The Windshield


Cooter looked first at the windshield and then back at Bo and Luke. "Yep she's busted all right and my guess is the two of you along with her."

Bo turned a furious gaze at his cousin Luke. "This is all your fault!"

Luke took a step closer towards his cousin and lowered his voice. "And how do you figure that cousin?"

Not liking Luke's attitude Bo took a step towards Luke. "You know exactly how I figure that."

Cooter wasn't used to seeing these two so angry at each other and stepped into the middle. "Hey now boys, I ain't never seen you so riled up what in the name of tarnation is going on."

Being in the middle between Bo and Luke was not a comfortable place to be. Cooter wasn't exactly sure what he was gonna do if they decided to try and hurt one another but he couldn't just stand there and let it happen. Luke took a step even closer and now Cooter was pushed against Bo. "Forget it Bo she ain't worth it."

Bo looked at Luke as if he wanted to rip his head off. Cooter shook his own head unable to believe that these two were feuding about a gal. "Hang onto yer hats fellers it don't matter how this happened you asked me about fixing it and I figure it'll be bout ninety dollars."

"Damnation!"

Bo turned to look at his cousin in disgust. "Swearing ain't gonna fix the windshield now is it Luke?"

Cooter felt Luke bring his hand up and for a second thought he was gonna smack Bo with it but all he did was rub his own temples. "Well one thing for sure it's gotta be fixed fore Uncle Jessie comes home on Friday."

"Dang it Luke this here is Wednesday already how do you suppose we're gonna do that? You know we ain't got no money."

Bo took an even closer step towards Luke now effectively sandwiching Cooter between them. The mechanic responded by pushing them both apart with a hand on each cousins chest. "Y'all need to calm down here after all it ain't like this is the first hard spot ya been in."

Bo walked over and leaned against the side of the truck and spit on the ground. "Well now Luke you always think you are so smart so you figure it out."

Cooter being one step ahead put a restraining hand on Luke's chest again. "This ain't my fault cousin and you know that."

Much to Cooter's surprise Bo laughed out loud. "Fine then let's just tell Uncle Jessie everything and see what he says."

Luke looked down at his boots and Cooter knew that for some reason Lukas didn't want to tell Uncle Jessie everything. Whatever in tarnation everything was. And whatever was going on with the boys wasn't getting any better either.

They heard a car approaching and looked up to see Daisy and Uncle Jessie coming down the drive in Daisy's car. Luke kicked the front tire of the truck. "Shit! What are they doin home today. They ain't due back for two more days."

Bo smiled at Luke but it was a sarcastic smile. "Well I guess this solves if'n we should tell Uncle Jessie or not, don't it."

Luke moved around to the front of the truck and Bo and Cooter did the same somewhat effectively blocking the front windshield which was no longer there.

Daisy's car pulled up and for some reason Uncle Jessie was driving. He got out and went around and helped Daisy out of the passenger side of the car. He looked towards the three leaning against the front bumper. "What is a going on with the three of you? You look like them three monkeys – see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil!"

Not one of the three made a sound. "Well for the love of heaven one of you come over here and help me with your cousin."

Both Bo and Luke jumped to help their Uncle who they could finally see was supporting Daisy. Uncle Jessie looked passed Cooter and stared at his truck. "What in tarnation happened to the windshield on my truck?"

Again his question was met with total silence and the farmer didn't fail to notice the angry look that passed between his nephews. "Fine Luke take Daisy here into the house and help her to lay down on her bed. She got sick whilst we was in Capital City and the doctor there says she has an inner ear infection so she's kinda dizzy now. And Bo you bring in the bags. And then when she's been seen to we'll have us alittle talk bout the truck."

Both boys jumped to do as their uncle had said as they didn't want to incur his wrath any further. "Well then I guess I'll just be getting back to the garage then. Bye y'all."

Cooter turned to leave and made it exactly two steps before he heard the booming voice of Jessie Duke. "You just wait a dern minute, you ain't going no where. You can be here for this discussion same as my two. For some dang reason I ain't entirely convinced that you ain't got some part in this."

Cooter didn't look too pleased but he followed the Dukes into the house. Halfway there Daisy stumbled and Luke just picked her up and carried her the rest of the way. Taking her into her room he laid her on her bed and she laughed. "It's just the oddest thing Luke; it's like the room is spinnin. And it got worse after Uncle Jessie gave me the medicine from the Dr."

