What Happened Next to Samson and Hercules
A Ponderosa story
By Lynne C (LJ) and Katja (Hoss)
Disclaimer: No money was made for writing this story, it was written purely for fun. Katja and I do not own the rights to any of the characters, except Sarah Miller and Mr Steadman.
Dang! I knew I told everyone Id be workin off my debt to Jack Wolf for stealin his wolves, but I didnt think pad make me work in the livery every Saturday and late afternoons durin the week, for months. Mr. Wolf had me workin pretty darn hard, doin every dirty, nasty job he could think of and at night I was just plain beat. Heck, there were days I was too tired to eat. And that doesnt happen often, I can tell ya.
The first week was kinda okay, it was sorta fun workin away from the ranch and when Mr. Wolf asked me to do some deliveries to the hotel I thought I had the best job ever. I was all excited bout seein them girls. Ya know, the ones with hardly no clothes on. But I didnt get much further than the door and I didnt get to see nothin. So after that first week it werent fun any more.
But all in all I suppose things couldve been worse. Like bein restricted to the yard for Lord knows how long or maybe even a tannin. But Pa just made us work off the money and hey, they even stopped the wolf-fights too. So I couldnt really complain, could I? Sides, it was only fair, Jack Wolf had lost a lot of money cause of me.
Little Joe had thelp me sometimes after school. He loved bein there cause of the horses, so it werent really punishment to him and we talked about all sorts of things. One thing we couldnt understand bout the whole thing was what the fun was in watchin two animals almost killin each other. Cause it seemed a whole lot of folks were enjoyin themselves in that tent. I was glad Shelby had prevented Little Joe from goin in. That werent somethin for a little boy tsee. I wished Id never seen it myself, well, I mean Im glad I saw it, so we could do somethin about it, but it shouldnt have happened in the first place.
Another thing Little Joe was mighty interested in, was Jack Wolfs hotel. Well, not the hotel itself, but what happened inside that hotel. Hed wandered off twice while he was supposed to be workin and every time hed been watchin the people comin in and out. I didnt want to rat on him, but he shouldnt be there an he knew it.
And he started askin all these questions. Why did those men go there? And why didnt Mrs. Orowitz like that place? And why did those girls look so different? And these are just the easy questions. I tell ya, that little brother of mine sure knows how task embarrassin questions. Of course I didnt want him tknow how little I knew myself, so I tried Adams "evasion" strategy, but Im not sure it worked for me. Somehow I always start stammerin and I get all red in the face. Let him go to Adam with his questions. Embarrass that oldest brother of ours for a change.
I guess poor ole Hoss got the worst part of the deal, as he had to go and do more work for Mr Wolf than I did. But I had to go, too, and while I was there, I wanted to use my time in town, to get a good look at the stuff that Pa dont let me see.
I watched the poker games in the saloon, as much as I could, until Shelby caught me and sent me out, with her booted foot on my butt. I reckoned I could do pretty good at that game and it might help me with my math. Maybe I should tell Pa that and then hed let me play? It could be a way of me making some money for the ranch, too. I know that sometimes things are a bit tight. Pa dont like worrying us boys, but I aint stupid and I know its a struggle, at times.
I also tried to get me a peek at the girls in Jack Wolfs hotel. Id seen em when they first arrived and my eyes had about popped outta my head. Boy, they were pretty and their clothes were like nothing Id ever seen before. I knew that Adam and Hoss were interested, too, though they didnt dare say so, in front of Pa. But even Pa mustve been able to see that they were something worth looking at. After all, hes a man and hes been married three times and so must like women.
Aunt Ruth dont like em, though she is never rude if they visit the store, but then I cant imagine Aunt Ruth ever being rude. Shes one of the nicest ladies I know and I aint just saying that cos she gives me candy, sometimes; she really is. When Mama first died, I used to go to Aunt Ruth quite a lot and she would always know, without me saying, if I was in need of a hug and she never let me down. Pa was there for me, too, and Adam and Hoss, but they were coping with their own grief and didnt always realise when I was feeling low, but Aunt Ruth did. She lost her own kids and so has had a lot of sorrow herself, maybe thats why she understood so well.
Uncle Eli is good, too, although he gave me a very stern look when he caught me hanging around the hotel and warned me to stay away. He didnt yell at me, its not his style, but he has a way of making you know that he dont approve of what youre doing, without saying much. Pa can do it too, guess it might be a father thing, wonder if Ill be able to do it, one day?
I liked helping out in the livery stable and enjoyed chatting to the people when they left their horses with us. Most were just passing through, usually on their way to the goldfields in California, and so were full of dreams of striking it rich. It sure sounds like fun, but Pa says its mainly just backbreaking work, for very little reward. I said that it sounded like ranch work, then, but Pa explained that what we are doing with the ranch will be there long after the gold and the miners have gone. We are building for the future, he said, for us boys when we become men, and for all the Cartwrights who come after us. It gave me a nice feeling, sitting on Pas lap, listening to his dreams for the future and knowing that I was part of them.
