Word Count: 1600
The Ponderosa was just in the early stages of “getting all gussied up” for the holidays with pine boughs, holly, ribbons and candles, all of which were distributed around the ranch house’s great room. A wreath of greens complete with a big red ribbon was resting on the floor under each window ready to be hung. The tree — “the best one we’ve ever had,” according to Ben Cartwright, the owner of the Ponderosa — was sitting on the front porch just waiting for one or two of his sons to carry it inside…
“Dad-burn-it!” Hoss, Ben’s twenty- four year old middle son whose given name was really Eric, frowned at the 15 foot pine tree that was right outside the front door. He had just finished all the barn work by himself for the morning while his brothers and father were inside nice and warm decking the halls. “Guess they expect me to haul you in all by myself,” he addressed the tree shaking his head wearily. “Oh, well,” he sighed and grabbed the tree around its middle. Meanwhile inside…
Loads of strings of popcorn, bright beads and assorted Christmas ornaments for the tree covered the pier table beside the huge fireplace. The kissing bough was located right inside the front door and was engineered from grapevines, greenery and mistletoe by 29 year old Adam, Ben’s oldest son. It was just receiving the finishing touches by its ‘engineer’ while step-cousin Josephine, Ben’s brother John’s 27 year old step daughter who was visiting for the holidays, added commentary about the origination of certain Christmas customs. So far, she had covered the ivy, the holly, the Yule log and was now discussing…
“Mistletoe was regarded by the ancient Druids with the utmost veneration,” the little redhead read from the huge red volume* she was bracing against her bosom. “They welcomed the winter season and the celebration was considered to be incomplete without paying a tribute to the magical healing power of mistletoe.”
“Looks really good, son,” Ben hollered over to Adam as he handed the end of a length of pine roping up to his youngest son Joseph alias Little Joe who was poised on a ladder, hammer in his left hand. Ben also was surprised that the two of them were working so well together since they had had a real knock, down, drag out dust-up just the day before. Them “working together” on the project was his idea and so far it was “working” out really good, thank goodness! This morning before he assigned them the task, he was sorely tempted to put both of them as old as they were over his knee because of their constant fighting for the past three days.
“Yeah, big brother. It sure does.” Little Joe grinned broadly. “Of course, maybe you ought to test it out,” he cocked his head to indicate Josey.
No, Adam vigorously shook his head in the negative while Joe vigorously shook his head in the affirmative and Ben waved his hand in an indication that “Adam should get on with it.” They both then settled back to watch leaving Adam with little choice.
Why not? He sighed deeply, rolled his eyes heavenward and turned back toward Josephine.
“The Druids believed that no one can be harmed under the mistletoe…” Josey continued reading like nothing else was going on.
“Let’s hope so.” Adam sidled over to the petite redhead who was standing off to the side of the mistletoe.
“The belief originated in the ancient times that whenever enemies met under the mistletoe in the forest, they had to lay down their arms and observe a truce until the next day.” Josey looked up at him over the top of the rims of her reading glasses and smirked.
“Sounds like it’s something right up our alley, given our propensity for quarreling, brat.” Adam grinned and pushed her glasses that had slid down here nose back up where they belonged.
“And you fight a lot too,” Joe added loudly from across the room.
“Very true.” She frowned at her oldest step cousin and her youngest and then looked down at the book again. “From this comes the custom of hanging a ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and exchanging kisses under it as a sign of friendship and goodwill…”
Adam sighed again, took Josey by the shoulders and…
“…At Christmas, a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe cannot refuse to be kissed…”
…nudged her gently forward so she was almost directly under the kissing bough facing the front door.
“… The kiss could mean deep romance, lasting friendship and goodwill,” she intoned solemnly, trying to ignore Adam’s moving of her but getting just a wee bit irritated by his actions.
Too far, he thought putting his hands around her waist and pulling her back slightly.
She gritted her teeth, cleared her throat and plowed on. “It was believed that if the girl remained unkissed…”
Maybe here. He moved in front of her, grabbed her book and dragged her toward him.
“Hey!!! ….” She glared at him and stepped back enough to dislodge his hands from her book. “What do you think you’re doing, you lunkhead?!?!?!”
“This.” Adam, his lips ready for the kiss, closed his eyes and leaned forward toward Josey.
What a picture! She laughed at him standing there with eyes closed and his lips all puckered ready leaning forward to lay one on her but then gasped as she looked behind him to see the front door bang open and the top of a huge pine coming straight at him courtesy of Hoss. “Give me a hand, someone!!!!!!!!!” the big man yelled struggling with the big tree.
“Look out for …!!!” Josey shrieked and jumped out of the way but Adam did not since he was in no position to see anything behind him. Because of Josey’s warning, he did turn around…
…and consequently ended up flat on his back on the floor, his head situated directly under the kissing bough.
Hoss hurriedly leaned the huge tree upright against the door and rushed to Adam’s side while Joe jumped off the ladder as Ben sprinted over to his supine son.
Adam slowly opened one blurry eye just enough to verify his brain’s conclusion that he was still alive. “Oooooooooowwww,” he groaned opening his other eye and tried to focus.
“Adam, son, are you okay?” Ben knelt down beside him while Hoss helped him into a sitting position with a “Sorry, brother.”
“Is it Christmas yet?” Adam shook his head still trying to clear it.
“Let’s see if this…,” Josey held up a sprig of mistletoe that had been dislodged from the kissing bough thanks to Hoss and the tree, “…really does have magical healing power like the book said,” she giggled stooping down beside Adam, held it over his head and planted a soft kiss on his lips. She sank back on her eyes to watch his reaction.
It was magical! Suddenly Adam’s eyes focused and his head cleared. He smiled, leaned forward and kissed her too.
“You sure you’re all right?” Ben looked skeptically at his oldest son and put his hand to his forehead when the exchange between the two ended.
“I feel just fine, Pa,” Adam patted Ben’s arm. “The mistletoe really works and the kiss wasn’t bad either.” He winked at Josephine who blushed appropriately.
“So can I assume that we will be having 24 hours of peace and quiet from you two now?” Ben looked from his son to his step-niece.
“What?” Both of them asked in unison gaping at Ben.
Chucking to himself, Ben reached over and picked up Josey’s book from where it fell and read, “Quote. ‘When enemies met under the mistletoe in the forest, they had to lay down their arms and observe a truce until the next day.’ Unquote.”
“We’re not in a forest,” she laughed, shaking her head.
“Technically the Ponderosa is, brat,” Adam smirked, stood up, grabbed her hands and help pulled her to her feet.
“So,” Ben snapped the book shut and handed it back to the petite redhead, “there will be no fighting from now until tomorrow this time or else.” He didn’t bother to elaborate what “or else” was but he was sure they both knew absolutely what “or else” meant.”
“Ah, peace on earth, good will to Ben,” Josey quipped while Adam groaned.
“Exactly.” Ben grinned as he clapped Hoss on the shoulder and reached for the tree. “In fact, I’m seriously considering hanging a sprig of mistletoe in every doorway on a permanent basis.”
“You know the book says its name means ‘dung on a twig’?” She opened the book and pointed to the passage for Joe who giggled, took the book from her and sat down on the arm of the chair to read it for himself.
Ben thought for a moment then smiled, deciding, “I can live with that,” as he and Hoss hauled the big pine over to its position of honor in the great room. “Anything for a little peace. Now let’s get this tree trimmed, shall we?”
If only it was that simple.