Summary: Only with the Giggly Sisters could Winter be this… well, just read.
Word Count: 2000
Ben Cartwright came out of the storeroom, shaking his head.
“This won’t do at all!” he muttered and strode determinedly into the living room of the Ponderosa. Some writers prefer to describe this as ”the great room”, but it was more like an experiment in 1950’s open-plan living, if truth be told. And not especially successful, for it lacked those little touches to make it truly comfortable, such as a doormat. If nothing else, this would have effectively sopped up the blood and muck the Cartwrights trod so determinedly home with them on an all too regular basis. Sometimes Ben wondered why his sons were so accident prone, but then he supposed it was in their genes. After all, each of their mothers had died prematurely and dramatically.
The mellow tones of Adam’s guitar filled the room – the boy certainly had talent, Ben mused, but both he and the viewers were just a trifle weary of “Early One Morning”.
“Boys!” he bellowed heartily and was gratified to see all three of them jump guiltily. “There’s work to be done! Winter is still here and the stores are at an all-time low.”
“What needs to be done, Pa?” asked Adam, immediately getting to the crux of the matter, while Joe and Hoss exchanged looks in the way that younger and irresponsible brothers do.
“We need a cooper – and urgently!”
Even Adam looked bemused at this and he raised one eyebrow in a quizzical fashion. Hoss eyed the contents of the fruit bowl with interest while Joe just wondered why his pants never seemed to reach down to his ankles. The girl from wardrobe did spend an inordinate mount of time making sure that the fit around the butt was sheer perfection, but this meant she was rather pushed for time when it came to small matter such as length or adding belt loops. Consequently, Joe’s belt was just a mere appendage, adding an additional frisson of interest when considered in combination with his gun belt, the angle of which had recently been voted “most likely to send impressionable young ladies into apoplexy.”
“A cooper – to make barrels!” Ben elaborated. “For the brandy.”
His sons instantly nodded in agreement. Although unaccountably omitted from the many episodes showing a Cartwright in extremis, this was an integral part of Ben’s master plan to ensure his sons reached maturity. The Ponderosa played host to a whole troop of sturdy Highland ponies, each one carrying a stout cask of brandy around its neck.
“I’ll get right onto it,” Adam reassured his father, thus reaffirming his position as the responsible one.
Hoss was determined not to remain in the background. “Anything else you need done? How are the stocks of calves foot jelly?”
As everyone with even a passing acquaintance of Mrs. Beeton will know, calves foot jelly was an invaluable staple in the care of invalids and it was therefore imperative that the Ponderosa stored vast quantities of this nutritious foodstuff at all times. It was terribly convenient that they just happened to be wealthy cattle barons – but some of the purchasers were slightly bemused to take delivery of three-legged cows, instead of the normal four-legged variety. Luckily, Hoss was very handy with wood and whiled away many an idle hour whittling lifelike (albeit wooden) replacements for the luckless animals. And, as chance would have it, the Cartwrights just happened to have a rather profitable timber operation too!
As ever, Joe was determined not to be left out. “What about flour, sugar and coffee?” he asked anxiously, for breakfast wouldn’t be the same without Hop Sing’s pancakes and Cochise couldn’t get going in the morning without his cup of coffee, complete with two spoons of sugar, just the way Joe took it!
“We can survive without all those things,” Ben assured his sons. “But the brandy is very important. We all know that it cures everything, don’t we? Where would you boys be if I couldn’t offer you a drop of brandy when you’ve been maimed?” He looked particularly at Joe at this point, since he was by far the most accident prone of all the sons.
Joe looked indignant at this point, because he could only remember getting brandy once when maimed, in The Fighters. There had been an occasion he’d been offered some other alcohol, but he couldn’t quite remember what it had been. Some foreign muck, he supposed. It wasn’t often Pa let him have a drink!
“Just keep Joe off the polque!” Adam advised. He still hadn’t quite got over the shock of Joe’s elder half-brother Clay producing this noxious brew in First Born. Especially as they drunk the entire demi-john in one evening, leaving none for him! As the well-traveled, sophisticated one of the family, Adam rather resented this oversight.
“I’ll go an’ check up on the extra mattresses, shall I?” Hoss enquired. These were another staple of fan-fic. Whenever a major accident occurred within driving range of the Ponderosa, out came the wagon, loaded up with handy mattresses, which cunningly materialized out of the very ether. In actual fact, they were kept in the bunk-house, which meant there wasn’t too much space for the actual ranch hands. But as no more than two or three ever made more than the most casual and fleeting appearance in the show, this was not a total catastrophe.
Ben nodded his thanks and sat down in his fireside chair, as Hop Sing popped out of the kitchen. Quite how he kept warm and cozy while wearing only light silk garments was anyone’s guess.
“I’ll start hemming up some extra cloths, for mopping down fevered bodies, shall I?” he enquired, giving Joe a penetrating look. He did seem to develop a dramatic and life-threatening temperature whenever a bullet came within 6 feet of him.
