Summary: It’s an equine affair. After all, they wouldn’t be cowboys without their mounts.
Word Count: 1800
The Giggly Sisters were beginning to feel quite at home on the Ponderosa. They knew it was a good sign when they weren’t dispatched to sleep in the guest bedroom and they were managing to navigate their way around the myriad of ever-changing rooms upstairs. Even the fact that there was no indoor plumbing had not fazed them. However, there was one real problem remaining: the incredibly uncomfortable sofa in the living room.
Ben remained adamant that there was nothing wrong with it.
“It was chosen by my late wife, Joe’s mama, Marie.” There was a muffled chorus of “My Love,” which he ignored. “And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s as good as the day we bought it.”
Joe wriggled in the vain attempt to find a soft spot on the sofa. He could distinctly remember the sofa having at least 2 previous incarnations and completely different fabric, but he didn’t think this was quite the moment to mention that. Not if the look in Ben’s eye was anything to go by.
“Why don’t we go out to the barn and see the horses?” he suggested and the sisters leapt at the chance to get up from the sofa. Their legs were almost numb after only 20 minutes.
“Have you never noticed the way I always move my legs in that heartbreaking way when they dump me on the sofa after a maim?” Joe asked bitterly. “It’s the only way I can keep my circulation going. No wonder Adam always bags that blue velvet chair.”
By this time, they were at the doors of the barn. Inside, Hoss was humming to himself and surveying the tack. He spent a lot of time in the barn. The horses whickered in pleasure at the girls, who invariably carried sugar lumps in their pockets. Buck tossed his head and the light caught on the medallions on his bridle.
“I’ve always wondered about that bridle,” said the redhead, who had a fine eye for horseflesh and could sex a horse at 50 paces. “It has these faintly disturbing overtones of bondage about it.”
“It has?” Joe asked, nervously. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure Ben wasn’t around. He had a closer look, and saw that the sisters were right. He took a quick glance at his own bridle, and was relieved to find that it was quite normal.
“And have you noticed how camp Buck is?” the redhead went on. “His legs don’t seem to be joined to his body properly, and they fly in all sorts of directions!” She patted the horse on the nose, and smacked him one firmly when he attempted to bite her. “Don’t bother, buddy!” she warmed and Buck took the hint.
“Hi, Cooch,” Joe crooned to the black and white pinto in the next stall. He had a quick look to make sure it was the only black and white pinto around, as he had, on a number of occasions, found himself riding a grey and white pinto. Plus there were one or two other piebalds around, and they all answered to the same name. He thought he ought to have a word with the horsemaster about his lack of imagination. He hoped the viewers didn’t notice all the different animals he rode.
“We noticed,” the blonde said, coming over to pet Cochise. “But it’s not your fault. It’s Continuity again. Not paying attention.”
“Not writing everything down at the end of a take,” said the redhead, with deep feeling. She remembered her continuity training, and what a pain it could be, but the polished look of her programs more than made up for it. She stroked Cochise’s nose. “How come your Pa thought Cochise was a girl in Marie My Love?” she asked, curiously. Cochise gave her a startled look, and hastily checked himself out.
“Stress,” Joe said, sagaciously. “I’d just had a nasty maim that reminded him of how my mother got squished, and he was all nostalgic.”
“I wish we’d got to see that bit,” the redhead murmured to her sister. She was a little bloodthirsty sometimes, Joe reflected. She adored maiming him in her stories.
“So you keep saying,” sighed the blonde. “Of course, you’re quite right. Complete waste of an episode, I always thought. Great opportunity to see you suffering from a nasty maim completely wasted.”
At this point, conversation stopped as Ben came into the barn and saddled up Buck, who pranced skittishly around his stall. As he trotted out, Joe noticed how Buck’s legs appeared to be going in four completely different directions.
The blonde moved to the next stall, where Sport was tethered. He turned round and snapped bad-temperedly at her. Luckily, she had her hockey stick with her and biffed him soundly on the nose.
“He’s a bit temperamental,” Joe advised belatedly. “Doesn’t really seem to like people touching him and goes into these moods. Adam likes him though.”
