A B C D E
F G H I J K
"This is all you have managed to get done all morning?
What’s the matter with you?" Miss Ugavitch was glaring down at him. Joe
realized that the classroom had suddenly become quiet as everyone waited
to hear his answer.
"Ain’t noffin’ wrong with me. I’m almost done."
Joe lowered his gaze to his desk. He didn’t like the way she was staring
"Well, young man, it seems to me that you should have been
finished with this assignment long ago." She tossed the paper back at
Joe. "Now you add to that
assignment and write me your numbers to twenty five. At the
rate you are going that should keep you out of trouble for the rest
of the day." She started to walk away
and turned around to finish her lecture. "And I don’t want
to see all those smudge marks on the paper. Anymore carelessness and
you can start over."
Joe reached down to pick up the paper that had
landed on the floor. He glanced back towards his brother only to find
that Hoss wasn’t even looking his way. Joe
fought the urge to cry as the confusion continued to build.
‘These ain’t smudgies, they’re marks left over from that eraser thing.’
Joe continued to sit at his desk even through lunch. The other
students were allowed outside to eat and then participate in afternoon
recess. The tears of
embarrassment and confusion dripped endlessly onto his worked,
only to cause the teacher to get more upset.
"Joseph Cartwright, this is a total disgrace to your family.
Why just this morning your father sat here and told me how well you
knew your alphabet and numbers.
Seems your older brother Adam had a lot to do with your teachings.
How do you think your family is going to look at you once they see
this sorry excuse of
writing?" Miss Ugavitch snatched the paper out from under
Joe’s nose and crumbled it up into a wad then threw it in the waste
"You may start over and this time I don’t want to see any
smudge marks whatsoever on that paper. You may have until tomorrow
morning to turn it in, along with
your essay." She walked away from Joe leaving him to ponder
on his own.
The children let their excitement show as they herded towards
the outside, the first day of school was over. Joe quickly grabbed
his lunch tin and hat and ran outside
to find Hoss. Joe surveyed the area to find Adam sitting in
the wagon near the hitching post. He started to walk towards Adam
and then out of the corner of his eye,
he spotted Hoss. "Hey, Hoss. Adam’s here," he yelled as he
broke out into a run, heading towards Hoss.
Hoss quickly turned his back to Joe and continued to whisper
to his friends. Joe was getting impatient with Hoss and tapped him on
his hip. "Come on, Hoss. I said
Hoss turned around and pushed Joe backwards. "Can’t you see
that I am talkin’? Now go and wait for me by Adam."
Joe felt the tears once again pool in his eyes. Never before
has Hoss ever pushed him away. Never before had Hoss not wanted to talk
to him and never before had
Hoss ever included him in his play. He slowly walked back
towards the wagon, his mind whirling with uncertainty about this whole
day. "Hey, Buddy. Watch where
your walking before you hurt yourself."
Joe looked up to see that Adam was standing right in front
of him. "Need a lift up?" he asked Joe. Without waiting for a reply,
Adam swung him into the front of the
wagon. "Pa said that you could help me drive the team back
home. We just have to wait on Hoss before we leave."
Joe looked intently at the cracks on the floor. He never noticed
how many there were just in the front of the wagon. "Is something wrong,
Buddy? You look like you
lost your best friend." Adam placed his hand on Joe’s knee
trying to find out why his younger brother was so quiet. This was not
typical for Joe to be silent and
Adam couldn’t help but wonder what could have possibly gone
wrong the first day of school.
Joe shrugged his shoulders and continued to gaze at the planked
floor. "Nuffin’ Adam. Just tired, I guess."
Adam’s line of questioning was interrupted as Hoss stepped
into the wagon. "Hi, Adam. Sorry, I’m late, had to talk to some friends
about going fishin’ on Saturday."
"No problem, Hoss." Adam stepped into the wagon and took the
reins in hand, waiting for Joe to sit between his legs to help. "Joe,
are you not going to help me
drive the team home?" he asked as his hand cupped the back
of Joe’s neck.
Joe shrugged his shoulders again and chose not to answer.
Adam was a little concerned and placed his hand on Joe’s forehead.
"You’re not getting sick again, are
Joe turned his head away from Adam’s hand. "No, I ain’t sick.
Just wanna go home and see Papa."
"Ah, Adam. Joe ain’t sick. He just got in trouble at school
today that’s all." The words slipped out of Hoss’ mouth before he
realized what he had done. He
sympathetically glanced at Joe, hoping that he wasn’t too
mad at him for spilling the beans.
Adam pulled the horses to a halt. "Joe, the first day of school
and you already got into trouble. What did you do?"
Joe felt the pressures of the day surface and unable to control
it any longer, burst forth his reply. "Ain’t none of your businesses.
You ain’t my Papa." The tears fell
unchecked as he buried his face on his knees. "I didn’t do
nuffin’ wrong. She just don’t like me."
Adam pulled the wagon to a stop just outside the barn. Ben
wore a smile as he walked over to greet his sons. "Hi, boys. How was
your first day of school, Joe?" He
held out his arms to help the small boy down.
"I ain’t going back. I hate school and I hate her." Joe broke
into a run heading straight for the house. Adam cringed when he heard
the door slam shut.
"What was that all about?" Ben asked to neither one in particular.
"I don’t know, he wouldn’t talk to me, Pa. You will have to
ask Hoss." Adam took hold of the bridle and led the horses into the
barn. "I will take care of bedding
down the stock while you talk to him."
