Summary: Joe has to go to an organizing meeting for the spring picnic because no one else in the family is available and you can only imagine the results when he gets involved in planning an event.
Word Count: 1155
As Joe rode home from the meeting about planning the spring picnic, he rehearsed what he was going to tell his father. The meeting hadn’t gone the way he had hoped. Volunteering to be at a meeting that was going to be mostly ladies seemed to be a great idea especially when it meant he got out of fixing fences or mucking out the stable, but the way it had developed, he wasn’t so sure he had been right to volunteer for the duty. Riding into the yard at home, Joe was disappointed to see his father there on the porch with Adam. He took as long as he could grooming Cooch and watering him but finally had to go out to greet his father and brother. His father was all smiles. Joe hoped he would stay that way.
“Joe, how was the meeting for the spring picnic at church? I want to thank you again for taking my place on that committee. I simply have too many things to do.”
“It’s all right, Pa. I didn’t mind at all. It was a pleasure actually.”
Busy at work at a table on the porch, Ben smiled at that, and Joe was happy to smile in return. Glad to have evaded answering that first part of the inquiry, Joe would have snarled if he could have at Adam’s question that followed though. Sitting in a chair at the same table and reviewing some contracts his father had given to him, Adam had noted Joe’s evasion of the first question.
“So, how was the meeting, Joe? What happened?”
Hoss had stopped by the porch to share the cookies and coffee Hop Sing had brought out for Ben and Adam. He was curious too especially when he saw how nervous Joe seemed first with their father’s question and how it got worse with Adam repeating it.
“Yeah, Joe, what did happen at that meeting anyhow?”
On the spot and unable to evade now that Adam and Hoss had focused their father’s attention on him, Joe began with his prepared speech about the meeting.
“Well, you know how meetings with women go. I was only one of about five men at the meeting. I was the youngest by far. They have all sorts of things on the agenda. They have to go over the minutes of the last meeting. They have to call roll. They talk about who’s going to bring the refreshments to the next meeting and whose house they’re going to meet at. Then they have the regular business that they have to go through every month.”
Unfortunately Ben figured out right away what he was doing. “Joseph, I want to know the part that you don’t want me to know.”
“Uh, what do you mean the part I don’t want you to know?”
“Yes, the part you are trying to avoid telling me. Now what happened to make you so nervous about telling me?”
“Well, it’s not really a big deal. You see, the other men said their piece each and then went back to work or wherever they had to go. That left just me to help plan the picnic. With only one man at the meeting, they kinda got around to teasing. They said that it was spring and a woman’s thoughts turn to marriage in spring. They asked which one I was going to marry in seeing as how the picnic is in June and June is a big month for weddings. I didn’t want to marry any of them even if a few of them are really pretty. Some have some pretty daughters too. Did I mention that Darla was there. Now there’s a very pretty woman.”
“Yes, Joseph, go on. Then what happened?”
“Yes, sir, well, they said they could get a lot more people at the spring picnic if there was also a betrothal being celebrated. You know, if one of the Cartwrights was getting married soon after. They thought I could pick a gal to marry and that would take care of that. I didn’t want to do that, but I didn’t want to insult them either by just saying no.”
“Joseph, what did you do?”
“Well, I said I couldn’t get married. I said it was against the rules.”
“You said you couldn’t get married? Why can’t you get married? What rules?”
“Well I could I suppose, but I told them I couldn’t. I told them I couldn’t because in a family, the oldest has to be married first and so on down the line, and I was the youngest. I said as soon as the oldest ones were married, I could marry someone. I had to tell them something or they were going to keep pushing me to name someone to marry.”
Standing up abruptly, Adam had turned a little pale and for a man with his dark complexion, that was a feat. “Joe, you didn’t.” Adam got a look of horror. He looked at his father as if to ask for help.
With his brow furrowed and his eyebrows coming down, Ben looked back at his eldest son. “Son, you don’t think they would?”
“Pa, I think they would. Joe all but wrote out the invitation for them.”
“What the heck you two talkin’ ’bout?”
“Hoss, our little brother said we had to get married. Don’t you know what that means? Every woman in town is going to try to be the one who snags one of us. First Pa, then me, then you.”
Hoss stood then and looked toward the road. “Dadburnit, what’s that sound I hear?”
All four men walked out into the yard to see what was coming. What they saw was a caravan of carriages and probably every eligible woman from Virginia City. It was every man for himself to find a place to hide. Adam ran with his father thinking he could run much faster so he could get away. He didn’t think the women would actually harm his father, and he had plans to travel anyway. He might just keep going. Hoss started running but rather abruptly stopped. Joe stopped and turned back to ask him what he was doing.
“Pa and Adam gotta be first, right? I reckon I wouldn’t mind one of these ladies forcing herself on me. I got time too ta see ifn we’re gonna get along all right. It could be fun.”
After thinking about that for a bit, Joe walked over to stand in front of Hoss. When the ladies arrived, the two pointed in the direction their father and Adam had gone.
“They went that away!”