This here is my attempt at a Fatherís Day short story. The disclaimer that comes with this story is that I have no idea when the idea of Fatherís Day was started. Letís just assume they knew of such things. I canít think of a better father to give honor to.
Joe was riding Cochise fast as the wind. He knew if he didnít make it home on time today, he wouldnít be able to sit on his beloved horse for several days. His father had promised him a sound thrashing if he was late again. Joe felt guilty about lying to his father about his whereabouts these past few weeks, but he wanted what he was doing to be a surprise. Joe had found the perfect Fatherís Day gift. It was an ambitious plan for a twelve year old, but he felt his pa was worth it.
Three weeks ago, while at the mercantile, Joe discovered a beautiful pocket watch that he knew his pa would love. It was a little expensive, but he had asked Mr. Talbot if he could work in the store to purchase the watch. Mr. Talbot, knowing how much Joe loved his father, readily agreed. The only problem was when he could work.
Little Joe had given up every Saturday since to help out in the store. Joe also used his last months allowance as a down payment. Joe realized on Monday, with Fatherís day less than a week away on Sunday, he wasnít going to have enough money unless he could work after school. This posed two problems for Joe.
The first problem was his chores at home. His pa expected him to come straight from school to start his chores. He decided he needed some help, so he asked Hoss if he would cover for him until Friday by doing his chores for him. After telling Hoss why he needed the help, Hoss agreed.
The second problem was staying out of trouble for the rest of the week. He found it took all of his energy to keep out of trouble at school. He needed to start at the store right after school in order to make it home for dinner. Mr. Talbot knew of Joeís dilemma and offered to keep it quiet and to run interference if Ben decided to stop into the store while Joe was working. Joe would arrive home late but his chores would be done.
Solving this problem created a new one. By Wednesday, Ben had become suspicious of the goings on around him. He arrived home early on Wednesday to find Hoss doing all of the chores and there was no sign of Joseph. At dinner that night, Ben had asked Joe why he was late. He ended up lying and saying he was kept after school. He hoped his father would allow these little deceptions after the surprise was sprung. When asked if he had been late all week, Joe had answered truthfully when he said Ďyesí. Ben made the declaration that if Joe was late once more coming home from school that he would be dealt with severely. Joe wasnít looking forward to the up coming confrontation with his father, but it couldnít be helped. As he rode into the yard, he hoped the tanning would be bearable because he really wanted to surprise his father on Sunday.
Joe dismounted and walked Cochise into the barn. He smiled as he saw Hoss finishing up his chores. Joe made a quick glance to see if Buck was in the barn and smiled when he was wasnít.
"Hey big brother. Did I miss anything?" Catching Hossí eye to ask whether their father knew Joe was late.
"Youíre in luck tonight Little Joe. País not home yet. He is due back any minute so I would get that horse stabled quickly."
"Thanks Hoss. I wouldnít be able to do this without you."
"You may want to let Adam in on what you are doing to keep him from telling pa you were late."
"Is he in the house?"
"Thanks again Hoss." Joe quickly stabled Cochise and apologized to him for being so quick. He promised Cooch and himself that he would come back out after supper and give him a lot of attention. He quickly ran into the house to talk to Adam before his pa got home. As he reached the front door, he heard his father enter the yard. He smiled at his pa and Ben smiled back. He turned toward the door as Ben went into the barn.
As soon as he entered his eldest brother, who looked mad, assaulted him.
"Joe where have you been? Pa told you to come straight home after school. You certainly know how to bring yourself a peck of trouble little brother."
"Adam. I need to talk to you before pa comes in."
"Iím not covering for you Little Joe. Pa warned you."
"I need you listen to me and let me tell you why I was late."
"Well go ahead. Iím sure pa will want to hear it too."
"I canít tell pa. Not until Sunday at least."
Adam caught the reference and stopped. It all suddenly made sense to him who Joe was acting so strange the last few weeks. His whole attitude changed.
"Fatherís day?" He asked with a manner of understanding.
"Yeah." Joe whispered. "Iíve been late because Iím working on a surprise. Please cover for me this time. Iíll figure something else out for tomorrow."
"Okay Joe on one condition."
"You promise me that what ever this surprise is, isnít something you shouldnít be doing."
"I promise. I also promise to tell you what Iím doing when pa isnít so close."
As if on cue, Ben Cartwright walked in the door and smiled at his sons. Adamís answer was just a wink but it made Joe smile.
