Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Vacation (part 3)

By Monette Bebow-Reinhard

Editor's Note: This is part 3 of a four-part story about the Cartwright family written by our own Monette Bebow-Reinhard. To read part 1, click here; to read part 2, click here. Part 4 will publish next Sunday, the 24th. Be here! --Al Colombo, publisher

“Jumping Jehoshaphat!” Ben stood with fists on hips facing his two sons after they rode in. “I have been waiting for two days for the two of you to get back here so we can tally the herd. You weren’t supposed to cut the trees yourself!”

“But Pa, we thought Adam would be back by now.”

“You what?”

“Yeah, Pa,” Hoss said, after swallowing hard. “We saw this feller at the dance who said Adam was out of jail and … on his way home. Ain’t that what he said, Joe?”

“Well, that was the idea we got, anyway.”

“Is it? Well, it so happens I got another letter from him today. But I’m not reading it until after we do the herd tally.” He mounted. “Let’s go.”

Joe and Hoss exchanged soundless groans and followed.

**

Ben waited until the next morning to read the letter, since his sons were barely awake enough to eat supper last night. He knew he shouldn’t be working them so hard when one was on vacation, but only hoped they’d get the point once Adam was back. There was never a lack of anything to do on a ranch this size. But if he didn’t let his sons have a vacation once a year, well, they might mutiny. Knowing how much harder life was without one of them made them appreciate each other all the more.

Hoss at breakfast
The breakfast chatter was lively as it could be with the food Hop Sing kept bringing out -- enough for four of them. Flapjacks, hogback, fresh strawberries and cream, and more biscuits than even Hoss could eat.

“All right, Pa, I think I’m done stuffed enough for work this morning.”

“Speak for yourself, Hoss. I had to wait for Hop Sing to make seconds.”

“Well, you can both listen. Hoss, have some more coffee, we don’t have anything pressing this morning.”

Dear Pa. I am glad to be able to write this. I was nearly lost forever.

Hoss laughed. Ben looked up with a frown. “I doubt he’s joshing.”

Hoss shut up with a meek smile.

My lady friend, her name is Kate, she got me out of jail. But the other gal, well, she didn’t take too kindly to me choosing Kate over her. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Turns out Kate was married, and Linda, the other gal, was, too, and she told her husband, well, a pack of lies, really. I honestly don’t know what happened but will have to tell the rest of the story as it was told to me. Because for the life of me I can’t remember any of it. And this time, not because I was drinking.

Adam Cartwright
Pa, I was getting ready to come home. I know my 10 days of vacation are past being used up, but after I got out of jail I was jumped by a couple of men. I must have taken a bad blow to the head because I’m told I didn’t know who I was for three days. When I finally remembered who I was, I was sitting in a horse trough. Naked. Yeah, I know how that sounds. But I swear, for three days, I have no memory of anything. Well, here’s what I was told.

First, yeah, they found the guys who jumped me. They claimed it was self-defense because I was getting ready to draw down on Kate’s husband for her hand. I swear, Pa, if I had known she was married, I never would have and I wouldn’t have challenged somebody’s husband for his wife’s hand. You know I wouldn’t. I thought he was just another troublemaker like I’ve seen too many of lately. Next vacation I’m going to New England. Anyway, this fellow had friends watching and he says that when it seemed like I had the drop on him, one of them hit me from behind.

When I woke, I was in a jail cell, and they told me I was going to have to be tried for having committed a crime of disturbing the peace, and drunkenness and a whole slew of other offenses I couldn’t remember doing. Because at that point, I had to ask them who I was. I didn’t even know my own name, Pa.

Well, that just gave everyone a big chuckle at my expense. They had the doctor look at me, and he said that where I was hit would account for this amnesia, and it could be temporary but maybe not. Well, as you see it was temporary. But I have to explain so you know why I’m late to heading back. You make sure those brothers keep up with the chores, too. Tell them I’ll owe them one, or two.

Hoss laughed. “Ha! I’m gonna be collecting on that, too.”

“You and me both.”

Ben tells the boys about Adam's plight.
“This is quite distressing, boys. Let me keep reading.”

