Summary: A vintage piece from the days when Joegals ran rampant around the Bonanza community.
Definitely MA. About 6,700 words, or maybe a little more.
Little Joe Cartwright, So Far
I was one of the lucky ones. I tumbled into Bonanza World when it was flourishing. Through absolutely no fault or planning of my own, I landed in the Bonanza community at a time when legendary writers—dbird, Harper, territell (who coined the euphemism “the twinkle” to refer to Joe’s penis), Dodo, southplains, lminzer, and many more—were making their mark. It was a heady time, and we reveled in it.
Some of the most avid Bonanza fans of that era were supporters who applauded the writers rather than putting their own work forward. wrenny59, the creator of Suffering Joe Syndrome a/k/a SJS (later co-opted for others on the Ponderosa so that we now have SAS, SHS, SBS, and if you look hard enough, probably SCS (Suffering Cochise Syndrome) or SHSS (Suffering Hop Sing Syndrome)). jfclover, who later blossomed into a writer to be reckoned with, but who back then contented herself with comments on other stories back in the day. And devonshire. . . .
Devy, as we called her, was passionate about Joe. I mean, passionate. Above almost all else, she loved having Joe suffer. (Search “SJS for Devonshire” if you don’t believe me. There are a boatload of stories—including mine—that fall under that rubric.) You may have seen references to “Blender Joe.” That was Devy’s comment upon reading some of the more dramatic SJS stories (“Why don’t they just put him in a blender and be done with it!”).
Back in the heyday, we used to write stories to celebrate each others’ birthdays. Sadly, many of those stories vanished with the implosion of Bonanza World. Others failed to survive some of the Brand upgrades. So much of our goofy, cheerful celebration of Bonanza, each other, and life has been lost.
But not all. . . .
Early in 2007, Devonshire confided to me that there were certain things she simply could not abide in fan fiction. This list included lisping baby Joe, annoying girlfriends, Cartwright wives, Cartwright sisters, overdone torturing of Joe, hairy Adam, and Ben treating Joe as his precious little darling when the kid was well into his teens or beyond.
She should have known better.
In response, I wrote a story incorporating all of Devy’s most despised tropes. Lisa produced a plethora of screen caps to illustrate this story, and we spent the twenty-four-hour period before Devy’s birthday trying to find someone who had the tech chops to post such a story because we were too clueless to figure out that you couldn’t simply paste pics into a Word document and post it. (Um, duh.) We sent out frantic emails, and in the end, we had three people on multiple continents helping us out. For reasons you’ll see below, the story was posted in the Brand’s R forum; it got there courtesy of Dodo, Gigi, and Wrenny. (Twelve years later, I don’t remember which of them finally got the job done, so blessings on you all.)
Although the story as posted (with all its artwork) didn’t survive the board upgrades, the text has survived. While it doesn’t include any illustrations, it does include things like references to Devy, who lives in Canada and has several children (just in case you get to the end and think, “Who the hell are they talking about?”). It also includes much more adult material than I remembered writing, but I haven’t taken it out because seriously—why would I? (For what it’s worth—I wasn’t drinking when I wrote this story, but I totally understand if you think I was.)
That said, apart from some formatting, I haven’t edited the story. It’s vintage. It’s what we did back in the day, when wild and crazy Joegals were running the Bonanza world.
And now, I give you this gem from 2007: Devonshire’s birthday story, “Little Joe Cartwright, So Far.”
Little Joe Cartwright, So Far
Little Joe Cartwright—The Early Years
Family fiction, as recounted through his life, held that Little Joe Cartwright was a loud, noisy, demanding and thoroughly irritating child almost from the moment that he first drew breath. While Little Joe hotly denied these allegations when he got older, he was at a distinct disadvantage: unlike his brothers, the bearers of these tales, he didn’t actually recall much of his early years.
In fact, Adam and Hoss had merely made all this up in order to torture their younger brother after certain facts became obvious. One such fact was that the child was stunningly good-looking. Early on, his family became accustomed to being stopped on the street by strangers wishing to gush and coo over the extraordinarily handsome child. Little Joe, as gracious and obliging in infancy as he would be in adulthood, insisted—sometimes vociferously—that his admirers be permitted ample time to express their adulation. On occasion, when his father sought to carry him away from a bevy of cooing ladies, the child’s screams reached such a level that concerns were raised about the stability of nearby mines.
