By: Michelle Denson

"I just do not understand you boys!" Ben Cartwright thundered to the three men that stood sheepishly before him.

The oldest and youngest of the three looked to their larger brother, mentally they encouraged him to offer an explanation for the current events. As if hearing the encouragement of his beloved brothers, the largest of them all began his speech.

"Pa, it weren't our fault. How's we to know that, well, that things would turn out as they had." Hoss seemed satisfied with his answer and the smile that lit his face proved it. Well until he looked into the unrelenting eyes of his father, he slowly dropped the smile while he shook his head no, mimicking his father.

Ben had to keep his hands firmly planted on his hips, otherwise he felt he would loose control and tan the hides off his boys. "What did you think would happen when you three started this GRAND adventure of yours?"

Uh oh was the look of youngest and oldest gave one another. Unconsciously they took a small step behind their big brother. "But Pa" Hoss began again, he looked to his two brothers and frowned at their backwards progress. Adam felt he had to speak up, "Pa if you hadn't forced the three of us to work together none of this would have happened." Even as he spoke the words he knew his father's reaction would not be kindly to them.

"Forced you? FORCED YOU? I seem to recall the THREE of you jumping at the opportunity! I just don't know what to do with you! My sons! I can only imagine what will come from the clean up of this mess!"

Joe looked up sheepishly towards his father; he fiddled with the leather strap he held in his hands. "Uh here Pa." Joe handed him the leather strap and quickly replaced his hands behind him. Years of his Pa's tannings left him with an unconscious response to save his backside.

Ben squeezed the strap as tightly as he could and watched his knuckles turn white from the effort. He grimaced as he looked to each on of his sons. "Boy's I just cannot understand how such an easy task could have caused so much destruction."

Again that brotherly support sent Hoss into his heartfelt pleas. "Pa well we's was just bringing down that bull from the pasture like you said. He done just went loco is all." Again Hoss grinned at his own reasoning, and again shook his head no with his father's conclusion.

Adam and Joe found that moment to find their voices, "It was Hoss' idea Pa." Adam suggested. Joe ever willing to lay the blame elsewhere chimed in as well. "Yeah Pa Adam's right it was Hoss' idea." Hoss' jaw dropped at the clear backstabbing by his own flesh and blood. He smacked his bottom jaw back up and scrunched up his face in disgusted anger.

Ben saved further arguing as he lifted his hands towards his boys to ward off anymore of their excuses. "Enough! I don't care whose idea it was. All that I care about is that you clean up this mess!" Ben turned on his heel and stormed back towards the house.

The three brothers looked at each other and then at the surrounding mess they called the Ponderosa. Hoss always willing to forgive and forget suggested, "Well where shall we start?" Joe scratched his head and surveyed the yard; he could only shake his head in reply. He hadn't a clue just where to start. Adam also looked at the mess before them, he figured it would take them hours to clean up the debris and put things back in working order. "Well let's start by putting the doors back on the barn, then why don't you clean up that wood pile Joe, while Hoss and I fix the corral."

"But Adam, what about all those chickens?" Hoss asked.

"Yeah and what about the outhouse, that things in a lot of pieces!" Joe added in.

"I'd say we are in for a long afternoon!" Adam sighed. "Well let's get started."

Throughout the rest of the afternoon and early evening the three boys set up to clean the mess from around the ranch house yard. The three of them smiled as they entered the house and sat down at the table for dinner. Adam couldn't help but feel they were forgetting something, but for the life of him he couldn't remember. He had asked Joe and Hoss, but they two seemed to not recall a single thing they forgot. So each helped themselves to Hop Sing's good cooking. Ben had felt weary over the day's events and offered his goodnights and headed up to bed. It was not long after that that their father's booming voice was heard shattering off the walls.

"ADAM, ERIC, JOSEPH!" He cried out in ravage anger.

Each son jumped up from the table as their name was called. Adam walked over towards the stairs, but stopped just in front of the ranch house door. He slammed his hand to his head as he finally remembered what had been forgotten. "Hoss, Joe, I just remembered what it was that we forgot."

Hoss and Joe looked at their brother and in unison asked what it was. It was Adam's answer of the missing bull that brought a look of Hoss swallowing a toad and Joe to bring a twisted and contorted look to his face. "Oh No" Joe cried as he heard a crashing noise from the top of the stairs. Hoss swallowed a lump in his throat when he heard the loud bang into a wall above him. Adam turned on his heel and grabbed his hat, coat and gun belt. He held the door open as he turned to his brothers, "Would either of you like to join me into Virginia City tonight?" The three boys took one last look up the stairs and with a responding crash they hurriedly ran out the door and didn't look back as they raced for the city.

Ben stood at the top of the stairs his arms crossed and shaking his head in anger to the retreating backs of his sons. "My sons!"