March 21st (by JoanS)


Summary:  Excerpts from Adam’s diary on the same day for fifteen years  

Rated: K (17,825 words)


March 21st 

 The following are excerpts from

 Adam Cartwright’s diary

 on March 21st each year

 from  1841 – 1855


March 21st 1841

Dear Diary,

This is my first time writing in this new diary that my Pa gave me. He says it’s a good idea to write down my thoughts about what’s happening to me and one day I can look back on them and remember what it was like to be ten years old. My Pa is the best! I love this new diary and I’m gonna write in it most every day if I can.  Sometimes it might be hard though, cause Pa and me get so busy with everything that needs to be done round here.

We’re mostly settled here in Nevada now, but there’s still lots to be done now that winter is mostly over. It was a hard winter Pa says. He says that it mostly blows a terrible wind up here in the Sierras and boy is he right!  Some days I thought we might get blown right of the mountains the way that winds blows.  Just as well that Hoss is so big, or else a littleun like him might be swept right away.

Hoss is my brother and he’s four years old.  But he’s the biggest four-year old I’ve ever seen. Pa says that he’s gonna be a big man when he grows up and I believe it.  Just as well he started walking early, cause if he hadn’t we’d never have lifted him off the ground! Pa needs me to look after him most of the time, cause he’s busy with trying to build our house and still get time to get food for us. My Pa works real hard all day and long into the night and he needs me to do the same.

I don’t mind.  Me and my Pa have always worked real hard.  Ever since I can remember we done things together and helped each other through.  Pa says that’s what families are all about and I reckon that he’s right. Our house is just about finished now.  When we first got here last year we only had the wagon to sleep in, but Pa wanted to make sure that we had a proper roof over our heads come winter.  We did too.  He worked real hard to chop trees and make us a room and now he’s adding another one to it. We’re gonna have one room to sleep in and one to do our cooking in and sit in at night soon.  My Pa is the best.  He built a real good house for us.

My Pa says that one day we’re gonna have a real big house up on the hill. He’ll build it when he gets time.  I know he will too.  Right now though he needs to concentrate on building up our ranch.  We’re gonna have a big ranch my Pa says.  He bought a few cattle from Mr Henderson who lives over the other side of the Truckee River and we’re gonna breed em.  Pa says that we might start catching horses and breeding them too.  I can hardly wait! I’m gonna be a real good rancher now that we’re settled.

Pa and me knew right off that this was the place for us to stop at when we saw it.  We’d been travelling for a long time my Pa and me and Hoss.  Me and Pa came right aways from Boston and then Ma joined us up later before Hoss was born. Poor Ma never got to see Nevada though cause she died back in Missouri.  She was shot by an Indian arrow.  I saw it happen. Pa and me was real upset when it happened cause she was the best Ma ever.

My real Ma died when I was born, so I don’t remember her at all.  Pa tells me bout her sometimes though.  He says he’s gonna tell Hoss bout his Ma too when he gets bigger. So will I.  She was the best Ma ever.

I’m gonna get some sleep now Diary.  Lots to do tomorrow cause Pa is gonna take me to set some traps with him.  We have to be careful of Hoss when we go, but he’s mostly good.  I’ll write some more tomorrow.


March 21st 1842

Dear Diary,

I haven’t written in you for a few days, cause life round here has been real bad! As you know, Pa was due back from his trip this month.  Me and Hoss have been real excited bout seeing him again after all that time, but he went and spoilt it all.  He brought back a woman with him.  Hoss and me couldn’t believe it! He got married to her down in New Orleans and he says she’s our new Ma. Well she sure as heck ain’t gonna be my Ma!

Pa says I’m being stubborn but I don’t care. I didn’t ask him to bring her here and I ain’t going to make her feel welcome no matter what he says. She spoils everything round here now. Before when it used to be just me and Pa and Hoss we got on real fine, but now she sticks her nose into everything and wants to know what’s going on.  Pa says that’s the way women are. Well I’m sure not gonna have anything to do with em if that’s the case.

Pa says we gotta get that house built up on the hill now cause this house ain’t gonna be big enough for us. I don’t mind helping him with the house, but I sure ain’t doing it for her!  I’m helping build it for me and Pa and Hoss. That way we’ll have more room and maybe I won’t have to see her so much. Pa says that Hoss and me can have our own room when we get the house finished.  That’ll be good, cause Hoss sticks his feet into my back at night when I’m trying to go to sleep and he has cold feet. Pa says that we’ll have room for two beds and I’m looking forward to having my own bed in our room.

Me and Pa are real busy now that he’s back. I took good care of the cattle for him while he was gone.  Mr Henderson helped. I looked after Hoss too.  Hoss is a good brother, but he likes Marie too much.  He calls her Ma too.  I won’t. I told her she ain’t my Ma nohow.

Me and Pa are gonna start catching the horses we want soon. Then I’m gonna learn how to break em.  Pa says I won’t be doing it for a few years yet, but I know how to.  I’ve watched Mr Henderson and his men do it and I reckon I can.  Me and Pa are gonna learn anyway. We got more cattle than last year.  Pa says that one day we’ll have enough to start selling em.  In the meantime we make our money from our traps.

Pa made lots of money in New Orleans.  He sold lots of furs that him and me got.  He’s going to use the money for things for our house and for buying some more land.  Our ranch is gonna get bigger and bigger.  One day Pa says that it’ll stretch as far as the eye can see. He says it’s gonna be better than heaven itself. I reckon he’s right, except that heaven wouldn’t have Marie there and that’s a good thing.

Tomorrow I’m going with Pa in our new buckboard.  There’s a new store just opened up near the Washoe diggings and we’re gonna see if we can buy some things there.  Hoss wants to go too, but Pa says he’s too young cause it might be a rough place.  He says we’ll check it out and then Hoss and Marie can come next time.

Pa made up a name for our ranch now.  He calls it The Ponderosa after all the pine trees on it.  I think it’s a good name. Hoss does too. I don’t know what Marie thinks, cause I didn’t ask her.  I don’t talk to her if I don’t have to.


March 21st 1843

Dear Diary,

Some days lately I’m too tired to write in you, but tonight I feel like it. Since I got my own room it’s a lot better to write now, even though Hoss keeps coming into my bed and disturbing me at night because he says he’s lonely.  I think he’s afraid of sleeping in the dark by himself, even though he won’t say it. He’s getting too big to be afraid now, after all he is six!

Today Pa and I did really well. That money he made from the cattle last month has sure come in handy and yesterday Pa did some figures.  He keeps an account book of all we’ve got and he reckons we’ll have enough to extend The Ponderosa down to the other side of the lake soon. He and Marie had a fight about it last night … I heard them when I was supposed to be asleep, but the walls don’t keep out the noise round here. One day when we get that upstairs in the house that Pa is always talking about maybe they will.

Anyway, Marie wanted him to spend the money on the house. Things for inside that women like. Curtains and frills and suchlike. Pa wants to spend it on the ranch.  I reckon Pa is right.  We don’t need lots of things in the house like she thinks! We need lots more cattle and more land first. I reckon women don’t have much idea about these things anyhow.

I think Pa won the argument, because today we went into town and staked a claim for more land down by the lake.  Marie wasn’t too happy about it.  She was banging lots of pots and pans in the kitchen at breakfast this morning.  Pa rolled his eyes at me and we both laughed.  I reckon he knows what women are like too.  I don’t know why he married her! The only good thing she ever did is have that little baby brother of mine and most of the time I don’t know if even that was a good thing.

He sure is a noisy baby, that Little Joe!  From sunup to sundown he carries on bout something or other. Pa says he’s gonna be a troublemaker when he gets older, but I reckon he’s a troublemaker now.  He is kinda cute though.  He hangs onto my finger when I push it into his crib and he tries to eat it. Yesterday I swear I saw him laugh. I told Pa, but he reckons that all babies do that when they have wind. That Little Joe keeps us all on our toes round here though, that’s for sure.  Marie reckons she doesn’t get much sleep at night cause of him crying and suchlike. Last night I heard her and Pa walking him round and round the living room when it was really late.

Hoss is getting to be a real good help to Pa and me now.  He’s good with his chores and helps Marie during the day when us men are out at work. He’s a good brother, especially when he stays out of my room and lets me have my privacy. I don’t get much round here that’s for sure! Marie is always poking her nose into my business and asking what I’m doing.  She should know that a man needs his privacy. I reckon maybe that Little Joe will keep her busy now and she won’t have time to worry about what I’m doing.

Pa says there’s talk of a school starting up in town and if it does he wants me and Hoss to go there. I’d be real excited to go and see what school is like, but Hoss says he’s not going. I think he might be a bit scared of it.  Marie’s been teaching him his letters lately and he can count well too. The only problem with going to school is that Pa needs me here. I don’t think that I’ll have time to go to school and help Pa like he needs me to as well. Pa says not to worry about that.  He says that education is more important than anything.  I reckon he’s right, but he’s still going to need me here. Pa reckons that soon we might be able to hire someone to help on the ranch, so I reckon then I might be able to go to school. I sure hope so.

