Summary: While Hoss and Joe chase an elusive turkey, Adam remembers an earlier Thanksgiving when Ben was away and there was a storm raging outside and turmoil inside among the brothers until the two intersected.
Rating = K WC = 3631
Brothers and Thanksgiving
Watching his brothers chase the turkey they had raised for their Thanksgiving dinner, Adam was reminded of a similar day fifteen years earlier when he had returned from college. He was just barely twenty-two. Hoss had turned sixteen, and Joe was ten. The brothers had to work out a new relationship with each other, and in a situation like that, it didn’t go well at first. They all had opinions of what the others should do, and had a stubborn streak that mirrored their father’s. Ben had decided after a few months of that bickering, he needed a break and told them he was going hunting leaving Adam in charge. That meant that Adam didn’t get a break by going into Genoa or Gold Hill either but instead had to watch over his brothers and make sure they didn’t get into any trouble. If they did, he would be held responsible. After the first day of his rule, his brothers were harassing him
“I don’t think of you as a protector. You’re more like the sheriff at the jail.”
“Yeah, and he talks like the minister.”
“Oh, Little Joe, I think it’s more like your teacher, don’t you?”
“What if Pa doesn’t get a turkey? What are we going to eat for the fall harvest celebration then, Hoss?”
“Maybe mister smartypants there can make us a turkey.”
“Listen, it’s raining very hard. I need to go make sure that the stable is secure and then I’m going to check the roofs on the storehouse and the tool shed. Do the two of you think you can stay out of trouble for an hour so I can do that and not worry about the house burning down while I’m outside?”
“Sure ’cause if it’s raining that hard, the rain’ll put the fire out before the house burns all the way down to the ground.”
Hoss snickered as he finished saying it, and Little Joe burst out laughing. Adam simply sighed in frustration and grabbed his coat and headed out to the porch. He should have put his coat on inside because the wind drove rain at him as soon as he stepped outside the door. His shirt was wet before he managed to button up his brown plaid barn coat. Pulling his dark gray hat down as far as he could, he kept one hand on top of it so it wouldn’t blow away and walked with a wide legged gait to the stable. The hands had left for town an hour before and hadn’t properly secured the stable door. He had to pull it shut and pull the bar into place. The horses were agitated by the wind and the rain. He brought extra hay to each and brushed each one for a short time to calm them. When he had them settled down, he moved to make sure the windows in the tack room were secure and that the back door to the stable was shut tight. Then he left the stable by the small side door closing it tightly.
When he got to the tool shed, he found it open and had to push the door shut and get some wood to pile against it to keep it closed. He moved next to the storehouse and found the worst problem there. A branch had fallen and created a small hole in the roof. He went inside and moved everything away from where rain was leaking into the building. With the weather the way it was, he couldn’t repair the damage, but he thought he could remove the branch to prevent further damage. He went out to the side of the storehouse and got a fence post off a pile of them to use as a lever. He used a large block of wood as a fulcrum and moved the branch a small amount that way. He repositioned his fulcrum and moved it more. He thought that one more move was all it would take. He moved the fulcrum one more time and pushed his fence post lever and the branch shifted and came tumbling down knocking Adam backwards into the pile of fence posts directly behind him. Stunned by that, he struggled to get up, slipped in the mud, and fell forward striking his head on the block of wood he had been using as a fulcrum. He was knocked senseless by that and lay in the rain and gathering darkness.
Inside the house, Hoss and Little Joe had been entertaining themselves playing checkers in front of a warm fire and enjoying cookies eating all that they could find.
“I’m guessing that eatin’ cookies cain’t burn a house down.”
They both chuckled at that.
“Yeah, acting the way he has been, he don’t deserve any of these cookies Hop Sing left for us.”
“Heck, ifn we eat ’em all, he won’t even know Hop Sing left cookies for us.” Hoss and Little Joe snickered at their cleverness. They were so busy having fun, that they didn’t notice at first that it was well over an hour and Adam wasn’t back. They didn’t notice until they realized it was dark outside and it was time for dinner. Cooking dinner was Adam’s responsibility because Hop Sing also had the weekend off.
