The Reward (by Robin)

Summary:  Life on the Ponderosa after Adam returns home from college.

Rating:  T  (7,700 words)

Author’s Note:  The REALLY Losts are satires of the series written with much affection, eye rolling,  and winks.  And can be somewhat risque’.

 

The Reward
A REALLY Lost Episode

 

Adam Cartwright had just returned to Nevada Territory after years of study at Back East U. He was finally settling in to life on the Ponderosa with his family. He was getting used to ranch work and living with his father and two younger brothers. Money was tight as Pa had extended his credit to cover the costs of Adam’s college education at Back East U. Adam was determined to pay him back either in cash or by upgrading the Ponderosa by using his new education. Pa had already argued with Adam in regard to using windmills and developing a new herd of naugas to sell nauga hides to the LaZboy Lounger Chair Company, but Adam was sure he could convince Pa to set some land aside to grow tofu and mine for cubic zirconium to sell on the not-yet-invented Home Shopping Network. “We can even have all the engagement rings we want for next to nothin’, Pa!”

As much as he loved being on the Ponderosa, Adam missed the mental stimulation of all his professors like Bill Nye, the science guy, & Professor Dave Jennings (played by Donald Southerland). (Adam also missed the cultural life of the East, as well as opera, concerts and being able to go shoe shopping at DSW.  And he wouldn’t be able to eat sushi or pastrami any time he wanted.)

Adam would also miss his swell buddies from the Delta Tau Chi fraternity: especially Pinto Kroger, Bluto Blutarski, Boon Shoenstein and Eric “Otter” Stratton. Those fellows were Adam’s brothers away from his brothers. True to Adam’s usual mode of behavior, he had befriended these well-meaning misfit, bad frat boys with hopes of reforming them and making them “see the light”. (Note from Professor F. Sheets: Adam Cartwright had a dysfunctional pattern of befriending misfits, particularly strangers, through much of his life, such as Tom Wilson (Rory Calhoun) in “Thanks for Everything Friend” and Sam Bord in “The Hopefuls” and guitar playing, murderous Howard Mead in “Dead and Gone,” as well as Fred Mertz in “Lucy Hunts Uranium” and Kramer in the “Chinese Restaurant” episode of Seinfeld, when the reservations were made in the name of Cartwright. Sigmund Freud, Oprah Winfrey and Ann Landers all claimed that this trait was from unresolved issues concerning Adam’s  need to control his younger brother Joe’s devil-may-care ways and abundant hair as well as losing 3 mothers by the time he was 16. )

His frat brothers really hated to see Adam leave town. Cartwright’s record breaking straight A+++++ average had single-handedly kept the Deltas from being on academic probation. In addition to making sure the shag rugs in the frat house were vacuumed weekly, damp towels were hung up straight and sox changed daily, Adam was always the rational voice of reason that kept the group from getting into any serious trouble. They had some good times together at wholesome sing-alongs of tunes with no off-color verses and taffy pulls, but Adam knew once he graduated from Back East U., it was time to go back west to the Ponderosa. School days were over, and it was time to be Pa’s right-hand man on the Ponderosa.

“Otter” Stratton had eagerly tried to convince Adam to stay back east, even offering to arrange a romantic rendezvous with hottie Marian Wormser, Dean Wormser’s hoochie Mama wife, but Adam refused. He knew it was wrong to fool around with a married woman unless her name was Lady Beatrice. Besides, Adam was still nursing a broken heart from the end of his romance with Julia Child, who had joined the CIA thinking it was the Culinary Institute of America, not the Central Intelligence Agency. Adam was determined to return home.

Otter, Boon and Bluto accompanied Adam to the stage depot. Adam embraced each of his frat brothers in a manly, fraternal way and exchanged the triple secret Delta handshake. They each said a sad farewell to Adam (whose frat name was Adam “Furchesthottie” Cartwright) including Bluto, who barfed on Adam’s shoes for good measure.

As Adam quickly wiped off his shoes with Boon’s hat, he said, “Come out and visit me on the Ponderosa. I would love to have you all meet Pa and my brothers.”

Then Stratton sincerely promised that sometime they would come to visit the Ponderosa, even if he had to change his name to Griff King and go by way of the Territorial prison.

Bluto screamed “ROAD TRIP!” and passed out in a heap in the gutter as the rear wheels of the Nevada bound stage coach rolled over him. Fortunately, he was lying in soft manure and not much damage was done to any of his already damaged cirrhotic internal organs.

“Good thing Adam didn’t take the train,” said Boon as he and Otter scooped Bluto up from the road.