A deep silence greeted this pronouncement. The sisters could not help noticing that, apart from Chubb (who was tucking into a nice bran mash) the rest of the stalls were empty.
“Where‘re the blue roans? And all the ranch hands’ horses?” asked the redhead. “Are they in a disappearing barn somewhere?” She nudged her sister. “Did you see I remembered to call it a barn? Quite an achievement.”
“I noticed,” replied the blonde. She turned to Joe. “And where are those nice bays that pull the buggy, and the chestnuts with the blonde manes? You have a huge number of teams, but where do you keep them? In the corral?”
“I don’t know,” Joe admitted. “The horses just seem to be there when we need them. A bit like the buggies and buckboards and wagons.”
“What’s the difference between a buckboard and a wagon?” asked the blonde, and Joe thought this was a joke he hadn’t heard.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “What is the difference between a buckboard and a wagon?”
“I don’t either,” replied the blonde, exasperated. “That’s why I asked you!”
“Oh,” Joe said, and rolled his eyes and puffed out his cheeks. He and the blonde shrugged in unison.
“The wagon has higher sides than the buckboard,” the redhead said, in long-suffering tones. “What I really want to know is why you talk about saddling the horses, but not tacking them.” She shook her vibrant tresses, and Hoss wondered if people really did have hair that red naturally. “After all, you expect there to be a bridle on, too.”
“We’re American,” Joe explained. “That’s just the way it is.”
“That’s an excuse, not a reason,” the blonde pointed out. “And anyway, you’re half French and Hoss is half Swedish.”
There was no answer to this, so the redhead neatly changed the subject.
“I’ve often noticed that Buck sometimes has his forelock tucked underneath his browband. Is that another of your cute American habits or is it just sheer laziness?”
Joe grinned broadly. “Neither. Pa has to do that every time he washes Buck’s mane and tail – he can’t do a thing with them for days afterwards!”
They were still laughing when Ben came back in from his ride and he looked slightly hurt. He was not the most confident person on horseback and sometimes rued the day he had ever signed up for a western. Mind you, the scenery was beautiful and the clothes were splendid. Ben especially loved the conches on his waistcoat. Not that he knew what conches actually were, or indeed what useful function (if any) they performed, but they went rather nicely with the medallions on Buck’s bridle.
As he went back to the house, walking slightly stiffly, Ben reflected on the riding abilities of his three sons. Dear Joseph had such an athletic nature, demonstrated by his magnificent swing leap and fearless riding style. The boy rode like a centaur, he thought proudly. Then there was Hoss: now that he had stopped flapping his elbows like a chicken, he almost looked comfortable in the saddle. Alas, the same could not be said for poor old Adam, who had adopted a most ungainly pose on horseback, with his legs stuck out so awkwardly, so that an onlooker might think he was about to do the Conga.
“Perhaps he has a bad back?” Ben mused, as he entered the house. That would explain a lot of things, including the tentative way Adam mounted Sport. There was always a moment or two of extreme suspense when the viewer was never quite sure if he would actually make it into the saddle. And as for getting off – well, Ben sometimes wondered if it wouldn’t just be easier for Adam to live on the back of his horse.
No, maybe not, he reflected, as that would involve the horse living in the house. There never appeared to be horse manure lying around the yard or barn, but Ben didn’t know if that was because the hands were very attentive, or if the horses were just corked. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, because whatever the reason, it did mean that they were never in any danger of falling off onto a heap of dung.
Joe and the girls came back inside, and looked at the uncomfortable settee with disgust. However, there was nowhere else to sit, so they eased themselves down on it, and immediately felt their nether regions going numb.
“So,” said the redhead. “Do you think there’ll be a horse for each of us to ride?”
“Good point,” agreed the blonde. “We don’t want to ride in the buckboard or the wagon if we don’t have to.”
“The four seater buggy is quite nice,” said the redhead, “but a horse of our won would be more useful, don’t you think?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Joe assured them. “Horses turn up all over the place in this show. Look at that one which got swapped between the posse and the villains in Amigo. There are bound to be horses for you, even if they never turn up in the barn.”
Looking around nervously, Joe beckoned to the girls. “Do you suppose the barn ever changes around inside?” he asked, and the girls could do nothing but laugh. That was a whole other story!