The First Roundup (by Starlite)

Summary: A look at a very enthusiastic little boy’s first roundup.

Rated:  G   (2,400 words)

The First Roundup

The small loop of rope sailed out to lazily land around the makeshift cow’s head, which was made from an old wooden sawhorse with a burlap sack for a head.

“Nineteen!”  The curly haired boy exclaimed, charging forward to extract his loop from the neck of the wooden steer.  He ran back to the mark he’d drawn in the dirt of the yard and held his small tongue tightly between his lips, as he put all of his concentration into his next toss.

“Hey!”  Little Joe exclaimed as his hat was pushed down over his face from behind.  He straightened his hat and glared up to the slightly amused face of his oldest brother.

“Now if you can get those cattle to stand still for you.  You might just have a chance roping one or two today.”  Adam Cartwright taunted while he sauntered away from his kid brother toward his own horse.  He knew his youngest brother was all excited about participating in his first roundup.

Adam was just feet away from his mount when a length of rope wrapped around his upper chest and arms stopping him short.  He felt a slight tug that pulled him backward.  Thoroughly unamused, he turned a warning scowl upon his youngest brother.  Adam’s scowl was met by high-pitched giggling from Little Joe who pointed a finger at his oldest brother.  Off-key guffaws followed by a teen-aged Hoss who was doubled over at the waist.  Rounding out his discomfort was his chuckling father who sobered long enough to favor his firstborn son with a ‘serves you right’ look.  Adam hooked his right thumb under the expanse of rope, and freed himself from its embrace, then completed his journey over to Sport to check the cinch of his saddle before mounting the tall roan gelding.

Ben draped his arms across his younger sons’ shoulders and guided them over to their own horses.  Once mounted they easily moved over to where Adam awaited them at the edge of the yard.  As one they headed out to the lower pasture for the beginning of spring roundup.

“And I got nineteen!”  Joe exclaimed excitedly waving his lariat in the air.

“That so.”  Ben responded keeping an eye on the path before them.

“Yesterday I only got eleven, but that’s acus I had ta do chores…” Joe continued.

“Ah hum…” Ben nodded in response.

“But I’m gonna get all of em today, Pa.”  Joe’s chattering continued.

“Yes, I’m sure you are.”  Ben turned his focus to the snow capped mountains in the distance.

“Those steers better look out for me.”  Little Joe bobbed up and down in rhythm to his pony.

“Yes they should.”  Ben shifted slightly in his saddle.

“Did you see that squirrel Pa?”  Joe pointed at a nearby tree as a small rodent easily climbed its bark.

“Ah hum.”  Ben knew he needed to respond, but really hadn’t heard what his youngest had said, only that the youngster continued to talk, and talk and talk.  Ben actually preferred to ride in the beauty of the majestic morning in some semblance of peace and quiet.  Knowing that Little Joe loved an audience, his father humored him with minimal response.

“I’m gonna be the best roper out there.”

“Ah hum.”

“Betcha I’ll rope more than Adam or Hoss.”

“Ah hum.”

“Then I’ll be a real cowboy.  Won’t I Pa?”

“Ah hum.”

“Oh, did you see that bunny Pa?”

“Ah hum.”

“Boy, he sure can run.”

“Ah hum.”

Adam glanced at his father and shook his head.  Now he knew how his Pa put up with Little Joe’s idle chatter – He didn’t listen!  All of Little Joe’s rambling was about to drive the oldest Cartwright son to distraction.  He looked over his shoulder to his other brother to see how he was handling the incessant prattle coming from their younger sibling.  He watched in amazement, Hoss was clearly asleep in the saddle.  Conserving his energy no doubt, Adam mused before returning his attention back to his father.

“Ah hum.”


The Cartwrights arrived at the pasture not a moment too soon for the eldest Cartwright son.  He was eager to get this day underway, and away from Little Joe’s enthusiasm.  Adam had just motioned for Hoss to join him in driving out some of the steers from the trees when he saw his father motion for him to join him.  With more than a little trepidation, he approached his father dreading what his father would say next.

“Adam, you’ll keep an eye on Little Joe won’t you?”  Though it was phrased as a question, Adam knew it was a direct command.  He fought the urge to complain and settled for a small nod of his head, as he knew his arguments would fall on deaf ears.

