Summary: Hoss needs some help in avoiding a fate that would frighten any man.
Word Count: 1140
“Hoss Cartwright, I’ve been looking for you.” Bessie Sue marched up to Hoss Cartwright as he was loading supplies into the buckboard in front of Cass’ store.
“Yes, Bessie Sue, I heard that. I was just looking for you too.” That surprised Bessie Sue who had nothing to say for just a moment. Of course, Hoss was looking for her because if he saw her first, he could go the opposite way. He was looking for a way to escape at that very moment but nothing occurred to him.
“Hoss, I got something to say to you, and I ain’t leaving ’til you give me your answer, and it better be the right one.” Bessie Sue stood with hands on her hips and her chin jutted forward. That pistol on her hip added a measure of gravity to the stance as well.
“Ah, of course, but don’t you want something to eat first. Maybe I could meet you over at the new restaurant on D street as soon as I run some errands.” Hoss was desperate and fell back on an earlier ploy that had worked.
“Hoss, you told me that last Saturday, and then I never did see you. Your older brother come by and says you took sick and had to head on home. Well, you’re looking mighty healthy now.” Now Bessie Sue had that suspicious look making Hoss even more nervous.
“Yeah, except I’m thinking it’s coming back at me right now.” His stomach was in turmoil but probably not enough to get him out of this predicament.
“Well, now today’s the day, and I gotta ask today or wait four more years. I ain’t waiting four more years. This is way too important to put off.”
“It’s the twenty-ninth of February, and it only comes up every four years in a leap year like right now. It’s the only day that women can ask men to marry up with ’em. Ain’t many chances for a woman to do what she wants out here so I gotta take ‘em when I get ‘em. We been seeing each other nigh on to eight years, so, Hoss, I’m asking. Will you marry me?”
Adam and Little Joe had come upon the pair and had taken seats on chairs in front of the general store to listen to the show. Adam had a big grin as he rested his chin on his hand with his elbow resting on the side of the chair, and he looked back and forth from one to the other depending on who was speaking. Joe was sitting on the edge of his chair looking like he was going to break out in one of those Joe cackling giggles. Hoss was planning on kicking him all the way home if he did that. He wasn’t sure what Adam was going to do but hoped he wouldn’t laugh, because that would make him powerfully angry at his older brother.
Hoss stammered and didn’t know what to say. If he said no, Bessie Sue was likely to tear up the whole town and him with it, and if he said yes, he was going to be married to Bessie Sue. It was one of those come hell or high water situations.
Suddenly Adam decided to help in his own way. “Hoss, you have to tell her what you expect of a wife.”
“You know, you’ve always said you wanted a passel of kids. It seems to me that you said one a year was about right. Now if you get married soon, you could have fourteen or even sixteen by the time you’re forty-five. With luck and some twins, maybe you could even make twenty.”
“Twenty kids?” That shook Bessie Sue about as hard as when that horse of hers had kicked her in the head.
Hoss was almost as surprised but quickly caught on. “Huh? Oh yeah, Bessie Sue, it’s just like Adam said. ‘Course you’d have to spend a lot of time cooking for all of us. You’d need to learn all of Hop Sing’s special recipes. Hmm, hmm, that man can cook. I know you’d want to be a good wife and cook for me to make me happy.” Hoss got his voice back now that his brothers were helping.
Joe decided he could help too. “As soon as you learn Chinese, Hop Sing can start teaching you those recipes.”
“Learn Chinese?” That was a daunting prospect to a woman who found learning all the rules of English to be more than she could handle.
Adam stepped in, having more of a flair for the dramatic and for writing a play in three acts. “Yes, well, that would be in the afternoons and the evenings. When Hop Sing was busy, you could be making dresses for your trousseau.”
“Dresses?” Bessie Sue only wore dresses to dances and complained about it even then.
“Oh certainly. You would need a lot of dresses because Pa wouldn’t let any lady live on the Ponderosa and not wear dresses every day for everything. Hoss can buy some bolts of cloth today so you can get started. In fact, while he’s doing that, Joe and I can go over and order a side-saddle for you from the saddlery. We’ll have them make it look real nice with flowers carved into it. It will be very pretty.”
“A sidesaddle?” Bessie Sue rode astride of course. To her, sidesaddles were for sissies, and she was no sissy.
By then, Hoss understood completely what his brothers were doing. “Yeah, so that’s a start. I’ll let you know the other things you gotta do as soon as I talk with Pa and get his say-so. I’ll make a list and bring it over to you with some more cloth and frilly stuff for dresses.”
“Hoss, maybe it would be better if we waited four more years. I mean, a lot can change in four years, now, can’t it?” And Bessie Sue was gone.
“Boy, Hoss, that gal can move.” Then Joe couldn’t hold it in any more and started giggling. “Your face — you had to see your face when she asked you.” Joe couldn’t speak any more and nearly fell from the chair as the giggles overtook him. In between cackles, he had more to say. “Your face turned green, I think. You looked like a giant leprechaun.” Joe couldn’t talk any more after that.
Adam stood and looked down at Joe. Shaking his head, he stepped into the street and looked up at Hoss. “Let’s go to the saloon, and celebrate your near-death experience the way real men do it, with some cool libations.”
“Let’s go have some beers.”
“That I can say yes to with no regrets. I’ll even buy.”