By: Michelle Denson
Summertime was just around the corner for the children in the small country school. The children were all excited, it was just under a month left for classes this year. They all had visions of adventures and trips planned for the upcoming summer months and found the time left in the year to drag on slower than normal. All the kids were excited to leave school for the few warm months of the year, but one child was in even greater anticipation. That child was Joseph Cartwright, known as Little Joe to his family and friends. Thirteen year old Little Joe was the youngest of three sons, from his widowed father. He was not the scholar of the family like his oldest brother Adam, nor was he the least scholarly like his big brother Hoss. Joe found himself somewhere in-between. In reality he was a very bright individual, but he lacked the desire for school learning. In most cases whatever Joe found interesting he would not only succeed in, but would excel beyond all others. This brought a challenge for the teacher of his school to keep Joe from daydreaming and to pay attention to class. Joe did not mean to not pay attention, in fact he did try as hard as he could to. He was just a very active child and the schoolwork was just plain boring to him.
Miss Smith had been the teacher of the small school for just about three years. She rather enjoyed the children and even though she was warned about Joe from the previous teacher, she found him to be intelligent and inquisitive. Although that area was basically on what Joe decided was the fun part of school. The children all enjoyed her and some of the older boys found her to be an attractive lady. She had really hoped to snatch a certain little boy's older brother, but she soon gave up that notion, as he seemed to enjoy his bachelor life. Perhaps in a few years he would be ready to find a wife and she would have a chance. She was normally happy to start her class on Friday, but this day she was in a solemn and listful mood. She had received news from her family back east that her mother had taken ill. At anytime such an event was terrible, but being near the end of school it was fairly hard to find a replacement to finish off for the school year. She would be leaving on tomorrow's stage for the trip home, but for now the hardest part was to say goodbye to the children she had known for so long. She planned to return in the fall, but like so many years family's move away and many kids drop out to help their families on the farm. She felt a strong love for her kids and it was taking a toll on her.
"Alright class let's settle down and start the quiz on the material I had you read last night"
She had learned to read the faces of the children over the years and found it quite easy to tell who had studied and who didn't. One child though always seemed to fascinate her. Little Joe you could always count on to not study and not do his homework, but somehow the boy would come out with a score that he barely passed by. She always hoped he would put forth more energy into his studies, but it was a losing battle she knew. For this reason she tended to call on him more often just to make sure he wouldn't fall behind.
Soon the day wore on and she knew that she would have to broach the subject of the new teacher coming in next week. With only three weeks left in classes she hoped the new teacher would not have a hard time adjusting to the students and the students with the teacher.
"Class as many of you already know you will be getting a new teacher next Monday to finish off this years classes. Mr. Taylor has been a teacher for many years at a very private academy. I hope you will try your best to be behaved for him." She threw a glance at her peanut gallery, namely Mitch Devlin, Seth Pruitt, and the ringleader Little Joe Cartwright. "I have heard he is a bit strict and likes his students to pay attention and have all their homework done on time." Again she gave a look but directed it right to Little Joe. He responded with a sheepish grin and she warmed up a smile. "I'm going to miss everyone of you and look forward to seeing you in the fall."
"We will miss you too Miss. Smith" the class responded.
"Alright class is dismissed for the day." She watched as the class flooded out the door for the day. She wondered if Little Joe would make it home on time, even though she let classes out early she knew it would never happen. With one last look at her classroom she closed to the doors. She wiped a tear from her eye and headed home to prepare for her journey.
After class was let out Joe and his two buddies headed for their favorite fishing spot. What better way to start the weekend then by being let out of school early enough to enjoy time at the lake. As usual Joe found himself with a larger than average number of fish, while his friends had very few.
"Hey Joe, watcha think this new teacher will be like?" His buddy Seth asked.
"Don't know, sure hope he isn't as bad as old Mr. Harmond."
"Joe, that's only because Mr. Harmond told your Pa every little thing you did in class." Laughed Mitch.
"Yeah well after the first day I was on restriction for a month! No sense in worrying about Mr. Taylor till Monday. We have the start of a wonderful weekend and I certainly am not going to worry over the new teacher during it."
"Joe that's why you're always in trouble you never worry bout nothing till your in trouble already" Seth laughed and was joined by Mitch. Soon all three boys were laughing.
"Well guys think I've got enough fish for supper tonight. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon." Joe called as he returned with his bounty to his pinto pony Cochise.
"Bye Joe" Mitch and Seth called to Joe as he raced off towards home.
Joe took a leisurely gallop on his pony, a gift from his father on his twelfth birthday. He spent more time pampering his mount than he took with any other activity in his life. He and Cochise had a very special bond from the very first day he got her. His brother Adam helped him to train the horse, but everything just sort of came to him naturally. He was glad to not be riding his slow puny pony Stony anymore, but he did still take the horse on short outings so he would not hurt his feelings. Stony was a good horse, but no matter how hard Joe tried he could never get the horse to go as fast as he wanted. The name Stony Joe gave him after his first few tries exclaiming that the horse was just the most stubborn stone headed critter on earth. This brought laughter in the house since everyone knew who the most stubborn critter on earth really was. Joe remembered just before reaching the yard to slow up his horse. It was a good thing to since he spied his father on the porch talking with Mr. Matthew's, one of the men on the schoolboard.
