Summary: Warning: Through the eyes of a six-year old, this subject matter deals humorously with the lower male body parts. It is dedicated to anyone who has ever lived with little boys and to Ben Cartwright for giving us his.
Word Count: 9101
Little Joe turned from his spot on his bed to look out of the window. It was almost day- break and knew he would be forced from his warm bed soon. Today was Friday, the last day of school for the week. Joe was glad too, he didn’t like school, and he hated being away from his father for so many hours at a time. But Hoss was there with him and getting to see his older and bigger brother off and on during the school hours was reassuring to the small boy.
Joe decided to get up and go see if his oldest brother Adam was awake yet. Jumping out of the warm bed and onto the cold floor caused Little Joe to shiver and he stared at the funny little goose bumps that rose on his slender arms. Burr, he sure hoped it warmed up some before he and Hoss left for school.
Running to Adam’s door and knocking, Joe didn’t bother to wait for his brother to answer, he just barged in and leaped onto the bed, straddling the sleeping body of his brother. Leaning down Joe gently raised the eyelids up and asked in a tiny voice, “Hey Adam, are ya in there?”
Adam, who had been sleeping soundly, grabbed his eyes in shock and squealed, “darn you little buddy, why do you always do that to me?” Seeing his brother’s bright smile brought a smile to his own face. Adam knew he could always count on his little brother to greet the new day with a smile that could melt the heart of the hardest criminal.
“What are you doing up so early, little man?” asked Adam as he shifted the little boys weight that bore down on his stomach.
“Today’s Friday, and the last day of school this week,” grinned Little Joe as he began bouncing up and down on his big brother’s belly.
“Oh Little Joe, please don’t do that, you will make my bladder burst,” moaned Adam, lifting Little Joe off his stomach and setting him down beside him on the bed.
“What’s a batter Adam and how do ya make one bursted?” inquired Joe.
“It’s bladder Little Joe and you can make a man bust it by jumping up and down on him when the bladder is full,” Adam informed the curious little boy.
“What’s it full of?” asked Joe, standing on the bed so that he could be eye level to his brother who had gotten up. The innocent smile that Joe gave to Adam melted the older boy’s heart; the little kid was just too hard to resist, thought Adam, returning the smile.
“Look Joe, I don’t have time for this right now. You look as if you need to use the chamber pot, and I know I do, thanks to you. Now come here and go pee,” said Adam, reaching under the bed for the pot. Adam placed his young brother on the floor and lifted his nightshirt so that he might relieve himself.
Giggling as he watched the pee flow into the chamber pot, he told his brother, “Looky Adam, I can do it by myself. I’m a big boy like you are!”
“You certainly are, now go get dressed while I take my turn,” Adam smiled down at the curly headed fella that filled his heart full of love and brought sunshine to every room he entered.
“Okay Adam, but you come help me when ya dun, okay?” asked Little Joe.
“Okay, now please go,” Adam said, as he made ready to take his turn at the old chamber pot.
Little Joe started out the door but changed his mind and ran back to Adam’s bed and jumped in the middle turning so that he could watch his brother pee.
“Golly Adam, how’s come your thingy is so much bigger than I got?” Joe said staring in wonder at Adam.
“Little Joe, I thought I told you to go out of here,” shouted Adam, beginning to lose patience with the boy.
“But Adam, I wanted ta see, and ya didn’t answer me, why is it bigger’n mine?” Joe asked again.
Giving a long sigh and looking up to heaven, Adam knew if he didn’t say something to satisfy the inquisitive little boy, Joe would torment him to death until he got what he wanted.
“Joe, it’s because I am a big boy and you are a little boy. Don’t worry, when you get to be a big boy, yours will be big too,” Adam told him, hoping that would satisfy his questions.
“Ugh, will I get hair there too?” Little Joe asked, making a face to show his disgust.
“Yes Joe, all men get hair on their body when they get older. Now will you please go bother someone else?” Adam said, gently pushing his young brother through the doorway.
Adam closed the door firmly behind the retreating child and smiled to himself. He would have to remember to tell his father that he needed to have a talk with his youngest son. Adam laughed again, he sure didn’t want to be the one to have to explain the whys and why nots of the growing male body, not with the amount of questions he knew Joe could come up with.
Joe left Adam’s room and decided to see if Hoss was awake. Opening the door to his middle brother’s room, Joe could hear the sound of Hoss’ snoring and he laughed at the sound. Crawling into the bed beside his brother’s large frame, he began tickling his brother’s nose. When Hoss reached up to swat at whatever it was causing his nose to itch, Joe giggled and the soft sound caused Hoss to open his eyes.
“Hey short shanks, what ya doin’ in here?” he smiled at the angelic little face staring down at him.
“I’s just wanted to watch ya wake up. We gotta get weady for school. Come on Hoss, get up,” said Joe as he pulled on his brother’s large arms.
At the age of twelve Hoss was nearly the size of a full grown man and when Joe pulled harder to raise Hoss from the comforts of his warm bed, Joe fell over on top of him laughing. Hoss laughed along with his baby brother and grabbed him. Pulling the smaller boy’s nightshirt up to expose his bare chest, Hoss began to tickle the boy until he was laughing so hard that he had tears in his eyes.
Hoss continued his teasing then and sat on the boy’s legs, not hurting them but pinning them to the bed. With his cold fingers he tickled the little boy’s muscles on his chest, causing the tiny nipples to harden as the tickling continued.
