So Who Are You and What Did You Do With My Brother?
Adam had been back from college for just 3 months but, as far as Joe was
concerned, that was 3 months too many.
Obviously he'd been delighted to see him again to begin with, the whole
family had, but 4 years was a long time for someone to be away. Particularly
when you are as young as Little Joe and, as far as he was concerned, the man
who had walked back into his life bore little resemblance to the brother who
Adam had always been bossy, Joe remembered, but he had been fun too. As
ready to romp and play with his baby brother and to tell him stories as to
lay down the law or scold. But this newcomer seemed to have left all that
fun behind in Boston. He was serious and formal and hardworking and expected
his younger brothers to be the same. This big brother wouldn't know a romp
if it leapt up and bit him Joe thought resentfully.
Hoss was getting on much better with the new Adam. Being 6 years older than
Joe, Hoss' relationship with his older brother had been more established
when Adam left and that and their regular correspondence during the time
Adam was away had helped to keep them close. Hoss was also much more easy
going and more inclined to follow the rules than his baby brother and so was
far less likely to run afoul of Adam in his new status as their father's
right hand man.
Joe on the other hand, seemed to be continuously in trouble. It was Adam's
stated belief that Joe was spoiled and running wild and, to the boy's
absolute fury, his father appeared to be agreeing with him. Behaviour that
had previously been allowed was suddenly unacceptable. Bedtimes, which had
generally been up for negotiation before, were now rigidly enforced and his
last report card had earned him a stern lecture and a vacation's worth of
extra tutoring from his brother.
Joe had also overheard a discussion centring on whether or not he would do
better in an eastern boarding school. Adam's reasoning behind the
suggestion apparently being that a bright boy like Joe might do better in a
school that would stretch him, whatever that meant, rather than a one room,
one teacher school like the one in Virginia City. Ok so Pa hadn't appeared
to like the idea but he seemed to go along with most of Adam's other ideas
so Joe was terrified that he would come around to this one in the end too.
This fear, together with his feelings of resentment at this stranger who had
come into his family and now appeared to be taking over, did little to help
Joe accept his brother's return. His resultantly appalling behaviour and
attitude merely enforced his brother's view that the little boy needed
taking in hand and the sooner the better.
While Ben was around an uneasy truce was in place. Seeing the problem from
both sides he did his best to mediate between them. He accepted Adam's
perspective that Joe needed a firmer hand. With the way the Ponderosa and
its many associated businesses had grown over the last few years Ben had had
little time to spare on his youngest son and Adam was quite right. He was
running wild. But Ben could also see that Joe really was only a little boy,
barely 10 years old. He was determined that his youngest son would enjoy
his childhood to the full, in a way that had not been possible for his elder
two; life having been much harder generally for the family when they were
He made it clear to Little Joe that Adam was in charge in his absence and
that Adam's instructions were to be obeyed as if they had come from Ben
himself. Disobedience would be dealt with swiftly and painfully. But he
also tried to impress on Adam the need to allow Joe to develop in his own
way and be accepted for what he was, not what he could or should be.
It was therefore with some misgivings that he contemplated a business trip
away. Had there been any way of getting out of it he would have done so.
Indeed he had already put it back several times, being reluctant to leave
his family for even a short time so soon after his eldest son's return, but
there was no way to avoid it any longer. Someone had to go and sort out the
mess that was building up and Adam was just not experienced enough yet for
the job. Nor, to be honest, was he totally happy leaving Adam in charge at
home. Not that he doubted Adam's ability to keep the Ponderosa going. It
was more that he wasn't totally confident that his eldest and youngest sons
wouldn't kill each other in his absence.
But go he did, having had a long talk with each of his sons before he left.
Adam's talk centred primarily on keeping the business ticking over but also
included a section on tolerance of the foibles of small boys. Hoss'
concerned mainly the need to mediate between the two different and volatile
personalities that were his brothers while Joe's emphasised the virtues of
obedience, helpfulness and doing one's chores on time. Ben then left,
promising to return as soon as possible, praying that the house would still
be standing when he got back.
Things went fairly well to begin with. All the boys were mindful of their
father's instructions and did their best to get on but, pretty soon, the
strain started to tell, particularly on Joe.