"Hi Pa, hi Mr. Matthew's" Joe called as he dismounted from Cochise.
"Hi Little Joe." They both called and returned to their conversation.
Joe shrugged and headed off to the kitchen and relinquished his fresh fish supply to Hop Sing. Somehow Hop Sing had already known he would have fish because he had boiled corn and corn bread already cooking. Joe left the house shaking his head in wonder. He collected Cochise and brought her into the barn to bed her down for the night.
"Hey short shanks, how was school?" Hoss asked as he watched his brother enter the barn.
"It was great Hoss. We got out early so me and Mitch and Seth went fishing"
Hoss sat smacking his lips. "Mmm mmm mmm, sure do like fish. Did you bring any to Hop Sing for dinner?"
"Oh no Hoss, I had some big fish but gave them to Mitch and Seth." He teased
"Ah Joe why'd you go and do something like that? No what are we gonna eat for dinner?" Hoss frowned
"Well I smelled liver when I was riding in" Joe said in an amused air, but gave a scrunched up face.
"Liver" Hoss looked almost green.
Joe started giggling, he never thought a person could look that color before. "Hoss you should see your face!" He giggled even harder. "Never thought I'd see the day Hoss Cartwright would be repulsed by food." By now he was on the floor in a fit.
"Ah Joe you know I don't like that liver."
"What's so funny?" Adam asked as he entered the barn with Sport, his high spirited stallion.
"Adam just look at Hoss' face, why he's just green." Joe got out in gasps between laughing.
"Well Hoss you do look a bit sick. Are you feeling okay?" Adam asked concerned.
"Well not if I'm gonna be eating that liver for dinner." Hoss added sickly.
"Liver? We're have fresh fish, I smelled it coming up to the house."
"Dadburn you Little Joe, why'd you have to tease me like that?"
Soon the giggling stopped and the boy's went about bedding down their horses and the evening chores. When they returned to the yard Mr. Matthew's was gone and supper would be on the table shortly. They went and cleaned up before arriving into the house.
"Hi Pa" came from three different voices as the entered and found him sitting in his favorite chair.
"Hi boy's, how was your day?"
"Well Pa, the south herd is doing good, plenty of green pasture and water. The herd on the east pasture though seems a few head short. I checked the fence line but didn't notice any holes." Hoss added.
"Hmm let's take a better look on that east herd tomorrow, bout how many you count short?"
"About half a dozen."
"Well let's put some night guards up just in case."
"Dinner ready, all eat Hop Sing make apple pie for dessert." Announced the little oriental chef.
The four Cartwright's gathered around the table and began to dig in.
"Well Joseph I can guess you had a prosperous day fishing"
"Yes sir, seemed every time I threw my line in I was bringing in a big one. Why if I didn't have to be home so soon I guess I could have gotten twice as many fish."
"Well I for one am glad you got to go fishing Little Joe. Mmm mmm this fish sure is good." Hoss exclaimed as he stuffed another forkful into his mouth.
"Well Joseph was there anything else interesting today?"
"Um, Miss Smith is leaving. Her ma is sick so we're getting a new teacher for the rest of the school year."
"That's what Mr. Matthew's said as well. I'm sure you will try and behave yourself while you're in his class young man."
"Yes sir I sure will try."
"Alright. Adam what's happening up at the timber camp?"
"Everything is running smoothly. We're a full week ahead of schedule." He stated smugly.
"Great. Hoss and I will be leaving on Monday to pick up that new herd. We should be back by the end of the week. I'll need you to keep an eye on that east herd and your little brother."
"I don't need no one to look after me. I'm not some little kid Pa." Joe said defiantly and a bit to loudly.
"Don't you take that tone of voice with me young man. You will mind your brother while I'm gone. Is that understood?" Ben glared at his youngest who always was trying to be much older than he was.
"Yes sir" Joe replied as he lost his appetite, preferring to push his food around his plate.
"No problem Pa everything will run smoothly." Adam encouraged.
Ben knew everything would be fine in Adam's hands. Even Little Joe would be fine, even though he knew the tension would be quite tight between the two of them for awhile now.
"Joseph if your just going to push your food around that plate you can be excused and finish your chores."
"Yes sir" he was more than happy to leave the table. So much for a great day. I'm gonna be in the care of super strict himself for the next week he sighed as he slammed the door closed to just let everyone know he was not happy.