“Hey Hoss, that tickles, stop,” laughed Little Joe, begging his brother to release him. Hoss moved so that the boy could get up.
“Hey looky Hoss what are these?” he asked pointing to his own chest and looking into the blue eyes of his best friend and confidante.
Hoss embarrassed at the question, blushed slightly. “Ah…those are nipples Little Joe, why?” he asked.
Laughing, Little Joe traced them with his own fingers, “Looky Hoss, they get hard when I tickle them, why do they do that Hoss, heh?” he asked looking at Hoss and waiting for an answer.
“I dun know, they just do, why don’t ya go ask Adam, and let me git ready fur school? We’re gonna be late if’n ya don’t hurry,” Hoss told him, hoping to avoid having to answer the little fella’s questions. He didn’t know why they did that, they just did, he ain’t never gave it no thought, he told himself.
“Cause Adam dun runned me outta his room, that’s why. Hey Hoss, you got hairs don’t ya? On your thingy I mean.” asked Little Joe, smiling.
“Joe, that’s none of your dadburn business, and it’s not called a ‘thingy’, it’s called a ‘talley-wacker’ now get on outta here. Pa!” yelled Hoss, wanting his father to come quickly to save him from further embarrassment. This was not the way he wanted to start the morning. “Pa!” bellowed Hoss again. This time his father appeared in the doorway.
“What is all of the shouting about young man?” questioned the older Cartwright.
Little Joe seeing his father appear in the doorway, quickly jumped down from the bed and ran into his father’s waiting arms. Joe plastered his father’s face with wet kisses, causing Ben to laugh out loud.
“Well, you certainly are in a good mood this morning Precious. What say we get you dressed? Hop Sing has a wonderful breakfast cooking and if we’re late he might leave us for China,” laughed Ben as he carried his youngest son to his own room to begin the dressing process, which he knew could be time consuming at times.
“Okay, Papa, if ya’ll help me,” Little Joe said giving his father a big bear hug as he was placed on the bed.
Ben was glad to help his youngest. It was hard for Ben to acknowledge the fact that his baby was now old enough to go to school. He much preferred to have him home with him during the day. Ben had missed the boy’s company a great deal since school had begun and he admitted to himself that he was also glad that it was Friday. That meant having each of his sons home with him for the weekend.
Joe was indeed in a good mood and that made the dressing go much faster. Ready at last Ben gathered his son into his arms and carried him to the dining table to have his breakfast. Hoss and Adam had arrived shortly before and had started eating.
“Better hurry now son and eat, we don’t want to have you boys late today, I would hate for the teacher to keep you after school,” Ben explained to Joseph as he sat him in his chair.
“I’ll hurry Papa, I won’t make us late,” Little Joe said with a mouth full of the blueberry pancakes that he loved so well.
In a matter of a few minutes both the younger Cartwright brothers were out the door and on their way to school.
“See you boys this afternoon. Remember, come straight home, and please be good today,” Ben said as he bid the boys good bye.
“We will Pa, see ya later,” called Hoss as he and Joe began the ride into town where the school was located.
Joe was bored; he hated being shut up in the stuffy classroom on such a pretty day. He could hardly wait until the noonday-break where he could get outside and be with his friends. He liked most of the kids in school, but some of the older boys were mean to him and sometimes, Hoss had to come to his defense when the teasing got too far out of hand. Joe sure hoped that wouldn’t be the case today.
At long last the teacher, Miss Jones, excused the class for their lunch break and the children headed out the door, their excited voices filling the out-of-doors with shouts and laughter.
Joe and his best friend Mitch Devlin, who was also six, found their favorite spot under the shade of an old tree that was to the side of the little red schoolhouse.
“I can’t wait ‘til morrow,”said Mitch, “Ma and Pa gotta go inta town and they said that your Pa invited me and my little sister Sissy to spend the day at your place,” Mitch informed his friend.
“I know, Pa told me last night ‘fore I went ta bed, we’ll have fun,” said Little Joe who had crammed half his beef sandwich into his mouth.
Lucas Tatum had been watching the two small boys under the tree and decided to join them, he liked teasing the little Cartwright kid, you could tell him anything and he would believe it, he was such a sucker thought Lucas.
“Hey Little Joe,” said Lucas in a voice that alerted Joe to trouble. Joe didn’t like Lucas; he was always wantin’ to pick a fight with him or Mitch.
Lucas sat down and turned from the two little boys and seemed to be watching someone behind the school building. Little Joe turned in the direction that Lucas was looking and was surprised to see his brother Hoss talking to Peggy Sue, a pretty girl that he knew that his older brother was sweet on. Joe turned to look at Lucas but didn’t say anything.
“Hey looky Joe, looks like Hoss is fixin’ to kiss her,” Lucas laughed out loud. “You know what happens when a guy kisses a girl don’t ya?” he asked Little Joe smiling down at him and feeling superior.
“No what happens?” asked Joe in a worried voice. He sure didn’t want anything bad to happen to his brother.
Laughing down at the worried boy, the eight-year old told him the consequences of kissing. “When a boy kisses on a girl, she gets pregnated and then she has a baby,” he stated matter-of-factly.
“What?” said Joe in a shocked voice. “Are you sure? That don’t sound right to me,” Little Joe told Lucas, but then he couldn’t be sure, no one had ever explained to him how girls got babies.
