went crashing onto the porch.
"Would you be quiet, brother....ain't no use of sneakin' if'n you're gonna cause all that ruckus."
Adam looked up at Hoss. "Sorry...it's been awhile since I did this sort of thing, ya know and in all fairness, I never did get much practice."
"Well, keep still or you'll wake up
"Hey, you're pretty good at this sneaking out of the window thing...just how often do you do this?"
"Never you mind that, Adam...we gotta find our little brother."
"Uh-huh...I have a feeling that our little brother is pretty good at it too."
They quietly went into the barn.
"What took you two so long?" the voice came out of the darkness, causing Adam and Hoss to nearly fall over from fright.
"Dagburnit! Murdock...you near scared me half to death!"
Murdock grinned. "Thought I was your Pa, huh?"
Adam smiled. "Sure did...what are you doing here?"
"Well, probably about the same thing you are...disobeying orders and going off to look for Joe and Face."
"Is BA coming?"
"Right here, man,"
The four of them quickly saddled their horses and left,
Cole smiled and stepped out from behind the barn. He gave them about a ten minute head start and then got on his horse and followed after them.
"Alright, now we have searched pretty much every inch of the Ponderosa...maybe we need to look elsewhere?"
Murdock nodded. "That's true, Adam...I mean there isn't any proof that Face and the Joester made it back to the Ponderosa…we have just been assuming."
"Quiet, I hear something," Adam ordered.
"Everyone drew their weapons.
"You there...identify yourself!"
"Don't shoot, Adam...it's me Cole."
"Cole, what in tarnation are you doin' here?" Hoss asked.
"Well, after we broke up the search earlier...I decided to do a little checking around… your Pa seemed so upset...I think I spotted something up by one of your line shacks. I was just heading out to your place to let you all know when I came across you fellas."
"Which direction and how far?"
"About thirty minutes from the direction I just came, Adam."
"That's the line shack by
"Well, then let's go there and see."
Once they came up to the line shack, they were immediately surrounded.
"What is the meaning of this?" Adam demanded.
"Well, allow me to introduce myself to you fellas. The name is Cole...Cole McDermott."
"You mean like as in the McDermott brothers?" Hoss asked.
"Hey now...you're not as dumb as you look," Cole replied sarcastically and motioned for everyone to get off their horses. "Not you, Adam."
Adam stopped mid dismount and climbed back on Sport.
"I want you to go back to your daddy and tell him what's happened."
"I won't leave here without the others."
"Oh, you'll do exactly as I say or I'll kill them right now."
"Let me see my brother."
"Tuck, bring out the kid."
Tuck untied Little Joe and brought him outside.
"Adam!" Joe shouted and went to go to him, but was stopped by Tuck.
"Are you alright, boy?"
"I'm fine, Adam."
"What about Face?"
"He's fine too, Adam."
"Alright you saw him...now get going," Cole ordered.
"I'll leave...but you can be assured that I will return."
"I'm looking forward to our next meeting."
"Hoss, take care of Little Joe."
Adam rode hard back to the ranch house, he quickly dismounted and went inside.
"Adam, where have you been and where is Hoss and the team?" Ben demanded.
"They've been taken,
"Cole is the youngest McDermott...he's the one who has
all the boys,
Ben grabbed him. "Get back here, boy!"
"Take your hands off me, Pa!"
Ben let go of Adam. "Tell me how this all happened!"
"We went out looking for them..."
"What? After I expressly forbade you not to!" Ben slapped his hands to his sides. "Apparently, my sons have been replaced by ones who disobey me."
"You're a fool...I don't have to listen to you anymore!"
"Oh really? Well, if you had listened to me...we wouldn't be having this conversation...now, would we, boy?"
"Will what, boy?"
"Listen, kid, we are not going to go off half cocked. We need to give them just enough time to make them nervous and then we'll strike tonight."
"Tonight? But that will be too late!"
"Look, if they wanted you all dead...they would have just killed you...Cole is waiting for us, he has some other plans. You said that yourself last night. I know what I'm doing."
"Who in blazes put you in charge of making the decisions anyway?"
"Adam!" Ben warned.
"Listen, these are my little brothers we are talking about!"
"Are you forgetting that my team is also being held, Kid?"
"Knock it off with the kid nonsense, old man!"
"Adam!" Ben warned again.
Ben grabbed his son. "Enough, Adam!"
"Let me go, Pa!"
Adam pulled away from Ben and straightened his clothes.
"I can't believe what I have just witnessed! My son striking a guest in our house! Your actions last night and right now were immature and foolish and your behavior these past few months has been inexcusable. I never thought I'd say this, but I am really ashamed of you, son. I don't know what has gotten into you, but it has lead you down a path you will soon regret going with me, boy!
