Three weeks later

Coming up to the pasture, Ethan stops at the fence to watch as Rob works with one of their new horses. The mare seems to be responding well to Rob. Catching sight of Ethan watching him, Rob calls

"Hello Uncle Ethan. I've got her just about ready to try riding her. She's accepted the saddle on her back without complaining. So far she's only complained about having the bit put in her mouth. She nipped me on the hand when I first tried it." Rob says smiling at Ethan.

"She does seem to be an even tempered girl. When are you planning to try the saddle? I think it would be a good idea for me to be around when you do. Just for safety reasons."

"Yes Sir, I was going to try her this afternoon. I could do it now though. Do you want me too?" Rob asks.

"That would be fine, Rob. Just remember to tighten everything before you mount and mount slowly. She's never had anyone sit on her and we don't know how she'll react."

Rob carefully lowers the saddle onto the horses back, reaches under her stomach and pulls the saddle strap tight. He puts his foot in the stirrup and swings his leg up and over the horse. Moving slowly he lowers himself into the saddle.

The horse bucks once and then races around the pasture coming closer and closer to the fence each time around. On the third pass she suddenly stops moving. Not holding on that tightly Rob finds himself over her head and then flat on his back on the ground.

Ethan is beside him instantly. "ROB! Are you hurt? Can you sit up for me?"

Sitting up, Rob feels a little dizzy but mostly embarrassed. "I've never been tossed like that before. I can usually hold on better. I misjudged her reaction! She's a lot more hot headed than I thought! She makes me think of Claire in that way. All sweet and nice and then without warning turns on you!"

Ethan has to chuckle at that assessment of his feisty niece. "You'd better not let Claire know you just compared her to a horse! There's no telling what she might decide to do to you!"

"Yeah, I once said she reminded me of a broody hen and she pushed me into the pond!"

"AHH, now I understand why you came back soaked to the skin that day. I always wondered about that. Claire does have a bit of a temper sometimes. Her Mama was just like that. She pushed me into the horse trough once when I was ten. We were in town doing errands for our Pa and I sassed her. One minute I was on the dusty street being defiant to my sister and the next I was face down in dirty water in a horse trough! I never sassed her again!"

"Do you think you can stand now, son? I'll be here to help you."

"Yes sir. I'm sure I can stand now. I'm not feeling dizzy now, but that landing sure did restart the fire in my butt! You'd think after all these weeks it would have died down a little. You sure do know how to give out a thrashing."

"Well Robert, I meant for you to feel the consequences of such poor decisions. Lucky for you most of your consequences were focused on your backside. You could have been shot for doing such a dangerous thing. I wanted to make sure that you would never do something that foolish again without at least thinking of the pain you felt the first time. Bad decisions like that can cause you to be killed! If a little pain and sickness helps you to remember not to be so foolish again then I highly think it was worth it." Ethan answers sternly.

"Yes Sir. I am so sorry I disappointed you and caused all of the trouble. I'm also sorry to have acted out during the time I've been staying here. You were right to whip me and give me that thrashing too. I deserved everything for being so stupid! I promise you right now, I won't be stupid anymore." Rob says fighting the tears that are threatening to come.

Pulling the boy up and into his arms, Ethan says "Rob, you are NOT stupid. You are a very bright and capable young man. If I didn't think of you in that way I wouldn't be trusting you to work with the horses. You made a mistake. A big mistake but it was just a mistake. If you learn from it then that's what's important. I punished you because I care about you. If I didn't I would have waited for your Uncle and let him take care of punishing you."

"Now let's catch this mare and put her back into the barn. The children will be home from school soon and I have a surprise to share with everyone." Ethan tells him.

Later that evening

Ben is parading around the front room chanting "No more teachers, no more books, no more homework! School vacation!"

"BEN!" Ethan calls after the third time he hears this. "Come here and sit down we have something to discuss as a family."

Coming to the seat and sitting next to George, Ben watches his Uncle apprehensively. The word 'discuss ' usually means talk about something someone did wrong and leads to punishment in his view.

"Is somebody in trouble, Uncle Ethan? I didn't do it! Honest I didn't" Ben says worriedly.

"Do what Ben? What is it you didn't do?" Ethan asks curiously. As far as he knows there hasn't been any misbehavior out of anyone since that time with Rob. Apparently the rest of the boys had decided they weren't going to risk getting the punishment he had administered to Rob! Ethan smiles to himself.

"I don't know about anything bad going on but if there is I didn't do it!" Ben says.

"Me either!" George decides he'd better speak up just in case.

Seeing his Uncle's lips twitch just a little Joseph puts in "It wasn't me either. Whatever happened I had absolutely nothing to do with it! I probably wasn't even here. No, change that to, I wasn't here. I know nothing about it. I didn't do it. I never thought about doing it. It was all Rob's fault again." Joseph can't resist teasing Rob.

