'Oh no! No! You wouldn't!' Jamie cried, staggering backwards as the large frame of Ben Cartwright advanced upon him.

Ben's eyes were dark with menace but a curve in his lip showed that he was amused by the boy's reaction to the threat.

'Oh yes, I would!' he growled.

Jamie bumped into the cabinet at the end of the room and, seeing Ben reach out for him, tried to duck beneath the man's arm. Ben caught him, or rather his suit jacket, which slipped off as the boy tried to make for a hasty exit.

'Hold up there, young man!' Before he was free, Ben's other hand had grabbed a firm hold of Jamie's collar. He turned the boy around and lifted his right leg to rest on the edge of Jamie's bed, propelling the boy over his raised knee so that his backside was high in the air.

'You can't do this!' Jamie shrieked as the man raised his hand.

'Oh yes I can.' Ben said, bringing the hand down smartly on the boy's backside.

'OW!' Jamie cried out. He tried to scrabble off the man's knee but was held firmly in place. Had he done an inch of work in his life the sixteen year old might have made a better show of fighting against Ben. But the patriarch of the Ponderosa had worked hard all of his life and even though he was three times the boy's age, he had no trouble holding Jamie in place for his punishment. His work-callused hand rained down hard on the boy's backside, to the accompaniment of many yelps and cries from the recipient.

'Wait til my father hears about this!' Jamie shouted, tears of rage and humiliation squeezing out from between his scrunched up eyelids.

'Never mind about your father!' Ben said, slapping the boy's thighs for good measure.

'OW! Stop it!' Jamie, placed both his hands on Bens leg and pushed upwards, kicking his legs in an attempt to get free.

'Hold up there!' Ben snapped, swatting Jamie hard several times.

'Stop! OW!'

But Ben continued spanking the boy. It might have been Jamie's imagination at this point but he thought he could hear people laughing, particularly that contemptible chortle of the giant oaf Hoss. He shouted again and again for the man to stop but the pleas fell on deaf ears.

Only when Ben had decided that Jamie had been soundly spanked did he stop, yanking the boy off his leg and taking his arm in an iron grip. Dazed by the sudden change, Jamie let himself be marched down the stairs. To his horror he saw that Joe and Hoss were standing at the bottom. The must have heard the whole thing! Jamie stopped massaging his aching backside as Ben addressed his sons.

'Boys, I want you to meet our new ranch hand.'

With that he gave Jamie one last swat, which stung like the blazes, and stalked off to his desk to finish his books.

Later that week Jamie was again cleaning out the dreaded barn. He had to admit, the second time wasn't near as hard as the first - not that he'd say it out loud though! It had been a long week and Jamie was exhausted and very near his temper's limits. He'd managed to stay quiet, at least when the Cartwright's were around to hear him, and had only had a few private temper tantrums about his miserable lot.

He was just finishing on the floor when Little Joe came into the stable, walking his horse Co-something, Jamie didn't remember or care. With a wicked little grin that the young man always seemed to have reserved just for him, Joe tossed the horse's reigns to Jamie.

'Put up Cooch would ya, kid,' he said. 'I'm busy just now. Just take off his saddle and bridle, give him a good rub down and feed him some of those oats, it's been a long morning for the both of us.'

'Why do I have to do it?' Jamie snapped.

'Because I said so,' Joe said with that irritating little smile. 'You work for us now, kid. That means you do as I say.'

Jamie snarled as the older man strolled out of the barn. Probably headed to the house for a cool glass of lemonade Jamie fantasised. He flung Cochise's reigns over the rail and unbuckled the saddle, dumping it on the floor in anger. Then he began swiping at the animal with a curry comb, almost slapping the horse in his ferocious anger.

Cochise was not impressed with his carer's attempts at grooming. At a particularly stinging swipe to his neck he jumped his front feet to the side. This swung his back end toward Jamie, who was sent flying into the mound of muck and hay that he had spent the past half hour meticulously raking.

'Why you stupid beast!' Jamie snarled. He jumped up, grabbing a whip from the side and advancing on the horse, laying a hard strike to Chochise's rear.

Cochise squealed, trying to back away from the boy, but his reigns were wrapped firmly around the post and all he could do was try and dance away as the second blow landed on his hide.

Jamie raised the whip up for the third time, determined to take out all his anger and frustration on the damnable creature. As he brought his arm down it was caught by the wrist and the whip snatched from his hands.

Jamie turned his head and came face to face with Joe.

'Joe!' he said in shock. The man's eyes were dark. He was very angry. Angrier than with the calf, more angry than Jamie had ever seen anyone before.

'Joe, your horse, he-' Jamie began before he heard the swishing of the whip once more and then felt his backside explode into a red hot stripe of pain.

'Hurts, doesn't it?' Joe said with a voice of cold steel. He still held Jamie's right arm high, keeping the boy turned so that his rear was a prime target for the whip.

'OW! Joe, STOP!' Jamie squealed himself, mimicking Cochise's dance as he tried to evade the stinging blows. He thrust his left hand behind him to fend off the blows from his backside but only succeeded in having the whip land on the palm of his hand.

'ARGH!' he twisted around, trying to get away but Joe's anger had made him as strong as a bull. He whipped Jamie hard, once for every year of the boy's life and then threw the whip away, taking up the curry comb and shoving it into Jamie's hand.

'You will brush Cochise,' he snarled, his face inches from the boy's. 'You will do it properly, and if I ever catch you hurting ANY creature like that again I won't stop with a whip. UNDERSTAND?' he thundered.

Eyes filled with tears of pain and shame, Jamie nodded mutely and turned back to the horse.

Joe stood, arms crossed, watching as Jamie made his way tentatively up to Cochise, who eyed him warily. Jamie raised the curry comb and brushed the horse's neck gently with it. Cochise flinched but remained motionless as the boy began to brush him. Eventually he began to relax and even lean into the comb slightly as the boy worked out a particularly thick clump of dirt.

Joe sighed in relief, glad that there was no permanent damage to his beloved horse and hoping that Jamie had got the message. He understood the boy's frustration and knew that he hadn't set out to harm the horse. If he had then no power on earth would have stopped Joe from punishing the boy harshly for his actions.

'Pick up the saddle,' he instructed when Jamie had finished grooming and had given Cochise a healthy portion of oats. 'And put it on the rail.'

Jamie, flinching at the movement, bent down and picked up the saddle, placing it carefully on the saddle horse.

'Now you're going to clean it,' Joe said. He picked up a stool and sat it next to the boy.

'But Joe-!' Jamie protested.

Joe put a hand on the boy's shoulder and pushed him down onto the seat. Jamie gasped as his rear made contact with the hard wooden surface.

'Don't move until it's clean,' he said harshly. 'Then you better get back to finishing the barn. You wouldn't want to miss supper again, now would you?'

Jamie was about to snap a nasty reply but stopped himself. 'No sir.'

Joe fought to keep the smile off his face. 'Good.' He marched out of the barn.

Jamie sighed heavily. His backside hurt like heck but try as he might he couldn't feel angry at Joe about it. He'd deserved that whipping and he knew it. Resignedly he picked up a cloth and began to clean the saddle.

As the weeks progressed the Cartwrights began to see an improvement in their reluctant charge. His temper had been doused a little by the tiredness that came with regular physical activity and the work he was set began to be completed more efficiently and with less complaint. The boy's temper would occasionally flare but it lacked the malicious streak that had been there at first. Ben could still see a bubbling anger there and knew the only way that it would be calmed was by a reunion with his father, but that was still over a month away and the boy would have to suffer a little longer still.