He'd been doing his best but nothing he did seemed to be good enough for his
bossy eldest brother. Too young to understand the strain Adam was under in
being in charge for the first time, Joe just saw his brother fussing all the
time and, by the beginning of the second week, he'd ended up going out of
his way to be difficult. Though, what proved to be the final straw was not
really his fault at all or not very much anyway.
Matters came to a head finally one morning before breakfast when the
brothers were out doing their normal morning chores. Adam, rounding the
corner of the barn to head back into the house for breakfast, fell over a
bucket of chicken feed abandoned on the ground. Picking it up and heading
toward the coop he couldn't help but notice that the logs Joe was supposed
to collect and distribute around the house were still stacked around the
woodpile. It seemed that, once again, his little brother had abandoned his
chores. Furious, Adam was determined to catch the little brat and teach him
to do as he was told once and for all.
As he stood looking around, wondering where the child could have gone, he
heard an unmistakable giggle coming from the barn. Following the sound, he
tracked the boy to a corner of the barn behind some bales of straw where
both his brothers were admiring the barn cat's new kittens.
Pouncing, Adam grabbed Joe by the scruff of his neck and hauled him to his
feet, shaking him.
"What do you think you are doing?" He roared and then continued, not giving
the child a chance to answer, "I've had as much as I'm going to take of you
shirking your responsibilities. Get out there and finish your chores. And
do them properly." He finished with a final bellow and then released Joe,
sending him on his way with an almighty smack to his rear.
Stunned at the ferocity of the unexpected attack, Joe staggered initially
but then grabbed the feed pail and ran.
Watching him flee, Adam suddenly felt ashamed of his outburst. All the kid
had been doing was looking at some kittens. Ok so he should have been
finishing his chores but a simple rebuke would have been sufficient. He
didn't have to scare the living daylights out of him. Turning back to his
middle brother he saw Hoss standing silently watching him.
"I've finished my chores. I'll go help the kid." Was Hoss' only comment but
that, together with the look he cast at his elder brother, was sufficient to
convey his opinion of Adam's actions.
Grabbing Hoss' arm as he walked past, Adam acknowledged the justice of the
unspoken criticism. "I know. I'm sorry. I overreacted didn't I?"
"It's not me you should be apologising to."
"Yeah I know. I'll talk to him over breakfast. Can you go see if he's ok?
I don't think he'll want me around just now."
Patting his brother's arm in silent support, Hoss headed out to offer what
comfort he could to the frightened little boy. He checked the woodpile and
chicken coop and then progressed onto several of Joe's known hiding places
but without success. Finally, thinking his brother might have headed for
the sanctuary of his bedroom and wanting his own breakfast, Hoss ended up
back in the house.
He grabbed some toast to sustain him and then ran up the stairs to knock on
his little brother's door. Getting no response he opened it and peered
inside. The room was empty. Now starting to worry in earnest, he went back
to the big room downstairs to find Adam sitting glumly at the table.
"Where's Joe?" Hoss asked.
"School. He didn't stop for breakfast, just ran as soon as he'd finished his
chores. I didn't get a chance to talk to him"
"He'll come around." Hoss comforted his brother. "Just talk to him this
evening. He'll be fine."
"I hope so." Adam wasn't so sure.
"Of course he will. You know he can never carry a grudge for long. He'll
have forgotten all about it by the time he comes home. Probably be up to
his normal tricks before you've even set eyes on him."
"More likely come up with some fiendish revenge." Adam agreed, cheering up.
"I know. One of us has to go into town today anyway to sort out those
supplies. I'll go this afternoon and meet him after school. He can give me
a hand loading up and we can talk on the way home. Sort things out. He'll
Hoss agreed and the two brothers finished their breakfast in a much better
frame of mind, happy to have settled the morning's unpleasantness.
Joe on the other hand wasn't so sure. Shock at the unexpected attack had
soon turned to fury. He had finished his chores as quickly as possible and
then saddled up his horse as soon the coast was clear. Not wanting to face
either of his brothers over the breakfast table, he had grabbed his lunch
pail from the kitchen and headed off for school still seething at the
unfairness of his life.
