The trip had started off well for Barney. That is until he meet George. George learned that Barney was not really Bill son and for some reason took great pleasure in goading Barney about it.
" Bill does care about me. He is my family." Barney argued.
" Oh Barney he is just looking after you because Mr. Chris pays him too. .Why you watch he'll only give you as much attention as he has too." George retorted.
"George you're wrong, you'll see." Barney yelled.
But as the weeks passed Barney began to wonder, when first Bill was too tired for checkers, too busy for stories and then in too big of a hurry to take him along on a trip into the town they were passing.
As Barney began to sulk George began to gloat. Barney knew that he was just trying to pick a fight. And he knew that Bill and Mr Chris would not approve, but George started in every time they were around one another. Barney had tried to talk to Bill, he had tried to walk away, heck he had even tried doing things to get in trouble to prove to George that Bill was his father, he had put rocks in the stew pot and frogs in the water barrel. Wooster had hollered and Bill had laughed and said that he needed to stop.
That's when he decided to up the stakes, to pull stunts like turning the horses loose, and emptying the water barrels. And misplacing equipment, even these thing did not seem to get Bills attention...
Then when George's pa caught him loafing and gave him a licking, George found a way to gloat about even that,
" Pa only licks me because he cares what I become." George laughed
"You can do what you like, no one cares enough to take the time to lick you, you're just the help,"taunted George.
"I'll show you George Samson." Barney yelled as he lunged toward him with fist flying, but George was already running off.
That night Barney convinced several boy to help him fake an Indian raid. It had served to wake the whole train. As the other men prepared for the fight. Bill decided to see if he could circle around behind and figure out where they were coming from. He cut a wide path around the backside of camp and spied two giggling boys. One was Barney.
Bill galloped over and dismounted, grabbing Barney and hauling him to his feet. Just as Barney thought that he was about to be walloped good. Bill let go and mumbled, "I'll be danged if I will every understand the selfish heedlessness of boys. Get back to your wagons now!" Bill shouted.
Then as he stepped onto his horse he looked at Barney and Growled,
"I'll talk to you later." and rode off to tell the others what was happening.
After breakfast the next morning
"Barney, I don't know what's gotten into you lately, this last prank could have really caused someone to get hurt. Grr," I want you to climb onto that wagon and think about what you've done! I am not sure how to impress upon you the danger of this type of behavior, now get!" he growled so mad he had to get away from Barney and think before he did some thing he would regretted.
Barney sat sullen, on the wagon seat, maybe George was right maybe, Bill did just put up with him out of some sense of duty. He had argued that Bill was just like a father to him, but the more Barney sulked the more he agreed that George was right Bill didn't want to be his father, if he had he would have punished him for the stunt last night. Not just growled.
Bill needed someone to talk with, Wooster would be willing, but Bill was convened that he needed someone with experience in dealing with boys. He needed a father. Mr. Davis, he had two fine boys about Barney's age. So at the noon halt Bill rode up to the Davis wagon.
"Hello Max, could I have a minute of your time?"
" Sure let's walk to the crick. What's on your mind Bill?"
"Well Max, it about Barney, and how to stop all the dangerous pranks he been pulling lately." Bill answered as he walked over to a nearby tree and leaned against it.
"Bill tell me what kinds of things you're talking about?" Max listened, as Bill told of at first harmless pranks that thirteen year old boys think are funny. Then of pranks like untying horses and moving equipment. These pranks didn't cause any real harm but they did cause extra work and needless delays.
Bill recounted stories of emptying water barrels, straying off and not telling others where he was. He told of spooking horses and starting rumors of people stealing on the train. Then last night sneaking out into the brush and faking Indian cries with the other boys, while shooting arrows at the wagons.
This last stunt Max was well aware of, his two had received some fatherly attention for their part in the early morning excitement, both had opted for standing chores as work was assigned for the day.
As Bill finished Max sat in silence for a minute. Then he looked at Bill and began to speak…
"Barney is not your real son correct? Max removed his hat and wiped the sweat form his face.
"That's right we have only been together about six months." Bill answered.
It sounds to me like maybe he is testing you, to see if he really belongs. Max replied.
"I have already told him that I want him with me, what more can we do." Bill answered, a look of anguish on his face.
" I think from the sound of things he wants you to show him you love him not just tell him." Max began,
" Bill think back for a minute to when you where a youngun', if you had pulled just one of the stunts you just told me about..." Max stopped as Bill interrupted.
"Why my pa would have bliss...- you think that Barney is trying to get me to give him a whipping?" Bill, looked a little confused.
"I can only tell you that my boys still look for someone to swat the slate clean so to speak, thirteen's mighty young to be accountable to yourself." Mac said with a smile.
" Maybe he needs someone to admit his mistakes too." offered Max.
"Thanks, Max I think I understand," said Bill before walking back to where they had left their horses.
Bill rode off deep in thought, he thought back to growing up what Max said, made good sense, he now knew what to do. As he approached the tail board of the wagon he heard two boys talking.
" George. I guess your right, I am just a pest to Bill, just a pest."sighed Barney hanging his head.
Bill could hear hurt in his words. Now Bill knew he had made the right decision. Bill tied his horse and walk to the front of the wagon.
" George, could you excuse Barney and I we have some unfinished business to attend." As George was climbing down he couldn't help but noticed the switch that Mr Hawks popped against his right leg.
" Yes sir, I got-a be going anyway, see you later Barney."
" Barney let's you and I take a little walk." said Bill.
When they reached the edge of the clearing near a small rock ledge. Bill started talking,
"Sit down son." "I've decided that being as I have agreed to act as you parent, it is my responsibility to correct you from time to time. Up to now I was not sure just how best to do that. I've spent so time thinking, praying and talking and now I am going to tell you what's going to happen." said Bill looking into Barney's eyes to see if he was listening.
"You've been warned several time about these pranks. And still you disobeyed me. I have no choice but to give you a whipping. I hope that you understand that I am doing this so you will know I care about you and want you to stay safe. " Do you have anything to say before we get this over with?" Bill ask, wondering if Barney could see how nervous he was.
Barney, was in strange state, happy; this was what he had wanted. Scared; he was not scared that Bill would punish him unfairly he deserved to be punished for sure, but he had never been on the receiving end of a switch before.
"No sir, lets get this over with." Barney said as he stared at the ground.
"Alright Barney turn around and drop your britches." said Bill, as he flicked the switch against his leg, he did not look forward to the task before him.
Barney stood and turned away from Bill unfastening his britches with trembling fingers. His backside bared, He leaned on the rock in front of him.
As the switch made its mark over and over Barney thought how it hurt. By the time the sixth swish landed. He was crying so hard that he didn't notice it had stopped until Bill spoke,
" You can pull your britches up son." Barney hissed as his britches made contact with his sore seat. He turned toward Bill wiping his face, he noticed that Bill had a teary look on his face as well.
" Boy I hope you don't plan on making the need for this a habit." Bill said as he reached toward Barney.
Barney rubbed his seat "me too," he said as he wrapped himself in Bill's arms.
"I may not sit for a week." Barney said into Bill's chest. Bill and Barney both smiled as they headed back to camp.