The Return of Old Sheba (by Robin)

Summary:  A REALLY Lost Episode

Word Count:  9500

 

 

                                   The Return of Old Sheba

 

Hoss Cartwright was making his way to the livery stable late one night after drinking at the Bloody Bucket. His brother Adam had said to meet him there at midnight so they could all ride home together. Little Joe had one too many beers and two too many fights and three too many saloon gals; Hoss had thrown his younger brother over his shoulder and was hauling him home. Carrying the semiconscious cowboy, Hoss wearily stumbled down the dark and empty street.

Suddenly a huge wagon clattered up. Hoss watched as the huge wagon pulled up in front of the Virginia City Jewelry store. The back came down and an elephant walked out. It broke one of the windows with its tusk and then, using its trunk like a not yet invented vacuum cleaner, sucked up all of the jewelry. The elephant then got back in the wagon and before the Hoss could figure it all out, the wagon rode off it disappeared out of sight.

When the Hoss finally regained his senses, he called for help. The sheriff, Roy Coffee, and his deputy, Clem, came running from the sheriff‘s office. Adam, recognizing his beloved younger brother’s cry for help, came running from the livery stable. Hoss told them his story.

“Could you describe the elephant?” the Sheriff Coffee asked.

“An elephant is an elephant,” Hoss replied shifting the still unconscious Little Joe on his shoulder. “You’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. What do you mean ‘describe’ him?”

“Well,” said Adam who had studied at Back East U, “there are two types of elephants, African and Indian. The Indian elephant has smaller ears and is not as large as the African elephant.”

“I can’t help you out,” said Hoss. “He had a stocking pulled over his head.”

Immediately Sheriff Coffee called for a posse to mount up and ride out.
“Come on boys, let’s ride! That elephant couldn’t have gone far!” Roy reasoned.

“But what about little Joe? He is sorta passed out!” Hoss said, gently placing his adorable brother on a soft pile of hay. “Don’t he jest look like a little sweet angel snoozing away?” Hoss kissed Joe’s forehead in a purely brotherly way.

Joe shifted in his sleep. He reached out to embrace the kisser. “Oh Julia! Even I need a bit of rest! How much ‘dinner’ can one virile cowboy manage?”

Hoss jumped back. Not only did he not want his baby brother to confuse him with Julia Bulette, but also he sure didn’t want the drunken boy to give far more detailed information than anyone rightly needed to know about his evening’s activities or what was on the dinner menu.

“Errr…Ummm…” Hoss stammered. “I suppose we can leave Little Joe snoozing here in the hay.”

“Sure. We can leave him a note and after he and Cochise have coffee, they can catch up to us,” Adam said. He always was protective of the Cartwright’s reputation and certainly didn’t want his kid brother to lay claim to his “private dinner record” of five “dinners” in seven hours with Sassy Sue in Sacramento. Or was that Lotta Crabtree in St. Louis? Or White Buffalo Woman in the sacred Indian Love Nest…or Colonel Scarlet in the study with the wrench? Or was that Lady Beatrice seeing if Adam could shoot straight?

“Then, let’s ride!” Clem declared declaratively.

Hours later…. As the dawn was breaking, they came upon an old man on the road to Carson City. The man, who used to get up every morning at five A.M, would then go and sprinkle a white powder on the roads passing his ranch.

“Have you seen an elephant, Old Timer?” the sheriff asked the man.

“No elephants round these parts,” said the man. “Can’t you see what I am doing?”

When Adam asked what he was sprinkling on the roads, he answered that it was elephant powder.

“Elephant Powder!!” the posse said in melodic unison.

The Old Timer then remarked, “But everybody knows that there are no elephants in these parts. I guess it must be working then!”

“Guess he’s right, boys!” Sheriff Coffee declared. “Let’s ride!”

The posse continued on. Eventually they made camp.

“I think we should lynch that durn elephant once we ketch him!” declared Marvin Mart, the owner of the robbed jewelry store.

“Save the town from the expense of a trial and a hangin’!” declared Mr. Nasty, who made a career of going from one frontier town to the next being a inciter of riots, lynch mobs and poop stepping contests. There was great opportunity for his sort in Nevada Territory.

“We need a real strong rope!” said Marvin.

“Won’t have any of that type of talk on my posse, boys!” warned Sheriff Coffee. Despite his warning, Roy was sort of tempted to cave in. It would sure spare him a world of trouble shoveling out that jail cell an elephant would have to be housed in at the sheriff’s office awaiting trial, and it sure would spare him a huge amount of his budget trying to feed an elephant prisoner. And what if that elephant tried to escape like most of the prisoners in Sheriff Coffee’s jail by walloping him over his already dented head with the tin dinner tray? Why, that had happened at least 17 times in the last year, maybe 19. The pounding had damaged Roy’s short-term memory as well as his skull. And besides, who wants to be emptying the chamber pot that an elephant prisoner used? Guess Deputy Clem would have to do that job.

“Besides! We have to be sure we have the right elephant!” yelled Adam, the socially active protector of truth, justice and animal rights announced.

“Yeah, what he said!” Hoss said, agreeably agreeing with his brother. Cartwrights stuck together and always sided with the underdog or under elephant whatever the case or animal may be.

“And we don’t know if it is an African Elephant or an Indian Elephant!” said Sammy Davis Jr. who just happened to be passing through town on his way to Vegas where he was appearing in the Sands Hotel in Vegas.

“What’s the difference if it is an Indian Elephant or an AFRICAN elephant?” asked the doomed town person who didn’t even have a name as he was going to die by the first commercial. He eyed Sammy Davis in a vaguely racist fashion much like Governor George Wallace.

BAM

With that, Nasty shot both Clem and Roy with one well-placed bullet.

“UGH!” they both said as they hit the ground with momentary disabling but not fatal fleshy flesh wounds. The bullets passed through both the lawmen and ricocheted off a big rock. The bullet boomeranged back at the shooter and killed that doomed racist town person, Mr. Nasty.

Sammy Davis winked with his good eye and did a little two-step. “Heh heh heh! That will show you!” Sammy grinned. He didn’t even have to kiss Nasty like he had kissed Archie Bunker back in Queens, New York.

“What’s the difference between an African elephant and an Indian elephant?” asked Marvin as Doc Martin bandaged Roy and Clem.

“Great job, Doc!” Sammy gave him a few free passes to see him in Vegas and took off singing “I’ve gotta be meeeeeeeeee! I’ve gotta be meeeeeeeeeeeee!”

“What’s the difference between an African elephant and an Indian elephant?” repeated Adam Cartwright, who was getting fed up with this whole thing but he knew he had to stay to make sure Roy didn‘t cave to the pressure of evil racism, especially now that Roy was ass-shot.