"In the house, Eric," stated Ben as he turned and walked away.
Hoss was at his heels following close behind.
"Pa, all I know is that Joe got into trouble with Miss Ugavitch."
"Hoss, I said in the house." Ben went over and sat down in
his chair behind the desk. "What kind of trouble could he possibility
get into on the first day of school?"
Hoss watched as his father lit his pipe. He was always intrigued
by the way the match would burst into flames just from striking it against
the wood. "Don’t know for
sure, Pa. He called her a name and that set her off in a big
Ben exhaled the smoke from his lungs and leaned forward in
the chair. "He what?"
Hoss hated to be the one tattling on his younger brother.
He knew that most of the time it was just Joe’s quick temper that got
him into trouble. "He called her a
name, Pa. I didn’t hear what he said but she was mad at him.
Made him stay inside all day writing."
Ben snuffed out his pipe and stood. "Go sit at the table and
start your homework. I will be upstairs with Joseph."
Hoss watched his Pa climb the steps to Joe’s room. He shook
his head knowing what would soon follow.
Adam had come in from the barn and was helping Hoss with his
math homework when Ben came down the stairs. "Hi, Pa. What did you find
out?" asked Adam as
he erased Hoss’ answer, indicating that it was wrong.
"He swears he didn’t call her any name. Then he broke down
saying that she doesn’t like him. Joe thinks that Miss Ugavitch is just
picking on him because he’s the
new kid in school. I guess I will need to send a note in the
morning asking her for an explanation that led up to his punishment."
"Pa, didn’t Joe bring a note home from Miss Ugavitch explaining
her side of the story?" asked Adam as he once again erased another
answer to Hoss’ math
"Joe said he didn’t have a note to give me. I looked through
his papers and only found a piece of paper where he had written part
of the alphabet on." Ben sat down
at the table and reached for the cup of coffee Adam had just
poured for him. "I need you to take the boys to school in the morning,
Adam. I have to meet with the
Cattlemen Association at 8:00 a.m. and don’t have the time
to stop by to speak with Miss Ugavitch."
"Sure, Pa. Do you want me to have a talk with her about Little
Joe?" Adam asked as he smiled with the answer Hoss wrote down.
"No, Adam. I will ask her for a complete run down in the form
of a note and will take it from there. I just don’t see Little Joe
causing that much of a problem,
especially the first day."
"Where’s Little Joe, is he still in his room?" Adam asked
as he pointed out another mistake to Hoss.
"Yes, he said that he had a lot of writing to do for homework.
Can you check on him while I round up a snack for the boys?"
Adam entered Joe’s room with out knocking. He found Joe sitting
on the floor bent over apparently working hard as Joe didn’t even
acknowledge his presence.
"Joe, Pa sent up some cookies and milk for you. Why don’t
you take a break and eat them?"
Joe looked up from his paper and tried to smile. "Can’t Adam,
she gives me lots of writing to do and I hafe’ta finish it before
Adam sat down on the floor next to Joe. He put an encouraging
arm around Joe’s shoulder. "Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Nuh, nuh. Hafe’ta write my ABC’s and then a "SA". It’s a
lotta work, Adam. My hand hurts already from writing."
Adam smiled and pulled Joe into a quick hug. "Okay, Buddy.
But let me know if you need any help. I will be downstairs if you need
Joe nodded as he struggled to make the letters perfect. He
was trying hard not to make those smudgies, whatever they were suppose
to be." Just before Ben called
him to dinner, he had completed the letters. "Now, just hafe’ta
do the numbers and then that "SA" thing."
Dinner was quiet, as no one wanted to tread on Joe’s feet.
As soon as he was dismissed from the table he ran up to his room. Joe
knew how to write his numbers so
he figured he would work on this "SA" thing first. His reasoning
was that if he wasn’t finished before bedtime he could always do the
numbers in the morning. Ben
found him asleep on the floor with the pencil still held tightly
in his left hand. He gently woke Little Joe and helped him to his feet.
"Are you finished with your
homework, Little Joe?" Ben questioned as he brushed the curls
back from his forehead.
"No, Papa. I still have my numbers to do," he answered between
Ben steered him towards the desk that was in the far corner
of his room. "Why don’t you sit up here on the chair? It might make
it easier for you to stay awake long
enough to finish. Do you think you can be done shortly, son?
It is getting late and you need to get to bed."
"Yea, I can do them fast, Pa." Joe rummaged around his desk
until he found a blank piece of paper. He bent over and started to
write. Ben patted him on his back
and left to finish his work.
Joe sighed when he wrote the last number down. He held the
paper up to the light and smiled when he didn’t see too many smudgies.
"That’s as good as I can do."
He then tucked the paper back in with the ABC paper and pulled
out one other blank piece of paper. "Now just gotta do that "SA" thing.
Joe sat for many minutes
trying to figure out what his teacher had meant by writing
a "SA". He found himself chewing on his pencil breaking off the sharpened
tip. "Damn," he whispered and
quickly turned around to see if anyone had heard him. Relief
washed over his face when he saw that Pa had closed the door to his
room. Joe walked out into the
hallway and stopped at Adam’s room. He knocked and not waiting
for an answer entered the room. "Adam, can yous sharpen this for me,
it broke?" he asked as he
climbed up on Adam’s bed.
