Summary: Did you ever wonder if Joe and Danny got off scott-free after all that happened at the end of The Friendship?
Rated: K (1,200 words)
Ben Cartwright stood with his feet spread apart, his hands firmly planted on his hips, and glared directly at the two young men standing before him in front of the barn. Both had sheepish looks on their battered faces, and eyes directed at the ground. Danny Kidd stood as still as possible, worried about the consequences that were to come and how bad they were going to be. Joe on the other hand kept changing his footing every few seconds. He didn’t know what his Pa was going to say and was afraid to even try to take a guess.
“Boys,” he began in a booming voice that startled both Joe and Danny. “What the devil did either of you think you were doing?”
Danny glanced at Joe out of the corner of his eye and nodded towards Ben. Joe caught the look and gave a slight shake of his head and nodded back. Glaring at Joe he mouthed, “He’s your father.” Joe swallowed hard and dropped his head even more.
“Well!” bellowed Ben, “I’m waiting.” Both boys jumped in fright, but were still silent. This didn’t bode well for them. “Joseph, you care to start?”
“Not really,” Joe whispered under his breath.
“What was that young man?” Ben growled.
“I . . . um . . . I said, I’d love to.” Joe nervously cleared his throat before he said more. “I know you didn’t, er, want me goin’ after Danny, but Pa, I—I felt it was my responsibility. After all they said it was all left to me. You said so too.”
“I did Joseph, but after that fiasco we had, I also told you, no, demanded you to stay here and let your brothers and I would take care of things in the morning. Did I not tell you that, Joseph?”
“Y—Yes Sir, you d—did,” stuttered Joe.
“Yet against direct orders you snuck out of the house in the middle if the night to go looking for him. What did you plan to do once you found him?”
“Bring him home, Pa.”
“Bring him home . . . “ Ben repeated softly; so softly that it was blaringly loud, making the two young men cringe. “Bring him home? Then why was it, Joseph, that you came riding up to us ALONE!”
“But, Pa, he did . . .”
Ben held up his hand stopping his son mid-sentence. “No, don’t say another word. Let me try to make some sense of today’s events.” He pinned his glare onto Danny. “Ann comes into the barn being her usual teasing self . . .” With pin point accuracy Ben’s attention shift to Joe. “As you very well know.”
Ben returned his attention to Danny. “I can understand how you got upset and you actually taught Ann a bit of a lesson, without meaning to. I know it was all an accident. You should have trusted us more, Danny.”
“But, Mr. Cartwright,” he didn’t get any further before Ben’s hand was in the air again cutting him off.
Shifting back to Joe, Ben nailed him with a disgusted glare. “And you! Always reacting first. Never stopping to think. You know Ann and what she’s like. You should have known what happened before you ever walked into that barn. If memory serves, the young lady had you reacting the same way on more than one occasion. Am I correct on that account, Joseph?”
“But what did you do? You thought the worse. You acted like everyone else; charging into the barn and making false accusations. Never giving the benefit of doubt; not once stopping to ask what happened. No, just condemned him right off the bat. You were going to take him back. No chances, no explanations. If I treated you that way, you would still be locked in your room for past indiscretions.”
Feeling ashamed, Joe’s shoulders hunched forward, and he lowered his head.
“But, you’re not completely innocent either, are you, Danny?”
Danny swallowed hard and squirmed under Ben’s scrutiny. “No, Sir.”
“You didn’t even try to explain. You just let Joseph assume the worse, didn’t you?”
“Yes, Sir,” came the soft reply.
“Mmm. You sent your horse at Joe and when he was down, you made sure he stayed down. You took his gun and you ran.” Ben paused and watched the two young men before him, and shook his head. “We already went over your disobedience and poor judgment, Joseph.”
Joe nodded his head, acknowledging his father’s statement.
“And you both understand what you had done wrong?”
“Yes, Sir,” they both whispered and waited in trepidation for what would come next.
“Good, then this should come as no surprise.”
Ben pointed over to the forge that was just to the left of them. “You boys fire up the forge, there are some horses that need shoeing.”
“But, Pa, it’s over a hundred degrees today. You can’t expect us to work the forge,” Joe protested.
“I can and I do, Son. In fact, you better get a good supply of coal so you can keep the forge going for a long . . . long . . . time!”
Joe looked at Danny and moaned as he pulled off his shirt. It was going to be some hot and sweaty work, so he figured he may as well find what relief he could now. Danny followed Joe’s lead and soon two shirts had been tossed onto a hay bale as the young men loaded the forge with coal and worked on heating it up.
Adam and Hoss came around the corner of the barn leading a string of horses. When Joe saw what they had, he groaned loudly and slid to the ground putting his face in his hand. “No, not them. Please not them.”
Danny looked from the horses, to Adam and Hoss, who both had smirks plastered on their faces, to his friend down on the ground. He was confused, not understanding Joe’s drastic reaction to the horses.
“What’s wrong with them?”
Slowly, Joe pulled himself up. He started to dust his pants off, but realized it would be a wasted effort.
“What’s wrong with them? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with them! Those dustpans are the most cantankerous, mule-headed, obstinate, stupid string of horses you will ever meet.”
“Yeah, Danny, that’s what we call them on account they end up turning whoever is working with them into dustpans. You know, they’re the broom, and your face, or whichever part of your body they use, is the dustpan.” Hoss nudged Adam in the ribs and the two older brothers walked away in gales of laughter.
Half way across the yard, Adam paused and looked back at the two despondent, young men. “With your luck, Pa almost had you out picking up cow patties.”
Laughter followed them into the house and soon the baritone sound of Ben’s laughter joined in with his sons. Outside a chorus of low groans could be heard.
Chapter End Notes:
As always many thanks to Cheaux, for her expertise with finding my errors and helping with some wording.