“Hoss, Little Joe, you’re with me.”  Adam called out as he turned his horse away from his father, they headed for the tree lined meadow.

Ben smiled while he watched his sons ride away.  He knew that Adam would watch over Little Joe on what was his first roundup.  It seemed like only yesterday that it was Adam’s first roundup.  He smiled at the memory of his very shy, serious and hardworking son who grew up too fast.  He could still recall the boy working the cattle like an experienced ranch hand at the tender age of eight.  Looking out at the strong, tall, well-built young man who rode away between his brothers, Ben still saw a gangly somewhat thin boy with wavy black hair, his young face a mask of concentration – well, at least one thing hadn’t changed.

He changed his view to the large teen-age boy who rode to the left of his older brother and remembered another roundup.  Though Hoss had been ten at the time, he seemed so much older because of his size.  Once Hoss adjusted to the routine, he’d become quite the cattle hand.

Now it was Little Joe’s turn.  At twelve he was older than his brothers had been on their first roundup.  If Ben had his way, Little Joe still wouldn’t be participating this year, but he just didn’t want to put up with his youngest son’s objections any more.  To Ben, Little Joe would always be his baby, and he wasn’t ready yet or willing to let the boy grow up.  By the set of Joe’s head and the bouncing of his head out of gait to his pony, Ben could tell that his youngest was talking his brothers’ ears off and gave thanks for the peace and quiet.


Adam rode up to his baby brother who sat hunched over in his saddle.  “What’s the problem Joe?”

“They won’t stand still!”  Joe yelled back in frustration with tears threatening to spill down his cheeks.

Oh Great!  Adam silently lamented noting that Joe was on the verge of a crying fit.  Visions of another roundup filled his mind.

“What’s the matter Hoss?”  Adam asked his little brother who stood beside his horse, his head buried in his arms as he leaned against his saddle.

When he didn’t receive a response, Adam dismounted to walk over to his younger brother.  He placed a hand upon the young boy’s shoulder.


Hoss looked up at Adam with tears streaming down his face.

“What? Are you crying?”  Adam exclaimed in a stunned surprised voice.

Hoss nodded slightly in response, now frightened by his older brother’s tone.

“There’s no crying at a roundup!”  Adam was flabbergasted by his younger brother’s behavior.

Hoss began to cry even more at Adam’s outburst.  He was so hurt his body began to shake with racking sobs.

Now embarrassed, Adam looked around to insure that no one could see before patting his younger brother upon the back to try and calm him down.

“Okay Hoss, just settle down and tell me what’s wrong.”  Adam patiently instructed while he continued to rub his brother’s back.

Hoss’s sobs subsided to small hiccups as he pointed over to an equally distraught small calf, as it bellowed and squalled for its mama.

Adam rolled his eyes heavenward and prayed for patience.  His tenderhearted brother was crying because the baby steer was crying.

“Look Hoss, why don’t you just grab your rope and we’ll go and find his Mama.”  Adam suggested draping an arm across the large boy’s shoulders to guide him over to the rope.

“Ya mean it Adam?”  Hoss brightened at the recommendation.

“Ah huh.”  The older dark-haired teen responded, grateful that Hoss wasn’t bawling anymore.  Adam grimaced then gagged in distaste when Hoss wiped his running nose with his filthy shirtsleeve.  “Here use this.”  Adam offered his clean white handkerchief from his back jeans pocket to his brother.

Hoss eagerly took the proffered cotton cloth and soundly blew his nose with a loud resounding Honk!

“Nah, you keep it.”  Adam waved a dismissive hand in Hoss’s direction, leaving his younger brother totally confused by refusing to take his handkerchief back.

Ben watched from a distance as his oldest son rode up to check on his youngest.  He idly wondered if Adam still had that somewhat peculiar habit of carrying extra handkerchiefs on roundups.

“Hey Joe, just keep trying.  You’ll rope one you’ll see.”  Adam encouraged patting the youth upon his back.

Joe favored his older brother with a scowl, then a harrumph of disgust while he folded his arms across his chest in anger.  He really didn’t expect this brother, who could do no wrong and was perfect at everything, to understand his plight.

