WHO’S IN CHARGE?
By: Deborah S.
Adam led Ben by the arm, out the front door, and into the yard. “Oh, you
can’t be serious Pa,” Adam said, looking at his father. Ben knew what his
son was thinking, and replied, “Oh, yes I am serious.”
Adam shook his head. He then tried bringing common sense to his father by
saying, “But Pa, do you what you are doing? Don’t you remember what
happened the last time you left him in charge? Pa, he ended up working poor
Hoss, practically to death, and when he wasn’t doing that, Pa they robbed a
bank. A bank Pa. You almost had to sell The Ponderosa to pay what they
stole from it.” Adam could see his words were doing no good. He had to be
subtle. He put his right arm around his father’s shoulder. Ben looked at
his son’s arm around him, knowing full well, what was coming. “Now Pa, what
could possibly be worth risking everything again, by leaving Little Joe in
charge, while you’re away? Now, wouldn’t it give you more peace of mind, on
your long, hard trip, if you knew that either Hoss, or myself, were in
charge instead? Huh Pa?” Adam asked hoping.
Ben looked at his son, and replied, “Yes, I remember all that Adam, and it’s
because of that, that I feel I have to give Joseph this second chance, to
prove to me, and to himself, that he can handle this. Now is that so
wrong?” Ben asked.
Adam looked at his father, and replied, “It is while I’m here Pa. If you
want to leave Little Joe in charge someday, fine, but do it when I’m away on
a long, long, long trip somewhere. That’s all I ask. Please?”
Ben looked at Adam, and replied, “Adam, you are telling me, that you would
actually expect me, to leave Joseph in charge here again, with just he and
Hoss here? Are you crazy son? No, I would feel much better, on that long,
hard trip of mine, knowing that you are here as well.”
Adam rolled his eyes, and said, “Pa, let me tell you about your Little Joe.
Now Pa, I know that you think that Little Joe is a wonderful young man, and
sometimes I would have to agree with you on that. One thing you may be
aware of though Pa, is that when he’s around you, well he’s on his best
behavior, most of the time. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but
your son Joseph, can be a, a, a, really little pain in one’s, how shall I
put it, backside.”
Adam could tell his words were still not getting through to his father. His
arm still around him, he said, “Pa, I know Joe, and I know, that a soon as
you leave, he is going to take advantage of all the power you are bestowing
on him. You mark my words, he is going to make my life a living hell, for
that week you are gone. You see Pa, I have the feeling, that every bad
thing I have ever done to him growing up….”Ben broke Adam off. “What bad
things did you do to him, Adam?” he asked. Adam looked innocently at his
father, and replied, “Well, that’s not the issue here Pa. The issue is,
that I know, that his only goal this week, will be to make my life, a living
hell. You mark my words Pa.
Ben removed Adam’s arm, and replied, “Son, do you really think, that your
younger brother, could possibly do such a thing to you?”
Adam looked in his father’s eyes. “Yes,” he replied. Adam threw up his
arms, when he looked at the expression on his father’s face. That
expression told him, that no matter what he said, his father wasn’t going to
change his mind. Adam said, “Fine. Leave your Little Joseph in charge, but
don’t blame me, if when you come back from your business trip, you have two
sons left.” Adam started walking to the barn.
Ben called after him. “You mean to tell me, if I leave Joe in charge,
you’re going to leave?” he asked.
Adam reached the barn door, turned towards his father, and replied, “That’s
not what I meant. I meant, well you’ll still have Hoss and me, Pa,” Adam
replied, then ducked in the barn.
Ben followed him in the barn, walking up to him. “Are you telling me, that
you would kill your younger brother?” he asked. Adam looked him in the
eyes, and replied, “If it comes down to him or me, it’s him that’s gonna get
it, and I have the feeling, that no jury, would convict me. Now if you’ll
excuse me, I’d better hitch up the buggy, if you intend to meet your stage.”
