Summary: This is a true story! The names have been changed to protect the remarkably brilliant minds of the inventive participants!
Word Count: 2645
The weather was getting cold! The wind was always blowing and the frost was on the pumpkin, as Ben would say! Young Joe Cartwright was on his way to school. He would be late. He often was! Hoss had gone ahead of him; sometimes he just couldn’t get his brother to move fast enough. He didn’t want to be late…again! He was always blamed for Joe’s tardiness. He could hear his father, his voice booming, “Hoss, you are supposed to be a role model for your young brother.” But sometimes Joe was just in a world of his own and didn’t seem to care. He loved the outdoors and would be perfectly content to just stay home and work along side the ranch hands and with his oldest brother, Adam. But he had to go to school!!! OH, BROTHER!!
The children were running into the building, as the bell had just rung, and the teacher was ready to start the day. She put her hands on her hips as she saw Young Joe Cartwright enter the school yard and tie up Cochise. She shooed him into the room, scolding him as usual on his tardiness. Joe quickly took his seat and removed his hat.
“Everyone please stand and we will say the pledge of allegiance!” Everyone stood and put their right hand on their heart and gave the flag it’s rightful due. Then they said a short prayer. The day had officially begun.
Usually, the teacher would go right into math. She seemed to really dig math…Joe hated it! He couldn’t understand why he had to know all that work with numbers! Typically he figured he really didn’t need it, never would…so why not daydream. But this day started different. Joe was really surprised because Mrs. Shaw began to tell them some really fun news.
“Students, last night at the board meeting, we learned that Virginia City is going to celebrate Halloween by having a parade and party/dance. They are hoping to raise some money to offer a prize to the most interesting costume that students come in. If you have a vivid imagination, now is your chance to show off your ability. This will be a mandatory assignment…you will enter this costume challenge and you will be graded on your talent. Some of you who are not good at all school work may be able to get a good grade here and show your classmates how talented you are. The parade will be held on October 31. This year, this falls on a Friday and therefore you will have that Friday off to get ready. Neat, huh?”
The rest of the day ran as usual and the children went through the rituals of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Joe’s favorite subject was “RECESS”. He could run and jump and get all the kinks out that had developed in his small frame. Hoss kept a good eye on him and often would come over and talk to his brother, especially if he seemed to be headed into trouble. Today, Hoss quickly approached Joe, anxious to talk about the Halloween party/parade. “Heh, Joe, watcha think you’ll go as?” he asked.
Joe shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know! But it’s only September and we have a whole month to think on it. You have a good idea?”
“Shucks, no!” said Hoss. “I’m not good at that kinda stuff. Hope Adam will help me!”
Both boys arrived home at the same time. Joe had managed to not get into trouble and got to leave on time. This didn’t happen often. But because it did, he had a better night and they could tell their father and brother the news about the parade together and get them warmed up to possibly thinking up some costume ideas.
Both boys wanted Adam to help them. He said he would try, and Hoss rubbed his hands together as if he hoped a new idea would come from those warm hands. He sat head-to-head with Adam and they whispered ideas back and forth. Joe got mad, and decided he would think up his own idea….he didn’t need them!
Every day thereafter, Adam and Hoss went into the barn to work on their “IDEA”. Joe would mosey by and listen in to what they were planning but would never ask what they were doing. He was determined to do his own thing — even though he had no idea what that “thing” would be — being the stubborn child that he was.
Hoss began to hit up his father for some supplies, “Pa, I need some chicken wire, and I need some wood! Do you have any heavy boxes?”
Ben tried to help and gave some advice when the two boys got stumped. They could only work about an hour a day as they had to do their chores. Joe envied his brother having the help…but he never gave them the satisfaction to know this from him. Ben would ask him “Son, have you thought about your costume?”
Joe, would blow him off by saying “Nah, I’ll think about it when the day is closer.”
Since Hoss was getting help from Adam, many of the other students asked Adam to also help them! He did, just because they asked. He would have helped Joe too but he was never approached or asked, and this kinda saddened him. But more importantly, he felt that Joe was using this as a way to stand on his own. He admired that of Little Joe; he had a level head and wasn’t afraid of a challenge. In fact, the tougher the better.
Then, as Adam and Hoss worked, they came to a problem! They had built the design of what Hoss was going to go as but they were stumped as to how to fix it correctly. They kept it covered in the barn and no one was supposed to touch it. One night as the boys were eating dinner, Adam mentioned to Ben that they needed to make a cover for their project and that they were stumped as to how to do it. Hop Sing was bringing out more coffee when he also heard this request.
“Hop Sing have idea!”
Adam abruptly looked up to him and said, “What?”
“You show Hop Sing work, Hop Sing tell you what he know about it!”
Hoss was thrilled and Joe was jealous! Joe thought, Great! I guess my idea will not be worth the effort. He began to plan on not even going to the parade. However, he knew it was mandatory. “Maybe I can get sick!”
Hop Sing shuffled out to the barn to see Adam and Hoss’ project! He was impressed with the design and told the boys that he could help. He told Hoss to find all the papers he could — newspapers, preferably — and he would need a bucket of water and some flour. Adam was mystified. “What are you doing?” he asked
“Hop Sing show you! Be patient, master Adam.”
Ben and Hoss came into the barn carrying armfuls of paper. Ben was amazed at how much paper had accumulated lately…Hoss was thrilled. As the equipment arrived, Hop Sing rolled up his sleeves and began to create for his boys. He felt they truly were his; he had practically raised them along with Ben.
“First, take and tear paper into strips! Put paper in water. Let soak! When real wet, open the strip up and smooth over chicken wire. Layer the strips and overlap if possible. When you have a section done, take the flour and mix as paste and smear it on the paper. This will harden and your shape will be made so we will all know what it is.” Hoss and Adam worked for a while until they had to go to bed.