By the time he met up with his friend Mitch at their usual place Joe was
angry enough to be ripe for anything and Mitch had just the perfect idea for
cheering him up. He'd recently been given a book on building projects and
some of the ideas included were for boats and rafts. Why should they waste
a glorious day like this in a stuffy old school house when they could spend
it out on the lake swimming and fishing and building a raft?
Conveniently forgetting his father's threats of what would happen if he
truanted from school one more time, Joe jumped at the idea and the two boys
were soon headed off towards the lake.
They had a glorious day fishing and swimming, only slightly marred by the
limited instructions in their book. Whatever they tried they simply couldn'
t keep the thing upright and afloat. They were thrown into the water time
and time again.
"I don't know what's the matter with the stupid thing" Joe moaned as they
lay by the lake towards the end of the afternoon, tired but happy. "We've
done everything it said in the stupid book but it just doesn't work. I can't
understand what we're doing wrong."
"Couldn't that brother of yours help?" Mitch asked, leaning up on one elbow
to rescue his book from his friend. "Wasn't that what he went to college
"To learn how to build rafts?"
"No stupid. To be an engineer. That's building things isn't it?"
"I guess." Joe sat up and thought about it. "But he never wants to do
anything with me. He's too grown-up and he doesn't like me anymore."
"But couldn't you at least ask him?" Mitch persisted. "Take the book and
show him. Maybe he'll say something that would help."
"Ok." Joe agreed. "But don't expect too much. He's just plain crabby
since he came back."
Joe put the book into his saddlebag and, seeing how late was, the boys
headed home, hoping that no one would notice the time they got back.
Mitch might have been lucky in that respect but Joe was not.
True to his word, Adam had headed into town in time to meet his little
brother as school finished. Seeing the children come up but not finding his
brother among them he went inside expecting to see him being kept behind for
some misdemeanour. He was therefore not expecting Miss Jones' opening
"How is Joseph now?"
"When he didn't arrive this morning I assumed he was unwell. Wasn't that
what you were here to tell me? Will he be in on Monday?"
" Err. No that wasn't' why I came and yes he will be in Monday. Er.If you'
ll excuse me I er.. have to go looking for something." He left as abruptly
as he'd arrived.
Miss Jones smiled. She was surprised at seeing the normally so collected
Adam so flustered but correctly surmised that young Master Joseph was at the
root of the problem. She left him to go find his missing brother, feeling
that he was well able to deal with any trouble his brother could have got
into. Indeed, judging by the look on his face as he left, it would probably
be a long time before she had any further difficulties with truancy from
Adam was fuming. All thoughts of making his peace with his little brother
had flown out of the window. He was now just plain furious that the little
brat had pulled yet another stunt as soon as his back was turned.
It is perhaps unfortunate that he met up with Joe and Mitch little more than
a mile from the ranch house, just as they were splitting up to return to
their respective homes for supper.
Taking one look at his friend's irate brother Mitch hurriedly jumped back
onto his horse and headed home as fast as he possibly could. Joe was not so
lucky. Pinned in place by a furious stare he tried to stammer a response to
his brother's bellow of
"Just where exactly have you been today?"
"I...Er..School?" Joe tried.
Under the circumstance that was totally the wrong thing to say and the
blatant lie finally pushed Adam over the edge. The next thing Joe knew he
was tucked under his brother's arm being paddled as he had never been
paddled before. It seemed to last for so long, Joe thought it would go on
forever. Frightened again and angry at the speed of the attack Joe fought to
get away but Adam was just too strong and too angry. However, finally, Joe
was able to twist away from him and he took off as fast as he could.
Grabbing his house and, mounting as best he could, given the total
impossibility of putting his bottom anywhere near the saddle, he screamed "I
hate you!" over his shoulder and, tears streaming down his face, he headed
Adam stood, catching his breath and watched the boy ride off. As he
calmed down, realisation dawned of what he'd done. Again he had punished
his little brother while he was still way too furious to be properly in
control and without allowing him time to explain himself. As he groaned and
bent to pick up his hat a voice from behind him said
"So do you mind telling me what on earth that was in aid of?"
Spinning around so fast he almost lost his balance Adam gasped "Pa" as he
saw his father looking down on him from astride his horse, clearly having
arrived to see the end of the scene if not the beginning.
