The Chickens (by Robin)

Summary:   A REALLY Lost Episode

Word Count:  1900


                                                The Chickens


Chapter One – The Ponderosa


“And come directly home. Don’t stop at the Silver Dollar for beer…”
”I won’t stop at the Silver Dollar,” Joe repeated the order his father had just given him.

Hoss chuckled. “He’s promising not to go to the Silver Dollar, Pa. But he ain’t promising to avoid the Rusty Cocktepple or the Golden Gonif.”

”Or the Tippy Teepee or the Suds and Duds Laundromat Saloon on C street or all those disco places over near the mall,” Adam added with a wink.

“No beer, no heavy Malaga spritzers, no Brandy Squashes and no Pulque (the infamous cowboy drink brewed from cactus juice and fermented chicken legs),” Ben looked directly into his youngest son’s eyes. “And no disco!”

”No beer, Pa,” Joe agreed. “No heavy Malaga spritzers and no Pulque.”

”No disco!” Ben repeated knowing that his boys couldn’t resist the hypnotizing mirrored ball suspended from the ceiling, the illuminated glass dance floor or one more reprise of a Bee Gee’s tune played by the DJ or joining in a rousing rendition of “YMCA”.

In his mind, the silver haired cattle baron thanked the good lord that none of his boys had yet bought those white, polyester three piece suits that the dudes back east had started wearing. He had caught Hoss scoping out an ad for one in the flyer for the Virginia City Large and Tall Man’s Shoppe just the other night but his middle boy crumpled up the paper and tossed it into the fire knowing his father’s disdain for synthetic fibers. Times were changing but Ben Cartwright would have to put his foot down on that. Ben shuddered at the thought of the horses bolting and cattle stampeding if his three boys set off in those sissy outfits.

“And absolutely no polyester, Joseph!”

“Yes, sir,” Joe agreed buttoning his 100% cotton green corduroy jacket with horn buttons. “I won’t even wear underpants if it ain’t natural fibers, Pa.”

“Straight into town and pick up that crate of chickens that my old pal Frank Purdue shipped to Hop Sing at the freight office and come directly home.”
”Yes, sir,” Little Joe promised. His father had cautioned him to be careful, not drive the buckboard too wildly and to take his time and watch out for bushwhackers, Indians, chicken filchers, horse thieves and rogue Mimes.

Joe grumbled and sputtered annoyed that his father wouldn’t trust him to complete such a simple task. “Pa! I know what to do!”

“Directly home with that crate of chickens. Sign the receipt and load the crate and come straight back to The Ponderosa,” Ben repeated.

“Yes, sir,” Joe nodded.

“And make sure you bring the receipt. I need that for income taxes and that Federal poultry credit. You better take good care of the chickens so that when Hop Sing gets back from taking care of his ailing cousin Jackie Chan, he won’t be upset. He is all set to breed those Purdue chickens with his Peking Ducks to make Duck Nuggets.”

Hoss’ eyes lit up and he could help salivating in anticipation of a new taste sensation. “Mmmmmm. Duck Nuggets!”

“Pa, I ain’t a stupid kid,” Joe argued.

“Just careless,” Adam smirked. As the eldest of Ben’s boys, he automatically corrected his younger brothers frequently.

”And a magnet for trouble,” Hoss added philosophically. “Little Joe will take a simple chore and somehow mess it up.” He was relieved that one of his brothers goofed up more than he did, even though it took Joe being really drunk to mess up worse than the time Hoss put on feather wings and leaped off a cliff or wear chintz café curtains as a bath robe or take in Ernie the Ape or believe cow pie was made from chocolate pudding.

“And watch that steep hill near the old Goldshmeckle Farm. It is all rutted up at the bottom since the last rain,” Ben added his warning. (EDITOR’S NOTE: this is foreshadowing)


Chapter Two – Temptation


Little Joe hitched up the Chevy buckboard and drove directly into town. He quickly went to the freight office. So far, so good.

The crate crowded with squawking Purdue chickens was waiting behind the desk. Joe signed the receipt and put his copy into his pocket. Then he loaded the crate into the back of the wagon.

“I was jest heading over to the Rusty Bucket for lunch break,” said Ace, the Freight Manager. “What about joining me for a beer, Little Joe?”
Joe shook his head, remembering the promise he made to his Pa.
”Heck, Joe, I’ll buy the first round!” Ace urged.

“Gee, Ace. Pa said come right back to the ranch after picking up the chickens….”

“And that new blonde saloon gal, Sadie Hoochiemama has been asking for you, Little Joe.”

“For MEEEE?” Joe’s eyes lit up and his tight 100% natural fiber cowboy pants got tighter. “MEEEEEEEe!”
Ace nodded. “Yup! Got me a nice crisp dollar jest waiting to buy us a round or two and to play a few hands of poker.”

“Buck, buck buck!” clucked the chickens.