In addition to his breathtaking appearance, Little Joe was blessed with more charm in that one small person than can usually be found in the population of an entire town. When he was old enough to speak, he captivated audiences with his adorable lisp. “Thith ith my big brother, Hoth,” he would say, pointing, and the ladies would fall over each other as they tried to get close enough to fuss over this delectable little boy.
Few sights in Virginia City were cherished more than a glimpse of Little Joe Cartwright, curls bobbing, apple-cheeked and smiling his most entrancing smile as he made his way down the street. The townspeople rarely noticed which family member was carrying the boy; after all, as long as the Prince of Virginia City was in their midst, who really cared about his transportation?
While the little boy’s parents took such neglect in stride, his eldest brother became increasingly resentful. After all, he had come all the way across the country without encountering even a smidgen of the adoration lavished on his baby brother on a daily basis. Even Hoss, who was as good-natured as they come, was beginning to get a bit irked by the manner in which the good people of Virginia City worshipped the little boy with the sparkling green eyes.
Finally, one day, the brothers had had enough. As they approached Virginia City in the buckboard, their enchanting little brother seated between them, they grabbed the tyke and crammed him into a sack. Hopefully, with the kid not visible, they might get some attention of their own.
But they reckoned without the resourcefulness—and lung power—of the littlest Cartwright. No sooner had they hit the city limits than a shriek of unmitigated fury emanated from the sack. Horses reared, windows shattered, and the very foundations of the town itself trembled. In the distance, boulders tumbled down the mountain. Grown men crouched beneath windowsills, guns drawn, while ladies sobbed delicately into their lace handkerchiefs.
When Sheriff Coffee opened the sack, the miniature tyrant, red-faced with ire, took one look at the shaggy moustache and immediately changed his tactics. “Uncle Roy!” he sobbed, flinging himself into the sheriff’s arms. “I wath tho thcared! Hoth and Adam wouldn’t let me out of the thack! I wath thcared, Uncle Roy!”
“You boys ought to be ashamed of yourselves!” Roy’s eyes flashed as he held his favorite Cartwright close. “Believe me, I’ll see that your pa hears about this!”
“Oh, the poor little boy!” Yet another bevy of young ladies clustered around Roy, cooing comfort to the poor child as Hoss glared at Adam who had, after all, been the originator of this brilliant plan. And later that evening, as Hoss and Adam stood at the dinner table with backsides throbbing, Hoss glared even more while Little Joe sat in his mother’s lap, conjuring up tears periodically when it appeared that she was about to eat her own dinner or otherwise get distracted from her primary job which was, after all, ensuring that he was happy and contented at all times.
And as he grew, Little Joe Cartwright came to believe that this was the job of all women. Fortunately, the women were happy to oblige.
In the Twinkling of a . . . .
Little Joe was thirteen years old when he began to notice that parts of his body were behaving in curious ways. His voice was cracking at odd moments, hair was sprouting in previously unhaired locations, and he began to grow so rapidly that he entertained notions that someday, he might actually top five feet in height. (His brothers routinely told him that this could never be.)
These developments didn’t particularly bother Little Joe, except for the hair—he was more than a bit concerned that he would take after Adam in this regard. Growing up, he had heard stories of an enormous hairy monster that supposedly roamed the High Sierras. While he listened attentively when his friends told of these horrors, he was unimpressed by the thought of such a creature. Thirteen years of living with Adam Stoddard Cartwright could do that to a person.
And if dry Adam wasn’t bad enough, there was wet Adam. When they went swimming together, the sight of the eldest Cartwright brother coming up out of the water, every inch of his body covered in dripping black hair, was enough to make Little Joe dive back under the water until he thought his lungs would burst. (Little Joe had the good sense never, ever to look back as Adam traipsed up onto dry land. Once, when he was ten, he made the mistake of doing so. The sight of his oldest brother’s soggy hirsute buttocks gave him nightmares for a week.)
