Summary: Making the ranch house a home.
Word Count: 2000
Ben Cartwright came downstairs to discover the Giggly Sisters busily arranging yet another bunch of hothouse flowers on the dining table. Their pet bear, Paw, was helping out by biting off the thorns on the roses.
“Where do all these bouquets come from?” the blonde asked curiously. The Ponderosa was never without at least one floral decoration that rivaled the displays seen at state banquets at Buckingham Palace.
Ben chuckled merrily. “Haven’t you noticed the preponderance of flowers around here? Not only inside, but outside too?”
“There’s the everlasting geraniums on the windowsill outside the study window,” the redhead volunteered. Of course, these were reserved for the occasions when the study window was on the back wall, behind Ben’s desk. No one was quite sure where they went when the window swapped places with the bookcase and moved to the sidewall. It was mutually agreed that it was probably best not to ask such questions.
“And then there’s the climbing rose at the front of the house,” the blonde remembered. “It really is quite remarkable, isn’t it? These harsh winters by Lake Tahoe never seem to do it one iota of damage.” She realized that Ben was shaking his head with pity and remembered that the show was in fact filmed on the Paramount lot in California, whereupon she went rather quiet.
“It’s all quite simple: we have a full-time gardener,” Ben explained kindly. “Dead-heading the rose bush alone takes him one day a week and it has to be carefully scheduled in with exterior filming. We can’t have viewers seeing him scrabbling all over the porch roof after all. The rest of the time, he’s busy tending the apple orchards and vegetable gardens and tending the herbaceous borders.”
The redhead looked rather skeptical. “And exactly where would they be?”
“Round the side of the house!” Joe said, coming downstairs in his bare feet. The blonde almost swooned. “You never see the side of the house or even the back, do you?”
“And did you never wonder what happened to all the manure from the horses? Wonderful fertilizer and so cost-effective!” Ben shook his head in wonder. He never liked to waste anything and still had several boxes of clothes that Adam and Hoss had grown out of, packed away in mothballs, hoping against hope that Joe would grow into them. One day. However, even Ben was beginning to acknowledge that Joe was destined to remain the smallest (and cutest) of the Cartwrights. Except of course for the boy’s ears, which were just a smidgeon too big and stuck out ever so slightly.
“Do you have any other people helping around the house?” the blonde asked, slightly breathlessly. Joe was now sitting down and pulling on his socks.
“Well, there’s the guy who nips out and lights the porch light every evening. He uses the gardener’s stepladders to do that, of course, because it’s far too high to reach.”
“I’d often wondered about that!” the redhead enthused. “Do you leave it on all night?” Ben and Joe just shrugged at this. “And then what about the outside bell? Why don’t you have a bell-pull and have the bell inside the house? It would be a lot more convenient, wouldn’t it?”
“Not if you’ve been badly maimed!” Joe answered smartly, thinking of that traumatic time in First Born. What would he have done without the bell to pull on? Why, he could have lain out there all night. “Very useful.”
“Then why don’t people use it?” asked the redhead. “They all seem to knock on the door, or just walk in.”
“I’ve never quite understood that myself,” Ben muttered, reluctant to go into it. This was yet another of those things about living on the Ponderosa that one didn’t enquire too deeply into. How he wished the sisters weren’t quite so observant. Ben cleared his throat. “And we have the ranch hands, of course,” he said, reverting back to the original subject.
“The ranch hands who live in the disappearing bunkhouses?” asked the blonde, watching avidly as Joe slid his boots on. The redhead thought what lovely clean, unbitten fingernails Joe had. “Isn’t that rather inconvenient?”
“There always seem to be some around when we need them,” Ben muttered.
“But not when you’re maimed,” Joe put in. “There’s never been a single hand standing around when I’ve ridden in maimed.” He made a face and the sisters sighed. “They always seem to be out on the range.”
“There is the little man who does the horses,” Adam suggested, coming into the room.
“Which little man is that?” asked the redhead, while the blonde stopped Joe from going over and bopping Adam one on the nose. Not that he didn’t deserve it, but he might get blood all over the flowers and that would be such a waste when they’d gone to all the bother of arranging them prettily.
“Well, I haven’t seen him personally,” Adam admitted. This was a novelty. Adam seldom admitted he didn’t know or hadn’t seen something. Joe hoped someone would record this fact for posterity. “But someone takes the horses and puts them away in the barn. It’s never us.”
“We’d noticed that,” said the redhead, who wished there was a similar system at her riding school, where she always had to tack and untack her horse. A little man who did that would be invaluable. Ben recalled how he had unjustly accused Joe of leaving his horse intended to in The Deadly Ones. Of course, the dear boy had been brutally maimed, causing his father a great degree of angst.
“There’s something else I’ve been wondering about,” the blonde ventured tentatively. “You know the coffee pot?”
Ben, Adam and Joe all nodded vigorously. That wonderful coffeepot that kept beverages hot for hours on end! And way before the thermos flask was even thought of! Quite remarkable.