“About 3000 miles!” quipped Little Joe Cartwright, riding into camp on the back of Cochise. He had awakened in the livery stable, hitched up his pants, slugged down coffee with Coochie and had caught up to the posse. As always, Little Joe was going to make a stand with his brothers. He aimed his gun at Marvin and the grumbling town people and said “Drop those guns or my brother Hoss is gonna have to take you all home dead across your saddles.”

“Hey Joe, how come I always have to do all the heavy lifting?” Hoss griped.

“Cause you are a big fella!” Adam sighed. “You are the big one, I am the smart one and Joe is…”

“The cute one!” sang a bevy of saloon girls, school marms, nuns, teenaged wayward girls, gambling widows, skinny girls with terminal diseases and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders as well as the clerk from the Virginia City Starbucks. “Joe is the CUTE one!!!”

“Aw shucks!” Joe winked as he mentally sorted out which of the females he would keep and which ones he would share with his brothers. Cartwright boys might squabble among themselves but when the chips were down, they shared and shared alike.

 

*****

 

Meanwhile, back on the ranch…Ben Cartwright was sitting by the fire in his oversized (like himself) red leather armchair reading his newspaper that disguised the script with his lines for the scene. (Did you ever notice how often Ben did a scene sitting at the desk surrounded by ledgers disguising the script or reading a book that disguised the script or folding cute little paper hats that disguised the script?).

Ben sure missed his boys but word had come to him from Virginia City that his sons were riding with the Sheriff Coffee looking for the individual who robbed the jewelry store. Suddenly, Ben heard a knock at the door.

“Knock, knock,” knocked the doorknocker.

“Who’s there?” Ben called. It was awfully late for callers…even the outrageously forward smutty girls who came chasing after Little Joe and died before sunrise with a smile on their face as well as the female followers of exotic religions who tantalized Adam or the addicted women looking for Hoss to be their co-dependent or the dumpy widows with casseroles who chased after him. It was basically too late for all of them.

 “Who is there?” Ben repeated.

“Elephants,” came a vaguely familiar voice from the other side of the door.

“Elephants who?” Ben called making his way to the door.

“Ella Fitzgerald,” came the answer.

“Ella Fitzgerald?” Ben asked curiously. That didn’t seem correct in the least. Ella had a much huskier and more melodic voice from singing jazz tunes in the Silver Shekel Saloon with Frank Sinatra. Come to think of it, Ben remembered he had reservations to take a doomed widow to see Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin in Vegas. Peter Lawford was visiting with Lady Beatrice and her sissy husband Marian at the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod. “Ella? It sure doesn’t sound like you. It sounds like…”

Ben walked to the door.

Ben threw open the door and proclaimed the proclamation, “OLD SHEBA!!! My long lost old friend! Why you son of a sea dog! It‘s been years!” Ben hugged the animal affectionately. The rancher recognized the familiar elephantine voice from the elephant his sons had once brought home from the circus. Little Joe and Hoss had somehow been bamboozled out of payment for work they did for the “Fershemeckt Brothers Circus and Heart Stopping Oy Vay Show”. Old Sheba had caused chaos on the Ponderosa and in downtown Virginia City. Eventually Shtunky Fershemckt bought Sheba back from Ben. After that, the circus owner changed his name to Uncle Charley and got a job as the grumpy nanny for a widowed man with three sons, Robby, Chip and Ernie… but that is another story.

The Cartwright boys had kept in touch with the wayward elephant for a while on the not-yet-invented Internet but at some point lost track of her when Joe downloaded some sort of computer virus from some music site. Joe claimed it was a music site but Ben had suspicious reasons to believe it was from “CowgirlswithPistolsintheirMuffs.com” or “New OrleansWomanHotBabes.com”. Ben kept getting all sorts of obnoxious spam mail, asking him to re-mortgage the Ponderosa or buy medication over the Internet to enhance the girth and length of his.… Well never mind what they claimed they could enhance but no Cartwright ever needed artificial means of enhancement. They were quite manly on their own. It was the Cartwright gene pool that … well never mind.

Adam had to reformat the computer hard drive and Ben lost half of his files of welcoming speeches for artsy visitors to Virginia City and Hoss’ pictures of leprechauns and most of Hop Sing’s memoirs and Adam‘s winning streak on Tetris.

Rumor had it that Sheba had gone into politics or was starring in a kiddy show on not-yet-invented television in a show called “Circus Boy” with Mickey Dolenz.

“Old Sheba!” Ben repeated. “What are you doing here on the Ponderosa in the middle of the night?”

“Help!“ The elephant squeezed into the house barely missing the hat rack. “HIDE ME! The posse is after me! I have been setteed up!”

“Setteed up!?” Ben asked praying the elephant didn’t step on the settee or poop on the rugs. Then “Do you mean set up, Sheba?”

“Yes, set up. I was set up!“ Sheba took two steps forward and put her feet in the wrong place.

“SHEBA!” Ben roared “Get your feet off the table!”

The elephant swung her feet off the squashed coffee table. “Ooops, sorry, Ben!” She reached out with her trunk and tried to prop the broken leg with a stack of “Cattle Baron Monthly” magazines and the swimsuit issue of “Cowboys Illustrated”.

“That’s ok…we go through one of those tables a week. You know how rowdy my boys get. Sometimes I make them draw straws to see whose turn it is to smash the coffee table.”

“I was set up!” the elephant wept. Huge elephantine tears rolled down her trunk and spritzed into the fireplace with a hiss.

“Set up? Set up?” Ben asked.

”Yes! Snidely Whiplash and the Evil Mimes made a piñata in the shape of an elephant and now the posse is hunting me down! Hide me!” Old Sheba wailed.

“Snidely Whiplash and the Evil Mimes?” Ben gasped. As he handed the elephant a hanky, Ben tried to recall if Snidely Whiplash and the Evil Mimes was that was the hip-hop group that Hoss insisted on hiring for the barn dance, or the new owner of the old Walton place with all the red haired kids up on the Mountain or simply the villainous villains of the week. He quickly ruled out the first two options and decided Snidely Whiplash and the Evil Mimes were the villains of the week.

“Yes! They are evil! And villainous villains! Worse than outlaws and claim jumpers and bushwhacking cattle rustlers who make you think a wagon wheel and teepee are chasing you!” Sheba wailed.

“Hmmm….” Ben would have to think about that one. Psychological symbolism was more Joe’s forte than his.

“Hide me!” Sheba pleaded on bended knees, crushing the coffee table for good.

Like an agile soccer player scoring a goal, Ben kicked the splinters of the coffee table directly into the fireplace. He pulled an exact replacement from behind one of the revolving wall panels and smoothly arranged it in front of the settee.