Hoss was thought of, as a bit of a celebrity, after standing up at the town council meeting and getting the law changed, over animal fights. Pa, Adam and me were real proud of him. Course, it was a shame that poor old Samson got killed, after Hoss let him go, but at least Hercules was doing okay. Hoss had caught sight of her, a few times, since wed released her, but she aint come too close and he aint encouraged her to, or else she wont stay wild.
At the moment, Aunt Ruth is giving us lessons, like Mama used to, but as more people come to the area, it looks likely that we will be getting a regular teacher and a proper school house, instead of a room at the back of the store. Im not that keen on school, especially now that Hoss dont go, but I do like meeting up with my friends and I guess if I was just working on the ranch all the time, I wouldnt see em that often. We have some fun and Aunt Ruth dont work us too hard and so its not all bad. Adam helps me with my homework, although he can be a bit annoying, sometimes, as he gets mad if I try and mess about. But mostly, I like it when he teaches me stuff, as hes real clever, though I dont like to tell him, too often, in case he gets too big for his britches.
And Hop Sing is always there, to just see that things run, as they should. He was taken on to cook for us, but he does so much more than that. I just cant imagine how we managed without him. We all rely on him, even Pa, at times, and yet most of the time you hardly know hes there. He just gets on with stuff, without making a fuss. In fact, the only time that he gets mad is if we are late for a meal and I guess I cant blame him. He works real hard doing what he does and its not nice if we aint there to appreciate his efforts, is it? At least he knows that Hoss will always be on time and will always eat everything in front of him. In fact you dont wanna rest your hand on the table when Hoss is around, as hes likely to season it and gobble it up!
On Friday Little Joe had been helpin me again, well, he talked more than he worked but at least he didnt sneak out again. Anyway we got home just in time for supper. Adam just had to start teasin us bout not wantin tdo chores anymore, but this time Pa heard him an told him to mind his own business for a change. Well, not in so many words, but Adam sure wasnt happy about it.
At supper I concentrated on eatin an let Little Joe do all the talkin seein as how hes so much better at that than I am. I aint never been good with words, dont know how I managed to say my piece in that council meetin, think it mustve been that talk with Adam an really believin in what I was tryin tdo. But Little Joe is different. Ever since he was just a little baby hed been real good with words. Talked his way out of a lot of trouble too. An talked Adam an me into a lot of trouble at the same time.
An talk he did that night too. He didnt stop talkin long enough to even take one bite, which always gets on Pas nerves. Whats it with that boy an eatin? Unfortunately for Little Joe, as he talked, he forgot himself a little. He didnt just talk about the work and the horses, but he started repeatin the things wed said bout how Mr. Wolf treats his animals. I tried to hush him up, but the boy just kept on talkin, even bout them girls in Mr. Wolfs hotel. The way he was goin he was talkin us right into an early grave. Dont really know why, but Pa didnt say much, he just fixed Little Joe with one of them looks we all fear, even ole Adam.
I got the feeling Pa was someplace else with his mind an that mightve saved us, cause Im sure if hed been more alert, hed have started askin some mighty uncomfortable questions an I aint never been good at lying either. I shot Little Joe an angry look, but he didnt even see it. He was already talkin bout some friend at school.
I was watchin Pa an Adam and I was sure there was somethin wrong. But I was a little afraid t ask. So I kept my eyes on my plate an didnt say a thing. Finally Little Joe started eatin his supper, after Pa gave him a warnin.
Pa an Adam started talkin business so I kinda lost interest until Hop Sing brought in some apple pie for dessert. Boy, Hop Sing sure knows how tmake apple pie. Its even better than mas and that says a lot! Suddenly I heard Adam say somethin though. Pa hushed him up, but it was too late. Id already heard it. Seemed there was a wolf killin cattle and talk in among the ranchers was that it was Hercules. An they were already plannin a hunt.
I think I lost my temper for a bit, sayin they didnt know that fer sure an they shouldnt just go around blaming her without proof. An when Adam started sayin the ranchers were just worried and tryin tprotect their stock an Pa told me to simmer down, I just stomped outside. I didnt want ttalk about it no more, but I sure wasnt goin to let them kill Hercules.
I guess I did rather let my tongue get carried away at supper time and I was lucky that Pa and Adam had their minds on other things, else I might have been in big trouble. Pa eventually got annoyed with my constant chatter and insisted that I ate and while I was doing so, that's when Adam brought up the subject of a wolf worrying the herds and said that the ranchers were blaming Hercules. Well, I guessed what Hoss' reaction was gonna to be to that remark and I wasn't disappointed. He was real mad and said that no one knew for sure that it was her and it was wrong of 'em to go jumping to conclusions. Of course, he was right, they didn't know for certain that it was Hercules and so I understood why he was mad. It's like I feel when everyone automatically blames me, whenever there is any mischief going on, it ain't always me. OK it is most of the time, but not always.
