Summary: A REALLY Lost Episode. As inspired by Susan Grote
Word Count: 2450
“Maybe the opening line of Adam’s book was: Call me Ishmael, although my
name is really Adam.” Susan Grote, noted Bonanza Expert and Shirtless Joe Scholar.
At night, as we sat around the campfire on our way west, I wrote in his journal with a stubby number two pencil. I eventually used that same pencil for my SATs when I applied to Back East University. These are excerpts from that journal I wrote as a young lad.
Sometimes, Pa would talk about his sailing days and how he met and married my mother, Elizabeth Stoddard Cartwright. Pa loved my mother a lot and it would sadden him to speak of her. I would quickly ask Pa for another story on a different topic or risk drowning in his tears. I was once given an umbrella as we passed through Pennsylvania by an Amish umbrella vendor near Kutztown, home of shoofly pie. I risked Pa’s tears and asked about my mother, raising the umbrella and nearly poking his eye out.
Excerpts from the Journal of Adam Cartwright
Chapter 1 – Sailing Tails
Pa loved to tell stories about the sea and the men he sailed with. Curiously, there were only two subjects about which he would never talk — whales and spinach. Every time I asked him about whales or spinach, Pa would shudder slightly and change the subject. Occasionally, I would hear him talking in his sleep and mumbling about “Moby”, “Ahab” and “my old friend Popeye”. I never did find out what caused his aversion to whales…and spinach.
Chapter 13 – Dangers of the Old West
My Pa, Benjamin Cartwright, was a mighty strict man. He had to be. There were many dangers to a young child traveling on the wild frontier, such Indians (or as I later taught the world to say “Native Americans” or “Those who invented casino gambling“).
I also taught the world to sing in perfect harmony; I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love, grow apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves. But that was much later on.
As we traveled west, danger could be lurking around every corner. Bandits, wolves, snakes, bad nasty yucky stuff you could step in with bare feet, smelly stinky stuff, floods, famines, blood, frogs, lice, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, vermin, dirty toilets at truck stops…all were hazardous. Pa, a single parent before it became chic, feared folks who stole little boys. Pa sure didn’t want my adorable face to appear on a milk carton. Each time I did anything foolish or disobedient, Pa warned me “Adam, don’t be a damn disobedient fool, idiot moron like your cousin Muley. He is from the defective side of the Cartwright family, the Clampett branch.”
“The Clampett branch?“ I questioned.
“Yes,” said Pa. “The Clampett branch. They are all poor mountaineers, barely keep their families fed. Then, one day when they were shooting at some food…” Pa’s voice trailed off. He stormed off and telling me he was going hunting for grub or to check on our livestock or to end a war in Nicaragua or go shopping at the mall with the pioneer gal he was sparking. They always needed a nice dress for their own funerals so they would look nice when they died. Later, when I asked him for more details, Pa shuddered and said a brief prayer and said “Not now son. You are too young to understand all this, Adam.”
Finally, not long before we got to Cleveland, Ohio when I was five and far more mature and able to sit through church services, opera, and football games, I asked again about the Clampett branch of the family. Pa warned me that I was never to ask about that inbred group or breath a word to anyone about the Clampetts and our being related to them. “Folks will tar and feather you and you will never get into a good college!” Then he stormed off and telling me he was going hunting for grub or to check on our livestock or to end a war in Nicaragua or go shopping at the mall with the pioneer gal he was sparking. They always needed a nice dress for their own funerals so they would look nice when they died. “Not one word Adam! The Clampetts are the scourge of our gene pool.” Pa warned over his shoulder.
Later, when I was at Back East U, I found that the entire group was well-known in scientific circles for having IQs lower than sand fleas. It was due to some sort of secret government experiment with radiation in the Nevada desert during the Cold War. It made the females prematurely mature and really shapely like Ellie May Clampett and the males quite stupid but musical like cousin Muley Clampett.
Chapter 38 – Inger
Inger Borgstrum was my first stepmother. She owned a store called IKEA, with her brother Gunnar. She died when she had a run-in with an arrow. The arrow won.
Before she married Pa and she owned a store, IKEA, with her brother Gunnar, Inger was fascinated with developing a cure for the common cold, croup and sore throats made from salt pork and onions. It really worked too. That was how Pa met Inger. I was the little cupid with hacking croup who got them together. The rest is romantic Wild West history.
Gunnar, Inger’s wayward brother, had a fascination with wine, women and song. Uncle Gunnar was a Mexican Viking. He liked loganberry wine, and Boone’s Farm Wine that he bought from Daniel Boone. His favorite musical groups were Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Los Lobos, Abba and the Klezmatics. Maybe that is why I liked to play the guitar in later years, because of Uncle Gunnar’s eight-track collection. He also had every one of the Olsen Twins tapes, which was pretty unsettling to me even as a small boy. Gunnar would watch them over and over, sometimes even playing “Passport to Paris” backwards.
Years later, my brother Joe found those old frayed tapes in a trunk in the attic and was utterly mesmerized. Joe always loved blondes and the idea that two baby girls could play one role. He later used that concept to fit five little girls into a small cabin in Walnut Grove and make people think there were only four girls.
Chapter 43 – Cajun Cooking
Marie was my second stepmother.
She died too and left behind a very uncomfortable stain proof settee.
We told Little Joe that she left some epees as well. That boy will believe anything. They were really the shish kebab skewers from the Virginia City’s Falafel Fest Shishkababorama. Hoss thought that was pretty funny that we put one over on Little Joe. But then again, Hoss is easily pleased.
We also told Joe that the picture of Miss Rhinegold 1845 that was hanging in every saloon in the old west was his mom as well. Once we even took him into Hop Sing’s kitchen and told him that the gal on the Log Cabin Syrup Bottle and Betty Crocker on the cake mix packages was his mom as well.