“How? How can I hide you?” Ben asked. As massive as the Ponderosa was, an elephant was not an easy thing to hide. “Wait! I think I hear Hop Sing and his friends returning from their evening out.” Ben looked around as to where he could hide the beast. He certainly didn’t want Hop Sing to be involved in a possible criminal situation or hurt by a renegade pachyderm. It was not easy to get a good cook in Nevada Territory.

“PLEASE! “ Sheba pleaded hearing Hop Sing coming through the back/side/kitchen door.” Hoppy sounded all excited. Was he on the posse?”

“No, Hop Sing went to the Barry Manilow concert and out for pizza with the Rossi’s and their Virginia City International Club.”

“Hide ME!!!” Sheba screamed. Her trunk barely missed Adam’s plastic windup mini cowhand guitar that was leaning against the fireplace. “HIDE MEEEeeeee!”

“Just one thing,” Ben said in a whisper.

“Any thing!” Sheba agreed. “Anything! Just hide meeeee!”

“What was it really like to work with Mickey Dolenz?” Ben was a huge Mickey Dolenz fan. He and the boys never missed the Monkees on not-yet-invented television. Adam was inspired to learn how to play the guitar and BIG Hoss got a wool hat like Michael Nesmith. It was very similar to his Heinrich hat from when he had amnesia and lived with the Dutch couple that tried to steal him.

“Wonderful! Mickey was just wonderful! Now, goldurnit! HIDE ME!” Sheba pleaded.

“Do you have any incriminating evidence on you? Ben asked as he desperately looked around the room. Where was he to hide a rogue elephant?

“Incriminating evidence? I am totally innocent!! Besides, where would I hide incriminating evidence?”

“In your trunk?” Ben suggested, spying the red-checkered tablecloth on the massive dining room table.

“In my trunk?” Sheba started to tremble. Ben knew he had to act fast as he had no desire to clean up from a nervous, trembling elephant. Besides, the shiny oak floors in the room were brand new, having been installed by the same floor-layers that Doc Martin had used. The boys had scuffed up the old floors pretty badly with their spurs and soccer cleats and misplaced bullets and branding irons and exploded fragments from nuked peeps from Thunderman.

“In your trunk!” Ben repeated. Sheriff Coffee had just told him a story of pleather rustlers who had turned drug smugglers. “Two guys returning from South America were arrested at the border a couple days ago, because the clothes in their trunk were too neatly pressed.”

“Too neatly pressed? Ironed undies?” Knowing that Little Joe rarely wore undies, Sheba trembled nervously and tried to hide her trunk behind the scotch guarded settee. She almost knocked over the bronze statue of the rearing stallion that was on the small table. The elephant tripped over Little Joe’s misplaced lariat and nearly stepped on the not yet invented DVD player. Adam had just purchased the new final episode of “Friends” DVD. Hoss loved how Phoebe sang. His favorite tune was “Smelly Cat”.

No wonder Hop Sing got annoyed at them; they were a sloppy, messy bunch and had pretty vile musical tastes.

“Yes.” Ben went on walking towards the dining room table. “It turned out the smuggler’s clothes been soaked in a solution in which cocaine had been dissolved, then dried and ironed. If they’d gotten through customs, they would have followed a procedure for extracting the cocaine and drying it.” Ben grabbed the edges of the tablecloth and with a deft snap of his wrists, yanked it off the table without disturbing the coffee pot, saltshaker or large floral centerpiece.

“What are you doing?” Sheba cried as they heard footsteps on the porch. “This is no time for magic tricks! What do you think this is?! The Ed Sullivan Show on not-yet-invented television!?!?”

“Just kneel and shut up, Sheba!” Ben ordered as he wrapped the huge elephant in the tablecloth and lashed it in place with Little Joe’s lariat. “I learned this on HGTV on not-yet-invented television.”

“HGTV? The decorating channel? Isn‘t that a bit sissy for a cowboy?”

Now Ben was really quite annoyed. The stupid elephant had come to him for help and now was making moronic disparaging comments about his manly choice in entertainment. “Cowboys like nice homes too! Now stifle yourself!”

 

*****

 

Hop Sing, Doc Martin, the Rossi’s and the assorted members of the Virginia City International Friendship Club walked into the Ponderosa ranch house. They cheerfully continued the conversation that had started at the Virginia City Sushi Parlor and Hoe Down Pizza Palace where they had their monthly meeting.

“And who better than Papa Rossi to run the country well?” Hoppy suggested with a smile.

“He has MY vote!” agreed Doomed Ranch hand Eb Dawson who had followed them from the Douglas spread. He had come from the land of Moronia, home to morons.

“And mine,” Cattle Baron Ben said, bending Mama Rossi backwards and planting a big smackeroo kissaroonie on her lips. He hoped his very public display of affection would distract the crowd from noticing Sheba hidden in the checkered tablecloth. “And Mama Rossi will be a very fine first lady!”

“Ahhhhhhhh!” the Rossi daughter, Regina. sighed admiringly. Cattle Baron Ben was quite the kissing cowboy cattle baron. Now she knew where the boys got that talent as well as their long eyelashes.

“Welcome to the Ponderosa!” Ben smiled. “All of you! Come in! Come in!”

“Great idea, except for one snag: Unless Ahnold gets the constitution amended, Papa is not eligible,” Mrs. Rossi said moments later as she came up for air.

“Neither is Lorenzo. He is not a native born citizen.” Doc Martin added. “Just native born Americans…not naturalized citizens.”

“Guess that rules me out as well!” said peddler Aaron Kaufman.

“I always told him the better job was to be the power behind the throne,” said Regina Rossi. ”Not that there is a king in America, but you know what I mean.” She looked around to see if Candy or any of the Cartwright boys were around. All she noticed was a new piece of lumpy furniture.

“Absolutely! Goosing things along …” Mama Rossi said pinching Ben’s pinchable cowboichik tush.

“Yipes!” gasped Ben rubbing his bottom.

“Hoppy wasn’t born in the US either so there is no chance for him,” said Lorenzo Rossi, looking around the massive living room of the Ponderosa Ranch house for a place to sit down. He too noticed the new piece of furniture. He sure hoped Papa didn’t notice the change in décor as Georgio Rossi spent most of his time trying to make a duplicate Ponderosa on the Rossi place.

“No chance? Sure there is!!!” said Ben. “America is the land of opportunity!”

“Is it?” Hop Sing hoped to ask Mr. Cartwright for a raise the next day and this was a perfect opening. “Land of opportunity only if Hop Sing gets more pay and two weeks more vacation and hot tub in bedroom and…”

Ben noticed the Rossi’s looking around the living room and started to distract them before they noticed Old Sheba disguised by the tablecloth. “How about this for a fun fact? I have a wealth of trivial crap. For example, the trademarked name Vaseline was registered by Robert A. Chesebrough in 1878. And Bally Ache, the winner of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Maryland, was sold for $1,250,000.”

