Summary: Is it really all about the ‘trimmings’? Or is there something more to the day?
Word Count: 1700
“Hop Sing!” Ben Cartwright bellowed melodiously and flinching only slightly as the glass case of the grandfather clock imploded into a thousand pieces. He tapped the banjo barometer meditatively, but as usual it registered “fair”. The weather on the Ponderosa was always pleasant, he thought, and flashed a grateful smile to the boys in Production. Save for the odd winter episode like The Last Hunt, the sun always shone, it was usually warm enough for at least one member of the family to waltz around in shirt sleeves.
Hop Sing shuffled through. Yet again, Wardrobe had supplied him with slippers that were two sizes too big for him. He clutched a pile of cloths, which he was halfway through hemming neatly. In a busy and accident-prone household, there was always a great demand for Hop Sing’s handy cloths, which were utilized to staunch wounds, mop down feverish invalids or even act as a sling.
“It’ll be Thanksgiving soon,” Ben announced. “Is the turkey fattening up nicely?”
Hop Sing looked blank. Once again he had mysteriously disappeared for several episodes and he was still wondering how the Cartwrights had managed to fend for themselves in his absence. Not only did they have an enormous cattle ranch to tend, there was the small matter of their horse breaking operations, mining interests, and timber felling and preparation. Yet somehow, miraculously, the Cartwrights managed to find the time to keep the house clean and tidy and produce nutritious meals at the same time. Not to mention forming posses, acting as deputy sheriffs and generally being the mainstays of law and order.
“What turkey?” Hop Sing asked.
“The turkey we are going to have for Thanksgiving!” Ben explained patiently. And to think they wondered why he had grey hair! An awful thought struck him. “We do have a turkey, don’t we?”
“No.” Short, succinct and to the point. Hop Sing knew he was never going to rise to the heady ranks of star or even guest star, so he had dispensed with any unnecessary frills or furbelows.
Now that Ben thought about it, delicious haunches of meat just appeared on the dinner table as if by magic. While he had seen the occasional chicken around the place, there was no sign of the magical pigs that obligingly supplied the household with a never-ending series of pork chops. And neither Hoss nor Joe had been especially keen on eating the rabbits reared in Ponderosa Explosion.
“No turkey?” Ben’s voice dropped to a mere whisper, thus alerting viewers to the fact that this was indeed a calamity.
Hoss had overheard the conversation and barreled forward “But we have to have turkey! It’s in the Constitution, isn’t it: the right to bear arms and eat vast amounts of turkey and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and…”
“We’re not talking about your constitution here,” Adam told him. “And anyway, its tradition that insists we ought to have turkey on Thanksgiving.”
“And you know the reason why, don’t you?” Joe asked, in a long-suffering tone. The Giggly Sisters waited with baited breath to see if Adam really did know why they ate turkey.
“Yes, of course,” Adam snorted. He buried his head back in his book.
“I don’t care why we eats turkey,” Hoss cried, thus saving Adam from a grilling by the sisters, who knew everything. “I jist want to know why we ain’t got a turkey this year.”
“Nobody told me we were doing a Thanksgiving episode this year,” Hop Sing defended himself. “How was I supposed to know?”
“By looking at the calendar?” suggested the blonde. Her calendar had Thanksgiving marked on it, even though it was a UK one.
“What are we going to do?” Hoss lamented. “It ain’t Thanksgiving without a turkey.”
This was indeed a calamity. Hop Sing gave them all a dark look and retreated back into the safety of the kitchen. Although seen quite clearly in exterior shots, for some reason the viewers were only allowed a rare glimpse into this room. Signor Biancci had done an admirable job of whipping up delicacies during Little Man Ten Feet Tall, Hoss had filched some doughnuts during Feet of Clay and of course, Joe had suffered quite wonderfully during A Matter of Circumstance, but these were clearly standout episodes. Normally, the interior of the kitchen existed in a parallel universe, accompanied by the bunkhouse.
Muttering to himself, Hop Sing stirred the ever-present pot of broth that bubbled away on the stove. That was one of the unshakeable rules of the Ponderosa: there must always be broth on the boil, just in case of an unfortunate accident befalling one of the Cartwrights. As they regularly did.