"What happened?" Ben repeated his question.
"Oh hell Pa I've really messed up." Adam groaned.
Raising his eyebrow slightly at the language, Ben tied his horse to the back
of the wagon and climbed up onto the seat.
"So why don't you tell me about it as we head home."
Adam nodded, climbed up beside him, and proceeded to pour his heart out to
his father as they rode slowly home, ending his tale just as they entered
Ben had, by and large, listened in silence.
As they drew the horses to a stop he handed the reins over to his son and
patted his arm reassuringly saying
"Look after the horses. I'm going to go see if Little Joe's all right.
Then we'll talk about this properly."
Joe wasn't difficult to find. The sound of sobbing coming from his room was
clearly audible from the front door. Ben went quietly upstairs and opened
the bedroom door. His small son was lying on the bed crying his heart out.
Ben sat on the edge of the bed and lightly touched his shoulder.
Without lifting his head Joe yelled, "Go away" and continued to cry.
Trying again Ben turned the little boy over so he could see who he was
talking to, saying
"Hey Joe, its me, Pa, Won't you tell me what's wrong?"
Suddenly realising his father was home, Joe threw himself into Ben's arms
crying "Adam hates me."
"No he doesn't. You know he doesn't." Ben soothed as he carried Little Joe
over to the rocker by the window and settled him on his lap. He slowly
rocked and rubbed circles on his back until the child was calm enough to be
able to talk and then, once again, he listened to a distraught son's version
of the day's events.
Considering both sons, Ben had to smile. They really were incredibly alike.
In some ways that was half the trouble. Drawing a deep breath, he tried to
reason Adam's motives around for his youngest son.
"Now you know why Adam was cross with you this morning." He started gently
once Joe had finished his tale. "You are always wandering off and forgetting
about your chores. You really should have finished them before you went to
play with the kittens now shouldn't you?"
Reluctantly the child nodded and received a hug and a kiss by way of reward.
"And I know Adam's sorry for overreacting. You know, if you'd hung around
long enough this morning, he'd have apologised to you then. ." Ben told
him. "And he was coming to meet you from school today just to make sure the
two of you had a chance to make up." He went on, determined to drive his
point home. "Now he wouldn't have done either of those things if he really
hated you now would he?" Ben finished.
"But he shouted at me and spanked me." Joe fought back, not quite ready to
give up his long held opinion of his eldest brother.
"Joseph. Do you remember what I said I'd do if I caught you missing school
again and what I always say I'll do if I catch you lying to me?"
Eyes wide, Joe nodded.
"And do you remember me telling you and Hoss that, when I am away, Adam is
Again Joe nodded.
"So if I'd caught you rather than Adam what do you think would have
Joe looked away, unwilling or unable to answer the question.
"Do you think you deserved that spanking?" Ben put a finger under Joe's
chin, forcing him to look up into his eyes. Reluctantly Joe nodded.
" I can't hear you Joseph."
"Yes Pa" Joe whispered
"And did Adam have the right to punish you in the same way while I was away
"Yes Pa" Joe repeated again. His eyes filling once more.
"So don't you think you owe your brother an apology for what you yelled at
him out there? I don't think you really meant it did you?"
Joe shook his head.
" I think you'll find your brother down in the barn. Why don't you go say
you're sorry." Ben suggested giving his son a final hug and then gently
pushing him off his lap
Reluctantly Joe headed downstairs, aiming for the barn, but was surprised to
find his brother standing in front of the fire instead.
He stopped short a couple of steps before the bottom, not sure how to start.
Adam turned, hearing footsteps coming down the stairs, and came face to face
with his baby brother. Seeing the little boy standing there, chewing on his
lip with his hair ruffled, his face dirty and tearstained and his eyes wide
with fear, was more than Adam could bear. How could he have been so
impatient with this baby?
Since Joe didn't seem able to break the silence Adam walked across to the
foot of the stairs.
"How you doin' little buddy?" he asked softly, reaching out to gently stroke
the boy's head.
"Oh Adam I'm sorry." Joe sobbed throwing himself into his brother's arms.
"It's ok Little Buddy. Everything's going to be ok. Big brother's got
you." Adam answered softly as he sat down on the steps to hold Joe on his
lap. "We're going to be just fine."