Luke took the time to take off her shoes and cover her with Grandma Duke's quilt. Sitting back down on the bed he stroked her hair. "I'm sure you're gonna be just fine after a bit Daisy- girl."

She yawned and nodded. "I'm sure I am but how bout you- who broke the windshield Luke?"

She didn't like the angry storm she saw brewing in his blue eyes. "Long story and one you don't need to worry bout. What you do need to do is close those eyes and rest."

He reached over and held her hand and within moments she was asleep. Placing a soft kiss on her forehead he went back to the kitchen

Jessie noticed that the first thing Luke did when he entered the kitchen was to shoot a hateful look in Bo's direction. "Now I want the three of you to sit down at this here table and tell me what is tarnation is a goin on here. "

Not one of the three made a move to sit down. "Sit down now while you all still can."

As Jessie bellowed the command all three sat down and in a hurry. Cooter looked at Jessie with a very uncomfortable look on his face. "But Uncle Jessie I ain't exactly kin so I don't think you can make that threat with me, and I ain't exactly no kid either."

Bo and Luke looked over to their friend as if he had lost his mind. "Well Cooter I think you are close enough to qualify as kin now after all these years and I decide when you're too old to go out to the barn with me. And as I see all three of ya been acting like ya was bout twelve so that's young enough then. Now this is the last time I'm a gonna be asking nice. Why ain't there a windshield in my truck no more? And why are my two boys wanting to strangle each other instead of looking out for each other the way family does?"

The farmer had decided that he had had enough and reached Luke in two steps intending to pull him out of his chair and give him a few swats to get him started explaining. Luke must have known his intention as he held up his hands and started talking mortified at the thought of getting swatted in front of Cooter. "Okay, okay Bo broke it when he was chopping wood and the ax head musta been loose and came off and went crashing through the windshield."

Jessie narrowed his eyes "Now wait a minute when we was working on that stump last week I noticed that the handle was loose. And Cooter didn't you tell me you would fix it. You mean it came off after you fixed it?"

All eyes turned to the mechanic and noticed that both his face and neck had become a rosy red. "Well…..that was the day I was here cause the General was running rough and me and Bo got to talking about the fuel mixture and I mighta not got it exactly done that day…or any day."

Jessie's face became as red as Cooters and he fixed him with a hard look. "If anyone in the world should know bout how important taking proper care of your tools is it should
be you. You know better than anybody that a broken tool or one that don't work the way it's supposed to could kill somebody. Your just lucky no one was standing behind Bo or they'd a been hurt or maybe worse. You got anything to say about that?"

Cooter wouldn't even look Jessie in the eyes and just mumbled, "No sir I guess not."

He turned to Bo next. "I picked that axe up one time and knew it weren't right. I woulda fixed it myself right then and there but Lester from the feed store called and I had to go into town to get that special ointment for Maudine. So how is it that a boy that done been raised and spent his whole life on a farm didn't know as soon as you picked up that axe that it didn't feel right and the head was barely on the handle?"

Jessie wasn't surprised when Bo didn't answer." Let me guess your mind was occupied by thoughts of your latest sweetheart as usual."

The farmer noticed another heated glance exchanged by his nephews and wondered about it. "Yes sir I guess I was thinkin of her and wondering what she was doin just right then."

Jessie didn't quite understand that answer but suddenly struck with another thought. "And why was you chopping the wood anyways that's been Luke's chore for the last month."

This time there was no mistaking the look that passed between the boys and Cooter looked near confused as he was. His blond nephew had yet to answer and if Jessie didn't know better he coulda sworn the boy had tears in his eyes. "Answer me now son…."

He saw Bo square his shoulders and take a deep breath. "Truth is that Luke had company and he was too busy to do his chores so I did em. And I was mad and distracted and didn't even think about the fact I was using an axe right then."

A lot of things were going through the mind of the farmer like why was Bo so hurt - had he been jealous of Luke's friend and while on that topic Luke knew better than to entertain when he was gone. "Well I thought of all the things I taught you two I woulda sworn that you knew about paying attention to what you're doin when you're working. What was Luke and his friend doin that had you so mad?"