I gotta go soon because supper is nearly ready.  That new cook that Pa brought home last week is sure cooking something nice by the smell of it. He’s Chinese and doesn’t talk much English, but I reckon I can teach him some. I don’t think that Marie likes him in her kitchen very much, but Pa says she’s too busy with that noisy baby Little Joe and everything else she has to do around here to do all the cooking. He reckons that Hop Sing will be a big help to her.  Marie said he could stay, but only until that Little Joe gets bigger and stops his yelling all the time.  I reckon that Hop Sing might be here for a long time, cause that baby ain’t about to stop yelling in a hurry for no one.


March 21st 1844

Dear Diary,

School was really interesting today because Mr Hudson started teaching me about geography. He has a book that he lets me read and it tells all about our country of The United States and what its like in all the different parts.  It’s really interesting. I think that there is a lot of our country that I haven’t seen yet and one day I aim to.  In fact I’d like to see outside of our country too.  I told Pa that one day I’m going to sea like he did, but I’m going to go right round the world. He looked a bit sad when I said that, so I made sure that he knew that it wouldn’t be for a long time. After all, he still needs me here.

Life is really busy with school and running the ranch with Pa. I’m so glad I get to go to school now.  I wish Hoss would like it a bit more, but he never wants to go.  I think its because some of the other kids tease him.  They don’t do it when I’m around of course, but I’m not always there.  Besides, Pa says that he has to learn to fight his own battles and I think he’s right. Hoss thought Pa meant that he had to fight the other kids and he got a real tanning from Pa last night when he came home with a black eye. Pa said he didn’t mean that kind of a battle.

I like History too at school Mr Hudson teaches it really well and he makes it sound interesting.  I’m going to ask Pa if I can have some history books for my birthday this year instead of other things.  He never minds buying me books because he says that it’s the best way to learn about things.  Apart from going out and experiencing life.  That’s another thing that Pa says. I think that we experience life pretty well round here.

The cattle are doing really well now and Pa says his accounts are showing lots of profit.  He and Charlie work real hard to make the money.  Charlie has been great to have on the ranch and I’m glad that Pa hired him.  He’s been teaching me and Pa lots of things about ranching that we didn’t know before and Pa says that we have him to thank for lots of the money we’re making now.  Marie is happy because Pa has bought her some furniture for the living room.  We’ve got a red and white striped sofa and Pa got a couple of big easy chairs to put in front of the fireplace.  He’s ordered a big desk from San Francisco and he says that we’ll go in the buckboard and pick it up come April. He’s going to knock down that temporary wall and make his and Marie’s bedroom a study when we get upstairs finished.

The staircase is looking really good now and soon we’ll be able to start on the rooms upstairs.  At the moment they’re just all one big space.  I like working on the house at night with Pa because we have time together to talk while we’re up there … just the two of us.  I get to tell him all about school and he tells me about our plans for the ranch. We get on real well, my Pa and I … especially when Marie isn’t around.

The only problem with the staircase is keeping that pesky Little Joe away from it.  Ever since he learned to walk a couple of months ago he gets into everything. He’s a real pest! We have to tie some wood across the bottom of the staircase to keep him away from it until its finished because if we didn’t he’d climb up and could fall and hurt himself. Now he just stands at the bottom and cries because he can’t come up with us.  That kid cries about everything!

Hoss and I have to keep our door closed all the time too because of him. I forgot last night and he got in and ripped up all my homework that I’d done.  I was really mad with him and yelled at him.  He started to cry then too and Marie had to write a letter to Mr Hudson for me so that I wouldn’t get into trouble for not having done it.  She can be good like that sometimes. She smacked Little Joe too, but that only made him cry more.  Sometimes that kid makes my head ache with all his crying.

Pa says that we’ll start on training my new horse next week when he has a bit more time.  I’m glad because I can hardly wait to ride him. He knows me a lot better now and comes when I call his name, so I think he’s probably half trained already.  Pa says I can’t get on him until we’ve broken him to the saddle though.  I wish Pa would let me start breaking the horses with him and Charlie. I know I can do it, I just need him to give me the chance. He says I have to be a lot older yet, but I think that thirteen is old enough.

Pa is going to have a cattle drive next month.  He and Charlie and I are going to do it ourselves, although he says that we’ll probably need some more hands by next year the way we’re going. We’ve got so many cattle now that’s it’s too hard to count them. Just as well we bought the land up on the North Section, or we wouldn’t be able to fit them in. Pa is also talking about expanding into the timber business.  Marie says that he’ll work himself to death, but he just laughs at her when she says that. She says that sometimes his dreams are too big, but she doesn’t know how much Pa and me dreamed when we were coming out here.

Pa says that one day we’re going to have the biggest ranch in these parts and I know that we will.  Whatever my Pa puts his mind to, he can do it.  When he talks like that Marie goes all soft and says that she loves him and such like. Sometimes she goes all mushy over my Pa. I think she really loves him and I know he loves her because he gets a funny look in his eyes when he looks at her. I think she’s a mighty fine-looking woman.  Leastways that’s what everyone says.  She’s still too nosey though.

Marie and Hop Sing are getting on better now too.  She doesn’t interfere with his kitchen so much, although I must say she can cook really good things when she wants to.  Hoss sure appreciates it.  He says that he doesn’t know which one of them is the best cook and I think they try and outdo each other because of it. Whatever the reason, us men sure appreciate the food we get.  All except Little Joe of course.

That baby doesn’t eat nearly enough … at least that’s what everyone says. Pa got real mad with Hoss the other day when he found him eating Little Joe’s food for him. Hoss said he was only trying to stop Little Joe from getting into trouble, but Pa said that he’s not helping him by doing it. I think he’s right.  That kid will never grow unless he eats something. Marie says that it doesn’t stop him having more energy than the rest of us put together and I think that she’s right. Imagine what he’d be like if he did eat more? We probably wouldn’t be able to stand him then.


March 21st 1845

Dear Diary

I’ve sure been working hard this week at school. Mr Hudson is such a great teacher and he says that I’ve got an inquiring mind. He makes school seem like such fun. I wish I’d got to go to school when I was younger, but then I guess Pa and me wouldn’t have had all those great times together if we’d settled before we found The Ponderosa.  Hoss is lucky that he gets to go at a younger age and I guess that Little Joe will go even younger, but I don’t think they’ll appreciate it like I do. Hoss sure doesn’t that’s for sure!

I worry sometimes about Hoss.  He finds school hard.  Not just the work, but getting on with the other kids too.  I know they make fun of him because he’s so big, but he tries to hide it from me because he doesn’t want me to get upset like he does. He doesn’t get into so many fights now.  I think that he’s beginning to take notice of what Pa keeps telling him. I know that Pa is worried that one day he might get into real trouble and hurt someone.  Hoss is a really gentle boy really, he just has to learn to think about his own strength sometimes.

It’s funny, because even though I like school so much I don’t like spending all my time there.  If I did I’d miss out on the great things that happen here at the ranch.  Like the cattle drive.  Pa says I can take a couple of weeks off school to go on it with him and Charlie and the men like we did last year.  Only this time it’ll take us longer because of how many cattle we have. Pa had to hire extra men to help us and we’re going to maybe keep some of them on even after the drive because of the branding. It seems like the work is never done around here.

Hoss is jealous because he wants to come as well, but like Pa told him … it’s only for the men.  He’ll get to come when he’s older.  Pa told him that he had to stay home and take care of Marie and Little Joe and Hoss believes that he’s really going to be in charge around here.  Of course Pa and Marie and me know that he won’t really be.

I think that the one in charge around here is probably Hop Sing. He tells everyone what to do all the time and even Pa does what he tells him most of the time.  I really like Hop Sing!  He can sure cook and takes great care of the house too.  I know that Marie likes having him around because he makes her work easier.  She doesn’t have a lot for time for things apart from looking after Little Joe some days.  That kid can sure get into mischief at times. It seems that every day he thinks of something new to be in trouble for.

Little Joe sure is cute though. Even when he’s getting into trouble from Pa and Marie he knows how to turn on the charm. Pa says he’s got everyone twisted around his little finger and I think that he’s probably right. The other day he got into Pa’s desk and ripped up lots of papers he kept in there.  Pa spanked him good and now he’s got a lock for his desk. Little Joe and Hoss get on real well because Hoss takes lots of times to talk to him and show him things. I get on well with him too, but I’m not as patient with him as Hoss is.

I’ve been learning a new song on the guitar and can nearly play it all now without a mistake.  I’m sure glad that Pa gave me that guitar last Christmas.  I have a feeling that Marie told him to buy it for me, because she’s the one been teaching me all the chords and how to strum it.  Sometimes we get on really well, Marie and me. Except that she can still poke her nose into things.