Ben brought his arms up and down, then went back to the house. Once inside,
he called Hoss and Joe over to his study. He looked at Joe, fear creeping
into him, thinking about the last time he left him in charge. “Now Joseph,
as you know, I will be away for a week. Now, while I’m gone, young man, I
am leaving you in charge of things,” Ben said. Joe smiled big. Hoss
“Now Joseph, tell me now, if you don’t think you can handle this?” Ben
Hoss stood there, rolling his eyes, thinking of the last time, Joe was left
in charge. Just the thought made him sick to his stomach.
“Oh, oh sure Pa. I won’t have any problems this time. You’ll see Pa. No,
believe me, I learned from my mistakes the last time. If It’ll make you
feel any better Pa, I won’t even leave the ranch, the whole time you’re
gone,” Joe replied smiling.
“Yeah, maybe that would be best,” Ben replied.
Hoss couldn’t stand there silent any longer. “Pa, don’t you think, it might
be just a little bit wiser on your part, to leave either me or Adam in
charge, while you’re gone, instead of Little Joe?” he asked. Joe stepped
on Hoss’s foot. Hoss grabbed his foot in pain. “Dadburn your ornery hide
Little Joe. You did that on purpose,” Hoss said.
“Did what?” Joe asked innocently.
“You know darn well what,” Hoss replied.
“Boys, I just remembered, Hop Sing is away visiting his #3 cousin. Oh no,”
Ben said. Ben looked upward, saying a little prayer, that his house would
still be standing, when he returned. He walked over to the front door,
putting his hat, and gun belt on, then picked up his suitcase. Joe walked
over to the front door, and stood by his father, with his hands on his
waist. With confidence Joe said, “Now Pa, don’t worry about a thing. I’ll
take care of everything.” Ben hoped he was doing the right thing. “Adam
is taking me into town to catch the stage. I’d better get going, or I’m not
going to make it,” Ben said. Before he walked out the door, he took one
more look at his house, then shook his head.
Joe closed the door after his father left. He walked to the living room,
where Hoss was standing. “Well Joe, what horrible, terrible things do you
have planned for me this time?” Hoss asked.
“Oh no Hoss, you have it all wrong. You see, I don’t have horrible,
terrible things planned for you. No,” Joe said sitting on the sofa, putting
his feet up.
“You don’t?” Hoss asked.
“No,” Joe replied. “No, you see, I have horrible, terrible things planned
for our dear, older brother, Adam.”
“Adam? Why Adam?” Hoss asked.
Joe walked over to where Hoss was standing, putting his arm around him.
“You see Hoss, I have never forgotten all the things that Adam used to do to
me, when I was younger,” Joe replied.
“Like what?” Hoss asked.
“Like cleaning out the barn for instance. See Adam told me, that it was my
job to do, since I was the youngest. Well, I did it, because I respected my
oldest brother. Now imagine my shock, when I found out, that it was Adam’s
job, all that time, to clean the barn, and all those stalls. Unfortunately
for me, I found it out, when it did become my turn to clean the stalls.
See, I have learned something about our oldest brother, Hoss. See, there’s
nothing Adam hates more, then cleaning horse stalls. Now think back Hoss,
who did Adam get to clean the stalls for him, before me?” Joe asked looking
“Me,” Hoss exclaimed angry.
“That’s right Hoss, you,” Joe replied.
“Dadburn that Adam. I’d plum forgotten about that,” Hoss said.
“Well, it’s lucky for you Hoss, that you have me to remind you of these
things,” Joe said.
“Yeah,” Hoss replied.
Joe walked a couple of steps away, rubbing his hands together. “Now all we
have to do, is wait for the fly to come to the spiders, “ Joe said, then
laughed. Hoss laughed as well.
WHEN THE FLY CAME HOME, the spiders were waiting for him, in the study. Joe
was seated in his father’s chair, his feet on the desk. Hoss standing next
Adam walked in the door, and looked at the two of them. He walked over to
the desk. “Well, why am I not surprised, to see the two of you gloating
so?” he asked.
“Whatever do you mean, Adam?” Hoss asked.
