A story in which Ellie learns the value of her big brothers.

Ellie Cartwright was having the worst imaginable day in her 12 year old life. Well, it actually started out the day before, when everyone, except Joe and Pa, saw fit to swat her backside. By the end of the day, she couldn't sit down anywhere. She stuffed extra clothes under her skirt when she sat down for dinner. It didn't work that well, but she knew she had to sit through dinner or Papa would be asking questions. She gratefully escaped to the sanctuary of her room before Papa was any the wiser. She thought to herself, good Lord, how many brothers does a body need? That year, her half-brother Clay had come to live at the Ponderosa. Clay was 4 years younger than Adam and her mama's first born. If that wasn't bad enough, her cousin Will, two years younger than Adam had come to the Ponderosa. Even though Will was her cousin, he acted more like one of her brothers. The only saving grace is that Joe hadn't starting threatening to swat her.

She was so angry about yesterday when she came down to breakfast the next morning, she didn't even great her older brothers, except Joe.

"Morning Sissy," said Joe brightly, completely oblivious the day before's events.

"Morning, Joe," she said glaring at her older brothers and cousin. She slunk into her seat and sat glaring at her breakfast. She didn't notice that her Papa was looking none too pleased. Papa was a stickler for proper manners and respect for those older, even if those older were her older brothers. She was still sulking and didn't hear Papa call her name more than once. She didn't realize that she hadn't greeted her father either. In the Cartwright house, you never failed to acknowledge the patriarch of the house. He would consider it insolent and deserving of a spanking.

"ELEANOR!" Pa's voice boomed.

"WHAT?" she almost shouted. She was so involved in sulking that she didn't realize it was Papa who called her name.

The entire table froze, you never ever answered Pa with a "What" or a "Huh", the answer was always and only, "Yes, sir." Even as old as Adam and Will were, at 29 and 27, they wouldn't have said "What?" to Pa either.

"That would be "Yes, sir" to you young lady."

"Yes, sir" she said sulkily.

Pa's face was turning red. "Eleanor, I will not tolerate that tone of voice."

She looked up and saw her Papa's face. He continued, "Not only did you not greet me, you did not greet your brothers and your cousin. That rudeness is inexcusable. What do you have to say?"

She stood up and looked at her brothers and her cousin and said testily, "I have nothing to say to them, there all mean and I hate them." With that she ran out the front door.

"ELEANOR GRACE, come back here this instant!" Pa shouted. As the last word came out of his mouth, the front door slammed. Pa was on his feet in an instant, "When I get hold of that little missy, she won't be sitting at this table or anywhere else."

"Now Pa," Hoss, always the peace maker, said softly, "Ellie is just in one of them moods. She didn't mean nuthin' by it."

His father glared, "I will not tolerate such behavior in this house."

"Ummmm, Uncle Ben," ventured Will. Will stood up to move toward his uncle.

Pa turned toward Will, "What?" he demanded.

Will just stood there with his eyes on the floor. He wasn't sure how to tell Uncle Ben that he had swatted Ellie.

"Ummmm, well, sir…." Will couldn't believe he was 27 years old and the stare his uncle fixed him with made him feel like he was 10.

"Out with it William," his uncle spat.

"Ellie is mad at me because I gave her a couple of swats yesterday. I'm sorry sir if I overstepped my bounds. I know I'm not her father or one of her brothers. She just made me so mad and scared, I swatted her."

The eyebrows of all her brothers, except Joe, went up with eyes blazing. "Pa, I swatted her too" said Hoss.

"Me too," said Adam and Clay.

Joe just sat there dumb founded. Ellie had gotten herself swats from all of them? And with that outburst she was bound to get more. He shook his head, he thought and people were always telling him, he had a bad temper.

"Joseph, you are excused, see that Ellie gets to school. I want to talk to your brothers."

Joe took off like a scared rabbit. Will started to get up, brothers didn't include him.

Pa fixed Will with a look that would have melted ice, "Oh no young man, you will sit down right now. When I said brothers, that includes you. You are as a son to me and I will treat you as such in all things." The emphasis was certainly on the word "all". Will got his drift immediately, he understood that no matter how old he was, his uncle felt like he could met out any punishment necessary.

Will sat down, "Yes, sir."

Pa held his head in his hands. He was very angry with every child of his, except for Little Joe. How Little Joe escaped getting in this mess was beyond him.

"All right, let's get started on explanations. Since, you volunteered first William, you can start." Ben Cartwright's voice brooked no disobedience from any sector.

"Umm…Uncle Ben…"

"William", the simple word was a command.