She was being nosey the other day about Sarah. What she doesn’t understand is that a man really needs his privacy and I didn’t like it when she started asking questions about Sarah on the way back from Church last Sunday.  Just because a fellar talks to a girl after church doesn’t mean anything and she should know that!  Besides, Sarah started talking to me first and it isn’t any of Marie’s business anyway.

I reckon Sarah is kinda gone on me.  That’s what my friend Ross says anyway. I don’t know if she is or not, but she does keep talking to me all the time. I wish she wouldn’t, because it makes me feel like everyone is watching her and me talking. A fellar needs his privacy and doesn’t need a girl talking to him all the time where everyone can see. Pa says that it doesn’t matter what people think, but I sure think it does.

Pa is happy lots of the time now because he says that the hard times are mostly behind us.  He says we are getting comfortable because the ranch is paying itself off and he can expand things more.  I sure like listening to him when he talks about how we’re getting involved with the timber business. I think we need a sawmill of our own instead of using Mr Henderson’s all the time.  I told Pa that if we built our own mill we’d save lots of money in time.  He looked at me kinda funny and said that I was a good thinker.  He says we’re going to build one when we have time. I’ve been doing some drawings for one that I’m going to show Pa.

It’s so quiet up here tonight.  Ever since we moved our bedrooms upstairs I can feel like I’m all alone in the world and everyone else is a long way away.  Hoss still gets lonely in his room by himself, but I like it.  I like to sit on the windowsill and watch the stars at night and remember the stories that Pa told me about them.  The only problem with being upstairs is that Pa and Marie spend time downstairs before they go to bed.  That means that the little troublemaker thinks he can climb out of his crib and come to visit me and Hoss without them knowing. I couldn’t work out how that kid could get out of his crib until I watched through the crack in the door one night.  He piles all his toys up into the corner and then climbs up on them to reach the top.  Then he swings over the bars and lets himself down onto the floor.  He sure is a clever kid even if he is annoying.


March 21st 1846

Dear Diary

I finally have a quiet night to stop and think about things.  The last couple of weeks have been so busy that I have been neglecting my writing and I feel strange because of it. I must admit that it’s good to be home again, even though I did enjoy the cattle drive this year. We got more than we’d anticipated per head for the cattle and Pa was so pleased. I could see it in his face when he finally deposited the money in the bank and looked at the balance.  It is certainly looking healthy this year.

Pa and I talked about it all on the way home. It means that we’ll be able to buy the Henderson place now and expand the Ponderosa.  I know that Pa is pleased about it, not only for us but also for Mrs Henderson.  It means that she won’t have money problems now when she goes to her sister’s place Back East. Pa says that would have been worrying her and she’s had enough to worry about since Mr Henderson died. Pa thinks about those kinds of things a lot.  I think he’s a special kind of man because he’s always looking out for neighbours.  He says that it’s really important to be a good neighbour and to treat everyone as we want to be treated. I think he’s right.

My Pa lives by what he believes and he tries to make us boys live like that too.  I think he’s a great Pa because of it.

Even though I always have a great time on the cattle drive I didn’t like missing school for the past two weeks. Hoss says I’m crazy, but then he doesn’t enjoy it like I do.  Mr Hudson let me take some of his books with me and I was going to do some reading each night, but I was so tired that I just couldn’t.  I’m looking forward to catching up on some reading now that I’m home again.

You would have thought that we’d been away for a year judging by the welcome we got from Hoss and Little Joe. Marie too. Strange to think that I really missed her … but I did. I think we have a lot in common and she is able to teach me lots of things that I want to know about.  She says that she’ll start to teach me some French if I want her to.  We talk a lot about things and in a way I sometimes find it easier to talk to her than Pa now.  Maybe its because I’m growing up.  Pa says that feelings change when we get older and I think he’s right, because I’m sure feeling a lot of different things now that I’m fifteen.

Girls are a lot on my mind now and I really don’t know why. I guess its all part of growing up like Pa says. All I know is that I’m noticing things about them that I never noticed before.  Like Maggie Hearn for instance.  I never noticed how nice she looks and she has a good figure too.  I like looking at girls’ figures, but I have to do it carefully in case any of them notice.  I wouldn’t want them to think that I’m too interested in them or they might annoy me like that little Jane Phillips does.  Now she’s a pest!  After all she’s only twelve and that’s far too young for me. I feel like talking to Pa about it all, but it’s a bit embarrassing. Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk to Marie about it.  After all, she’s a girl too so she might know how to handle them.

All Hoss cares about at the moment is marbles.  He’s fitting in more at school now and has quite a few friends so he leaves me alone there.  As far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing! He is beginning to be a good help around the ranch Ps says.  You should have heard him carrying on like he’d run the place when we got back home.  He told us all about the decisions he’d made and how he’d helped Marie.  I would have nearly believed it too because I know he can do most of the things he says he can … but then I saw Pa winking at Marie and I figured out that things hadn’t quite been as he thought.  Hoss is in a hurry to grow up and I can understand why.  I felt like that too when I was a kid like him.

Little Joe was real pleased to see Pa and me too.  Marie says that he asked every night for one of us to tuck him into bed and she had to keep explaining to him where we were. He couldn’t seem to understand. He’s been naughty while we’ve been away, but he wouldn’t be Little Joe unless he was I guess.  Marie said he just about wore her out. I can understand that as he never stops moving and chattering.  He gave Pa and me a big hug when he saw us and then didn’t stop talking for about an hour after that.  The problem is of course that you can only understand about half of what he says, but we just nod and pretend to be interested in what he’s trying to say to keep him happy.

Pa and me had a good talk one night while we were away and he asked me what I’d like to do in the future. It was kind of a man to man talk.  I told him that I want to be a part of the ranch which is true, but I wish I could tell him the rest of it as well.  I think he’ll be hurt if I let him know my thoughts about going to College , so I didn’t say anything. I think that Marie might suspect how I feel.  She’s never really said, but sometimes I find her looking at me and sense that she’s about to say something about it.  She seems to understand me well. I’m real glad that Pa married her now.  I remember feeling that she was a problem when she first came, but that was because I was a kid.  I’m glad I’m fifteen, because now I can see things from a man’s point of view.

Once I get settled back into school I am going to talk to Pa about letting me start breaking some of the horses.  I know that I can do it and I think he’s being unfair in making me wait. All I need is one chance to show him what I can do with them and the n I know he’ll understand and let me keep going with them. I wish Pa would understand that I’m grown up now. Sometimes he treats me like a grown up and then he starts treating me like a kid again.  I wish he’d make up his mind!


March 21st 1847

Dear Diary,

I’m so tired some nights that its hard to keep awake to write in you, but I really enjoy putting down my thoughts in this way and so I try to do it as often as I can.  Sometimes I feel like you’re my best friend Diary.  It’s so hard to talk to people at times that I just don’t bother. Life is difficult when you’re sixteen!

I’m feeling really guilty lately because of Pa.  Every time I look at him and see how tired he is I feel that I should leave school and help him more.  Of course he’s got lots of help around here with the men and Charlie is the best foreman we could possibly have, but its not quite the same thing.  I mean … well they’re hired help and Pa needs me to be beside him making the decisions that only a Cartwright can.  I suppose that sounds big headed or something, but I can’t help it … it’s the way I feel.

I know that Pa thinks I’m doing a great job around here.  I just wish that all the men thought so as well.  They’re fine when Pa is around, but as soon as he leaves they treat me like a kid again. I don’t know how to convince them that I’m just as capable as they are.  I suppose some of them are jealous of me being the boss’ son, but it isn’t as if I don’t ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do! I just think that maybe if I left school and worked full-time on the ranch they would take me a bit more seriously.

That’s the problem of course … school!  I mean how can I leave? Not if I want to get into College as Pa and I discussed. I’m so glad we can talk about this now and I suppose I have Marie to thank for that.  She doesn’t think I know what she did, but I’m sure she was the one who talked to Pa for me.  I mean, how else would he have known how I felt about going to College? She sure is good to me sometimes. There are times when I feel myself getting really close to her and it makes me feel strange.

I really don’t know why I feel like that.  I suppose it might have something to do with Ma.  I mean Inger of course … Hoss’ Ma.  I always think of her as mine as well though, seeing as how I never knew my own mother.  There are times when I wonder if Marie is filling that gap in my heart for me?  Its very confusing really and I’m not sure that I like it. It seems to me that every time someone gets close to me they end up getting hurt and I don’t want that to happen to her.  She’s too nice … and she’s good for Pa too. Hoss loves her a lot I know and Little Joe … well … she’s his Ma of course so it’s obvious how he feels about her.

Talking of those brothers of mine, they’re sure growing up lately.  Hoss is ten now and he’s nearly as tall as me. He’s a good kid really and such a help to Pa and me. Never has to be told to do something twice and knows so much about the ranch that I swear he’ll be running it soon.  Pa says that he’s a born rancher. I feel jealous of him sometimes because he doesn’t have the problem that I do. Hoss knows exactly what he wants, whereas I want … well I’m torn between two worlds and I don’t know how to live in both.