Whenever something was bothering him he always would find himself pampering Cochise. Tonight was no exception. "Why do they always treat me like such a little kid? I don't need no baby sitter. It's not my fault I get in trouble all the time. If they just let me do things the way I want to I wouldn't get in trouble. Gesh life just isn't fair Cooch. I don't think this next week could be any worse. A week with me and Adam, I'm gonna be doing chores and schoolwork. Nope can count any fun out with my uptight brother." As Joe sulked on he only became more and more agitated. He went to bed early that night with only a tinge of guilt for not playing checkers with Hoss. He wasn't mad at Hoss, but he sure didn't want to be near his Pa. Adam, well he figured he'd get more time with him than he really cared to get.
The weekend passed relatively uneventful. Joe stayed in an upset mood and left his family walking on eggshells so as not to set off an explosion. Adam was a bit worried about being left with Joe in his current mood. He had a hard time understanding that little brother of his. He was always so moody, from depressed to frustrated to a volatile temper, his little brother seemed to include them all.
Monday morning arrived and Joe found himself enjoying a rather relaxing day by the lake fishing with his friends. He didn't know how it happened but he was tossed into the water abruptly. Joe spattered and spurted the water off his face and grabbed the nearest object he could find and tossed it in the direction of the culprit whom got him all wet. The shattering of glass brought sounds of his father and brother Hoss to his senses.
"What's going on up there?" shouted Ben from the kitchen table below.
"Nothing Pa, Joe's lamp shattered." Well it wasn't a lie it did shatter; it just had a helping hand to toss it at his head. "Dangit Joe why'd you go and throw that lamp?"
"Sorry Hoss didn't mean to throw it."
"Didn't mean to throw it? You bought near took off my head! You're lucky it hit the wall and not the window. Pa'd be fit to be tide if it did."
"Great just what I needed to start the morning another lecture!" Joe threw his hands up in defeat. Nothing was going right.
"Well you best get downstairs right quick. Me and Pa are leaving right after breakfast."
That was a reminder Joe didn't need to hear. Great more instructions and lectures to behave for dear brother Adam. "Sure Hoss be right down."
Joe sat on his bed as long as he figured he could before he dressed and headed slowly downstairs.
"Come on Joe, sit down and eat before your late for school" Ben said exasperated.
"Yes sir" Well I managed the sit down part. I just don't care to eat I ain't hungry. Why do they insist on trying to stuff me like a stinking turkey? Joe sat back in his chair and pushed the food on his plate. He usually like flapjacks, but it could have been cow manure for all he cared.
"Joseph I said to eat your breakfast not play with it"
"I'm not hungry Pa. Can I be excused?"
"No you may not. I expect you to eat and to eat right now." Why must that boy be so damn stubborn? Ben thought.
Joe made an effort to eat some of the meal taking as much time as possible before taking his next bite. Ben was getting madder by the minute. He could not figure why the boy was being so obstinate.
"Alright Joseph I think you've played with your food long enough. For the rest of the week you are to come straight to and from school. If your behavior does not improve I will leave it up to Adam to take further discipline. Is that understood?"
Joe glared angrily towards his oldest brother. "Yes sir, may I be excused?" He asked in a curt tone.
"Yes Joe please go to school and try to be in a better mood before you return home."
Joe rose and left the house slamming the door behind him. Eat your food. Be good for your brother. Watch your tone. ARGH why must they treat me like such a little kid.
Soon the sounds of hoof beats could be heard leaving the Ponderosa. Inside the house Ben and Hoss were gathering their last supplies for the trip. Ben went through his ranch instructions once more just to make sure he forgot nothing.
"Adam I'm sorry that Joe is in such a temper when I'm leaving. If he doesn't shape up you have my permission for whatever punishment you see fit."
"Yes sir. I'm sure Joe will be fine once he cools down. I bet he's just upset that he has to stay with me for the two weeks and not Hoss."
They both laughed knowing that Joe and Hoss would be a very destructive combination. No telling what that Little Joe would talk his brother into. Hoss however was upset leaving his little brother when he was in such a miserable mood. Well they all hoped that by the time the family was together again things would be back to normal.
In the small school a man in his late forties walked up and down the rows of empty chairs. He was a tall man with medium brown hair cut very short. He wore spectacles that made his deep brown eyes seem to glint with the light that they reflected. Mr. Taylor looked around his new classroom for the first time with a hint of disgust. A teacher with his background one would expect to find at a fine private school or perhaps a college, but Mr. Taylor had picked up this small position in wait for a position at the university in Boston come the fall. His specialty was literature and history. He debated with himself about taking this assignment for the next three weeks or not, but in the end decided a few weeks of pay would do him well in his travels back east. He took one last look around before he walked out the door and rang the bell for the children to enter the schoolhouse and take their seats.
When he was certain the last child was in their seats he walked back to the front of the class and began his introduction.
"Good morning class. My name is Mr. Taylor and I will be your teacher for the next three weeks."
"Good morning Mr. Taylor" was echoed throughout the room.
Mr. Taylor was about to speak again when he noticed a young boy outside the schoolhouse making his way over to tie his horse. At first he was a bit upset, but as he watched the boy take his time in attending to his horse he became quite upset. There is always one child to try my patience he thought to himself. After a few minutes he watched the child make his way up to the classroom.