At Rob's sputter of "Hey! I had nothing to do with it! It wasn't me!" Ethan breaks down.

Laughing until he has to wipe tears off his face he says "Boys, this isn't about anyone doing anything wrong. Thank you for the entertaining speeches though!" Getting himself under control he says "I received a wire from Rob's Uncle today. He wants us all to meet him in Denver on Monday. We'll stay there for two nights. He has some business to take care of and needs Rob there with him to do it. He's invited the rest of us to come along to see the sights of the city. Would you like to go?"

Claire gasps "Denver! Oh, I'd love to go. We could go to the theaters and see a show! The stores would have the latest styles of clothes too! Oh! This will be so much fun!"

"Claire." Ethan says somewhat sternly.

"We are not going to be there to shop for clothes and go to the theater. We are going because Rob's Uncle asked us to accompany Rob to Denver. We will be there as his guests and do whatever he wants to do."

"Yes Sir, I'm sorry I just got excited." Claire answers

"Rob, your Uncle is going to be visiting some banks so he asks that you bring a suit to wear when you go along. Do you own a suit son?"

"No sir. I've never had a suit. Uncle Vernon must have forgotten this. Maybe I can wear a nice shirt and my best pants." Rob answers.

"No son. He explicitly stated that you were to be dressed in a suit with a tie and good shoes. He told me to buy one if you didn't have one. I've already sent a wire to your Uncle confirming we will be there. I also sent one to a tailor I know who has several ready made suits for sale. I told him we were coming in on Sunday and he's agreed to open the shop for us."

"We're leaving Sunday?" Claire asks. At Ethan's nod, she says "Oh! I've got to get the clothes washed and hung out to dry. The boy's best clothes aren't ready! We have to be dressed properly to go to the city. JOSEPH! GET ME A TUB OF WATER!" she commands her brother.

"Claire Lucille!" Ethan says sternly, frowning at the young girl.

"Sir?" Claire asks, swallowing nervously at the look on her Uncle's face and his use of her middle name.

"You will stop this behavior at once! The boys will help you get ready but you are NOT to treat them as if they were your servants! If I hear you talk to another person in that tone you just used, I will turn you over my knee! Now apologize to Joseph for ordering him around and ask him politely for his help."

Blushing at being scolded so harshly in front of Rob, she says "I apologize for ordering you instead of asking nicely Joseph. Would you please bring in the tub and fill it for me? Ben and George, could you please go get your best shirts and pants for me? I'll wash those first."

As the boys go off to do as she asks, Rob turns to Ethan and asks "Did my Uncle say anything about how long he might stay in Denver? Did he say when he would come back to Paradise?"

"Rob, all I have to go on is the telegram saying he needs you to meet him in Denver for some business. You'll have to ask him your questions when you see him."

"Well, I hope he doesn't plan to stay long! I hate cities and I want to come back here!" Rob says petulantly , sounding more like a young boy than a young man of nearly sixteen.

"You just remember to do as you are told and mind your manners young man! I mean it! " Ethan says seeing the look on Rob's face. "If you misbehave while we are with your Uncle, you will answer to me as well as him! You'd best be remembering that!"

"Yes Sir. I'll behave. I just hope he plans to come back here to live. I couldn't bear being away from here. I love the horses and wide open lands. I feel all cramped in the city and I don't breathe very good either. The one other time we went to Denver was when I was twelve and I got so sick the doctors put me in a hospital. I couldn't breathe without a tent over me for a whole week. Uncle Vernon said he thought he would lose me then."

"Ever since that time, I haven't wanted to go when he visits Denver. I really don't like the big city. I feel trapped and nervous. There's too many people and not enough air or grass for me. I'd never survive living in a place like that. I need open spaces and room to run just like a wild horse!" Rob says as Claire and the boys come back into the room.

"I feel the same way now. Before we moved out here I didn't think I'd like living away from the city. I wasn't sure I'd like being around horses and cows all the time. But now after we've lived here almost two years, I couldn't go back to the city. I want to be outside and free. It's too hard being cooped up inside and having to behave well all the time in the city." Joseph says agreeing with Rob.

"Well, I for one like both places!" Claire announces. "It's fun to go to the city and shop or see a show. We can't really shop out here. There just aren't any good places to buy clothes here. We have the school plays but that is no where near the quality of a stage show! I hope I can get to see another stage show again sometime. I miss them."

"I don't!" Joseph says. "If I never saw another production, it would be fine with me. I had enough of stage life when we had to travel all the time with Mama. I like the ranch the best! Say what you want but this is best!"

"Joseph, Claire, there are chores to be done before we can go to the city. Please hold your discussion until later so you can begin getting them done." Ethan says reminding his older children to get busy. "Ben, George, you two split up and help Claire, Joseph and Rob get ready to leave. We need to be packed and ready by tomorrow afternoon."