Nightmares were not unusual in the Cartwright household. Everyone has nightmares, but Little Joe Cartwright has more than his share. After his mother died at age five, Little Joe had terrible nightmares. He would wake the entire house with his screams; crying out for his mother, father or brothers. No one could ever get Joe to talk about his nightmares. They had begun as images of his mother being dead and burying her. He would dream that he was the one being buried and no one could hear him screaming that he wasnít dead. Sometimes it was his father or brothers that were being buried alive and no one was listening to a five year old who wasnít supposed to understand. These beginning dreams made it hard for the rest of the family to even leave Little Joe was more than a few hours during the days. When he started school the fall after his mother died, he cried unless Hoss, his older brother, was there with him at all times. The family made allowances when they could but they had a ranch to run also, so Joe had to adjust. As time heals all wounds, Little Joes nightmares were lessened. He no longer dreamt his mother was dead in the ground, but that she would visit him in his dreams as his sub-conscience allowed him to remember good times before the accident.
When Little Joe was almost seven, Adam Cartwright, Joeís oldest brother, decide he wanted to go to college. Joe didnít understand why anyone would want to go to school when they didnít have to and why they would want to go so far away. He loved his oldest brother and looked up to him. Joe felt like Adam didnít love him anymore and that was why he was going away. These thoughts leant to a renewal of nightmares.
Did his mother leave because she didnít love him anymore? Was he bad and that was why everyone seemed to leave him? Will pa leave?
Adam tried to explain that he still loved Little Joe, but college was something he had always wanted to do. Joe didnít understand. Adam was the brother that Joe ran to when he was scared or if he had a nightmare. Who would Joe go to now? Adam had said his Pa was there and that everything would be okay, but Joe wasnít sure.
As soon as Adam left for college, the nightmares began again. This time Little Joe felt completely alone when he woke from a nightmare. He would remember that Adam was gone and that he didnít want to wake his Pa. Many a night Ben Cartwright would find his youngest child huddled in Adamís bed sobbing like his heart was broken. Ben assumed it was from Adam being gone, but since Joe never talked about his dreams, no one knew for sure. Ben would simply pick up his sobbing child and tuck him into bed with him. Joe eventually started going to his Pa when he would have a nightmare and the dreams diminished.
Holiday times always saw an increase of nightmares for the youngest Cartwright. He missed his oldest brother so much that when it was Thanksgiving time or Christmas time, Joe would dream that horrible things were happening to Adam in Boston. The first Christmas apart, Little Joe dreamt that Adam was going to go on a great ship to come home and he knew the ship was going to sink. He tried to scream to his brother not to get on the ship but no one heard him. As he was running toward Adam, he stopped to see a beautiful woman approach Adam and he turned away from the ship. The woman then turned and looked directly at Little Joe. Something about the woman was fimiliar but he couldnít recall. The woman smiled pleasantly at Little Joe and winked. Joe blinked and as he did he woke from his dream. He wasnít frightened, because he knew Adam was safe. He couldnít explain it but he just knew. He decided to get up and snuggle in with his Pa anyway.
A few weeks after that Christmas, a letter had come from Adam.
Pa, Hoss, and Little Joe,
I hope you were all well for Christmas. I had planned on sailing out to surprise you all, but I decided at the last minute to stay. I was all ready to get aboard and something told me not to. I know it may sound weird, Pa but I thought I heard Little Joe yelling not to get on that ship. Then a thought just popped into my head, that I should wait. Pa, would you believe that that ship sank four days latter? I was stunned. Iím not sure if my guardian angel sounds like little brother, but Iím so glad I didnít get on that ship. Thank Little Joe too. I love you all and I will write again when I get a chance.
Ben thanked God that his oldest son was safe and Joe was shocked that his brother heard him in his dream. It was just a dream? Right?