The children inside all sat quit during the time Mr. Taylor watched out the window. They clearly could see he was becoming upset but none dared to make a move or sound. They all turned their heads when the front door opened and their favorite classmate entered.
"I'm sorry I'm late sir."
"What's your name boy?"
If he hadn't already been in a bad mood, that sure would have set him off on another. The day was just getting better and better. "My name sir, is Joseph Cartwright. I go by Joe." He announced in a clipped and curt tone.
"Well Mr. Cartwright you will be on time for my class and not disrupt us further with your lateness. Since you seemed to have had extra time this morning you will not go out during morning recess. Now take your seat so we may begin class." Mr. Taylor walked up to the front of the room without waiting for a reply. He knew that the dismissing of the child was sure to infuriate him, but he had used this tactic before on hardheaded children and eventually they will break down and conform to class rules.
Joe stood there glaring at the man's back. His hands clenched into fists as he tried to control his temper. His father had always told him to respect his elders, but this man he instantly had no respect for. Three more weeks and I'll be rid of this teacher. BOY! Who does he think he is calling me a boy! Joe thought to himself, then sat in his seat beside his best friend Mitch. He was thankful his seat was by the window, at least he would have something better to look at then the man in the front of the room.
"Alright class I want each of you to stand up and tell me who you are, who you live with, and what you want to do. Why don't you start young lady." Mr. Taylor pointed to a girl in the front row.
She stood up and made her introduction. When she finished the child next to her started. This was the pattern throughout the room until it met with Little Joe.
"Joseph would you please stand up and introduce yourself." The teacher asked in a stern tone.
"Yes sir. My name is Joseph Cartwright. You can call me Joe. I live with my father and two older brothers on our ranch. I will work there." Joe finished his clip-noted words and sat down.
The next child stood and made an introduction and the rest of the children followed suit. When the last child finished the teacher stood up.
"Alright class thank you. I have some basic rules I expect followed. Everyone is to be on time for class in the morning. When I am speaking you are not to be speaking. You will only speak in class if I call on you after raising your hand. I expect your homework turned in on time and neatly. Okay everyone except Joseph may go out for recess."
Joe watched as his friends flooded outside. This was going to be a long three weeks he just knew it. He sat quietly looking out the window avoiding looking at the man in the front of the room he absolutely despised. Generally Joe liked everyone and in turn everyone liked Joe. He couldn't quite put his finger on why he did not like this man, but he knew deep in his soul he didn't.
Mr. Taylor sat watching Joe. He was amused with his progress already. He figured by the end of the week that the boy would be the perfect student when he was finished with him. Well this assignment is looking better already. I sure do like a challenge and I think Mr. Cartwright is a prime candidate. He thought to himself.
"Joseph would you ring the bell please."
Joe got up without answering to ring the bell.
"Listen boy, when I talk to you I expect an answer. Is that understood?"
"Perfectly" he spat out venomously.
"Now then let us try again. Joseph would you ring the bell please."
Joe was so angry he could hardly stand it. How am I going to make it through three weeks let alone one day with this man?
Soon class was back underway. The day dragged on for Joe and he was thankful for lunch hour for his escape from the teacher. He did notice that no matter where he went the teacher was watching him. By the end of the day, Joe felt just plain exhausted. The teacher had given a reading assignment and expected a paper summarizing the plot. Joe rode straight home and quickly did his chores. He had not intention of reading and certainly no desire to write a paper. He was happy Adam wasn't home yet, as he had no desire to see him. That was another issue he had yet to resolve. Except for the small amount of food he had for breakfast he hadn't eaten all day. After he finished his chores he went up to his room and lay down on his bed to think. He really wasn't mad at his family, he knew by now that they would always refer to him as a kid. This was just something he refused to accept. He resolved to talk with Adam when he got home but after such a long day at school he found himself asleep within minutes.
Adam arrived late in the evening, he had located a few of the missing cattle that afternoon, but the remainder seemed to have vanished off the ranch. He was sure someone was rustling the cattle, but only the small number seemed to indicate a family doing it for food. He was surprised when he arrived that Joe was already in bed. Probably trying to avoid me he thought to himself. Hop Sing brought him some reheated dinner.
"Little Joe no eat dinner. Go upstairs fall asleep."
"Was he alright?" Adam was worried he was sure Joe would have eaten lunch, but with the mood he was in there was no telling.
"No know. Not see Joe. Go upstair find Little Joe asleep."
"Alright Hop Sing I'll check him before I go to bed. I'm sure he ate lunch at school."
Later that evening Adam made his way to Joe's room. Joe was fast asleep still in his clothes.
"Joe you need to get changed for bed."
Joe yawned and opened his eyes finding his big brother staring back at him.
"Hey Little Buddy hard day?"
"Hi Adam, yeah it was." He replied solemnly.
"What's wrong Joe?" Adam could see something was troubling his brother. Boy could never hide his feelings.
"I'm sorry Adam. I'm not mad at you or Pa or Hoss."
"We know Joe. It's all right. Are you hungry?"