“Well, it starts off white and pristine in the early episodes, even if the pattern is rather indistinguishable. But later on, it gets decidedly mocha-colored. Almost as if the coffee had leeched through, in fact. Seems to me that you need to have a sharp word with whoever does the dishes around here and give them a scouring pad and some sharp words!”
“I quite agree!” Ben enthused, patting the blonde on the knee for added emphasis. “I just wish the chap who does Joe’s hair would lend a hand in the kitchen occasionally.”
Joe looked black affronted. He was fed-up with the hairstylist trying to brush his curls into submission. Personally, he preferred a bit more bounce around the sides of his head, in order to minimize the angle and size of his ears.
“It’s the walls that worry me,” Adam confided. The sisters exchanged startled looks. Hadn’t he designed the Ponderosa in the first place? Adam sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose, always a sure sign of mental distress. “The plaster work! Haven’t you noticed how rough it is?”
“The country look is very fashionable!” Ben protested weakly. Of course, the fact that rough-hewn plaster work was infinitely cheaper than the smooth variety had nothing to do with it at all. Or so he kept telling himself.
“Doesn’t exactly go with the oil paintings,” Adam commented dryly, as Hoss came in from the barn.
“Where did ya git that picture of the scary Injun in Joe’s room from, Pa?” he asked.
“Do you know, some people wonder why I have nightmares?” Joe asked rhetorically. “How would you fancy waking up in the middle of the night and seeing that staring down at you?”
Everyone decided just to ignore this little outburst. Given the least encouragement, Joe was sure to start going on about his moving room, the too-short bed and deplorable bed linen ad infinitum.
The redhead gave Ben a charming smile. “I’ve always loved the map of the Ponderosa!” she said sweetly. “It’s a pity you don’t have the Ordnance Survey in America, isn’t it? They would have been able to tell you that north generally faces heavenwards.”
“I know that!” Ben said through gritted teeth. “And I made a stunning allusion to heaven in A Rose for Lotta!”
“I wore that sexy black shirt in the early season credits!” Joe confided to the girls, who remembered how cute he had been… but then Joe was cute in everything.
“I wonder what happened to that shirt,” the blonde mused.
“It got lost in the wash,” Joe confided. “I looked for it for ages, but it never came back.”
“Came back from where?” asked the redhead. “Doesn’t Hop Sing do the washing?”
“You must be kidding,” Hop Sing said, having been eavesdropping in the kitchen. “With all the people who arrive and depart from here, I would never have time for housework and cooking. My number three cousin in Virginia City does the washing.” He shook his head and scuttled off, thereby missing the pointed looks the girls were throwing at the floor. It hadn’t seen a lick of polish in years!
“I suppose another of Hop Sing’s cousins does the ironing?” queried the blonde. She wondered if he would tackle her ironing pile, for neither sister liked ironing. “How useful.”
“Almost as useful as those mattresses I’m always flinging into the back of the buckboard when Joe gits himself maimed again!” Hoss contributed helpfully. “Where do we git them from, Pa?”
Ben sighed heavily. Why did his family insist on debating the inconsequential minutiae of life? It was almost as bad as those pedants who wondered why there were sturdy shutters at the downstairs windows. They weren’t content with being told that the shutters were for security, oh no! Some people had to point out that the kitchen had flimsy half-glass doors that could be opened with a blunt butter knife. Mind you, he had always wondered why the curtains on the kitchen doors were always drawn, cutting out the daylight.
He looked at his three sons, the Giggly Sisters, and Paw, who was absent-mindedly chewing on an antimacassar. The Ponderosa was a large house and three growing boys caused a lot of wear and tear. Not to mention the growing list of guest stars who breathed their last within these walls, or bled with gay abandon all over the sofa. Ben was a deeply pragmatic man and had steadfastly refused to get a new sofa until all such dangers were passed. He was still waiting and was fully prepared to do so for some years to come. The sofa was consequently incredibly lumpy and avoided like the plague by all right-minded people.
“Good, reliable help is hard to come by!” Ben proclaimed loudly. He could vividly recall the early series, when the wooden floors had been dull and badly scratched. Hop Sing had really picked up his standards since then. Mind you, he still couldn’t understand why the faithful factotum left the Indian rug hanging over the banisters, for all the world as if it were a blanket. But good, faithful, reliable help was so hard to come by. And who else but Hop Sing would willingly spend his evenings lovingly crafting those piles of soft cloths, so essential for mopping down fevered bodies?
Just as he was about to extol the virtues of the faithful factotum, Ben saw a large tumbleweed roll out from the inconvenient gap at the side of the stairs. Quite obviously, it hadn’t been swept out for quite some time. He then noticed that the sisters were sitting, neatly hemming some rather familiar cloths, while Paw rolled happily across the floor, his shaggy fur buffing it up a treat.
“Hop Sing!” Ben bellowed, vowing to have a stern word with the boys and girls in continuity. After all, he owed it to the loyal viewers, who were sure to notice such things.