“Well, what do you know? You’re only six, and besides by big brother told me that’s what happens when a boy kisses a girl. So there, and if’n that brother of yours kisses that there girl, she’s gonna get a baby. What will ya pa say then, mister smarty-pants?” replied Lucas as he walked away from Joe, his laughter ringing in Little Joe’s ears.
Joe looked back at Hoss and as Hoss slowly lowered his head to Peggy Sue’s, panic gripped the six-year’s heart and he started running toward his brother, shouting out his name.
“Hoss, stop! Hoss, don’t kiss her, she’ll get pregnated and Pa will wallop your butt,” yelled out Little Joe.
Hoss jerked his head back from Peggy Sue’s and glared at his brother as Little Joe made his way to him. Peggy Sue, whose face had now turned five shades of red ran behind the schoolhouse and entered the class through the back door.
“Dadburn your ornery hide little brother, stop that shoutin’! Now lookit what ya gone and dun. Everyone’s alookin’ at us,” fussed Hoss as he tried to move away from Little Joe who had begun to cry.
“But Hoss, if’n ya’d akissed her, she’d agot pregnated and ya’d been in bad trouble. Pa would’a whupped ya good if’n ya’d dun that to girl,” cried Little Joe, not sure why Hoss was so mad at him.
“Ah, Joe, don’t ya know nuthin’? Girls don’t have babies just because of a little ole kiss. Now see there, everyone is lookin’ at us and laughin’. Just go away and leave me alone!” Hoss told Joe as he walked away, leaving the little boy to wonder what had just taken place.
Hoss had to walk through the group of children who had gathered when Little Joe began shouting. The kids were laughing at him and it embarrassed him to the point that he wanted to go hide and have him self a good cry. “Darn that little pest,” thought Hoss, thinking of his baby brother.
Before Hoss could give much thought of leaving, Miss Jones rang the bell signaling that it was time for the children to return to class. As the children began marching in Miss Jones noticed that the children were all laughing and pointing at Hoss Cartwright, Peggy Sue and even Little Joe Cartwright. Hoss looked on the verge of tears she thought and it was obvious that Peggy Sue and Joe Cartwright had both been crying. The teacher could not help but wonder what had taken place during the lunch hour; she certainly had heard nothing that sounded as if a fight might have taken place. But she was about to find out!
“Okay class, we will come to order now,” Miss Jones called to the class. Silence filled the air momentarily. Suddenly, sniffling could be heard within the small room and the classroom full of children burst into gales of laughter.
“Hoss has a girlfriend, Hoss has a girlfriend,” someone chanted.
“Hoss and Peggy Sue, sittin’ in a tree, K-I-SS-I-NG-, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Hoss with a baby carriage,” sang the class.
Hoss jumped from his seat and ran out of the door, tears streaming from his blue eyes. Peggy Sue laid her head on her desk and covered it with her arms. Joe who was now mad at the class for taunting his brother stood to his feet and shouted at the class.
“SHUT UP! YA HEAR ME? JUST SHUT UP!” screamed Joe whose own tears broke loose and flowed down his chubby little cheeks. This caused the entire class to erupt into laughter for the second time.
“That will be enough class, I mean stop it now, or the whole lot of you will be staying until very late this afternoon.” Miss Jones informed her class and immediately the class came to order. It was Friday and none of the children wanted to be kept after, and Miss Jones had a date with her beau and she did not want to spend the evening with these misbehaving youngsters.
“Joseph Cartwright, go stand in the corner,” instructed the teacher.
Joe was at a loss for words; he didn’t understand why HE was the one to be made to stand in the corner. What had he done? Nothing that he could think of other than to stop his brother from makin’ that silly ole girl pregnated. Reluctantly, he left his seat and made his way to the corner. When Miss Jones placed the Dunce hat on his head, Little Joe’s soft little six-year old heart broke. It was the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to him.
“I will be sending a note home to your father Joseph, I expect a return note on Monday morning, do you understand me?” asked Miss Jones.
Joe nodded his head yes, he was afraid to speak not trusting his voice and he wanted to keep his tears hidden from the class.
Much later, on the ride home from school, Joe did his best to tell his brother that he was sorry. He hated it when Hoss was mad at him, he loved his big brother almost as much as he loved his father and it broke his heart to know that he had been the cause of the unhappiness that Hoss was now feeling.
“Hoss, I’m sorry, honest I am. Please don’t be mad at me, I luv ya,” pleaded Little Joe turning his tear-filled green eyes up to look into Hoss’ tear-filled blue ones.
“Short shanks, don’t cry, I know ya didn’t mean nuthin’ by what happened today. It ain’t all ya fault. That dadburn Lucas Tatum, didn’t have no cause to tell ya somethin’ like that any ole way,” said Hoss as he gave his little brother a hug. Hoss couldn’t stay mad at Little Joe for long anyway, no matter what the kid did; he just loved the little scamp too much.
“Just the next time, don’t shout it out so that the whole dadburn class can hear ya. Okay?” Hoss asked.
“I promise Hoss, never again. Does this mean ya ain’t mad at me no more?” smiled Little Joe.
“I ain’t mad Punkin, I forgive ya,” replied Hoss.
“I still gotta give Pa that ole note Miss Jones sent home. And I don’t even know what I dun to get in trouble. He sure is gonna be mad at me Hoss. Reckon he’ll wallop me good. I wouldn’t mind so bad if’n I’d aknown what it was I was supposed to have did,” complained Little Joe.