"I don't want to hear I'm sorry, Adam. I have enough to worry about with out you making the situation worse. Don't forget they are my sons as well as your brothers, young man!"
"Adam, I'm so angry with you, I can't even look at you right now. Go out to the barn and wait for me!"
"Yes sir," Adam replied softly and left.
Ben put his hands in his pockets. "I feel like my word does not mean anything to him anymore."
"It does, Ben, or he wouldn't have done as you asked, knowing what you have in mind for him. Listen, I suspect your son is feeling that he has truly disappointed a man he respects very much."
"I'm not feeling very respected at the moment."
"Then you have a lot in common with your son."
Ben smiled. "You don't beat around the bush, do you?"
"Nope. Listen, Ben...I'm not saying he is right for behaving the way he has...just the opposite in fact, but he is still young and bound to make stupid choices. You and I both did. Maybe your son has learned his lesson?"
Ben smiled. "I believe that young man owes you a debt of thanks for saving his hide."
Ben looked at
"Your son packs a hell of a wallop, Ben."
"Thank you," Ben said and put his hand on
"I owe you one."
"Go talk to your son, I'll check the guns and ammunition. Remember, Ben, he only wants to hear you say the words."
Ben nodded, went over to his desk, took out the package and headed out to the barn.
Adam looked out from behind Cochise, his eyes full of sorrow.
Ben folded his arms. "Come out here, son...we need to talk."
Adam nodded his head and came out to stand in front of his father.
"Son, I know you are worried about your brothers, but
you were wrong to take your frustrations out on
"Well, knowing it and acting like you know it is two different things."
"I let my temper overrule my common sense.
"Yes, you do, son."
"I owe you one as well,
"I accept your apology, Adam."
"Son, I apologize for saying I was ashamed of you...I said that in anger and I'm sorry."
"I hope all this has taught you a valuable lesson."
"A lesson that may cost the lives of your sons."
Ben put a hand on Adam's shoulder and squeezed tightly. "We are not going to let that happen, Adam. I promise you that."
"I hope that is a promise that you can keep."
"Do you doubt me, boy?"
"Good." Ben took his hand off Adam's shoulder. "Now son, before we leave this barn, we need to deal with your transgressions as you called them. I'm not going to tan you, but I want to make absolutely clear what I expect from you from this point on."
"I expect you to remember that I'm still your father and treat me accordingly. I expect you to treat everyone in this house with respect, especially guests. I expect you to stop the blatant disrespect that seems to have become part of every conversation we have. And I expect you not to give me reason to have another conversation like this with you. Are all these expectations clear to you, young man?"
"Yes sir...very clear."
"Good. Let's go inside and plan our next move."
Adam turned from his father. "I'd like to stay out here for a few more minutes if that's alright, Pa?"
"Sure son." Ben looked at his son thoughtfully and left the barn. He stood outside the door and waited for what would come next.
Adam went over to Cochise and patted his neck. "I'll bring your master home, boy, or die trying...because I wouldn't want to live if anything happened to those little brothers of mine." Adam tried desperately to fight back the tears that were threatening to come.
"Some big brother I turned out to be, huh boy?" He buried his face into Cochise. Adam did not move when he felt the hand rubbing his back.
"It will be alright, son. Have I ever broken a promise to you?"
Without moving from Cochise, Adam shook his head.
"Well, then I am not going to start now."
"How can you forgive me for what I have done?"
"Adam, you made a mistake as did Hoss and Little Joe."
"But they are just boys,
"I do not blame you for what has happened...you would never purposely do anything to hurt your brothers. The blame falls on Cole McDermott and his accomplices."
"But I should have known better than to sneak out...I
should have told Hoss no. I read the note.
I should have taken Joe's disappearance more seriously before we found
the note, but I thought he had just run off somewhere. I had my suspicions about Cole, but I didn't pay
attention to them...I am smarter than that,
"Adam, there is no way you could have known Cole was a McDermott...none of us knew." Ben smiled. "Your littlest brother has a tendency to get himself in a bit of trouble…so, it is understandable for you not to take his running off seriously at first and he was with Face not by himself. I will deal with what all you boys shouldn't have done later. Right now we need to get everyone home and safe. "
"Son, there is also something else I need to say to you." Ben reached in his pocket and pulled out the package. "I wanted to give this to you for Christmas, Adam, but it was delayed with all the storms we had this winter. I picked it up in town the other day. I was just waiting for the right time to give it to you."
Adam opened the package and pulled out a brand new pocket watch. "Pa...I don't know what to say...it's beautiful...thank you."
"Well, you know a man's gotta have a proper watch for church on Sundays." Ben pulled Adam into an embrace. "I am proud of the man you have become, boy."