“Whatever do I mean? Don’t tell me, you’ve forgotten what he did to you,
the last he was in charge?” Adam asked looking at Hoss. “Yes, I see you
have forgotten,” he said. Adam looked at Joe. “Well, what horrible,
terrible things, do you have planned for me?” Adam asked.
Joe handed Adam a list of chores for him to do. Adam looked at the list,
that was pages long. “Oh, you can’t be serious?” he asked.
Joe took the list, and looked at it. “Oh, I am serious, “ Joe replied.
“I don’t clean stalls, and you know it,” Adam stated.
“You do now,” Joe replied happily.
“And if I refuse?” Adam asked.
“Well older brother, there’s one brother that’s bigger then you, and he’s
on my side,” Joe replied.
Adam looked at Hoss, and asked, “Why did you have to be so big?” Looking
at his two brothers, Adam asked, “And what, may I ask, will you two be
doing, while I’m doing all the work?”
“Oh, Hoss will be doing the cooking, and the cleaning, since Hop Sing is
away,” Joe replied.
“Huh?” Hoss asked.
“Oh didn’t you hear what your confidant here said ,Hoss? He said that you
will be doing the cooking, and the cleaning, since Hop Sing is away. And
what, pray tell, will you be doing Joe?” Adam asked.
“Oh, I’ll be running the ranch, from this desk,” Joe replied.
Adam narrowed his eyes at Joe, then turned his head, looking at Hoss. He
grabbed the list from Joe, and pushed Joe’s feet off the desk. Adam walked
outside. Joe put his feet back on the desk, feeling pleased with himself.
Hoss just looked at Joe, feeling that maybe, he had caught the wrong fly.
Adam worked until bedtime. He was too tired to eat. He went up to his
room, laid on his bed, too tired to even take his boots off. “Adam?” Joe
asked looking in his room, his hand on the doorknob. “What?” Adam replied
snappy. Joe smiled. “Adam, did you happen to remember to brush down
Cochise this evening?” Joe asked.
Adam sat up in bed. “No, I did not remember to brush down Cochise this
evening. I will do it first thing in the morning,” he replied.
“No, no, no brother. You see, it clearly states on that paper of list of
chores, that Cochise must be brushed down every evening, after you clean the
stalls, of course,” Joe stated.
“Joe, right now, I am bone tired, and if you think, that I’m going to get
up, and brush down your horse, you have another thing coming to you,” Adam
“Who’s in charge, Adam?” Joe asked. Adam stood up, breathing deeply. As he
walked up to Joe, he said, “I hate you, you know, “ before walking
THREE DAYS LATER, Adam was asleep at the dining table, his head back, and
mouth open. Joe sat down, looking at Adam, then over at Hoss. “Seems our
older brother is too tired to eat his breakfast,” he stated.
“Joe, you’re working him too hard. Enough’s enough,” Hoss said.
“Now Hoss remember, I’m doing this, not only me, but for you as well,” Joe
“Little brother, I think you’ve gone, just a little too far this time.
Remember one thing, Adam’s smarter, and bigger then you are. If he finds he
wants to fight you, don’t come looking for help from me,” Hoss said.
‘Hoss, you’re taking this too seriously. I’ll just have a little more fun
with him, and then I’ll let him rest. You’ll see,” Joe replied. He walked
over to Adam, shaking him awake. “Hey Adam, don’t forget, you have to go
into town for those supplies you need.” Adam didn’t reply, but staggered
over to the door. While putting on his gun belt, he had a wonderful idea.
He pulled out his pistol, and thought about shooting Little Joe. He was so
tired, he didn’t care. He started to laugh, his pistol in his hand. Hoss
walked over to Adam. He put Adam’s hat on his head, and sent him out the
door. Hoss walked back to the table. “Joe, if I were you, I”d be afraid.
I’d be very afraid.”