“Don’t worry about it buddy, why not just wait until Sunday night to give it to him? At least that way, you won’t hav’ta spend the weekend in ya room. Ya know that Mitch and his sister is comin’ over tommarra,” Hoss told Joe.
“Yea, that’s a good idea, I’ll just say I forgot about it. Tanks, Hoss,” smiled Little Joe, glad to have that problem taken care of for a while. Now he could have fun this weekend and not have to worry about having his pa mad at him too. He was relieved to know that Hoss was no longer angry with him and this caused Joe to smile his first real smile for the first time since this morning.
That evening nothing was said to Pa about what had happened at school that day. As far as Hoss and Little Joe was concerned the matter was over and forgotten. Little Joe, happy once again had returned to the same good mood that he had greeted the day with and the note hidden in his trousers was honestly forgotten.
“Boys, bedtime, come on you rascal, you’re already asleep on your feet,” laughed Ben as he gathered Little Joe into his arms and swung him high into the air. Little Joe squealed in delight and begged his father to do it again. Spinning around quickly, Ben swung his little boy high into the air, this time letting go of his arms making Joe scream loudly. As he started to plummet to earth, his father caught him in his strong arms, saving him just in time from hitting the floor. Joe’s green eyes were wide and he almost cried thinking that his father was not going to catch him, but just as soon as Ben grabbed him, Joe started giggling again.
“Whew Papa, that scared me, but it was fun. I reckon, I’m weady for bed now,” stated Little Joe. He didn’t want his brothers to see how much his flight through the air had surprised and frightened him; he didn’t want his pa to know either. He didn’t like it when they treated him like a baby, so he wasn’t about to let them see him nearly in tears.
Ben helped Little Joe change into a clean nightshirt and then tucked him into bed. After reading his favorite storybook to him for the umpteenth time, Ben listened to his prayers.
Ben smiled down at his baby; Joe had fallen asleep almost as soon as his head had touched the pillow. Gently, Ben kissed the top of the curly head and whispered in his ear.
“Good night Joseph, Papa loves you.” Turning, he lowered the lamp and closed the door.
Shortly after lunch on Saturday, Mr. and Mrs. Devlin arrived at the Ponderosa with their two youngest children, Mitch and Sissy. Joe, who had heard the wagon coming into the yard, ran outside to greet his friend.
“Hi ya Mitch, come on down, let’s go play,” said Joe, jumping up and down in his excitement.
“Hold on a minute son, give them time to get down from the wagon and collect their things,” laughed Ben who had followed Joe outside.
“Hi Ben,” greeted Charlie as he helped his daughter climb down. “Thanks for taking care of these two for us. We shouldn’t be too long,” Charlie said giving Ben the satchel, which contain changes of clothing for his two children. One could never tell what kids might get into and it could happen that they might have need of a change of clean clothes.
“You children behave yourselves now, you hear me?” called out Mrs. Devlin as she and her husband turned to leave.
“Yes ma, we will,” answered Mitch. Sissy started to cry as her parents left and Ben picked the child up in his arms.
“Don’t cry sweetheart. Do you want to come in and have some milk and cookies with the boys?” Ben said, hoping to calm the crying girl.
“No, me wanna stay with my brudder and play wif him and Widdle Joe,” Sissy said and pushed out of Ben’s arms. Ben laughed to himself and stood the little girl on the ground. Ben thought how cute she was, pretty long blond hair and shining blue eyes, and pudgy little cheeks. As he watched her join her brother and Little Joe, Ben momentarily thought what it might have been like to have a daughter to raise. Shaking his head and laughing to himself, he decided he would just stick to trying to raise these wild boys of his.
“Joseph, you boys stay right here in the yard and keep an eye on Sissy for just a few minutes while I have Hop Sing prepare some snacks, please,” Ben called out to Joe.
“Joseph, do you hear me, son?” he called again when Joe made no response.
“Yes sir Pa, I heared ya, we’ll keep our eyes on her,” Joe called back, never taking his eyes off whatever it was that held his and Mitch’s attention.
Shaking his head in wonder, Ben went into the house in search of his cook and hopefully some milk and cookies for the little ones. Ben thought it would be a good idea to take them to the side porch and the kids could eat there in the shade and he could still keep an eye on them from the window in the study. He had one more ledger that he had to finish this afternoon, no matter what, it had to be completed.
After Ben had taken the cookies and milk to the side porch and checking to be sure the three little ones where safely playing in the yard, he returned to his desk. Hop Sing had promised to help him keep an eye on the children, giving him the time needed to finish his paper work.
Occasionally, the laughter of the children could be heard through the open window above Ben’s desk, assuring him that all was well in the yard. Mitch and Little Joe had begun playing in the water trough, splashing each other and wetting their clothes. Sissy had joined in and together the three ended up more wet than dry.
Joe knowing that he had been told often not to play in the trough thought that they had better do something about getting their clothes dried before his pa found out what they had been doing.
“Let’s go hide in the hayloft and get outta these wet clothes for Pa sees us,” he suggested.
“Okay, but we gotta help Sissy climb the ladder, cause she’s just little,” Mitch informed Joe as the three made their way silently into the barn. When they were all inside, Joe closed the door so that they could not be seen. Pa didn’t like it much when he played in the barn, but he had always used the loft for his hideout and Pa had never thought to look for him up there. Joe thought this would be a cool place to hide until their clothes dried.
