Ben Cartwright sat, drinking a glass of lemonade, on judge Clarkson porch with his old your friends, Garreth Knight, the apothecary, James O'Leary, the preacher and the Sheriff Roy Coffee. All of them had been occupied building the Morrison's barn. A lovely couple, who had moved from New Orleans to Virginia City, a few months ago.
- I'm too old for this (Gareth, the apothecary, said)
- it's not your age (Roy said cheerful touching Gareth's stomach)
- Hey! James a little help here.
- Gareth, my friend, Sorry, Everybody knows that Margaret is the best cook around Virginia City, but it doesn't mean that you have to spend all the day eating (all five men laughed)
- Roy what are you planning to do with those crazy fools? (Said the preacher)
- I can't do anything, they don't do anything illegal.
- one day, one of those idiots is going to kill himself. You should talk with them, I don't know, at least, say something.
- Judge! A little help here! tell this pigheaded that I can't do anything.
- That's not a sheriff business, James.
- But… what are you talking about? (the pharmacist asked)
- About those stupid brats with their horses.
- Ah, yes. Maggie told me something about during the dinner?
- During dinner? And did you hear anything? (The preacher said laughing under his nose)
- ha ha ha very funny, I wish you were so funny in your sermons. (Returning to the conversation) there are some guys that every afternoon go near the diligence path and make runs and prances over their horses, isn't it?
- Horsing? Horsing! The other day I saw the oldest son of Heller standing up on the saddle. Like He wanted to break his own neck! (Said the preacher)
Come on! Boys are boys! It's an age thing (the pharmacist said). Don't you remember when you were their age?
- I Never did anything so stupid (the preacher said)
- No, James was born with the cassock (Gareth said again). Anyway, if the elder of Heller is one of those stupid kids why don't you just speak with the old Heller, believe me, with that bad temperament, you'll have solved that problem in a fly. Let's see… who are the other guys? (Gareth asked cheerfully. But then there was an uncomfortable silence) What? (Said again without understanding that silence)
- Hello Dad, I thought you'd stay the night at the judge.
- Where is your Brother? (Ben asked through gritted teeth)
- Which? Anyway, it's two o'clock, the two are in their beds.
- I'm going to kill him (Ben was so angry that I could not look at his son Adam).
- Ok, it's Little Joe. What has the brat done now? (Adam said funny that Little Joe since Joe arrives to his it was rare the week that his father did not have to make him toe the line.
- What has he done? WHAT HAS HE DONE!
- Dad, shhhhh, you'll wake the whole house up (Adam said trying to calm his father). Come on, I'll prepare you a cup of tea and then you can tell me what my troublemaker little brother has done now, ok?
- There are a bunch of silly boys in the village that get together after school and make careers, and all kinds of jumps and leaps on their horses. They dispute to being the one who makes the most difficult or spectacular somersault.
- No, don't say anymore (rubbing his hand across his face) Little Joe is one of those guys.
- one? He's not one, He is the head of this nonsense. Anyway, I can not believe it, just him, How can he do something as dangerous as that (Adam understood the anger of his father, Joe's mother had died after a fall from a horse. Ben had been very reluctant to give a horse to Little Joe, and while most kids had horses since very early, Ben would not let him ride one until he was 10. Adam's father was sad because painful memories were brought back with all this Little Joe's naughtiness Adam was furious with his baby brother too, how could he even dare? How someone wchich mother had dyed ina horse accident could do that kind of stupid stunts)
- Are you going to wake him up now?
- I should. I should wake him up, twist his ear dragging him out of bed and beat him until be sure that he could not ride in a month; and far from it, make runs and leaps on his horse again. But I'm too angry to deal with him now.
- Then in this case, I will take with me Hoss to the hill after breakfast.
- Thanks, son (said putting his hand over his shoulder and smiling tenderly). Go to bed, it's late and I has been working in the construction of this dam from dawn to dusk the last three days.