"I'm sorry for the way I have been acting,
"It's okay, son." Ben patted him on the back and released him from the hug. "And, Adam, those sons of mine couldn't ask for a finer big brother than you."
Adam smiled slightly.
"After all..." Ben smiled, remembering the last time he and Adam were in a similar situation, "how many big brothers would take the blame for something they didn't do...I mixed the whiskey with lemonade, Pa, and Hoss didn't know it."
Adam looked at Ben surprised. "You knew? You knew I was covering for Hoss?"
"Of course I knew."
Adam put his hands on his hips. "I can't believe you knew and you tanned me anyway and not lightly...if I recall."
Ben shrugged. "Well, I figured you probably deserved it for something else I never found out about and in all fairness, you did lie to me."
"You could have given me an easier punishment,
"Would you have expected me to give you any other punishment in that situation?"
"No, not if you really thought that I had been drinking whiskey and allowed Hoss to find it."
"Well then, I was just giving you what you wanted."
"What I wanted? You are really something special....you know that," Adam replied sarcastically.
"I'm what, boy?"
Adam put a hand on each of his father's shoulders and looked him square in the face. "You are an infuriating ol' cuss...I'm going to take care of my horse and then I will be in."
"Son, by that disrespect I can tell we are not finished here."
"Son, there is a difference between teasing and insolence and you have crossed that line for the very last time with me."
"I thought you had learned your lesson, but I was wrong. Sometimes a young man needs some sense knocked into him...Heaven knows I did on more than one occasion."
"Pa, I meant what I said before...I am sorry for the way I have treated you."
"But then you turn around and show disrespect to me not more than a minute later."
"I didn't mean to be disrespectful,
"I'm sorry, son...but I believe you did. I have made allowance after allowance for your behavior because I know it was hard for you to come back here after being away for so long, but I have reached my limit."
"I don't have to stay here on the Ponderosa,
"No son...you do not, and I would be saddened more than you can imagine if you left. I have enjoyed so much having you home again and having you help run things. You have done such a fine job and I am very proud of you. I missed sharing in the partnership we have always had and I missed you so much while you were away."
"I missed that too, Pa, and I missed you."
"Well, then what is the problem?" Ben asked loudly knowing if Adam was riled enough he would open up and they could finally clear the air.
"You're the problem, Pa," Adam answered his voice matching his father's.
"Adam, tell me what this is all about, because frankly, I have had enough of all this nonsense!"
"Pa, we should deal with this later." Adam went to leave the barn.
"We will deal with this right now. I can not even think straight with all the tension that is between us. We have nothing to do but wait to go rescue your brothers...we need to deal with this, son."
"I don't want to do this right now,
"Well, I do and you are my son so you will obey me. Now, tell me what is troubling you and I will not take…'I'm fine Pa' for an answer this time!"
"Fine! You don't think of me as an adult! You don't respect me or my opinions! You expect me to obey you all the time! You want to know where I am and what I'm doing. You treat me like a child...in fact, you are doing that right now!" Adam shouted not able to control his frustration.
Ben spoke in a calm voice. "Firstly, you have considerable more freedom than your brothers do...name me one party, dance, trip or anything else that you wanted to do since coming back here, unless there was some ranch business or family obligation that I have said no to?"
"There isn't one, but why do I still have to ask permission for things?"
"I only expect you to ask my permission for things like trips and I only ask you to let me know were you are...just in case. Do I go off without letting you boys know where I am?"
Adam looked at his father. "No."
"It's called consideration, son. And secondly, if I didn't respect you and your opinions, you would have no say in the running of this ranch...which you certainly do...right?"
"Son, I do not want to hear that I do not treat you as an adult. I only treat you like a child when you act like one and if I feel it is warranted by your behavior I will punish you...as I feel it is in this case."
Adam didn't say anything.
"We may or may not have went through this sooner if you had stayed on the Ponderosa. Before you left you were still a boy who respected his father, you have returned home a man who does not."
"I do respect you,
"Well you have a funny way of showing it."
Adam lowered his head.
"I expect certain things from my sons. Respect, helpfulness, honesty, courage, loyalty, decency, integrity, hard work and be it within my rights or not I also expect a great deal of obedience from you boys as long as you live on the Ponderosa. You exceed my expectations in all these areas, son, with the exception of respect...something you have been sorely lacking since you came home in the fall. I have tried every method that I know how to get you back on the right road, with the exception of one...which I think may be the answer."
"And if I don't want you to tan me?"
"You have a decision to make, son."
"What is it, Pa?"
"You can either accept my rules and the consequences for breaking them or leave the Ponderosa, Adam, it is your choice."