For some reason Jessie saw Luke's face go red. Turning to Luke he asked him the question directly. "Where was you and your friend when Bo was busy chopping the wood and my windshield?"

Luke looked tongue tied. "Umm…well…I was sorta showing….my friend ...the hay loft?"

Both Jessie and Cooter looked to Luke as if he had lost his mind. "Why we all know there ain't nothin in the hay loft boy cept hay."

And then Jessie had a horrible thought and hoped with all his heart he was wrong. "Was this friend a girl Luke?"

He tried to ask the question in a calm voice but it just came out like a growl. Luke looked like he was ready to run for the door but knew better. Jessie also noticed Cooter looking at his friend as if suddenly things made a lot more sense. Jessie smacked his hand down hard on the table to startle Luke into an answer. "Yes sir."

The farmer never took his eyes off of the boys face. "Who?"

Luke swallowed hard. "It was….it was….well it was Mary Beth."

Jessie thought he must have heard wrong. "Now that don't even make any sense boy Mary Beth is the little gal Bo has been a courting."

And as soon as he said it suddenly it did make sense, perfect sense in fact. For a long moment no one spoke and all eyes were on Luke except for Jessie who looked to Bo long enough to see the hurt lurking behind those big blue eyes. "So while I was gone Bo was doing your chores while you were rolling around in the hay loft with the gal he's been sweet on for the longest time?"

Luke nodded his head too ashamed to speak. Even Cooter seemed taken aback "Dang Lukas."

Jessie for once in his life was stunned and he took a second to regroup his thoughts. He turned to Bo "And how do you feel about this son?"

Bo took a moment to think and then answered his Uncle's question. "It wasn't right is all!"

Luke nodded his head and Jessie saw tears in his eyes as well now. "I'm sorry Bo you're right ain't no girl worth hurtin you for."

But the truth was that this just made Jessie all the angrier. "Seems mighty convenient that you're sorry now, how bout when it was happening. And while we are on the subject just what did happen? And you best tell me the truth- all of it."

Luke's face began to get red with a blush that started on his neck and worked its way up. "Just some kissing and stuff, but no further than that I just couldn't get my mind off of the fact that this must be hurting Bo somethin fierce. Before she left I told her I couldn't see her no more cause of Bo. And she sure does have a razor sharp tongue for a gal."

Jessie looked at Luke as if he was seeing him for the first time. Going over to stand behind Bo he put his hand on his shoulders and lightly massaged. "Bo I want you to call this young woman and ask her if Luke told her those things. Now I know you don't want to but I really need you to do this."

Bo nodded his head and stood up and went to the phone. "You can believe me Uncle Jessie I'm telling the truth."

Jessie could see that Luke wasn't far from crying. "I woulda thought so until just a few minutes ago."

Cooter waited until he thought Uncle Jessie had turned his head and patted Luke on the back as if trying to comfort him. After a very short time Bo came back to the table with fire in his eyes. "You coulda told me that you done that Luke instead of letting me think what I been thinking since last night."

Again Luke looked down at his hands and sighed. "Well after I came back home you were so angry and you kept pushing at me and then I got mad too. I just lost my temper and then I didn't want to tell you. I'm sorry."

Jessie caught Luke's eyes then. "That tempers cost you plenty over the years hasn't it?"

Luke didn't answer and Jessie thought that it was about to cost him more. "All right then, how much to fix the windshield Cooter?"

"Well about ninety bucks I figure."

Jessie thought for a moment. "Okay then all three of you are gonna split it, that's thirty dollars each."

Cooter was the only one to nod. "But… Uncle Jessie"

"Now before you say anything Bo I am gonna loan you your part of the money and as soon as you start working for Cooter again when those cars he's rebuilding come in you can pay me back alittle at a time."

He turned his gaze to Luke. "And you can just give Cooter the money you been saving to take Peggy Sue to the carnival in Hazzard next week. I figure you must have at least thirty dollars saved."

Luke didn't look too happy but he agreed with what he had been told. Jessie pointed towards Bo and Cooter "And then you two are grounded for the next two weeks to think about some of the fool headed things you both did and the bad decisions."

Cooter looked at Jessie as if he hadn't heard correctly. "Wait a minute you mean those two are grounded right, I mean I'm a grown man and not your nephew neither….so you can't actually ground me."