I quickly finished my supper and asked to be excused. I went outside to find Hoss; he was in the barn and boy, was he mad. You don't see my big brother angry, too often, and it's just as well, as it ain't a pretty sight. He was pacing up and down, like a caged animal, and muttering about what he'd like to do to those ranchers, who had assumed that Hercules was the one hurting their cattle.
I thought it best not to say anything and just let him rant for a bit and I think this was a good move, as he soon started to calm down. I wanted to help, as I had become fond of Hercules, too, and so I asked Hoss what we should do. He wasn't sure and so I suggested that our best plan was to catch the wolf that was really doing the killing and then that would prove to the ranchers that it wasn't Hercules. He reckoned that was a good idea, but said that I wasn't gonna be able to go with him, as it was too dangerous. I reminded him that it was my idea and said that of course I was gonna go, but he still didn't seem that keen. I used all my persuasive powers, including the famous puppy dog look and, eventually, he agreed to me helping him.
Hoss is one of the best trackers I know and I was confident that he would be able to find the wolf, but we needed to catch it in the act of either killing or eating a steer to prove it was the one.
As we were talking, we heard some horses approaching and we went outside to see who it was. It was several of the men from the neighbouring ranches, asking Pa and Adam to join them on the wolf hunt, the following day. They agreed and Hoss asked if he could go along, too, but Pa wouldn't let him. He said that Hoss and I were too young and had to stay home. Those words got me really riled, as I hate being told I am too young to do something, and I know Hoss was mad, as he is seventeen and bigger than most men, already.
Pa and Adam said they would be ready to go, the next morning, at sunup, and then the men left. They all seemed certain that the wolf they were after was Hercules and when Hoss tried to argue with them, Pa silenced him with one of his famous stares.
Once the men had gone, Pa told me it was time for bed and Hoss decided to turn in, as well. I guess it was cos he didn't wanna havta sit with Pa and Adam, while he was still so mad. We went to our room and were soon in bed. Pa came in to say goodnight and after he'd gone, Hoss and I began planning our trip to catch the wolf.
Yeah, I know I shouldnt have agreed with LJ helpin me catch that bad wolf, but once Id said it I couldnt take it back. I dont know how that little scamp does it, but he always gets me tagree with evrythin he wants.
I knew it would be a tough job catchin that animal, an considerin Hercules wasnt too scared of people, she would probably be a much easier target. Wed hafta be pretty darn quick. I was plannin on goin the next day after breakfast, but with Little Joe taggin along wed hafta wait until after school. I wasnt goin tlet him play hooky, Pad have my hide as soon as hed finished with that little brother of mine. So I told him Id meet him after school.
That plan changed when those ranchers came askin Pa and Adam tcome huntin Hercules down like some sort of criminal. I still couldnt believe Pad go along with that, but he did. I wanted tgo along tstop them from killin her when I just knew shed done nothing. Maybe if Little Joed stayed out of it, I mighta have a chance, but now Pa just told us we were too young tgo. Too young. What does he think I am? Some little school kid? I was old enough tbe workin full time on the ranch, doin a mans job, but as soon as it suited him, I was too young tdo anythin. Well, it wasnt fair. An on top of that those ranchers started tsay all sorts othings bout Hercules. Sayin ya couldnt trust a wolf, ever. An that wed made it easier for her to do the killin. I tried tchange their minds, but Pa gave me one of them looks that ya dont ignore. I figgered Id better keep my mouth shut for now, but I didnt hafta like it. I was so mad I didnt even say goodbye tany of them an just went inside.
My apple pie was still on the table, but I didnt feel like it an when Pa sent Little Joe tbed I just followed him. I just managed tget out a goodnight, cause Pa always throws a fit if ya dont, but I couldnt prevent myself closin the door, a might too hard.
Pa came in soon tsay goodnight tboth of us an I knew he was expectin me tmake up with him as I always do, but I wasnt in the mood tmake up. I felt betrayed by him an Adam. I did feel a little bad bout things after hed left the room, but I pushed those feelings away an just started plannin with Little Joe.
It didnt take much convincin on his part now, tlet him ditch school the next day. That dadburned huntin party would leave at sunrise an if Little Joe an me left before that, Pad notice. An if Pa wouldnt notice, older brother was bound to tell him. We did make up after he told Pa on me an Little Joe, even though wed spit on it, but I knew hed feel the same bout this, hed feel hed hafta tell Pa.
So we had tthink of somethin else. Its a good thing Little Joe is so good at mischief, cause he reminded me that it would be easier tleave as soon as Pa an Adam were gone. We could just leave right behind them. Pad be real sorry he told me to stay home, cause Im a real good tracker an I was sure Id find that wolf before they did.
