Author’s Note: This story was written by request for Dolores. The “missing scene” from Harts of the West, episode 4 ‘Dead Man’s Leap’.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, and this story is for entertainment purposes only.
Warning: Spanking of minors. I don’t advocate the spanking of minors in real life, only in fiction.


Dead Man’s Leap


Zane was in town with his parents getting supplies for their new home, ‘The Flying Tumbleweed Ranch’. He wasn’t sure he’d call it much of a ‘home’ but the run down ranch was the place they were currently sleeping, and his father seemed to be dead set on staying there, no matter how unhappy his family was. Zane heard his younger sister, L’Amour giggle, and noticed her across the dusty street flirting with two teenage boys. Frowning he decided to make it clear that L’Amour had an older brother and walked over to butt into their conversation.

“Hey L’Amour, it’s about time to head home.”

L’Amour rolled her eyes and pointed to the taller of the boys. “Zane, this here is H. K. Akers.” Then she gestured to the lighter haired one, “And this is Randy.” Gesturing towards her brother she added, “Boys, this is my brother, Zane.”

Within seconds of the conversation Zane could tell that while Randy was chatterbox, H. K. was definitely the leader of the duo. The boys seemed shocked to learn that anyone was living out at the Flying Tumbleweed, but to their credit, they didn’t tease Zane or L’Amour about it before they had to go.   

A few hours later after they’d arrived home, Zane was seeing how far he could hit rocks with a baseball bat in the yard when H. K. and Randy pulled up in a jeep.

“Hey Zane,” H. K. said. “We’re going up to Dead Man’s Leap. Want to come? We might stay a couple of hours. Or all night. Have a couple of beers.”

“I have to ask my dad.” But Zane already knew what his father would say to hanging out all night, especially if beers were involved. But he’d probably be okay with hanging out for a couple of hours.

“Or you could just go,” H. K. said.

Zane rolled his eyes. “Yeah, like I never thought of that.” It was a little difficult to sneak out when you lived out in the middle of nowhere. Someone would know he was gone, and then there’d be hell to pay.

H. K. shrugged. “Either way, we’ll be out on Section Road at five o’clock if you want a ride.” He and Randy drove off.

After thinking it over for a few seconds, Zane went in to find his father, Dave. He ended up finding both his parents in the laundry room folding clothes while their ‘new’ used washing machine clunked and whirred as if it might die at any moment.

“Hey Dad, can I go out tonight?” Zane asked.

“With who?”

“Some guys.”

“What guys? Who?” Dave asked.

“Just some guys I met. H. K. Akers and-”

“I don’t think so,” his father answered, cutting him off.

“Why not?” Zane couldn’t believe his father was so quick to shut him down.

“H. K. Akers doesn’t have the best reputation in town.”

Zane crossed his arms. “I don’t want to date him, Dad. I just want to hang out.”

“You can hang out here,” Dave said.

“Come on. I didn’t even have to ask for your permission.”

His mother, Alison, chimed in, “Oh really? Since when.”

Trying a different tactic, Zane said, “You know, you two ask me to make friends, and then I finally make some and you won’t let me see them? Make up your minds.”

“Okay,” his father agreed. “You can’t go.”

“Come on!”

His dad chuckled and mocked him. “Come on. I’m your father. I know what’s best for you.”

Zane stormed out, slamming the screen door behind him. After stomping around the ranch for half an hour, he decided he’d had enough of his parents telling him what to do. He went up to the bedroom he shared with his siblings, and found L’Amour sitting at the window writing in her journal.

“Remember those guys we met in town?” Zane said.

“Yeah, what about them?” she asked.

“I’m going out with them.”

“What are you going to do?”

“You know. We’re just gonna hang out. Maybe all night. Maybe have a couple of beers.”

L’Amour looked up from her journal for the first time. “You’re going to go out all night drinking?”

“Come on,” Zane said. “I’m fifteen and a half. I’ve decided to start living.”

“Well, if Dad catches you, you’re never going to see sixteen.”

“Come on, L’Amour. These guys are pretty cool.”

“I can’t believe you’re succumbing to peer pressure. I mean, if these guys jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?” she asked.

“Thanks for the advice, mom,” he huffed. “Look, you’ve got to pick a side. It’s either us, or the oppressive parents.”