Adam sharpened the pencil and handed it back to Joe. "Next
time, Joe, don’t chew on it and it probably won’t break." He picked
Joe off of his bed and stood him
on the floor. "Are you finished yet?"
"Almost, Adam. Just need a little bit more minutes." Joe skipped
across the room and out the door. Once seated back at his desk, his
tried to concentrate on writing
the "SA". Nothing came to the boy’s mind. ‘I guess I’m suppose
to write those letters until the page can’t fit no more.’ He still was
not sure what the teacher had
wanted him do, but he was afraid to ask her. He bent over
once again as he tried hard to keep the smudgies off the paper. Finally,
he was done. He looked at the
paper and was satisfied that he had finally finished the homework.
He folded the paper and added it to the other ones and slid down out
of his chair. Joe pulled the
comforter down from the bed and climbed up into it. He fell
asleep as his tired head hit the pillow.
Ben found him lying on the bed with his clothes still on and
on top of his blanket. He smiled as he picked Joe up into his lap. Many
years of practice allowed Ben to
change his son into his nightshirt and place him back into
bed without waking him. Gently Ben tucked in the bedcovers around his
little boy, placed Bo under his left
arm and kissed him goodnight. He made sure that he turned
the lantern down low, just burning enough to give off a faint glow
in the room.
Morning arrived all to soon for Little Joe. He laid in bed
really trying to figure out a way he could just stay home. His thoughts
were once again interrupted as Adam
opened the door to his room. "Hey, it’s time for all little
boys to get up and get ready for school." Adam didn’t wait for a response
and pulled the covers back off of
Joe. "Come on, this morning Pa has asked me to get you dressed.
He had to get to town for the Cattlemen’s Association meeting."
Joe allowed Adam to pull him up to a sitting position before
answering him. "Adam, what happens when somebody gets sick?"
Adam sat down on the edge of the bed, knowing exactly where
this conversation was heading. "What somebody is this that just happens
to be sick?"
"Somebody you know." Joe looked down at his bed and found
a thread that had unraveled from his nightshirt. "Don’t they get to
stay home and gets better?" Joe
pulled on the thread causing the hem of the nightshirt to
"Well, that all depends on how sick this somebody really is?
Do you happen to know this person?" Adam gently removed Joe’s hands
from the thread and slipped
the nightshirt off of his head.
"Yep, and he’s real sick too!" Joe stood up on the bed allowing
Adam to pull up his trousers.
"Ummm. We then if this person is that sick then maybe we should
let him stay home from school." Adam held out the shirt for Joe to
slip his arms into.
"That’s whats I think too!
Adam buttoned up Joe’s shirt and motioned for him to sit down.
He reached over to the floor and picked up the boots. "Is this somebody
to sick to eat his
Joe pushed his right foot into the boot. "Yep, he’s real sick,
"That’s too bad. How long do you think before he can go back
to school?" asked Adam as he held up the other boot for Joe.
"I thinks maybe a long time," replied Joe as he pushed his
left foot into the boot. "Maybe by the time he gets better he will be
too big to go to school."
Adam stood and held out his hand for Joe. "Boy, that sounds
real bad." He watched Joe jump from the bed to the floor. "Does his
family know about his sickness?"
Joe released Adam’s hand and walked to the door. "Nope, I
don’t think so."
Adam opened the door and motioned for Joe to exit first. "Don’t
you think this somebody should tell someone?"
Joe jumped down the stairs two at a time and waited for Adam
on the landing. "I don’t know if it matters, Adam. He’s really really
Adam caught up to Joe and he watched Joe take the last few
steps with one jump. "No one notices how sick this somebody really really
Joe skipped across to the table and sat down in his father’s
chair. "Nope, don’t thinks so." He reached to the cup of coffee that
his father had left in his efforts to get
to Virginia City in time for the meeting. "So, with all that
I told you, don’t you thinks it better for this somebody to just stay
Adam reached over Joe’s shoulder and took the coffee cup out
of his hands, and replaced it with a glass of milk. "I think so, but
my first thoughts would be to take
him to see a doctor."
The thought of seeing a doctor sent shivers down Joe’s spine.
He lost his appetite as Adam placed his breakfast before him. "Come
on, Joe. Eat up, have to get you
to school on time."
Joe glanced over and watched Hoss shovel his food into his
mouth. Joe could see that Hoss was not paying any attention to him as
he concentrated on eating. Joe
picked up his fork and spread the scrambled eggs around on
his plate, hoping to give the appearance that he had eaten some of it.
"Joe, please sit up straight and eat. We have to leave here
in a few minutes in order to get you and Hoss to school."
Joe continued to swirl the eggs around his plate as he watched
Hoss eat. It never ceased to amaze him to watch how much food Hoss could
put away in one meal.
Even when Hoss finished eating, Joe continued to follow his
moves with his eyes. His staring was interrupted when he felt the
fork removed from his hand.
"Let’s go, Buddy. I hope that you make up for eating when
you have lunch today." Adam pulled his chair back away from the table
and ushered him to the door. Joe
was in a daze as he walked on to the porch. "Hey, Joe. Do
you have your homework?" And don’t forget to take your jacket, Buddy.
We are staying in town to join
Pa for dinner tonight."