“Best make sure we’ve got enough chamber pots too,” sighed Ben. He’d ordered a new batch in fuzzy red transfer print, to match the dining-room china.
Hop Sing nodded happily and sloped off back to the kitchen, humming the Eton Boating Song under his breath.
Paw bear shuffled forward and handed Ben a large tub of Doc Martin’s Wonder Salve TM with a suitably grave gesture. This magnificent remedy surely deserved its own credits, ensuring that the Cartwrights emerged from any mishap without a scratch on them. Why, even when Adam guddled around in Joe’s shoulder in My Brother’s Keeper with no more that a potato peeler and a pair of sugar tongs, the boy was restored to his golden-glory by the very next episode. Paw was determined to ensure the viewers would not be disappointed!
“Where are you going to put all the brandy barrels?” the redhead asked. She wasn’t averse to a little nip of brandy occasionally, but her usual tipple was red wine, just like her sister, and Ben wished he’d never shown them where the wine cellar was!
“Are you going to make a little barrel for fitting around Cochise’ neck?” asked the blonde. “You know, like the ones the St Bernard’s wear?”
“You could attach it to a breast plate, or a neck strap,” the redhead informed him knowledgably. Ben did so hate when she talked about things he didn’t understand.
“I could?” he asked, confused.
“I don’t think we need to go to quite that length,” Adam told her.
“You could have one, too,” the redhead replied earnestly. “After all, Sport does wear that breast plate.”
Adam could see numerous advantages in riding a horse with its own built-in liquor supply, so he readily agreed to kitting Sport out with a brandy barrel too. By mutual agreement, they decided that Buck normally looked as if he had been over-indulging in the hard-stuff, so it was probably better not to put temptation literally under his nose.
“Underwear!” Ben said suddenly. “We need to make sure you boys have lots of long johns and undershirts to keep you warm!” He cast a hard look at Joe, who had a tendency to ride around in his shirt sleeves, while Adam was bundled up in his custard-colored coat.
“But not in girly-pink this time!” pleaded Joe. How embarrassed he was when he realized he’d been sitting out in the rain, talking to Miss Dobbs in a pale-pink, long-sleeved undershirt in The Stillness Within. Luckily, they were both blind at the time…
Adam ignored this conversation, for he had no need of an undershirt; his lovely furry chest did that quite well all on its own.
“How about some nice black leather gloves?” suggested the blonde, twinkling merrily at Joe. His slender, supple hands looked so divine in those gloves.
“I did like those gloves you had in The Other Son,” the redhead remarked. “With the little buckle detail on the cuff. Very fetching.” She had one of Joe’s hands in hers and was examining his beautiful, clean, unbitten fingernails with great attention. She had rather a thing about Joe’s hands.
Joe sighed, for life was very sweet right then. The blonde had one of his bare feet on her lap and was wiggling his little curly pink toes back and forwards. She had rather a thing about his feet. How fortunate that his two favorite girls had different favorite parts of him to love. How nicely they shared him!
“How about some new nightshirts?” suggested the blonde, rather absently. “Surely Hoss could do with one that’s not made from a tablecloth?”
“And that stripy number you wore in The Spitfire was horrid,” the redhead informed Adam.
“We all make mistakes,” he replied, stiffly. “And I don’t really need a nightshirt. I can keep warm quite easily.” The redhead gave him a hard look, as she could never keep an even body temperature. Paw shot her a smug look, for his shaggy fur coat kept him beautifully cozy.
Of course, as Joe spent every third or fourth episode with a nasty maim, which necessitated him wearing only bandages (much to the viewers’ delight), it was debatable if he needed too many nightshirts either.
“How about some new slippers?” mused Ben. “I can’t quite recall where the ones Cousin Clarissa gave us have gone to.”
Paw and the blonde exchanged guilty looks, for he had gnawed them to pieces while indulging in a bout of teething. Not that the Cartwrights had ever been seen in slippers, generally preferring to accessorize their nightshirts with a pair of cowboy boots, as seen in Hoss and the Leprechauns. There was something incredibly alluring about Joe in this garb, thought the sisters.
Ben looked down at the long list in his hand. This was going to be terribly expensive, he thought unhappily. Still, there was one good thing – at least he had wisely insisted that his sons always wore the same outfits and were thus impervious to any passing fashion trends! And once he’d persuaded Adam to stop wasting good material by having turn-ups on his jeans, that had been another few pennies saved. Ben had invested this money in a natty black silk sling, which was passed to whichever member of the family was maimed at the time. There was even enough money for him to have a black eye patch made too, which Ben modeled in Her Brother’s Keeper to great piratical effect. He was unaware that it had since made its way into Paw’s dressing-up box…
Still, he loved his boys dearly and it would be worth the money. After all, it was always wise to be prepared for all eventualities. Especially when one lived on the Ponderosa, where nothing was quite as it seemed.