But Joe’s own hair growth appeared to be much more reasonable, a fact for which he gave thanks in the part of his nighttime prayers that he reserved until after his father had bid him good night. There were, in fact, a number of items about which Joe and the Almighty had discussions after Ben Cartwright had blown out his son’s lamp. Little Joe was far from devout, but he reasoned that if God had made girls, He probably knew more about them than Pa did, and just maybe, He’d be more likely to let Joe in on a few secrets.
In the midst of all these developments, Little Joe noticed that his appendage appeared to be having a party all by itself. He wouldn’t even be thinking about girls—well, he was trying not to—and all of a sudden, as if it had a life of its own, it would just jump up and want to come out to play. Sometimes, just seeing a girl across the street was enough. At first, he wished that his pants were all baggy, like Adam’s and Hoss’. Then, one day, when he was carrying his saddlebags in front of him to hide his enthusiasm at the sight of Connie McKee, whom he’d always thought was sweet and innocent, she smiled and came very close to him. He truly thought his pants were going to rip right then and there from the pressure. She took his arm and guided him around the corner of the horse shed, where no one could see them. Then, she took his saddlebags out of his hand, held them out at arm’s length, and very deliberately dropped them on the ground.
“Now,” Connie said. “Let me see just how happy you are to see me.” She stood back and gazed adoringly upon his budding manhood. “Look at that, just twinkling at me,” she said contentedly. And at that moment, the twinkle was born.
It didn’t take long before Little Joe began learning how to put the twinkle to good use. It was a common family belief that Julia Bulette was Little Joe Cartwright’s first lover. In fact, by the time he met up with Julia, Joe had been around the corral quite a few times, and he taught Julia a number of things that she hadn’t learned in those four-minute sessions with miners and cowboys.
Unfortunately, Julia aside, Little Joe had lousy taste in girlfriends. One problem was that he couldn’t seem to tell the difference between game-playing and frigidity. He thought Amy Bishop was pretending to be innocent and romantic, but the truth was that she was about as interested in sex as Joe was in his father’s ledgers. If Jessup hadn’t impaled her on a pitchfork, Little Joe might have done so himself on their wedding night.
He also didn’t seem to be able to distinguish who was sane and who wasn’t. Tirza was truly hot, but she was a first-class wacko. For some bizarre reason, she wanted to do it on a rock. He tried to oblige her, but keeping her from falling off the rock was just too damned much work. He always suspected that she was turned on by that creepy guy who was watching them, and he was willing to play along if it meant that she might turn out to be a wild woman, but she just kept babbling about him being a tree or some such nonsense. Finally, he just went for it to shut her up—and, to his credit, she was silent for a good ten minutes afterward.
On the other hand, there was Connie, discoverer of the twinkle. Before her father sent her off to finishing school, she and Joe did a fair bit of finishing of their own in the loft of his barn, the loft of her barn, the privy during recess, and pretty much any place else where two bodies could fit. By the time she left, Joe had done Connie more times than he’d done his math homework. Connie was surprisingly inventive, and Joe’s biggest problem with her was remaining quiet enough that they wouldn’t be discovered. After she left, he spent many a night recalling such moments as the time his pa walked into the barn while they were in the loft. She was on her knees in front of him, and his pants weren’t even close to being within reach. Joe was quite proud of the fact that even the presence of Ben Cartwright, a mere ten feet below, hadn’t caused the twinkle to fail. Of course, the fact that Connie never broke her stride probably helped, too.
And then there was Tessa, who pretended to be blind. If she really had been, she’d have done just fine—she had excellent fingers. On the other hand, Julia Grant was a lousy actress in bed—her idea of faking an orgasm was to say, “Oooo. Oooo.” Always twice, and never convincingly. Joe tried everything he could think of, but he just couldn’t seem to get through to her. On the other hand, she was more than willing to perform for anyone who might be able to advance her career, and when Joe told her about Edwin Booth coming to town and how he could get her a reading, she was instantly on her knees to thank him. (He always suspected that she thanked Adam in the same fashion, but he never asked.) Then, when he realized that he just didn’t want her around, twenty bucks got Edwin into her dressing room for a few minutes, and the next thing anybody knew, she had the lead in some play called “The Bohemian Girl.” Julia Grant could perform when it counted.