As soon as their moral compass Adam Cartwright left town, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity was never the same.  But that is another REALLY Lost Episode called “Little Animal House on the Prairie”.

**********

Meanwhile back on the ranch…

It was dawn on the Ponderosa. The Cartwright brothers were getting dressed. Hoss came into Adam’s room in acute distress. Adam was trying to decide which shirt he should wear, his black one or his black one.

“Alas!” wept Hoss profusely. “BOOOoooo HOOOOOOoo!” His tears formed watery puddles on Adam’s newly shampooed rug.

“What’s wrong, Hoss?” Adam asked his profusely weeping, husky brother, hoping that no tears would stain or wrinkle his neatly pressed black shirt. “You look distressed!” Adam hoped Little Joe hadn’t put not-yet-invented saran wrap on the out house seat again and caused Hoss to wind up wet and embarrassed, or told Hoss that Pa was really Santa Claus. Two years earlier, Joe had told Hoss that Pa was the Tooth Fairy; Hoss was devastated and said, “All this time, I thought Pa was a rancher! Do you mean he leaves us all alone while he flies around the world putting pennies under other kid’s pillows for their teeth?” It took the family three weeks to straighten out that misconception. Finally Hop Sing shocked Hoss back into reality by smacking him with a soup ladle and threatening to quit working on the Ponderosa and start selling Mary Kay Cosmetics full time instead of part time.

”I am so distressed!” said Hoss. Tears welled up in his blue eyes like a well of tears. As tough as Hoss was, he was a sensitive soul.

“Tell me what is distressing you, brother!” Adam said, quickly deciding to wear his black shirt rather than his black shirt. When the needs of his brother came up — be they frat brothers or REAL brothers — Adam could rapidly make quick, decisive decisions and always put aside his own concerns aside for those of others.

“I am distressed because I can’t find my Bible!” Hoss said. “Woe is me!”

“Woe is you! You are missing the Bible that belonged to your mother, Inger, My Love, Cartwright? How distressingly distressing!” Adam said, consoling his brother with a quick manly, brotherly hug. “Have you any idea how this distressful thing could occur?”

Hoss shook his head sadly and shrugged. “Nope. Not a clue. You got me. Don’t know. Zilch, nada. I went to get my Bible to use it to read over the grave of Little Joe’s latest deceased girl friend, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I am not quite sure when I saw it last. It might have been at church last week, at my consumptive girlfriend’s funeral, or when I was on jury duty and they needed to swear in the innocent accused guy who only I thought was innocent, or at one of the funerals of our former ranch hands who went bad, or at a Liberace concert, or at the Virginia City camel races, or my cello lesson… who knows where! BOOOooooO hooOOo”

Adam sighed, offering Hoss his black hanky. “Blow!”

”How distressing!” Adam repeated. “Both the dead lady friends and the wrongly accused folks, as well as the missing Bible.” Adam decided then and there that he would dedicate his day to helping Hoss resolve his distress rather than cleaning Sport’s manure or debating the benefits of recycling burlap bags with his father. Instead, Adam quoted William Shakespeare’s cousin Hallmark Shakespeare and said. “Let’s turn that frown upside down and make that sad frown into a happy smile!” He pinched Hoss’ upper cheeks.

After hearing that ditty, Hoss couldn’t help complying and grinned his gap tooth grin that was so bright it resembled a well lit jolly jack-o-lantern wearing a ten gallon hat. “Garsh, Adam! I jest love that poem! I am sure glad you went to college but gladder you came home to us here on the Ponderosa.”

**********

Meanwhile back in Virginia City…

Virginia City was growing by leaps and bounds, much like green, yucky, icky mold on the Cartwright’s shower stall when Hop Sing went on a ski vacation to Club Med Catskills and none of the boys remembered to use not-yet-invented Tilex or even Scrubbing Bubbles after showering the cattle, who had gotten Texas tick fever from Todd McCarren’s plot in “Bitter Water”.

The Territorial Enterprise was looking for help in getting out the paper. Mark Twain, the editor, didn’t know what to do.

“What do you think we should do, Leon?” Mark Twain asked his nebbishy clerk, who was played by either  Wally Cox or Tom Bosley, or Carroll O’Connor or Reginald VelJohnson or another chubby short guy who later went on to play a soft-hearted dad in sitcoms.