Adam walked away from his father and stood by the door.
"Decide right now, son...I will accept whatever decision you make and I will still love you...no matter what you decide."
Adam looked at his father and then left the barn. He jumped on Sport and rode off.
Ben went over to Buck and patted him. "Looks like you could use some brushing, boy...let's do that while we wait for Adam, huh?"
Adam got about ten minutes from the house when he stopped Sport and looked around the ranch. "What in blazes am I doing? I'm running away from home because I want to be treated more like an adult. Oh yeah...that's the way to accomplish that, Adam Cartwright...tell me again how you managed to graduate from college? Hell, even Little Joe would have better sense than to treat Pa like I have. I should be punished for the way I have been acting. I just wish it didn't have to be this particular punishment." Adam sighed. "It's what he would do to Hoss and Joe if they had acted this way...I can't expect anything different...it wouldn't be fair. Hey boy, maybe now that I'm grown...it won't hurt as much?" Adam smirked. "And maybe I could take Hoss in a wrestling match without cheating. Guess I'd better go back, huh? I just hope Pa's not as sore as the time I rode Jasper's Ghost...let's go, boy...the sooner we get back...the sooner I can get this tanning over with and make things right with Pa."
Ben smiled when he heard the horse gallop up. He didn't turn from Buck when Adam came in the barn.
"You're not going to make me drop my britches like you did when I tried to ride Jasper's Ghost are you...because this has got to be the dumbest thing I have done since then."
Ben smiled. "Do you think I should?"
Adam looked down at his boots.
Ben turned and put a hand on Adam's shoulder. "I don't think that will be necessary this time, but if I ever have to tan you again for disrespect..."
Adam looked up at Ben and smiled. "Thanks
"Guess that really made an impression on you."
Adam grimaced. "A lasting one."
"I hope it does the same thing for your little brother."
"Pa, it's Little Joe you're talking about."
Ben sighed. "True."
"I promise there won't be a next time."
Ben was tempted at that moment to let his son off the hook, but resolved himself to what he had to do. "Alright, then let's finish this discussion."
Ben pointed to the other side of the stall.
Adam went over, took off his gun belt, hung it over the stall and waited for the lecture and his punishment.
"If you are going to live on the Ponderosa, you will not continue to behave the way you have been and you must accept everything I said to you earlier. Are you sure you want to do that, Adam?"
"I do not tolerate disrespect from Hoss and Little Joe and I will not tolerate it from you. Is that clear?"
"If either of those boys spoke to their father the way you have done on more than one occasion, they would have found themselves in the barn. Don't think for one moment that you have grown big enough to show me disrespect. None of my sons will ever be that grown...understood?"
"Turn around, son."
Adam nodded and leaned on Buck's saddle that was hanging over the stall. He let out a laugh which took Ben by surprise.
"Do you find this amusing, young man?"
"Then why did you laugh?"
"Because Hoss tried to tell me the same things you did but I wouldn't listen to him. I was just wondering when my little brother got so smart."
"Hoss may not be book smart, but he sees things in a way that no one else does. You might try listening to him occasionally... he's not the little boy he was before you left."
Adam nodded. "If I had listened to him, I wouldn't be in this mess right now."
"Are you ready?"
Ben took off his belt. "Hold still and prepare yourself, boy...this is going to hurt."
Adam closed his eyes and held his breath.
Ben licked him hard quite a few times. "Look at me, son."
Adam wiped away his tears and turned around to face his father.
"Now, son...tell me why I just tanned you?"
"For being disrespectful, sir."
"And why else?"
"Because I deserved it."
"For acting like a child."
"Yes son...those are definitely true, but there is also another reason."
"What is it?"
"I expect you to give me the answer."
"I don't know the answer, sir."
"I am sure you do, Adam...now, answer my question."
"I did answer your question."
"You just don't want to admit it, do you? Boy, you are stubborn...turn back around, son."
"Do as I say."
He looked pleadingly at Ben, but then did as instructed.
Ben licked him hard a few more times. "Now, answer my question."
"Because you are still my father, sir."
"And you are still my son...remember that from this point on, young man."
Ben put his belt back on. "You can straighten up now, son...it's over."
Adam grabbed his gun belt without turning around, and went to leave the barn.
"You are forgetting something, young man."
"What did I say before about leaving the room?"
Adam smiled slightly knowing Ben was just reinforcing the last part of his lesson. "May I be excused, sir?"
"No, you may not, son....turn around and face me."
Adam turned to his father, but lowered his head.
Ben softened his voice. "Son, I want you to remember that you can always talk to me man to man if you feel I am not treating you with respect."
"And remember...it is possible to have a disagreement with your father and still be civil."
