I like this. It's a nice snapshot of a day in the life of a family on the frontier, complete with the kind of pitfall that most authors wouldn't think of.
I'm a little concerned with Marie's determination not to let anyone have enough detail of an event to be fully cognizant of its seriousness. Perhaps that's her parenting style; maybe that's how she herself grew up. Don't know, but would like to have some idea why she's so determined that no one discuss 'unpleasantness' with her. She's not a city girl without a clue about the reasons one talks over hazards and figures out solutions.
Shorty's a nice character too! (Little bit deus-ex-machina, but then again, you need one there, and he doesn't really effect the denouement all by himself.) I like his style: one the boy can't fall through ... unless he fixes a lid too heavy for Joe to lift on the other, that'll be quite a feat!
Good clean grammar, nice pacing, well thought-out characterizations for all the players on the stage. Kudos to the author for seeing that imitating his brothers' techniques isn't going to make Joe's writing more legible!
Thank you for reading and commenting, RedShirt. Marie was a city girl from New Orleans. I remember reading an old book on behavior for young ladies that conversations at meals should be pleasant always. It might be banal, but unpleasant things were best not mentioned. Aside frm manners, it helped with digestion.