Leon shrugged. He had enough troubles waiting for his custom-made alpaca toupee or mail order bride or an antacid to cure his heartburn from eating lunch at the newly opened Virginia City Taco Bell. He knew that ordering the mega spicy taco grandee gordita with extra flame sauce and cheddar was playing with gastronomic fire, but Leon liked to live dangerously. Besides, Leon had given Taco Bell a free ad in the Enterprise restaurant guide in exchange for a week’s worth of free lunches for the Enterprise staff.

Just then, Adam Cartwright ambled in to place an ad for Hoss’ lost Bible. He hoped someone would find it and return it for a reward.

“Hi Adam,” Mark Twain said as Adam strolled into the newspaper office. Knowing that the eldest Cartwright son was quite well educated, Mark Twain immediately offered him the job. “How about coming on board here on the Enterprise? You can get some free lunches at Taco Bell.”

”On board the Enterprise?” For a second, Adam was about to accept the offer and yell, “BEAM ME UP, Mr. Scott!” but realized that Mark meant the newspaper, not the starship. “No thanks…,” Adam said reluctantly, even though the free lunches were a temptation. Adam Cartwright was never one to give into temptation except with Lady Beatrice and Regan Miller. Had it been the Starship Enterprise, however, he would have quit cowboy-ing in a New York minute and given that overly dramatic, egomaniacal, girdle wearing Captain Kirk a run for his money in competition for those sexy, exotic alien gals, (even the chartreuse ones as long as they had those shiny dresses that always looked like they were about to fall off their luscious, torpedo-shaped boobies.)

Adam Cartwright really, really, really loved exotic women.

“No can do, Mark. The Ponderosa and my family come first,” Adam said.

“Are you sure, Adam?” Mark said hopefully. “In addition to the free lunches, we have comprehensive medical insurance and a deferred comp. retirement plan with soon to be bankrupt Lehman Brothers. I know you don’t really need a pension fund with your Pa owning the biggest spread in the territory, but I do know how often you Cartwrights get shot and bopped over the head and how handy medical coverage can come in under those circumstances.”

“I can’t,” said Adam. “We really have too much work out on the Ponderosa for me to help you out here on the paper.  Pa saved some of my chores for me while I was at Back East U., and it will take quite a while to clear them up. Four years of shoveling out Sport’s stall is going to take time.”

IMPORTANT QUESTION FROM GWYNNE who was proofreading this story: “Was he hoping to find Sport under it when he got to the bottom?”

Hmm…perhaps. That might explain Sport’s hostile behavior to Adam.

Meanwhile back to the story…

”What brings you here, Adam?” Mark Twain asked, quickly changing the subject to get the picture of four years of accumulated horse poop out of his mind.

“I just came into town to fetch Little Joe from school and to run an ad in the lost and found column of the Enterprise.”

”What did you lose?” asked the clerk, Leon.

” I didn’t lose anything, but my beloved brother Hoss lost his heirloom Bible. It was one of the few things he had from his extremely dead mother, Inger My Love Cartwright, and it was very precious. Poor Hoss is so distraught he can’t even do his work.”

“AaaAwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” said both Mark and Leon. Everyone loved Hoss Cartwright. He was sweeter and dearer and more beloved than Shari Lewis’ Lamb Chop or Pokemon or iconic Mickey Mouse. Hoss was even gentler than federal employee Smokey the Bear. Hoss even borrowed Smokey’s trousers and wore them tucked into his boots in the first few episodes of Bonanza until Smokey asked for them back, as the bear didn’t like going bare bottomed.

”You ought to offer a big reward for the missing Bible. Then everyone will hunt for it,” Mark suggested.

“Offer at least $500 and you’ll get everyone hunting,” suggested Leon.

“Great idea! But I am broke!” Even though Adam really didn’t have any ready cash, having been a poor student paying tuition at Back East U. for the last four years, he thought the idea was a dandy one. He loved his dear brother. Adam knew how upset Hoss was, so he put the ad in the paper and decided he would figure out how to come up with the money later.

“I’ll have to put a sign in the window advertising that job I offered. Give me a hand, Adam, and I’ll run the ad for free. Then you can figure a way to come up with the cash for the reward.”

Since he had very neat, precise handwriting, Adam used some not yet invented magic markers to make a sign stating the following:

HELP WANTED

Must be able to set type, must be good with a not-yet-invented computer, and must be bilingual. We are an Equal Opportunity Employer

A short time afterwards, a fluffy, orange striped cat trotted up to the window, saw the sign, and went inside. The cat looked at Leon and wagged his tail, then walked over to the sign, looked at it and meowed. Getting the idea, Leon got Mark Twain. He looked at the cat and was surprised, to say the least; however, the cat looked determined, so he led him into the office.