"Thanks Adam," he whispered and said louder, "Hi pa. Iím gonna go wash up for dinner." He turned and walked upstairs to wash up.
"What was all that about Adam?"
"Nothing much pa. How was your day?" Adam quickly changed the subject.
"Long." Ben removed his gun belt and placed it on the credenza. "Iím going to wash up also." He started to walk away and then turned back to Adam. "Did Joseph get home in time today Adam?"
Adam smiled. His father would hate the thinking, but Adam decided to use some of Joeís logic. Ben had asked if Joe got home in time, not on time. And Joe was just in time. "Sure thing pa."
"Good. I wasnít looking forward to a confrontation tonight. Iím just too tired to make a lasing impression on that young manís backside."
"Iím sure he would be glad to hear it." Both men laughed and went to wash for dinner. Joe was happy also, as he was listening to the whole conversation from the top of the stairs. He turned back toward his room and thought. Tomorrowís Friday. Thank God this week is almost over.
Friday in school, Joe figured that even if he worked in the store today after school he would still be five dollars short of the price. He asked around school and found out that quite a few of the children were eager to see some of the tricks he had taught Cochise. He decided to capitalize on the idea.
With the help of Mitch Devlin and Bec, he made arrangements to put on a show for money. The children could bring their money to the North pasture of the Ponderosa at 1pm on Saturday. Joe hoped it would be enough.
After school, Joe spoke with Mr. Talbot and explained to him what he was planning. Mr. Talbot agreed to bring the watch, wrapped, to church on Sunday morning, and Joe could bring the last five dollars then. Everything seemed to running smoothly untilÖ
Joe was leaving the general store when he saw his father in town. He quickly went back in an asked Mr. Talbot to help. Joe went out the back door just as his father entered to store.
"Hello Mr. Cartwright. What can I help you with today?"
Ben looked around with a confused look on his face. "I thought I saw Joseph just now outside on the walkway. I could have sworn he came in here."
"Havenít seen the young man. Wouldnít he be in school?"
"School got out two hours ago. I stopped by to make sure Joe wasnít kept after again today. That rascal seems to be in more trouble lately."
"Well, Iím sure itís just the age. Boys can be a handful sometimes. Young Joe is a good kid though."
Ben smiled. He liked to hear good things about his youngest boy. He usually only heard the bad things. "Well. He must be home then because he wasnít kept after school. Matter of fact, Miss Jones acted like she didnít even know what I was talking about when I apologized for Joeís behavior this week."
"Maybe she didnít want to bother you with the minor actions of a typical boy Joeís age."
"Maybe." Ben was about to leave when he caught glimpse of the jewelry case.
"Hey John? Thatís a nice looking timepiece."
Mr. Talbot smiled. Ben was looking at the watch that Joe was trying to pay for.
"Just got it in three weeks ago. Already sold sort of."
"The fella that wants it is paying in installments. Should have it payed off by tomorrow."
"Well, let me know if he doesnít make the payment. I could use a nice timepiece."
"Sure thing Ben." Ben left for home and Mr. Talbot pulled the watch out of the case and started to wrap it. He would give this to Little Joe on Sunday, even if he didnít have the last five dollars yet. Joe was good for it. He found himself feeling jealous of Ben Cartwright because he had such a thoughtful and caring son like Little Joe.
Saturday afternoon came quickly. Friday evening Joe had barely made it back home to stable Cochise before his father arrived. Again Adam covered for him, and Joe was allowed to have his Saturday afternoon free, after chores.
Joe was finishing up his trick riding as he saw his father come over the ridge. He wasnít sure if his pa had seen his little acrobatics, but if he had, it wasnít going to be pretty. As Ben Cartwright entered the group of children, they all scattered. Joe chanced one look at his father and saw pure rage behind his eyes.
Joe stammered. "Pa? I can explain."
"Joseph. You will get your chance to explain at home." He looked toward Mitch who had just mounted. "Michell, your father was just here looking for you. You best be getting home."
"Yes sir. See ya Joe." Mitch had pure sympathy in his eyes for his friend.
"Letís go Joseph."
The ride home was in uncomfortable silence. Joe knew he was in for it. It was worth whatever happened next. The afternoon produced the last five dollars he needed for the watch, so he would have the perfect Fatherís day gift tomorrow after church. As they entered the yard Ben spoke. "Joseph. I want you to stable these horses and then meet me in the study. Donít take all day either, because I wonít be happy if I have to hurry you up. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir." Joe was trying to hold back the tears. He just kept telling himself that it was worth it.