- Okay, but don't take too long to go to bed, tomorrow you'll need to be fresh to face our Joseph charm.
The next morning, Adam & Hoss woke up early, They wouldn't be present when Pandora's box was opened letting out all the evils of the world. Hoss, after knowing the latest "shenanigan" of his baby brother He could understand why Adam was dying to get out of that house. The Breakfast was quickly and at six o'clock, when his father entered in the room, they were already leaving.
- I've grown fond of that brat over the years, try not kill him.
- No promises. Have a nice day, guys.
- Thanks dad (they both said, grabbing his hat, and left the house)
After 20 minutes, Little Joe made his entrance in the dining room. Little Joe, was a charming young man, full of charisma and energy but scatterbrained too. He had always been this way, since he was just a toddler. Adam was lovely but very sensible. Hoss was sweet and honest and Little Joe had the biggest heart but he was so rogue and impulsive. And Ben knew that someday that character would be a problem. It's just a matter of time until someone ends up snapping his face (at the very best). And that worried him a lot. Little Joe, Being the youngest, has been protected always by his brothers and him, but since Little Joe was 14, He was becoming more and more independent. Their father or brothers wouldn't be always there to get him out of troubles.
- Good morning, Dad. Have you come back? I thought that you are going to stay another day in Virginia City (Ben said nothing, He remained still taking his tea and toast) Hoss and Adam are gone, that dam would have sucked all the brain to Adam (Little Joe was really in a good mood, he still didn't realize that his father had not said a single word yet) ha ha ha. Maybe I'll go to the dam to see those two this afternoon when I'll finish school.
- Today, you aren't going to school (Ben said very dry.)
- No? (It wasn't strange missing a day to school He did before, when there was a lot of work or they had to made a long trip to a far city) What are the plans?
- When you have finished your breakfast, come to my office I'll be waiting you (Ben said leaving the napkin on the table and getting up. Little Joe, looked puzzled, but continued with his breakfast. He thought that His father should have woken up on the wrong foot)
- Toc toc toc (Little Joe knocked on his father office door, even it was already open) may I?
- Take a seat, Joseph (Joseph? That was not a good sign). Yesterday I was in town and I heard a curious thing (Little Joe turned pale)
- Dad, I can explain it, It was Peter idea, he provoked me, he said the I couldn't hit those bottles, it wasn't our intention shooting the Kaplan's dog.
- the Kaplan's dog
-yes, but the bullet only grazed him, only a little scratch, and it was an accident.
- son, I don't know what you're talking about, but ... never mind, it's not that what I realized yesterday, but don't worry, we'll talk about the dog later (Little Joe cursed himself for being such a big mouth)
- If it's not the dog, what is it, dad?
- Joseph you know How did your mother die, right? (Joseph expression became very serious. Even He still unknown the reason of that chat He understood that the talking about the deaths of any of his wives it was a painful matter for his father)
- Yes, She fell from her horse and broke her neck.
- Yeah, it was this way. Your mother was a very good rider, she loved horses, but son, even the most experienced riders can fall off the horse. By misfortunes your mother broke her neck in the fall (Ben said with tearful eyes. Little Joe remained silent watching his father without understanding anything. His father recovered and resumed his serious pose). So you can imagine what was my surprise when I realized that there were some kids racing and making the idiot on their horses (suddenly Little Joe's face was transformed. Little Joe swallowed hard, and tried hard not to wet his pants). And my surprise was even bigger when I knew that one of those young idiots was my own son.
- Dad ... I ... I can explain.
- Perfect, because I don't understand it (Ben gave him a withering look. Little Joe was speechless. The truth is that there was no way to explain that to his father. Unless his father bought the excuse of "it was just a little fun", but the experience told him that his father won't accept that excuse) I'm waiting Joseph (Little Joe lowered his head and mumbled something impossible to hear) Joseph!
- sorry, sir, I have no explanation.