We finally went tsleep an woke up the next mornin cause Adam was makin such a ruckus. Yad think hed be better at sneakin around, seein as how he had some practice back in New Orleans, but he dropped bout anythin he could drop. Twas a good thing too, cause Little Joe an me were still fast asleep.
I didnt wanna look at him, but when he just had to remind us tbehave I turned around an gave him an angry look. He seems tthink he was Pa or somethin. Adam just shrugged and said goodbye. He didnt think theyd be back until late. Well, that was just fine by us.
We waited until we heard the horses leave the yard and then got up, got dressed and got ready to leave. Hop Sing had made us some breakfast, but we just grabbed some toast, tellin him wed hafta go or else Little Joed be late. Since we didnt say what hed be late for, we didnt exactly lie. Or thats what Little Joe said; I didnt think Hop Sing saw it that way.
I guess I was taking advantage of the fact that Hoss was mad at the whole world, when I got him to agree with me playing hooky. Usually, he is very keen on obeying Pa, but the thought of the hunting party shooting Hercules spurred him on. He was mad that Pa had told him he was too young to go along, but I reckon it was really cos Pa wanted to spare his feelings: he didnt want Hoss to see Hercules get shot.
Adam was being a mite smug, when he left the next morning, telling us to be good like he did. I know that Pa said it too, when he came in to say goodbye, but its to be expected off Pa. I gave him a hug and he said he would take care, as he knows that I fret about him when he goes away.
As soon as they left, Hoss and I got ready and went into the main room. Hop Sing was rather mad that we didnt stop to eat the breakfast hed made us, but we had to leave quickly, before the huntin party got too far ahead of us. I did take along my lunch, which hed prepared for me to take to school, and so we werent gonna starve.
We went out to the barn and saddled up and were soon on our way. I was quite excited, this beat doing fractions at school. I mean who cares that Johnny ends up with a third of the loaf and Mary with two thirds? I dont even like bread that much, rather have cookies.
It was a rather misty morning and we couldnt see that far ahead of us, but Hoss guessed that they would be starting out at the Steadman ranch, where the last calf had been killed. We headed out that way and, as the mist cleared, we could see them in the distance. Hoss noticed some broken twigs on some bushes and dismounted, to have a closer look. He said that he thought this was where the wolf had hidden itself, while watching the herd, waiting to strike. He reckoned that if we followed the tracks back through the woods, we would find its lair. The hunters had also dismounted and were checking the ground and then they headed off, in a different direction. Hoss said that they were likely to be following the route that the wolf took when it dragged off its prey. Both sets of tracks would probably lead to the lair, but our way was going to be quicker, as when the wolf had left its den, it was not laden up with a carcass and so could travel in a straighter line, through wooded areas.
I got off my horse and we began to walk through the woods, following the wolfs tracks. Eventually, we came to a small clearing and we could see the lair. Underneath a rocky outcrop, there was a cave. The wolf was not there, but there were bloodstains on the ground and we could see the remains of the calf, inside the cave. Hoss suggested that we hid in the bushes and waited for the wolf to return. We didnt have to wait too long and he came into view. He was quite a bit bigger than Hercules, being a male, and he was darker, in colour. He went into the cave and soon returned, to lie down and gnaw on a leg of the calf. I was not that close to Hoss when we saw him, as I had just been to pee. He motioned at me and I thought he wanted me to join him, and so I started to walk towards him. The wolf caught sight of the movement, our eyes locked and then he sprang up and was after me! I began to run, screaming at the top of my voice and then I suddenly found myself being thrown into the bushes. Hoss had pushed me aside and was now between me and the wolf.
It took me a couple of minutes to regain my breath and when I stood up, a terrifying sight met my eyes. Hoss was lying on the ground and the wolf was on top of him. I could see that Hoss didnt have his rifle and yet I knew that he had brought it with us, when we left the horses. Either Hoss had dropped it, when he pushed me to safety, or the wolf had knocked it from his grasp, as they began to fight.
I saw it lying on the ground, picked it up and took aim. As I fired, the impact of the shot knocked me on my butt. I scrambled to my feet and was relieved to see that the wolf had run off. I didnt think I had shot it, but at least the noise had scared it away.
I ran over to Hoss and was horrified to see that he was covered in blood and unconscious. Before I could do anything for him, the wolf came back and I could see that I had managed to shoot him, but only in the shoulder. I picked up the gun, ready to shoot again, but my hands were shaking and I couldnt pull the trigger. Just then, Hercules sprung out of the bushes and attacked the other wolf. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the fight, but I squatted down next to Hoss, to see how he was. To my relief, he was now conscious and I quickly explained what was happening. He managed to sit up enough to watch the two animals and we were both very glad to see Hercules chase the other wolf away.
