Summary: Joe finds a woman scorned is a dangerous situation, even if he has no idea his offense.
Rated: MA (21,980 words)
To Be Loved As No Other Series:
To Be Loved As No Other
Little Joe was bored. He had been desperately trying to stay out of trouble and be helpful around the ranch. Several weeks ago he had pushed his Pa one time too many, and he was now paying the price. He had crept out of his room after everyone else had gone to bed. That in itself was not the behavior that sent Ben into the fit of rage that had resulted in Joe’s current misery. After successfully escaping, Joe quietly saddled Cochise and had ridden into town. At seventeen he felt he was a man, and as such, deserved a night in town enjoying cards, beer, and flirting with the saloon girls. He devised his plan that morning, and it had been what had gotten him through his chores that day. However, the plan did not turn out quite as he had hoped. Having entered town, Joe went to the Bucket of Blood for cards. He quickly joined a game and was making money. A stranger sat across from him, and in Joe’s opinion was less than polite. This did not really bother Joe until he began drinking his third beer. Feeling lightheaded, he stopped focusing on his cards and started playing poorly. He then began to feel irritated at the stranger’s manner of addressing him. He started to think, this guy ought to be taught a lesson.
Joe decided to become the teacher after the stranger referred to Joe as a child for the fifteenth time. He knew it was the fifteenth time, because he had been counting, and he was sick of it. Without much thought, Joe put his hands under the table and flipped it up so that it landed almost in the stranger’s lap. That was all that was needed to get the fight going, and the rest to Joe was a blur.
Joe’s fighting in town was not something new to Ben either. It seemed to Ben that Joe actually liked a fight, and sometimes would go looking for one. The young man tended to agree with his father’s observation, but he usually preferred to fight when Adam, Hoss or one of his friends was present to watch his back, however, this time he did not have that luxury. Joe did pretty well he thought, being able to land more blows on the man than he had received. It was towards the end of the fight that the events occurred which fueled Ben’s anger to the point where Joe knew he was in more than the usual amount of trouble. When Joe contemplated going against his father he always factored in the punishment and decided if it was worth it. He had not counted on the fight, or the problems resulting from the fight when he had decided to go to Virginia City. He realized too late that he was in a lot of trouble this time.
What Joe now had to factor into his punishment were two things. The first was an expensive new mirror shipped all the way from England. It ended up breaking sometime during the fight. The owner of the saloon was trying to “snazzy up” the place and add a little bit of what he thought was class to his establishment by placing the mirror over the bar. During the fight a chair ended this attempt at class, as mirrored glass showered down on the bartender. The second unexpected event was that in the fight, Joe had ended up punching Roy Coffee, the town sheriff, causing Roy to fall over backwards throwing out his back.
The youngest Cartwright had returned to the ranch at sun up with a black eye and nausea in his stomach. He was not sure if it was from the beer or the fact he was going to have to tell Pa what happened. He was leaning towards the latter. Joe only confessed to his outings when his father had caught him and asked him questions. Even then, Joe made it a practice to ONLY answer what Ben had asked. He’d try and never lie to his father, but he felt that it was best that he practiced discretion. He knew though, this time was different, and he’d better be the one to tell Pa what had happened before Pa got the bill from the saloon and heard from Roy.
Some quick talking on Joe’s part had stopped Roy from locking him up for public brawling. For that Joe was relieved, but the mirror was going to cost $500.00. Joe was to pay the whole amount because several people in the saloon had told Roy it was the young man who had started the fight. Joe felt that maybe he could tell his father in a way that would make Ben not quite so mad. He had thought of ways to do this the whole ride home from Virginia City. He thought maybe he could point out that it is really stupid to have such an expensive mirror in of all places the Bucket of Blood. It was bound to get broke. It was just a matter of time. Joe continued to figure out what to tell Pa. He thought he would say that it was really unfair for his father to get mad at him for punching Roy. He felt real bad that Roy got hurt, but, he reasoned to himself, in a fight he did not have time to look at EVERYONE he was hitting. He would have been clobbered if he had done that, and after all, his family had taught him that in a fight you couldn’t do a whole lot of thinking. Roy apparently had heard the fight and had come in to try and break it up. How was Joe to know that? Roy had not been there when the fight started, ‘cause if he were, Joe would have known to look out for him. The more he thought about it, the more he concluded he should not have had to pay for that mirror all by himself, because as he recalled the events, the chair was thrown AT him. He had simply ducked. Would everyone have been happier if he let the chair hit him?
Joe stabled Cochise slowly, all the while telling the horse what he was going to say to his father. On the way out of the barn Joe remarked, “Wish me luck, Cochise.” Cochise whinnied softly as Joe’s departed.