And then there was Melinda, who was such a prude that even though Joe thought he was in love with her, he was glad when she left—kissing her was like kissing a trout, although he heard later that she was feeling up Adam every chance she got. Morvath Terry had a weird name, but that was all right because she reminded him of Connie in her willingness to drop her pantalets at a moment’s notice—that hot southern blood made for some hot Nevada nights. And Eloise, whose nutty brother thought he was a reincarnated French poet, might not have had much in the way of language skills, but she was fluent in the forms of communication that mattered to Little Joe.
Sometimes, the women in his world weren’t exactly girlfriends—more like acquaintances, or almost. One day, Little Joe met up with an Irish girl and her very Irish father. “I remember you,” she said. “I’m Sheila. I was at your house that time when your brother shot you and you were attacked by a wolf.”
“But all’s well that ends well,” added her father.
Joe peered at the pair. He didn’t actually remember them, since they left almost immediately after he’d regained consciousness, but there had certainly been enough discussion afterward. His brothers unanimously agreed that Sheila was one of the most annoying girls they’d ever encountered, and her father’s irritating aptitude for clichés was unparalleled. On the other hand, she’d been forward enough to ask Adam to kiss her, so maybe there was a little action to be had if they could ditch the old man.
Now, Joe was no fool when it came to women, and this one looked about as exciting as a new pair of socks, but the fact was that he hadn’t had a romantic interlude in nearly two weeks, and for him, this was a very, very long time. Thus, he was willing to overlook little details, such as her perpetual whining and her bad false eyelashes. After all, he’d have his eyes closed when he kissed her, and if all went well, her mouth would be busy with activities other than talking.
Twenty minutes later, they emerged from behind the barn, straightening their clothes. She looked as excited as if she’d just discovered a new recipe for soda bread, and he looked like a man who had enjoyed a fairly good sneeze. “You take care now,” Joe said, his hand discreetly brushing her breast as he planted a chaste kiss on her forehead and her father looked on, beaming. Hidden by her skirt, her hand reached for him, and he drew back before an obvious twinkle alerted her father to his daughter’s activities.
Women on the Ponderosa
Little Joe Cartwright was five years old when his mother inconveniently died. He took her demise personally, since she had the nerve to leave him without a woman to fuss over him and cherish him and treat him as if he were the most important person in the world. It wasn’t that Marie del Vyre de Marigny Cartwright thought that her precious son had hung the moon—rather, she thought he was the moon. Ben thought that she agreed to name him Joseph because that was his father’s name. In fact, the name came from the story in the book of Genesis, where Jacob’s son Joseph kept dreaming that his brothers were all bowing down to him. Since Marie was Catholic, and Catholics didn’t read the Bible in those days, she didn’t get to the part of the story where the brothers loaded him up and dumped him somewhere in Egypt where he was a slave for a long time. (On the other hand, that Joseph ended up on top, and that would have been quite all right with Marie.) She would have named her son Jesus, but that name was already in use, and besides, there was no way she could pass for a virgin.
For a long time, Ben had to content himself with cold baths while his sons (even Hoss) were getting far more action than he was. Once Little Joe discovered girls and the twinkle, though, Ben knew he had to act fast, or Joe would work his way through every eligible woman in the Comstock, and all Ben would be able to get were his son’s castoffs. So, one day, Ben showed up with a woman on his arm and a sixteen-year-old girl in tow.
“Boys, this is your new mother, Tzeitel Cartwright,” he said proudly. Adam and Hoss had heard this “new mother” line before, and so they knew she wasn’t long for this world. Consequently, they didn’t worry too much, but Little Joe was appalled.
And this is your sister, Chava,” added Ben.
“Sister?” All three of the sons were appalled now. Even Inger and Marie had had the sense to arrive without children. (As it turned out later, Marie did have a child, but since nobody knew he was alive when Ben married her, that was almost as good as her not having one at all. Adam would never have tolerated Marie if he’d known that she already had a son and that he was a hundred times cuter than the eldest Cartwright and had a lot less hair, even at the age of twelve.)