Once she was sure he had gone, Hercules came over to join us, and she lay down, next to Hoss, much as our old pet dog used to do with me, when I lay on the floor at home, in New Orleans. I gently patted her on the back and thanked her for her help. I went and fetched the canteen and offered Hoss a drink and then cleaned him up, the best I could.
We took a few minutes to catch our breath and then Hoss said I had to go and get some help. He said he was too weak to get on his horse, by himself, and I was not big enough to help him. I said that I was scared to leave him, in case the wolf returned, but Hoss told me that he would be fine, with Hercules, and the rifle, to protect him. I was still reluctant to go, but Hoss said he could die if I didnt, as he was pretty badly bitten and the bites were likely to get infected. I could see that I had no choice and so I brought Hoss a bedroll and left him the food, as well as the canteen and the rifle. I promised him that I would get back as soon as I could. I hated leaving him; I couldnt even give him a hug, for fear of hurting him.
I think that moment when I saw that wolf goin for my little brother was the most terrifyin moment of my whole life. When I motioned to him Id meant that hed have to stay away, but instead he came right at me. Dang fool. But maybe I shouldve prepared him better before we left. I dunno.
I didnt even think about what I was doin, I just jumped up and threw Little Joe in them bushes and myself in the wolfs path, knowin he wouldnt follow Little Joe but would just move on to the next target. I didnt even have time tbe scared, but when he threw me on the ground I sure thought I was a goner. Funny how your mind works when yer facin death. All I could think was I didnt get tfinish my chores.
Just before the world got black I heard a rifle shot, but then nothin.
First thing I saw when I came to was Little Joe hovering over me. He was shakin and tears threatened to spill, but he managed ttell me what had happened. I was amazed that hed actually shot that wolf. I didnt know he was such a good shot an I owed him my life.
He also helped me sit up. Everythin hurt, but I guess I oughta be glad I was still alive. I know it couldve been a lot worse. An Hercules was so brave chasin that wolf away. As soon as he was gone, Hercules came to us and she lay down next tme, lickin my hand. An we both patted her, thankin her for what she did.
I was still in a bit of a shock an things were a bit of a blur, but I knew we had tget outta there, if those wounds didnt get taken care of, I knew I was goin tbe in some real trouble. I also knew I couldnt walk or ride, I was hurtin something fierce. So there was only one thing tdo: Little Joe had tgo an get help. I knew he was scared an didnt want tleave me, but I told him if he didnt I might die, cause my wounds were pretty bad. A wolfs bite is always a risk an infections were hard tdeal with.
I finally convinced him tgo. Before he left he made sure I had everythin I needed within reach an then he sort of reluctantly left me there tget help. I was glad I had Hercules still with me, as it meant I had someone ttalk to. A guy can get pretty lonely when hes lyin in the woods, hurt and in pain.
Hercules seemed tunderstand everything I said. Shes a very smart wolf alright. While a was talkin she was lickin my hand or restin her head on my belly. Keepin me warm and keepin me company. I talked about a lotta things I wouldnt have talked about to anyone else. Not any human bein anyways. I was feelin a little sorry fer myself, but I think a guys entitled to when hes as hurt as I was. I was also feelin a little guilty. I know I shouldnt have done this an I shouldnt have let Little Joe talk me into takin him with me. But I was also mighty glad he did, cause if it werent fer him, Id probably be dead now. I just hoped it hadnt been fer nothin an theyd realise Hercules was a hero instead of a killer.
As time passed I got scared Little Joe wouldnt find help, that he would be too late. Especially the wound in my leg was hurtin a lot. I dont know how long Id been lying there, but I got more an more tired an it was gettin hard keepin my eyes open. I didnt talk tHercules no more an just rested my hand on her head. Just as I was startin tslip away I heard voices.
As I walked away from Hoss to go and get my horse, I have never felt so awful in all my life. I knew that Hoss was right and I had to go and get help, but just leaving my brother, lying on the ground, all bloody and hurtin, well it just didnt seem right. I blamed myself, cos if Id just stayed put, then Hoss wouldve probably killed the wolf, without it ever being aware we were there. I was close to tears, but knew that wouldnt do Hoss no good and so I sniffed hard, wiped my nose on my sleeve and mounted up.
I decided that I should head out to where we had seen the huntin party, but then I realised if I went back the way Hoss and I had come, I would miss them, as they were coming a different way. So, I went back to the lair and followed the trail that the wolf had made, as hed dragged along the calf.
I hadnt gone too far when I saw Pa, Adam and the other men, up ahead of me. I spurred Paint into a faster stride and was soon alongside em. Once I was actually with my family, the tears that had been threatening to fall, did so, and it took me a few minutes to be able to tell them what had happened. Pa dismounted and I told my story, hanging onto him for grim death. They were all anxious to ask questions, but Pa silenced them, and just lifted me onto his horse and mounted up, behind me. Adam took hold of Paints reins and I led them back to Hoss.