Joe ran back into the house to get his homework and ran back
out to the hitching post. Adam was standing there holding his jacket
out to him. "I figured you would
forget to get this in your haste to get your homework." Adam
picked up Joe and swung him in to the saddle. "You can ride to town
with me, okay?"
Joe nodded his head and grabbed onto the horn of the saddle.
Before long he could see the outskirts of town. He tilted his head back
and looked up into Adam’s
face. Adam smiled down at Joe and went back to watching the
road. Joe turned to Adam with a puzzled look as he stopped his horse
in front of Dr. Martin’s office.
"Why are you coming here, Adam? Yous sick?"
Adam dismounted and reached up for Joe. "No, I am not the
one that’s sick. But I am concerned for your friend so I thought maybe
you should go in and tell Dr.
Martin about him. You know maybe he could help him out with
some medicine or something."
Joe tensed up as he leaned back against Adam. "I’m okay now,
Adam. The fresh air did me good. I can go to school." Joe lifted up
his left leg in hopes of getting his
foot into the stirrup. He was having difficultly reaching
it and felt himself being lifted back into the saddle.
"Well, I am so glad to hear that you are feeling better. In
that case, off to school we go." Adam climbed up behind Joe and slightly
kicking his mount, set off towards
Adam was to meet his father at the meeting as soon as he had
dropped the boys off at the schoolhouse. He quickly swung Little Joe
down to the ground and handed
him his homework. "Hey, Little Joe, I am running a bit behind
schedule. Would you please give this note to Miss Ugavitch for Pa?"
Joe shook his head and reached for the note. He waved goodbye
to Adam and walked slowly towards the steps. Hoss was already off and
talking to his friends and
Joe saw no reason to hang around outside. He reached for the
knob and was surprised to see it pull open. There she stood, Miss U-a-witch.
Joseph. I sincerely hope today is a much better day than yesterday.
Did you finish your assignments?"
Joe swallowed hard attempting to dislodge the lump that seemed
to stick in his throat. "Yes, madam. I did." He reached up to hand her
the homework and
remembered the note in his pocket. "Pa sent this for you,"
he said walking pass her to find his seat.
Her shrill voice sliced through him like a knife. He stopped
is his tracks and turned around, the whole time wondering what did he
had done now. "Joseph
Cartwright. I don’t know why you continue to mock me, but
I will tell you here right now, that this is the last time. You go
stand behind my desk in the corner and
don’t move until I tell you otherwise."
Joe tilted his head to the side as a puzzled look crossed
his face. "What did I do, Miss U-a-witch?"
Joe could hear her heels knocking against the wooden floor
as she stormed back into the room. "It’s what you didn’t do. Why do
you insist on playing stupid with
me?" She shoved his homework papers under his nose. "Is this
supposed to be some kind of a joke, young man?"
Joe could see her face getting red with anger and took a step
back. "Oh, and my dear Little Joseph Cartwright, do you honestly think
that by calling me names it is
going to make things any easier for you?" Joe took a step
back as he saw her lip quivering like it did yesterday. "I did what
you told me to do."
She ignored the frightened boy and propelled him towards the
corner of the room. "Just stand there like I instructed. Let’s see for
once if you can follow orders."
She started to walk away and then spun around to lecture the
boy again. "Just because your father happens to be the richest man in
the territory, doesn’t mean that I
have to bow down to you or any of his kind. Huh! And he thought
you were ahead of the class because you already knew your alphabet
and numbers." She pushed
Joe further into the corner before walking away.
Joe’s face was pressed up against the wooden planks. He could
hear her mumbling as she walked away. "I’ll teach that Cartwright
a lesson he will never forget."
He struggled to hold back the tears that threatened to overflow.
He had no idea what it was that he had done wrong. His thoughts were
broken as she rambled on.
"I see that your father is far to busy to speak with me this
morning. So until I get the chance to do so tomorrow, you will remain
standing here for the duration of the
day. I don’t need your defiance in my classroom."
The day passed slowly for Joe as he stood in the corner. He
could hear the giggling and whispering of the other students as they
went about their day. Joe turned
around to look for Hoss when the teacher announced that it
was time for lunch. He stepped forward eager to talk to Hoss. Joe had
only gotten two steps passed her
desk, when he felt her iron like grip grab hold of his shoulder.
"Not so fast, young man. I can’t prevent you from eating, but you will
do so standing by your desk."
Joe brushed away a stray tear from his cheek as he took his
lunch tin out of his cubbyhole. He quietly approached his desk and
opened his box. He pulled out his
lunch and sat it down on his desk. Joe continued to stare
at the food, again losing his appetite as he tried in vain to piece
together the events of the morning.
"Well, if you are not going to eat it, put it away and get
back into the corner." Joe cringed when he heard her speak. He shoved
his sandwich back into his tin and
placed it back in his cubbyhole. "You are not moving fast
enough, boy. Get back into that corner now."
Joe felt like her eyes were poking holes right through his
chest. His legs were already hurting from standing all morning and he
had no idea how he was going to make
it through the afternoon. "Can I go use the outhouse first?"
"Hurry up. I don’t like to be kept waiting."
Joe walked quickly out of the schoolhouse and once outside
ran to the back. When he was finished he snuck his way around to the
side of the building and peeked
out in hopes of finding Hoss. Joe spotted him and without
glancing back, ran towards his brother.
"Hoss, I gotta go home. I don’t like that teacher." He threw
himself against Hoss’ chest and let his tears of frustration flow.