“I’m getting hungry. Adam is supposed to take care of us. He should be in here cooking dinner.” Little Joe was perturbed.
Hoss though was getting worried. The things that Adam said he was going to do shouldn’t have taken him this long unless he ran into some trouble. If he needed help, he would have come back to get him, and he hadn’t. Hoss was worried about what that could mean. “Little Joe, I’m gonna go out there and see ifn Adam needs some help to finish up. I’m hungry too so I want to see about getting him back here a bit quicker. All right?”
“All right, but don’t take as long as old bossy pants. I’m already hungry.”
“I won’t. Here, I’ll put another log on the fire for you so you stay nice and warm.”
Hoss put on his coat and hat and grabbed a lantern. He headed for the stable and found everything thing there in good condition. Next he looked at the tool shed and saw that the door had been secured. That meant that Adam had been there too. That left the storehouse. When Hoss got there, he saw that the door was unlocked but shut. He went inside to see that there was a hole in the roof but that items had been moved away from where the rain might damage them. There was no sign of Adam. He stepped outside and yelled Adam’s name and got no response. He shut the door making sure it was secure and then trudged to the house. Once inside, he asked Little Joe if he had seen Adam.
“No, he hasn’t been here. Hoss, did something bad happen?”
“Little Joe, I don’t know what happened. I cain’t find him. Now you stay right there. I cain’t be worried about both of you at the same time. I gotta go back to the storehouse. Something musta happened between here and there cause he was there but he never made it back here.” Hoss walked slowly back to the storehouse looking carefully from side to side but not seeing any sign of Adam. He stopped at the door of the storehouse. He was now soaked and beginning to shiver so he knew it was imperative that he find his brother soon. Out here in the cold rain, he was going to be suffering from the cold which could be as deadly as anything else. He told himself to think. Now the storehouse had a hole in the roof. That had to be important. There was no ladder or anything else next to the building so Adam hadn’t fallen from a ladder. But suddenly Hoss realized that the branch that made the hole was no longer there. Adam had removed it, and then he had not returned to the house. He knew those two things had to be connected. He went around the side of the storehouse and looked around and then nearly tripped over Adam before he saw him. His brown coat, dark pants, and dark gray hat were all wet and blended in with the wet ground so well it was like camouflage. Hoss set the lantern down and lifted Adam. He couldn’t carry both, but didn’t think he needed a lantern. In a few minutes, the panicked young man was at the door of the house. He kicked the door a couple of times until Little Joe was there to let him in.
“Is he dead?” Little Joe’s face drained of color as he saw Hoss carry a limp Adam into the house. Adam’s face was covered in blood.
“No, he ain’t dead. Dead men don’t bleed. But, we gotta get these cold wet clothes offa him and get him warm again. Go get me some towels. Then go upstairs and get some blankets and lay ’em on the floor in front of the fireplace.”
“There’s a table there.”
Once Adam was stripped and wiped down, Hoss wrapped a light bandage around his head. Then he carried him to where Little Joe had laid down several blankets. He laid Adam on top of two of them folded in half. Then he used two more to cover him and put a pillow from the settee under his head. He sat back and sighed deeply.
“Is he gonna be all right, Hoss.”
“I dunno. He’s got a bump on the back of his head and one on the front. I don’t know how bad that is. He’s breathing all right though. Now we got him in here, he’ll warm up fast too. Hop Sing always gives us tea when we’re sick like this and cooks up broth. I don’t know how to make those.”
“I saw him make tea lots of times. I can tell you what he does.”
“Well, I guess we kin take a little time and do that.”
Once the tea was brewing, they brought the little pot out by the fireplace. Adam was moaning and had pushed the covers down to his waist. Hoss pulled them up to his neck again.
“Ya gotta keep covered until you warm up some.”
Struggling to open his eyes, Adam turned toward Hoss. “Hoss?”
“Ya, it’s me. We got some tea for ya. Ya think ya kin drink some?”
“We were hoping you could tell us. Never mind that now. Kin ya drink some of this tea? It’ll help warm ya up.”