Adam could see he wasn’t making very much headway here.  He glanced about the countryside looking for his other brother.  Maybe Hoss could help Little Joe out?  Instead of finding his brother, Adam spotted a small calf.

“Look Joe, there’s one.  Why don’t you try roping him?”  Adam suggested helpfully, pointing a finger in the direction of the small steer.

Joe eyed his brother suspiciously; he was always a little suspicious of Adam when he was being nice to him.  He glanced in the direction of Adam’s finger and saw the small calf.  Raising an eyebrow, Joe looked at the calf then back at Adam, trying to gauge if it was some type of trick.  Not seeing any malicious intent upon his oldest brother’s face, Little Joe urged his pony closer to the steer.

“Whatcha looking at?”  Hoss inquired riding up along side of where his older brother sat with one leg lazily propped over the pummel of his saddle.

Adam pointed a finger in the direction of their younger brother.  He’d lost all track of time watching the young boy struggling with trying to make the steer move.  Though it had taken Little Joe no time at all to rope the steer, he had no success in trying to get the calf to follow.

Hoss cocked his head to one side, then to the other as his younger brother pulled and tugged on the rope that was looped upon the young cow’s neck.  He looked back over his shoulder at his older brother, whose face now wore an evil smirk.

“Gonna help him?”  Hoss asked, but felt he already knew the answer.

“Nope.”  Adam deadpanned.

Hoss nodded his acceptance of his brother’s answer and returned his attention to their brother’s conflict.


Hoss shrugged, he could tell that Little Joe was in a snit and he really didn’t like dealing with the boy when he was in a temper.

“Would you two quit gawking and help me!”  Little Joe barked as he stalked up to his two older more experienced brothers.

“Why don’t you just talk to it.”  Adam drawled in a tone dripping with sarcasm.

Hoss shot Adam a sharp look, and wondered if his older brother had lost his mind.  Adam was the last person that Hoss could imagine would actually talk to a dumb steer.

Little Joe raised a wary eye and studied Adam’s face.  Turning abruptly on one heel, he balled his hands into fists and stomped back over to where the obstinate little calf stood.  As he reached the small cow, he bent down so his mouth was near the animal’s ear.

“MOVE!”  Joe demanded causing the calf to balk and step backward.  He turned away from the animal and marched back to his pony.  After mounting, he grabbed the rope from where it was wrapped around the saddlehorn and directed pony and steer down the hill.

Both Adam and Hoss watched in bemused surprise as the little calf obediently followed.


The four Cartwrights rode down the path that led from the pasture to the ranch house.  Between Ben and Adam rode the youngest of the Cartwright clan who was unusually silent, with his head lolling upon his chest.  Ben watched while Adam bent forward insuring that Little Joe wasn’t going to fall out of his saddle.  Neither one would belittle the boy by removing him from his pony.  He’d done a full day’s work and would be allowed to ride home without being coddled.

Ben looked across Little Joe’s bobbing head and could just make out a faint smile and a wink from his oldest son.  He smiled when he recalled a similar son with black wavy hair who’d fought to stay awake after his first long day in the saddle.  This child had lost his battle with exhaustion at the dinner table, and had fallen asleep, landing face first into his mashed potatoes.

After riding into the yard, Hoss held onto the reins of Little Joe’s horse and waited for his father to dismount.  Ben got down from his horse and made his way over to his youngest son and gathered the now soundly sleeping child into his arms.  He quietly and carefully made his way across the yard and up to the large ranch house where Adam held the door open.  Ben walked silently across the hardwood floors then up the stairs to Little Joe’s room.  He gave the small boy a light squeeze before gently laying the boy upon his bed.  Reaching down, he easily pulled off the boy’s boots before covering him with a quilt.

Little Joe stirred slightly, mumbled a dreamy sounding ‘move’ before rolling over onto his stomach, deep in sleep.

Ben pondered the word before dismissing it out of hand.  Bending over, he placed a light kiss to his sleeping son’s forehead and whispered.

“Pleasant dreams cowboy.”

The End


Tags: Family


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Author: starlite

10 thoughts on “The First Roundup (by Starlite)

  1. I read it again… so cute!!!!! I love to imagine that family during the days that Little Joe was a little boy!!! Thank you!!!

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