Marie says that’s what College will be for.  She says that it’s important to experience life before we decide what we really want from … that I have to see what city life is like before I settle down in one or the other. Pa agrees with her, but I think he’s secretly a bit scared that if I go to College I may not come back again. He probably remembers what I said when I was a little kid about going to sea and travelling around the world.  Poor Pa!

Little Joe is four now and I guess he’ll be going to school in a couple of years as well.  He’s a funny little kid.  He’s so eager to show everyone that he’s all grown up now and tries to do everything that Hoss does.  He’s so little though that he looks funny trying to do chores that are too hard for him.  Marie calls him her little man and he really likes that.  Pa is proud of him, but he gets really mad with him too because of all the trouble he causes.

I don’t honestly think that Little Joe means to cause half the problems that he does. He just doesn’t stop and think about what he’s doing half the time. He is also an expert at getting out of trouble if he puts his mind to it.  He has a lot of charm that boy and wraps everyone around his little finger given half a chance. I think he’s probably going to be one of those people who charm their way through life.  I wonder how he’ll get on at school?  Probably won’t do well because he won’t be able to sit still long enough to pay attention.

Kate and I have been seeing a lot of each other lately.  We had such a good time last Sunday at the Church picnic.  She is the most lovely girl and I’m so glad that her family came to stay in town. I’m finding it easier to talk to girls since Marie has been helping me with that. She really knows a lot about what make girls like you.  Pa says that she has it down to a fine art herself.  I suppose that means she’s a charmer like that little boy of hers.

It’ll be so good to go to San Francisco next month.  I’m looking forward to getting some new books so that Mr Hudson and I can work on them.  Hoss is looking forward to seeing the ocean for the first time.  He keeps asking me over and over again to describe it to him.  Little Joe is looking forward to … well to be honest I’m not sure what he’s looking forward to. I don’t think he understands what a city is as he keeps saying that he’s going to climb trees there. He doesn’t seem to realise that trees aren’t a major thing in cities. He’s just got tree climbing on his brain at the moment as he keeps getting up onto every branch that he can find.

It’s funny that he should do that, because he doesn’t seem to like heights at all.  I found him crying in the loft the other day.  He’d climbed up the ladder to get there and then wasn’t brave enough to get back down again.  I had to carry him. He’s funny little kid.  Not afraid of horses or any other animals, or people or new situations, but he’s afraid of climbing down ladders.  He isn’t even afraid of the lake and as Pa says… that’s bit of a worry.

We tried to tell him how deep it is and how he could drown if he goes in too far, but every time we go there he ends up in trouble for going out of his depth when Pa is teaching him to swim.  He swims like a little tadpole except that he still keeps his head out of the water and isn’t afraid of it at all.  Hoss is though.  He’s much happier when he can plant his two feet firmly on the ground.  Pa says it’s the farmer in him.

Pa says that I’m probably the only one of his boys who has inherited his sailing blood.  I love the thought of ships, whereas Hoss is scared of them I think.  Little Joe says he wants to be a sailor like Pa, but even though he likes to swim he sometimes gets sick when we go out on the lake in the dingy. He’ll probably end up working on the ranch as well. Pa says he’s sure that he’ll work with the horses because he seems to love them so.


March 21st 1848

Dear Diary

I can’t believe that I’m actually sitting out here in the barn writing this, but it seems that it’s just about the only place that I get any peace and quiet lately. I know that it won’t last because Hoss or Little Joe will probably come out looking for me and find me soon. It doesn’t matter that it’s way past their bedtime and they’re both supposed to be asleep … they’re always getting out of bed every time I put them in there. I think they’re both feeling insecure at the moment and don’t like being upstairs alone. Nothing seems to matter much any more.  It’s as if the world has gone mad. Time means nothing to them and everything to me!

I think that’s the crux of my problems really. I just don’t have enough time. What I wouldn’t give for just one day to myself without having to worry about either of them … or Pa … or the ranch. I guess it’s pointless wishing though, because it isn’t about to happen in the near future.  Sometimes I wonder if it will ever happen again. I can’t believe how much my life has changed in these past few weeks. One moment we were a happy family and the next we were all plunged into this nightmare.

Pa is the one I feel most sorry for in all of this of course.  He just seems so helpless since Marie’s death as if he doesn’t know how to go on with life any more. I would give anything to be able to help him but I just don’t know what else I could do for him. He just sits and stares into the fireplace all day and doesn’t seem interested in anything or anyone around him.

I’ve tried to interest him in the ranch, but he doesn’t even answer me half the time when I ask him what to do about things.  Thank goodness for Charlie.  He’s been great with helping me make decisions, but even so the men need me to be there a visible sign that everything is going on as before. That’s the joke of it all though… Nothing is as it was before and here I am pretending that it is to everyone outside the family.  They all think I’m coping well, but inside I’m dying just like Pa and my brothers. Why won’t Pa come back to us?  He can’t just pretend he’s buried down by the lake like she is!

Doesn’t he realise that we miss her too?  There are nights when I cry myself to sleep but I wonder if he’s even considered that I might be hurting too? All I can think about is how mean I was to her when she first came here and how hard I made things for her. I know that she wouldn’t want me to think like that, but I can’t help it.  I suppose its like they say … we never realise what we have until its gone.  Marie was such a part of all our lives and I don’t know what we’re going to do without her.

Much and all as I need Pa to wake up to himself right about now, the thing that tears at me more than anything is the way he’s treating Hoss and Little Joe. They’re hurting so much as well and they need him more than I do, but he just can’t do it.  I’ve seen the hurt look on their faces when he brushes them aside. Hoss might be a big fellar but he’s still a little boy inside and he needs Pa to put his arms around him and let him have a good cry.  I know he cries in bed at night because I’ve heard him.  There have been so many times when I’ve been going to go in to him, but I think he’d be embarrassed that I knew. Anyway, he needs Pa not me.

Little Joe is just a mess.  He’s too little to understand what death really means and I don’t seem to be able to explain it to him as well as I’d like to. Pa would be able to … but I don’t think he’s about to do it in the near future. He’s just a little boy who wants his Mama and Papa and all he knows is that they’ve both gone away from him.

I hate to admit this even to myself, but I’m tired of trying to be a substitute parent to them both.  I’m not their father and I can’t continue to act like I am.  They need Pa and not me. It’s not that I don’t love them and care about them, but I’m just so tired of trying to be everything to everyone all the time. I need some time for me and I can’t have it. Much and all as I hate to think like this, I’m beginning to resent that fact.

Hop Sing has been wonderful through all of this.  I really don’t know what I’d do without him.  He keeps the house going of course, but he’s also looking after Little Joe for me during the day … and that job is worth a lot, that’s for sure.  I couldn’t have that kid with me all day!  He’d just end up causing trouble and be in the way. Hoss is back at school now and is helping a lot with extra chores.  He’s a good kid.

Things aren’t being helped by the problems with the men either.  They were only just beginning to accept me on their level and now they’re being asked to accept me as their boss in Pa’s absence. No one is saying anything about it of course, but I feel their resentment at having to take orders from a seventeen year-old every time I give them. I think it’s only a matter of time before they either start to question my authority or begin to quit. I need my Pa so much!  I don’t know what to do any more and I don’t know who to ask for help!

I think the hardest thing is having to give up College.  I know it’s an impossible dream now as I just can’t leave them all, but it’s so hard when it was so close! I’ve worked so hard for this and it’s not fair that I should have to miss out on it now.  Of course I’d never admit that to anyone, but I can at least admit it to myself. I want to go!  I want to go and leave all this misery behind me and I can’t!  Oh God I need my Pa … please help me to know what to do!


March 21st 1849

Dear Diary

I can’t believe I’m almost there now! It seems like I’ve been travelling forever and I’ll be so glad to get off this train when we finally get to Boston.  Thank heaven I’ve got my books and you, Diary … without you I don’t know how I would have filled in all the time since I left home.

It seems like forever since I left The Ponderosa.  So many things I’ve seen already and I haven’t even made it to my final destination yet.  I really had no idea how big this country is.  I know that I crossed it once before, but I was far too young then to appreciate anything of course. I can’t begin to understand what Pa must have gone through on his journey west.  He didn’t have the luxury of stagecoaches and trains then and as well as himself he had me to look after too.  I have a new insight into the kind of man my father is now.

By this time tomorrow I’ll be there.  Incredible to think that it’s finally happening after all the years I’ve spent dreaming about it. I just hope that I can live up to expectations while I’m here. Pa has spent so much money just getting me to this point I feel that I can’t let him down.  The truth of the matter is I suppose that I don’t want to let myself down either. It’s very daunting to think that I’m at the stage now where it’s all up to me.  No more relying on others to help out with all of this.  I’m the one who has to prove myself now and I just pray that I’ll be up to the challenge.