"Yes, sir. Well, ummm," he took a deep breath. "I caught Ellie with Joe's pistol in the south pasture firing at a bunch of tin cans."

"What?" thundered Pa.

The other three brothers sucked in air and looked at their Pa. His eyes were smoldering, he was starting to breathe hard, if you looked closely you could see steam coming off the top of his head.

"Well, sir, it seems that Little Joe let Ellie have his old gun and she decided she needed a little practice. I knew that if you found out, you would be angry, so I thought I'd just handle it. I turned her over my knee, gave her a couple of swats and sent to her back to the ranch to her room. I told her that if I didn't find her in her room when I came home, I would tell you what happened. Uncle Ben, I was just so worried about her getting hurt, I guess I over reacted." He looked down at the table. I'm sorry Uncle Ben, I just did what I thought was right."

Pa didn't even answer Will. He eyed the other boys and said, "Ok, who's next."

Hoss cleared his throat. "Uh, Pa, I'd reckin' that'd be me."

"Go on son," Pa said with steel in his voice.

"Ellie came into the yard riding Windy so hard, I thought the pony was gonna just keel over. I was so mad at her for treating her pony like that, I just pulled her off her horse and swatted her behind. I didn't even ask her what was wrong. I guess she was ridin' that away cuz she had just gotten paddled by Will. I told her to go set in her room until supper time and iffin' she didn't I was going to tell you."

"Umm hmm. Ok who's next."

Clay sighed, "I guess that would be me, sir."

Pa just fixed him with a stare that would make any man shake.

"Well, it must have been after she got sent up to the house, she walked in the house, swearin' up a storm. I told her you better not hear the language comin' out of her mouth. She started sassing me, saying I wasn't her Pa and I couldn't tell her what to do and I could go to hell."

"Clayton, I won't tolerate that language in this house!" Pa roared.

"No sir. I know. Anyway, I turned her over my knee for a couple of swats and sent her to her room. I told her that if she came down before dinner I would have a little talk with you." Clay finished with his eyes down.

"Adam, what have you got to add to this?"

Adam had been listening to all this and knew that Ellie had gotten everything she had deserved and he knew Pa wasn't really angry, at least not at the boys. He cleared his throat. "Pa, I caught her in my room getting a book. I didn't ask any questions, I just took her over my knee, gave her a swat and sent her to her room."

Ben Cartwright sat back with his fingers steepling in front of his face. He fixed each of the boys with a hard look and said, "Boys, I appreciate the fact that you are willing to discipline your sister and I agree with everything you did to Ellie. However, there seems to be a vein of deception that runs through this entire story. If you feel the need to swat Joe or Ellie, I expect you to come tell me. I don't want you to handle the situation and then try and hide it from me. I need to know what they are up to and about any disobedience. Do I make myself clear?"

Choruses of "Yes, sir" came from around the room.

"Another thing, I need one of you to go pick her up from school. I don't think Joseph will be sitting his horse very well this afternoon."

"I'll go", all the boys chorused.

Pa smiled, "Well, I don't care which of you goes, just someone make sure they go pick her up after school. Now I believe, my young men have some work to do, so, get to it."

The boys chorused a hasty "Yes, sir" and made for the door quickly.

Pa laughed to himself as they left out the door. It was really wonderful to be the father or uncle of four boys that cared so deeply for their sister. Oh he knew Will was his nephew, but to him, Will was just another one of his boys. Still he thought, I need to have a serious talk with one younger son.

Meanwhile, on the way to school, Joe caught up with Ellie. "Jeez Sissy, you really did it. Pa's gonna tan your hide so hard, you won't be sitting down for a month of Sundays."

"Leave me alone, Joe."

"Pa told me to see you to school and that's what I'm doing, like it or not."

Ellie sighed. Joe was her best friend in the whole world. He didn't treat her like a baby like the rest of her brothers. She wasn't mad at him. "Sorry, Joe."

Joe shrugged. "Sissy, why you so mad at our big brothers?"

Ellie hesitated, "Promise not to tell Papa?"

"Oh Sissy, it's too late for that now. I bet by now, whatever happened between you and them's been spilt by now."

Ellie looked horrified.

Joe looked at her "Sissy, what's a matter, you look white as a sheet on laundry day?"

"Joe, they all tanned me yesterday."

"I know, they said as much, but why?"

"Joe," she hesitated, "I was practicing in the south meadow with your old gun…."

"You what!" he shrieked. "Oh my Lord, Pa's gonna find out I've been teaching you again and he's gonna….I don't even want to think about it."

"Joe, that's not all…." she proceeded to tell him about riding Windy hard, swearing, sassing Clay and being in Adam's room.