“Yeah? That and a buck fifty will get you a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, Ben…” Doc Martin grumbled wondering why Ben was blathering so. Usually it was Adam who had to spew out blather but he was with the posse.

Despite what folks thought, Doc was not born in the US. He had been born in Canada, home of hockey, inexpensive pharmaceuticals and acting legend Lorne Greene.  He looked around the massive living room of the Ponderosa Ranch house for a place to sit down. It looked like Ben and Hop Sing had redecorated a bit.

“I love the shiny floors but there is a big ding in the board over there!” said the good doctor. “Looks like something or someone heavy stomped on it. And the coffee table looks a bit flat as well,” Doc said.

Mama Rossi unfolded the voluminous suitcase of pictures of Shayna Punim Boy Lorenzo. “Ben! Have I showed you these new shots of Lorenzo? In addition to growing grapes, Shayna Punim Boy Lorenzo is trying to be a model and learning medicine too! He wanted to do Little Joe’s last surgery but Doc Martin thought he should study a bit more first.”

“Good idea!” Ben said nervously. He liked Lorenzo an awful lot but sure didn’t want Little Joe to be the practice patient for the ambitious young man. Maybe he could get that red-headed kid, Jamie, over on the old Walton place to stand in. Knowing Joe there would be many, many, many, many, many opportunities in the future for setting bones, yanking out bullets or even reattaching limbs. Maybe he would suggest Lorenzo practice on Jamie. He was expendable. ”I don’t know if Lorenzo should practice on Joseph…”

“It might damage his singing…” Doc Martin explained. “Or at least the key Little Joe sings in.” Doc Martin knew all about singing. His cousin Dino Martin was performing in Vegas with Sammy Davis Jr.

“Shayna Punim Boy Lorenzo is also learning to write letters to political leaders too,” Giorgio Rossi proudly added.

“In English?” Ben asked. He noticed Sheba was nervously swaying a bit and kicked the elephant in the side.

“Of course in English!“ Mama Rossi said proudly.

“Like Governor Ahnold of California?” Mr. Kaufman and Eb Dawson asked in unison. They weren’t so happy with the Governator and both were mighty glad they lived in Nevada.

Mr. Rossi looked around the massive living room of the Ponderosa Ranch house for a place to sit down. It looked like Ben and Hop Sing had redecorated a bit. None of them really liked the new checkered and hemp trimmed slipcover on the oversized futon. It didn’t quite match the more manly rustic décor.

“So far, Governor Arnold is just presenting his first budget and he is cutting every single service that the state provides,” Eb Dawson observed. He was not thrilled with the smell of the potpourri the Cartwrights were using. It smelled like the barn…or the elephant house at the St. Louis Zoo. It was not like the paprikash scent Mrs. Douglas used.

“Cutting? Snip Snip? Like an over zealous Moehl! The Governator Moel-inator!” exclaimed peddler Kaufman.

Tirza, the gypsy, nodded. “Snip! Snip!”

Upon hearing the words “mohel” and “snip snip”, Ben protectively clutched his Cartwright Family Jewels. Finding Lisa Douglas’s hand already there, Ben smiled appreciatively. Lisa Douglas had mysteriously, always read his mind. Could she be a gypsy like Tirza?

“The money for police and sheriffs got cut the day Governor Ahnold reduced the not-yet-invented-car tax,” declared Mr. Kaufman. “No wonder your boys had to ride out with the posse. They don’t have enough money to pay for the deputies and had to recruit regular folks to help out.”

”I’m not so sure I want him running our whole country!” said Mr. Rossi.

“Neither do we!” said all the other visitors in unison.

“Neither do I!” said Maria Shriver who just happened to be riding by on her way to see her uncle Peter Lawford’s pal Sammy Davis Jr. in Vegas.

“Too bad my son can’t run for President,” Mrs. Rossi sighed. She was quite positive that a Rossi could solve every one of the world’s problems.

“Mrs. Rossi, you could the first…first… What do they call the first lady if she is the president’s mama rather than wife?” Hop Sing asked as he completed the 500th centerpiece for the upcoming bazaar, shoot out and birthday party being held at the Ponderosa. He still had to hang up those cute, colorful paper lanterns and haul out all the dishes that would be smashed in the brawl. That guest list kept growing and growing and growing. Former NY mayor Rudy Guiliani, Demi Moore, Arnold the Pig, Faith Hill, Gary Coleman, the late great Julia Child, General Robert E. Lee, Grandpa Stoddard, Mr. Potato Head, the NY Jets and Lassie had all just said they were coming as well as the Broadway cast of Aida and the members of the Trapper John MD look-a-like club of Waycross, Georgia.

“First Mama?” suggested Tai Lee, who had shown up with the load of fire works from the Yippee Trading Company for the party. The young Chinese woman looked disarmingly like Danny Thomas.

“Who brought these fireworks?” asked Mr. Kaufman.

“THAT girl!” Ben pointed to Marlo Tai Lee.

“I’ll ask Shayna Punim Boy, Lorenzo if he has any suggestions!” Mrs. Rossi added.

Sheba, under the tablecloth slipcover sneezed. “HA CHEW!” sneezed the hidden elephant. A dining room chair flipped over with a loud crash barely missing the china cabinet.

“Bless you!” chorused the guests.

“Ha chew!” said Ben quickly, trying to give his visitors that he had sneezed.

“Bless you again!” chorused the guests.

“Don’t bother, gals. I am not a native born American. I can’t run for president,” Lorenzo said smiling at Marlo Tai Lee.

“You have to be born on US soil?” asked Maria Shriver who was quite familiar with Constitutional law and hair mousse. Maria Shriver noticed the pile of peanut shells growing near the lumpy red-checkered futon. She hadn’t heard the previous explanation as she had been trying to figure what outfit to wear to the Sands nightclub.

“It means you can’t be a naturalized citizen as the founding fathers feared
you might not REALLY be loyal to the US of A… not that your American parents were out of the country and you needed to be with your mom as she gave birth to you,” repeated Ben, nervously watching the pile of shells get bigger. “Like if Adam was born while Liz and I were at Club Med or Hoss was born while Inger and I were in Ikea…”

“Medically, that is a very excellent idea — to be near your mother when she gives birth,” said Doc Martin who had years of experience. “But even if you are a naturalized citizen, you can be the power behind the throne,” he repeated, fishing in his satchel for some remedy for Ben’s sneezing. He knew he had some heavy Malaga or laudanum or Dr. Doolittle’s Do-Little-But-Make-You-Sleep-Alot Tonic somewhere in there. He couldn’t find it and gave Ben a slug of Nyquil instead.