Ben put a hand under Adam's chin and gently guided his face upwards. "There is no need for discourse between us, son."
"May I go now, sir?" He asked avoiding his father's eyes.
Ben groaned inwardly at what he had to do next, this was going to hurt more than the tanning. "Before you go, Adam...give me back the watch...you haven't earned the right to wear it yet."
Adam reached in his pocket and handed it back to Ben. "I'm really sorry I disappointed you, Pa," he whispered and quickly left the barn.
Ben fiddled with the watch and looked up to the heavens. "Oh
Liz...I don't like to make our son cry. I hope I did the right thing and I hope
I know our son as well as I think I do...help him
figure out what I am trying to teach him,
"Why are you holding us, Cole?" Face asked.
"Why don't you tell him, big boy," Cole said to Hoss.
"Turns out that Cole here is a McDermott."
"As in the McDermott Gang?"
"Yup...I'm their baby brother."
Adam looked out across the Ponderosa, feeling completely ashamed of himself, humbled by his punishment and thoroughly regretting his behavior. "I really messed up this time, didn't I, Ma? Me and that danged...excuse me, ma'am...that darn smart mouth of mine. How does Pa deal with such a sarcastic hard-headed son? He had every right to tan the hide right off me and then some. If you were here, Ma, you'd probably take a switch to me right now, and I wouldn't blame you. I think deep down I was pushing Pa to see if he would." He half grimaced half smirked as he attempted to rub the sting from his seat. "And I certainly got my answer...dang, that hurt like hell." Adam looked up. "Sorry Ma'am." He put a hand over his eyes. "Pa took my watch, Mama." After a few more minutes, Adam wiped his tears and resolved himself to what he had to do. "Well, standing out here crying is not going to put things right." He looked around at the Ponderosa one more time, composed himself and turned to go to the house. Adam stopped at the front door, took a deep breath and went inside.
Adam went over, stood respectfully in front of Ben's desk and waited to be acknowledged.
"Pa, I need to speak to the Colonel for a moment."
He looked at
"Colonel, I should not have taken out the anger I was feeling at myself and at the situation on you. I don't deserve your forgiveness, sir...but I am offering an apology." Adam stuck out his hand.
"Thank you, Colonel. I also owe you an apology for being disrespectful, sir. I seem to have forgotten all that Pa has taught me."
Ben smiled. "I'm sure you'll remember from now on, young man."
"You have my word that I will be minding my manners and a man never goes back on his word once he's given it, right Pa?"
Ben nodded. "Never."
"Pa, I'd like to speak to
"Sure son...excuse me." Ben took the map off his desk and carried it over to the table.
"Colonel, may I ask you something?"
"Any suggestions on how to control sarcasm?"
"Something I have not done."
"Yes sir," Adam replied dropping his head slightly and looking up at the older man. "I've been pretty stupid, huh?"
"You are not stupid, kid...just young and definitely hard-headed like your old man."
"Give him time to work out a new relationship with you, Adam. It's not easy for him to change his ways. He's an ornery old goat you know."
"I see your point, and there are some things about Pa that I shouldn't expect him to change, out of respect for him, as long as I live on the Ponderosa...I owe him that much and much more."
"Let me ask you something, kid?"
"Why did you come back to the Ponderosa?"
Adam thought about it for a moment. "Because I missed everyone and also to help Pa run this ranch and help with Hoss and Joe. I owe him a lot. He has done so much for me and my brothers, worked hard, raised us mostly alone...he makes me very proud."
"Tell him that, Adam. Fathers need to hear things too, not just sons."
"You are a fine young man, Adam, and any father would be proud to have you for a son."
Adam blushed from the praise.
Hop sing brought out some milk and a sandwich. "You eat, Mista Adam."
"But Hop Sing...I'm not hungry." Adam was starving actually but was in no hurry to sit down.
"Mista Adam can not rescue brothers and A-team on empty stomach...now sit down and eat!"
"Do I have to?" Adam asked, coming as close to a whine as he dared.
"Hop Sing…leave the boy alone…he can eat later," Ben said, having been on the receiving end of a tanning or two himself, knew exactly why Adam had no desire to sit.
The cook ignored Ben and continued. "Hop Sing does not have time for foolishment...make good sandwich for number one son...show respect and eat!"
"I will in a bit, Hop Sing."
"Always argue this one does...eat now...before you make Hop Sing angry."
Adam nodded in defeat and sat down gingerly. He winced when his backside connected with the chair and wanted to disappear when he saw Ben look at him. "Please, don't ask me, Pa," he said with pleading eyes.
Ben smiled. "I wouldn't dream of it, son."
