Behind the Barn (by VRON)

Summary: Just what does Joe see going on behind the barn? A little interlude that was the response to a writing challenge some months back.
Rating:  G   Words:  1,600

Brandsters Note:

The Brandsters have included this author in our project: Preserving Their Legacy. To preserve the legacy of the author, we have decided to give their work a home in the Bonanza Brand Fanfiction Library.  The author will always be the owner of this work of fanfiction, and should they wish us to remove their story, we will.

Behind the Barn


From his vantage point in the bushes behind the barn, Little Joe had a clear view of proceedings. He knew that he shouldn’t be there, shouldn’t be spying, but that element of risk filled him with a frisson of excitement – that and the mixture of fascination and mild disgust.

At eleven years old, Joe really could not see the interest in girls. The ones he knew from school could not seem to do anything except skip, play with dolls, worry about getting their dresses dirty and cry. There was no way they could climb trees, ride like he could, skim stones, swim any distance, throw over-arm or catch any fish. There were two or three who immediately came to mind as being particularly infuriating in class, always sitting with their hands up to answer questions and offering to do things for the teacher. It was bad enough being told to do something without volunteering for more jobs!

Believing that girls only existed to be annoying and to annoy, Joe frowned and continued to watch the romantic little interlude grow more impassioned as the two participants thought themselves unobserved in the secluded shadows of the barn wall. Perplexed, he wondered how they could breathe, locked together as they had been for what seemed like hours. Surely they would keel over, still entwined in each other’s arms, half-suffocated and gasping for air! Joe crouched on all fours, ready to sprint for help should the need arise. It would mean betraying the fact that he had been a watcher and that would definitely mean trouble. He pondered the ramifications and sat back down on the ground.

This romancing was overrated. Hoss had recently started eyeing some of the girls at the church picnics but he hadn’t got much further than that – or so Joe thought – for a girl only had to look his way and smile to make him colour-up and go all tongue-tied. Then he’d scold himself with a ‘dadburnit’, slap his hat across his thigh in self-recrimination and stride off in a temper. When Joe tried to follow to suggest that a wrestling match might cheer him up, the bigger boy would merely snap that he wanted to ‘be alone’ so Pa would distract Little Joe for a while. There were more occasions, though, when Pa and Hoss had ‘little talks’, just the two of them. ‘Man to man,’ Pa explained when Joe had asked; it was nothing for him to be worrying about.

Joe wondered if Pa had ever talked to Adam ‘man to man’ before he had gone off to college. He seemed to have been attracting the girls for as long as Little Joe could remember and, for the life of him, Joe could not understand why. This was only ol’ Adam, after all. When he had gone back east to study, some of the girls had been mooning about and whenever they saw Joe or Hoss in town, they were always asking if anything had been heard from big brother. If they were so concerned, why didn’t they just write to Adam themselves and ask him direct instead of pestering folks? As his absence grew longer, the inquiries had petered out but now he was home and things were worse than ever.

As he alighted from the stage coach in Virginia City’s main street, a crowd of well-wishers had gathered to welcome him, staying a respectful distance to allow the Cartwright family to greet their own, but there followed a constant stream of people to the Ponderosa and a plethora of invitations to social events. To start with, the latter had been politely declined by both Adam and his father as they selfishly, and understandably, wanted to protect their time together, or at least within the family, as they caught up on the lost years.

That did not stop the young ladies of the area vying for Adam’s attention. Four years’ study, Boston’s fancy culture and the wealth of the Ponderosa had suddenly transformed Ben Cartwright’s eldest son into the most eligible bachelor around but all that Joe understood was this sudden bevy of females simpering and fawning over his big brother at every opportunity.

Tonight’s dance at the ranch was no exception. Adam had been home just over three weeks when Ben felt that it was time to celebrate his son’s return and successes. When news of the impending party broke, Virginia City was abuzz with the anticipation and such was the competition for new dresses that the mercantile owner had to turn away many a disappointed customer when his supply of fancy material and ribbons had been exhausted. He was very sorry, but there was no way he could wire a special order and get a rush delivery to the store in time.

Hoss and Joe waited as close to the food table as they dared with Hop Sing hovering nervously nearby, worrying unnecessarily as to whether or not he had prepared enough for the multitude of guests. Already, the trestle tables, with their pristine white cloths, were groaning under the weight of platters piled high with delicacies. To the boys’ bewilderment, they overheard the comment that, for the return of this particular son, the fatted calf had indeed been killed. They looked at each other and shrugged; Hop Sing hadn’t dished up any calf meat!

The younger Cartwrights watched as their father received guests, Adam standing straight and tall to his right, seemingly content to support Ben with the expected social niceties. They mingled with their visitors, engaging happily in conversation with friends and ensuring that glasses were kept filled and plates replenished. When the music began, Ben nudged his eldest towards the space cleared for dancing and the room held its breath to see who would be approached as his first partner of the evening.

Miss Katherine Tyler, daughter of a city banker, was the chosen one and although he was at pains to dance at least once with the other young ladies assembled there, even Joe noticed that Adam’s gaze was never far from the pretty Miss Tyler. It was much later that Joe saw his big brother cast a surreptitious glance about the room as he escorted her outside and so he, Joe, had followed, more than a little curious regarding his brother’s behaviour.

Joe was not quite sure how long they had been outside, but he had heard some buggies roll away as folks began to depart. It did not seem to bother Adam much; he and Miss Tyler were much too absorbed in their kissing. A shiver of revulsion ran down Joe’s spine. All that slobbering couldn’t be too healthy! Adam was fit enough, but what about Miss Tyler? She could be passing on all kinds of germs to big brother and Joe did not think their father would be best pleased if Adam had to take to his bed tomorrow on account of catching something unnecessary. Could Adam pass on whatever it was to the rest of them just by being with them or did he have to kiss them too? Since he came home, he hadn’t been one for kissing Joe goodnight on the forehead like he used to, but just to be sure, Joe would not even shake hands with him over the next few days. That should be long enough to avoid contagion.

Another fear gripped him momentarily. Some of the boys at school had been saying that women could have babies just from kissing. Now he had lived on a ranch long enough to see plenty of calves and foals come into the world and Pa had explained some of the odd goings-on of the animals, but folks were different, weren’t they? He was just beginning to panic and have doubts regarding his limited knowledge when a hand clamped over his mouth, stifling his sudden cry, and another gripped his shoulder, yanking him from his hiding place. He had been carried several feet before being set down and his father’s angry voice hissed in his ear.

“We will have words tomorrow, young man, about spying on your brother. Now get in the house!”

Ben was on the veranda, having seen off some more guests, when Adam eventually emerged from the side of the barn, hand in hand with Miss Tyler. Moonlight broke through the thin cloud cover and Ben caught his breath as it illuminated his son in profile. Gone was the gangly youth, all arms and legs like a headstrong colt, with the delicate beauty he had inherited from his mother and an endearing awkwardness in the presence of a girl. Instead, there stood a man in a stylish frock-coat, straight-backed, broad-shouldered and slim-hipped, raven-haired, handsome and self-assured.

The boy he had sent back east to study had returned a man, probably in more ways than Ben would care to admit but for all that, his heart swelled with a father’s love.

“Oh, Elizabeth,” he whispered into the night air, “I hope you can see our son and what he has become, that you are as proud of him as I am.”

He was distracted by guests calling him, wanting to make their farewells and he allowed himself a final thought. ‘I still expect him to behave like a gentleman, though. There’ll be no more skulking off behind the barn with the daughters of our friends. We’d better have a little talk tomorrow – man to man!’



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