"No. Did you find the cattle?"
"Found a few, looks like the rest were rustled. Why don't you get changed for bed? It's pretty late and you have school tomorrow."
"Can I just stay home tomorrow? With Pa and Hoss gone you need the extra help. Please."
"Sorry buddy, but your almost through with school for the year."
"Was worth a try." He gave a quick grin then returned to his somber mood.
"Joe you sure there is nothing bothering you?"
"No I'm fine. I'm gonna change and get to bed. Night Adam."
Joe watched his brother leave the room. He knew that it was an unlikely chance he would get Adam to let him stay home. He did have something bothering him, but he just didn't know how to explain it. He was confused enough already with his feelings. He sighed and got up to change. Before long he was back in bed fast asleep.
The next morning Adam took over the chore of waking Little Joe. It was not a task that anyone in the house relished, but unless someone did it Joe would sleep straight through the day. He was actually surprised when his brother gave barely a fight to get out of bed and downstairs.
Joe on the other hand wanted to try the day on a good note. Perhaps he was just imagining things with the teacher so would try and get to class on time. He was pretty hungry but when he got downstairs he remembered he forgot to do his assignment last night. Oh well I'll just turn it in later. At least he won't be mad that I'm late. he thought to himself.
Adam watched Joe eat some of his breakfast and pick through the rest. He was sure there was something bothering his little brother. He thought last night it was over his behavior from the weekend, but now he was sure there was something else. He was about the broach the subject again when someone knocked on the door. Joe got up and answered it as he always did.
"Morning Dan" Joe smiled at the wrangler who had worked for his father for many years. Dan was a great wrangler and taught his Pa a thing or two.
"Howdy Little Joe, your brother Adam around?"
Adam having heard Dan made his way to the door.
"Morning Dan, what can I do for you?"
"Howdy Adam, I found some evidence of rustling up on the east side. Came and got ya so we could check it out."
"Sure thing I'll be right out. Joe I need to go. Make sure you get to class on time."
"Sure thing Adam. You sure you don't want me to come with you?"
"Not this time buddy."
Joe watched as Adam left. He really dreaded going to school. There was no telling what the teacher had in store for him today. With a resigned sigh he gave up the notion of eating and set about making it to school on time.
Mr. Taylor sat in the schoolhouse awaiting the start of the day. He smiled to himself when he noticed Joe making it to class on time. Well perhaps the boy will shape up faster than I first thought. He soon made his way out the door and rang the bell for class to begin. The morning was pleasant enough, as there was no real problems with any of the kids.
"Alright class please bring up your assignment from last night." Mr. Taylor announced.
One by one the children brought up their papers. He sat for a few minutes looking over the papers.
"Mr. Pruitt, your penmanship is terrible. I expect your next paper to be written legibly. I can only give you a failing grade for this piece of work."
Seth was devastated. He spent over an hour of reading then wrote out his paper.
"And Mr. Devlin did you even read the assignment?"
"Yes sir" Mitch replied.
"Than can you tell me why your paper has nothing to do with the assignment?"
"I'm not sure what you mean sir?"
"Mr. Devlin the assignment was for you to read part of the play from Hamlet. Your paper has absolutely nothing to do with the play. Try next time to pay attention to what I tell you your assignment it on. You also will receive a failing grade."
Mr. Taylor called another four names and belittled them as well for poor writing or for bad penmanship. When he finished his pile of papers his expression changed to anger.
"Little Joseph" he had heard some of the kids call him Little Joe yesterday and thought of a way to use that to his advantage. "Just where is your assignment?"
"I didn't do it" he replied hotly. So much for the semi-good mood Joe was in. The teacher was just trying to rile him as much as possible.
"Just why did you not do your assignment boy?"
If you could see steam rising from a person's head it would be now from Joe. "I fell asleep"
"YOU FELL ASLEEP!" Roared the teacher. Several of the kids flinched but Joe held his ground.
"YES SIR" he matched with an even tone.
The teacher fought to restrain himself. He took a deep breath. "Little Joseph you will stand in the corner for the remainder of the day." He turned to the class "Everyone else may be excused for lunch."
Joe normally would have protested but today he was thankful to not have to look at neither the class nor the teacher any longer. He really didn't even care that he missed lunch, he didn't feel like eating anyway. Joe spent the remainder of the day trying to figure out how he was going to get out of going to class the next day and better yet for the remainder of the year.
Mr. Taylor was quite pleased with himself. Joe was quite a challenge indeed. He had almost lost his temper today, but figured he humiliated Joe enough by sticking him in the corner and withholding his lunch and break time. He gave the assignment out to the other kids and excused them before he walked over to Joe.
"Mr. Cartwright I expect your assignment tomorrow and I expect it to be written neatly. I also expect you to have a respectful tone when you speak to me from here on out. Is that understood?"
"Yes sir" Joe replied in an even tone.
"Good. Then you may be excused for the day."