"They are being held in the line shack near
"Well, we have enough fire power in this house to take over a small country, so, I am not worried about that...besides if things go according to what I'm planning we won't need to do any shooting. I just don't like the fact that this boy has managed to take out my team this easily."
"He had the element of surprise, Colonel...not to mention Face and Little Joe as hostages."
Hop Sing came back in carrying a cushion. "Here, Mista Adam...Hop Sing can always tell when a boy been out to barn with honorable father."
Ben tried desperately not to laugh as did
Adam took the cushion. "Thanks, Hop Sing."
"Most welcome...now eat!"
Adam smiled shyly at Ben and Hannibal. "Go ahead...you know you want to."
"I'm sorry, son...we shouldn't laugh at you...I just never saw anyone turn that particular shade of red before."
Adam put the cushion on the chair, rubbed his seat and sat back down. "Better."
"I thought you weren't going to tan him, Ben?"
"A father's prerogative to change his mind."
Adam looked humbly at his father. "I'm truly sorry for
all the disrespect I have shown you,
Ben rubbed Adam on the back for a bit longer than his son would normally accept. "You're forgiven, boy."
Adam smiled, grateful for the comfort of his father's hand
and for the forgiveness. "Thanks
Ben's eyes teared up, he cleared his throat embarrassed. "You had better eat before you catch it from Hop Sing."
Adam smiled, as Ben wiped his eyes. "Yes sir...one lickin' is enough for me today." He picked up his sandwich, broke it in half and handed a piece to Ben.
"Thank you, son," Ben replied and Adam knew it wasn't for the sandwich.
"Now, let's get our rescue plan set for the team and those brothers of yours."
"Do you mind if I stand while we do that, sir?"
Ben smiled. "No son...I don't mind."
Adam ate his sandwich in three bites and was on his feet.
"I'll go take care of the horses,
"You want me to help you, son?"
"No sir...you rest up," Adam replied and headed out to the barn.
Ben turned to
"I'm going to tell you the same thing, I told your son...give it some time for a new relationship to develop...there is a lot of love and respect between the two of you. Things will be okay."
"I hope so."
"I gotta give the kid credit for coming back here, especially, knowing how you are."
"What? Just what were the two of you talking about?"
"I'm afraid that was a private conversation between me and your son and I am not at liberty to discuss it."
"Not at liberty to discuss it?"
"That's right and there ain't nothing you can say or do to make me tell ya."
Ben put his hands on his hips. "Would you care to make a bet on that?"
"Are you calling me an old goat?"
"If the horns fit...pal." He poked Ben in the chest.
"Alright, that's it...wait until I get my hands on you!"
They were soon chasing each other around the living room.
"Pa...I can't find the..." Adam was knocked to the ground as the two of them barreled out of the door.
"You're going to get a bath in the water trough,
"You'll be in there with me...Baaaaaaaa..."
Adam sighed, got up and rubbed his behind. "Boys!"
Hannibal and Ben stopped wrestling and looked at Adam
sheepishly. "He started it."
"I did not!"
Adam put his hands on his hips and looked sternly at them.
"Sorry," they said in unison.
"Good." Adam turned toward the barn.
Ben grinned mischievously and winked at
Not more than ten seconds later, Adam was in the water trough. He spit water out of his mouth and looked up at Ben. "Pa!"
Once Hannibal and Ben composed themselves, Ben reached out to help Adam up. "Guess that was kind of immature, huh?"
"And it hurt...ouch," Adam said as he climbed out of the trough.
"Oh son...I'm sorry."
"Me too, kid...I'm sorry."
Hannibal and Ben stood there facing Adam with their heads down.
Adam put a hand on each one of their shoulders. "But not as immature as this!" He grinned and pushed them into the water trough.
"Son!" Ben bellowed.
Adam backed away. "I'm sorry, sir...I shouldn't have
done that...I'll go to my room,
"But son...it's okay...I'm not mad," Ben called
out, but Adam was gone. "Help me out of here, will ya,
"Too old to get out by yourself?"
"Hey, Cole...why don't you let them go?" Face asked. "I'm the one who killed your brother."
"You killed my one brother, but this one over here shot the other."
Little Joe sneered. "He had it coming...he was gonna kill my brother."
"I'm sure he had his reasons for wanting to do that."
"What?" Joe shouted. "You just wait until you untie me...I will kill you too."
"You had better watch those threats, young'un...I may just kill you right now!"
"I'd like to see you try it!"
"Joseph, be quiet," Face ordered.
"I said...be quiet!"
Joe dropped his head. "Yes sir."
"Hey Cole...let the young'un go...I'll take his place," Hoss offered.
"Well, who says I ain't going to kill all of you...just for the fun of it?"
"'Cause I don't think you are a bad person, Cole...heck, the way you talked about your daddy and mama."