"Whooo wee, girl, you are in some kinda of trouble."

"I know," she said miserably.

Right about then, they arrived at the school yard. Ellie jumped off of Windy. Joe took Windy's reigns and said, "I'll stable Windy, you go on."

She nodded gratefully.

"And Sissy, it will be ok. It's bound to blow over by the time school is out. Pa won't tan you if the others already did."

"I know Joe, but I sassed Papa something awful this morning."

"Oh, yeah," said Joe giving her a sympathetic look. The school bell rang and Ellie dragged herself into school.

Joe headed for home and thought about the tanning he was going to get when Pa found out he had been teaching Ellie to shoot. He thought about taking the long way home, but figured Pa was pretty hot and he better not make him any madder. He thought he was way too old to be tanned at 17, but he knew he had crossed the line so far, that his age wasn't going to save his behind. Joe got into the yard, he went into the barn to put up Cochise. Hoss was in the barn tending to Chubb. "Joe, ya better git up to the house, Pa's awaitin."

Joe gulped. "Best git it over with lil brother. Pa's not gonna git any happier with you stallin' out here." Hoss went to Joe and gave him a hug, "Go, on boy." as he gave him a little shove toward the house. Hoss's heart went out to him. He knew there was no way of escaping a tanning this time.

With his shoulders slumped and his head down. Joe went into the house to face the patriarch of the Cartwright family. He opened the door and looked toward his father's desk. Pa's head was down studying some paperwork. Joe cleared his throat. Pa looked up at him. Joe saw Pa's eyes mixed with anger and disappointment.

"You wanted me, Pa?" Joe asked in a very small voice.

"Come here, Joseph." Pa commanded.

Joe moved slowly until he stood directly in front of his father. He hung his head, "I'm sorry, Pa."

"Joseph, look at me."

Joe forced himself to look at his father and gulped.

"Did I or did I not tell you that you were not to teach your sister to shoot until she was older?"

"Yes, sir, but….." Pa held up his hand to forestall any explanation.

"But you decided on your own that you would disobey me."

"Yes, sir, but…."

"Joseph, do you think I make these rules for no reason?"

"No, sir."

"Joseph, I make the rules for the safety of you, your brothers and especially your sister."

"Yes, sir."

"I think you have forgotten a lesson in disobedience that needs to be relearned."

Joe knew that the "lesson" was going to make him awfully sore.

"Joseph, you will not leave your room the rest of the day. I'll be up in a moment."

Joe trudged up the stairs. Pa entered Joe's room a moment later. In one swift movement, Pa had taken off his belt and had Joe over his knee. When he was done, he stood Joe up, turned Joe toward him gave him a fierce hug and said, "I'm sorry son, I love you and all is forgiven." He left Joe laying face down on his bed, his face awash in tears of pain and shame.

Meanwhile, Ellie was pondering her punishment during recess. Her best friend Marybeth came over.

"What's the matter, Ellie?"

"How can you stand having four brothers? I've got five and they are about to …."

"About to what?"

"Oh, I don't know…."

"What happened?"

With a big sigh, Ellie told Marybeth the whole story.

Marybeth looked at her wide-eyed. "Oh, Lordy, after all that, you sassed your Papa this morning?"

"Yeah, I know, I don't know what got into me. I'm probably gonna get paddled again when I get home, I don't think my backside can take anymore."

"Honestly, Marybeth, what did I do to deserve those 5 brothers? Well, Will is my cousin, but its just the same."

Marybeth knew how she felt. She had four brothers of her own. Andrew was same as Adam, Mark and Matthew were a year older than Hoss and Michael and Joe were the same age. "I don't know Ellie. Andrew's paddled me plenty of times, but I still love him. Mark and Matt, well they pretty much leave it to Papa or Andrew and well, Michael wouldn't even think about it."

Ellie sighed, "so you only have four after you including your Papa, and Mark and Matt are probably like Hoss. I can count on my one hand the number of times Hoss has paddled me. I sure can't say the same about Adam. So, you really only have Andrew and your Papa. Me, I have Papa, Adam, Will, and Clay. They all have a heavy hand. It's not that I don't love them, but you know, I just get tired of all those bossing me around all the time and swatting me."

Just then, the school bell rang and the children filed back into the school house. The day just dragged for Ellie. She didn't want to rush home. When the school day was finally over, she and Marybeth walked out of the school house together, waiting for someone to come pick them up. Shortly, Michael came to pick up Marybeth. Ellie sat there waiting for one of her brothers. She thought about just riding home on her own, but she didn't want to get in any more trouble than she already was. She decided that she should at least get Windy out of the stable and be ready.