As we came in sight of where he lay, I was aware of Mr Steadman stopping his horse and removing his rifle from his scabbard. Just in time, I realised that he thought Hoss was in danger from Hercules, who was still sitting by the side of my brother. I yelled out to him and told him that Hercules was the one whod saved Hoss and that she was no threat.
Mind you, as we approached them, Hercules did let out some low growls, but once I said her name, a few times, she recognised me and was happy to let us come closer.
Pa sat down next to Hoss and quickly assessed his injuries. He decided that we needed to bring in a wagon to take Hoss home in, and so Adam offered to go and collect one with Mr Steadman, seeing as his ranch was the closest. The rest of the ranchers wanted to continue the search for the other wolf. I explained that it was not likely to have travelled far, as I had wounded it, and Hercules had also inflicted a fair amount of damage. Hoss was able to back up my story, although talking, or doing anything, was very painful for him. He told Pa that Hercules and I had saved his life and Pa hugged me tight, at these words.
Before Mr Steadman left to get the wagon, Hoss asked him to look closely at Hercules and say whether or not she was the one he had caught sight of around his herd. Mr Steadman, and a couple of the other ranchers, had to admit that it wasnt Hercules theyd seen. For a start she was lighter in colour and smaller. They also noticed that Hercules had a rope tied round her neck and they all said that the wolf theyd spotted did not have one on him. I was very glad that Hoss had forgotten to remove it, before setting her free.
Pa and I did our best to make Hoss as comfortable as we could, as we waited for Adam and Mr Steadman to return with the wagon. We heard some shooting, off in the distance, and so were not that surprised when the rest of the hunting party came back, carrying the body of the wolf. Up close, even though he was dead, he was still a terrifying sight and I found myself moving closer to Pa.
I knew that Pa was gonna have a heck of a lot of questions, once we got back home, and I figured that I might be in for a tanning, but I was still very glad that Pa was there. Although Hoss looked pretty bad, at least I knew that we would soon be home and I was sure that Hop Sing would be able to fix him up, good as new.
When Adam and Mr Steadman got back, four of em, very gently, lifted Hoss into the back of the wagon. Hercules jumped in as well and although Pa tried to make her get out, she was determined that she was not going to leave Hoss side. In the end, Pa decided to take her with us. Mr Steadman came along, too, and he said that once hed dropped us off, hed go back and dispose of the wolfs body. The other ranchers said they would stay and do that and then they would spread the word that hed been killed.
Hoss insisted, even though he was nearly unconscious again, that they also told everyone that it hadnt been Hercules and they promised that they would.
Mr Steadman drove the wagon as carefully as he could, but it still was a bumpy trip and poor Hoss mustve suffered over every one of them bumps. However, my brother was very brave and he hardly made a sound, although it was obvious, by the look on his face, how much he was hurting.
I was never as glad, as I was that day, to see our house and to know that Hoss suffering would soon be eased.
Pas voice was the best thing Id ever heard in my whole life. I knew everythin would be alright now. All of a sudden I heard Little Joe shout somethin though, it took me a while to register what was happenin, cause it was hard tconcentrate, but when I did, my heartbeat stopped fer a minute. Little Joe was yellinat Mr. Steadman not tshoot Hercules. Mr. Steadman already had his rifle in his hand an fer a minute I thought he would do it an I couldnt do anythin about it. I dont know exactly what Little Joe said thim, but he lowered the rifle an just watched as Pa came over tme.
As Pa checked me over I tried tblink away some tears of relief, but I dont think it worked. Between the pain an the relief everythin kinda went in a blur, but I remember the ranchers goin off thunt down the other wolf an me tellin everyone how Little Joe an Hercules saved my life.
I also almost forced em all ttake a close look at Hercules an say if he really looked like the wolf thatd killed the cattle.
I know Adam an Mr. Steadman went to get a wagon tget me home an I just slumped against Pas shoulder while we were waitin. It all hurt too much.
Pa told me later that when they brought back the bad wolf Id half unconsciously insisted that theyd tell everyone in town that Hercules hadnt done it. I dont really remember myself, I think I was too far out of it by that time.
All I know is that Hop Sing was tendin to my wounds, first hurtin me something fierce as he cleaned em out an patched em up. I think I yelled some, but then he put somethin on em, somethin herbal I suppose, some salve an he said that was against the infection. I had a fever by then an they were startin tworry. Dont remember much, just Hop Sing refreshin those herbs an Pa sittin on my bed, holdin my hand, tellin me Id be alright. I believed him, cause Pad never lied to us before.
An he was right. After about two days I was feelin much more like myself again. The fever was almost gone an Hop Sing said the wounds were healin nicely an since he wasnt worryin neither was I.
Little Joe kept me company lots of the time, playin checkers, talkin bout them dadburned chores he hated so much and the equally hated schoolwork. He did say hed seen Hercules once very close tthe house. It was as if she was worried an hed told her everythin was okay with me. He said hed had the feelin she understood that an she left again.