- No? Don't have AN explanation for endangering your life in such a stupid way? Seriously, son, I'm surprised THAT you don't have a good reason for this (Ben said full of sarcasm and fury)
- No sir, sorry, it will not happen again.
- No, that's for sure. Joseph, because if I'll be aware of you'll do something so stupid again… better that you make you sure that you'll break your neck, because as soon as I get my hands on you, I'll give you the thrashing of you life, kid, listen to me carefully, do it again and you will not get out of bed in a whole month! (Ben was shouting now. Little Joe looked like a scared rabbit) TO THE STABLE! (Ben stood up and ordered his son to wait for him in the stable) I'll be there in a while (Little Joe didn't dare to talk back to his father, just got up, and walked like a condemned to the hang in his way)
Little Joe was shaking like a leaf. He knew his father was going to smash his poor ass. And he knew his father had good reasons to be angry with him. When He was 10 years old and He gave him his first horse, He made him swear that he'll always ride carefully. And he repeated him a million times, that horses were not toys. And if four years ago when his father gave him his first horse someone would tell him that he'll be involved in racings and that kind of stunts on horseback, He would have said that was impossible, that he'll never such an idiot. But Now He was 14 and He wanted to prove to his friends that he was no the little daddy's baby anymore. Joe Cartwright was a brave boy and awesome. But right now, the picture of his father entering with his belt in his hand in that old barn made him cry. But his father didn't come with his belt in his hand, Little Joe was surprised, but He just thought that his father was going to lecture a little more.
- Pants and briefs down! Over the barrel (Ben didn't waste a second. He had been father the last 26, and in all those 26 years He couldn't remember being so angry with any of his children. Little Joe did not dare to murmur, simply obeyed his father. Then Ben grabbed one of the reins of the horses. That was not expected by Little Joseph who quickly moved away from the reach of his father) Joseph Cartwright, return to your position.
- Daddy please, with that no.
- I'm sorry son, but when I taught you to ride a horse I told you this wasn't something to take it too lightly, horses are very beautiful animals but a lapse or an accident you can be seriously injured, or even worst, like happened with your mother, kill you. And you swore to me on your mother's grave that you always be careful. Joseph, you'll be a man soon, and a man who is unfaithful to his own word it's not man, it's nothing. And a man who puts his life in danger for fun is a fool. Now, back to your position.
- Daddyyyyy (Little Joe was crying asking mercy.)
- No, son. This time those tears and that pity face will not get you rid of your punishment.
- But noooooo with that (pointing the rein)
- All right, choose the reins now, or belt every night for a whole week. Anyway, son, I assure you that the result will be the same: You will not be able to ride a horse or sit comfortable, at least, in a week. You choose (Little Joe was thinking about his options it a few minutes and finally decided he preferred to get this over with as soon as possible.)
- Now (said with a whisper and was placed back on the barrel)
- I'm not going to lie you, son. This is gonna hurt like hell, but once we've finished here, everything will be forgiven and I know that you'll never make a stupid recklessness like this again.
- I'm sorry, sir.
- No, not yet but you'll be soon (and with that dropped the rein on the boy's back. Little Joe, stand up involuntarily when he felt the burn on the lashed spot, but after a pair of seconds he resumes the position) ZWASSSSS
Neither, Ben and Little Joe, told how many times did the leather strap downed on the Joseph' shoulders, back and thighs. The truth is that the beating did not last long, that instrument was fatal. It wasn't necessary multiple hits to make a big impression hard to forget in a while. And that was exactly what Ben wanted. He wanted that Joe never forgot that beating to ensure that He never made so stupid and dangerous thing again.
When Ben was satisfied, he helped his son get dressed, the poor Little Joe legs was trembling. Ben took him to his room and laid him on his belly and put a cloth with lavender water to prevent possible scars. He kissed him on the top of his head and let it him rest for the rest of the day.
Joseph Cartwright, Little Joe, never did balancing acts on a horse again.