Joe turned on his heel and stormed out of the classroom. He slammed the door loudly and smiled when he figured the teacher would be upset about that. Well since he seems to want to make my life miserable, I do believe I shall make his just as much so. Joe left on Cochise in a fast pace. He was already a bit late so needed to hurry home and get to his chores before Adam was mad at him. He wasn't thinking to clearly on his ride otherwise he would have pulled up before he got into the yard, but instead he was racing and when he pulled Cochise up she stumbled a bit and he lost his balance landing on the ground.
Adam had been watching from the barn and was ready to yell at Joe for riding into the yard like that. He didn't remember how many times his father warned him about riding like that. The sight of Joe falling however headed any advice at the moment. He quickly made his way across the yard to his brother.
"Joe!" Adam cried as he ran up beside his brother.
Joe was basically fine, but definitely knew he was in trouble now. "Sorry Adam I wasn't thinking what I was doing."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah I'm fine." Joe said as he stood up, but then as he did he was lightheaded and a bit dizzy.
Adam noticed right off Joe start to sway and quickly grabbed him to steady. "Well since you can't stand up straight I'd say you are not fine. Where do you hurt?"
"Nowhere, really. Just a bit light headed."
"Did you hit your head?"
"No I'm fine really."
"Well let's get you inside and you can rest up."
"Adam I'm fine."
"Sure you are, but wouldn't you like me to do your chores for you anyway?"
"Yeah, but I'm fine."
Adam gave up trying to convince Joe and instead just ushered him into the house. He left him on the settee while he finished the chores. He stabled Cochise and checked her over for any injury. He brought in Joe's books and lunch pail.
"Joe did you eat lunch today?" Adam asked already knowing the answer.
"No Adam I wasn't hungry." Well it was true he wasn't hungry, of course Adam didn't have to know that he wasn't allowed to eat lunch.
"Joe you barely ate any breakfast, you didn't eat dinner last night nor breakfast. Did you eat your lunch yesterday?" Adam was really starting to worry. Perhaps Joe was getting sick.
"No Adam. I wasn't hungry."
"Joe I'm going to send for Doc Martin. I want him to check you out and make sure your not getting sick." He raised his hands in surrender before Joe could speak. "I know I know your fine. Just in case though well get a second opinion."
"Ah Adam, really I'm fine. Can I go up to bed now, I'm pretty tired."
"Aren't you going to eat dinner?"
"No I'm not hungry."
"Alright Joe, but the doc will be here soon."
Joe got up from the settee and made his way upstairs. He was still light headed and dizzy but any thoughts of food just turned his stomach. He had to get his paper for school done and be to school on time. He went up stairs and started to pull out his assignment. Be barely sat down on the bed before he as fast asleep.
A couple hours later Doc Martin arrived at the ranch house. Adam filled him in best he could about Joe from his temper, lack of eating and his recent fall from Cochise. The doc headed up to Joe's room and returned back downstairs about an hour later.
"So Doc what's wrong with him?"
"Well he hasn't any symptoms of an illness but I'd say his biggest problem is he needs to eat."
"Well I've tried but he just says he isn't hungry."
"I don't know what to tell you Adam, but he needs to eat regardless if he is hungry or not."
"I'll stop by in a few days and see how he is."
Adam escorted the doctor out and turned to look up the stairs. "Pa I sure wish you were home right now."
The next morning was almost a repeat of the day before. Adam was growing in his concern. It just was not like Joe to get up so easily and without confrontation in the morning. He watched him play with his food again, but ate absolutely nothing of it.
"Joe why don't you stay home from school today?" Adam offered.
Joe was thoughtful for a minute. Staying home would be the easiest thing to do, but that would be just putting off his problems from the teacher. No he had to stand up for himself and not let the teacher win.
"No Adam I have to go to school. I have an assignment to turn in."
If Adam wasn't concerned before he certainly was now. Joe give up a day from school to stay home, no something was not right with his little brother and he was going to find out.
"Joe what's bothering you?"
"It's nothing Adam. I gotta get if I'm going to make it to school on time."
"Will you talk with me about it when you get home?"
"Really Adam it's okay."
"Alright buddy have a good day"
Have a good day. Humph not until this teacher hits the road!
The school day started out much like yesterday, except today Joe handed in his assignment. Mr. Taylor noted that it did meet the guidelines but the script was slanted oddly. He decided that he won another battle. He now had Joe coming to class on time and doing his homework assignments. Yes he was moving ahead with Little Joe being the perfect student.
"Good morning class pull out a clean piece of paper we are going to have a quiz." The sounds of groans escaped many lips, but were quickly cut short by the nasty glance the teacher gave.
"You will have thirty minutes to fill up the page with everything you have learned about the history of the presidency. I expect it to be done neatly as well. You may begin now"
Mr. Taylor walked up and down the rows hitting his hand with a short ridding crop. He took his time looking over every child's shoulder. He reached Joe and smiled. He slammed the crop down hard on Joe's hand making him pull it back holding it tightly as he took a sharp breath inward.
"Mr. Cartwright what do you think you are doing?"