Apparently Little Joe had observed well. Adam drank the tea and didn’t complain at all. He asked for more. Hoss explained that Little Joe had watched Hop Sing make tea and had told Hoss how to make it.
“Good job, both of you. It’s good. Thank you.”
“You’re not gonna die, are you? I don’t want you to die, Adam. You’re my brother. I want you to live.”
“I’m not going to die. My head feels like it’s going to explode, and I have the worst headache I can remember having, but I’ll be fine. I’m glad you at least want me to live.”
“Aw, Adam, of course we want you to live, and we’re sorry we was mean to ya. It was just kidding around, ya know.”
“It didn’t feel like kidding around to me.”
“We were laughing.”
“Yes, Little Joe, you and Hoss were laughing. Now, if you don’t mind, I really would like to sleep for a while.”
“Me and Little Joe will just go in the kitchen and get something to eat then.”
“I set the Dutch oven in the fireplace there with beef, onions, potatoes, and carrots. It’s been a long time and I hope it hasn’t burned.”
“I didn’t smell nothing burning when we was in there.”
“Good. Maybe it will be all right for you then.” Adam closed his eyes then and fell asleep almost immediately.
Hoss found the Dutch oven suspended over mostly hot coals by this time. It had the effect of keeping their dinner warm. Without any additional fuel added to the fire, nothing had burned. They had a delicious meal and put the rest in the warming oven in case Adam wanted any when he woke up. Hoss told Little Joe it was time for him to go to bed, but he didn’t want to be upstairs alone so he went and got his pillow and quilt and brought them downstairs. He curled up in their father’s favorite red leather chair and was soon asleep. Hoss got his quilt and pillow and set them on the settee waiting to see if Adam would awake again. He put more logs on the fire to keep them all nice and warm with the storm still raging outside. Then he remembered Adam’s clothing. He took it all to the washroom and cleaned up his boots, coat, and hat as well as he could. He washed his shirt and pants and hung them up to dry. When he got back, Adam was awake and hungry. Hoss thought that was a good sign and got some of the dinner they had saved. Adam didn’t eat much but he ate. Then he wanted more tea and Hoss took care of that too. He fell asleep soon after that, and it was only then that Hoss felt that he could go to sleep so he stretched out on the settee.
The next morning, Adam was awake and alert, but when he stood, he was dizzy. Hoss helped him sit and told him not to try to go anywhere alone. He went up to his room and got clean clothing for him. He helped him to the necessary and then to the washroom so he could shave and clean up. Once everything was done, he helped him back to the great room and let him relax in the red leather chair that Little Joe had recently vacated.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can do any work. I have to put the two of you in charge. Hoss, you’re first in charge, and Little Joe, you’re second in charge. Any disputes, you come to me. All right?”
“I’m second in charge? Wow, I’ve never been second in charge before.”
“Yes, now the two of you have to figure out who gets to do what. I’m sorry that I can’t help and I’m one more job you have to do.”
“Oh, Adam, you’re not a job. You’re our brother. That’s right, isn’t it, Hoss?”
“That’s right, little brother. It’s not a job. We’re happy to help you ’cause you’re our brother. Now, as first in charge, I say we oughta go in the kitchen and figure out what we kin have for breakfast. While we’re doing that, we’ll figure out the rest.”
It took a while, but Little Joe brought out a tray of bread slices, preserves, and a bowl of stewed apples for Adam’s breakfast. He said he would have some eggs for him as soon as Hoss threw out the burned ones and tried again. Eventually Adam had some eggs too that tasted reasonably good. While Hoss cleaned up in the kitchen, Little Joe came out with a broom to sweep cleaning up the mud they had tracked in the previous evening. It had hardened into lumps so it wasn’t a very difficult job. Adam thanked him and told him to pass thanks along to Hoss too. However he needed Hoss’ help again to use the necessary. By the time Hoss had him settled again, Little Joe was out in the stable taking care of chores there because they had decided he could do that job. Hoss needed to stay close enough to Adam because if Adam needed to move for any reason, Hoss had to be there to help him.