Instead of his brother’s arm holding him
tight, he found himself being pushed away.
"Joe, can’t you see that I’m busy. Besides you only want to
go home because you done did get yourself into trouble again. Sorry,
but I ain’t taking the blame for
skipping you out of school."
Joe stood there unable to respond. He never thought that his
brother wouldn’t stand up for him. Joe hung his head and walked back
towards the schoolhouse. Once
inside he placed himself in the corner like he was told to
do earlier. "I see that you have decided to return. The next time I
give you permission to use the outhouse,
young man, you do just that. Do I make myself clear?"
Joe nodded as he shifted his weight from one foot to another.
The slap to the back of his head came totally unexpected. "I said
stand, not dance."
Just when Joe felt that he could no longer stand, the class
was dismissed for the day. He turned to run out of the room only to
be stopped by her cat like grasp. "You
give this note to your father, Joseph. You will not be allowed
to return to my classroom until your father finds the time to speak
with me." Joe grabbed the note and
stuffed it into his pocket and ran out of the room forgetting
to grab his belongings. Joe’s thoughts consisted of only getting out
of that horrible place. He stopped
running when he was in Adam’s arms.
"Glad to see you too, Buddy. How did today go?"
"I hate her and I hate school, Adam. I ain’t ever going back,"
Joe let out his feelings of hurt and frustration, crying heavily on
"Hey, hey! Calm down, Little Joe." Adam squatted down so he
could be an eye level with his little brother. "What happened today?
Did you get in trouble again?"
"She hates me, Adam. She made me stay in the corner all day
and I gots no lunch, either." Joe rubbed the tears off his face and
searched his brother’s face for
"Joe, how can she hate you? This is only your second day here."
Adam pulled Joe into a hug and rubbed his back. "This must be something
that you aren’t telling
Joe reached into his pocket and brought forth the crumpled
note and handed it to Adam. "She just don’t like me," he tried to explain
Adam took the note and placed it in his pocket. "All right,
Joe. Pa’s waiting for you and Hoss at the meeting hall. I will give
him the note to read." Adam looked
around quickly as he placed Joe into the saddle. Catching
sight of his other brother, Adam yelled for him. "Hoss, let’s go.
I have to get back to the meeting hall."
Hoss ran across the schoolyard and was pleased to see that
Adam had already saddled up Chubb for him. "Thanks, Adam." Within seconds,
the Cartwrights boys
were riding down the street towards the meeting hall.
Adam dismounted and handed his reins to Hoss. "Wait here a
minute, I need to see if Pa can break away for a minute."
The seconds seemed like hours to Joe as he fidgeted with Sport’s
mane. Joe looked up when he heard his father’s voice. Looking up when
he heard his name
called, Joe’s smile was immediately replaced with a frown.
He could see the anger etched on his father’s face. "Joseph! You, young
man, will be going home with
me. Because of your behavior in school, you will not be staying
in town to have dinner at the International Hotel. You will sit with
your brother on the porch while I
wrap things up inside."
Joe let his tears of frustration run down his face and his
father reached up and pulled him from the saddle. Ben gave Adam some
last minutes instructions and turned
back to attend his meeting. Adam held out his hand for Joe
to take. Joe ignored his brother’s gesture and shoved his hands into
his pockets. "All right, have it your
way. You heard Pa, Joe, go sit down on the bench." Adam placed
his hand on Joe’s back and guided him to the porch.
Adam had suggested to Hoss that he complete his homework,
thus allowing him to stay in town to have dinner with him. "It will
give Pa sometime alone with Joe to
discuss his behavior."
Ben returned to the porch shortly after 5:30 p.m. He handed
Adam some money and talked to Hoss briefly before taking Joe’s hand
and leading him to Buck. "You
boys behave yourself and come right home after you have eaten."
It was dark when they arrived back on the Ponderosa and the
anticipation of his forthcoming lecture wore heavy on the boy. It
took all of his self-control to maintain
what little dignity he had left. Ben placed him on the ground
before dismounting himself. "Joseph, you go up to your room and start
on your homework. I will be in
when I have finished bedding down Buck."
Joe took off running towards the house and had every intention
of slamming the door shut to let his father know of his disappointment,
but changed his mind when he
heard his father call out to him. "And you better not slam
that door, young man."
He ran up the stairs and into his room, allowing himself to
slam that door. He knew that Pa couldn’t hear that one from the barn.
Joe threw his papers on the floor
and jumped on his bed. He gathered Bo into his arms and hugging
him, cried. "It ain’t fair, Bo. I ain’t done nuffin’ and I gets into
trouble. I hate that Miss U-a-witch,
He felt himself dozing off when a strong hand shook him back
awake. "I thought I told you to start on your homework." Joe blinked
his eyes open to find himself
looking into his father’s face. "I need to go downstairs and
find something for us to eat. I gave Hop Sing the evening off because
we were supposed to be eating in
town with your brothers. Now get off the bed and start on
that homework. I will call you when dinner is ready."
Joe slipped down off the bed and arranged Bo on his pillow.
"You can rest while I work, then wes can eat." Joe pulled his blanket
up and covered his best friend. "I
luv you Bo. You never are mean to me, never."
Joe sat down at his desk and pulled out his papers. "Another
"SA". Why is she making me do things I already done?" He sat chewing
on his pencil trying to figure
out why she hated him so much. He gave up trying to decipher
this lady that he had grown to hate and sat back down on his bed. He
picked up Bo and held him up
in front of his face.
