Summary: When Ben’s youngest two come up with a new animal scheme, Ben reflects on some of the craziest schemes from the past. Will Ben fall for their latest venture or will he have learned something from the past?
Rating: K / Word Count: 1474
Written for the 20/20 Hindsight Challenge.
Ben was enjoying a peaceful afternoon as the birds sang sweetly in the trees. He had sent both Hoss and Little Joe into town to run a couple quick errands and was expecting them home anytime now. Hearing hoofbeats in the distance, he knew they would be arriving in another minute or two. As they rode into the yard, he noticed a burlap sack positioned carefully in Hoss’ lap. A quick glance at the giant smiles across both of their faces told Ben that they were up to another one of their schemes.
Little Joe could hardly contain his excitement as he quickly dismounted and addressed Ben. “Hey, Pa! You’ll never guess what we found!”
Hoss was a little more hesitant to dismount as quickly since he clearly had something special in that sack he didn’t want to damage. Instead, he called out from his place on top of his horse. “Yeah, Pa. Please say we can keep them.”
This conversation sounded vaguely like one he had with both Hoss and Joe nearly 20 years earlier.
I returned to the ranch after a day in town doing some errands. As I led my horse into the barn and into one of the stalls, I noticed my two youngest sitting on the ground off to the side and peering into a wooden box.
“What do you have there, boys?”
They both looked up and smiled at me. They were too engrossed in their newest find to notice that I had returned. “Me and Joe went down to the pond today. Look at what we found!”
I moved away from my horse to go see what my sons had found. Lean down and peering into the box, I noticed about ten toads of varying sizes.
“Wow. You boys sure found quite the catch.” As I stood back up, I ruffled Little Joe’s hair before returning to tend to my horse.
“Can we keep ‘em, Pa?”
I paused in brushing down my horse to turn to my sons. Joe was giving me his very best puppy-dog look and Hoss was waiting anxiously to see what I would say.
“Well, I don’t know about that. They’re wild animals and I don’t think they’d like to be cooped up in a box all day.”
“Aww… Pa. Pleeease? We promise to make them a real nice home out back behind the barn to keep them.”
I broke down after one look at their sorrowful faces. “Fine, fine. But they need to stay outside. I won’t have them running wild inside the house.”
All went well for the first couple of weeks. Little Joe and Hoss stayed true to their word by building the toads a nice little home that was fenced in by chicken wire. It contained lots of mud for the toads to enjoy and a little water hole.
One day, Little Joe went out to check on the toads. He had noticed some smaller ones amongst all the other bigger toads. After consulting both of his older brothers, it was determined that they were baby toads. There were about 40 or so jumping around the little fenced-in area. The little chill to the air at night worried Joe. Hoss said they would be fine, but Joe didn’t want the babies to be out there in the cold and freeze. Hoss told him as long as he kept them in his room and I didn’t find out, it should be okay. So, he gathered up as many as he could in his shirt and brought them inside.
Somehow, he managed to quietly sneak them up to his room without my detection before heading back downstairs for dinner. It was during dinner that chaos ensued.
Little Joe must have left his door open a crack because one by one the toads made their way down the stairs. The quiet croaking quickly caught my attention. After inquiring what this was all about, hearing the whole sorrowful story, and delivering some well-deserved discipline, I ordered both Hoss and Joe to round all those toads up. That was easier said than done, though. It took all four of us and nearly two hours to catch all the tiny toads and escort them back outside.
The house was a mess and it took all of the next day for Hoss and Little Joe to clean it up and return it to normal. Who would have thought some tiny toads could cause such a disaster?
“Pa, are you alright?” Ben was pulled out of his thoughts by Hoss and Little Joe standing in front of him.
“Oh? Umm…yeah, I was just thinking about those toads you both brought home when you were children.”
“Oh yeah! I remember that. They sure did make a mess of the house.”
Ben gave a small chuckle. “That they did.”
“So anyway, Pa. We met these guys in town who had what they claimed were very special kittens. They said that they’re some of the best mousers in the territory and in time we’ll have lots of cats running around to help take care of all the pests in the barn.” Seeing Ben’s curiosity, Little Joe opened up the sack so his Pa could look inside at the six kittens.
Once again, Ben’s thoughts drifted back to a similar incident with rabbits only a couple years ago.
I met Hoss and Little Joe just outside the barn. They each had a big, fluffy white rabbit in their hands. They explained to me that they were special rabbits and they were going to make them a profit with their fur coats. They went on to explain how they might only be two rabbits right now, but eventually, the rabbits will have baby rabbits. Before long, there will be enough to skin and make a coat. To be honest, I had just gotten home after a difficult day and this little distraction just jumpstarted my impending headache. Plus, they were grown adults, well, at least in age they were. If they thought this was a good business idea, then more power to them.
The plan would have worked out well if they stuck to the plan of using just Nelly and Buck to do all the breeding and they actually skinned the future rabbits. I know my sons, though, and as expected they grew attached to all the baby rabbits. Before long, our barn was infiltrated with white rabbits.
Just like the toad incident, if the critters had just stayed where they should have been it wouldn’t have been a problem. Unfortunately, a couple got loose one day, spooking my horse, and causing a ruckus in the front yard. Enough was enough. I got rid of those rabbits as quickly as they came into our life. Sure, Hoss and Little Joe were upset, but our ranch really isn’t a place for rabbit raising. The sooner those rabbits were gone, the sooner we could get back to normal life.
“So, Pa, what d’ya think? Can we keep them?” Ben could hear the anxiety in Hoss’ voice. He loved all animals, whether they were as small as a toad or as big as his beloved horse, Chubb. Hoss’ love of animals had him wanting to keep every creature he came across and this situation was no different.
Ben wondered how his two youngest always got themselves into this sort of predicament. These two sons of his had always had a habit of bringing home critters. Thinking back to those times in the past, he knew there were things he could have done differently. Maybe if he had put his foot down and told them ‘no’ the first time, he wouldn’t be faced with this situation once again.
After thinking about it for a minute or two, he finally came to a decision. Just like all the other times, he didn’t have the heart to tell them ‘no’. However, unlike the other times, he was going to put some restrictions on his decision this time.
“Well, I suppose we could keep them.” Ben quickly put up his hand to hold off the excitement he saw coming from both boys. “We’ll keep them under a couple conditions. We’re only keeping two and they have to be the same gender, either two males or two females. I won’t have them multiplying like those rabbits or toads you both brought home in the past.”
Both Hoss and Little Joe sheepishly at each other before agreeing with the conditions.
As he watched his sons head off to pick out their two favorite kittens, he couldn’t help but wonder if he was making the right decision. He figured as long as he learned something from those past incidents, the results in this situation couldn’t be any worse. And to him, that’s all that mattered.
Other Stories by this Author
- A Stray Named Muffin (by wx4rmk)
- The Christmas Tree Surprise (by wx4rmk)
- The Autumn Race (by wx4rmk)
- Cunning Beavers (by wx4rmk)
- Hop Sing’s Fortune Cookies (by wx4rmk)