Word Count: 980
“Pa, you just got to do it,” Hoss Cartwright pleaded handing his father the silver metal bucket. “You know that Geneva won’t give any milk otherwise.”
“But, why me?” Ben asked as his middle son pushed him through the front door and out into the yard. “What about Adam? He studied …”
Hoss sighed deeply but continued to urge a resistant Ben forward toward the barn. “If Adam were here, he’d do it but he’s out playing “La Cucaracha” on his guitar to get Guillermo and Nana the Spanish goats back into their pen.”
“Joe, then?” Ben tried to dig his heels in the hard ground of the front yard to slow their progress but Hoss persisted in moving his 200 plus pound obdurate parent toward the barn and Geneva the family’s milk cow.
“Now Pa,” Hoss chuckled. “Remember the last time Joe did it, all we got was sour cream? Anyway, Joe’s playing “Alouette” on his harmonica to get Fifi, Yvette and Simone, our three French hens, to lay enough eggs so Hop Sing can make that chocolate soufflé for dinner.”
From the chicken coop came the unmistakable strains of “Alouette…je te plumerai… Je te plumerai la tête ….Je te plumerai la tête… Et la tête,…et la tête…Alouette… Alouette… Oooo-oh… Alouette… gentille Alouette …” on Joe’s harmonica.
“Isn’t that a song about chicken plucking?” Ben was trying to figure out the logic behind the song selection. “Won’t that…?”
“It was the only French one he could play, that’s why, Pa,” Hoss said patiently. “We thought it was fine as long as he didn’t sing it. Come on, Pa. Geneva’s already two hours overdue.”
“Well, then, why don’t you do it?” Ben stopped dead in his tracks and twisted around to look at his middle son.
“Oh, come on, Pa,” Hoss steered him back around and through the barn door. “You know, all I can do is play the real low notes on the tuba for Walter,” he handed Ben the three legged milking stool. “I’m not musically inclined like you and Adam. Anyway,” he headed toward the door again. “I’ve got to help Walter bury his bone so he’ll tell us where the bad guys took Hop Sing. No one can talk Chinese to those Peking ducks Ping, Pang and Pow like he can.”
“Walter speaks Chinese?” Ben was really puzzled now.
“Come on now, Pa. Walter’s pretty smart, but he can’t speak Chinese,” Hoss laughed heartily and clapped his father on the back. “Hop Sing’s the one who has to talk Chinese to Ping, Pang and Pow, and anyway, we’ve got to get him back to make that scrumptious soufflé for dinner.” With that said, he was gone leaving his father and the bovine.
Ben cleared his throat, took a deep breath and set the stool and himself down beside Geneva who was contently munching on some hay. He sighed, positioned the silver bucket under her, put his hands on her udders and pulled. Nothing happened. He tried again and again but was not rewarded for any of his effort.
“Come on, Geneva,” he coaxed softly. “The sooner we finish, the sooner you can go outside and play.”
This always worked for him fairly well with Adam, Hoss and Little Joe even now. The cow wasn’t buying it, however, and pretty much ignored him.
“I’ll slip you some nice sweet clover if you just cooperate,” Ben tried a bribe this time and patted her gently on her rear flank.
Geneva looked back at his hand on her rump and sniffed indignantly. ‘You know exactly what I want, Ben Cartwright.’ She didn’t say it — thank goodness — but Ben knew that’s what she was communicating to him. She then went back to her breakfast.
Ben then reached deep down into his bag of fatherly tricks. Okay, sage advice and bribes didn’t work. How about a pointed observation? “You know for a cow, you’ve got a lot of mule in you,” he growled at her this time.
Geneva looked back again and once more communicated with her look that she thought the ‘mule’ comment was equally applicable to him.
Oh, what’s the use? Ben resigned himself to his fate. “All right, you win,” he cleared his throat. “Yoh-de-la-ye-yoh!!!!” the patriarch of the Cartwright family let out a yodel that would have made Slim Whitman proud.
The cow looked dreamily at Ben and batted her big brown eyes at him. She then swished her tail happily, relaxed and the milk began to fill the bucket.
“This is the last time I let anyone talk me into buying a Brown Swiss cow,” Ben vowed, closing his eyes.
Just then from outside came a loud, badly sung, “Alouette…je te plumerai… Je te plumerai la tête ….Je te plumerai la tête… Et la tête,…et la tête…Alouette… Alouette… O-o-o-o-oh… Alouette… gentille Alouette …”
This was quickly followed by an even louder, “Joe!!! Dadburnit, Joe!!!! Quit that singing!!!!…They’re gonna stop laying!!!!!…..JOE-E-E-!!!!!!!!!”
Ben glanced out the barn door just in time to see Hoss, Hop Sing and Walter running toward the chicken coop, no doubt intent on silencing his baby son and saving tonight’s dessert.
“Well,” Ben laughed as he watched Hoss pick up Joe by the seat of his pants and toss him into the little duck pond with Ping, Pang and POW. “Maybe we’ll just have to settle for cookies and milk,” he yodeled again and went back to his work.