THAT AFTERNOON, Adam arrived home. Joe was waiting for Adam to pull
something, but he didn’t. “Do you mind master, if I sit down, and read for a
little while, before tackling the rest of my chores for the day?” Adam
“No, you can have a twenty minute break. It’s okay with me,” Joe replied.
“Thank you,” Adam said, sitting down in the chair, picking his book up from
the hearth. He blew the dust off the jacket, signifying he hadn’t been able
to read lately. Joe smiled.
Adam had barely read a page, when there was a knock on the door. “Well?”
“Well what?” Adam asked.
“Aren’t you going to get the door?” Joe asked.
“That’s about the only thing, that’s not on my list of chores. You get
it,” Adam replied.
Joe walked to the door, and greeted Doc Martin, inviting him in. “Little
Joe, I was in the neighborhood, and thought about Hop Sing‘s wonderful
coffee, and thought I’d invite myself in for some,” Doc Martin said.
“Well, you’re always welcome, but Hop Sing isn’t here, so you’ll have to
settle for Hoss’s coffee instead,” Joe stated.
“Well, that’s fine with me,” Doc Martin replied, walking towards the living
room. Adam was in his chair, his head back from exhaustion. Doc Martin
looked at him. Joe walked in the room, and said, “Hoss is putting the
coffee pot on now. He’ll bring out a cup, when it’s done. Joe noticed Doc
Martin wasn’t paying attention to him. Doc Martin walked over to Adam. He
called Adam’s name, but Adam didn’t reply. He shook Adam, and he barely
awoke. “Joe, tell Hoss to hold the coffee. I think I’d better take your
brother here upstairs, and examine him,” Doc Martin said.
“Examine him? He’s fine Doc. He’s just a little tired is all,” Joe
“Oh, I’d better make sure, because there’s something going around, and I
hope he hasn’t got it,” Doc Martin said, as he led Adam up the stairs.
A while later, Doc Martin came downstairs. Joe was sitting on the sofa, his
feet on it. Hoss was eating an apple, in his father’s leather chair. “Joe?
Hoss? I’m afraid Adam has what’s going around. He’s a very sick young
man, and is going to need complete rest, if he is to recover,” Doc Martin
“Recover? What do you mean recover?” Joe asked.
“I’ve seen some recover, and some who pffffft,” Doc Martin replied.
“Pffffft?” Joe asked.
“Pffffff,” Doc Martin replied.
“Well, what can we do for Adam, doc?” Joe asked.
“Well, the important thing is, that you wait on him, hand and foot. I don’t
want that young man doing a thing. He’s very weak. He’s got about the worst
case I’ve seen. It’s almost like he was worn out from something. Do you
know what that could be Joe?” Doc Martin asked.
“Me, no sir,” Joe replied. Hoss looked at Joe.
“Well, you make sure that that young man, stays in his bed, and doesn’t do a
thing. When is your father returning?” Doc Martin asked.
“In five days,” Joe replied.
“Well, I feel guilty about leaving him here, in his condition, without your
father, but Joe, I have all the confidence, that you will see to your
brother’s every need,” Doc Martin stated.
“You can count on me,” Joe replied.
“Who’s going to do the chores that Adam didn’t do?” Hoss asked.
“You are?” Joe asked. Hoss shook his head. “Oh, no little brother. I
draw the line there. You want those chores done, you do them. I’m busy
enough doing the cooking, and the cleaning, so you do the chores, and take
of Adam as well. You made your bed, now lie in it,” Hoss demanded.
“Well anyway, just do as I asked, and I’ll be back in a few day, to see how
Adam’s doing,” Doc Martin said before leaving.
FOUR DAYS LATER, Ben arrived home on the stage. Doc Martin was there
to greet him. “Hello Ben. Have a good trip?” he asked.
Shaking his hand, Ben said, “Hello Paul. Yes I did, and a very successful
one at that, I might add.”
“Ben, I would like to buy you lunch at the hotel. I have something to
discuss with you, that’s very important,” Doc Martin said.
“My house is still standing, isn’t it?” Ben asked.
“Yes, your house is still standing,” Doc Martin replied.