He finished in record time and entered that house with a little more confidence. He walked over to his fatherís desk and stood before it and his father. His pa had calmed down a little which made Joe a little more comfortable.
"Joseph. I would like you to tell me what you think you were doing out there."
Joe thought for a minute. "I was doing some riding tricks for the kids."
"Havenít I told you how dangerous it is to do those foolish stunts?"
"Yes sir." Joe didnít think they were dangerous but he had wisdom enough not to verbalize his feelings.
"But you did them anyway."
"Yes sir." Joe looked down at his feet and then at his father.
"You disobeyed me again?"
"Yes sir." If only he knew about all the lies that were involved, but we wonít go there.
"Joe Iím very disappointed in your behavior this week."
Joeís eyes started to water. Oh pa. If only you knew what I really have been doing.
"You did these tricks for money also didnít you?"
"Yes sir, but I wasnít betting." Joe knew how much his father hated the gambling. "It was for show."
"No matter. You will give me the money." His pa held out his hand. Joe looked shocked. You canít have it!!! He screamed in his head. It was all he needed.
Ben stood up and walked over to Joe. Joe took an involuntary step backwards. "Now Joseph."
The tears were coming full force now. How could his father want the money? Joe reached into his pocket and handed his father the precious metal. He wiped his hands across his eyes but it didnít stop the flow of tears. Joe was heart broken.
"I want you to go to your room and I will deal with you later. Do you understand?"
"YesÖsir." Joe hiccupped.
"Then go." Joe ran to his room. He didnít care if he got yelled at for running. As he did, Adam entered the great room.
"What was that all about?"
"I found your young brother doing a riding show in the North pasture for a group of kids. He charged admission."
"Did he say why?"
"No he didnít. Iím going to go find some coffee."
"Sure pa." Adam went directly upstairs to Joeís room after his father was out of sight. He knocked lightly and entered when all he heard were gut-wrenching sobs.
Adam sat on the edge of the bed. "Joe?"
Joe looked up and saw Adam. He threw his arms around Adamís neck and cried harder.
"Shhhh. Calm down Buddy. Tell me what happened?"
Joe wiped his eyes as he tried to stop crying. "IÖhadÖall the moneyÖIÖneeded AÖdam. AndÖpa..pa took it awayÖfrom me. ThatísÖal I needed."
Adam hugged Joe again. "How much Buddy?"
"Tell you what. Iíll try to talk pa out of the tanning and Iíll give you the last five dollars."
Joe looked up at Adam. "Why?"
"Well. I happen to know you have been working hard for this surprise, and Iím proud of you. Pa will understand everything tomorrow."
"Thanks Adam." Both brothers hugged again. After a few minutes Adam spoke. "Iíll go talk to pa. Donít worry Buddy, let big brother take care of this one."
"Thanks again and I love you."
"I love you too Little Joe."
Adam left to talk to pa and Joe tried not to cry anymore. He fell asleep.
Adam had talked his father into going easy on Joe this time. He had asked his father to make this Joeís one warning since Ben had never actually told Joe not to do any trick riding, but had just said it was dangerous. Ben acquiesced, this time.
Sunday morning arrived with a bright sunny day. His three sons with a breakfast tray all prepared awakened Ben. Ben had forgotten that today was Fatherís Day and was delightfully surprised.
The whole family dressed and went to church. After the service Joe caught Mr. Talbot to the side and traded Adamís five dollars for the pocket watch. Joe was happy the entire ride home. The family decided to take a picnic lunch to the lake as a celebration of Fatherís day.
After everyone had eaten, Joe presented his gift to his father. Ben opened the neatly wrapped package and stared in shock at the pocket watch. He looked at Joe and Joe seemed to be confused by his fatherís reaction. Ben immediately smiled.
"Joseph. Itís beautiful. How did you ever afford it?"
Joe smiled. "Thatís a long story pa. Let me tell you it wasnít easy, but I had a little help from my big brothers." Joe proceeded to tell his pa the entire story and Ben found himself feeling all sort of emotions ranging from shock to shame at how he treated Joe the last few weeks. He smiled at his youngest son, who was still telling his tale, and Ben found himself thanking the heavens that they had blessed him with the three best sons in the world. He glanced toward Marieís resting place and silently thanked her for the rascal before him. He then thanks Elizabeth and Inger. He was truly blessed.