Summary: A series of vignettes about Ben’s role as father to three sons. There’s a mixture of humor, concern, anger, regret, and joy so it’s much like the emotions any parent might feel at various times with their children.
Rating: PG WC = 9395
A Father’s Work Is Never Done
Chapter 1 School Days
All day, Ben worried. He remembered the first day of school for Adam and the first for Hoss. Neither of them had enjoyed their first day of school. He hoped that Little Joe would have a good first day and break the trend however unlikely that was.
Ben had actually expected his bright oldest son to revel in the chance to go to school, but it hadn’t worked out that way.
“Pa, I won’t say it. I won’t ever use those words. So I can’t tell you what those boys said. You can tan me and give me as many punishments as you want, but if anyone insults Hop Sing like that again, I won’t listen to it.”
Adam had stood as defiant as an eight-year-old boy could stand trembling with anger and fear when Ben picked him up from school but not before Ben had to withstand a tongue lashing from Adam’s teacher.
“That boy of yours has no fear. He attacked three boys, and then refused to tell me what they said that made him so angry. You better teach him some proper behavior or he will not be allowed to continue in this school. Only civilized children are allowed here.”
Oh Ben remembered that day so well. Tanning, lectures, extra chores, and banishment to his bedroom, and Adam finally accepted that he should not fight at school. Oh there were more fights until Adam didn’t fight any more at school, but there were plenty of fights off school grounds until he got control of that temper of his, and the other students learned a healthy respect for his willingness to defend the downtrodden. Ben had tired of talking to the teacher and parents long before that happened.
Then a few years later, it was Hoss’ turn for a first day at school. Adam gave Hoss a ride, and later brought home a little boy with a downcast, tear-streaked face riding in front of him. Adam was as sour faced as Hoss was sad. Sweet, mild mannered Hoss had been picked on unmercifully that first day for his size and the mistaken belief that he was stupid. Twelve-year-old Adam felt helpless to do anything about it because the children doing the hazing were only six years old themselves. It was another difficult transition for Hoss until he was accepted and liked by the other students for the wonderful traits he had including a natural ability to understand the world around him and appreciate it. His knowledge of the world of nature and his skill with animals had earned him respect as time went on.
Now today, Adam was gone to college and had left that school several years earlier leaving Hoss as the only Cartwright enrolled. Hoss had been waiting for the chance to have his little brother in school with him. The two had talked for days about all the fun they would have being able to be in school together. Hoss had taken on the older brother role and given Joe a ride to school. However, when Ben heard Hoss ride in, Joe wasn’t with him.
“Where’s your little brother? It was your job to watch out for him.”
“He’s coming. He wanted to walk the last bit so I dropped him off by the first fence. He’ll be here in a few minutes. Ahh, Pa, please let him explain everything before you get mad.”
“Well, he’ll have to tell you. It says so in the note.”
“A note from the teacher? Already?”
Shaking his head, Hoss walked his horse into the stable and began his chores. He heard his father greet Little Joe and worried about what would come next. There was a bit of silence that Hoss assumed meant that their Pa was reading the note. Then he heard the first growl.
“Pa, I just brought some stuff to school that I thought would make the day go better.”
“It says you released a frog into the classroom!”
“Pa, that was an accident. I had him in my lunch bag, but he was jumping around in there so much, he gottest out.”
“The note says you hit the teacher in the face!”
“Pa, that was another accident. She was gonna smash Froggy with a broom. Pa, she coulda killed him. I had to get her attention, but when I was gonna tap her on the shoulder, she spunned around so fast, I tapped her in the face.”
“She says you screamed at her and spit in her face!”
“Pa, she scared me. When I tapped her in the face, she raised her arms and yelled so loud it hurt my ears. I was so scared I screamed but not at her. I guess some spit coulda come out with it. She’s really scary, Pa.”
“She says you exposed your privates to her and relieved yourself on her shoes!”
“Pa, she made me sit in the corner, and I really had to go bad. She wouldn’t let me talk even to tell her I had to go. At lunch I ran out there to go, but there was a really long line for the necessary, so I walked behind it to go in the bushes like we do here. She came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder when I was going, and I spunned around but I wasn’t done yet and some spilt on her shoes. Pa, it ain’t polite to tap somebody on the shoulder when they’re going. Oh yeah, Pa, she yelled some of those really naughty words at me then. You know those words that Adam used when I dropped the axe on his foot. Maybe you oughta have a talk with her about her words cause you said you’d wash my mouth with soap ifn I ever said those words.”
“Well, there’s nothing about the afternoon. Did it go better at least for the last couple of hours?”
“Yeah, Pa, you know I told her that my brother Adam wanted to know all about my first day of school, and you was gonna help me write him a letter and tell him everything. She got a funny look on her face then and never said another word to me all day even when I dropped the box of chalk and pieces flew all over the room, or even when I opened the window and those bees flew in the room. Hey, Pa, did you know that if there are bees in the school, we get out early?”
“Why did you open the window to let bees in?”
“Oh, Pa, I didn’t know those bees would come in. I mean why would they want to come inta the school? There ain’t no flowers and no honey in there. I just knew it was hot so I opened the window.”
Ben rubbed his forehead and told Joe to go do his chores. Walking to the house, Ben felt the pain in his neck and in his forehead. He suspected it would go away in about ten years when Joe finished school.
Other Stories by this Author
- The Letter (by BettyHT)
- Your Son Is a Man (by BettyHT)
- Father and Sons (by BettyHT)
- The Worst Thing (by BettyHT)
- Sunday School Lessons, and Surprise (by BettyHT)