She thought that over for a second before nodding. “Power to the children. If dad asks, I’ll just tell him you’re in the bathroom.”

“Thanks,” Zane said before sneaking out the window.

# # #

While Zane and L’Amour were hatching their scheme, Dave was in town talking to R.O., the town sheriff. After having been hit by lightning, R.O. seemed to be channeling several dead people, and on this particular day he was channeling Dave’s deceased father.

After a few skeptical words, Dave asked what his father wanted.

“You’re doing a lousy job with Zane.”

“Zane? You know what I think? I think I’m talking to a nutcase. I sure don’t miss you telling me what to do, and knowing what’s ‘best for me’ no matter what my opinion is.” Dave got up.

R.O. continued to mumble. “Father son, me and you, you and Zane. Watch out for the Rocketman.”

# # #

At Dead Man’s Leap, Randy, H. K., and Zane were reaching the top of a large cliff that they’d been hiking on for half an hour. Zane thought for sure Randy would run out of breath during the hike, but he talked nonstop the entire way.

“…think of it as the Grand Canyon except smaller. More like the Mediterranean Sea, only miniature.” They’d reached the top, and Randy waved a hand towards the ledge. “What do you think?”

Zane looked down at the tiny river snaking through the valley of the cliffs hundreds of feet below. “I think you’re nuts.”

“Come on, man. Jump across,” H. K. said, looking over at the cliff on the other side of the chiasm.

“I think you’re real nuts,” Zane reiterated.

“Come on, man,” Randy said. “Everyone does it.”

“Like who?” Zane asked.

“Me.” Randy jerked a thumb towards H. K. and added, “Him.”

“You jumped?” Zane asked, staring at Randy, and finding it hard to believe.

“Of course.”

“Come on. You guys are pulling my chain.”

H. K. shook his head. “It’s twelve feet seven inches. We measured it once with a string. The trick is to run real fast with no hesitation. First guy to do it was called the Rocket Man. Track star or something. After that, everyone started doing it.”

“Why?” Zane didn’t see the point of putting his life at risk just because other people did.

“To prove you’re a man,” H.K. answered. “To prove you belong. To prove you can do it.”

“Forget it man.” Zane shook his head.

“Don’t tell me. You’ve got to ask your Dad first,” H.K. taunted.

Suddenly defensive, Zane looked at the distance. Maybe it was time for him to prove he was a man who could make his own decisions. “Twelve feet seven inches?”


He looked back the way they’d come, sized up the running distance, and nodded. Decision made, he stepped back and took their advice about no hesitation to heart as he started to run. He jumped, and his toes hit the other side of the canyon making him grin for a split second before he realized he didn’t have stable footing.

A scream erupted from his throat as he fell ten feet down to a small ledge on the side of the cliff. He scrambled to sit up and put his back against the cliff. His little ledge was only about a foot and a half wide and ten feet long. He looked up at the cliff wall. There were no good handholds to climb to the top. For a moment he thought he might throw up as he heard his new friends yelling his name from across the canyon, but soon the nausea passed.

Over the next few minutes Zane found out two things. One, there was no way off the ledge without a rope. And two, neither of the other boys had ever jumped the cliff. They’d expected him to stop, not to actually jump.

“We’ve got to get help,” Randy said.

H. K. shook his head. “We can’t. It’ll be dark in ten minutes. We’d never make it back up here.”

Randy looked over at Zane and said, “Just hang on, man. We’ll figure something out.”

# # #

While Zane was on the ledge, Dave was arriving home. He walked past his wife and sat on the couch. She sat next to him.

“What’s up?” Alison asked.

After telling her about R.O. possibly channeling his dead father, Dave said, “He told me I was losing Zane. Drifting apart like I did with my father. And if I don’t do something, I’ll lose him.” Focusing on Alison he added, “Tell me the truth. Do you think I’m ruining his life?”

Smiling she shook her head. “No. I think you’re ruining his beer buzz.” He sighed, and she added. “Face it Dave, you’ve been a little preoccupied.”


“Remote. Demanding.”

“Okay, okay. Fine.”

“Short tempered,” she added with a look.

“I’m sorry,” he said, before standing up and going upstairs to the kid’s room to find Zane.

He knocked on their door, and his daughter told him to come in.