" I don't really hate you."
"I know baby boy. I know. I'm sorry too."
"Do you hate me still?" Joe asked tentatively, not sure whether or not he
wanted to know the answer.
"Why on earth would I hate you? Where did you get an idea like that from?"
Adam was stunned. . It took everything he had not to start raising his voice
again, frightening Joe further, but the sincerity in the child's voice
really got to him.
"You never want to do anything with me anymore and you're always yelling at
me and you wanted to send me away." It made perfect sense to Joe.
"I wanted to what????????" Adam couldn't believe what he was hearing
"You wanted to send me to a school to be stretched. You said so. I heard
Adam had a hard time keeping a straight face at that revelation.
"Yes I did think you would do well in a better school but not yet, silly.
When you are bigger and then, only if you wanted to. If you must listen to
other people's conversations, at least make sure you hear the whole thing,
but " and here his voice took on a sterner tone, " I really don't think you
should make a habit of eavesdropping. It only leads to trouble"
Joe peeked up to see if Adam really was as cross as he sounded but
discovered instead a smile in the dark eyes looking down at him that
reminded him of the brother that had gone away. Maybe, just maybe, this was
his Adam after all. Emboldened by the sudden familiarity he saw, Joe
decided to risk a request.
"Are you going to be very busy tomorrow?"
"I don't think so. Why?" Asked Adam, confused at the sudden change of
"Well...Mitch has this book and we were trying to build a raft from it
and..Well..We just couldn't. We kinda wondered if you might help?" Joe
"Was that what you were doing today?" Asked Adam one eyebrow raised.
Joe nodded, not looking up, certain another lecture was coming.
Adam stood up and put Joe back onto his feet. "So where is this book?"
Joe fetched it from his saddlebags and handed it over without saying
As was his way with books Adam became immersed immediately. He sat down at
the table to flick through it more easily. Joe stood at his shoulder,
initially waiting patiently for some form of response but then, finally,
when he thought he'd been ignored for long enough, he tapped Adam's arm
"Sorry Joe. Yes I think we could build you a raft. We'll sit and work out
some designs this evening and then we'll pick up Mitch in the morning and
try them out. How does that sound?" He smiled one of his rare smiles and
Joe, delighted, leapt back into his arms and let out a squeal right in his
Adam was still shaking his head, trying to clear the ringing in his ear when
Ben joined them, having listened to most of the conversation from the top
"Don't you two have chores tomorrow?" He growled. "I know its Saturday but
there is still work to do you know." Ben stood before them, hands on hips,
glaring down, doing his best to keep a straight face whilst being presented
with two identical looks of guilty panic. It soon too much for him,
however, and he collapsed laughing and put an arm around each son hugging
"Go on. Enjoy yourselves. Maybe you do need a bit of time to have fun
together." He said. " But now it's nearly supper time and my little boy
could definitely do with cleaning up." He smiled down at Joe and then sent
him on his way to get washed up with a light swat to his bottom. " I think
my bigger boy could do with it too." He finished, looking pointedly at Adam'
s dusty clothes.
"Yes sir." Laughed Adam, heading for the stairs and twisting just in time to
avoid a similar swipe at his own rear.
Hoss couldn't believe his eyes when he arrived a little later, just in time
for supper, to find his elder and younger brothers on their knees in front
of the fire arguing amiably over a book and what looked like a pile of
papers. Nor could he believe his ears as he listened to their discussions
through the meal and he realised that they were planning on spending the
following day working together with only Mitch as a buffer. He looked
anxiously at his farther to see what he thought of the idea but Ben just
smiled and raised his glass in silent toast at the new-found friendship.
Tired from the emotional rollercoaster he'd ridden that afternoon, Joe
headed off to bed, without argument for once, when his bed time came around.
Hoss followed closely behind, sensing that his father and brother still had
things to discuss.
After the two younger members of the family had left Ben and Adam sat in
silence for some time until Adam could stand it no longer and said
" I'm sorry Pa. I guess I really messed everything up,"
"No son. You made some mistakes but you didn't mess up completely. Care to
tell me what you think they were?"
"I should have talked to Joe. Made sure he understood what he'd done wrong.