He saw Cooter give him a wide and unsure smile. "No I mean you Cooter Davenport if you had kept your word to me a lot of this wouldn't never have happened. And if'n you don't want to be grounded we can always go out to the barn son."

Cooter began to vigorously shake his head no and Jessie continued. "Fine then both of you are in the house every night by six o'clock. And Cooter I'll be calling on you every night to check and I might just show up some evening- you never know. And if'n you go out when you're grounded we'll be going…"

Cooter finished his sentence, "…to the barn?"

Jessie laughed, "Now see for not being kin you got the situation under control."

Just then they heard what sounded like Daisy being sick in the bathroom. "I best go and see if'n she's all right. Cooter you can go on home now and we'll bring my truck round in the morning. Now there's one other thing I need to give ya."

Cooter stood up and backed away covering his behind with both hands and Jessie chuckled. "Here boy it's just this." He wrapped Cooter in a hug and went to see to Daisy.

"I swear to all that is good and right I am gonna stop hanging around with you Dukes. He just grounded me and if'n I didn't know better I'd think he was serious."

Both boys looked at him as if he were daft. "He is serious ain't he?"

Luke nodded "Yeah bout as serious as a heart attack."

Cooter looked dismayed. "Well I'll be damned."

Bo slapped him on the back "Careful now foul language is another thing he don't go for."

Cooter walked to the door "Well I'm going on home before I end up in the barn for certain. I'll see y'all tomorrow and Bo I'll be taking that axe home with me so's I can fix it before you send it through somethin else and get us all into even more trouble."

Luke and Bo both said goodbye to their friend and then there was a moment of uneasy silence which Luke finally broke. "Look cousin, I was wrong all the way around and I really am sorry. I wouldn't never do anything to hurt you and I don't know what I was thinking. I really am a jack-ass sometimes."

He walked to where Bo stood with tears in his eyes. "Do you think you could ever forgive me?"

Bo was overcome with emotion and simply nodded and Luke held open his arms which Bo walked into. "I'll figure out some way to make this up to you Bo I promise."

After a long moment they pulled apart and Bo sat back down at the table "It's all right Luke, I kinda always suspected that she didn't really like me and that maybe she just came around here to see you."

"That still don't make it right Bo. I really am sorry; if you want I'll pay for your part of the windshield too."

"No I was the fool who broke it I'll pay my own way."

They both could hear the sounds of Daisy retching in the bathroom. Luke put the kettle on to make a cup of weak peppermint tea for Daisy cause Uncle Jessie always used that for stomach aches and the likes. "I know I'm gonna catch the devil from Uncle for all this, but even still if you think of something that will make you feel better just tell me."

Bo smiled "Well yesterday the thought of you taking a trip to the barn would have cheered me up but suddenly it don't sound so good."

Luke poured the boiling water over the teabag in the china cup. "Yeah but we both know that's exactly where I'm headed. And if I was being honest I know it's where I should be going too."

Luke took out the teabag after a few minutes and added some honey. He carried it into Daisy's room and put it on her nightstand.

Jessie turned to see Luke standing behind him in the hallway and still fought the urge to shake the boy. "Is she all right?"

It was only then that he saw the sadness in the boy's eyes and realized that he was most likely not too proud of himself. "Yeah the Doctor told us this might happen. I think it's passed now."

He moved aside so that Luke could see that Daisy was just sitting on the floor with her head resting against the wall in the bathroom. Luke stepped in and asked her how she was doing. "I'm feeling a little better the queasy feelin is gone now."

He could see that his nephew was worried. "Do you wanna go back to your bed now?"

And when she nodded yes he watched Luke as he tenderly picked her up and carried her into her room and laid her down on the bed. Jessie saw that Luke had made a cup of tea for Daisy and was holdin it so that she could take a sip. "Thanks Luke, all that throwing up made me a little dry. Did you put honey in there?"

Luke nodded that he had. "I hope at least you had a good time in Capital City with Uncle Jessie before you got sick."

She nodded her head. "We had a great time right up until my ear started hurting real bad."

Luke smiled at her. "Well I'm glad."

Jessie saw her give him the mother hen look she often used with both of her male cousins. "But I ain't never going away again cause you and Bo find too much trouble to git into while I'm gone."