“Hi sweetheart. Have you seen Zane?”

“He’s in the shower,” L’Amour answered.

Dave could hear the water running in their bathroom. “Okay. When he finishes, tell him I’d like to talk to him.”

“Oh… he said he wasn’t feeling great, and that he was going to bed as soon as he was done.”

That sounded a bit suspect, and Dave doubted he should let his kid sulk all night, but the idea of being able to put off the potentially emotional conversation helped him not to question it. “Oh. Well then I’ll just talk to him in the morning.”

# # #

The next morning after doing some chores, Dave went to face his son. He found his wife first, and Alison gave him a small pep talk before he went to the kids’ room. He found the bedroom empty, but the shower water was running again in their bathroom. Impatient to have the conversation over with. Dave went to the door and raised his voice to be heard over the water.

“Zane? I wanted to talk to you about something. About us. I know things haven’t been smooth going between us, particularly lately. I know a lot of it is my fault and I’ve made mistakes. Not that you’re totally blameless, but nobody left me a manual. I’ve just been doing the best I could. I know I’ve been trying and hoping to make you live my dreams, and that’s not right. You’ve got your own ideas. Your own dreams. Your own friends. And I respect that, just as I hope you respect mine. All I’m trying to say is I just… I don’t want anything to get in the way of us, because… I love you, son.”

To Dave’s surprise, his youngest son, Duke, came out of the bathroom and gave him a big hug. “I love you, too, Dad.”

“What are you doing in there?”

Duke’s eyebrows went up. “Um… Science project. I’m seeing how much steam an average ten-year-old can tolerate. Well, that’s about right. I’m done.” He tried to walk around his father, but Dave grasped a handful of the back of Duke’s shirt and turned him back around to face him.

“Not quite done,” Dave said, giving his son an expectant and no-nonsense expression.

“L’Amour made me do it! She pulled a knife on me. Zane put her up to it. I’m totally innocent!”

“Where is he?” Dave asked.

“He’s out with that guy you hate.”

“H. K. Akers?”


Dave shook his head, grasped Duke’s upper arm, and gave his backside a firm swat before turning him back around and pointing a finger in his surprised face. “You, young man, are not totally innocent, and you know it.”

“Sorry.” Duke covered his bottom while apologizing.

“Don’t lie for your brother, or your sister, when they’re doing something wrong. You hear me?”

“Yes.” Duke nodded vehemently. “I won’t do it again.”

Dave let go of his arm and patted his back. “I’m going to go find your brother. You explain to your mother what you and L’Amour have been up to.”

Dave stormed down the stairs without waiting for a reply, and walked past Alison.

“How’d it go?” she asked.

“Perfect,” he answered. “Get ready for the spin cycle. Zane’s about to be hung out to dry. Be right back.” When he stepped outside he saw the sheriff’s car pulling up.

R.O. yelled out the window. “Get in! Zane’s in trouble.”


“He’s hanging by his fingers at Dead Man’s Leap.”

“Dead Man’s what?!”

“H. K. just told me. You know, he’s not a half bad kid.”

“What the hell are you still talking for? That’s my son!” Dave jumped in the back of the car, and they sped off towards the cliffs.

When they got there, Dave jumped out of the car.

“Zane! Zane!”

“Dad! Dad, I’m down here!”

Dave’s heart leapt into his throat when he saw his son standing on a tiny ledge above a wide canyon. “Zane, hold on son. We’re going to get you.”

“Get the rope.” R.O. said to his deputy.

The deputy shook his head. “Don’t got any.”

“What?!” Both Dave and R.O. yelled at once.

The deputy shrugged, walked to the edge, and waved Zane to the right. “You have to move to the left and reach around the dead end. There you’ll feel a hand hold, and you can step around to the next ledge. There you’ll see some initials. You should be home free after that with handholds all the way up to the top.”

Zane carefully did as he was told, and soon was close enough to grasp his father’s hand. The men pulled Zane up, and across the canyon, Randy who’d kept Zane company all night cheered.

Dave pulled Zane up to standing, and pulled him into a fierce hug. Then he let go, grasped the lapels of Zane’s jean jacket and gave him a small shake. “Don’t you ever do something like that again.”

“I won’t,” Zane said with certainty.