Inside, the cat jumped up on the chair and stared at Twain with his green Joe-like eyes. Mark said, “I can’t hire you, cat. The sign says you have to be able to set type.”

The orange cat jumped down, went to the type case, and, using his paw, proceeded to set out a perfect front page for the paper. The headline said “Adam Cartwright Returns from Back East U”. He took out the page and trotted over to the men and gave it to Twain, then jumped back on the chair.

The men were stunned, but Adam Cartwright gently told the cat, “The sign says you have to be good with a not-yet-invented computer.”

The cat jumped down off the chair again and went to the not-yet-invented computer. The cat proceeded to enter and execute a perfect program that worked flawlessly the first time, as well as opening email accounts for Mark Twain, Leon and himself using the screen name “TopCat”.

By this time, Leon, Mark and Adam were totally dumbfounded by the orange cat. Mark Twain looked at the cat and said, “I realize that you are a mighty intelligent feline and have some interesting abilities; however, I still can’t give you the job.”

The orange cat meowed angrily and jumped down from the chair. He went to the sign and put his paw on the sentences that told about being an Equal Opportunity Employer. Then he hissed and spit.

Twain said, “Yes, but the sign ALSO says that you have to be bilingual.”

The cat looked at the men and calmly said, “WOOOF! Wooof!”

“You are hired!” declared Mark Twain, who was quite impressed.

“Meow!” smiled the orange cat, offering his paw to Twain to shake on the deal. And, to demonstrate that he wasn’t just bilingual, but multilingual, said “Moo! Oink, Cluck, and Baaa!”

“And don’t forget to run that ad for Hoss’ Bible in the next addition!” Adam called over his shoulder as he left the Enterprise.

“Regards to your family, Adam! “ Leon and Mark called as Adam departed.

“Woof! Meow!” said the multilingual cat. “MooooOOOoo! And Okey Dokey, A ok.”

**********

After leaving the Enterprise office, Adam picked up the mail. There were the usual bills for not-yet-invented cable TV, Joe’s orthodontist, and a subscription renewal for Cattle Baron News. Adam was quite delighted to see there were five copies of the new Victoria’s Secret catalogue, one for each of the Cartwrights and one for Hop Sing in Mandarin. Now, none of them had to share. There also was a letter for his father from his old pal Mr. Millbank. Adam figured Millbank was either confirming the details of his upcoming visit or offering Ben an insider’s exclusive on a time-share in Boca.

Realizing he was a bit late and school had already been dismissed, Adam Cartwright quickly jumped on Sport and galloped down the street towards the school. He was sincerely hoping that Miss Jones, Joe’s teacher, wouldn’t ambush him from behind the fence or the school privy when he came upon Little Joe and his friends. As he dismounted, Adam saw that the school yard was empty except for a group of boys surrounding a scroungy dog wearing a green eye shade. Concerned there might be some problem, or that the boys were hurting this dog, ever-responsible Adam strode over and asked, “Joe, what are you and your pals doing with that poor dog?”

Little Joe quickly replied, “Well, big brother… This here dog is just an old stray. He hangs around the saloons all the time, watching the card players and begging for scraps. We all want him, but only one of us can take him home. So we’ve decided that whichever one of us can tell the biggest lie will get to keep the dog.”

“Biggest lie!” Adam was totally taken aback. “You boys shouldn’t be having a contest telling lies!” he exclaimed. He then launched into a 10-minute  lecture using not-yet-invented PowerPoint presentation, illustrating the points against lying, beginning with, “Don’t you boys know it’s a sin to lie?” and ending with, “Why, when I was your age, I never told a lie. NEVER! Never ever Never! NEVER!”

There was dead silence as the boys stared at Adam for about a minute with their mouths open. Just as the Adam was beginning to think he’d gotten through to them, Joe asked, ” You never, ever told a lie when you were my age, Adam?”

“NEVER!” Adam said emphatically. “Never ever!” He stood straight and tall with the sun setting behind him so he was back lit in a dramatic fashion, much like Charlton Heston in the not-yet-filmed movie “The Ten Commandments”. “NEVER!”

Joe sighed and then said “All right, boys. My brother won fair and square with his story. We have to give Adam the dog. He told the biggest whopper!”

**********

So Adam owned the stray dog. He and Little Joe had to bring the pooch home to the Ponderosa. Since the dog walked on wobbly legs and had trouble standing up, Adam had to carry it. Even though the official winner of the competition was Adam, Little Joe was delighted to have taken possession of the dog.