Jessie wasn't surprised to see Luke drop his head and blush because he knew that Daisy's opinion of Luke mattered greatly to him. "This time it wasn't Bo so much, just mostly me."

And Jessie also wasn't surprised to see his big strong nephew fighting tears. Daisy reached up and stroked his face. "It'll be all right darlin."

Luke fought his emotions for a moment and then chuckled. "I thought I was supposed to be makin you feel better Daisy not the other way around."

She gave him her angels smile and leaning forward placed a kiss on his cheek. "It'll work out cousin."

He just nodded and stood up and went back into the kitchen. Jessie went to the drawer and got out one of her warm nightgowns and handed it to her. "Now I'll be right outside that door if'n you need a hand honey. Try to put that on without standing up to cause I don't want you to git dizzy again."

Within moments she called out to him and she had changed into her nightgown and was under the covers. He sat down on the side of the bed and took her hand. "Now I want you to promise me that you'll try to take a little nap. If'n you do, when you wake up I'll make you some soup."

She smiled and nodded. "Is there anything else you need darlin?"

She looked at him and softly said, "Yes."

He asked her what it was. "I need you to promise me that you won't be too hard on Luke."

Jessie shook his finger in her face. "That boy has a lot to answer to me for and we both know it. And besides what do you know about it you was in the bathroom being sick."

"I was sick Uncle Jessie not deaf and sides I have seen how Mary Beth is around Luke she all but climbs the boy like a tree."

Jessie fought back his laugh at Daisy's description of the girl. "Being a red blooded male it would be kinda difficult to ignore that attention."

And if her logic wasn't enough she gave him the sad look which almost always assured that she would git her way. "Don't you give me that look either Missy. Luke has earned what's a comin in the barn and even he knows that."

He could see that sick and all she was getting frustrated with him. "Okay then go ahead and punish him, but just go easy. Please?"

What in the name of heaven was it about Daisy that guaranteed he could refuse her nothing? "If I agree to not whip the hide offa him will you agree to go to sleep."

She smiled knowing that she had won. "Yes sir, I promise."

He kissed her on the forehead and quietly walked back into the kitchen realizing that what she had said was probably true and no doubt factored into the poor decision his eldest had made. Bo was sitting at the kitchen table and he sat down across from the lanky teen. Always knowing that the children's feelings was the most important part of being a parent he knew he needed to talk to Bo. "Are you okay Bo?"

Bo sighed and looked down at his hands. "Yes sir, I was just a fool. That girl never cared nothing for me and I was ready to fight Luke over her."

Jessie tried hard not to smile. "Women will do that to you son. They make all us men crazy. Even the good one's."

Bo laughed at the serious way his uncle spoke and then he had a thought. "But Mary Beth wasn't one of the good one's was she?"

Jessie shook his head. "Not if she was willing to come between you and your cousin Luke."

"Look Uncle Jessie Luke just made some mistakes here, can't we just forget it?"

Jessie shouldn't have even been surprised. "And now you are gonna plead his case too Bo?"

"But he….."

"But he made the decisions and he is gonna pay the price just like any other time. Now you need to stop and think about just what you're a doin the next time you have a dangerous tool in your hands. And you need to stop thinking about females every waking moment."

Bo grinned using the smile that all those women folk loved so and Jessie re-thought what he had just told the boy. "Dag nab it I know you're a teenage boy and all so just promise me the first thing- that you'll keep your mind on your work, where it wanders after that is your own concern."

Jessie saw the boy get serious and answered with a respectful, "Yes sir."

"Now where is Luke?" Bo looked like he didn't want to tell him but he did.

"He went out to the barn, he said that was where he was gonna end up anyway tonight." Jessie had to admire the boy's courage.

"While I'm straightening things out with Luke in the barn will you stay here and make sure Daisy don't need me." Bo nodded his head in agreement.

Jessie headed for the barn and even though he had been pretty darn mad earlier realized that that was no longer true. He knew he needed to punish Luke but he had a much better understanding of the situation. He found Luke cleaning out the stalls which was actually Bo's chore. The farmer pulled two bales of hay close together and saw Luke stop and lean his head on the shovel handle. "C'mon son, sit down and let's git it all out in the open."

Luke put the shovel away and walked to where Jessie sat. "Can't we just get to the part where you whup me?"