“Tzeitel?” asked Hoss faintly.
“Well, Adam’s mother was American, your mother was Swedish, and Joe’s mother was French, and none of them had much in the way of—well, staying power,” said Ben. “So I thought that Tzeitel, being of Russian peasant stock, would be much more likely to survive.”
“My mother lived for years after you married her,” Little Joe pointed out.
“Only because somebody would have drowned you if she hadn’t been here to protect you,” muttered Adam, but not loudly enough for their father to hear.
Tzeitel may have come from peasant stock, but she knew the good stuff when she saw it. By her third day on the Ponderosa, she was going out of her way to hug Little Joe good morning, good night, and good whatever else she could think of. Since she had breasts the size of sofa cushions, she damn near smothered him the first time she grabbed him (she was very tall, and he still wasn’t). Of course, Joe, being no slouch, figured out pretty quickly that he could get a quick feel of Russian boob simply by looking sad, and he spent so much time with downcast eyes and trembling lower lip that Ben began to worry. Since his father’s hugs weren’t what he was after, Joe cut back his performances after that, but he availed himself of Tzeitel’s comforting bosom whenever his father was out of the house.
And, since this was long before the days when relationships between step-siblings would become illegal, Joe quickly began to take advantage of the fact that Chava was built like her mother. At fourteen, he was two years younger than she was, but he already had enough notches on his bedpost to leave Hop Sing shaking his head when he dusted. (Hop Sing also counted the notches every week, but that was mainly because he was envious. He was the only one in the family who never got laid, which was why he was constantly having tantrums.) Chava was unfamiliar with American customs, and so it took Little Joe practically no time at all to convince her that it was a custom for the youngest members of the household to share a bed, and that people didn’t really wear nightclothes in America. From there, it was a short step to introducing her to the twinkle.
Unfortunately, this was one of those rare occasions when Little Joe outsmarted himself. Despite his best-laid (so to speak) plans, he’d managed to find the only Russian lesbian in Nevada territory. Night after night, she happily climbed into bed with him, pressed her enormous naked breasts against him in a big good-night hug, and then promptly fell asleep next to him, completely oblivious to the fact that hormones were coursing through him so fast that he thought he might explode. It was less than a week before Joe started sneaking out at night to meet Connie, just to keep from going absolutely bonkers.
Luckily, it turned out that Tzeitel had even less staying power than Elizabeth, Inger or Marie. Barely three months after she and Ben were married, she choked to death on a beet while tasting the borscht she was making for dinner. Ben was very disappointed, because this had been the first time in years that he’d been having more sex than Hop Sing. Adam and Hoss didn’t really care one way or the other, because they’d always known Tzeitel was temporary anyway. Little Joe was disappointed to lose those big, bosomy hugs, but other than that, he wasn’t particularly overcome by her passing.
After Tzeitel’s death, there came the question of what to do with Chava. If the Cartwrights had been a regular family, Ben would have felt obligated to keep Chava as part of the family, but everybody knew that the Ponderosa was no place for female siblings. Tossing her out on her Russian lesbian butt seemed a little bit cold, though, and since she refused to wear dresses, they couldn’t just put the blue dress on her and wait for nature to take its course. Ben was normally a gutsy guy and somewhat of a dictator, but he tended to resort to democracy when there was a sticky decision to be made so that nobody could blame him too much for the outcome. (He always reserved veto power, just in case.) One night, he gathered the family (including Hop Sing) around the table and had them vote, by secret ballot, about whether to keep Chava or send her back to her grandparents in Russia. The only ballot that said “Keep Chava” was Chava’s. There was one that had a skull and crossbones on it, but Little Joe denied that it was his.