"You just keep my folks out of this...it ain't got nothing to do with them."
"It has everything to do with them...they didn't raise you and your brothers to be no account murderers and thieves. Why I bet your poor Mama is turnin' over in her grave just watchin' what her sons have done."
"Well, my poor Mama wouldn't be in her grave if it wasn't for what those men done."
"Oh, so you think that tearin' all over the territory robbin', murderin' and cattle rustlin' will bring her back and do you think killin' my little brother will bring your brothers back? You should be ashamed for dishonorin' your Mama's memory."
Cole took out his gun and pointed it at Hoss and cocked the trigger.
Little Joe struggled with his binds. "Please, don't kill my brother, Mister."
"Why shouldn't I?"
"Because I'm the one who killed your brother...Hoss didn't do anything...please, let him go..."
"Joe, be quiet," Hoss ordered.
"No Hoss...I love you...please, Mister, let him go," he begged. After a few moments, Little Joe pulled himself together and got up from the ground. "Pa said if I am going to carry a gun I have to be ready to kill or be killed. I am ready to die," Joe said calmly, "but you should let me die like a man."
"And just how do I do that?"
Little Joe looked Cole square in the eyes. "Give me a gun and face me."
"Be quiet, Hoss." Joe stared at Cole. "Well..."
Cole lowered his gun and put it back in his holster. "Sit down, boy...I ain't ready to kill you yet."
Little Joe collapsed onto the ground in tears.
Hoss looked at his crying little brother. "Cole, let me go to him."
"Please, Cole, he's just a little boy...you have my word of honor I won't try to escape."
"And what makes me think I can trust you?"
"Because once a man gives his word...he never goes back on it."
"That something your Pa taught ya?"
"My brother Adam actually...but I'm supposin'
it's somethin' he learned from
"Fine...go to him." Cole untied Hoss.
Hoss went over and put his arms around his brother. "Shhh...it's okay, Little Joe...your big brother is here."
"I want Pa and Adam, Hoss."
"Me too, Little Brother...me too."
Ben went upstairs and opened Adam's door. Adam was fast asleep laying facedown in his bed. He stood there watching him.
Adam woke up a minute later when he felt someone staring at him. He wiped the sleep from his eyes. "Pa, whatcha doing?"
"I was just thinking about how much you look like your mother."
Adam smiled. "What time is it, sir?"
"...you've been asleep quite a long time...you slept right through dinner...I had Hop Sing keep it warm for you."
"No, of course not...you were only playing. After all, I threw you in there first without thinking about how much it would hurt for you to land."
"Well, you three just didn't get my stubbornness and my temper...where do you think you got your mischievous side from? Why I could tell you stories about some of the stuff I did that..." Ben stopped and cleared his throat. "Well, never mind that...how are you feeling, son?"
Adam grimaced. "You certainly haven't lost your touch,
"Your little brothers give me plenty of practice...especially, that youngest one."
"Well, I will not be giving you a reason to practice any time soon, sir." He stood up and rubbed his behind.
"Are you going to be up to riding with us?" Ben put his hand on Adam's shoulder. "I should have thought of that before I tanned you. Guess you could have used a big brother to remind me."
Adam smiled slightly. "I'll ride with you, sir...Cole McDermott will answer to me...and don't worry, Pa, a tough ride is just another well-earned consequence for my behavior."
"Alright son...Hannibal is getting dressed." He looked at his son. "There is no need for you to change."
Adam smirked. "I knew my color choice would come in handy some day."
"After you eat, why don't you go out and make sure the horses are saddled. I am going to get dressed. We leave in one hour."
"Yes sir...and does that mean you wouldn't have tanned me if you had thought about it?"
"Are you saying you didn't deserve it?"
Ben sat down on the bed and sighed. "Maybe I was too hard on him, Liz."
"Well, it's like looking in the mirror," Adam
commented as he looked at
Ben looked at his eldest. "No other comments? I thought I would be in for at least two or three."
"Adam, you can be yourself...just keep it as teasing and not disrespect, okay?"
"Did you eat supper?"
Adam smiled slightly.
"What's that, Colonel?"
"My duck call, Adam...it will alert the team that we are there. If they can find away to escape they will know to try it then."
"Son, make sure the horses are watered, please...Hannibal and I will be out in a moment."
After Adam left, Ben turned to
"He's just trying to be polite to you, Ben...hell, I would if you tanned me for being disrespectful. I'm sure you made an impression on him."
"I know he is usually upset when I tan him, unlike Little Joe who bounces right back...but he seems more so this time."
"Well, probably because he feels ashamed for behaving the way he has been and that he has disappointed you. Also, it has been awhile since you tanned him...it's got to be hard on him physically and emotionally."