While Little Joe was finishing up in the stable, Ben rode back in. His hunt had been successful, but the rain had made everything muddy and damp so he didn’t like the idea of staying out any longer than necessary. He had bagged some birds that morning so he headed home. Finding Little Joe working at cleaning out all the stalls in the stable was a surprise. Then he was shocked to hear Little Joe’s explanation.
“I had to do it. Adam’s sitting in the chair inside. He might be taking a nap again. So he couldn’t do it, and Hoss had to take care of fixing breakfast and stuff so he has to clean up the kitchen a little yet. That meant it was up to me to do chores.”
“We’ll see about that.”
Walking purposefully, Ben strode to the house. When he entered, he heard Hoss ask Adam if he wanted another cup of tea. Adam was sprawled in the red chair with his feet stretched out onto the table in front of the fireplace. It looked as if he had set himself up as lord of the realm with his brothers doing all the work. Ben bellowed at the top of his lungs.
It did not get the reaction he expected.
“Aw, Pa, not so loud. My head hurts.”
Hoss rushed out from the kitchen. “Pa, ya gotta be quieter. Adam’s head is hurting him.”
Surprised and then curious at the responses, Ben walked to where Adam sat and wondered why his son didn’t look at him so he asked him to do that. When Adam turned toward him sporting a large bump in the middle of his forehead with bluish and purplish bruising around it, Ben was shocked.
“What happened to you?”
Hoss answered instead taking the pressure from Adam. “A branch fell on the storeroom roof and put a hole in it, and he got it off, but it made him fall and he hit his head. I got him inside, and me and Little Joe have been taking care of him.”
“They did a good job too, Pa.”
Little Joe came in the house soon enough to hear that last part. He smiled broadly and after putting his coat on the hook by the door, he came over to sit by Adam. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Adam?”
“No, Joe, you did a great job. Thank you.”
“Pa, you’re jist in time for lunch. Adam told me how to stew some apples, and I heated the ham in the oven like he said to do it. We got bread too that I sliced up. I know it’s pretty simple, but it’s the best I could do.”
“I’m sure it’s going to be delicious, son.”
“Somebody has to help Adam to the table. He don’t walk so good by himself, and we don’t want him to fall down again.”
“I’ll do it, Pa. I’ve helped him before and I know just what to do.”
Little Joe stepped next to the chair and as Adam stood, Little Joe offered his shoulder as he put his arm around his brother’s waist. They walked together to the table with Little Joe staying by Adam’s side until he was safely seated. Ben watched somewhat amused and knowing that Adam didn’t need to lean on Little Joe as he had but that he had done it because Little Joe wanted to help so much.
After a lunch of some very good stewed apples, some rather unevenly sliced bread, and some slightly dried out ham, Adam announced that he thought he could walk by himself. Even though professing to be strong enough, his two brothers hovered near until he was safely seated again by the fireplace. They told their father then that they would clean up the lunch dishes and he should relax with Adam. As Ben watched Hoss and Little Joe clear the table and take everything into the kitchen, he turned to Adam.
“What miracle has occurred here?”
“I guess when I came home, you handed off too much responsibility to me, and it made them feel slighted. Now that they have something important to do, they feel better about everything. I told Hoss he was first in charge and Joe was second in charge. If I didn’t have such a headache, I would be enjoying this even more.”
“Do you think you need to see the doctor?”
“I remember what happened, and my vision is clear. I’m only a bit dizzy when I stand up. I think we can forego the doctor visit this time.”
“This is wonderful. I have even more to be thankful for this year.”
As Adam remembered those words, he repeated them. Ben was walking out from the house having heard the commotion.
“What was that, son?”
“I was just saying I have even more to be thankful for this year. Every year, I think I can say that.”
Even as he watched Hoss and Joe still chasing the turkey that had escaped the enclosure, Ben smiled. “Yes, I feel the same way.”
“Pa, do you suppose they’re going to figure out at some point that because they want to catch the turkey so they can get it ready for our Thanksgiving dinner, that all they really have to do is shoot it?”
“I don’t know, Adam. Your younger brothers seem to have a tendency to have to learn things the hard way.”