The next three Christmases had similar dreams confirmed by a letter from Adam. Joe didnít think too much about it and never said anything to Hoss or his Pa. He still couldnít remember the beautiful womanís face after each dream and only remembered that dream after the letter from Adam would remind him of it. All was forgotten for another year.
"Joseph!! Letís go!" Ben Cartwright hollered. "Weíre going to be late."
Little Joe Cartwright trudged down the stairs slowly while tugging at his collar.
"Well itís about time." Ben looked at his dejected youngest son and smiled. He did look handsome in a suit and tie even if Joe didnít think so.
Ten-year-old Joseph Cartwright hated wearing this suit and tie. It was uncomfortable and he couldnít breathe. He knew he couldnít play with his friends after the concert either because he wasnít allowed to play in this suit. He looked at his Pa and saw him smile.
"Pa canít I just stay home with Hop Sing. Itís not like itís Sunday. Itís just a stupid Christmas concert."
"Joseph. It is not just a Ďstupid concertí. Your brother Adam has spent the last two months working on this concert. We will all be there to support him."
"Didnít he go to college to learn how to build bridges and stuff? How come heís got to put on some stupÖ umm Christmas concert anyways?"
Ben took Joeís hand and helped him with his coat and hat. "Joe. Adam likes to do other things also. He went to the plays and concerts in Boston and he wants to bring some of that culture to Virginia City."
"Pa. I donít need no culture."
"Any culture." Ben corrected.
"Exactly." Joe smiled. He knew his Pa had corrected his grammar. That was usually Adamís job.
"Joseph. We are all going and that is final."
Joe felt like crying. He didnít want to go. Ben saw Little Joe start to pout and the beginnings of tears. He got down on one knee in front of Joe.
"Joseph. I know you donít want to go but you have too. You have no other choice. I would prefer for you to have a good attitude about it instead of a bad one, because if your attitude does not change, I will help you change it. Do you understand?"
Joe knew he had lost this battle. His Pa would spank him if he held on to this battle for much longer and he didnít want that. Not so close to Christmas.
"Yes sir. Iím sorry Papa." Joe wiped away a stray tear with his sleeve. Ben caught him before he wiped his nose on his sleeve. He handed Joe a hanky.
"Here Joe. Please donít use your sleeve. You may enjoy yourself Joe. You like Christmas carols."
Joe just nodded and pulled his scarf around his neck and headed for the door.
Ben was thinking, itís going to be a long night.
The concert in Virginia City was a great success. Joe found himself enjoying the music even if he was uncomfortable in his suit. After the concert, Ben greeted friends who congratulated him on Adamís initiative. Ben was very proud of Adam.
Little Joe was restless. His pa had let Hoss go talk with some friends but made Joe stay by his side. All this conversation with adults was boring. He tested to see how far away from his Pa he could get without actually getting in trouble. His Pa wasnít really paying that close attention to Joe.
Joe suddenly noticed a very beautiful woman with dark hair. Something about the woman was very familiar but he didnít know why. He was so curious that he started walking toward her and away from his father. She was smiling at him and winked. Where had he seen that? As he was almost close enough to say something he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked back and saw Adam with a smile on his face. Joe turned suddenly to address the woman but she was gone. He started to look all around the room for her but she was gone.
"What are you looking for Little Buddy?"
"Adam? Did you see that woman?"
"What woman Joe?" Adam looked around but they were alone.
"The one that was right here." He pointed toward the spot where she had been standing.
"I didnít see anyone but you Joe when I approached. You were alone. Thatís why I came over. Does Pa know where you are?"
Joe ignored his question about his Pa. "You didnít see anyone?"
"No Joe I didnít. Answer my question please."
Joe looked confused and only half-hearted said, "What question?"
Adam signed. "Does Pa know where you are?"
"No He does not." Both boys turned to see Ben Cartwright scowling. "Joseph. Didnít I tell you to stay with me and to not wander off?"
"Yes sir but I sawÖ"
"No Ďbutsí about it. What am I going to do with you?"
"Iím sorry Pa. I saw someone I recognized. A lady."