Jessie bristled at Luke's comment. "Oh don't worry son that part is coming. But first we need to do some talking so don't make things worse by disobeying me again and just sit down."

Luke sat down and Jessie looked at his nephew long and hard and finally Luke looked away. "So how it is that I asked you to take care of Bo and the farm and you ended up in the hayloft?"

Luke's face got red again and he didn't answer. "Well she wanted…"

Jessie held up his hand to stop Luke. "I been a man my whole life son I didn't ask why I asked how."

"She came out to return Bo's coat that he left at her house last week, and well Bo wasn't around, and she told me she never had feelings for Bo anyway, and then she started kissing me, and I tried to stop her honest."

Jessie snorted his reply. "Well then that explains how you ended up in the hayloft then don't it? What with you pushin her away and all. What's she weigh Luke a hundred pounds? Did she just over power you then? She didn't hurt ya did she?"

Jessie put a look of concern on his face. "Okay, okay….I shoulda stopped things I never even shoulda kissed her back, but before I knew it we was in the hayloft and she was trying to get my shirt off and before you say it I know how bad that sounds but it's the truth."

"And instead of enjoying it, all I could think of was how much Bo thought he loved this girl. And then I heard him calling for me and I saw the look on his face when he saw us and I felt sick. And then if that weren't bad enough she laughed like it was funny."

Jessie was counting in his head because he wanted to get off of this bale of hay and blister Luke good for having a part in hurting Bo like this but he held his temper. "And then what happened?"

Luke looked ashamed again. "I told her to go on home, and that I didn't want to see her no more, and to stay away from Bo too. And she was mad as the devil but she did what I asked."

Jessie didn't know how to broach the next topic so like always he just barged in. "Do we need to have us that talk again bout the birds and the bees and how unwise it is to let your hormones be in the driver's seat son? Or how you are supposed to be a gentleman when it comes to the womenfolk?"

Luke looked like he would have liked to crawl into a large hole right then. "No sir, I remember all of it."

"Sure don't seem like that to me, and I thought Bo was the one I had to watch out for. I shoulda known you wouldn't be no different."

Jessie sighed feeling suddenly both tired and old. "So tell me what you done that was wrong."

To the boy's credit he didn't hesitate to answer. "I know it was wrong to have someone here when you was out of town. And that was made worse cause it was a girl. And I never should have gone to the hayloft with her no matter how much either of us wanted to. And I should have done my own chores and not left them for Bo. But worst of all Bo shoulda mattered to me more than a few kisses and some rolling around."

The farmer patted his nephew on the knee. "Yes all that is true but you left a few things out. You and Bo both was planning on just payin Cooter to replace the windshield and not tell me. It was just chance that Daisy and I got home when we did. And you coulda made your cousin feel better by tellin him the truth about what happened tween you and this girl but you lost your temper…."

Jessie could tell Luke was worried about that because just the mention of it and the boy looked sick. "And you have received more than one whuppin in your life due to that temper. And I had thought that you was doing better but apparently you need some more help in that department. And you ain't gonna like how that help comes but it's a coming all the same. When you let go of your temper and git angry all good sense goes out the door and your temper is in control and not you. Ain't that right?"

Tears were now coursing down Luke's face as some of the worst punishments he had ever received were due to being unable to control his temper. "Yes sir."

Looking at the boy Jessie's heart felt heavy but he knew he had to stay strong and do what was right by the boy. "And what do you think I should do bout all this?"

Luke thought for a long moment. "Make sure I understand how much I hurt Bo and how wrong all the things I done were. And make darn sure I remember all of this the next time I get angry and think about it before I lose my temper again."

Jessie nodded and felt proud that the boy had been honest with him even if it was likely to cost him some. "Well do you understand all of the mistakes you made? And that you're gonna be punished for them?"

Luke nodded. "And how am I gonna impress on you that you need to work on that temper some more?"

Luke again looked sick. "I guess you're gonna have to whip me again. I know I deserve it and I surely will remember it."

Jessie nodded in agreement and stood up and went to get the strap. Noticing the look on Luke's face he spoke to the boy. "I'm sorry but this is what your actions was asking for and this is what you're gonna git."