"Bo, why does she not like me? I didn’t do nuffin’ to her."
Joe sat there talking to his beloved stuffed bear and didn’t notice
that his father had entered his room.
"I take it that you have completed your assignments, Joseph?"
Joe looked up slightly embarrassed that his father had caught him
talking to a stuffed toy.
"No, papa, I ain’ts done yet?"
"Well, supper is ready and after you are done eating you are
to finish your homework without any further distractions. Is that understood?"
Joe nodded and placed Bo back on his bed as he slipped down
to the floor. "Yes, sir. I understood you."
Joe sat at his desk holding his head up with his hand. "I
thinks this "SA" stuff is stupid. How many times does she need to see
that I can write "SAs" on paper?" He
folded the paper in half and slipped in under his bag of marbles.
Joe waited for Pa to come up to his room like he had promised to do
for their little talk. He felt
himself getting tired and went about changing into his nightshirt.
Pa still hadn’t arrived so Joe laid down on the bed to talk some more
with Bo. The next thing he was
aware of was that the sunlight was shining through his bedroom
"Rise and shine, Little Joe. Pa wants you up and dressed and
downstairs pronto," yelled Adam as he walked away from the room.
Joe sighed heavily and pulled his clothes off of the chair.
"Can wear these again, cause they ain’t got dirty. I didn’t gets to
go out and play yesterday." When he had
finished getting dressed, he peeked out into the hallway to
see if anyone was there. Satisfied that no one was, Joe slipped into
Adam’s room. He rummaged around
in the desk drawer until he found a pencil that he could take
to school. Joe had broken off the tip of his own pencil last night
while he was chewing on it.
Once downstairs, Joe picked up his spoon to eat his breakfast.
"Young man, being you were so tired last night, I left you sleeping.
This morning I aim to ride into
town with you and speak with Miss Ugavitch and get to the
bottom of this reoccurring problem. Now sit up and eat your breakfast.
I would like to get to school
before all the other students arrive."
Joe suddenly felt sick to his stomach. The butterflies had
come back to haunt him. He pushed his plate away from in front of him
and made for the door. Joe put on
his jacket and felt his pockets to make sure that he had his
homework. He looked around the great room hoping to see Hoss, but quickly
realized that they were all
waiting for him outside when he heard his father yell for
The ride into town was a repeat of yesterday’s conversation
with Adam. Ben got nowhere with Joe as he questioned him about his
behavior and his incomplete
work. Joe’s reply was always the same. "She don’t like me,
Ben looped the reins over the hitching post before taking
hold of Joe’s hand. He sent Hoss on his way to play with his friends.
Ben had to practically drag Joe into
the schoolhouse. "Good morning, Miss Ugavitch. I have come
to discuss Joseph’s behavior problems with you. Is this morning convenient
"Well, of course, Mr. Cartwright. Why don’t you have a seat
at your desk, Joseph while I talk to your father?"
Ben released Joe’s hand and watched as his son sat down. Right
away he noticed the fear that seem to spread across his youngest face.
Ben sat down at the chair
that was offered to him and waited for the teacher to make
the first move.
"Mr. Cartwright, it seems that everything I have asked your
son to do, he has made a mockery of it." She reached into her desk
drawer and pulled out the
assignments that she had received from Joe yesterday. "This
one paper with his alphabet has so many smudges on it I can hardly
read it. Joseph was given a second
chance to rewrite the paper and as you can see, Mr. Cartwright,
it looks like he shows no pride in his work."
Ben took the paper from Miss Ugavitch and glanced at it. "Joseph,
would you please come here?"
Joe felt his heart beating through his shirt. He swore that
it felt like it was going to push right through his chest and on to
the floor. "Joseph, is this the paper that you
turned in to Miss Ugavitch yesterday?"
Joe looked at the paper and nodded. "I can’t hear you, Joseph."
Joe snapped his head up to find the teacher glaring at him. "In my
classroom when you are asked a
question, I expect to hear an answer."
"Yes, sir." Joe replied as he looked back at his father.
Ben looked down at the paper again and turned his attention
to Miss Ugavitch. "I don’t understand what the problem is, Miss Ugavitch.
You instructed Joseph to
write the alphabet, and what I am seeing is, that he did."
"Mr. Cartwright, just look at all those smudge marks on the
paper. What student would turn that in to be graded looking like that?"
"In my opinion, Miss Ugavitch, any six year old student who
has just started school is bound to make mistakes. I see these same
marks on Hoss’ papers that he has
turned in to you for grading and nothing has ever been said
about his smudge marks."
Lost for words, Miss Ugavitch handed Ben the second piece
of paper. "And look at this one, Mr. Cartwright. I instructed Joseph
to write his numbers from 1 – 25."
Ben took the paper and looked at it. The only thing that Ben
noticed was that Joseph had a little problem with spacing between the
numbers and a few smudge
marks. "What is it I am suppose to be looking at, Miss Ugavitch?
Joseph wrote his numbers from 1 – 25 like you requested."
"Again, Mr. Cartwright, look at his penmanship. It’s terrible."
"Terrible! We are talking about a six-year-old little boy’s
writing. What’s so terrible about his penmanship?"
"Well, after hearing that your son already knew the alphabet
and his numbers, I would expect to see better performance out of him.