"A lady? Who was this lady?"
"I donít know who she is."
"Then how did you recognize her if you donít know who she is?"
"I canít explain it. I just know." Joe was getting frustrated. He knew he saw the woman even if no one else did.
Ben also recognized that Joe was getting frustrated and decided to change the subject.
"Adam. You did a marvelous job arranging this little event. I was surprised to see you werenít playing."
"Too hard to direct and play at the same time."
"I could do it." Little Joe piped in.
Adam smiled and ruffled Joeís hair. "I bet you could to Buddy. Maybe in a few years."
"I could do it now. I put together lots of stuff with my friends at school."
"Yeah Joe, but all of it is trouble."
Joe was beginning to get angry. He hated being treated like a baby who couldnít do anything. Adam also recognized the beginnings of Joeís temper and changed the subject once again.
"Pa. Iím going to be another hour or so. I figured since itís so late, Iíll just stay in town tonight and come back to the ranch tomorrow morning."
"Itís okay with me. I would like to get your brothers home and to bed. Itís already past Joeís bedtime."
"Pa could I stay with Adam?" Joe pleaded.
"No Little Joe. Not this time. Itís late and I want to get home. Besides your brother will be busy for awhile yet. He doesnít need to worry about babysitting too."
Immediately, Ben realized he made a mistake.
"IíM NOT A BABY." Joe yelled.
Ben knelt in front of Joe and took him firmly by the shoulders. "You will watch your tone with me young man or the remainder of Virginia City will be witness to a well deserved tanning. Do you understand me?"
"I donít need a babysitter Pa." Joe was still too angry to be sorry. His Pa dragged him to this concert in his Sunday clothes, wouldnít let him socialize like Hoss, and now was treating him like a baby.
Ben on the other hand, wanted an answer. He planted a firm swat on Joe backside. "Do you understand?"
"Yes sir." Joe started to cry. He had wanted to cry all evening and now he was just too tired and frustrated to stop the tears.
Ben noticed how tired Joe was and hugged him. "Iím sorry Joe. I know youíre tired. Letís go home." Ben picked up Little Joe and walked over to where their coats were. Adam followed.
After getting Joe dressed warm he picked him up again. Joe immediately put his head down on his País shoulder. As soon as they were outside in the dark, he would put his thumb in his mouth. Ben turned to Adam.
"Iíll see you in the morning Adam."
"Iíll be home for breakfast." Adam then turned to Little Joe and kissed him on the forehead. Joe squirmed away from the affection in public. "See you tomorrow Little Buddy. Sleep tight. I love you."
"I love you too Adam." Joe said before he closed his eyes and forgot he wasnít in the dark, as he started to suck his thumb.
Ben gathered Hoss and they all headed home. There was a full moon out that night so the trip home was uneventful. Ben knew it would get a lot colder tonight with no cloud cover, so he was glad that Adam had decided to stay in town tonight.
Ben had Joe and Hoss all tucked in and even took care of the horses, thanks to Hoss. Now he was reading quietly in front of the fireplace enjoying the quiet. Tomorrow was Christmas was a week away and he had everything he needed to surprise all of his boys. He was very happy to have Adam home from college. It had been a long four years. Ben drifted off to sleep in peace.
Little Joe was dreaming.
The moon was full. As he looked out into the night he could see the moonlight reflect off the snow. It made the snow and moon appear blue instead of white. The only sound he heard was the crunching of snow under his boots and his own breathing. Suddenly off in the distance he heard a wolf howl. He didnít know why he was outside without his Pa at night. Would Pa be mad? He didnít know. He did know that he had to keep walking.
CRUNCH! BREATHE! CRUNCH! BREATHE! HOWL!!!
That wolf sounds like heís getting closer.