What if I can’t keep up with the work?  It isn’t as if I’ve had any experience with all of this.  Most of the others in my year will have been to fancy schools over here and they’ll probably wonder what a country bumpkin is doing here with them. I hope I’ll fit in! I’ve done the best I could with my studies but I know that they must all be ahead of me.  They’ve had all the advantage that I’ve longed for and something tells me that it will show.

No, that’s not entirely true.  I’ve had some advantages that no one else around here could possible dream of.  I’ve had experiences living out there that will stand by me, I know that.  One huge advantage has been Pa of course.  I’ve had a lot of time to think about things lately and I know for certain that no one could have had a better upbringing than I did or a better parent than I’ve had. I must write to him and tell him my feelings about it all.

It’s funny, but I used to be able to talk to Pa about things like that and as I’ve grown older it’s become harder and harder to do so. I don’t know why really … all I can think of is that as adult we consider our own feelings too much and aren’t as free with them as children can be. Whatever the reason, I know that I’ve become more reserved over the years. Perhaps it’s just my personality?

I must admit to being very nervous about meeting Grandfather. It’s a daunting thing to meet a relative you’ve never met before … well not that I can remember anyway. He seems so nice in his letters, but meeting him face to face will be very different.  What if we don’t get on?  We’ll be stuck with each other for three years and that’s going to be very difficult.  I hope he likes me!

What ever happens, I’m so grateful that I’ll have a member of my family over here.  Pa is always saying that family means so much and I’m just beginning to understand the full meaning of his words. I miss them all so much already and I don’t know how I’ll survive without them for three whole years.

I can still see their faces as I was saying my last goodbyes.  Hoss was trying so hard to be brave.  He’s still just a kid really and I know that I’ll miss him more than I can possibly say.  It seems that Hoss and I have always been so close and no one could hope for a better brother.  He’s trying to be strong for Pa now and I know that he is conscious of filling the gap that my absence will make.  I’m so glad we had that talk the night before I left and got to say things that we’d never said to each other.  Funny how it’s easier for me to talk to Hoss than it is to Pa about my feelings lately.  Probably that theory about grownup feelings again.

I thought that Little Joe would never let me go when he started crying and hugging me in the street.  I’m really going to miss that little kid!  I wonder what he’s doing right about now?  Probably annoying Pa or Hoss about something.  I’d give anything for him to be here with me now annoying me. One thing about Little Joe, you always know what he’s thinking because he lets on in no uncertain terms.  I thought Pa was never going to get him off me when he started and in a way I didn’t even want him to.  I wanted to keep hold of him and carry him onto the stage with me and all the way to Boston.  Stupid thoughts like that keep going through my mind lately.

I suppose I just have nerves about the future and I’m sure they’ll settle down once all this is over and I’m settled.  Pa said just to be myself and everything will fall into place.  God I hope that he’s right! I know he is, because he’s always been right before. I’m so lucky to have a father like him.  I’m really going to miss him so much …. I hope I’ll be able to cope with all this and make him proud.

I want to make Pa proud more than anything in the world.  It meant so much to me a few months ago when he told me how proud he was of me taking care of everything after Marie died. I never really knew the depth of his feelings for me until that day and I still get emotional about it all when I think about it.  It was so hard at that time, but I had no choice.  I suppose it was all the training that Pa had given me about responsibility and family.  All I know is that I couldn’t have let him or the boys down and I’m so glad that he felt that I didn’t.

I’m so happy for him that he managed to come through it too.  For a while there I didn’t think that he would, but I should have known better.  Pa is a very strong man and he has a strength to him that I’m only beginning to see as an adult now. There is no way that he would have let us all down if he could help it and those months he spent grieving were beyond his control … I know that now. I was so relieved when he came back to us emotionally though … I needed him so much! Still do really. Even though I’m pretending to be all grown up I’d give anything for Pa to be here with me now to support me.

Just goes to show the kind of man that he is when he told me he was insisting that I come here after all.  I must admit though that I didn’t put up much of a fight.  The minute he broached the subject my heart lifted and I knew that he knew it. I should have known that he wouldn’t let me give up all my plans.  Even though I’m a year later doing all this than I’d originally planned, I think it has turned out for the best. I’m a year older now and I’ve certainly learnt a lot in the past year to help me cope.  I just hope that it’s going to be enough.


March 21st 1850

Dear Diary

It’s nice to have the time to write in you for once.  I must admit to having neglected you lately because of the exams, and for the first time in weeks I actually feel that I’ve got time to stop and think about things again. I’m so glad they’re all over!  I think this year has been the hardest of my life in so many ways and I just hope that my results will prove that all this isn’t beyond me. I need so much to prove that to myself after everything that I’ve been through.  It would be nice to give Pa and Grandfather reason to be proud of me too. Not they’re not already .. I know that … but I just want them to think well of me with my studies.

I suppose all will be revealed by tomorrow when the results come out. I’m not sure about a couple of subjects.  I hope what I did was enough. I’ve worked so hard and I really don’t see how I could have done any more than I did.  I just hope that it was enough. God please let it be enough!

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow, I’m sure looking forward to having some time off from the books for a while. I intend to just do nothing and enjoy myself for a while now.  I know that will please Grandfather, for he’s always telling me to relax a bit more and not take things so seriously. Funny he should keep saying it, because he’s exactly the same.  It strange how I see so much of myself in him.  There’s a lot to be said for inherited characteristics. I must remember to read up on that a bit more .. I’m sure there’ll be something on it in the Library at College.

It’s strange to think back on how nervous I was when I first met him.  It was understandable of course, but knowing him now as I do there was no way that we were never going to be close.  I knew from the first moment he hugged me at the train station that day. Mind you, he’s a crusty old thing when he puts his mind to it … and stubborn. You’d better believe it!  Just as well I’m that way myself or we’d never have got on so well.

He says that I remind him a lot of my mother.  Well all I can say to that is that she must have been a lot like him. I think that’s been the nicest thing about being here during this past year.  Getting to know the place where my mother grew up.  Grandfather has told me so much about her and I could swear that I can almost feel her presence here in this house among the things she loved. It’s nice to be able to go and sit next to her grave as well.  I feel somehow connected to her there.

Grandfather says that I have similar interests to my mother … more of that inherited characteristics theory I suppose. It’s nice to think that I share some traits with her … kind of connects us in a way. I’ve been able to look at her things while I’ve been here.  Things she had as a girl. It’s interesting to notice that her choices of books are similar to mine, although obviously some of them are more leaning towards the feminine literature.  We obviously share a passion for books and I’m having a great time reading through them gradually. I think it will probably take the best part of the three years to get through them though.

I’m also looking forward to getting out a bit and seeing this beautiful city in the next few months now that my exams are over and I’ll have a bit more time. I know the harbour well of course, but haven’t been much further afield yet due to study commitments. It’s funny, but no matter what I seem to do in life, time is always a factor. I suppose that’s true of all people really. Back in Nevada I never seemed to have much time for me due to the ranch, school and my family.  Here in Boston it’s College that takes up my time. I think I’ll have to start taking Grandfather’s advice and try and relax a bit more. Maybe in the new Semester I can tone down the study …. As long as I pass these exams and prove to everyone that I can really do this.

I’m a bit worried about Pa.  He sounded somewhat frazzled in his last letter.  I guess that he’s felt my absence during this past year in more ways than one. Not only am I not working on the ranch now, but he has Hoss and Little Joe to contend with all by himself.  Not that he’s not capable of doing it of course, but he just sounded …. Well tired I suppose. I know how he feels.

It sounds like Hoss is coming into his own. Pa was certainly right when he said that he was a born rancher as his letters are full of Ponderosa news. It’s as if it’s all he lives for. I know he desperately wants to give up school, but at twelve that’s simply not an option and he knows it.  Poor Hoss … I think he misses me a lot, as I do him. He’s trying so hard to be a help to Pa.

I think Little Joe is the one making Pa sound frazzled. I would have thought it would be easier for them all now that he’s at school, but it just sounds as if Pa has to become involved in his school problems as well as the mischief he causes at home. If only Marie was still around!  I suspect that little kid would be more under control with her firm hand on him.  That’s the problem of course … he’s so much like she was.  He’s just so very strong willed and stubborn. I guess that’s a bit of a Cartwright trait as I will admit I’m inclined to be that way myself, and Pa definitely is. Poor kid, he probably doesn’t have a chance to be anything else in this family.

I wonder how much they’ll both have changed when I return?  Three years is a long time in kid’s lives.  It’s hard enough for adults but to Hoss and Little Joe it must seem like a lifetime.


March 21st 1851

Dear Diary

I’m glad that I brought you with me on this trip to New York. I nearly didn’t because I thought things would be too hectic to have much time for writing, but it’s great to have the opportunity to record my thoughts before they all slip away to be forever lost in the dim shadows of my memory.  Far better to record it all now while it’s fresh.