Pa, I was in jail for the better part of the day when Kate came to see me. She said the sheriff wasn’t around and that I had to help her. She called me a hired gun, and she wanted me to draw her husband out in the street, like she said she hired me to do when I was hit from behind, making me forget what I was doing in the street in the first place. I hope I’m explaining this right. Well, what could I say? She seemed natural and honest and I didn’t have any other memory to draw down on. I had to believe someone who was being nice to me.

She unlocked my jail cell door. Well, if I was a hired gun, what did I care about breaking out? So we walked right on past the sheriff snoozing in his chair.

“Hoo-hoo, Adam a hired gun. From a governor candidate, to a drunk, to a gunslinger. Adam sure knows how to do vacation, eh, Hoss.”

“Yeah, we should be so lucky.”

She dragged me into the street, but my head was pounding and I said all I want is a good bath and night’s sleep, and I’ll take care of him in the morning.

“Oh no, please, Sam. You’ve already been paid. You have to do the job. He’ll kill me, don’t you understand? If he stays alive one more day, I’m dead.”

I swear, I felt so grimy and I wasn’t really sure why. “Can I at least have a bath? Maybe a clean set of clothes? Something befitting me?” 

Adam Cartwright playing the part of a gunslinger.
I must have been playing the role. I don’t think I ever said befitting before. Now remember, most of this is from what others told me. I couldn’t remember much of these three days, except brief moments where they told me things that just didn’t feel right. But she took me to the hotel and paid for a bath for me. I swear, sinking into that warm water, I started feeling like myself again. Except that the myself they told me was a gun slinger, and I was already paid to kill a man. It didn’t feel right to me but I had no idea. I just knew that, if I wasn’t, I could well end up dead myself.

Then I heard him calling for me out in the street.

“You stole my woman, now get out here so I can kill you.”

I’d soaked long enough so I reached over for my clothes. But they were gone. All that was there was a towel. I heard someone, I thought it was Kate, screaming. I grabbed the towel and ran out. There were my clothes, and my gun, out there in the street. And there was Kate’s husband, ready to face me down.

Now I ask you, what gunslinger ever found himself in such a predicament? That’s when I started figuring that everyone’s been lying to me. They all expected me to pick my holster up off the ground and strap it to my naked body. Maybe it would fit over the towel, was my first thought. Has anyone ever won a gunfight naked? Well, it’s not like clothes stop bullets anyway. But my hands still felt a little slick from the tub.

But I walked into the middle of the street, without the gun. And I faced him down. A man doesn’t shoot an unarmed man, was what I figured. Then I started reciting, but I honestly didn’t know at that point where the words came from. Let’s see if I can remember … ah … Thou! why, thou wilt quarrel with a man that hath a hair more, or a hair less, in his beard, than thou hast: thou wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no other reason but because thou hast hazel eyes: what eye but such an eye would spy out such a quarrel? Thy head is as fun of quarrels as an egg is full of meat, and yet thy head hath been beaten as addle as an egg for quarrelling: thou hast quarrelled with a man for coughing in the street, because he hath wakened thy dog that hath lain asleep in the sun: and yet thou wilt tutor me from quarrelling! By the time I finished, I realized who I was. But I was careful not to let my newfound memory give me away. I could see that my reputation as a gunslinger was starting to slide by now, if that was what I was doing naked in the street without a gun.

Adam Cartwright after taking a bath in a horse trough.
As I finished Mercutio’s lines I was standing by the horse trough, and that seemed the perfect place to finish the lines, since I was naked anyway, so I got in. Tell Joe I often quote parts of it when he starts getting a little crazy, he’ll remember. I guess before I got done, I was feeling a little crazy myself. Well, you know, the predicament and all.

And the next thing I know, I’m remembering who I am, and asking if someone could get me the towel so I could take myself peacefully to jail, with my clothes, where I could get dressed again. So they did. But they kept me there for another whole day, just to be sure I wasn’t going to turn gunslinger again and go after the man who stole my clothes. Have you ever heard of a gunslinger who could sling Shakespeare instead of bullets? Funny thing is … the next day I saw several other men, naked, waiting to take turns bathing in the horse trough. So I guess I started something. They sure had the ladies gathered around, too. Well, I better get this in the mail. They’ll be letting me out in an hour or so, and I want to be dressed and ready for the noon stage.

**

The Cartwrights didn’t waste any time heading to Virginia City, hoping to meet the stage Adam for sure must be on by now.