Mitch climbed the ladder first, moving slowly so that he could help his sister up. Sissy giggled when Joe pushed her from behind to keep her from falling. At last the boys had the little girl safely in the loft and they moved to the corner furthermost from the edge. They didn’t want to take any chances of Sissy falling out of the loft and landing on her head.
“I’m gonna take my clothes off,” said Mitch, “I bet they’ll dry faster that way and he began stripping off his soaked pants and shirt. “Hey, even my underwear is wet,” he laughed and removed them too.
“Hey Mitch, ain’t ya ‘fraid of ya sister seein’ ya like that?” asked Little Joe puzzled that his best friend didn’t mind being naked in front of the little girl.
“Shucks no, she seed me lotsa times, and I seed her,” laughed Mitch turning to his sister and started helping her remove her wet dress and bloomers.
Joe wanted to take his clothes off too because the dampness was causing his bottom to itch, but wasn’t sure if he should with the girl present in the loft with them.
Mitch saw the look on Joe’s face, “Ah, come on Little Joe, she don’t care, and she don’t know no different,” laughed Mitch.
Joe looked at his friend and decided that if he could do it, then he would too. Besides, she was only four years old and with that Joe stripped away his clothing, finishing before the little girl had completed taking hers off.
Joe and Mitch giggled as the cool air came through the cracks in the walls, causing them to shiver slightly and watching the goose bumps rising on their arms. Suddenly Sissy turned to face the boys, naked as the day she had come into this world, and when Little Joe saw her, his mouth dropped open.
“Mitch, what’s wrong with her?” he asked, staring at the girl.
“What’ll ya mean, what’s wrong with her?” Mitch asked, turning to his sister, thinking she might be bleeding or something.
Joe, who had never in his short six years of life seen a nude female body, was stunned.
“Mitch, she ain’t got no talley-wacker, it musta fell off! We gots ta find it, quick. It must be here in the hay,” said Little Joe, getting down on his hands and knees and digging deeply into the sweet smelling hay.
Sissy wasn’t sure what all the commotion was about but she joined Little Joe on her hands and knees and began digging in the hay along side of Joe and Mitch. Mitch on the other hand wasn’t sure he believed Joe when Joe had told him that ‘it’ had fallen off. He wasn’t sure whether or not Sissy had ever had one on before. He did think it best to help Joe though, just in case. If his ma and pa came home and found out that he had let his baby sister lose her whatever it was that Joe called it, he knew he would be in big trouble.
While the children were busy searching the hay for things unknown, Ben worked on his ledger until he heard a knock on the door interrupting his thoughts. Thinking that one of the children needed to come in, he was surprised to find his old time friend, Roy Coffee standing in the doorway when he opened it.
Not even speaking to Roy but looking around him instead, he searched the yard for the little ones. Not seeing them anywhere, Ben stepped on to the porch. Roy turned and watched as Ben twisted and turned his head in all directions and wondered what was going on. His friend sure was acting peculiar this afternoon.
“Ben? Excuse me, Ben,” called out Roy as he followed Ben around the yard. “Did ya lose something?” he asked.
“Oh Roy, yeah, I did, the three kids. Now I wonder where they got off too.” Ben said and continued his search.
Snickering and rubbing his chin, then with arms crossed in back of him, Roy followed Ben step by step around the yard. “Might you tell me what kids you seemed to have misplaced?”
Ben stopped to look at Roy, concern beginning to show on his face. “Little Joe and the two youngest Devlin children. They were here just a few minutes ago,” Ben informed the sheriff.
“Joseph! Mitch! Where are you?” Ben called out and waited to see if they appeared.
When he got no response, he called again, louder this time, “JOESPH, YOU HAD BETTER ANSWER ME!
Little Joe, Mitch and Sissy were still deep in their search for the missing body part and were unaware of Ben’s calls and so made no move answer.
Ben was getting worried and decided that he had better start searching for real. Not sure now just how long the three children had been missing, Ben was thinking only the worse case scenario. Engaging the help of Hop Sing and Roy, Ben sent each in different directions searching under bushes, behind boulders, in the chicken house, the root cellar, even in the outhouse. They checked every room in the house, under the beds, in the closets, the bunkhouse, and down at the corrals. The one place each of the three men had not thought to look was in the barn.
At about the time that Ben remembered that none of them had looked in the barn, Adam and Hoss returned home from working on the fences that Ben had sent them to check on after breakfast.
“What’s wrong Pa?” Adam asked as he and Hoss dismounted and tied their horses to the hitching post that stood in the yard.
“That little brother of yours, he and Mitch and Sissy Devlin have disappeared. I plainly told them to stay in the yard, but you know Joseph, God forbid the boy to ever do one thing you ask of him, just one simple thing is all I asked, and could he do that? No, he had to do what Joseph wanted to do, when will that boy ever learn? When I find him I am going to give him something to remember, you can believe me on that one. And the Devlins will be back any minute now and I have to tell them that their babies are missing! So help me, when I get my hands on that little scamp….” Raved Ben, his face turning red from all of his shouting.
“Pa, calm down, where have you looked?” asked Adam as he came to stand beside of his worried father.
“Everywhere Adam, everywhere, except the barn and I was heading there when the two of you rode in,” Ben answered, calming down.
Roy looked at Adam and could not keep from smiling. He was worried about the missing kids also, but his friend sure could get himself worked up when it came to the behavior of his youngest son. Adam turned his head from his father and returned the sheriff’s smile.
