Summary: It’s all about style.
Word Count: 1700
Since arriving at the Ponderosa, the Giggly Sisters had noticed that all the Cartwrights habitually wore hats. It seemed only logical that they too should acquire suitable headgear. The only question was: what hat to choose?
“I still don’t see what’s wrong with a nice beret,” the blonde said. She came from a military background and had only just been weaned off forage caps.
Joe sighed deeply and gave her a consoling hug. “It’s just not the done thing!” he advised, in soulful tones.
“Wouldn’t a nice crash cap be safer?” the redhead enquired. “And you can get lovely racing silks in all sorts of colors too!”
Ben Cartwright shook his head in disbelief. “This is a Western my dears!” he advised, making full use of his resonant voice. “The clue is in the genre! Westerns generally mean cowboy hats – we don’t want to confuse the viewers now, do we? The only time you’ll see other headgear is to denote characters of different ethnic backgrounds.”
“Like those Mexican soldiers in The Deadly Ones?” the blonde ventured tentatively. She’d just discovered her school panama and tried it on.
“Exactly my dear, but do try to acclimatize yourself to the American idiom,” Adam responded, whipping the offending hat off her head and flinging it away like a straw Frisbee.
“Exactly how did you choose your hats?” the redhead asked, noticing that her sister was a little distressed by this and was hugging their pet bear, Paw, for comfort. Paw, who simply didn’t have the shape of skull that accommodated headgear without a struggle, was currently sporting a rather misshapen Glengarry.
“I ain’t too sure,” Hoss admitted, gloomily. “I jist picked it up to try on an’ I was stuck with it.” He eyed his ten-gallon hat with disgust. “An’ folks keep tellin’ me it’s a sugar-loaf hat, but that ain’t what I was told. ‘Sides, who’d wanta eat that?”
“I’ve got a black hat because I hate to follow the crowd,” Adam said sententiously. “Goodies are supposed to wear white hats, but I suit black better. And it’s a lovely contrast for the viewers to have a goodie in a black hat.”
“I had a black hat to start with,” Joe commented, wistfully. “It went real well with my grey cord jacket and my little blue jacket.”
“Oh, the LBJ,” the redhead sighed. She had never completely reconciled herself to the green jacket. It had been about then that Joe’s pants had become desperately short.
“All my hats have been tan or grey,” Ben stated. “In true goodie style.”
“It was just a pity that continuity never paid any attention to which hat you wore, because you had on a grey one in The Gift, which changed to a tan one and then back again, in the course of less than two minutes,” the blonde noted. “While you were talking to Emeliano.”
Ben cast an eye over at continuity, but as usual, they weren’t paying any heed to what was going on. Small wonder they never got a credit at the end of the show. Actually, he wasn’t entirely convinced that they even existed. He looked across at the script girl, but she merely shrugged her shoulders and went off to lunch. She seemed to spend a lot of time there, which accounted for those little incongruities that the sisters delighted in noticing.
“You wore a different hat in the original credits, didn’t you?” the blonde asked Adam, who groaned loudly.
“Don’t remind me! I hated that hat! I looked like Henry Fonda playing a mid-western Quaker with exceptionally bad grace!”
“Never mind, your later hat was jolly nice!” she consoled him. “And did you ever notice that you and Joe have almost identical hat bands? Leather studded affairs?”
“I’ve never liked my hatband,” Ben confided. “That’s why I always tie my neckerchief around it when it’s hanging on the hat rack. That way, I can’t see it.”
The sisters had noticed this, even if they’d never actually seen Ben remove said scarf before putting the hat back on. It just seemed to obligingly dematerialize.
“’Course, it’s a downright mystery how my hat stays on the hat rack at all, what with the weight of that there crown. Looks like a vol au vent left too long in the oven, if you asks me.” Hoss looked at his hat in disgust.
He seemed a trifle dejected, so the sisters rushed to console him.
“It’s very distinctive,” the redhead said soothingly.
“And I bet it’s ever so handy for keeping sandwiches in,” the blonde added. “Lots of room and no danger of them getting crushed.”