“Joseph. Where have you been!” Joe immediately heard his father’s voice upon entering the house. He walked around the corner to see his father and two brothers seated at the table. All three looked at Joe. Ben saw his youngest son standing before him in a torn shirt and a black eye. Adam rolled his eyes at Joe, and Hoss winced noticeably. Joe stood before them feeling as if he were going to be sick.
All Ben could manage to say was, “Let’s hear it.”
Joe went on to tell of the fight, finally confessing to the broken mirror and to punching Roy. Hoss and Adam exchanged looks and both decided to leave the room. “Man, I’ve gotta get that hay stacked.” Hoss said and quickly exited.
“I’ll help,” added Adam following behind. As Adam went by Joe he said, “Looks like you have managed to outdo even yourself, Joe.”
“Shut up!” Joe snapped back.
“Joseph, right now Adam should be the least of your concerns.” Ben responded.
Joe saw an expression come over his father’s face that actually scared him. He had seen it one other time when he was eight and the outcome had been Joe’s rear end being very sore. Joe thought to himself, “Surely Pa wouldn’t do that!”
“Joseph, I have had it with you!” Ben said in a low growling tone. “You are out of control. I’ve done you no favor by continuing to clean up after you. I’m tired of it, and I’ll do it no longer. You’ll have to learn.” Ben was trying to maintain control. He had thought this problem over many times. How was he going to get through to Little Joe?
“But Pa, I-”
Ben quickly interrupted “Shut up, Joseph! I’m not going to listen to it.” Joe jumped with his father response and began to wish the floor would open and swallow him up. “Joseph, you’re going to pay for that mirror. I don’t care if you don’t draw wages around here until you are 65. I will pay the saloon now, so they don’t have to be inconvenienced anymore than they already have, and you young man will pay me back every penny. You’ll turn over your savings to me today and the rest you will work off.”
Joe did some quick figuring in his head and realized he was not going to draw money for at least six months. He thought, Now how am I going to take Sarah to the dance Saturday?
As if his father were reading his mind, Ben added, “And if you think you are going to go to town to a dance, a picnic, a play, or a meal you have another thing coming! You’re to stay here on the Ponderosa until I decided you’ve learned your lesson. Cochise will stay in the corral, and you will ride Skip.”
“Pa! Skip? Why are you punishing Cochise? She didn’t do anything. Beside Skip is the worst horse on the place.”
“Joseph, Cochise is just a horse, and I’m not punishing her, I’m punishing you. Skip could use you working with him, and you waste too much time fussing over Cochise.”
“But Pa, she’s not JUST a horse! Cochise needs the exercise. She’ll get out of shape. You know no one else can ride her.”
“Joseph you heard me. Hoss will put Cochise on a halter and exercise her behind Chub.”
“Oh Pa, Cochise will hate that! She needs me to take care of her.”
“Joseph this is not up for discussion! You’ll do as I say. I wish you’d put in as much energy caring for yourself and this family as you do caring for that horse. I’m going to send Adam into town to help Roy. You’ll do Adam’s work as well as your own while he’s gone.”
“And Joseph, you are a reflection of me and this family. You’ll not embarrass me again. Is that clear?”
“Now get upstairs and change your clothes, clean up your face and get to work.”
A very tired and dejected Little Joe walked toward the stairs. He mumbled under his breath, “I’d a rather had the spanking.”
“What did you say, Joseph?”
“Nothing Pa.” As he continued to climb the stairs.
Ben continued to sit, trying to calm himself down. He had heard Joe’s parting comments and could not help but shake his head and think, Joe, I wish it were that easy. Even when Joe was little, a spanking would do little to deter the headstrong child. Ben knew that Joe was not a bad kid, he was simply much more impulsive and free spirited than either himself or his other two sons. Joe had been his greatest challenge, and it kept Ben up nights thinking and worrying about his son. He was afraid of how Joe was going to make it through life unless he learned to channel his energy. Ben did not want his son’s spirit broke, but he definitely wanted him to become less impulsive and think things through.
Ben knew that of all of the punishments he had doled out to his son, the two most difficult for Joe would be not being allowed to go to town and not being allowed to ride Cochise. He was unsure which one was worse for his son. Ben knew that Joe could work hard around the ranch when he wanted to, and Joe was VERY used to doing extra chores. Ben also knew that having to pay for the mirror really had not been a big deal for Joe. He seemed to save most of his money and only used it to gamble and entertain girls. He really did not need any money here on the ranch. Ben hoped by cutting off Joe’s finances it would stop the sneaking out at night.
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