"I was writing my quiz until you decided to lash my hand for no reason" Joe spat back venomously.
"Little Joseph has anyone every taught you how to write proper?"
"Yes sir my mother taught me how."
"Well she was wrong"
"No you are wrong. My mother was a very good teacher and I write quite well."
"You cannot write proper with your left hand. Your mother was wrong and if she had a proper education she would have taught you to write with your right hand."
"You take that back, don't ever talk about my mother like that."
Joe was now at the level beyond reason. The teacher was also at his level of control. They looked like to bulls ready to lock horns.
"Children please go outside until I call you back in."
The kids all quickly got out of their chairs and headed outside. Mitch and Seth both hesitated leaving knowing the scene was only going to get worse. Soon though they joined the other kids outside.
"Mr. Cartwright I warned you about your tone when you spoke to me. You will keep your tone respectful."
"Sir when you deserve respect I will gladly give it"
"Joseph you just do not learn do you boy. From this moment on you will keep a respectful tone to your voice to me? You will not challenge me ever again in front of the class. And Little Joseph you will cease using the improper writing behavior your mother taught you in this classroom. Do you understand me boy?"
"Oh yes I understand you PERFECTLY. I will never respect you, nor will I ever bow to your demands and I will be DAMNED IF I WILL EVER WRITE WITH MY RIGHT HAND." Joe replied in a cold and deadly tone.
"Mr. Cartwright you have only made this harder on yourself." Mr. Taylor replied before he brought the small whip across Joe's face.
Joe sat their stunned for a moment. Never had a teacher struck him before and never had an adult ever taken a whip to him. Before he could think the onslaught of hits went on and on. He never had a chance to defend himself against the teacher whom was much larger than him to begin with.
Adam had stuck around the house most the day. He was worried about Joe and wanted to be home when Joe got home from school. He spent his time working on the dreaded account books and going over mine contracts. By mid-morning he had enough of figures so headed out to the barn to check on the livestock there. He wondered what was wrong with Joe. The doctor was pretty sure he wasn't coming down with a sickness. Adam was sure that was true as well, but he still knew there was something wrong with Joe. He heard a rider approaching so went to check and see whom it was. He found his heart in his throat as he watched Cochise slowly walking into the yard. On her back Joe was slumped over her neck.
"Oh my God, Joe" Adam yelled in a rush getting to his brother.
"Adam" Joe croaked out in a whisper before he was pulled down from his horse.
Nothing could have prepared Adam for the sight before him. Joe was crying and had a half dozen hot red welts across his face. His left hand was all swelled and red. Adam knew his brother had more marks on him but they were covered with his clothing.
"My God Joe, who did this to you?" Adam asked as he quickly made his way to the house carrying his little brother.
"I wouldn't use my right hand Adam. I wouldn't do it." Joe got out before he passed out.
"Hop Sing! Hop Sing!" Adam cried out as he came into the house.
"Why you yell? Oh Lil Joe."
"Hop Sing I need some cool water, cloth and some of your liniment quickly"
"Hop Sing go get chop chop."
Adam was already half way up the stairs and in Joe's room before Hop Sing made it back to the kitchen. If Adam was shocked before he was even more disgusted now that he had Joe undressed. All the way down his left side was just one red welt above another. Across his back was another series of welts. Adam had a hard time controlling his anger. Hop Sing came in with the items that Adam needed, Both began cleaning and bandaging Joe as best they could.
"Hop Sing I'm going to go get the doctor and sheriff. Stay with Little Joe and keep him still."
"Hop Sing stay right here."
Adam rode Sport quickly to the town doctor. He found Doc Martin and quickly filled him in on Joe. Adam told the doctor he would be back at the house in a little bit then headed off to the school.
The door to the schoolhouse swung open in a crash. The picture of a very irate and angry man stood in the doorway. Mr. Taylor was taken aback at the display and was wary the stranger was some type of outlaw.
"Children please go outside now."
"Yes Sir Mr. Adam" the class resounded gleefully.
"Mitch will you please go get the sheriff."
"I would be glad to Adam." Mitch said as he gave an evil look towards the teacher.
Adam slowly walked into the room and closed the door. He removed his hat and gun belt.
"Mr. Taylor I believe you owe me an explanation as to why my little brother is in bed at home with dozens of whip marks from face to hip." He said as he walked towards the man in front of him.
Mr. Taylor was a good match for height and he also had a volatile temper, but the one thing he didn't have was the vengeance that the other being was emanating.
"Mr. Cartwright the boy was being disrespectful and was not using his proper writing hand."
"Mr. Taylor I am certain that my brother would not be disrespectful unless he had good reason. As for writing with his proper hand, he is left handed and so that is his proper hand."
"With all due respect sir, I believe I am better qualified to decide just which hand is proper and which hand is not."
"That is where you are wrong."
Mitch took no time to make his way to the sheriff's office.
"Sheriff Coffee, Adam said for you to get down to the schoolhouse quickly."
"Easy boy now what's this all about?"