Back home, the older brothers were coming into the yard. They all stared at each other. Pa opened the door when he heard horses in the yard. He scanned the faces of his boys, Adam, Will, Clay and Hoss. Pa looked a little perturbed. "Boys, where is your sister?"

They all started talking at once. Each one thought the other would have gotten Ellie or maybe Joe. Pa held up his hand to quiet the bunch. No one took notice.

Finally, Pa roared, "QUIET!".

Adam spoke, "Pa, I think we all thought one of the other's were going."

"Well," Pa growled, "someone better go and I mean now!"

With that, the four took off for Virginia City. Pa chuckled to himself, he was sure that Ellie was in no mood to see all four. Little did he know, how grateful she would be.

Ellie started walking toward the stable, when she saw a bunch of older boys hanging around the stable. She hesitated, she didn't know those boys. They looked to be at least Joe's age. Maybe she should wait for whoever was picking her up. She decided, its ok she was just getting Windy, what was the harm in that? She slowly approached the stable.

"Heh, Ely who is that pretty thing?"

"Oh, don't know Tom."

"You think she wants a kiss?"

"Oh, I don't know Rufe, maybe she does."

"Heh, you know her, Bobby?"

"Yup, I'm thinking she is a Cartwright. She looks just like Little Joe. I think I'll steal me a little kiss."

"Come on honey, let's have a little kiss."

Ellie was petrified. She started backing up. "Pl, pl , please leave me alone," she stuttered.

"Oh, we isn't gonna hurt ya, " said the one called Bobby. "It'll be fun," he said. The other boys snickered.

"Please, one of my brothers will be here to pick me up any minute." she stammered.

"Well, they ain't here now, so let's have us a little fun." said the one named Rufe. He started to walk toward her, grabbing her arm. She was twisting and squirming. Then the one named Tom grabbed her other arm. Ellie started to cry. "Please leave me alone," she begged.

The boys road into the school yard and saw no sign of Ellie. Adam was furious, where is that girl? She knows to stay here until someone comes and gets her. She thinks the swat she got from me yesterday was bad, just wait until I get my hands on her. He looked at his brothers and cousin and saw they were all thinking the same thing.

Hoss noted the dark look on his oldest brother's face. He said, "Calm down Adam. Afore you assume she is doing wrong. She's probably in the stable getting Windy. Let's just go have a look see."

As the boys came up on the stable, they noticed a lone figure struggling surrounded by four others. Hoss placed his hand on Adam's arm and whispered, "That's Ellie."

Adam placed his arm out in front of Will and Clay, he whispered "Ellie" as he nodded toward the group. He signaled for Will and Clay to go to his left and he signaled for Hoss to go to his right.

Ellie looked up briefly from her struggle and saw Adam and her other brothers surround her and her tormentors. Adam caught her eye and put his finger to her lips. She looked down and ceased struggling with the boys.

"Well, that's more like it." sneered the one named Bobby.

"Let go of my sister ." Adam said, his voice cold as steel.

Bobby whirled around to face Adam. Bobby was pretty big, but not as big as Adam.

"Ellie, come here." Adam's voice commanded. The boys parted and faced Adam as Ellie walked over to Adam.

"Come on boys," said Bobby, "it's four agin one, we can take him."

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Adam said coldly.

"They's just one of you and four of us, you ain't that good." said Bobby nastily.

"Perhaps, however….." Adam started.

Clay stepped up behind one of the others. "He has a little help." Clay said smiling tightly.

"Yeah, it wouldn't be right four agin one," said Hoss as he stepped behind one of the other boys.

"And I don't take kindly to you bothering my little cousin, here." Will said as he stepped behind the third boy.

The four tormentors froze and turned to face the other three Cartwright boys.

Bobby cringed looking at Ellie. "I thought you had only two brothers."

"Oh no, you didn't ask. If you had, I would have told you that I have 5 brothers, Adam, Will, Clay, Hoss and Joe. Only Will's my cousin, but he may as well be my brother."

Will smiled to himself. He liked that Ellie thought of him as one of her brothers.

The boys looked like they were going to bolt. But, each one was grabbed by the shirt collar by one of the Cartwright boys. Hoss grabbed two. "I think we ought to haul these boys on down to the sheriff." With that, Hoss, Clay and Will dragged the offending boys down to the sheriff.

As the brothers headed for the sheriff, Adam held his arms out to Ellie, "Ellie," he whispered.

She fell into his arms crying with relief. "Adam, I was so scared. I'm sorry I was so mean to you. I don't hate you. I don't hate you. Please forgive me Adam," she sobbed.