“I still own The Ponderosa, don’t I?” Ben asked.
“Yes, you still own The Ponderosa,” Doc Martin replied.
“I still have three sons, don’t I?” Ben asked.
“Yes, you still have three sons, but that’s what I want to talk to you
about,” Doc Martin said. He began to tell Ben the story, while walking to
the hotel. “WHAT?” Ben shouted.
LATER THAT AFTERNOON, Ben arrived home. “JOSEPH?” Ben yelled, as he walked
in the house. “JOSEPH?” He yelled again. Joe came flying down the stairs.
“Pa, don’t yell. Please don’t yell. You might wake Adam, and I just got
him to sleep. Pa, I really need him to sleep. He wanted me to give him
another back massage, but I’m hoping he’ll stay asleep instead. I’m so
worn out, and tired, “ Joe said, sitting on the floor, next to his father’s
Ben looked from side to side. “Why, is there something wrong with Adam,
Joseph?” he asked.
“Pa, I think I may have worked Adam, just a little bit too hard. Pa, I
didn’t mean for him to get so sick. Pa, I don’t want him to Pfffft. It’s
just that, well Pa, this was my one chance to boss him around, for once in
my life, “ Joe replied. Ben brought Joe up to his feet. “Joseph, what’s
wrong with Adam?” he asked.
“He’s real sick Pa. He hasn’t gotten better in four days. I’m really
worried he’s going to Pfffft. I’ve been reading to him Pa, and feeding him.
Poor guy is too weak to feed himself. I’ve also given him baths everyday.
Pa, he’s a big guy. Have you ever tried lifting him in, and out of a
tub?” Joe asked.
“So, am I understand, that you worked your older brother so hard, that he’s
ill, and might pfffft?” Ben asked.
“Yeah,” Joe replied tiredly.
“I hope you learned a lesson here about authority, and taking advantage of
it?” Ben asked.
“Oh I have Pa. I promise I will never take advantage of my authority
again,” Joe replied.
“Well I’m glad you learned your lesson, but young man, you and I will
discuss this later,” Ben stated.
“That’s fine Pa, but since you’re home, can I go to sleep now, and you take
care of Adam? He wants a back massage again, and I’m just too tired,” Joe
said closing his eyes. Ben smiled, then walked Joe over to the sofa, laying
him down. He then went upstairs to Adam’s room.
Adam heard Joe walk in the room. “Laying on his stomach, his back exposed,
he said weakly, “Joe, I sure could use that massage now, to soothe the
aching muscles in my back.” Ben smiled, walking up to Adam. Sitting down on
the bed, he began to massage Adam’s back. First gently, then harder. “Joe,
that’s too hard,” Adam said, turning around. “Oh, hi Pa,” he replied.
“Well young man, I’m glad to see you didn’t pfffft. By the way, I had a
long, long talk with Doc Martin while I was in town. Seems one of my sons
went into town, and got him to come out here, and declare him dying,” Ben
“Well Pa, you don’t know what Joe put me through. I mean, I was exhausted.
I showed Doc Martin the list of chores, and he decided to help me. Wasn’t
that nice of him Pa?” Adam asked smiling. Ben slapped his back. “Yeah,
wasn’t it. I’m going to have a long talk with Joseph later, and as for you
young man, I would say a month of cleaning the horse stalls, for all the
mental and physical anguish, you have put your younger through, is called
for,” Ben said.
“A month of cleaning the horse stalls?” Adam asked.
“Would you like to try for two?” Ben asked.
“No, one is enough,” Adam said, laying back down.
“One thing young man, you must understand, that I don’t want Joe or Hoss to
know anything about this. I don’t want you three, going back and forth
trying to revenge this whole thing. And as for you, this afternoon you are
going to make a remarkable recovery, and those horse stalls will be waiting
for you, first thing in the morning,” Ben said, walking to the door.
Standing at the door he said, “So glad you’re feeling better son.” Adam
looked at him. “Yeah,” was all he replied, before he punched his pillow with