This is horrible and I refuse to
"Is there anything else I need to see, Miss Ugavitch?" Ben
felt his patience running thin. He could sense that Joseph was in deed
correct in his assumption that she
just didn’t like him.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, Mr. Cartwright, there is. I instructed
him to write me a one-page essay. And this is what he handed in."
She shoved the paper under Ben’s
nose, causing him to glance back at her. He could feel the
tension building in the room as he took the paper from her.
Ben looked at the paper and glanced over to Joe. He held the
paper out so Joe could see. "Son, can you tell me why you wrote nothing
but letters on this paper
when you were instructed to write an essay?"
Joe pointed to the paper with a puzzled look on his face.
"But, Papa I did write the "SA" like she told me to do?"
"Joe, there is nothing on this piece of paper except some
Joe took the paper in his hand and held it closer to Ben’s
face. "But, Papa look, see I wrote the "SA" like she said."
Ben looked where the little finger was pointing and smiled.
There on the paper was a full page of "SAs" just like Joe had pointed
Ben turned his attention back to the teacher. "I have the
feeling, Miss Ugavitch that my son, Joseph did not understand what
was expected of him."
"What’s there not to understand, Mr. Cartwright?" She tried
to snatch the paper from his hands as her anger raised another notch.
"It is obvious that this child seems
to enjoy making fun of my assignments. I will not tolerate
this behavior in my classroom."
Ben pulled his hand back out of her reach. "Miss Ugavitch,
if I may explain something to you before you jump to conclusions...."
"There is nothing to explain, Mr. Cartwright. It is quite
clear to me, that you have no intentions of disciplining this child
for his behavior and mockery of my
"No, quite the contrary, Miss Ugavitch. All I am trying to
do is understand what my son has done to deserve the punishment you
have given him. It’s clear that the
child did not understand what an essay was. From speaking
to you, I have reached the conclusion that you did not take the time
to explain to him what an essay
was." Ben reached over and pulled Joe into his lap. "From
a six year olds point of understanding, it is clear to me that he
honestly believed you were asking him to
write a page full of "S" and "A’s."
"Well, I never in my career of teaching, had a parent side
with a student. This is ridiculous, Mr. Cartwright." She tucked a stray
piece of hair back into place and
stood up. "What about the name calling, Mr. Cartwright? Can
you offer an excuse for that one as well?"
Ben cupped Joe’s chin in his hand and lifted his son’s face
to meet his. "Joseph, is this true?"
"No, Papa. I have never called her any names, ‘cept the one
she calls herself." Ben fought the smile as he listened to his little
boy trying to explain his innocence. He
glanced up to the teacher waiting for her to respond.
"I demand nothing more than an apology for the name calling.
I will not stand for that at all in my classroom, especially in front
of the entire class."
Ben sat Joe on his feet and placed his hand on his shoulder.
"I can agree with that request. Joseph, please apologize to Miss Ugavitch."
Joe looked up into his father’s face. He had no idea why his
father was going to make him apology when he had just told him that
he didn’t call her a name. "But,
"Joseph, just apologize, please."
Joe swallowed and dropped his gaze to stare at the floor.
"And look at me when you talk to me, young man." Joe bit the side of
his mouth to keep from calling her a
lair. He knew that would get him a little talk over his father’s
knee if he ever called an adult that.
He slowly lifted his head until he was looking at her face.
He fought the urge that was eating away at him and unconsciously gave
in to his thoughts. "I’m sorry for
calling you whatever name it was that I said, but you’re lying
to my Pa, Miss U-a-witch."
She leaned over the desk and pointed a finger in Joe’s face.
"What nerve you have, child! Why I never in my life have heard children
speak like that in front of their
own parents. What kind of a child are you raising, Mr. Cartwright?"
‘I have to agree with my son on this one, definitely a witch.’
This thought with a few others passed through Ben’s mind. "I think you
misunderstood my son, Miss
Ugavitch," Ben tried to explain.
"I misunderstood nothing, Mr. Cartwright. Do you think with
all that money you have banked in Virginia City along with the fancy
horses you ride, that you can
control me? I don’t see what these other women find so intriguing
about a Cartwright."
Ben tired to interrupt her to explain to her that Joe was
just having a simple problem of mispronunciation with her name. But,
Miss Ugavitch was not letting him get a
Joe in the meantime had backed up until he was again sitting
on his father’s lap. He watched the irate teacher explode with anger.
This was scaring him, but he felt a
little safer sitting on his father’s lap.
"I can’t stand you rich people. You think you own the world.
Well let me tell you something about myself, Mr. Cartwright."
Ben felt Joe tugging on his vest and looked down at his son.
"Papa, watch out. She hits when she gets real mad."
Concerned, Ben leaned down so he could whisper to Joe. "Did
she ever hit you, Joseph?"
Joe shook his head yes and Miss Ugavitch continued to carry
on. Ben stood up and placed Joe on his hip. "Miss Ugavitch, this conversation
has just come to an
end. Neither of my boys will be attending school today. As
a matter of fact, neither will be returning until I can meet with the
school board and see to it that you are
"You can’t do that to me, Mr. Cartwright. I did nothing wrong
to your boys, except discipline when I saw fit. If you had taken the
time to raise your children right,
there would be no need for me to intervene. As far as I am
concerned they don’t need to be here anyway. Why don’t you just hire
a private tutor? After all you have
the funds available to do that with."