"Sssh, baby, all is forgiven. Ellie, I have to ask you a question."

He steeled his breath, "Ellie did those boys touch you?"

"What do you mean, Adam?" she sniffed through her tears.

He didn't know how to ask. He said in a very low voice, "Ellie, just tell me exactly what happened from beginning to end."

Ellie described the ordeal to him in very exact detail. Adam blew a sigh of relief. "That's it Ellie, nothing else happened. They just tried to kiss you and then grabbed you?"

She nodded her head. Thank God, he thought. Ellie is way too young for the possibility of what could of happened here today.

"Adam, are you going to tell Papa?"

"Yes, I have to Ellie."

"Please Adam, don't tell?"


"Cuz, he's already mad at me. I don't want him to be madder."

"Pa won't be angry Ellie."

She didn't look convinced.

Adam took her face in his hand, "Baby, what those boys did was very wrong, there is no way you could have stopped them."

By this time, Hoss, Clay and Will had returned and were standing off to the side listening. Hoss couldn't stand it anymore. He went and grabbed her from Adam, "Ellie, baby, are you ok?" he whispered.

Ellie reached for Hoss and he swept her up in a big bear hug. "I'm ok now Hoss. Hoss, I'm sorry I said I hated you this morning. I'm sorry." she whispered.

She looked at Will and Clay, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" she cried. "I love all of you." With that each of her brothers took a turn holding her and hugging her.

Over Ellie's heads, Adam mouthed to the boys, "Nothing happened." The relief was visible on the faces of all the boys.

"Ok, princess, it's time to go home" said Adam. "Can you ride or do you want to ride with me?"

"Adam, can I please ride with you?"

He smiled, all was right with him and his baby sister again. She leaned against his chest and finally relaxed. He held her tight. His mind was just raging at what could have happened. By the grace of God, nothing had happened. Had he just gone to get Ellie on time….Tears dropped from his eyes onto Ellie's head. Ellie snuggled against Adam, feeling safe and secure. She knew her brothers, all five of them would always be there to protect her.

Pa heard the horses in the yard and came out to see them. He saw Ellie sitting with Adam. He knew something was amiss and Adam signaled him by shaking his head. Ellie caught one look at Pa and burst into tears. Pa reached his arms up to catch her as she fell into his arms.

"Papa I'm sorry. I'm sorry." she sobbed. Pa knew there was more to this than her rudeness from this morning.

"Pa, I think we need to put Ellie to bed for now and let her rest." said Clay.

"I don't need to go to bed," Ellie sobbed. "I just want Papa."

Pa eyed the boys. He took Ellie into the house and up to her room despite her protests that she did not need to be in bed. Pa helped her change admid all the protesting and tucked her into bed. Pa smiled at his baby shushing her and telling her everything would be fine, she fell asleep within minutes.

Pa walked heavily down the stairs to find the four older boys waiting for him. Adam looked at his father eye to eye. His eyes told Pa, that something was very wrong. He looked at each one of his boys and could see the distress in each one of their eyes.

"Pa, you better sit down." started Adam. Adam went on to tell the story, watching his father's face go from disbelief to rage to smoldering anger.

"That's it Adam. You sure nothing else happened?" Pa asked.

"Yes sir. Ellie would have told me. She didn't even understand what I was talking about when I asked her if those boys touched her. We got there before those boys did anything else."

Pa heaved a huge sigh of relief. He looked at each one of his boys and said, "I know all of you are feeling guilty because you didn't pick her up on time and you are thinking that if you had picked her up on time that none of this would have happened. I want each one of you to understand that you have no idea whether or not this would have happened. I want each one of you to remember that the important thing is that you were there to prevent anything else from happening and I will always be eternally grateful to you and God for that. I want you to stop beating yourselves up. That's an order boys, not a request."

The boys just stared at him.

"Did I make myself clear?" Pa stated.

He heard four "yessirs".

"I'm going to check on Ellie." With that he turned on his heel and headed for the stairs.

Clay looked at the others and said, "How'd he know what we were feeling?"

Adam and Hoss just chuckled, "He always knows. You and Will haven't had him as a Pa for very long, but believe me, he always knows, he always knows."

Pa went up stairs to check on his youngest. She looked so young laying in her bed, her long black hair fanning across her pillow. Pa realized that his baby was growing up before his eyes. He knew he needed to have that "talk" with her about boys. Then he chuckled to himself, he also needed to have a "private talk" with her about all the disobedience from the day before and this morning. He thought, she's growing up, but she is still so young. He closed her door thinking, all those talks he needed to have with her could wait another day.