“Here comes Peter Cotton Tail…Hopping down the Bunny Trail…Hippity Hoppity, Easter’s on its way….”
“Alright, Joseph! That’s enough…” growled Ben, although even he was fighting back the spasms of giggles that threatened to burst forth from deep within his broad chest.
“Yeah…Joseph…that’s enough!” mimicked Hoss, who stood before his family dressed in his white bunny suit and holding his basket of colored eggs.
They had come into town in the family surrey and had parked behind the livery stable to stay out of sight of the children who had gathered at the church, waiting the arrival of the Easter Bunny who was to appear for the big pre-Easter celebration. Hoss fidgeted nervously at his costume, almost spilling the eggs in his basket. His brow was dotted with tiny beads of perspiration that rolled slowly down his face and onto the tip of his pointed nose.
Little Joe glanced at Adam who stood to the side; one arm was folded across his chest supporting his other arm while a hand covered his mouth to keep his own laughter from spewing forth. Joe giggled.
“It’s for a good cause…” Hoss stammered looking a more than just a bit apprehensive.
“Oh…yes…a good cause…” snickered Joe, “hiding colored eggs for a passel of miniature-sized hoodlums is always a good cause…not to mention the fact that you look like a colossal hare!”
“A what?” puzzled Hoss, his face twisted up in an almost grotesque fashion.
“Joseph! I said that would be enough; stop teasing your brother…besides…the children enjoy finding those eggs…and…and…Hoss enjoys hiding them…don’t you, son?” Ben stammered as he turned to see the pudgy, scrunched up expression on the face of his middle son.
“Umm…sure…yeah…sure I do…them young’ns look forward to this Easter egg hunt…they ain’t got much more to look forward too…what with ’em being orphans and all…”
“Hoss is right, Little Joe,” Adam said, finally stepping forward so that he could put his two cents worth into the conversation. His expression was stern, like his father’s, and Joe almost giggled outright again. Adam clamped down his strong hand on his little brother’s shoulder and squeezed, grinning mischievously. “And we all know that our…over-sized, middle brother…is perfect for the part of the…Easter bunny… he is…convincing…isn’t he? I mean, think about it; I’m sure all those little munchkins…believe in the…err…Easter bunny…after all…isn’t that what Easter’s all about…Big White Bunnies and tiny colored eggs?” snickered Adam, his dark eyes dancing roguishly.
Joe couldn’t help himself, he giggled again…
“Now you hold on just a minute, young man…and you too!” Ben snapped, turning and pointing his finger at both Adam and Little Joe. Joe swallowed down another bout of laughter and put on a serious face, looking deeply into his father’s dark ebony eyes.
“Yes…most children think the Easter Bunny is real…well, maybe not that real…but they know he comes once a year…to hide eggs and leave candy…just like Santa Claus comes and leaves toys and goodies…but don’t forget…Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas…just as the Easter Bunny is the spirit of Easter. Must I remind you of the true meaning of Easter?” Ben was on a roll and was determined to chastise his sons for their mockery of the true meaning of Easter…though he knew in his heart they were really just joshing with their middle brother. Both young men looked meekly at their father as they listened to his words. Joe lowered his head slightly to hide the smile that crept across his face.
“Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ child into this world…and Easter celebrates a different sort of birth of the same Christ child into another world…the world where true believers will spend eternity…Easter isn’t make-believe…it’s real…Christ died and rose…so that men such as ourselves can have something to look forward to once we leave this world…so that life in itself is worth living and that everything we accomplish here on earth is not for naught, but for a reason; for like Christ, we’re here to make a difference, to do for mankind what we can…to live among our friends, helping them the best we know how, to learn to love our enemies so that they might be able to find a reason for their own lives…a purpose for being here and to have hope that life isn’t in vain…that beyond our last days, there is more than just an eternity of darkness, but instead there is hope…hope for something more, something better. If we believe in Christmas and the reason for the season, it’s imperative that we also believe in the reason for Easter…man can hardly believe one and not the other,” Ben explain, stopping long enough to search the faces of his sons, which by now had sobered considerably. He smiled. “Hoss looks cute…doesn’t he?” he asked, unexpectedly, breaking the tension.
The man in the bunny suit blushed. His brothers laughed.
“Yeah…he looks fine,” Joe said seriously but with pride ringing in his voice. “I’m sorry, Pa…I didn’t mean to make a mockery of Easter.”
“Neither did I…I’m sorry too, Pa. We’re proud of you, Hoss…even dressed like that…” grinned Adam, pointing to the furry bale of white cotton that had been transformed into the shape of a rabbit…a very large rabbit.
Ben smiled proudly at all three. “It’s because of our Heavenly Father’s love for us, that he gave His Son, to live and die, that we might have life eternal…Easter is a celebration of that life…and that death and the resurrection …let’s not forget the importance of each, nor the reasons for them happening…” He pressed his fingers into Hoss’ massive shoulder and smiled. “I think next year…Little Joe should be the bunny…don’t you, Hoss?”
“Oh no you don’t, you ain’t getting me to wear that thing…” Joe yipped. “Besides…it’s much too large for me…” He grinned and turned toward Adam. “I think older brother here might be able to fit into it…what do you think, Hoss?”
“Nope…this bunny suit was made to fit me…just me…and there ain’t gonna be nobody…nobody…but me wearin’ it…this job’s mine…got that? And I aim on keepin’ it!”
“Good…‘cause I wouldn’t want to ruin a good thing for you, Hoss,” Adam stated, rolling his eyes and sighing in relief that his younger, bigger brother was so dedicated.
Joe giggled, high pitched and shrill. “All he’s worried about, Hoss…is ruining his reputation…just imagine what the ladies of Virginia City would think if they saw Mr. Serious here dressed in a white bunny suit…looking like an over-stuffed white buffalo…especially Miss Jones!”
“Yeah…poor ol’ Miss Abigail would just swoon!” Hoss chortled.
The thought of the school teacher swooning over seeing Adam Cartwright dressed as Hoss was right then, in his furry white bunny suit, was just too much for the family of men…they all burst into laughter.
“Come on,” Ben said finally, after wiping his eyes, “let’s get over to the church and help this big rabbit hide those eggs.”
With arms laid across each other’s shoulders, the four Cartwrights headed for the church and the expectant children. A block from the churchyard, the merry sound of happy laughter reached their ears and when one little boy spotted the huge rabbit headed his way, he alerted the others; the group of children raced toward the startled Easter bunny. Hoss glanced around, not sure which way to run as the mob began to converge on him. He turned and raced off in the direction he had just come…
Behind him he could hear Joseph singing happily in his high-pitched, shrill, boy-like voice….
“There goes Peter Cotton Tail…running down the bunny trail…hippity hoppity the posse’s on its way….”
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