For a while we even convinced him that his mother’s name was Felicia and she had married Jack Lemmon, the actor who played Felix in the Odd Couple. (The movie, not the TV show. That was Tony Randall).
Chapter 145 – Love and Quiches Or How We Cartwrights Developed Our Fashion Style
One day, not long after Pa married the lovely Marie and my youngest brother Joe was born, she made dinner for us. It was some sort of French pie thing made from eggs and cream and cheese and some other stuff. We all came in really hungry from branding cattle and checking fences. It was amazing how many fences we had and how much we checked them. We should have made those fences striped or plaid instead of checking them.
Trying to sissify us manly men, Marie wanted us to put on fresh shirts when we sat down for supper. Even Teeny Tiny Little Joe got a new green corduroy jacket. It was the first of many, many green corduroy jackets.
Marie even made us wash up, claiming there was no way she was going to serve us stinking like we did. Checking fences was smelly work in those days. “You stink of stinky stuff!” Marie swooned as we approached her.
As if we were one unit, like the Borg in Star Trek, we all simultaneously sniffed our left armpits, then simultaneously sniffed our right. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord designed Man so that he can’t smell himself?
“We smell good!” Hoss and I said in unison. We were lying but really didn’t intend to be dishonorable, just avoid washing.
“Maybe if I had a real big hat, I could fan my pits and we would stink less?” Hoss smiled. Hoss didn’t look it, but he was quite smart and inventive. He invented the rear engine Chevy Corvair and pop tarts years later and got the biggest goldurn hat anyone ever saw in Nevada Territory.
“I smell good, Marie!” I repeated.
“Me too!” said Teeny Tiny Little Joe from the frontier high chair Pa had Charles Ingalls build for him. Joe was so small then that he was still Teeny Tiny Little Joe, not just Tiny Little Joe, or Little Joe, but Teeny Tiny Little Joe.
Marie claimed it was pretty nauseating to smell unbathed men and cow manure at the dining room table along with Joe‘s tan diapers.
Pa liked to comply saying “Ok Baybee, give me a hot kiss and I’ll make sure the kids turn in early.” Hoss and I would squirm at their public display of affection and inappropriate obsession to cleanliness.
Teeny Tiny Little Joe took notes on style and form in Pa’s hot kissing and then rated them on a scale of one to ten. Years later, Joe swore he once got a nineteen out of ten in a kissing completion from watching Pa, but that is another story. Joe was never as good in either math or kissing as I was and am. Julia Bulette will vouch for me.
“I smell REALLY good, Marie!” I repeated. I spritzed myself with Febreeze.
Pa gave me one of his warning glares and growled stuff about tannings in the barn and no use of the keys to the buggy as well as singing soprano for the rest of my born days if I didn’t obey.
Hoss muttered something about not yet invented child abuse hotlines. Pa glared at him and started unbuckling his belt. I sure didn’t want to wait around to see if Pa was unbuckling his belt to hit us or to check his boxers that he had been complaining were giving a wedgie all day or to get frisky with Marie. I sure wasn’t going to hang around to find out.
So me and Hoss hustled our bustles up stairs and cleaned up, pronto.
“Your hands are black too!” Pa shouted after us.
Hoss and I looked down at our hands and remembered we had used that black paint when we checked the fences. We had done a spiffy job of making the fence on the north pasture look just like black and white checked gingham with nifty rickrack trim. We even washed up to our wrists. Sure didn’t want to change shirts, though. It was then that I decided on wearing all black.
Well, Marie brought out this pie thing that she made and sliced up a portion for each of us. It was pretty good and I asked for second chunk. Pa was really happy even though it did seem like an awful sissy dinner.
When Hoss sort of complained about the grub, I kicked him under the table and told him we would barbeque a cow or two in the morning.
Pa said, “What do you call this wonderful dish, Marie, My love, my darling?” It was sort of funny to hear my father call this woman “darling”. He used to call Inger “My Gravlox Lingonberry Darling”.
Marie was really happy and said “Spinach Quiche!”
Well, I never saw my father look so pale and fearful. “Spinach!” he gasped. “Spinach!” Then Pa fainted dead away! WOMP!
Pa had never told Marie about his spinach trauma from his seafaring pal Popeye.
Eventually Marie learned to deal with Pa’s history. She never served spinach or put starch in his boxers and knew that he looked really swell in earth tones.
Chapter 532 – Gunnar Borgstrum: The Last Viking who wore Orange Satin and a Sombrero
Pa always said I had a good sense of people, even when I was small. I do recall Pa and Inger leaving me under Gunnar’s care one night when they brought the Conestoga wagon in for an oil change and lube. I was only four or five and was reworking the ledger system for IKEA and computing their profit and loss margin in lute fish and woolen long johns for the past season. I was hoping to make predictions for the next winter’s financials before Pa returned and made me go to bed.
Gunnar sat transfixed in front of the flickering screen of the not-yet-invented television, drooling over Mary Kate and Ashley’s Adventures in The Wild West. Like I said, it was pretty disconcerting to see this big galoot so absorbed by two perky little girls. And he didn’t even offer to share his bowl of Doritos with me.
Gunnar liked Mariachi bands and aspired to be a bandit or a divorce lawyer or both. At one point, we heard that he passed through Texas Territory and was inspired to go into politics where the real power and corruption was. Gunnar knew that the regular folks in the country had soft hearts, foolish heads and deep pockets ripe for the taking.
Hopefully, you enjoyed reading my youthful logs of my youth. It is my dream that this tale of pioneer days in our great country should inspire the next generation as well as being an “Oprah’s Book Club Selection”. Speaking of Oprah, did I ever tell you how my brother Joe got us on the Oprah show and she fell for our Pa?
Well, that’s enough for today.