“Pa, ya want that I should go look in the barn fur ya?” volunteered Hoss.
“NO! I can do it myself, but thank you kindly,” snapped Ben and he began making his way to the barn door. He could have sworn that the barn door had been opened earlier but he couldn’t be sure.
As Ben entered the barn searching for the three missing children, he thought he recognized the sound of childish laughter filtering down from the hayloft above. Pleased with himself that at last the wayward tikes had been located, Ben quietly climbed the ladder that led to the loft. He was curious as to the cause of all those giggles. Unfortunately for Ben, no amount of readiness could have prepared him for the sight that met his eyes. At first his mind refused to register the scene that he saw displayed in the hay. There in front of his eyes shined three bare bottoms all stuck up in the air and they looked as if they were smiling back at him.
“Joseph Francis Cartwright!” yelled out Ben, at last finding his voice. Instantly three frightened faces replaced the three smiling bottoms.
“P…P…Pa,” stammered Little Joe.
Ben climbed into the loft rather than remaining on the rung of the ladder. He had suddenly become quite nauseous and swallowed several times due to the fact that he was afraid he might vomit.
“What in heaven’s name is the meaning of this? And put your clothes on, now!” he yelled at the three small children who stood naked staring at him.
“Pa,” began Little Joe, “We got’s ta find it!” cried Joe grabbing for his trousers. “She lost it Pa, it’s gone. Mus’ta fell inta the hay,” he tried to explain.
Mitch and his sister were working hard at putting their clothes on and the little girl had begun to cry.
“I don’t understand…who lost what? And why are you all naked?” asked Ben as he helped Sissy Devlin pull her dress over her head. Ben was confused by what he saw and this caused him to be almost at a loss for words.
“Sissy’s, her’s fell off Pa, don’t ya see?” Little Joe answered as he reached for the girl’s dress and raised it up to expose the bottom part of her young body and pointed to her front.
“Sissy’s talley-wacker, it musta fell off and we’s a huntin’ for it,” Joe tried again to explain to his father.
A small groan escaped from Ben. Covering his face with his hands he momentarily held his head in his hands. “Oh my Lord,” Ben prayed, “help me quickly!” he pleaded silently.
As if in answer to his silent plea for help, loud laughter came from the ladder and Ben turned to see his best friend, Roy Coffee, grinning from ear to ear.
“I see ya found ‘em,” he said, taking in the scene, his laughter sounding overly loud in the large barn.
Ben gave the sheriff a disgusted look. “Just help me get these three hoodlums down from here, if you could stop that infernal laughing long enough,” ordered Ben making sure Sissy had put her bloomers on before passing her to Roy to help down the ladder.
Roy carefully helped the small four-year old girl down the ladder and passed her on to Adam who had entered the barn when he had heard Roy laughing.
Adam helped Sissy down and told her to run outside stating that her parents had just arrived to take her and her brother Mitch home.
Little Joe was next down the ladder. “Joseph, go straight to your room and wait for me there,” his father instructed and then turned to help six-year old Mitch down.
“But Pa, what about her…” began Little Joe but was cut off.
“Never mind that Joseph, just do what I said, now!” yelled Ben, his anger ringing clear in his voice, leaving no doubt to Joe that something had made his father extremely mad.
Joe recognized the warnings but not sure why his father was suddenly angry with him, took off at a run, not bothering to stop to bid his friends good-bye. Joe did not stop running until he was safely in his room and had slammed the door. Being sent to his room in such a way usually meant only one thing, a good lickin’ was on its way, and Joe threw himself onto the bed and began crying.
Ben led Mitch outside to the yard where his parents were waiting with Sissy in the wagon ready to leave.
“Charlie, later we need to have a talk. But first I need to talk to Joseph,” Ben said, his tone of voice sounding calmer than it had a few minutes earlier.
“Please don’t be alarmed, but I think our little one’s have been playing doctor,” he added.
Charlie Devlin started laughing, a loud boisterous sound, his wife shot her husband a warning look bringing a halt to his humor. She did not think the laughing was appropriate in front of the children, though it took great will power on her part not to do the same. It was obvious to her that Ben was in a state of parental shock.
Trying to be serious for the sake of the children, Charlie looked at Ben, the amusement still showing in his eyes. “Ben, don’t get too upset, it’s not the first time my young’ens have been caught doing that sort of thing. Shucks, it’s just natural curiosity. Don’t be too hard on Little Joe.”
Ben let loose another long sigh, “But it’s Joe’s first time…or at least I think it is,” he stammered, not sure whether he should be laughing or crying. Certainly his friends here didn’t seem to be upset with the chain of events.
Charlie smiled, knowing his friend’s discomfort. “Ben, trust me, years from now, you’ll look back on this day and laugh. Besides, when you have girls and boys, they learn early on that their bodies are different. Little Joe doesn’t have anything to compare his body with except yours and the boys here, and what does that teach him?” laughed Charlie watching Ben ponder these new thoughts. Ben, uncomfortable with the situation was not really sure if his friend was being sincere or poking fun.
“You’re probably right ‘Oh Wise One’” stated Ben with a smirk, “none the less, I will speak to that rascal about what is proper behavior and what is not proper where young ladies are concerned,” stated Ben, a small smile beginning to form at the corners of his mouth.