"Mr. Taylor whipped Little Joe pretty badly this morning and now Adam is there and probably gonna beat the daylight's out of him" Mitch said smiling at the last part.
"Whipped Little Joe? You sure about that boy?"
Neither noticed the two men that stepped into the sheriff's office at that moment.
"Ben, Hoss" the sheriff announced with hesitation.
"Roy what's this about Little Joe? Ben asked in his even tone.
"Well Ben I'm just getting the information now."
"Mr. Cartwright that new teacher whipped Little Joe pretty badly this morning and now Adam is over there and probably beating him up right now." Mitch added quickly.
Ben and Hoss were out the door and quickly on their way to the schoolhouse before Roy could get a word out. Roy and Mitch came running behind them.
A solid right and left hook connected with the schoolteacher's face. A trail of blood made it's way down the teacher's busted lip.
"Adam stop." Ben roared from the school door.
The teacher smiled to himself knowing help had arrived. However that smile was quickly changed to a grimace as Ben Cartwright proceeded to pummel the teacher. Before to the teacher lost consciousness he got a message of his own.
"Mr. Taylor not only will you never teach in this area again, you will never teach period. You will be brought up on charges for what you have done to my son. If I ever see you raise your hand to a child again believe me sir it will be the last time that hand is ever raised! Do you understand?"
Mr. Taylor barely nodded before the beefy hand of Hoss Cartwright smashed in his face. Ben let the beaten man fall to the ground before he turned and stared at Hoss.
"Sorry Pa, but I just had to have my turn." Hoss replied before his Pa said anything.
"Boy's let's get home and check on Joe."
The three left as the sheriff dragged the unconscious man to jail. They quickly found themselves back at the ranch house and barely through the door before Doc Martin came down the stairs.
"Ben, Hoss, Adam" Doc greeted
"How's Joseph?" Ben asked worriedly
"He'll be alright but he's going to be very sore for awhile. Poor kid had over fifty whip marks on him. He'll be pretty stiff for a few weeks. I would keep him in bed for at least a week, but the longer the better. Though I don't envy you for trying to keep him there."
Ben and Hoss sat back wordlessly gasping at the horror Joe must have gone through. Adam was relieved Joe would be all right but he still had a worry about Joe's eating.
"Doc what about Joe's not eating?"
"Well I gave him something for pain so he's pretty drowsy. I left some powders upstairs for him to take if he has a problem sleeping. If you don't get him to eat though it will slow his healing down."
"Don't worry Doc we'll get food down him even if we have to force it in him" Hoss added.
"Thank you Doc"
"I'll be back tomorrow to check on him. If he starts to run a low-grade fever don't worry but if it gets to high send for me right away. Night Ben, boys."
"Night Doc and thank you" the three said as the doctor left.
"Hop Sing can you make some broth for Little Joe." Ben asked as he walked into the room.
"Yes Mr. Cartwright Hop Sing make right away"
"Pa" Joe smiled and winced from the pain when he saw his father.
"Hello young man, what happened to you?"
"I wouldn't use my right hand." He replied and the tears came flooding out.
"Easy Joe it's alright" Ben hugged his son until the crying slowed.
"He said mama was wrong and wasn't educated right because she taught me to write with my left hand." Joe cried out between sobs.
"It's alright now son. He was very wrong."
"He just kept at me and at me Pa. He wouldn't let me out during recess and he didn't let me out for lunch and made me stand all day in the corner. Why was he like that Pa? Why didn't he like me? He seemed to have it in for me the moment I walked in the classroom. Then when I took my quiz he hit my hand with the whip. He said all kinds of bad things about mama. Why did he say bad things about mama? I wouldn't back down Pa I told him he was wrong and that I would never use my right hand. He hit me Pa and would stop. He just kept hitting me and hitting me." The crying started getting heavier and heavier.
"Easy now Joe, he isn't going to get near you again."
"He laughed at me Pa after he finished hitting me. Said he would break me and make me a perfect student. What did he mean Pa?"
"Joe he was an evil man who should have never been allowed near children. Some people take pleasure in trying to break other people's wills. I'm afraid he was trying to break yours son."
"You mean because I would not back down from him? Was that why he kept hitting me?"
"Yes son, but he did not do that to you."
"No sir, not ever."
"I'm very proud of you son. What you did took a lot of courage."
"What's going to happen to Mr. Taylor?"
"Well he will spend some time in jail and will never teach again."
"Good. Pa, how come you're back so early?"
"Well Joe, Hoss and I decided to leave the new herd to the drovers to bring up to the pasture. We wanted to get home and get you in a better mood."
"Thank you but I owe you and Hoss an apology. I'm sorry I was so short tempered. I just don't know what gets into me sometimes."
"It's alright Joe. Now how about you eat some of this broth Hop Sing just brought in."
"I am kinda hungry" Joe smiled and quickly devoured the broth.
Ben smiled at his young stubborn son. He knew he would be all right now. It would be a long few weeks with Joe on the mend, but he was happy his son's spirit was not broken.