Joe had gone to bed early…mad! He was just really mad that he had no idea, and no one, he thought, would help him. He cried himself to sleep. Ben went in and saw that the child was crying and he felt sorry for him! But Joe had to learn that if you need help…you have to ask.
Halloween was now a week away! Adam and Hoss had worked diligently on their idea! It really was taking shape and now they really hid their idea because they wanted everyone to be surprised. Adam had continually asked Joe if he knew what he wanted to be! Joe always said, don’t worry — I have a plan! A plan….not a costume!
Hoss was painting and thrilled at his artwork as Joe came into the barn. One of their best friends was also there because she was working on a project with Adam. Joe sat on a bale of hay and watched all this going on, unsure what he was going to do. He was deciding what illness he could claim in order to miss the whole event. But he sure would like to earn a prize!
October 31, Friday, dawned on the Ponderosa with much hustle and bustle. Hoss was putting his finishing touches to his costume. His friend had removed her project to her home so she could finish it there. Adam didn’t want them to rely on his help for everything but felt good about what he had done. Joe was still a problem. He heard his younger brother in his room and went up to see if he could help him. Joe’s door was locked!
“Joe?? Joe?? You are not supposed to lock your door! I’m going to have to tell PA!”
Joe quickly opened the door and Adam burst out laughing! “What have you done to yourself?” he asked.
Joe hung his head. “I was going to tell Pa I had caught measles! Aren’t they red dots?”
“Well, yes, they are, but those are pokadots, much too big to pass for measles! What did you use to make them?”
“That color dye Hop Sing uses in the kitchen!” His eyes were brimming with tears! He hung his head and tried to avoid looking at Adam.
“Oh, Joe, wash up and lets do some fast thinking about your appearance tonight,” Adam suggested. “Okay?”
Joe and Adam sat on the settee and tried to come up with a good idea, but Joe was not going to be easily convinced. He sat and pouted and then he said “Never mind, I will do something!” With this, he ran back upstairs and slammed his door.
Ben told Adam not to be upset. “Joe has to learn certain lessons on his own. Let’s see what he comes up with! You best go out and hitch up the wagon so that Hoss can load his costume on it for the trip in town. I’ll go up and talk to Joe.”
When Ben knocked on Joe’s door, he opened it to Joe on all fours in his closet, throwing out things right and left. “What on earth are you doing?” he asked.
Joe looked up and said, “Oh, hi Pa!” His attitude had taken another turn and his eyes were sparkling with excitement! “Hey Pa, can I borrow a pair of your shoes?”
“I guess so,” answered Ben. He went to his closet (not giving Joe a chance to make a mess in his room as he had in his own room) and found an old pair of shoes that he figured he wouldn’t miss if they got lost. He took them to his son and Joe thanked him.
Joe ran down the stairs and found the old ball that he and his brothers played with often and ran back upstairs. He quickly put his idea together and was so proud of himself that he jumped up and down!
Spirits were high at the parade site! The costumes that the children had invented ranged from princesses to devils to pirates. Hoss, had purposely waited before he entered the street. Every one gasped at his costume. He and Adam had made a huge hand and in this huge hand was a big, bloody knife! It was great. The friend that Adam had assisted came as a chick just coming out of her egg shell. People were mystified by this work. But then they were joined by a person who looked like he was walking on his hands. No one knew who this was…and the parade was starting, so no one could find out. This person hung back as he had done in even coming to the parade.
The parade began, and the city band played proudly; the parents cheered their pride-and-joy children as they entered the street and walked (some staggered) proudly as they showed off their handy work. Hoss felt sure he would win first prize, and because of this, he really walked proudly.
When the band stopped, everyone was given a ballot and they had to choose which costume they thought was the best. What an awesome job. It took a lot of thinking, searching and deciding. Sure, many voted for their children…but to honestly vote, they had to be fair. After about 10 minutes, Mrs. Shaw gathered the ballots and chose four people from the audience to count them and choose three winners. One was the overall best costume! One was for originality, and the other prize was for the best imagination. This prize (the last one) would make its owner very happy as they would win $100 for their costume.
The waiting was unbearable. Ben had not seen Joe and was wondering where he had gotten to. He was not even excited when asked to come with them. It was a shame he had shown no interest in making his costume.
Finally the band had a drum roll! “WE HAVE MADE A DECISION! The costume that is OVERALL BEST is the chick in the egg!!! She wins a $25 gift. Congratulations! Please show us who you are! Pamela! That was great! Here’s your money, sweetie! Now, for the prize for the GREATEST ORIGINALTY, we choose the hand with the bloody knife!” Hoss quickly took off his costume by literally crawling out from underneath it. He proudly went forward for his prize! He had won $25.
Again, there was a drum roll and then the announcer said “WE HAVE MADE A DECISION! THE OVER ALL COSTUME THAT DISPLAYS THE MOST IMAGINATION IS……THE UPSIDE-DOWN MAN.”
Joe quickly removed the pants from his arms and the shoes on his hands fell freely to the street. He waddled to the front of the crowd and Ben was shocked to see his youngest son receiving the $100 award. It was really overwhelming and Adam beamed at Joe. When his father approached him, Ben said “Good job, son. I’m proud of you.”
Joe laughed. He said, “I just couldn’t think of anything and then I saw this in my mind. I took the shoes you let me have and I put on a old pair of pants on my arms and Hoss’ shirt on my legs and tied the ball between my legs and used the old garden gloves on my feet. I was an upside-down man. Neat, huh!
As Joe collected his winnings, his brothers carried him on their shoulders to the barn where the food and fun were in full swing. Mrs. Shaw gave Joe one of the few A’s he would ever make and the townspeople saw young Joe Cartwright in a new way.