“You’d think Adam being such a serious fellow, he would have had himself a serious vacation,” Joe said to Hoss. “Can you imagine him getting into so much dumb trouble?”

“Guess he was saving it up.” This made Hoss laugh like crazy.

Ben hid his grin with a frown before he turned to them. “You know how upset your brother gets when you tease him. I’d say it’s best to pretend he hasn’t told us anything about this at all.”

“But Pa, he sent those letters. He could have just made something up about the dull time he was having. He didn’t have to admit all the dumb stuff.”

“Well, he did have to explain why he’s late. He didn’t want us to worry. Or ride off after him.” “You mean, like we’re doing now,” Hoss said with a snicker. “Pa, do you really think he’s telling us everything?”

“Well, he did want a journal of his adventures, so I would think so.” Joe waited until his horse picked up a steady pace again after tripping over a rock. “I mean, knowing Adam, it just doesn’t seem like the real huckleberry to me.”

“You mean you think he’s made it all up?”

“Well, not all of it, maybe. Maybe he embellished, just a little. I mean, it happened, maybe, but not quite that way.” Hoss glared at Joe. “What part then, short shanks?” “Look, I told you not to call me that. Is it so hard to believe Adam would … would …”

“Would what, Joe?”

Hoaa and Little Joe
Joe found both Ben and Hoss glaring at him. “I guess you’re right. Adam just doesn’t have any imagination at all. If it were me, I’d be making up a wife!”

Hoss and Ben laughed and kicked their horses into a gallop until they reached the next incline up Mount Davidson. Once in Virginia City they found they’d just missed the stage and Adam wasn’t on it. They settled into a room to wait for tomorrow and set out to walk C Street to see if they knew anyone. They ran into Roy first thing.

“Well doggone if it ain’t the Cartwrights. Ain’t seen ya in a month of Sundays.”

Ben slapped a hand on Roy’s shoulder. “Oh, we have been working so much harder since Adam went off on vacation. We’re expecting to see him here in a day or two, so we’re taking a well needed break.”

“Not a vacation, though,” Joe added. “I got me one coming that’s gonna last a month long.”

“Dream on, young ‘un.”

“You’re not going to believe his stories, Roy.” Ben put up a hand. “We’ll stop by later, Roy. I have some business at the bank. Come on, boys.”

Puzzled, they followed him on.

“What business at the bank, Pa?”

“Joe, Hoss, I kindly advise you to remember what Adam’s letters said. He didn’t even want me reading them to you.”

Hoss is perplexed over what his father tells  him.
“Pa! Are you saying we can’t tell anyone? Not even Adam? What we know? Dadgumit.”

“Oh, I’m not saying that exactly, Hoss. But let’s keep it between the three of us until we’re sure what parts Adam doesn’t mind us sharing.” Ben walked on.

Joe grabbed Hoss’s arm, stopping him.

“Hey, Hoss, remember that time that Sam Clemens published those crazy stories about us in the newspaper?”

“Yeah?”

“Wouldn’t it be a hoot if Adam comes home to see one of his letters in there?”

**

The next day’s stage brought no Adam, but another letter. Ben tore it open greedily. “Maybe he’s just been delayed until tomorrow.” He started to read it to himself, then staggered and clutched at the hitching rail behind him, as though ready to fall.

Hoss grabbed the letter. Ben shook his head. “Go on, read it. I don’t want to think it’s as bad as it sounds.”


Be sure to tune in next week for part 4 of The Vacation!

Want to read part 1 again?
Click Here!


About the Author Monette Bebow-Reinhard is an established book author, specializing in historical accounts, issues, and events. She began writing movie scripts in 1975 and from 1992 to 1995, she co-wrote scripts for the Bonanza series. She has won several minor awards and Monette has several novels on the market.

"Visit Ponderosa Ranch Town in 1990" - https://www.grimm2etc.com/disc.htm

Here's a link to Monette's Website where you will find some very interesting reading: https://www.grimm2etc.com. Also, connect with Monette via email at moloberein@yahoo.com.

One of her latest books, entitled "Civil War & Bloody Peace: Following Orders, a historical works involving the American Civil War, is also available through Amazon (click here).



Order your copy of Monette Bebow-Reinhard's book:
Civil War & Bloody Peace: Following Orders


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