He grabbed a fist full of his son’s hair to make sure he was focused directly on him. “Now I’ve just got one thing to say to you, mister, so you listen, and you listen good. That was a hell of a jump, and the worst decision you’ve ever made. I love you, and I don’t want anything to come between us, but there are some things I can’t ignore.” He let go of Zane’s hair and pointed to the canyon, “Like almost dying to impress some guys you just met.”

Zane swallowed hard and nodded. “I’m sorry.” He’d never been in this much trouble before, and he had no idea what to expect. “Really sorry.”

Dave pulled him in for another quick hug before turning Zane towards the sheriff’s car and giving him a hard swat to get him moving.

“Dad!” Zane complained, face turning bright red as his eyes darted over to Randy across the canyon.

Dave pointed at the car. “Get in before I give you more.”

Zane rushed to the car and got in. The deputy pulled a bottle of water out of the trunk of the car and handed it to Zane, who drank half of it before muttering, “Thanks.”

Dave called across the canyon. “And you!”

“Yes sir?” Randy asked nervously.

“You’re welcome out at the Flying Tumblweed Ranch anytime. And so is H. K.”


“Really. As long as you both to stop by later today and bring me your parent’s phone numbers.”

“My parents?” Randy started shaking his head.

“And if you don’t stop by, I’ll track them down. Small town like this, I doubt it will be that difficult.”

R.O. butted into the conversation. “Randy lives with his mom off Main street down that dirt road that goes behind the grocery store, and H. K. lives on Meadow Road with his parents. We’ll pass it on the way back to the ranch. I’ll point it out to you.”

Dave nodded and looked back at Randy. “If I were you, I’d stop by the ranch later today.”

“Oh man,” Randy whined before turning back towards the road on the other side of the canyon and rushing off.

R.O. patted Dave on the shoulder and said, “Good call. Let’s head back.”

# # #

After a tense car ride filled with silence, the sheriff pulled up to the ranch and let Dave and Zane out.

Zane kept his head down and went straight to the front door while his father thanked R. O. for helping him ‘save his son’. Under normal circumstances, Zane would have pointed out that there hadn’t been much ‘saving’ going on, since he was the one who had to climb off the ledge himself, but today was anything but normal. His father had already swatted him in front of everyone as if he were five instead of fifteen. It had been utterly humiliating, but now that the shock had worn off, worry was setting in. His father was really angry and once his mother found out…

Zane shook his head, took a deep breath, and walked through the front door. Inside he found his mom standing in the living room with her arms crossed and his two siblings on the couch in front of her. She pointed to a vacant spot on the couch, and Zane sat without a word.

Moments later his father came in, stood by his wife, and pointed a finger at Zane.

“I want a full explanation. I want to know how you went from ‘No you can’t go’ to trying to jump across a canyon!”

“What?!” His mother screeched.

Zane cringed while his parents shared a look.

“And don’t leave out the part where you made your brother and sister accomplices,” Alison added.

Zane kept his head down and explained the whole mess. He didn’t see the point in trying to lie since his folks obviously already knew what he’d done. The real question they were asking was why he’d done it. And in the light of day after spending the night on that ledge, even Zane didn’t think his excuses held any water.

Once he was done, silence filled the room for a good five seconds before he glanced up to check his father’s expression. The man seemed to have moved past anger and into disbelief.

His mother put a hand on his dad’s shoulder. “Let’s talk in the kitchen.”

Dave nodded and pointed a finger at Zane. “Stay.” He glanced at the other two and added. “All of you.”

While his parents were out of ear shot Zane turned to his siblings. “I’m sorry I got you guys in trouble.”

L’Amour glared at him and hissed. “Sorry doesn’t do us any good now. I can’t believe you were stupid enough to try and jump over a canyon just because a couple of dumb apes dared you to.” She shook her head and muttered, “Boys.”

“Is Dad gonna spank us?” Duke whispered with aquiver in his chin.

“Of course not.” L’Amour answered. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“He swatted me when he caught me lying about Zane,” Duke said.

L’Amour patted Duke’s knee. “Don’t worry. Zane and I are too old, and it wouldn’t be fair if he just spanked you.”

Zane cringed and blushed again before speaking up. “I don’t know about that, L’Amour. Dad swatted me, too.”

“What?” Her eyebrows furrowed as though she couldn’t understand what Zane was telling her.