I asked him if Pa had said anything bout us disobeyin him tgo after them, but he said Pad been amazingly quiet bout that. Never said a word. I told him I figured that would come soon enough.
An I was right. After a couple of days, maybe four, Little Joe an I were playin checkers. I was still lyin in bed an Little Joe was sittinon the bed, the board on top of the covers. Suddenly Pa stood in the door an he looked at us very seriously. Ya know, the kind of look that says yer in trouble. He said he wanted thave a word with us. Little Joe an me looked at each other, both sensin this was the talk wed been waitin for.
Pa walked over to Adams bunk an sat down on it. We were both lookin down at our hands as he did so. I knew he would feel Id been punished enough by getting myself hurt like I did, but Little Joe wasnt that sure an we both hated tdisappoint Pa. Pa gave us a fairly long lecture on the importance of obedience an on makin sure yer safe out there, bein prepared. An neither of us was ready fer that yet. I especially wasnt ready talso be responsible fer Little Joe in such a situation. An he chewed us out bout the skippin school too. Of course I already knew that I shouldnt have let him do that, but Pa also said Little Joe shouldnt have taken advantage of me bein mad. My bein mad at the world was what got us in all that trouble, accordin tPa. If Id had put some trust in him, this wouldve all been unnecessary.
By the end of the lecture he had us both squirmin and feelin about five years old, but we couldnt say anything against it. He was dead-right. We both said we were sorry an we promised it wouldnt ever happen again an then Pa was quiet fer a while, makin us squirm even more. As he started to speak again he surprised us both by sayin he was also very proud of us fer doin what we thought was right. Even though our method was wrong an he never wanted that to happen again, he understood why wed done it. An he gave us both a hug.
We were both sittin there with our mouths wide open. Wed expected the world tcome down on us an instead we got a hug. As we sat there stunned an relieved Pa walked to the door an just as he passed through it he turned around again an told us that as soon as I was better wed be doin some extra chores around the house tkeep us busy an out of mischief fer a while.
As soon as he was at a safe distance we both started to laugh. Extra chores might not be much fun, but we both knew it couldve been much worse.
I was very relieved when Pa finally got round to talking to us about our disobedience. I knew he wasn't likely to tan Hoss, after all he'd been through, but I thought that I would be in for it. Sometimes, though, I just can't figure Pa. Mostly, you can set your watch by him, if I had one to set, that is, and I pretty much know how he is gonna react to most things. However, every now and again, I think he just likes to give us a surprise and he certainly did, when I ended up in his lap, having a hug, instead of over it, receiving something a lot less pleasant. Mind you, I ain't complaining and we did still get a lecture and a long list of extra chores to get through.
When Pa asked me to say the blessing, before our evening meal, I was happy to do so. I privately said thanks for the fact that I was sitting comfortably, as well as a public thanks for Hoss being well enough to join us, instead of eating in bed, as he had been doing.
It had been a worrying few days and although Hoss had never been close to dying, he'd still been very poorly. I stayed with him as much as I could, but I still had to go to school. Aunt Ruth was mad about me playing hooky and made me write an essay about obeying my father, but she also gave me some candy for Hoss and a book for Adam to read to Hoss. I listened to it, too, cos it was all about pirates and being cast adrift in an open boat and ending up on a desert island. Adam really makes reading fun, cos he makes up voices for all the different characters and it's like you're seeing the whole thing acted out in front of you.
I helped Pa and Adam as much as I could with the chores. I know I ain't as big and strong as Hoss, but I did the best I could and they were pleased with what I managed to do. I also helped Hop Sing in the kitchen, cos he was having to spend a lot of time tending to Hoss and so I did his chores for him. In fact I did all I could to show them all that I was sorry for getting Hoss hurt, cos I still blamed myself, even though Hoss told me not to.
Hercules stayed around the house the first day Hoss was hurt, but she'd left by the next morning. However, I kept catching sight of her, every now and again and although she didn't come that close, I think she knew that Hoss was getting better.
I played checkers with my big brother and even let him win, a couple of times; didn't think it was fair to kick him when he was already down.
The news about the wolf being killed spread and as no more herds were attacked, most people eventually accepted that Hercules was not the killer. But Jack Wolf was still stirring up trouble, according to Pa.
I was supposed to be asleep, but I heard Pa and Adam talking, after Pa had been into town, one evening. He said that Jack really had it in for Hercules and was saying that she could still be guilty and maybe she had been working with the one who was caught. Not many people were taking much notice of him, but I wished we could prove to him that she was not responsible and that she was a friend to us humans.
Hoss told me not to worry about it, when I talked it over with him. He said there was nothing Jack could do, as Hercules was thought of as a hero by the people who mattered.
I suppose he was right and so I did try and not to let it bother me, but she had saved Hoss' life and didn't deserve to be thought of badly, not even by Mr Wolf.