“Where do they think all the meat comes from?” Hop Sing pondered. The vision of life on a busy ranch that Mr. Dortort (or The Creator, as the sisters referred to him, in reverential terms and a slight but unmistakable genuflection) presented to viewers did tend to skimp rather on the unpleasant practicalities of bringing wholesome and hearty meals to the table. Neutering horses, slaughtering cows, making sausages from scratch – none of these traditional, but slightly messy activities ever seemed to make it onto the screen, strangely enough. Hop Sing was sure the viewers would have been fascinated, but Mr. Dortort explained that he had to consider those of a nervous disposition.
Hop Sing sighed loudly and swung his cleaver high into the air, preparatory to dissecting an entire pig. For all that the Ponderosa tended to specialize in cows, roast beef and steak pie never seemed to feature very heavily on the menu. Unlike pig in all its many forms: bacon, ham, sausages, pork chops… the list was endless. “And exactly where does this pig live?” he snorted. “Behind the bunkhouse?” He seemed to remember there being a few pigs in Dark Star, but nobody referred to that episode very often, preferring to think of it as just a bad dream.
“So what are we going to do about a turkey for Thanksgiving?” Joe asked, looking at Ben.
“I don’t know,” Ben admitted, wishing that someone else could think up ideas. He looked at Adam. “You’re the one with a college education. What should we do?”
“How am I supposed to know?” Adam demanded. “I didn’t study turkey raising at college!”
“What did you study at college?” asked the redhead, innocently. “Architecture and engineering? Very useful on a ranch, I must admit.” Adam sent her a ferocious look, which she blithely ignored. After 10 months, she was quite used to his enmity.
“You could try and catch one,” suggested the blonde, although she wasn’t completely sure that wild turkeys roamed the Ponderosa.
“Or you could buy one,” the redhead mentioned.
“From where?” asked Adam sarcastically.
“One of those neighbors who pops up on a regular basis,” she countered, coolly. “Surely one of them might have a turkey for sale?”
“Well, we could try, I suppose,” Ben agreed slowly. “Or perhaps one of Hop Sing’s cousins would know where we could get one from. They seem to have all sorts of useful contacts.”
“Or perhaps you could just have a nice joint?” suggested the blonde.
“And where are we going to get that from?” Adam demanded, totally ignoring the fact that several hundred tons of prime beef wandered around Ponderosa every day.
“That bear looks like it’d be right tasty!” Hoss said cheerfully. “Moist and succulent, I bet!”
Joe gathered poor, petrified Paw into his arms. “This bear is like a son to me!” he declared. Ben sighed deeply: he’d always had a secret hankering for a grandchild but could not quite reconcile one that was covered in fur and had a short stumpy tail.
Hastily changing the subject, the blonde inadvertently stirred up a new hornet’s nest. “What exactly are you thankful for?”
Joe grinned broadly. “I’m thankful that there aren’t too many wolves around, so I don’t have to duck every time old Adam picks up a rifle.”
“It-was-an-accident!” Adam protested. “Will I never hear the end of it?”
Joe shook his head. “Nope!”
“It’s somewhat of a running joke or even a leit-motif to the Giggly Sisters’ stories,” the blonde explained sunnily. The look Adam gave her was anything but sunny!
“We’re thankful for the first settlers surviving the winters here,” Ben told the sisters, understating it somewhat. “We give thanks that we have enough food gathered to see us through the coming winter.”
Hop Sing shuffled back out of the kitchen. He was thankful that he had learned long ago what was needed to survive on the Ponderosa. “Problem solved,” he announced and turned to go back to the kitchen. After all, those cloths weren’t quite finished, and who knew when they would next be needed?
“Wait a minute!” Ben protested. “You can’t just say that and leave! Tell us how you solved the problem.”
Flashing a toothy grin, Hop Sing said, “Number Four cousin came to visit when number three cousin came for laundry.”
“And?” prompted Hoss.
Shrugging modestly, Hop Sing replied, “I always get my turkey from him for Thanksgiving.”
Leaving the family sitting there open-mouthed, he went back to the kitchen. Honestly! Did the Cartwrights think he left everything up to chance? They might keep Virginia City and its environs running, but who did they think kept the Ponderosa in order?
Back in the living room, each person pondered the things that made them thankful: Paw was grateful to escape from the fate of being pot-roasted; Hoss was appreciative that wardrobe had given him dispensation from tucking his trousers into his boots; Adam gave thanks for his musical abilities and the girls were truly delighted with Joe. And Ben?
Ben sat back and regarded his family with pride. He had a lot to be thankful for. His life would be truly perfect if only these girls would finally go!
Joe gave the sisters a sun-lit smile. “Thank you!” he said, with a roguish twinkle.