“No jest one dollar,” Ace corrected. “Not three.” He was multilingual, having grown up in the back of a poultry store in Queens, New York before he went west with the Archie Bunker freight company. “Sadie was asking for ya, Joe. She said she missed your Cartwright charms.”
Joe smiled, knowing he had more Cartwright charms than either of his brothers, Cousins Will or Muley. Shloemo the traveling mohel had told his Pa that when Joe was born. Ben was mighty proud and Marie blushed as she knew her baby took after his daddy in the family jewels department. “Got to share those charms and keep the gals happy!”

“And the first round of drinks is on me!” Ace urged. “Jest don’t be ordering one of them pink sissy drinks with the fruit and paper umbrellas in it.”

The day was hot and Joe was thirsty and Sadie was awfully pretty. “It won’t take but a minute to get a beer. Pa will never know!” Joe told the chickens as he carried the crate out of the freight office and loaded it into the buckboard.

“Cluck!” warned the lead chicken.
”Mind your own business,” said the second chicken.
”This should be verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry interesting!” said the third.


Chapter Three – In the Saloon


One beer became two and a few hands of poker and a round of Candy Land with Ace and Shlomo the traveling Moehl and two cowboys, Spin and Marty from the Triple R Ranch.

“I won,” Spin pointed out as he drew the Queen Frostine card.

“Well, you won again!” Joe sighed shoving his money towards Spin. “It’s getting late!”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’ll just tell Pa the freight office was closed for lunch when I came in and I had to wait around for a bit.”

Marty raised his eyebrows, knowing full well Joe was cruising for a bruising. He had learned that lies are bad just the other week when he was in Doc Martin’s waiting room reading “Highlights”. Goofus lied but Gallant always told the truth. You would think that with all the time the Cartwrights spent bleeding in Doc Martin’s office, that Joe would have learned that important concept. “You are going to lie to your father?” Martin gasped.

Joe shrugged. “What else can I do? I’ll tell him it was Ace’s fault.”

Ace nodded in agreement. “Good idea! I’ll back you up if you buy the next round of beers!”

After a couple of more beers and a few bets on some rubber poop tossing and arm wrestling and a bet on the World Cup Soccer and a kiss or two from Sadie the new bar maid, Joe realized that it was getting close to dark and he better head for home.


Chapter Four – Disaster Strikes


It was starting to rain pretty hard by the time Joe was riding out. He finally was returning from Virginia City with the crate of chickens his father had entrusted to him and a bit of a buzz from the beers. He was almost at the bottom the hill near the Goldshmeckle farm and totally had forgotten that the road was in horrific disrepair.

The front wheels of the buckboard hit a huge rut and bounced off a rock. All of a sudden, the crate bounced out the back of the wagon. It crashed to the ground and broke open. Frightened chickens scurried off in five different directions.

The determined cowboy ran all over the old Goldshmeckle place in the downpour, scooping up the wayward birds and returning them to the crate. He managed to tie the crate together with his real leather belt. Hoping he had found them all, the Joe reluctantly returned home in the pouring rain, expecting the worst when his father saw what condition he was in.

Joe arrived just as his family was about to sit down to supper. He was wet and muddy, his belt-less pants drooping low, beer on his breath, chicken poop on his jacket and his head throbbing. He also felt a bit guilty for all the lying he was going to have to do but that didn’t stop him.

He had not read this month’s Highlights and learned the important lesson of lying Goofus and honest Gallant. Coincidentally, this was the first month out of the last twenty-seven that Little Joe hadn’t been head bopped, thrown from a horse, shot, stabbed, or had a broken bone and had no need to see Doc Martin for lead removal, stitches or one of those chic black silk slings.

Joe put the buckboard and horses away in the barn and then hauled the belt tied crate of squawking chickens across the yard to the porch.
”You are quite late, Little Joe!” Ben said eyeing his dirty, bedraggled youngest son limp into the house.

“Yes, sir. I sort of got delayed.” Joe admitted hanging his drippy hat on the hook.
”Did you get those chickens from the freight station?” Ben asked eyeing his disheveled boy.

Joe nodded. “The chickens are still in the crate and I put it on the porch.”

“Do you have the receipt?” Ben asked putting out his hand.

Joe dug deeply into his pockets and handed his father the wet receipt.

“Is there something you want to tell me, son?” Ben asked.

“Pa, the chickens got loose over by the old Goldshmeckle place,” the Joe confessed sadly, “but I managed to find all two dozen of them. I’m real sorry Pa. It won’t happen again.”

“Well, you didn’t do what you promised and made a mess but you did real good straightening it out, son,” Ben Cartwright said raising his eyebrows. “A real good job. Check this out, Adam; my eyes aren’t as sharp as yours.”

Ben handed his eldest son the filthy, crumbled receipt.

“You did a real fine job, Little Brother,” Adam smiled. “According to the freight receipt, you left town with twelve chickens.”


The End

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