“I smell peanuts,” sniffed Regina Rossi as she helped Hop Sing make the 501st centerpiece. She really felt disappointed that Barry Manilow had not sung to her at the concert but she was glad he blew her a kiss.

“Did you know my son Lorenzo is forming a Monkees Tribute Band?” said Mrs. Rossi.

“I love the Monkees!” said Lynne from England.

“HA CHEEEEEEEEEEEW!” sneezed Sheba again, interrupting Mrs. Rossi and knocking over the all the centerpieces and the huge Jell-O mold that Mr. Kaufman’s mom, Tillie Kaufman, had made.

“Look at Jell-O mold quake!” Hop Sing said.

“It’s a talent I was born with!” explained Tillie. She turned to Lorenzo. “The man who marries my granddaughter Rebecca will get the recipe.”

“I’m quaking with laughter!” giggled Marlo Tai Li. “A Jell-O bride dowry! How quaint!”

“Want me to make the earth move for you my darling inscrutable mystery woman?” Lorenzo Rossi offered in his most manly Italian cowboy fashion. He hoped to invent the spaghetti western in years to come and had eyes for Marlo Tail Li.

“As long as you don’t try to unionize my grape-picking crews like you did at the old Edwards place,” Mr. Rossi warned.

Lorenzo so enjoyed playing their game of quake and shake with Marlo Tai Li. As he stood VERY close to his rebellious gal, Tillie Kaufman sighed and decided she would make the same offer of the Jell-O recipe to one of the Cartwright boys. “Ben, darling, do your boys like Jell-O?”

“Huh?“ Thinking about picking grapes with Grace Edwards, Ben almost forgot about Sheba hidden nearby disguised as a settee.

Marlo winked and wiggled her eyebrows in her secret signal of Wowza Whoopee. Lorenzo winked back.

“Who is Lorenzo flirting with?” his mother demanded. “Who!”

“THAT GIRL!” said Hop Sing and Mr. Kaufman in unison. They both were rooting for Rebecca Kaufman to marry Adam Cartwright, not Lorenzo Rossi. They were a far better match. Rebecca, however, had a secret correspondence with the Sheriff of Mayberry, Andy Taylor. He was willing to give his red-haired boy to the Cartwrights for adoption if they would get Adam to quit sparking Miss Rebecca. Ben was holding out for the Taylors to take Jamie off his hands or at least sneak the kid in with the batch at the old Walton place. After all, Jamie’s crotchety grandfather looked a lot like Grandpa Walton.

Mr. Rossi who had spent the last few days decorating his new home to more closely look like the Ponderosa glanced around at the red checkered settee while his wife automatically rearranged the flowers on the dining room table. He noticed the pile of peanut shells near the settee.

“Maybe you are allergic to that bouquet in the dining room, Ben,” suggested Doc Martin eyeing the golden rod and ragweed that graced the manly yet attractive arrangement.

“Or peanuts?” added Rossi eyeing the growing pile of shells. Perhaps that was an American custom. There were no peanuts in Italy, only olives, grapes and tortellini.

“Maybe,” Ben shrugged. He wouldn’t ever be allergic to wild flowers as it was against the cowboy code. He and the cowboys were so rough and tough that they were too rough and tough to be allergic to anything except garbanzo beans. Adam once got bebblach poisoning from eating too many garbanzo beans and tended to poot musically and loudly if he ate too many garbanzo beans in the salad bar at the Virginia City Bonanza Steak-o-rama Restaurant and Saloon. He and the boys had invested in their own chain of steak restaurants and couldn’t make up their minds if they were going to call them “Ponderosa Restaurants” or “Bonanza Steak Restaurants” or “Miss Tippy Toes Tea Room and LoCarb Dee-Lite” or “Hooters Chicken Wings”. Tirza was hoping it would be the “Hooter’s Chicken Wings” and she could be a waitress as well as slaughtering the chickens.

Seeing that someone might trip over the over dining room chair that sneezing Sheba had knocked over, Mr. Kaufman straightened that out too.
Mrs. Rossi eased herself onto the righted chair, “Yesterday, I went running through the garage…. Er …barn…and tripped over my son’s …er … saddle. I went sprawling and broke my toes as I was barefoot.”

“Mama and I were crushing grapes for wine with that new neighbor Lucy,” Regina Rossi explained. “We had to quit for the day as a result.”

“The wacky red head?” Doc Martin asked. “Her son, Little Ricky had croup and her husband got his hand hurt on his conga drum.”

“Is he Mexican?” Kaufman asked. He had some serapes in the back of his wagon. Perhaps the Ricardos would be interested.

“No…Cuban,” Doc Martin replied.

“Hope Little Joe doesn’t go dashing off to San Juan Hill,” said Tirza to Mrs. Douglas clairvoyantly.

“Go know,” Lisa Douglas shrugged helping herself to some lo-carb biscotti Mama Rossi made. She was voting for the “Miss Tippy Toes Tea Room and LoCarb Dee-Lite“.

“At any rate, my daughter Regina was in a school performance last night. And we played a flute duet…’Home on the Range’ and ‘Don‘t Fence Me In’ and ‘Caramia Mine’.”

“A duet! What happened?” asked Mr. Kaufman, spreading out some brochures on the table as Hop Sing served coffee. He had just taken in a line of Tupperware and Mary Kay cosmetics. He hoped to earn a pink peddler wagon and a pink horse.

Ben recalled how musical Adam had pooted a duet all by himself as he played the guitar in the Virginia City School fundraiser. The little paper lanterns almost exploded and the audience passed out from the fumes but sincerely enjoyed what they had heard. Hoss and Joe carried out all the prettiest girls and revived them in the hayloft with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“Well, we were so well received, we did an encore, ‘Happy Trails!’ We got a standing ovation too!” Mrs. Rossi said modestly with a smile.

“The crowd went wild! Just WILD!” Mr. Rossi bragged.

“What a country!” said Yakov Smirnoff, a recent arrival to Nevada Territory from Russia.

“I love music! It makes me want to dance!” Tirza the gypsy started twirling around, her orange skirt swirling around her bare legs.

“They were tossing their boxer shorts in the air as well as bags of gold too!” said Miss Tai Li.

Ben was glad Hoss had been out with the posse as boxer tossing was not the kind of etiquette he wanted Hoss to learn and Joe rarely wore undies so that might have been a problem. Adam was a totally other story.

“You are amazing…..a flute duet….broken toes…..oy!!” said Hop Sing.

“Gee,” Mrs. Rossi blushed. “I didn’t play with my feet!”

