Word Count: 1700
Ben didn’t remember when he had been so angry with one of his sons as he was at this time.
Ben Cartwright was the owner of the Ponderosa, a large cattle ranch in Nevada territory. He had three sons, all by different women, and had always felt himself very blessed, even though all his wives had died young. They had, however, left him three fine sons. His sons were Adam, who was 27; Hoss, his middle son, who was 21; and his youngest son, who they called Little Joe. He was 15.
Ben was angry with his youngest son and was pondering, whilst riding home, how he was going to deal with what had happened in Virginia City that afternoon, which, it seemed, had been caused by Little Joe.
The sheriff of Virginia City, Roy Coffee, a long-time friend of Ben, had been the person who had told Ben what his youngest son had gotten up to. Ben felt that it must be true if Roy had told him.
Little Joe and some of his friends had released 30 horses from a corral on the edge of Virginia City. The horses were being held in the corral until the army arrived to escort them to their new home.
The horses had run all around Virginia City, causing chaos throughout the streets. Everyone was also covered in a fine dust from the dry streets, making people cough and splutter. Nobody had been amused by the prank apart from Little Joe and his friends, who thought it highly entertaining seeing everyone run for a safe spot where they wouldn’t come to any harm.
Joe had been seen riding one of the horses bareback, directing it to the edge of Virginia City, where he had abandoned it in the midst of the other 29. He had been identified, however, by Roy Coffee before he could escape. Nobody had been hurt but it had been a close run thing, and Ben couldn’t believe that his son hadn’t been aware of the danger that could have been caused by 30 horses running wild through the streets of Virginia City.
Little Joe had always been a maker of mischief and Ben had had to deal with his pranks more than once with physical punishment as a deterrent. However, Ben often was at a loss to know how he could get through to his son. He wasn’t really a bad or vicious boy, but he often didn’t think about the consequences of his actions.
As Ben rode into the ranch, he could see Joe’s horse by the post, and the door to the ranch wide open. He called the name of his youngest son quite sternly. “Joseph, where are you? I want you out here straight away.” He looked around hoping to see his son appearing.
Joe, inside the ranch house, couldn’t believe that his father had found out about the horses, and he was worried at the tone of his voice. He sounded seriously angry.
Oh well, here goes, thought Joe to himself. Time to face the music.
“Did you call Pa?” answered Joe, looking at his father innocently and hoping he could bluff his way through this.
Ben got down from his horse, looking at his son sternly. “I’d like an explanation, Joseph, about what happened in Virginia City today, I believe you were there, and according to Roy Coffee, you were involved. I’d like to think that that is not true.” Ben looked questioningly at Little Joe.
Joe averted his eyes from his father’s face and looked at his feet, mumbling under his breath, “Oh really.”
“Don’t mumble, Joseph, and you look at me when I’m talking to you,” said Ben angrily.
“I’d like a proper answer and you had better be truthful.”
“Yes sir, I was involved. I didn’t think the horses would all run out of the corral and I didn’t think they would cause so much chaos,” said Little Joe, looking shamefaced at his father.
“No, Joseph, you didn’t think. Why do you have to cause so much trouble in such a short time?” Ben’s voice began to get louder and Joe began to realize he was in big trouble. “Do you think I like punishing you every time you behave like some silly schoolboy, causing so much trouble? But punish you I will, don’t you worry,” thundered Ben.
Ben knew he would have to punish his son, even though it was something he reluctantly used to chastise his sons. But he felt Joseph had caused so much chaos in Virginia City that he had no choice. “Go and wait in the barn,” said Ben. “I need to calm down a little before I punish you, in case I lay into you too hard the way I am feeling.”
“Well, thanks for that,” said Joe, slowly walking towards the barn. “The waiting is the worst bit though, Pa.” His voice reached his Pa as he walked into the ranch house.
Adam and Hoss were waiting in the ranch house, wondering what was going on. They presumed that Joe must be in trouble again, listening to the conversation which they could hear as Ben’s voice had been so raised in anger.
“Trouble?” questioned Adam, looking at his father as he walked in. He could see that Ben was angry. His brother Little Joe always seemed to be causing their father worry and distress, far more he thought than he and Hoss ever had. Adam felt that his father often did treat Little Joe too leniently, but didn’t voice his opinion too much as he didn’t wish to anger his father. Hoss always tried to protect Joe and often wanted Ben not to punish him.
Ben looked at Hoss and said, “There is no way you can protect him from punishment this time, Hoss. Did you hear what happened in Virginia City?”
“Yep, Pa, we heard,” answered Hoss. “What did he think he was up to, causing all that trouble, and causing distress to the horses as well?”
“Why doesn’t he learn when I punish him?” asked Ben. “Am I too soft on him?” he questioned his two other sons.
Adam smiled. “I think you have been too soft with him in the past, Pa, and he often gets out of being punished when he turns his soft, sweet smile on you.”
Ben had to agree. He said, “It’s hard bringing up sons on your own, although I know you have always helped me, Adam. For that, I am grateful. But, still, a lot of the decisions I’ve made over Joseph I’ve thought were quite strict”
“Well,” answered Adam, “if he continues making decisions like the one he made today, he will end up in serious trouble. What if he had caused injury today? It was only luck that no one was hurt”.
“I am aware of that.” Ben looked troubled and then said, “Well, I’d better get this over with.”
He walked out to the barn. Joe was waiting, looking worried and with tears in his eyes which he tried to disguise.
“You know I have to punish you, Joe. I do it to make you understand that what happened in Virginia City was downright dangerous and irresponsible. Perhaps next time you are thinking of getting up to mischief, you will think twice and remember this punishment.”
Ben took off his belt and got Joe to lean over the hay. When he had finished what he thought was sufficient punishment, he helped Joe to pull up his pants and told him to go to his room. “I’ll be up to see you later, Joe, and we will have a talk together”.
Joe walked stiffly up to his room, Adam and Hoss giving him sympathetic glances as he passed them going upstairs.
Ben walked back to the ranch house and sat down. He said to Adam and Hoss, “I’m glad that’s done with, for the time being.”
Adam smiled. “Oh, you’re not hopeful that that is the last time you’ll have to punish him then.
“I can hope, can’t I,” answered Ben. “But he’s got some growing up to do first. I’ll go and talk to him later”.
Later Ben took a tray of food up to Joe’s room. Knocking on the door, he entered Joe’s room, looking at his son with caring eyes in the hope that Joe was ready to discuss his behavior. “Well, Joseph, I hope you have thought about what you did today and will be ready to face the folks in Virginia City because you are going to have to go in to apologize to the sheriff and other people who were affected by the chaos you caused.”
“Yes, Pa, I’m sorry for what I did. I don’t know what gets into me sometimes when I get with my friends. I don’t think about the consequences of my actions,” answered Joe quietly. “I will try to behave myself so you can be proud of me and want me for your son.” Joe had tears in his eyes at the thought that he had caused his father distress.
“Joseph, I will always want you for my son, even though I know you may make further mistakes and you might disappoint me with your choices. But the reason I punished you is that I wish to make you a better person who makes the right choices for himself. I don’t expect you to be perfect but I do expect you to try to follow what I and your brothers teach you. I don’t think Adam or Hoss would have behaved so irresponsibly, do you?”
“No sir,” answered Joe. “I will try very hard to be the person you want me to be, so you can be proud of me”.
“Joe,” said Ben, “I am proud to call you my son and don’t you forget that. Now off to sleep after you have eaten some supper. We will make a trip into Virginia City to-morrow. Sleep well and God bless.”
“Thanks, Pa, and goodnight,” said Little Joe as Ben closed the door and left.