Joe walked for what seemed like hours. He wanted to stop. He wanted to wake up. Was he dreaming? As he thought that he saw a horse. It looked like Sport, but where was Adam? As he got closer, he saw a person lying in the snow. There were spots of dark all around the person. As he got closer he knew it was blood, but he didnít know why or how he knew it. He approached the person and pulled back the manís scarf and hat. What he saw made him scream.
Ben woke suddenly to a heart-piercing scream. It could only be one person in this house. Ben ran up the stairs to his youngest sonís room. What he saw even scared him. Little Joe was sobbing in his bed but he was as pale as a ghost. He gathered Joe into his arms and began to rock him while uttering comforting and calming words.
As the sobbing slowed, Ben felt Joe shift in his arms. Joe looked at his Pa with red-rimmed eyes and said, "Pa? Is Adam home?"
"No son. Remember. Heís staying in town tonight." Ben thought he would ask about the dream knowing he wouldnít get anything from Joe. "Joe. Do you want to tell me about the dream?"
Joe took a deep breath. Normally he didnít like to talk about them, but this one was different. He felt Adam was in danger.
"Pa. I saw Adam. And there was blood everywhere. And Sport was just standing there. And there was a wolf and he sounded close. Pa. Whereís Adam? We got to go look for Adam. Heís hurt."
Ben had a little trouble following his frantic son. "Joe. It was just a dream. Adam is fine in town."
"Pa I know he needs our help. Please pa."
"Joe. Adam said he was coming home tomorrow morning. I am not going looking because you had a bad dream. It was just a dream."
Joe started to cry again. His Pa didnít believe in the dream. Why should he though? Joe never told him about the others.
Ben rocked his son until he stopped crying and fell back to sleep. Ben picked Joe up and placed him in bed with him. He then got ready and went to sleep also.
Joe was dreaming.
Joe heard singing. It was an old familiar lullaby that Adam played for him when he was afraid. Someone was singing it and it wasnít Adam. He stood at the top of the stairs and saw a faint glow from the fireplace. He was also drawn to a soft light near his País desk. He walked down the stairs and walked toward the desk. Sitting there, rocking and singing to a baby, was the woman from his dreams. She stopped singing and looked at Joe. She had very pretty blue eyes and they reminded his of Adamís eyes. For the first time, she spoke. He voice was very delicate but gave off strength.
"Maíam." Joe didnít know who she was, but he wasnít frightened. Many times she had come to him in his dreams and changed it from a nightmare before it got bad. She was a comfort to him.
"Little One. I need your help."
"Anything." Joe always wanted to thank this lady for all she did. "What can I do?"
"My son is in trouble."
Joe looked to the baby. He asked, "Whatís wrong with your baby."
She smiled and giggled. "My son is no longer this baby you see. He is a strong man now. You have helped me in the past to keep him from harms way. Will you help me again?"
"Little One. My son has fallen from his horse while coming home. Foolish boy shouldnít have traveled while so tired. He is a stubborn one."
Little Joe smiled. Reminded of several in his family.
"Little One. You already know where he is. You must get your father to follow you. If you canít you will have to go alone."
"I canít go alone. Iím just a kid."
"Little One. If you start out alone, you will never be without my help and your father will follow. I will make sure of it. I need you to wake Benjamin. Tell him that Adam has been hurt and you must go look for him."
"ADAM? Adamís hurt?"
"Yes Little One. Adam. My son."
Joe woke with a start. Adam was hurt? He looked around and realized he was in bed with his Pa and Pa was softly snoring next to him. The lady said I had to help Adam. I had to wake up Pa. Joe shifted in the bed until he was kneeling on the bed next to his father. He gently shook his father and got a small grunt for his troubles. He shook a little harder and called out.
Ben started to stir when he realized that Joe was trying to wake him, he opened his eyes.
"What is it son? Did you have another nightmare?"
"No Pa. I got a message that Adam needs help. We got to go look for him."
Ben sighed. When Joe got something in his head, he always held on. "Joe. We talked about this already. Adam stayed in town tonight. He will be home for breakfast."