"As you wish, Miss Ugavitch. I am calling an emergency meeting
now." Ben walked out of the schoolhouse and waved Hoss over to join
them. "Son, get your horse
and follow me."
Hoss ran back to his friends and told them he was leaving.
As he walked away from the group, he heard Miss Ugavitch screaming on
the steps of the porch. "Don’t
you bring those rotten boys of yours back, Mr. Cartwright.
That other one of yours is so nieve that he believes that those boys
are his friends."
Ben ignored her as they left the schoolyard. Hoss was embarrassed
to have to leave his friends and even more, confused as to why. Nothing
was said to either child
as Ben walked into the sheriff’s office. Ben took the checkerboard
off of Roy’s desk and had the boys follow him into one of the cells.
"Hoss, please play with your
brother while I talk to Roy." Ben saw the look of confusion
on his face, "It’s all right, Hoss. Everything will be just fine.
We will talk about it later after I am finished
with my business in town."
Ben explained what had happened at the schoolhouse. Roy agreed
with Ben that an emergency meeting needed to be arranged and sent his
deputy to round up the
members. Ben sat down with his sons and explained to them
that they would have to sit tight until he was finished with his meeting.
In the meantime, Roy had found
Adam and he was to keep his brothers company at the jail.
Joe was the first to hear his father’s voice in the front
room. In his haste he knocked over the checkerboard on the floor.
"Papa, I thoughts I hear ya." He jumped
into Ben’s arms and wrapped his arms around Ben’s neck. "I
Ben laughed as he caught his child in flight. Holding him
tight, Ben looked over to see that Adam and Hoss were standing in
the doorway. "I know you boys want to
hear everything, so let’s get over to the International House
for a nice lunch and then we can go home and have ourselves a nice
Joe tilted his head to the side and looked up at his father.
Puzzled he asked, "why do we gets a little talk, we didn’t do nuffin’
Roy joined in the laughter as Adam swung Joe up to his back.
Together they walked down to the International House for lunch. Once
back at the ranch, Joe sat on
his father’s lap while Ben explained what actions took place
at the meeting. The discussion drew to an end as he explained that the
boys would not be attending
school until a replacement was found. Joe smiled at the idea
of being able to stay home, until Ben spoke to him.
"Not so fast, Little Joe. There is something that I do expect
of you while you are home these next few weeks."
Joe’s eyes grew wide with anticipation as he waited for his
father to continue. "Your brothers and I have agreed to work with you
to help improve your penmanship.
I want at least one hour of writing a day from you until school
is back in session."
A smile appeared on Joe’s face as he listened to his father.
"That’s okay, Papa. I knowd I can write good someday too. I like to
go to school here all the time, Pa,
this way I never have to leave you alone."
Ben smiled down at his youngest and at his innocence. He looked
over at Hoss and saw that he looked disappointed. "Hoss, what’s wrong?
You don’t cater to the
idea of staying home?"
"Ah, Pa. It’s not that. It’s just, well, you see." He sighed
and continued, "I have me some new friends and all and we were planning
on going fishing on Saturday.
Now, I won’t be able to meet up with them to go."
Ben handed Joe over to Adam who was busy reading over the
minutes of the meeting. "Hoss, I’m sorry to disappoint you but you
will be back to school before you
know it and other plans can be made then." Ben hesitated as
he watched the expressions on his son’s face. "Is that all that is
bothering you, son?"
"No, Pa, it isn’t. You see the last two days, well, I’m sorry
Little Joe, I really am. It’s not that I didn’t want ya around, it’s
just that..well, Pa I should have said
somethin’ to ya but was afraid of what might happen."
Ben placed an encouraging hand on his son’s shoulder. Hoss
swallowed and continued. "See, shortshanks, Miss Ugavitch told me to
stay away from ya and let ya
make your own friends. She told me that I had a right to live
my own life without ya hangin’ on to me." Hoss hesitated again and
looked at Little Joe. "I am so sorry,
Little Joe. I was afraid not to listen to her. She threatened
to tell Pa a bunch of lies if I didn’t listen to her. I was afraid
that she might have and then I would be in
trouble with Pa and heck, I don’t know anymore. I just feel
awful, can ya forgive me?"
Joe slid down from Adam’s lap and ran to Hoss. "I forgives
ya. Can you take me fishin’ with ya?"
Hoss picked up Joe and sat him in his lap. "I would luv to
take ya fishin’ with me, little brother."
Ben guided the two boys into the classroom. They both were
nervous as their father led them to the front of the room to meet their
"Hello, boys. My name is Miss Jones."
Hoss extended his hand and introduced himself. "This here
is my little brother, Joe, but most people call him Little Joe."
Miss Jones accepted Joe’s hand and returned his smile. "Mr.
Cartwright, I just wanted to thank you again for appointing me teacher
for these students. I am so
happy to be here and can not wait for class to begin."
Ben rested a hand on his son’s shoulders. "I am happy that
you accepted the position, Miss Jones. These children really need an
understanding adult to help them
learn. I am sure that our children will be rewarded by your
gifts of teaching."
Ben stopped at the doorway and looked back towards the front
of the classroom. He smiled when he saw Little Joe sitting next to his
brother, Hoss. Both boys
turned around and smiled at their father as he waved goodbye
to them. Ben felt at ease that his children, his reason for being what
he was, were safe in the hands of