“KER CHEW! Sheba sneezed again.

Just then, the Cartwright boys came in. “Hi Pa! We are back. Posse had no luck and we figured we would come back home.”

As Tirza danced closer to the disguised elephant, Hop Sing jumped up and started serving the boys dinner. “Chicken wings? Jell-O? Lasagna? Got leftovers!”

“That new piece of furniture over there reminds me of the LOVE seat that Julia Bulette had in his private quarters.” Little Joe pointed with his fork as he and his brothers came in from the kitchen carrying the loaded Tupperware. Hop Sing had been Mr. Kaufman’s first customer and it had made storing leftovers a pleasure.

“Private quarters? Julia Bulette?” Ben muttered semi-consciously from his coma on the settee. “What were you doing there son!?” The elixir Doc Martin had given Ben was working double time.

“Not Julia Bulette — Adah Menkin. Adah Menkin’s literary love seat!” Adam corrected.

 “What a love seat! What a boudoir!” Joe sighed. “What a private dinner!”

“You bet!” Adam and Hoss agreed.

“And then there was Lotta Crabtree!” Joe winked. “Hubba Hubba!”

“Hubba Hubba!” Hoss and Adam agreed.

“Julia Bulette? Adah Menkin? Love seats?” Ben muttered trying to get to his feet but the Heavy Malaga Nyquil was making him woozy as well as paranoid and a touch horny. A bad combo if there ever was one. “Lotta Crabtree! Hubba?”

“I was wondering if maybe you knew any of these women the boys are naming or something…” said Mrs. Rossi to her husband.

“ME?“ Mr. Rossi turned red. “Sophia Loren maybe but not those women!”

Marlo noticed the cowboys had finished up their 17th plates of dinner and were about to head for dessert or the hills or both. Maybe she could set up a unionization of the hoochy mamas the Cartwright boys had mentioned.

“Any Oreos around?” Adam asked. “Or Cow Pie?”

“OR both!” Joe asked hungrily. All this talk of women and private dinners made him insatiably hungry.

“Julia? Lotta? Sophia Loren? Adah Menkin? Or if that was some special loveseat sweetie pie Joe named?” Ben glared trying to focus his eyes. “Did you have a personal relationship with any of these women, boys?”

“Why? “Adam smiled mysteriously “Are you jealous, Pa?”

Lisa Douglas’s eyes widened. She hadn’t meant to stir up a fight between the handsome Cattle Baron and his boys. “What’s the difference? It was just a slip of the lip!”

“Slip of the lip! Slip of the lip! Those are my lips as long as those boys live under my roof!” Ben growled possessively stumbling into the pleather covered Lazee Boy Lounger.

“’My Lips?’” Adam quoted his Pa.  “Get a grip, Pa! You don’t own us!”

“Or our lips!” said Little Joe, blowing a kiss at Tirza. He checked the time on the grandfather clock, wondering if there was about time to tuck Coochie into his cozy bunk with a cup of decaf coffee and his beanie baby horse and perhaps to take Tirza to the moonlit rock of LOVE for a bit before Letterman started on Not-Yet-Invented TV.

“Lincoln freed the slaves!” added Mr. Rossi knowingly.

Marlo Tai Li smiled approvingly at Hop Sing. “See! Mr. Rossi knows!”

“As did Moses!” said Mr. Kaufman the peddler, wondering if he should put on another pot of coffee or leap out of the fray and go to Macy’s and buy small kitchen appliances to resell on the Comstock or E-Bay. Shopping was such a stress reliever.

“It was God who freed the Hebrew slaves,” commented Tai Li Marlo. “And I will free the Chinese workers! And the Lebanese too!”

Tirza danced on. “Dance, Dance, Dance!” She whirled and twirled ever closer to the hidden elephant.

“And Betty Ford started the clinic!” said Doc Martin. He was quite a skilled seamstress for stage costumes for the Adah Menkin Road Company of Mazeppah, surgical wounds, and slipcovers, and noticed the sloppy use of rope on the Cartwright’s new slip covered lumpy piece of elephantine furniture.

“Perhaps we should do an intervention on Cattle Baron Ben?” suggested Mrs. Rossi to Mrs. Douglas. Both women raising her eyebrows in amazement at the perfectly perfect cattle baron‘s bizarre behavior.

“Dance dance dance!” sang Tirza whirling and twirling.

Hop Sing grabbed Ben’s muscular cowboy arm. “Don’t do anything rash, Mr. Cartwright! I haven’t served dessert yet!”

“KER CHEW!” sneezed Sheba

As Tirza danced, and Cattle Baron Ben zonked out again on the settee muttering about women stealing his boy’s innocence, Mrs. Douglas explained her new hobby. “I am a mystery shopper!”

“A MYSTERY SHOPPER!” all the gals exclaimed in unison.

“Shopping!?!?” Marlo Tai Li gasped. “A job SHOPPING! How capitalistic.”

“It is very mysterious!” Lisa explained. “I missed all the stores on Park Avenue and Bloomies too.

“Bloomies?” Little Joe’s eyes lit up. He loved hearing about lady’s lingerie as did his brothers.

“Mrs. Douglas means BLOOMINGDALES, not bloomers!” Adam chortled as he drank some coffee out of his saucer. “Bloomingdale’s is a famous NYC department store.”

“Do they sell bloomers at Bloomies?” Joe winked as Hoss, Lorenzo and Eb Dawson laughed.

Mrs. Douglas continued. “Ve once went to Peru to shop for llama saddles and another time we had to compare kosher vegetarian kishke with Hungarian chicken paprikash. I had heartburn for a week.”

“OY!” said Mrs. Rossi before Mr. Kaufman could say it.

“Aren’t gypsies from Hungary?” said shaynah punim boy Lorenzo.

“Hungry? I’m still mighty hungry!” Hoss said taking another portion of Mrs. Rossi’s lasagna. “Mmmmmmmmm!”

“Me too!” agreed Adam and Joe as they ate the rest of the lasagna.

“This is mighty good, Mrs. Rossi!” all three Cartwright brothers exclaimed with delight.
“Garlic bread?” Mrs. Rossi offered.

“We have dates tonight with the Sandusky Triplets, Ma’am. No thanks!” Adam tipped his hat. “Got to be kissing fresh.”

“Tell us more about shopping and bloomies and all. Do you ever need help rating Victoria’s Secret? Count on me.” Joe volunteered. “We sometimes get company here on the Ponderosa who forget their unmentionables or loose them in the barn loft.”

“Or girls who are dressed in boy’s duds and need girl’s duds,” Hoss explained.

“Like Calamity Jane.” Adam elbowed Joe who snorted. Milk shot out his adorable nose and Mrs. Rossi grabbed a napkin.