“Thanks for being so understanding, I am sorry it happened,” he smiled.
“Don’t worry about it Ben, see ya later,” Charlie called out as he turned the team around.
“Thanks Ben for watching the kids,” called out Mrs. Devlin over her husband’s shoulder as they left the yard and gave Ben an understanding smile.
Ben stood where he was, seemingly to be lost in thought.
“Gotta get back to town, ol’ friend,” said Roy Coffee, bringing Ben back to the present.
“What? Oh…Oh, sure Roy, thanks for coming out,” Ben said walking with Roy to his horse.
Laughing, Roy mounted up, “Can’t recall when I’ve had a more enjoyable afternoon.”
Ben could do nothing to stop his laughter now, the humor in the situation coming into focus.
“Oh, get on out of here!” he laughed.
Roy turned and headed out of the yard but the sound of his laughter was heard for some time, the sound carrying back to them on the soft evening breeze that had started up.
Ben turned his attention to his older sons who had been standing quietly together watching the proceedings that had been taking place.
“I suppose the two of you find this amusing?” he asked, placing his hands on his hips and fringing a frown.
“Well Pa,” began Adam, trying to cover his smile, “Little Joe sure has been asking me a lot of questions lately.”
Hoss scratched his head and raised his eyes to meet the dark ones of his father. “He sure has Pa, he even got into trouble at school and then…” Twelve-year old Hoss suddenly stopped when he saw the dark look that formed on his father’s face.
Hoss remembered too late that his father had been unaware of the scene that his youngest had caused at school on Friday and he had just let the cat out of the bag. Hoss knew that his little brother was in for it now and wished that he could take back his words. He had promised Little Joe that he wouldn’t tell their father and now he had gone and broke that promise.
“Trouble you say? Just what kind of trouble young man?” Ben quizzed.
Hoss hung his head, gently shaking if from side to side, not really wanting to be the one who broke the news to his father.
“Well pa…ya see…it was like this…he…sorta…well…he…hmm…golly Pa, do I gotta be the one to tell ya? Why can’t Little Joe tell ya? He’s the one who dun got himself into the mess. I didn’t have nuthin’ to do with it, well, not much that is,” Hoss said nearly coming to tears. It was just too embarrassing for him to speak of, even with his father who he could talk to about almost anything…except this.
“You’re right son, it should come from your little brother, I will ask him. Don’t worry, you’re not in any trouble,” Ben gently told Hoss and reached up to reassure him with a pat on the back.
“You boys start your chores, I’m going to have a long talk with that baby brother of yours,” said Ben starting toward the house.
He wasn’t real sure what he wanted to say to young Joseph, but he had to get to the bottom of this before things got too far out of control. Certainly the six-year old wanted answers to certain questions, but Ben wasn’t sure at this point just how far he should go to give the boy his answers.
“Oh sweet Marie, how badly I need your help now!” Ben sighed as he slowly climbed the steps to his youngest son’s bedroom.
When Ben opened the door to Little Joe’s bedroom, he found his youngest lying across his bed, face down. Gently Ben sat on the edge of the bed and began rubbing his son’s back. Joe, who had not heard his father entering his room, turned to look at his father. Ben noticed the tears in the green eyes and his heart softened toward this youngest son.
“Joseph, could you please turn around so that we can talk?” Ben said softly, helping Joe to sit up and face him.
“Are ya mad at me Papa? I didn’t do nuthin’ honest Papa,” cried Little Joe, the tears forming in his eyes again. He tried to stop them but couldn’t. It seemed to him like everyone was always yelling at him, standing him in the corner, sending him to his room and for what, Joe was not even sure.
“Well son, I’m not mad, but I will be honest, I didn’t like what I saw in the barn a little while ago. Would you mind telling me what that was all about, please?” Ben gently inquired of his son.
“Could I please sit in ya lap, Papa? It would make me feel safer, cause it scares me when you yell at me,” Little Joe said and looked into the dark eyes of his father.
Ben’s heart melted, how could he stay mad at such a sweet child as this he asked himself. The boy certainly knew how to work things, even if he wasn’t old enough to really know that he was doing so.
“Of course you can, Precious, come on,” smiled Ben.
“Now, about the barn, why were the three of you up there with your clothes off?” Ben asked.
Joe started telling his father about how he and Mitch had been playing in the water trough and how they had managed to get their clothes wet. Then when Sissy joined them she had gotten wet too so they decided to climb into the loft and wait for their clothes to dry. Mitch had been the one to suggest that the clothes would dry faster if they removed them Joe explained to his father.
Ben sat in silence cradling Joseph in his arms. “Go on please,” he encouraged.
“Well, I didn’t wanna, not with a girl up there but Mitch said that it weren’t nuthin’ so when Mitch tooked his clothes off I dun it too,” Joe explained. Then Joe told his father how shocked he had been when he saw that the little girl’s talley-wacker had fallen off and thought they had better find it quick.
Ben laughed out loud causing Joe to stop in telling his story to look at his father. “Joe, son, little girls don’t have hmm…hmm… tally-wackers,” stammered Ben, searching for the right word to use just in case Joe should ask what it was really called.
Ben groaned slightly, he suddenly felt too old to have to be going through this again. Ben tried to recall how old Adam had been when he had first started asking questions, but he couldn’t really recall. And as for Hoss, he had never asked…Oh Lord thought Ben, when would it all end!