Zane signed. “As soon as he pulled me off the ledge, he hugged me, and then swatted me in front of everyone before sending me to the car.”

“But… I’m thirteen,” she protested.

“Yeah? Well I’m fifteen, and that didn’t stop him.”

L’Amour opened her mouth to protest again, but before she could voice her arguments, their parents walked back in and stood in front of them.

His father looked back and forth between Duke and L’Amour and said, “I know this whole fiasco was Zane’s idea, and that you two just went along for the ride, but that doesn’t make you blameless. You both lied to me multiple times. But more importantly you lied to me when you knew Zane was doing something potentially dangerous.”

L’Amour said, “We didn’t know he was going to jump over a canyon. We didn’t even know Dead Man’s Leap was a canyon.”

Alison spoke up. “But you knew he was planning to stay out all night, and that underage drinking and driving was on the table.”

Frowning, L’Amour shook her head. “I didn’t know they’d be stupid enough to try driving after having a beer. That’s why I thought they’d be out all night. To sleep it off.”

“Drinking impairs your judgment, and teenagers aren’t known for their good judgement under normal circumstances!” Dave exclaimed.

“We didn’t drink.” Zane protested. “They didn’t even bring any beer.”

“That’s not the point,” Dave said. “The point is you all made some pretty big mistakes last night. Mistakes that your mother and I can’t just overlook. Duke.” Dave motioned for his youngest to come forward and pointed to a spot on the ground in front of him.

Duke looked at his mother who nodded her head towards the same spot.

He slowly stood and moved to stand in front of his father.

Dave put a hand on Duke’s shoulder and said, “Lying to us is never going to be okay. Lying for your siblings is never going to be okay. And lying when one of your siblings could be in danger is even worse.”

“I’m sorry.” Duke’s voice was shaky with nerves.

Dave looked over at Zane and said, “Part of your punishment is seeing what happens when you ask your brother and sister to lie for you.”

Zane swallowed hard as his stomach sank. He shook his head, but his father’s attention was already back on Duke.

Dave moved his hand from Duke’s shoulder to his upper arm. He turned Duke to the side and started swatting his rear end.

“Ow!” Duke exclaimed while unsuccessfully trying to pull his arm away from his dad’s grip.

“Dad,” Zane’s dismayed soft protest was dwarfed by the sounds of more smacks.

“Ow!” Duke tried to cover his backside with his free hand. The next few swats landed on the back of his thigh just under his butt, making him yelp and squirm to get away.

After Dave landed the tenth firm swat he turned Duke back around to face him. “No more lying. Got it?”

Duke wiped some tears off his face and nodded.

Dave pulled him into a brief hug, and then pointed to the stairs. “Go to your room, and stay there until your mom comes to get you for lunch.”

Nodding again, Duke sniffled and walked to the stairs.

Dave waited until his youngest was out of sight before focusing on his middle child.

L’Amour shook her head as soon as they had eye contact, but her father’s only reaction was to wave her towards him before pointing to the same spot Duke had just vacated.

“I’m thirteen,” she protested, pushing herself back against the couch cushions.

Dave nodded. “Certainly old enough to know better. Most of the time you’re more mature than your older brother.”

“Hey,” Zane protested.

“But not today.” Dave continued. “You lied to us, and you encouraged your younger brother to lie, too. So now you’re getting the same punishment that they are. So come here.”

Her lip quivered as she pushed herself up and moved to the spot.

“Come on, Dad,” Zane said quietly, “I get the point, and I already feel terrible. You don’t have to do this.”

Ignoring Zane, Dave focused on his daughter. “Don’t lie to us,” He reiterated before clasping her upper arm in a steady grip and turning her to the side.

When the swats started, L’Amour stifled a yelp and then covered her face with both hands, as if she could block out what was happening. She kept her reactions to a minimum until swat number eleven landed.

“Ow, Daddy!” she complained behind her hands.

Dave pressed his lips together and gave her two more swats before turning her back around, and pulling her into a tight hug.

A second later, L’Amour burst into loud noisy sobs.

Zane’s guilt doubled as he watched his father pat L’Amour’s back.

“All done,” Dave said, and when that didn’t slow L’Amour’s tears, he turned to his wife.