Listened to what he had to say and only then punished him if I thought it
was necessary. Instead I just lost my temper and lashed out."
"Yes. And you should have waited until you'd calmed down before you spanked
him. I'm not saying that Joe didn't deserve precisely what he got but you
must never lose control like that."
Adam hung his head. "I know Pa. I'm sorry."
"I know you are son." Ben stood up. "Come on. Let's get this over with and
then we can put this whole day behind us and start afresh tomorrow." He
walked over toward the front door and then looked back as he realised his
son wasn't following.
"Pa?" Adam was stunned. Surely he wasn't suggesting what Adam thought he
"Really Adam, I shouldn't have to spell it out to you after all this time.
We've been through this often enough in the past." He said, slightly amused
at Adam's reaction.
"But Pa! I'm 22 years old. You can't.. You can't seriously be
suggesting..." Adam broke off, unable to continue.
"Adam, how often in the last few months have you pointed out to me how
important it is that Little Joe learns to rein in his temper?" Not waiting
for a response Ben continued. "And how often have you also pointed out to me
how unfair it is if I punish Hoss for behaviour that I permit from his
younger brother?" When Adam still seemed unable to respond Ben finished
"How can I possibly justify spanking Joe for his temper tantrums and then
allow your behaviour today to go unpunished? You must see that what you did
today was every bit as bad as any of his tantrums?"
Still looking stunned, Adam reluctantly had to agree.
"So like I said, let's get this over with."
He turned back to the door and walked out towards the barn, unbuckling his
belt as he went. Adam followed, one part of him at least, still in denial
that he, 22 year old Adam Cartwright, college graduate was about to drop his
pants and bend over to receive punishment for a temper tantrum!
Someone else also watched the scene play out in total disbelief. Whilst
being very tired, Joe was still far too strung up emotionally to be able to
sleep. He'd been headed back downstairs for some comfort from either his
father or his brother when he'd heard his name and had stopped, just out of
sight, to listen.
He still couldn't believe what he'd heard. He himself was intimately
aquatinted with his father's belt and he'd known Hoss take a trip or two out
to the barn with his father but Adam???!!
Joe was still sitting there, stunned at the idea, when he heard the front
door open again. He hurriedly shot back into his own room. Footsteps came
upstairs and along the hall and he leapt for his bed, thinking it might be
his father, but they continued on past his door and into his brother's room.
Joe waited a while, considering the matter and wondering if his Pa would
come up too but he heard nothing more for a long time. Finally, he could
stand it no longer and, climbing out of bed, he and crept along the hall to
Adam's room, needing the reassurance that his brother was ok after what had
clearly happened in the barn.
Adam was lying on his side in bed reading. As the door opened he looked up
and saw the curly head peeking around the door.
"Shouldn't you be asleep little buddy?" He asked.
"I..er..heard you talking before you went out and.....er..." Joe crept into
the room and over to the bed.
"I thought we just had a chat about eavesdropping? Adam asked, not totally
happy at what he now realised his brother had heard.
"Adam are you ok?" Joe asked in a rush, realising that his beloved elder
brother was vanishing back into the stranger again.
Seeing the child's distress and the way he was starting to back away again,
Adam relaxed again and pulled him into a hug saying
"Lets just say you're not the only one who will be sleeping on his front
tonight Little Buddy."
"I'm sorry Adam. It was all my fault. Its me Pa should have spanked, not
you." Joe was starting to cry again.
"No Joe. I deserved to be punished every bit as much as you did. You had
no right to leave your chores unfinished and then skip school and I had no
right to lose my temper the way I did but we're both sorry and we've both
been punished now so its time to put it all behind us. Tomorrow we can
start afresh and we'll do it right this time. Deal?"
"Deal." They shook hands and then, as Joe showed no sign of leaving, Adam
"Shouldn't you be heading back to your own room? If Pa finds you still up
he is not going to be happy you know."
"I know Adam but couldn't I stay with you a bit longer?" Joe snuggled up to
his brother and turned on his most pleading face.
Unable to resist the appeal Adam agreed and cuddled down beside him,
intending to carry him back to his own bed as soon as the child was asleep
but the strains of the day quickly told on him too and he fell asleep as
quickly as the child beside him. Home at last.
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