I’m so glad that I took up Matthew’s invitation to visit his family here. I had a feeling it was the right thing to do as I really feel the need for a break before exams are upon us.  I don’t know why they’ve put them so late this year, but I’m happy for the delay.  I suppose I should be using this time for studying, but to be honest I really think the week’s break will do me good.  It might make things a bit fresher for me when I return. I know I’ve done all the preparation I can, I only have to review now and I’m sure I’ll be all right with it all.

It’s amazing how much more confident I am this year with the work.  Not like last year when I was so unsure of my capabilities.  Now at least I know that I’m not out of my depth with all of this.  I feel very much a part of things here now. It’s good not to have to worry about the fitting in aspect of life here any more and I can afford to let my guard down a bit and be myself more which is as it should be.  I seem to remember Pa telling me that at the very beginning of all this. I should have know that he’d be right.

It’s so hard to imagine what must be going on back at The Ponderosa now with Pa and the boys. I guess they’ll have grown so much in two years that I’d find them very different. Hoss is a teenager no and that’s very hard to imagine and Little Joe is seven. Still the same tear-away kid I’m sure. I thought it was cute the way he way he signs his letters Joe now instead of Little Joe. Pa says he insist on them dropping the Little and every time they forget he lets them know it.  Somehow though I feel that his particular nickname might be around in our family for a long time to come.

I miss all of those little things about home.  I’d love to be able to just sit down with those two and be a boy again for an afternoon with them.  I hope that they won’t have grown up too much when I get home that it’s too late for that. Its certainly strange to think that I’ve been here now for two years. I feel so much a part of all this and yet I miss home as well.  I know now that if Pa had never decided to go West with me that I would have made a happy life here and would have been very content. Maybe I can still be content here again?

My problem is that I don’t really know what I want.  I would never have swapped my experiences here for anything and yet with every positive experience I have here comes a feeling of being torn away from everything I hold dear back there.  Sometimes life is so hard!  I want to be part of both worlds and the time will be coming when I’ll have to choose. I honestly don’t know what that choice will be.

I remember telling Pa when I was a boy how I wanted to sail around the world. I still feel that way at times. I want to just get on a ship and leave for parts unknown.  I want to experience things that I’ve only read about. I want to see more of this wonderful country of ours and foreign places as well. It’s as if Boston is the gateway to the world and it’s all just there waiting for me.  At times it takes my breath away just thinking about it all.

Yet even as I get so enthralled at the thought of it all, something is holding me back. How could I turn my back on them back in Nevada?  How could I turn around and say to Pa that I don’t share his dream any more? I don’t think that I could do that to him after all he’s done for me and yet I know that I can’t live a lie either.  There is no easy answer to this. I hope that I find one by this time next year when it will be time to return or not. I wish I could talk it through with Pa, but it’s just not something I can put into a letter.  Grandfather would try and be supportive of me, but he doesn’t really understand the issue as he’s never been through it himself and I don’t really know anyone who I can ask.  I’m afraid it’s a problem I’m going to have to wrestle with in my own mind.

In the meantime though I’m making the most of this trip. New York is a very interesting place and I’m thoroughly enjoying my stay here. Matthew has lots of connections around the city and we’ve been caught up in a social whirl during the past few days. I’m a bit in awe of the sophistication of some of the people here, but I keep telling myself that just because I may not be quite as polished as them in the social graces that it doesn’t make me a lesser person.  I think I’m beginning to sound like Pa when I read what I’ve just written!

Everywhere I go here I can see Marie.  I think she’d be right at home here in the city and can just see her enjoying all the social events here. One day I’m going to visit her city of New Orleans.  She used to tell me about it and it also sounds fascinating.  Maybe one day I’ll go with Little Joe. When he’s a lot older of course.  That little rapscallion needs to grow up quite a bit before Pa will let him loose on the world!

Since I came here I often stop and wonder about Marie. I think I now have a deeper appreciation about what she left behind to live in Nevada with Pa and us. For someone who had never lived anywhere except in the city it must have been a daunting thing to do, especially when she had to take on two young stepsons as well. I think she coped remarkably well considering how hard it must have been for her.  Looking back on it now, I don’t think that Pa would have helped much at the time either.  Not that he wouldn’t have wanted to … he would have done anything for her …. But he was so busy trying to build up the ranch and create a life for us all that he wouldn’t have been able to give her the time she probably needed. Marie was always a strong and feisty woman though. I’m beginning to appreciate just how much really. Maybe that little boy of hers will be the same?

Matthew will be back soon and I need to go and get ready for tonight.  I wonder if the lovely Louise will be there? I certainly hope so as that woman does things to me that I can’t even describe. She’s the main reason I’m glad I came to New York.  If only Matthew had told me about his beautiful cousin sooner.  I’d have come with him for the Christmas break as well.


March 21st 1852

Dear Diary

Well I’ve finally done it!  All that worrying is over and I feel so much better because the decision is finally made and it’s all out in the open now. I know that Grandfather is upset about it, but he really did expect it underneath. We both knew when I came here that it was only a temporary thing, but I’m sure that underneath he was still hoping that it would be for longer.  I wrote to Pa earlier today and posted it this afternoon. Even though there are still a few more weeks left here I already feel as if my time is up and want to rush right down to the train station.  I know that must be a sign that I’ve made the right decision to return home.

I’m going to spend the time that I have left visiting all my favourite places one more time. It will be hard to leave all this, but I know in my heart that one day I’ll be back even so.  The hardest thing will be leaving Grandfather, for both of us know that there are no guarantees that we’ll ever see each other again. He’s definitely not up to travelling as far as Nevada now and who knows how long it will take me to return here for a visit?  It’s not a trip that I would make lightly.

He’s become very dear to me as I know I am to him. It will be like leaving a part of me behind when I go.  I know now how he must have felt when Pa took me with him all those years ago after Mother died. After all, we were the only family he had and these years must have been incredibly lonely for him. No matter what the future holds I will always have a special place in my heart for this crusty old man and will carry him with me always.

Leaving my mother behind will be difficult too. It’s true that’s how I feel about it.  Whether she’s alive or dead I know she lives here in the place that she grew up in and I’ll miss everything about her that surrounds me. Grandfather has told me that anything of hers that I want I’m to take.  I’m so grateful to him for that.  I have a few things that I cherish because she once owned them and I’ll make sure that I take something for Pa as well, but I can’t take everything that I would like to.  How could I leave him with nothing of his only daughter? After all, one day they will come to me when he’s gone.  Better that he should hold the memories close while he can.

I feel freer now than I have for a long time. Once the Graduation is over there’s nothing left to do except enjoy myself and say my farewells.  I’ll certainly miss all my friends as well as Rachel.  I’ve dated a lot of women in my time here but she is one that I could really fall for if I allowed myself to.  Somehow though I can’t really see Rachel Higgins as a rancher’s wife. I think she’d die from lack of company out there and she certainly wouldn’t be able to live without all the social events that she is used to here.   No, the woman for me is one I haven’t met yet, that much I know.  Yet still it will be hard to say goodbye.

It’s not so hard when I think of what I’m going home for though. I can hardly wait to see them again.  The moment Pa puts his arms around me for one of those big hugs of his is the moment I’ll know that I’m truly home.  Now I’m beginning to think like my younger brothers when I write words like that!  I wonder just how those two rapscallions will react to me after all this time?

I’m looking forward to so many things. Simple things like the smell of the pines at night and listening to the wind talking to them as it rustles through their leaves.  The smell of the snow on the Sierras in winter.  Dangling my feet in Lake Tahoe while doing nothing except waiting for a fish to hook himself on my line. I’m getting anxious to be there just thinking about it all. Its amazing how we never know what we have until we lose it.  I’m just grateful that I’ll have the chance to regain it all again.

I hope that Pa is interested in what I have planned for The Ponderosa. So many ideas have been in my head during my time here.  I’m so glad that Engineering was my major because now I’ll be able to put it to some practical use. I’m excited to think of the improvements we’ll be able to make out there when I outline them all to Pa.

It will be strange to have Hoss on the ranch fulltime with both of us now.  I suppose Pa eventually had to give in and let him leave school and fifteen is definitely old enough so I suppose he really had no choice.  I think it was obvious to everyone that Hoss would never want to stay any longer than he had to.  School was never something that appealed to him and he’ll be much happier on the ranch where he’s best suited.  I’m looking forward to getting to know that brother of mine all over again, this time as an adult. I hope he’s still the same sweet brother he always was. I’m sure that he will be.  People like Hoss don’t change, they just improve with age.

Little Joe is the one that I wonder most about, probably because of his age.  After all, there is a big difference between a five year-old and a nine year-old.  I hope he remembers me and we can take off where we left before. I wonder if he’ll greet me with one of those giant hugs of his?  It seems like only yesterday that he was sending me off with one and now here I am three years later about to return.