Alison gave him a reassuring nod, and went to put her hand on L’Amour’s shoulder. “Come on, sweetheart, let’s go check on your brother and let your dad and Zane talk.”

L’Amour instantly let go of her father in favor of hugging her mother and her sobs were replaced with quiet sniffles. Alison headed to the stairs with her arm around L’Amour’s shoulders.

Zane glared at his father, but his dad’s eyes were on the retreating women. Zane glared even harder, willing his father to look his way so he could explain how wrong it was of his dad to punish his siblings when they were just trying to help him. But once his father’s angry eyes snapped to his, Zane’s glare faltered. Then when his father unbuckled his belt any thoughts of his siblings went out of his head. Zane pressed his back into the couch and shook his head as his father took his belt off, and doubled it over in his hand.

“Dad, no,” Zane pleaded. He hadn’t been spanked in over six years, and his father had never used anything other than his hand. Seeing the belt made him desperate to turn back the clock so he could talk himself out of being an idiot.

Dave pointed to the same spot where his siblings had stood for their punishments. “You could have died last night, Zane. There’s no getting out of this.”

“But– “

His father cut him off. “If you want to prove to me that you’re old enough to start making your own decisions, you can start by accepting the consequences without argument when you’ve made the wrong decision.”

Swallowing down all of his protests, Zane slowly pushed himself off the couch and went to stand in front of his dad on shaky legs.

Dave nodded once in acknowledgement of that decision, before grasping Zane’s upper arm with his free hand and turning him to the side.

Zane took a deep breath and held it in anticipation of the first blow.

“You deliberately disobeyed us after we told you that you couldn’t go out last night, you asked your brother and sister to lie for you, and then you got peer pressured into a dangerous stunt that could have cost you your life.”

His father paused and after a few seconds Zane let out the breath he’d been holding and looked back into his dad’s eyes.

“I’m thoroughly disappointed in your behavior, Zane.”

Zane’s guts twisted and his eyes filled with tears. The words, “I’m sorry,” slipped out of his mouth automatically.

Dave nodded before his focus went to Zane’s backside.

The shocking sounds of the whoosh and snap of the belt made Zane yelp before the sting even registered, and any potential thoughts of stoicism were instantly eradicated.

“Ow!” By the time he realized just how much it hurt, another whoosh could be heard. “Ow, Dad!” Zane lamented as the tears spilled out of his eyes. “Ow!” His body tried to pull away from the pain, but his father had a tight grip and continued to slap the belt against his rear end. “Ow!” His feet started to move of their own accord, stepping forward to get away, but his father simply turned to follow him and the belt hit its mark for the fifth time. “Ow!” Unable to stop himself, Zane danced in place while trying to move forward and away.

There was a short reprieve from the incessant smacking, as Dave grunted with disapproval, put a foot on the seat of the couch, and hauled his son up and over his thigh.

“Dad!” Zane protested as his world tilted. Feeling unstable with his backside in the air and both his arms and legs dangling down, Zane put one hand on the seat of the couch next to his father’s foot.

“You’re not getting out of this, son.” Dave’s free arm wrapped around Zane’s torso. “I know it hurts, and I know you want me to stop, but we’re not even half way done. You could have died.”

With that sentiment in the air, the belt snapped down again, and Zane’s stray tears turned into full on crying. His legs twitched and kicked with each lick as the belt quickly set his backside ablaze.

# # #

After doling out a total of fifteen whacks, Dave tossed the belt onto the couch, and eased his crying son back onto his feet. He pulled Zane into a tight hug and was relieved when the boy hugged him back. After a few moments Zane’s crying slowed and he blubbered out the words, “I’m sorry”

Dave kissed the top of Zane’s head, and squeezed him a little tighter. “I know you are, and you’re forgiven. You made some exceptionally bad decisions, but you’ve been punished and the slate is wiped clean.” He put a hand on Zane’s shoulder to push him back just enough to look into his teary eyes. “I trust that you’re going to make better decisions in the future. Decisions that your mother and I can be proud of.”

Zane wiped his eyes and nose with his sleeve and nodded. “I will.”

Dave patted his shoulder and said, “I believe you. Go on up to your room, and apologize to your mom for all the trouble you caused today. Then stay in your room until we come get you for lunch.”

Zane nodded and headed up the stairs while rubbing his backside with both hands.