Of course, Little Joe was very lucky Ben wasn’t always so democratic. He’d been such a brat as a child that Adam and Hoss had tried to vote him off the ranch, but Ben wouldn’t hear of it. Especially after Marie died, Ben needed somebody for his cuddly moments, and Joe fit the bill nicely. Hoss was just too big; the last time Ben tried to hold Hoss on his lap, his knee gave way and he couldn’t walk for three weeks. And Adam—well, the truth was that Ben just plain didn’t like Adam all that much. Adam tended to be snippy and snotty, and he thought he was smarter than everybody else. Plus, he was really, really hairy, and the thought just grossed Ben out, even though he always made sure that Adam was completely dressed in his presence—no taking off his shirt to work on hot days or anything like that. The one time Ben tried to cuddle Hop Sing, he nearly got lost a valued body part to Hop Sing’s meat cleaver. So, Little Joe was the one Ben cuddled, and luckily, Little Joe was too smart to object. As long as he could do the puppy dog moments and a few great JPMs every now and again, he could get pretty much anything he wanted.
Even a dog.
Walter, the Prequel
Little Joe wasn’t quite certain why he wanted a dog, but one day, he decided that he did. Once he made up his mind that he wanted something, he generally moved heaven and earth to get it, and the dog was no exception. And since Ben couldn’t say “no” to his baby boy—even when said baby boy was nearly seventeen—there would be a dog on the Ponderosa.
About ten minutes later, Joe came running up to the house with a shaggy dog in his arms. “Pa! Pa! I found my dog!”
Ben always indulged his baby boy if it was at all possible, but now, he found himself regarding this dog skeptically. “Son, I think that dog already belongs to someone,” he said.
“But, Pa! I want him! You said I could have a dog, and I pick him!” Sometimes, Little Joe really took the “little” part of his name to the extreme, to the point where his brothers wanted to kick his backside, even though they knew it was so tight and firm that they’d probably hurt their feet.
“But, son, you can’t keep the dog if he belongs to someone else,” explained Ben gently. He always explained things gently to Little Joe, because his baby boy could get very upset if people spoke harshly to him.
“But I want him!” Clearly, mere insisting wasn’t getting the job done. So, Joe resorted to puppy dog eyes and quivering lower lip. Sensing that there might be a touch more resistance, he allowed tears to glisten in his emerald green eyes.
“All right, Little Joe, if he means that much to you,” said Ben, giving Joe a big hug. Joe lingered in the JPM for a bit before he triumphantly set out to take the dog into the house and up to his room, where the dog would sleep on his bed in direct contravention of about fifty house rules.
About three days later, an old man with wild hair showed up at the door. “I’m lookin’ for Walter,” he said to the Cartwrights who were gathered around the breakfast table.
“Who’s Walter?” asked Ben.
“My dog,” said the old man. “My name’s Obie, and Walter’s my dog, and he’s here.”
“What makes you think so?” asked Adam. Not that he wouldn’t be happy enough to get rid of that smelly creature that had taken up residence, but he loved a good debate.
“’Cause I know,” said Obie, clearly not warming to the notion of a debate. “This ’un here took him,” he added, pointing at Little Joe.
“My son would never steal a man’s dog,” said Ben, wondering as he spoke why he was even bothering to say such a damned dumb thing. Little Joe Cartwright was one of the most entitled people he’d ever met. For reasons passing understanding, the boy seemed to believe that most things either were his or ought to be, and so he never had any compunction about laying hands on whatever he chose. Most of the time, that “whatever” was a girl, so the dog was at least a welcome change.
“Besides, my little brother’s dog’s name ain’t Walter,” said Hoss. “It’s Fluffy.”
“Fluffy! Shoot, man, who would ever name a dog ‘Fluffy’? I’m surprised Walter ain’t bit his leg off for that!”
“See? That’s proof my dog ain’t your Walter,” chimed in Little Joe unwisely. He rose from his seat, prepared to do battle with the old man. Just then, the dog sauntered into the room, and Little Joe grinned. “Come here, Fluffy,” he called.
Afterwards, the Cartwrights all agreed that up until then, the dog must not have heard Joe right, or maybe he’d thought Joe was referring to somebody else. This time, when Joe called him by that ridiculous name in front of all those people, the dog lit out after Joe like he was going after a rabbit, snapping and snarling until he’d gotten himself a decent chunk of Little Joe’s lovely backside. Then, he trotted off the Ponderosa by the old man’s side while Little Joe was bent bare-assed over the settee, screeching as Doc Martin tried to sew up the dog bites so that no scars would show through the ultra-form-fitting pants that Little Joe always wore commando.