He knew that the boy must be feeling very guilty about his misdeeds as he hadn't fought him on or tried to deny any of it. And unlike Bo who spent the entire time until he began begging him to reconsider, Luke seemed as if he understood and accepted what was about to happen.

And it was this, and only this, that kept Jessie from taking the boy's jeans down. "All right son I don't want to have to do this but we both know that you richly earned it. Have you got anything you'd like to say fore I git started."

"No sir, just that I am sorry I didn't mean to hurt Bo or you and seems like I done both. And I shouldn't have lost my temper I know better there too."

Jessie pointed to the gate on the horse stall. "There'll do."

Luke walked over to where his uncle had directed him and turned to him with a question in his eyes. Jessie shook his head no. "They can stay up this time but if'n we ever have to repeat this discussion again bout your temper they'll be comin down."

Jessie could see the boy working not to sob and if anything that told him just how wrong Luke knew he was. He watched with a heavy heart as Luke assumed the correct position.

The first lick of the strap caught Luke by surprise almost as if he didn't remember just how much it actually hurt. Although Luke wasn't able to see his Uncle's face the farmers eyes were filled with tears. Damnation he hated this part of being a parent. He continued on with the only sounds in the barn being the sound of the strap catching Luke's jeans and the boy's anguished cries.

It seemed to Jesse as if it took forever to get to twenty which is what he had decided was enough. And then for a minute or two both Jessie and Luke stood where they were and waited. Luke hoping and praying that his uncle would tell him that it was over and Jessie waiting for his emotions to settle down enough so that he might do so. And finally the farmer spoke. "That's all son, we're all done now."

He threw the strap down and walked to where Luke stood. He still hadn't straightened up and stood sobbing. Jessie knew that he had just given the boy a pretty hard whippen but it wasn't the worst that Luke had ever had. He put both hand on the boy's shoulders and pulled him up and then turned him so that they were face to face again. He saw such pain on the boy's face that for split second he was taken aback. "Lukas?"

His nephew answered by throwing himself Jessie's arms. And for a moment he caught Jessie off guard and he thought maybe they were gonna both end up on the barn floor. But the farmer found his balance, held on tight to the boy as sobs shook him. "I'm so sorry Uncle Jessie, I'm so sorry."

Jessie rubbed his back and shoulders even though he knew that the pain was located a little further down. He let the boy cry until finally he started to quiet down. "It's all right Luke, it's all gonna be fine now. Your punishment is done and you're forgiven. I still love you boy and you learnt your lessons here right?"

Luke pulled away and wiped his face on the sleeve of his shirt. "Yes sir."

Jessie smiled at him. "Then there ain't no more to say. Neither Daisy nor Bo is mad at you and I believe ya when ya tell me that you won't let your temper git the best of ya no more. And the way your behind is a feelin right now I don't think you'll forget this lesson any time soon."

Jessie was relieved to finally see the boy smile back at him. "No sir, I surely won't but…."

Jessie could see the blue eyes fill with tears again. "But what sweetheart?"

"You ain't so disappointed that you ain't never gonna trust me again are you?"

Jessie knew that the worst that he could do would be to tell any of his children that he was disappointed in them and Luke was just proving that point. "Now you know dang good and well that when we are done in here it is over and done. I'm gonna need your help a lot with Daisy until she gets better and I know that you done made up with Bo already so there ain't no more to say. How bout we go back into the house and I make us all some dinner."

Luke smiled and gave his Uncle one last hug. "What was that for Luke?"

Luke blushed and suddenly looked at the floor as if it were interesting. "Just cause I love ya and you are a good Uncle and Dad."

Jessie felt his eyes fill with tear again but Luke apparently wasn't quite finished. "Even if you do swat harder than a mule can kick."

Jessie smiled. "Well it's a fool that gets hisself kicked by a mule more'n once young'un, you'd do well to remember that."

Luke just rubbed his behind and smiled. "Uncle Jessie you was serious bout Cooter bein grounded right?"

Jessie looked intently at his nephew. "Why was there some reason you might think I didn't mean exactly what I told that boy?"

Now Luke was wearing an ear to ear grin. "No sir, it's just gonna be a fun two weeks is all."

Jessie sighed suddenly tired and he put an arm around Luke's shoulder. "Ain't they always? Come on let's go on in the house I'm thinking I might just need to make a quick run inta town to check on our favorite mechanic."

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