"No he wonít Pa. He decided to come home tonight and fell from his horse when he fell asleep. Then he hurt himself when he fell and he needs our help. Itís too cold outside and thereís wolves too. Please Papa."
Joe sounded like he really believed it, even if Ben didnít. "Iím sorry Joe, but I am not going searching all over the country side looking for your brother because he is in town. Now go back to sleep."
"No Joseph. Go to sleep. NOW!"
Joe lay down and looked at his Pa with fresh tears. "Heís hurt Pa. I just know it."
"Joe. I want you to close your eyes and go to sleep. No more of this nonsense tonight. Adam will be home for breakfast. Understand?"
Joe just nodded. He tried to stop the tears and put his thumb in his mouth. He continued to look at his Pa and his father was watching him.
"Close your eyes Joseph. I love you."
"I love you too Pa." Joe hiccupped. He would just wait until his Pa was asleep and he would go help Adam. The woman said he wouldnít really be alone. Joe closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Joe opened his eyes and saw the dark-haired woman. He suddenly remembered Adam.
"Itís time to go Little One. I will send your Pa, after you have reached Adam. I will be with you also. Now go."
Joe got out of his fatherís bed and went to change. He dressed warm and snuck out of the house. He quickly went to the barn and saddled his pony and added an extra blanket on the horse. He stood looking for which direction to go when he saw the woman pointed east. Joe smiled and headed out. Somehow he knew which way to go.
Ben woke with a start. He didnít know what woke him but he looked quickly to the spot in the bed next to him and notice Joe was gone. He quickly got up and put on his robe hoping Joe just went to use the out-house. Ben searched the entire house and knew he wasnít here. Ben quickly went to wake up Hoss and to get dressed.
After explaining to Hoss what had happened, they were both dressed and saddled up in no time.
Because of the full moon it was easy to follow Little Joeís tracks. Ben had noticed how cold it was outside and prayed that Joe was dressed warm. However he thought that his backside was going to be warm when he got a hold of his stubborn son.
Joe felt like he was riding forever. He knew where he was because of landmarks but he never could have explained to his Pa where he was going. He just prayed that the woman would tell his Pa where he was after he found Adam. No sooner had he thought of Adam, he saw Sport in the distance. He quickened his pace until he was a few feet from Adam.
Adam appeared just as he had in Joeís dream. Joe took the extra blanket from his pony and spread it out on the snow next to Adam. He then gently, and with much effort, rolled Adam onto the blanket and off the snow. He then wrapped the blanket around his brother. Joe didnít know what else to do, but wait.
"Pa?" Hoss had been trying to talk to his father for the last fifteen minutes with no luck. "PA!!" He finally shouted.
Ben blinked and looked at Hoss. "What son?"
"Pa. Why did Little Joe run off?"
"He didnít really run off. He woke with a nightmare earlier and told me that Adam was hurt and we had to go look. Well. It was just a dream. He went back to sleep. A couple hours later, he woke me telling me we had to go look for Adam. I told him to go back to sleep. This third time he must have figured I wasnít going to listen to him so he took off on his own."
"Did you know that some of Joeís dreams come true?"
Ben stopped and looked shocked at Hoss. "What?"
"Yeah Pa. He donít think anyone knows, but a couple of times he dreamed something and then it came true later. ĎMember when he was just five or six and he had a terrible dream about Adam on a sinking ship?"
"Yeah. Adam wrote and said that he though he heard Little Joe tell him not to get on that ship. Joe dreamt that that ship was going to sink?"
"Yeah Pa. And he mumbled something about a dark haired woman each time he was haviní one of them dreams."
Dark haired woman? Could it be? No?
Joe was cold. He keep getting up and walking around because the dark haired woman said to. She talked to him and told him stories of Adam when he was a baby. Joe now knew the woman was Adamís mother, Elizabeth. He didnít understand how she could be here or in his dreams, but he did know that she was helping him and Adam. He sometimes had his mama help in his dreams, but it felt special to know Adamís Ma.