Spending the next week lying on his stomach might have made any other boy think twice about the wisdom of pursuing such a hound, but it only made Little Joe more resolute. As soon as he could sit in a saddle, Little Joe set out in search of his dog.
Unfortunately for Little Joe, Walter wasn’t forgiving him for that stupid name any time soon. As Joe approached the cabin where Obie and Walter lived, he tripped over a rope that caused a rockslide. Big, heavy rocks bounced off his poor, slender frame, leaving him with broken ribs, a sprained ankle and a concussion. He made his way home, and Ben fussed over him for several days.
As soon as Joe was able to get out of bed, though, he went back to Obie and Walter’s cabin. This time, he stepped on an innocent-looking stone, triggering an explosion that blew him halfway across the valley. He landed at the Hightower place, impaled on the post of their front gate, with the wood poking clear through his shoulder from front to back. Bessie Sue Hightower lifted the poor boy off the gate singlehandedly and rode home with him in front of her, since he was bleeding heavily and losing consciousness. Hoss was so grateful to Bessie Sue for taking such good care of his little brother that he, in turn, took good care of Bessie Sue up in the loft.
Once Joe had recovered from being impaled, he set out one more time for Obie and Walter’s place. This time, he unwittingly stepped into a loop of rope lying on the ground and was promptly yanked up so that he was hanging upside down, by one foot.
“Help! Help! Somebody help me!” he called, but nobody came except Obie and Walter, who stood looking at him thoughtfully. “Hey, you! Get me down from here!” demanded Joe in a voice that was pretty imperious for somebody who was upside down.
“Sorry, can’t do that,” said Obie.
“Whaddya mean, you can’t do that? This is your doing, isn’t it?”
“Well, it was Walter’s idea,” said Obie. “He wanted to teach you a lesson.”
“Teach me a lesson? About what?”
“You shouldn’t oughta steal folks’ dogs,” said Obie. “And you ain’t said you’re sorry yet, neither.”
“I ain’t what?” Joe’s screech was so shrill that Walter collapsed on the ground, paws over his ears, and Obie looked as if he wanted to do the same. “I ain’t the one who’s runnin’ around the countryside, tryin’ to do in a young, innocent child!” he added.
“Well, I reckon you’re right about that,” said Obie. “Thing is, Walter’s sorta unforgiving with people who don’t apologize. Mebbe you want to tell him you’re sorry about calling him by that name and stealin’ him and all.”
“Sorry? Sorry? I’ll tell you what I’m sorry about, mister. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to make that dog a gelding, that’s what I’m sorry about.”
Obie cringed. “You shouldn’ta said that,” he said. “Walter takes them kind of things real personal. Now, he thinks we should just put you in a blender and be done with you.”
“A blender? What in tarnation is a blender?” Joe’s screech had sent every bit of wildlife running for the hills.
“It’s a thing you blend stuff in,” said Obie reasonably. “I reckon as soon as we find one big enough, Walter’s gonna want to put you in and churn you all up.”
Little Joe Cartwright was nothing if not resourceful. He used his free foot to get himself swinging, and he swung so hard that he knocked Obie over. Then, he finagled his way free and started to run for home, only to fall over a log and tumble down a long, rocky incline, bashing his head so badly that when he finally came to, he wasn’t even sure of his own name, much less of anything else.
He stumbled home, blood running down his face. When his father opened the door and saw him, he exclaimed, “Oh, my baby boy!” He ran to Little Joe and scooped him up into his strong, fatherly arms, barking instructions to Hop Sing about poultices and broth and such as he carried his youngest son up to his room.
As Little Joe opened his eyes, he saw his father hovering over him. He opened his mouth to speak, but he threw up instead. Joe lay still, weak and hurting, as Ben cleaned up the vomit from his son, the covers, and his own shirt. Then, Ben stroked the boy’s forehead, murmuring, “There, there, Little Joe. You’re going to be just fine.”