“Spit on this!” she ordered.

Joe spat and she wiped his chin and cheeks with the napkin. He sure missed having a mother. Mothers always washed your face with spit. It just wasn‘t the same when Pa did that. “Mrs. Rossi? Did I ever tell you how much you remind me of my dead Mama? Are you from the New Orleans part of Italy?”

“Watch it, Little Joe! That is my wife you are making goo goo eyes at!” Mr. Rossi warned.

“But last night, shopping dis was a good vwone,” Lisa Douglas said. She hoped to change the subject before Joe angered the Rossi’s with his come-on line.

“We went to the International Hotel last night and ate from the chef’s table!” Eb explained. He loved good food as he was sick of Mrs. Douglas making Hot Cakes.

“The server we had recognized us from a previous visit, and he made our visit so enjoyable. Eb ordered the brownie sundae -3 large brownie wedges, 3 scoops of ice cream, plus sauces & whipped cream – 3 days worth of calories. I had petit fours and Rigo Jancsi cake, named for the legendary Hungarian Gypsy violinist…” explained Lisa Douglas.

“Gypsy!” Tirza danced on “A gypsy violinist!!! That makes me want to dance!”

“And cake!” Hoss sighed.

“Can anyone but a teenager eat something like this?!” said Mrs. Rossi who had fed armies of teenagers on their way west and at various pleather round-ups as well as hungry Italian cub scouts when Lorenzo was a boy.

Hoss grinned and raised his right hand politely as Miss Jones had taught him. “Me? Me, please.”

“Or an elephant!” laughed Hop Sing, eyeing the red checkered table cloth covered mass across the room. “What in heavens name is THAT?” He did not recall that piece of furniture in the MASSIVE Ponderosa living room before he went out that evening. It wasn’t like the Cartwrights to redecorate on such short notice, even Adam who liked to watch HGTV with Mr. Kaufman‘s daughter on not-yet-invented TV.

The Cartwrights still had that little sideboard from the first Lincoln administration despite the bullet holes in it and all that fussy New Orleans furniture from REAL Marie and had used the same red checked tablecloth since the first season. Matter of fact, that was the last time they rearranged the furniture. The dining room table had been turned the other way.

Tirza danced closer and closer and closer to the object in question. “Elephant?”

“An elephant? I don’t see any elephant,” muttered Cattle Baron Ben, momentarily coming to consciousness.

“Can anyone but a teenager eat something like this?!” said Mrs. Rossi, pointing at the huge basin of brownies, ice cream and fortune cookie concoction that Hop Sing was hauling in from the kitchen on a horse and buggy. Mrs. Rossi started writing down the recipe to use at the Vino De Ponderosa San Genero Fest. Everyone loved her special chicken Parmesan and wonton lasagna, especially the Cartwrights and Sheriff Coffee.

“Who wants some wiggly Jell-O!” Tillie Kaufman said raising the serving shovel.

Hoss grinned and raised his right hand politely as Miss Jones had taught him. “Me? Me, please, Mrs. Kaufman.”

“Me too!” Little Joe said winking at the lovely daughter of the Rossi’s.

“And me too!” said Adam winking at Mr. Kaufman’s lovely daughter, Rebecca.

“Goodness! Who could eat that big a serving!” said Lisa. “Is that Haagen Daaz?”

“No, Jell-O!” said Tillie.

 Eb Dawson nodded, rearranging the wild flowers from that were on the sideboard. Even though the Cartwrights were manly men, they loved flowers as did Eb.

“Or an elephant!” laughed Mr. Rossi eyeing the red checkered tablecloth covered mass across the room.

“What in heavens name is THAT?” said Doc Martin. He did not recall that piece of furniture in the MASSIVE Ponderosa living room before. Perhaps Ben bought it at the Virginia City Mall.

“What IS that?” Rebecca Kaufman echoed.  It wasn’t like the Cartwrights to redecorate on such short notice, even charming Adam, the furchesthottie who liked to watch HGTV on not-yet-invented TV. He had brilliantly guided his brothers in a charming redecoration of the honeymoon cabin that Little Joe had built for doomed Laura White. Who else but clever, intuitive Adam Cartwright would have the creativity to give a baby cradle/magazine rack as a wedding gift to Little Joe and doomed Laura White? But even Adam couldn’t have schlepped in a new settee so fast. He and his brothers had been on the posse hunting for the rogue elephant before they came back for the night. Sheba was wanted for robbing the Rock Creek Jewelry store.

“What is that?“ Eb Dawson asked. The Cartwrights still had that little sideboard from the first Lincoln administration despite the bullet holes in it and all that fussy New Orleans furniture from Marie’s Mardi Gras days. He sure wished he could have met Marie and tossed beads at her. Her picture was plastered all over hotels, saloons, and jambalaya palaces all over the Comstock. That picture was even used on the label of Vermont Maid Pancake Syrup and she was the model for Barbie as well.

“What is that?” Marlo Tai Li asked, mysteriously eying the disguised Sheba. Ben had wrapped the elephant in the tablecloth to hide her.

“What is that?” Lorenzo Rossi said, watching Tirza the wacko gypsy dance closer. She was really hot and as her florescent orange skirt whirled and twirled, Lorenzo could see she had on thong gypsy underwear. Little Joe said she was HOT! Maybe Lorenzo should ask her to the Vino De Ponderosa San Genaro Fest. Then he could marry her. After all, Little Joe had proposed to her and Ben Cartwright said “OK.” Not “Are you out of your MIND? No way!” Mr. Rossi always imitated everything Ben Cartwright did. If Ben could encourage Joe to marry hot gypsy Tirza, maybe Lorenzo could make the nutty dancing Gypsy his bride? Or at least get a free ticket to the moonlight rock of love like Joe did.

 Tirza danced closer and closer and closer to the object in question. “Elephant?”

“An elephant? I don’t see any elephant,” muttered Cattle Baron Ben from the settee, momentarily coming to consciousness from his Nyquil induced coma.

“Elephant!” Tirza repeated. ELEPHANT!!!”

“Elephant? I don’t see no goldurn elephant!” Ben argued again as he tried to stand up on rubbery cowboy legs. He wobbled and swayed like a willow in the wind or a Cattle Baron who had ingested enough Nyquil to stupefy Jigger Thurmond’s bull or even an elephant.

“Pa!” Hoss exclaimed. He was shocked at his father’s use of poor grammar and the term “goldurn“.