Adam started to stir. He was starting to wake up.
"Mama?" Adam said.
Joe knelt down near his brother. "No Adam. Itís me Joe. Your Ma sent me to find you and to bring Pa. Heís not here yet."
"Yeah Older brother. Iím here."
"What? Why? Whereís my Ma?"
"Sheís not here Adam, but she was a few minutes ago. Do you believe me?"
"Yes Buddy. I saw her too. Just thought it was a dream."
"Funny thing about dreams and visions, huh?"
"Yeah Joe. Thanks."
"Anytime older brother."
Joe sat down to wait as Adam slept.
Ben couldnít explain it, but he saw a glowing light coming from up ahead. At first he thought he saw his first wife Elizabeth, but as the light began to fade, he saw his youngest son. And lying next to him appeared to be his oldest son. He was speechless. As he got closer he heard his sons talking.
Ben dismounted and immediately came to Joe and Adamís side.
Joe turned at the noise and saw his Pa. He smiled big and got up and hugged his father.
"Pa. Iím sorry I snuck out but Elizabeth said Adam was hurt."
Did he hear right? Elizabeth?
"Joseph. Weíll talk about it at home. Letís get you two home."
Joe got up and mounted his own horse while Hoss helped his father get Adam up on his horse with him. The trek home was done in silence as the moon shone on the blue snow, bringing peace to the four riders.
A week later, then entire family was gathered around the Christmas tree enjoying a special Christmas breakfast. Adam had suffered from severe frostbite from the cold and a mild concussion from the fall from his horse. The doctor had said he was going to be all right thanks to Little Joe. The doctor had said that Adam would have frozen to death if he had been out in the elements for much longer. He never would have survived if they had waited until morning.
Ben still didnít begin to understand how Little Joe knew Adam had headed home after he had told everyone he was staying in town. Adam had told them that the people from the concert told him he didnít have to stay to help at the concert, so Adam had decided, even though he was tired, he would head home. He must have fallen asleep and then off his horse. Every time the subject of Little Joeís dreams came up, Joe said he didnít want to talk about them, because he still thought no one would believe him, as always.
Joe was happy. He had his family safe and sound and he didnít have any more nightmares since last week. He also loved Christmas and wanted to open presents.
"Pa. Can we open presents yet?"
Ben smiled at his youngest son. Ben was trying not to think about how different this scene would have been if his youngest child werenít so headstrong and stubborn. This was one time he was very glad Joe had disobeyed him, although he would never tell that to Joe.
"Okay Joseph. Letís get your frozen oldest brother to the couch and we can start with gifts."
"Yeah!" Joe jumped up to help Adam.
"I am not frozen anymore Pa and I donít need to be babied."
"You, young man, are starting to sound like your baby brother."
"I am not a baby." Was heard from both the youngest and oldest Cartwright at the same time.
Ben started to laugh and soon all his sons were laughing too.
Ben got Adam settled and they all opened gifts. Although it was a bountiful Christmas for the Cartwright, evidenced by the amount of stuff under the tree, Ben felt like he had the most important gifts before him.
As he was thanking God for his sons he wandered over to his desk and looked at the pictures of his three wives. He thanked them all for his blessings and picked up Elizabethís picture. He was so distracted that he didnít hear Little Joe approach him.
"Pa." Joe handed his father a package. "This one is for you Pa."
Ben smiled and set the picture down and took the package. He started back toward the fireplace when he noticed his youngest staring at the picture of Elizabeth.
"Whatís wrong son?"
"Huh? Ohh, nothing Pa. Is this Adamís Ma?"
"Yes it is."
"Sheís almost as pretty as in my dreams." Joe smiled and set the picture down. Once again he bound toward the fireplace to finish with gifts. Ben stood in awe. He was truly blessed this Christmas.
"And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions."
Joel 2:28 NKJ
The End and Merry Christmas to yaíll in Bonanarchy Land.