“I’m telling you, Pa—they said they were gonna put me in a blender!” Tears welled up in Little Joe’s eyes. “What’s a blender, Pa?”
“Sssssh,” said Ben. The boy must be delirious. He folded one of the endless supply of wet cloths and laid it across Little Joe’s brow. “Don’t you fret now. We won’t let that mean old man get you.”
“Jest you rest now, Shortshanks,” said Hoss, as if Little Joe could possibly have done anything else. “I’ll take care of that old coot.”
As it turned out, Joe would have been better off if it had been Adam who made this vow. Hoss was such a friendly, obliging sort that when he went over to the old man’s cabin to kick his wrinkly old butt, they ended up becoming fast friends. Hoss and Obie played checkers and ate spicy beans while Walter dozed in a corner. Eventually, Hoss even agreed to take care of Walter while Obie went out of town to visit his sister. Little Joe’s memory of the incident had never quite come back, and so he couldn’t quite put his finger on what was familiar about the dog, but since he called the dog “Walter,” the dog didn’t pay any attention to him anyway. Besides, by this time, Joe’s attentions were firmly placed on girls, and he had as little interest in the dog as the dog had in him. So, when Hoss commandeered Little Joe’s quilt for Walter to sleep on, Little Joe simply headed off to Ann’s cabin to sleep under her quilt. Being deaf, Ann used her hands to communicate anyway, so she had no problem in communicating in the way that Joe liked best. Besides, she had always been especially grateful to Little Joe for teaching her sign language, and she was always delighted to express her appreciation—several times a night, if need be.
And so on. . . .
“Son, are you quite certain that this is what you want to do?” Ben’s deep brown eyes were troubled.
Joe laid a hand on his father’s arm. “I’m sure, Pa,” he said. He knew his father would have difficulty with his idea, but he couldn’t do anything else. He was in love.
Granted, she was a little older than he was, but not all that much, or so she said. He was nearly nineteen, and she said she was twenty-two, and he just knew that she would never lie to him. Besides, he’d always been a pushover for redheads. This one was so incredibly beautiful that he could overlook little details, like all those people who kept coming through her house calling her “Mom,” even though she insisted that, until she met Joe, no man had ever touched her. Not that Joe really believed her, of course: no woman could be that good the very first time. Even if she was truly gifted, she must have had some practice somewhere along the way. Still, he would put up with anything to be with her—even leaving the Ponderosa.
“Well, son, I can’t say I blame you,” said Ben, rising. His son’s beloved was indeed a striking woman, and she was seriously hot besides. If only Joe hadn’t had to leave the country in order to be with her, but it was how things had to be. It was something Ben didn’t quite understand about immigration laws and probation, but there was nothing to be done. Besides, Little Joe said that they could all come and visit, except for Adam. It seemed that his beloved had a friend who was a little creeped out by the idea of all that hair on Adam’s chest, and she was liable to pelt rubberbands at Adam—whatever those were.
“So, Little Brother, what are you gonna do for a living up there?” asked Hoss. He was sorry to see Joe leave, but he’d caught a glimpse of Joe’s beloved, and he could see how Joe would do anything to be with her. Besides, there was a rumor that she had a daughter who was an actress and looked pretty darned cute in braids and freckles, and Hoss figured he’d make his way up to Joe’s new place one of these days and see if that little gal was just as cute in person.
“What I do best,” said Little Joe. “My beloved says there’s quite a market up there for my particular talent.”
“And what talent would that be?” asked Adam sarcastically. He was still smarting about the fact that he wasn’t going to be allowed to come and visit unless he shaved his entire body.
With a wink and a grin, Joe stood to demonstrate. “What else?” he said. “Twinkling.”
Other Stories by this Author
- Studio Executives #2 – Little Joe Cartwright’s Very, Very, Very Bad Day (by pjb)
- Ten Hours (by pjb)
- High Finance (Or, How to Keep Your Mutton-Headed Sons From Getting Robbed) (by pjb)
- The Return of Abigail Jones (by pjb)
- Bank Robbers, Belles, and Puppy Dog Eyes (by pjb)