“Golly Pa, I didn’t know, no one never told me before. Why didn’t someone just say so?” Joe asked, the surprise sounding in the tone of his voice.
“Well son, I guess since the subject never came up, I didn’t think to say anything to you about it,” confessed Ben.
“Pa, me and Mitch, we wasted half a day diggin’ in that ole hay for that thing! And she didn’t even have one to lost!” complained Joe.
Ben squeezed Joe in a tight hug; goodness how he loved this little scamp. “Joe, what happened at school on Friday? Did it have anything to do with what you were looking for in the hay?”
“Did Hoss tell ya ‘bout that?” Joe asked, surprised that his brother would break his promise to him.
“No son, he did not. He sorta let it slip that there had been a problem though. Why don’t ya tell me about it?” encouraged Ben.
Little Joe crawled down from his father’s lap and reaching for the trousers that he had worn to school on Friday he dug out the note that had been hidden in his pocket.
“Miss Jones sent ya a note Papa. I was gonna wait until tomarra night to gib it ta ya.” Little Joe said and handed the note to his father.
Joe stood silently as Ben read what the teacher had written. Watching the expressions on his father’s face, Joe wasn’t sure if he was getting mad or not. He sure hoped that he wasn’t, he didn’t like it when his pa was cross with him. He liked it better when Pa cuddled him and played with him.
Ben finished reading the note and looked into the face of his youngest. Seeing the unasked questions plainly on his face, Ben reached out and gathered Joe into his arms and held him close for several minutes before sitting him on his knee and turning his little face to face his.
“Joseph, first off I want you to know that I am not mad at you. Miss Jones said in her note that she had made you stand in the corner because she thought you had been the one to cause the uproar in her class. Later, after Hoss came back into class and explained to her what had happened, she understood that you had not done anything wrong. What she also wrote in her note was an apology to you and to me for the misunderstanding. Do you understand all of that son?” Ben asked.
Joe was quiet for several seconds before speaking. “I ain’t in trouble?” was all he could think to ask.
“No, son you are not,” smiled Pa.
Joe snuggled deeply into his father’s chest. “Pa, does girls get pregnated when they kiss a boy?”
Ben wanted to laugh, just the thoughts were more than he could stand but he knew that his youngest was asking a serious question, regardless how ridiculous it might sound.
“No son, kissing does not make babies; whoever told you that, had no idea what they were talking about,” he told Joe firmly.
“I didn’t thinks so, but I wasn’t sure,” said Little Joe smiling up at his father.
Ben waited, he didn’t know what his son’s next question might be, and he almost dreaded thinking about it.
“Papa?” started Joe.
Here it comes, thought Ben, please don’t leave me now, Lord, he silently prayed.
“Can I go ta bed now, I’m sleepy?” Little Joe said as he yawned and snuggled against his father.
Ben let out the breath that he had been holding, “Of course, Precious.”
Ben lifted Joe onto the bed and tucked him in. Gently he brushed back a soft curl that had fallen out of place and kissed his son’s cheek. “Night Joseph, Papa loves you, God bless,” he whispered.
“I luv ya too,” Little Joe said in a whispered voice through his sleep.
Ben walked back down the stairs and joined Adam and Hoss who had waited for him in the great room. “He’s asleep, and Hoss, don’t worry, he isn’t in trouble. Miss Jones’ note explained everything that happened at school. Including what you told her son.”
Hoss smiled, the relief clearing showing on his face. Adam, who sat in his favorite chair was glad that everything had worked it’s self out as well.
“Did he ask any questions, about…well, you know?” asked Adam.
Grinning Ben said, “Only one, he wanted to know if girls could get…I think the word he used was ‘pregnated’ by kissing a boy,” laughed Ben and Adam and Hoss joined in.
“I have a question though, maybe one of you boys could help me out,” said Ben trying to be serious.
“What’s that Pa?” questioned Hoss.
“Which one of you told Joe it was called a ‘talley-wacker’?” he grinned.
Adam and Hoss exchanged looks. Adam wasn’t about to open his mouth, he knew he had not said a word to his youngest brother about that subject.
“Golly Pa, I guess it was me, I’m sorry, but I didn’t know what else to tell ’em. It sorta took me by surprise,” confessed Hoss.
“Well Hoss, who told you that’s what it was called?” Ben asked.
Adam cleared his throat, he knew he was responsible for this one. “I did, Pa,” he said.
“Adam, you? I would have thought you would have known better. What idiot told you that’s what it was called?” Ben asked, knowing that Adam was more accurate in the telling of things like that.
Adam swallowed hard and looked from his father to his brother and back to his father. He swallowed again and then dropped his head. “You did, Pa,” he said softly. The silence in the room was deafening.
“Don’t you remember? I was six years old and you were changing Hoss’ diaper and when I saw it, I said ‘Pa, what is that?’ and you said, ‘Adam, that’s his talley-wacker.’”
Ben’s mind instantly recalled that day twelve years ago, remembering the little dark headed boy that stared in wonderment at his new brother. Suddenly, the great room came alive with laughter and Ben rose and hugged his two oldest sons to him.
That was fourteen years ago and as Ben watched his twenty year old son Joseph, escort the beautiful young Sissy Devlin out the door and into the waiting surrey, Ben smiled as he recalled his friend’s words. ‘Someday Ben, you will look back on this day and laugh.’
That day had arrived.
Thanks to Jennie for the input, the phone calls and most of all the laughs dealing with this story.