They say that time marches quicker the older you get and I’m beginning to think that’s right. Even looking back on all my experiences here it still seems like in the blink of an eye I could be back there again with them at the stage where they saw me off.  In so many ways I’m a different person now.  I remember how scared I was at the thought of the big city then.  I wondered if I would fit in and if I’d bitten off more than I could chew with the work.  Now I know that none of that mattered.

It’s like Pa says. You take a bit of every experience with you and make it a part of you.  I know that I’ll always have some of my life here in Boston in me now wherever I go in my life and whatever I do, but I know where my heart belongs and that’s where I’m headed.  I long for the moment when I step off that stage and into Pa’s embrace.  I think for once I won’t care who is around…. he can hug me as much as he likes!


March 21st 1853

Dear Diary

There are some days when I wonder if I’ve made the right decision in coming back here and unfortunately today was one of them! Why does he have to be so pigheaded about everything? I don’t ever remember the two of us being like this before, but somehow during the past few months Pa and I are not seeing eye to eye about things.  It is so frustrating when he doesn’t listen to me!

I know my idea for the new irrigation system will work and I really can’t fathom his objection to it at all.  I know it’s expensive and time consuming, but it isn’t like we don’t have the money or the personnel to achieve it for heaven’s sake!  He’s just stubborn and that’s all there is to it! It’s like when I suggested the improvements to the sawmill last month.  He wasn’t too happy to go with it then, but he’s seeing the benefits of it now.  Why can’t he just trust me for once and let me prove to him what I can do?

I suppose that’s what it all boils down to. Trust. I know he does trust me, but only so far.  He still thinks of me as a kid who needs guidance in everything and doesn’t stop to consider that I’m not the same person I was before I left here.  Things were fine up until the end of last year and then suddenly they all fell apart.  I think it’s because we were still getting to know each other again until then. We were probably being careful of each other and not wanting to tread on each other’s toes for a while.

I do understand where he’s coming from.  I run off for three years and now I’m back with all these ideas and he needs time to get used to them, but I think I’m being more than patient. He has done an incredible job since I’ve been away I must admit. The Ponderosa is thriving and things couldn’t be better financially, which is even more reason why I just don’t understand his objection to all of this.  The timing is perfect for expansion.

He makes my blood boil when he says that my education gets in the way of my thinking.  Wasn’t he the one to encourage me to better myself?  Well I did and now he seems to resent it. I can’t make him out any more. I suppose he’s just being stubborn.

Hoss of course won’t take my side in all of this but then again he won’t take Pa’s side either.  Typical Hoss that he manages to stay neutral in it all and not get offside with either of us while he’s dong it.  I suspect he really agrees with Pa about all of this. I love my brother dearly, but I know that he isn’t the sort of person who is capable of seeing things as they could be.  Hoss lives more for the present than the future. I’d like to be like that, but I just can’t.  It isn’t in my nature, any more than it is in Joe’s nature to be calm.

It’s funny how I’m the only person around here to call my youngest brother Joe and not Little Joe anymore. From the moment I stepped off that stage and saw the very different boy he had become I just began to do it.  I think it means a lot to him too.  He sees it as my endorsement of his maturity in a way.  Not that he shows much evidence of maturity, but I suppose in his eyes he does.  To a ten year-old who thinks they are nearly grown up it’s very important to be treated that way.

I can remember when I was ten and feeling that I was just about a man, so I suppose Joe thinks like that as well. He sure tests my patience though. I’ve got to try and remember what it was like to be ten years old myself more.  I think he riles me because I’ve been away from children for a while and my memories of how he used to be are very different to how he really is now. I suppose I just expect something different from him. Hope fully we’ll work it out.

Thinking back on it, it’s been a hard year.  I thought I’d have just come back and slipped into the world that I knew from before, but I should have known that it could never be like that again. I’m a different person to the one I was all that time ago and so are they.  I suppose we have all had some adjusting to do and we all have to make allowances for each other. I know I have to do that with Pa and I know he’s trying to do it with me, but it’s still so damn frustrating all the same!

Why is it that as adults we are less tolerant than when we are children? I certainly don’t mean to be and Pa’s comment about my obstinacy really hurt. I know he doesn’t really mean it, but sometimes I feel that he’s threatened by my ideas. I think he feels that I’m criticising how he has run things around here and that isn’t true. I have so much admiration for the way he has built up this ranch and raised the three of us.  Maybe I should tell him that?  Maybe then we’d be able to sit down and work through this?

I know he doesn’t agree with the way I treat Joe lately and to be honest I don’t really like the way I am with him at times myself.  But I just can’t seem to help it. I wonder whatever happened to that sweet little mischief-maker I left behind all those years ago?  He’s still here … he’s just bigger and cheekier I suppose. I seem to have spent all those years in Boston yearning for my baby brother and when I came back he’d disappeared and evolved into this cheeky kid who seems to live to annoy me.

Pa says that he’s trying to prove himself to me and I know that it’s true.  I just wish that he’d hurry up and realise that he doesn’t need to try so hard with me. I suppose that’s just his nature, but it makes me angry with him and then we clash. Poor Pa!  He has been waiting all this time for me to come home and when I do nothing seems to go right!  He must be wishing that I’d stayed in Boston after all.

Actually I know that he was very relieved when I made the decision to come home.  He never said a word about it of course, but I could tell it was in his mind that I might choose not to. If only he knew how close I came to making that very decision.  He thought he might lose me … and he very nearly did.

I know I’ve made the right decision to be here.  I just wish it were easier to find my place in all of this. I’ve had a hard enough time trying to fit back into ranch life as well.  I never stopped to consider how hard that might be really.  One thing I have learned during these past few months is how easy it is to get out of shape. Three years of city life sure spoilt me and it has taken a lot of hard work to get to the stage where I’m not exhausted every night after work. The men have been difficult as well.  It was as if I had to prove myself all over again to them which is not surprising considering many of them hadn’t even met me before.

In some ways that was even harder than it was when I was seventeen and had to take over for Pa after Marie died. At least then they knew who I was.  This time I’m a city boy who not only has to prove himself in the saddle but also as the boss’s son.  At least now that’s a lot easier. They seem to have come around.  How strange it was to think that they listened to Hoss more than to me! He’ll never know how surprised I was to find that out.  Of course he has such knowledge of things around here that it just comes naturally to all of them. He’s one of them even though he’s so young.  Pa never was more correct when he predicted Hoss’ future on the Ponderosa. I wonder if Joe will be the same when he’s grown up?

I think it might be a good idea to go into town tomorrow and stay away from Pa.  We both need a cooling off period I think. I’ll try and think of some excuse to go in.  Maybe I’ll ask Hop Sing if he needs anything?


March 21st 1854

Dear Diary

It’s so nice to be here in San Francisco and get away from the ranch for a while. I’m so glad that Pa asked to come … in more ways than one really.  Not only is it a good chance to catch up with a bit of city life, but it’s just an example of how much he trusts me now.  I’m so glad that we’re getting on much better.

It’s funny to think back now on all the problems I was having last year.  They were important at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight they were just silly really. Of course it was going to take me time to find my place back within this family and my world out here.  I think I was just being impatient to fit in again.

I sure hope that the business deal goes well tomorrow. No reason why it shouldn’t really because its very straightforward, but I suppose I’m a bit anxious because of the fact that Pa isn’t here to handle things with me.  Actually it’s the first time he’s ever let me take complete control of a deal from beginning to end like this. Of course I’ve been in charge many times back on The Ponderosa, but I mean the business side of things as well.

This timber deal was by idea from beginning to end and I know that Pa has been sitting back watching to see if I can prove myself.  I’m proud to say that I haven’t let either myself or him down and after tomorrow everything will be finalised.  The timber is loaded on the clipper ship and ready for shipping and all that is left to do is to sign the paperwork. We never would have been able to fulfil the contracts for this amount of lumber before, so I’m sure now that Pa can see the benefits in my designs.

Still, I’m sure that the men yesterday would have preferred that it was Pa they were dealing with and not me. I saw the look on their faces when I came into the Board Room. They felt slighted that Pa hadn’t bothered to attend the meeting and had sent me instead. Hopefully they realised by the end of it that I can hold my own in business deals.  I’m sure they were surprised when I wouldn’t back down over the price.  They thought that they would use the opportunity to take advantage of our family, but they sure didn’t get away with it! Wait until Pa finds out the price I squeezed out of them! I’m sure looking forward to seeing the look on his face.

It’s been nice to catch up on a bit of culture while I’m here as well.  San Francisco is really coming of age lately. Of course it’s not as grand as Back East and things take a lot longer to get out here, but I’ve been surprised at the variety of plays on offer. One day perhaps the West will be in step with the East in our country.