“Elephant!” Tirza repeated. “ELEPHANT!!!” She firmly grasped the corner of the tablecloth slipcover that was camouflaging the pachyderm, and with an adroit flick of her wrists, yanked it much as she had once yanked wallets from the pockets of unsuspecting bystanders at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Suddenly there came uproar from outside. They all heard the thundering sound of horses’ hooves galloping up to the Ponderosa. It was the posse or a bunch of tap-dancing horses. The Cartwrights and their guests quickly voted by a show of hands and agreed almost unanimously that it was most likely to be Sheriff Roy Coffee and the posse.

A shout from outside bellowed. “Helloooo in there! This is the sheriff! Turn yourself in Sheba! We know you are in there!”

“Yooo Hooo!” chirped Mrs. Rossi.

“Oh no!” gasped Sheba trembling. “Help, Mr. Cartwright! Help Adam! Help Hoss! Help Little Joe! I am innocent!”

“Mr. Cartwright!” Hop Sing pleaded. He hated to think of the mess that a nervous elephant was going to make. There was no mop big enough to wipe up the floor if Sheba let loose of her bladder or elephantine bowels…never mind.

“Oh NO!” shrieked Lisa Douglas, fainting onto the settee.

“Ay caramba!  swooned Marlo Tai Li as she fell into farm hand Eb Dawson’s arms.

“Oy VAY!” exclaimed Mr. Kaufman. He had a perfect opportunity to sell a wagonload of snacks and souvenirs to the fellows in the posse. Too bad he had left all his merchandise back home in Virginia City.

“You got one minute to turn yourself in ‘cause in sixty-one seconds we start to shoot!” threatened Roy.

“Pa! What do we do?” Adam, Hoss and Little Joe chorused. “PA!”

Ben sucked in a deep breath in an attempt to clear his head and make a quick decision. “Turn yourself in to the sheriff, Sheba,” Ben advised based on years of advice giving as well as great ethics. “Let the law handle this…”

“Better the law than mopping up this mess!” Hop Sing muttered. He decided it was the perfect time to take Marlo Ti Li’s advice to unionize or take Rebecca Kaufman’s advice and go to college and study for an MBA and become the Donald Trump of Virginia City.

“I can’t turn myself into the sheriff!” Sheba shrieked. “Do you think I am a magician?”

“I can’t change from an elephant into a guy with a moustache wearing mismatched clothes!” Sheba wept. Tears rolled down her trunk and puddled on the wide floorboards. Sheba hated mixing checks and plaids and stripes.

“Pa didn’t say that you should turn into Roy Coffee, you stupid pachyderm! He said that you should turn surrender yourself to his legal authority!” Adam explained. He shook his head. Sheba was not the brightest candle in the chandelier. Even Cousin Muley was smarter than Sheba. Even Eb Dawson was smarter than Sheba.

“OHHHhhhhhhhh!” Sheba nodded. Her waggling trunk knocked over the bronze statue of the rearing horse. “How can I turn myself in! I am innocent!”

“We’ll get you a lawyer! Perry Mason or one of them drunk lawyer fellers we get to represent us when we are wrongly accused of murder or something!” Hoss explained, patting the elephant affectionately. He tried to sooth the savage beast.

“Little Joe! You get broom and sweep up mess!” Hop Sing ordered.

“Me?” Joe pointed at his chest. “Why do I always have to do the work around here?”

“You don’t ask questions! I delegate tasks for efficiency!” Hop Sing declared.
Tai Li Marlo nodded. Rebecca Kaufman suddenly decided perhaps Hop Sing was more attractive than she had first observed. He certainly was a clever negotiator and very efficient. And she did love his wonton soup. It so closely resembled kreplach soup.

“Go on now, Sheba. Let the law handle this!” Ben urged. The Nyquil was fading from his system and he was thinking far more clearly.

The elephant nodded and slowly walked to the door.

“You got thirty seconds!” Roy shouted from outside. The sheriff’s voice echoed off the papier-mâché rock that Uncle Gunner had left near the corral.

“Wait!” Hoss exclaimed. “If you stick your head out there, the posse might shoot you! Let Little Joe peep out, not you!”

“Yes! Let Little Joe stick his neck out!” Adam agreed. “Peep Joe! Peep!”

“Yes! Let me do it!” Joe volunteered. “Let me! Let me!”

“Let him! Let him!” His brother’s shoved Joe in front of Sheba and quickly opened the door.

BAM! A shot rang out. Fortunately, Joe Cartwright was mighty quick on his feet and leaped over the bullet with the grace and tight pants of an Olympic gymnast or world-renowned ballet danseur Jacques d’Amboise.

“Hold your fire, boys! It’s Little Joe Cartwright!” Roy ordered. “Hi Joe!”

“Hi Roy!” Joe grinned and waved. Then for good measure, he ripped off his shirt, climbed up the rose trellis and did a swan dive into the horse trough.

“That boy sure is graceful!” said Clem enviously.

“And manly too!” said Calamity Jane, clutching her muff with one hand and her pistol with the other. “I do like my men graceful and manly!”

“And shirtless drippy wet!” said Susan, who happen to be riding by on her way to see Sammy Davis starring in “Rat Pack on Ice” in Vegas.

“You can say that again!” said Calamity Jane.

“And shirtless drippy wet!” Susan repeated.

“Joe sure is cute!” Cal agreed fanning herself with her muff.

“And shirtless and wet!” sighed Sue.

Snidely Whiplash was hoping to pin the crime on Old Sheba the Elephant. For years he had rustled cattle, held up stagecoaches and cheated at poker. He even baked EX-lax into brownies served at quilting bees and nailed the outhouse door shut. At some point, Snidely fell into the company of a group of Evil Bandit Mimes (tell the truth now…does anyone REALLY like a mime?). Under their influence, Snidely was sent on the downward criminal spiral of bank robbery, stage holdups, bushwhacking and ripping the tags off of mattresses and pillows.

Finally, the evil villains tried to take over the circus to avenge the death of his mother, Wanda Whiplash, by Borrelli the aerialist clown. Snidely also figured it would be jolly fun to own a circus and get to stuff himself on popcorn, cotton candy and orange drink whenever he wanted. He would also serve his tainted brownies to the clowns before they jammed into the little clown car and to the guy who was going to be shot from a cannon. It could have been a catastrophe beyond imagination.

“Drat!” sneered the evil villain, evilly and villainously. “Those Cartwrights always stick their nose into the underdog’s business! With them around, there is no hope for villains like me and the Evil Mimes!”

“You ain’t kidding!” Adam, Hoss and Joe waggled their fingers in Snidely’s face. The mimes silently nodded.

“Take ‘em away, Roy!” Ben declared to the sheriff.

“Hooray!” cheered the crowd.

“Who wants Jell-O!” Tillie Kaufman offered.

“Meeeeeeeeeeeee!” squealed Sheba. “And thanks, Ben!”

 

The End

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