"I guess you are right...but I think he is more upset that I took away a gift I gave him."
"What is it?"
"A watch I ordered for him from New York...I have every intention of giving it back to him once I see that he has learned the lesson I am trying to teach him...maybe I should give it back now."
"Don't doubt yourself...sometimes you need to be tough even when it hurts."
"I was right to punish him, but it still hurts to see him this way. One of the hardest parts about being a father is moments like this."
"I'm sure it is. It will pass and you'll know when the time is right to give the watch back to him. Come on, Ben...let's go get the boys."
"Alright, let's ride,"
Adam stood by Sport and waited for Ben and Hannibal to mount up.
Ben looked quizzically at his son.
"Don't want to spend any more time in the saddle than I have to, sir." Adam took a deep breath and climbed on Sport. "Dang," he muttered.
"Will you be okay, son?"
Adam put on a smile for Ben. "I'll be fine,
"You know, kid, you would be much better off if you had a car."
"Never mind. Alright, Adam...lead
Adam tipped his hat and flicked Sport's reins.
"So, it don't look like that brother and Pa of yours cares enough to come rescue you. Figured they would be here by now."
Joe looked up at Cole. "Oh, don't you worry none, Mister...Pa'll be here and so will Adam....right, Hoss?"
"That's something you can bet on, Little Brother."
Ben stopped Buck about an hour from the house.
"Why are we stopping, Pa?"
"Buck is hesitating some…I think maybe he might have a stone stuck in one of his shoes. Would you check it for me, son?"
"Well, since we are taking a break, I think I'll get
off and stretch. I'm not used to all
Ben smiled. "I'm trying to make it as easy for him as possible."
"Pa, everything looks fine to me...maybe he might just be a bit sore."
"It seems to be his right front leg, son...look in my saddle bag...I should have some liniment in there maybe you could rub him down for me?"
"Yes sir...I'll walk him a bit too...it will help work it out."
"Thanks son...we still have about another hour ride...can't have ol' Buck giving out on me before we get there."
"I'm sure you will, boy." Ben turned to the colonel. "You think Cole is worried enough, Hannibal?"
"Well, by the time we get there it will be ...I'm sure he thought we would come back almost immediately. His men have probably been stationed at their posts since early this morning with no break. They are tired and hungry...won't be as vigilant. We should have no problems taking them out."
"You think waiting was the right thing to do?"
"Yes, I do, Ben...trust me."
"I trust you, Hannibal."
"Pa, Buck seems to be walking just fine."
"Good. Then let's head out."
Adam went over to Sport. "Well, boy, here I go again." He rubbed his seat and climbed onto his horse.
"Alright, we will leave the horses here and walk the
rest of the way. This way we won't alert them to our presence,"
Adam smiled and stiffly dismounted. "You won't hear any arguments from me...walking sounds just fine."
Ben rubbed Adam's back. "I'm sorry, son...I didn't mean for you to hurt this much."
Adam shook his head. "I'm supposed to feel
uncomfortable after a tanning...I'm being punished,
"I know that, son...but normally I wouldn't make you ride or even sit for that matter until you were able to."
"Don't fuss. I'm
just glad that you didn't tan me as severely as when I tried to ride Jasper's
Ghost...that was the worst lickin' I ever got,
Ben laughed, those same words came out of his youngest a few weeks back. However, he had a feeling, that knowing Little Joe, there would probably be worse ones in his future. "Well, you certainly didn't go near anymore untamed horses after that."
Adam looked down guiltily. "Err...well...I never went near any other horses that you told me not to...but I did ride Jasper's Ghost again one time when you were out of town on business."
"What?" Ben exclaimed. "I can't believe you disobeyed me...not you, Adam. You rarely did, and if it was something I tanned you for...you never did it again...at least not that I ever found out about."
"Pa, I swear that was the only time I did after you punished me...mainly because I hate to disappoint you and frankly, because your tannings hurt like hell, sir."
"Then why did you ride Jasper's Ghost again?"
"Because it was a matter of pride...I had to see if I could do it."
"A matter of pride? You could have been killed!"
"But I wasn't, sir."
"Well, you were one lucky boy! You had better not do anything that stupid again...you hear?" He shouted and wagged a finger at him in warning.
Adam pushed his hat down over his eyes and looked up at Ben.
'So, my little boy is still in there, huh?' Ben hid his smile and stomped off muttering..."of all the idiotic, stumped-brain things...fool boy...I have half a mind to tan his hide again...riding Jasper's Ghost, indeed!"
Adam turned to
"I wouldn't if I were you, kid, not unless you want to spend the next week standing up."
Adam nodded. "I believe that is sound advice."