I must remember to do some shopping before I catch the stage on Thursday.  Hoss and Joe would kill me if I came back with nothing for them. I’ll have to look around for something for Pa as well.  He never asks for anything, but he deserves someone to think about him for a change. It’s hard to know what to get them all, but I suppose I can’t go wrong with some books and imported tobacco for Pa.  Hoss is usually easy.  Anything he can put into his mouth will be appreciated and there are such a variety of sweet stores here that I won’t have any trouble finding something appropriate. I found just the things for Joe yesterday in a little shop down near the harbour and I’ll go back tomorrow after the meeting to get it.  It’s a miniature clipper ship, built in such detail that’s it’s fascinating.  I really wouldn’t mind one for myself to be honest. It would be nice to be a kid again and be able to indulge myself.  Joe will be thrilled with it I know.  He’s always getting Pa to tell him stories about his life at sea.

Its funny how I miss them all even when I’m away for just a few days. Pa is right when he says that family really means a lot.  We are all pretty close really and we have Pa to thank for that. Many families in our situation could easily have splintered, but he held us together by the sheer force of his strong will and love.  It’s interesting to look back as an adult and think about the choices that Pa made for himself and for us. Choices that I’m very glad he did make.

As a child it’s easy just to accept the life you have, but as an adult you realise the myriad of choices and circumstances that lead you to the place that you are. I’m so glad that I had Pa making the choices for me all those years ago.  A lesser man would have given up, but he never did. He was always there for us, except when it was beyond his control and he loved us unconditionally.  I appreciate what he has done for myself and my brothers more than I could ever say.

I wish that I could find the way to tell him how I feel.  It’s so hard for me to put my thoughts into words. Much easier to write them down. I don’t know why that is, but I only hope that somehow he knows the depths of my feelings for him.  I only hope that one day when I’m a parent I’ll be able to be half as good a father as he is.

It has never been easy for Pa.  I can’t begin to imagine how he coped with the death of three women that he loved.  I saw him struggle and come through it with Marie of course, but I was too young at the time to realise what he must have been going through with Inger.  I have a bit of an insight into my mother now and know that they were deeply in love.  Grandfather helped me to understand that. Three loves and three deaths and never letting go of the three of us boys.  He certainly is an extraordinary man my father.

I hope that Hoss and Joe appreciate him as they get older.  I’m sure that Hoss does now in many ways. He and Pa get on so well that sometimes I feel a bit left out.  I shouldn’t really, because I know that it comes from the fact that I was out of their lives for a while.  There is something about Hoss’ complete acceptance of the land that he and Pa share … something I will never have with him.  Pa knows that I’ll always be torn between my life on The Ponderosa and the lure of the outside world, but with Hoss there is no choice to make.  He is at one with his life there and completely at peace with it. He doesn’t ever feel the need to strive beyond it and for that I envy him.

Pa has experience life outside The Ponderosa and he is now happy to exist within it as Hoss is.  They have a mutual agreement that it is the focus of their life now and it is wonderful to see them together at peace with their surroundings.  I can identify with them and understand it, but I’m part of it to a certain extent and that saddens me. In choosing The Ponderosa I gave up other things and there will always be that feeling inside me of what if? Hoss will never have to face that.

I sometimes wonder what will happen with Joe?  At the moment he’s still a child of course, but it will be interesting to watch where his life takes him.  He’s different to both Hoss and myself in that he seems to have a restlessness in him. I have one too, but it comes of my desire to experience two worlds.  Joe’s seems to come from within him.   It’s as if he doesn’t know how to control his emotions at all.  He sure is one volatile kid that’s for sure!

I can really see Joe headed for trouble as he grows older. He never stops to think about things before he jumps in and Pa and I have a terrible time trying to make him understand the consequences of his actions. I just hope that he develops enough sense along the way to keep himself on the straight and narrow.  I know that Pa worries about him a lot. I wonder how things would have been if Marie had lived? I’m sure that she would have been a positive influence on the kid.


March 21st 1855

Dear Diary

I’m feeling in a bit of a reflective mood tonight and I really don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because of all the things that have been happening around here lately and the fact that I haven’t really had a lot of opportunity to write in you for quite a while. I spent some time last night reading back over the early volumes of your pages and it was fun to see my thoughts in those early years.  How strange it is to think back on those times and remember the boy that I was then.

I feel very much at peace with myself lately. I don’t know why, because there’s nothing that has happened to particularly make me feel that way.  Maybe it’s just my contentment with my life here. This place is so right for me …. I know that now.  Whether of not it always will be I’m not sure. I’m sure there’ll come a time when I pull up for roots for a while and spread my wings again, but for now I’m happy to stay here and be part of this dream that Pa made reality for us.

The Territory is really coming of age.  I can see things happening around us that point to things to come.  It’s actually nice to be away from all the trouble that is brewing Back East and be part of an area that is forging ahead in so many ways. There’s talk of Statehood coming for Nevada, but I truly believe that it’s a long way off yet. I think that is only being fuelled by those  Back East who want to get their hands on the Comstock Lode in case war comes. Thank heavens for men of integrity around such as Pa who will fight against it happening.

I’m finding myself more and more drawn into politics lately.  It’s such a fascinating field and with everything happening in our Country there sure is a lot to think and read about. Progress is a wonderful thing!  We get the Eastern papers so quickly now that I feel almost a part of the happenings back there even way out here. We are now only weeks behind instead of months. I hope President Pierce can hold things together back there, for the latest news from Kansas doesn’t sound at all hopeful.

It’s funny how your world widens as you get older.  As a child my whole world revolved around Pa and myself.  Then it widened to include The Ponderosa, Hoss and Joe.  Then Boston opened my eyes to the delights of The East. When I first came back to Nevada I was interested in the progress of the Territory, but now I find myself involved in the politics of the country as a whole. Sometimes I long to be that little boy again.  My world was very complete in those days with just myself and Pa to fill it.

I look at Joe and wonder sometimes.  He is growing up in a very different world to the one that I did.  At twelve years of age I was helping Pa to establish things around here and dealing with a new stepmother.  It was a very trying time for me. Joe has none of that.  His life in many ways is a lot easier than mine was, and yet in other ways it is harder. He will never know the simple pleasures that I experienced with Pa and Hoss and for that I am sorry for him.  On the other hand though he has many advantages that progress out here has brought. Somehow though I don’t think he’d see all of them as advantages.  School for one thing.

I would have given anything to be able to go to school from an early age and yet Joe seems to spend his whole time resisting it. I don’t think that new teacher Abigail Jones helps the situation at all though.  From what I can tell she’s not the best of teachers. She and Joe seem to clash a lot and Pa has to spend a lot of time trying to sort it out. In fact Pa seems to spend a lot of his time sorting out Joe’s trouble making.  He says that kid was born to age him and I tend to agree with him.

Joe sure loves that new horse of his, although I can’t think why on earth he would have called it Cochise. I suppose he thinks its clever or something. Pa says that he sees a lot of Marie in Joe and I agree with him. He looks so much like her of course, but he acts just like her too.  He’s right about the same age now that I was when he was born and it’s strange to think back to those times and my attitude towards his mother. I really gave her a hard time just like Joe is giving us a hard time now.  The world turns in cycles I suppose and all things happen in their own way and at their own pace. What goes around come around if you wait long enough.

I am so lucky to have Hoss in my life.  No one could ask for a better brother than that little big brother of mine.  He is one of life’s true gentlemen and I’m very proud to be his brother.  There isn’t a nasty bone in Hoss’ body and he would move heaven and earth for his family.  I’ve seen him put up with a lot of Joe’s nonsense without a murmur and I admire him for it so much. I just don’t have the patience with him that Hoss does.

That’s Hoss though. He’s patient with everything in life.  Nothing seems to fluster him … except women.  I wish he’d just develop a bit more confidence in himself and let them see the wonderful guy he is.  He’ll make some lucky lady a wonderful husband some day and I hope he allows himself the chance to be that.  Pa would give me that classic eyebrow lift of his if he could read this. I think he believes that it’s time for me to start thinking about settling down and I know that he’s longing for some grandchildren to spoil, but I don’t think I’m nearly ready to be thinking along those lines yet at all.

At twenty-four I’ve still got a lot of time to find the right woman and I’ve got too many things in life still to experience before I start to think about settling down. It’s strange to think that at my age Pa already had been widowed once and had me as a two year-old.  I don’t know how he did that to be honest.  I know that I’m not ready for it yet.

One day I hope to be a father and husband and I know that I’ll be happy when I find the right woman.  I just hope that I’ll have time to live my live a lot more before I find her. I don’t think that Pa needs to worry about grandchildren anyway.  Something tells me that there’ll be Cartwrights on The Ponderosa for many years to come …. Joe will probably see to that even if Hoss or I don’t.  I’ve seen the way girls look at him already and even though he’s only twelve, I sense a heartbreaker in the making in that kid. Heaven help us all when he reaches puberty! That youngest brother of mine has too much charm for his own good.

I need to stop now as it’s getting late. Hopefully I’ll be able to write more tomorrow……


The End

 Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.


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