There wasnt much I could do about it and so I put all thoughts of Jack Wolf outta my head. I was too busy with the extra chores I had to do, to give much time to him, anyway. Hoss was able to do a bit more now, but the bite on his leg was the worst one and so he was still having to rest up quite a bit.
I was in the barn doing my chores, and I suddenly heard Hoss calling me. I dropped the pitchfork and ran over to the porch, to be met by a very funny sight. Jack Wolf was standing in front of the porch, dripping wet and a young lady was sat in a buggy, shouting at him. Hoss was on the porch, trying hard not to laugh.
Pa came out of the house and took command of the situation. He look rather annoyed that Hoss was laughing, instead of offering some Ponderosa hospitality, to the young lady. When she had finished yelling at Jack, Pa led them into the house and she told us what had happened, while Jack went into Pas room and got changed; he had to borrow some of Pas clothes.
The lady, who was called Miss Sarah Miller, was a newcomer to the area and she had accepted Jacks invitation to go for a buggy ride. The wheels of the buggy became stuck in the mud, as they crossed the river. Jack stood up, to encourage the horse to pull the buggy free and suddenly it did so, with a jerk, causing him to fall in the water.
Unfortunately, Jack couldnt swim and he was soon in trouble. Miss Miller was now on the opposite bank, in the buggy, and as she couldnt swim, either, didnt know what to do. Just then, she saw a wolf appear, from out of the woods, and it jumped in the river and swam over to Jack. She began to scream, thinking that the wolf saw Jack as its next meal, but incredibly, instead of hurting him, the wolf grabbed Jack by the back of his coat and dragged him to safety.
Once Jack recovered sufficiently to speak, he told her that the wolf was Hercules, and that he had once owned her. She recognised the name, as the story of how Hercules had saved Hoss was circulating around Eagle Station. She also knew that Jack had been saying nasty things about the wolf and so she insisted that he came to our ranch and told us how Hercules had saved him from drowning. That was why she was shouting at him, because he didnt want to admit that he owed his life to Hercules, the animal that he had stood by and watched, as she had nearly died, in the name of sport. Just goes to prove that animals are much more forgiving than humans.
Of course, we were all delighted to hear that, once again, Hercules was a hero, and I really wanted to rub it in to Mr Wolf that he had been proved wrong about her, but Pa wouldnt let me go too far. However, he did stress that he hoped that this was going to put an end to the stories that Hercules was responsible for killing the cattle. Miss Miller assured us that she would ensure that everyone in town knew about the rescue, even if Jack tried to hide the truth.
After several cups of coffee and a whole plate of Hop Sings cookies, Miss Miller and Mr Wolf returned to town and Hoss and I were left, feeling that Hercules had more than repaid us for freeing her.
I know Id told Little Joe not tworry about Jack Wolf an his stupid rumours, as he couldnt really do anything about it, but it still bothered me a lot. Why couldnt that man let things go? I even talked tPa about it when Little Joe was in bed. I didnt want to rat on him for eavesdroppin an made Pa promise not tsay anything about it, but I just really needed ttalk about this. Pa managed tmake me feel a little better bout it. He pointed out tme that Jack was alone in this an no one was listenin to him. He also said the most important thing was that we thought Hercules was a hero.
It was funny, Id said the same thing tLittle Joe, but somehow hearin Pa say it, made me really believe those words. Pa has a way of doin that. Always makes me feel better.
My leg healed slowly an it was darn frustratin not bein able to go around as I wanted to. An my leg still hurt quite a bit. Didnt keep Pa from givin me chores though, he said there is a lot ya can do sittin down. So he started makin me help Hop Sing a bit.
Now most things havin tdo with food is fine by me, but I aint good at peelin potatoes or vegetables. Werent stupid enough tsay that, mind ya, so I was sittin on the porch with a big basket full of potatoes an I was tryin not tcut off too much, when I suddenly saw that carriage ridin into the yard. Jack Wolf jumped down an he was some sight tsee. He was drippin wet.
The sight of him was enough tmake me chuckle, but the way that young lady was yellin at him, tellin tdo as shed told him, be an honest man fer a change, well that just did me in. It took all my willpower, an thoughts of Pa, not tlaugh at him. But I guess ya could still see it in my face cause Pa threw me one of them looks again.
The story behind this hilarious sight was even funnier, not only did Jack make a dang fool out of himself in front of that nice lookin gal, but he also had tadmit hed been wrong about Hercules. I was gloatin a bit, but Little Joe even tried trub it in an Pa stopped that pretty darn quick. Little Joe knew better than tdo that.
I was mighty glad though that this would put a stop once an fer all to all the rumours Jack had spread. He wouldnt dare be doin that no more, not with Miss Miller makin sure the whole town knew about today.
Yeah, that day had turned out tbe a real good day, well, except that I still had tpeel them dadburned spuds.