Once his oldest was out of sight, Dave took a deep breath, put his belt back on, and sat down on the couch to calm his own nerves after an emotionally wrought morning. Before he’d even had time to catch his breath the phone rang.

“What now?” he muttered as he went to answer it. “Hello?”

“Hello, is this Mr. Hart?”


“This is Marcia, I’m Randy’s mother.”

“Oh.” Dave had to bite his tongue to keep from lashing out at her.

“Randy has something to say to you,” Marcia said.

Then a forlorn sounding Randy got on the phone, “Hey Mr. Hart, I’m real sorry about going along with H.K. and pulling that prank on Zane but he was never supposed to jump.”

Dave heard a smacking sound over the line, and Marcia’s voice in the distance saying, “You apologize right or I’m getting out the wooden spoon.”

Randy rambled quickly, “I’m real sorry for putting Zane in danger. I know he could have died and I’d have never forgiven myself, and neither would H.K. We were trying to make friends with him, not get him in trouble, because he seems like a decent guy.”

Dave heard another light slap and Randy whined, “I know, Ma,” before saying “I promise it will never happen again, and I’ll come apologize in person, but not right away because I’m grounded for a whole month, which means I’ll have no one to talk to for four weeks, but maybe I’ll get off early for good behavior?” Randy’s hopeful tone was met with another smacking noise. “But probably not,” he added mournfully. 

Then Marcia’s voice was on the line again. “I hope you can forgive my son, Mr. Hart. He doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body, but he sometimes forgets to use the good sense God gave him when he’s out with H.K.”

“I appreciate the call and the apology, and I believe you.” Dave assured her. “Randy’s welcome to come over and hang out with Zane once his sentence is up.”

“Thank you, that’s very kind of you.”

“No problem. I’m sure Zane will appreciate having a friend around since we just moved to town a few weeks ago.”

After saying their goodbyes, Dave hung up the phone and sat back down on the couch. His wife came downstairs and joined him a few moments later.

“How are they?” Dave asked.

“Duke’s already over it and asking when he can go outside to play. L’Amour is pouting and furiously writing in her journal. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s an essay on tyrannical parents and idiotic brothers. And Zane just seems… shell shocked. Shell shocked and very apologetic.”

Dave nodded. “Do you still think we made the right decision to punish them all?”

Alison snuggled up against him. “I do.”

Later that same day just before Dave went upstairs to let the children come down for lunch he heard a car pull up outside. He went out to the porch and saw an angry looking man getting out of a jeep with a red faced teenager getting out of the passenger seat. The man gave the teen a light shove towards Dave, and the teen muttered, “Are you Mr. Hart?”

“I am.” Dave crossed his arms over his chest. “Are you H.K. Akers?”

“Yes, sir, and this is my father.”

Dave nodded at the other man.

“Go on,” Mr. Akers said impatiently.

“I came to apologize for taking Zane up to Dead Man’s Leap. I never in a million years thought he’d try to jump.”

“And,” his father prompted.

H.K. continued, “And I’m not even allowed to go up to Dead Man’s Leap in the first place, so I won’t be driving my jeep for the rest of the year.”

Mr. Akers nodded. “And I whipped your tail for it, too. Didn’t I, son?”

H.K. blushed even more red and mumbled, “Yes, sir.”

“And it won’t be happening again, will it?”

“No, sir.”

“Alright, go get in the car.”

H.K. went back to the jeep and got in the passenger seat with a wince.

Mr. Akers turned to Dave and said, “I hope there are no hard feelings and that you don’t want to press charges or anything.”

Dave uncrossed his arms and shook his head. “Of course not. Zane wasn’t exactly innocent in the situation. In fact, as soon as we got home I… well I whipped his tail, too.” He held out his hand to shake. “No hard feelings?”

Mr. Akers grasped his hand they shook. “No hard feelings.”

Dave nodded. “And H.K. is welcome to come over and hang out with Zane here at the ranch anytime.”

“Zane’s welcome at our house as well.” Mr. Akers said before walking back to the jeep and driving off.   

Dave went in the house to let his children out of purgatory. He had no doubt that it would take a while to mend their hurt feelings over the punishments, but after the fear he’d felt this morning, soothing some hurt pride seemed like a walk in the park.

The End


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