“Do you have different hats for winter time?” asked the redhead, trying to ignore her sister, who was now modeling a fetching Russian-style fur hat. Luckily, she had the cheekbones to carry it off. “Nice warm woolly ones with pompoms on them?” She smiled beatifically. “After all, you had all those sheep in Blood on the Land, and you had to do something with the wool. Knitting hats would keep you busy on long, dark winter evenings.”
“We wear the same hats year round,” Ben replied. “If you have a good hat, it keeps you warm and dry in winter and cool in summer.”
“How do you keep the brims turned up?” asked the blonde, who had found a glorious bit of fluff that passed for a hat. The redhead tried it on. She had always had a fancy for frivolous hats and had a particularly fetching one in black velvet and feathers.
Smiling and nodding, Ben ignored this question, because he didn’t actually know the answer to it. Did Hop Sing farm the hats out to one of his cousins for starching? Were they put onto model heads to be steamed? Well, it didn’t matter to Ben as long as his hat was there for him to put on when he needed it.
“What kind of hat would you like?” he asked the sisters.
“I always fancied a white straw topper with black ribbon and black veiling,” replied the redhead with a straight face. She had once seen such a creation, but had decided to leave it where it was in the shop. “Or one with great long feathers sticking out of it. Very fetching.”
“Or a baseball cap,” the blonde suggested. “Useful brims for keeping the sun out of your eyes.”
It was clear that Ben didn’t know if he was being teased or not. He glanced at Joe and saw that the boy was fit to burst. Catching his father’s eye, Joe let go and started to giggle. His laugh, though slightly manic, was quite contagious, and soon they were all giggling helplessly. Joe managed to resist the temptation to roll on the ground, cackling wildly, although he had done that once in Hoss and the Leprechauns. However, the press office had been besieged with fan mail from viewers who were overjoyed at the delightful views this presented, that the production company had been obliged to hire an extra 10 people just to answer them. Repeat performances had been strictly vetoed.
“Of course a brim keeps the sun out of your eyes!” Ben said a trifle testily. “That’s another reason we always wear our hats outside. We don’t want any unsightly wrinkles around our eyes, do we?”
The girls stared intently into Joe’s eyes and wondered exactly what color they were. Some writers described them as green, while others insisted they were hazel.
“Watch The Stillness Within again,” Joe advised, realizing what they were thinking. “There’s a great close up of my poor, blinded eye there and it’s quite clearly green. Or even clear green. I forget now. It was all rather traumatic and of course, some people never bothered to write and offer a crumb of comfort.”
Adam sighed deeply. “For a start, that’s a much later episode,” he said reasonably. “And anyway, you couldn’t have read it, could you? Being blind and all.”
Sensing a little friction, the redhead decided to revert to the original topic. “Buck seems to have sensitive eyes, because they’re often half-shut against the sunlight, poor creature. Why not get him a wee straw hat, like the donkeys wear at the beach?”
“I hardly think that would be appropriate!” Ben said stiffly, wondering if the glare from the medallions on Buck’s bridle made things worse. Perhaps if he cut back on the polishing regimen that might help.
“There’s another thing about hats,” Hoss confided. “At socials an’ such like, we all stick our hats on a table. Joe and Adam often find that someone has taken their hat by mistake. Course, it don’t matter that much for Joe, ‘cos if’n he gets left with a hat that’s too big, his ears stop it from sliding over his face.”
Joe, who was inclined to be rather sensitive about his ears and spent lengthy hours arranging his curls to disguise the fact they stuck out ever so slightly, shot Hoss a most unfraternal look. Impervious, his brother continued unabashed,
“Funny thing though – no-one ever seems to take my hat. Cain’t understand it!”
The Cartwrights sat with fixed expressions and the girls bit the insides of their cheeks in a valiant effort not to smile.
“Imagine that!” the blonde said at last.
“Quite remarkable!” her sister added.
“Yup, and it’s pretty tough too. ‘Ceptin’ of course when some people thunk it hard!”
Joe gulped hard, remembering his antics at the end of The Gift. “I must have been suffering from sunstroke! After all, I galloped across half of the Arizona desert without a hat, didn’t I?”
Hoss grinned cheerfully, for he knew that all true cowboys had dents in their hats. And an extra dent or two just added character, after all.