“What kind of dog is this here pooch, Adam?” Little Joe asked. He knew in addition to keeping his frat on the straight and narrow, studying the poetry of Hallmark Shakespeare and becoming fluent in Pig Latin, Adam learned a lot about animal husbandry during biology classes.

“Hmmm!” said Adam, examining the limp dog in his arms. “To me it looks like the new breed they got when they crossed a Collie and a Lhasa Apso. The new breed is called a Collapso, a dog that folds up for easy transport.”

Joe held the reins of their horses while Adam folded their new pup into a small rectangle and put him in his saddle bag. The two brothers headed for the Ponderosa.

“A Collapso? We can call the dog Lassie Samsonite!” Joe suggested with a shiny grin. His not-yet-invented orthodenture glinted in the Nevada sun, almost blinding Adam. When Adam and Hoss were growing up, Ben couldn’t afford real braces on their teeth, so he had to use a home-made combination of baling wire and shoe laces held together with pine tar, much as his father had used for him. By the time Joe had teeth, the Ponderosa was a thriving ranch, and Ben was proud to bring the lad to Doc Holliday, frontier dentist.

“Don’t be so quick to select a name for the dog. You know how Pa doesn’t like animals on the Ponderosa that don’t earn their keep, Little Joe,” Adam warned his baby brother as they rode home. “Don’t get your hopes up about keeping him.”

“Hoss will smooth it over.” Joe insisted. “Hoss will figure a way to get Pa to let me keep the dog.”

”Hoss is pretty distressed, Joe. You can’t expect him to work his diplomatic mojo with Pa for you,” Adam said as they rode towards the Ponderosa. “He lost his dead mama’s Bible and is distressed. That’s unfair to expect Hoss to come to your rescue because you want this dog.”

”Maybe this here dog will cheer Hoss up?” Joe suggested. “Hoss loves animals, and animals love Hoss. Look how Smokey the Bear lent him his clothes for the first season of Bonanza, and Smokey went around as a bare bear.”

“That’s true,” Adam said.

“We can give Pa this dog for his birthday, and Hoss can train him!” Joe said. The rays of the setting sun glinted off his braces, almost blinding Adam.

“And Pa sure would like a fine dog to take hunting too! Pa plans to go duck hunting with that crotchety old Mr. Milbank,” said Adam, shading his eyes with his hand.

“And Hoss can train this swell pooch to be a hunting dog,” Little Joe suggested enthusiastically. “Pa would sure like to impress Mr. Millbank with the hunting on the Ponderosa and how talented his sons are and how well Hop Sing can make duck ala orange.”

“I sure hope Hoss can train this dog to be a hunting dog.” Adam said.

“Well, you know how Pa is taking old Mr. Millbank hunting and really wants to get more ducks than him. If this Collapso can help Pa do that, he will let us keep the dog.”

Note from Prof. F. Sheets:
Here is Hop Sing’s recipe for Duck

Ingredients

One duck

½ cup red wine from Joyce Edward’s grapes

1 tablespoon orange zest from a zesty orange

1 minced garlic clove

1 tablespoon potato starch

1 ¼ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon honey

¼ teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

One sectioned orange

Directions

Puncture duckling generously with fork or the pitchfork that speared Amy Bishop in the wrong place; place on rack in roasting pan.

Pour most of the sweet red wine over duckling pieces. Drink the rest.

Roast in slow oven (325 deg), basting occasionally, allowing 25 minutes/pound.

In medium saucepan, sauté orange peel and garlic in oil.

Mix in potato starch till lump free much like a Cartwright’s head before a bushwhacking.

Slowly add orange juice, honey and remaining wine. Open another bottle of wine and drink that down.

Simmer (1 min).

Mix in ginger, pepper and orange sections; simmer (5 min).

Serve hot sauce with roast duckling. Drink another bottle of wine and you really won’t care how the duck tastes.

**********

In addition to being a rancher and a super duper, top notch, wonderful Pa, Ben Cartwright was an avid duck hunter. His sons assumed that their Pa would be happy to have a in a new bird dog, the dog Adam and Joe brought home.

When Hoss started training the stray, he discovered that his brothers had accidentally found a remarkable dog, a Collapso. Not only one that could collapse but could actually walk on water to retrieve a duck.

Ben Cartwright was both delighted and shocked by the dog’s amazing ability.  He could fold the dog up into a small package, put it in his saddle bag or Louis Vuitton attaché case or lunch bucket or a not-yet-invented laptop case and unfold it and go hunting. He was sure that no one would ever believe the talents of the wonderful Collapso that Little Joe named Lassie Samsonite.

Ben decided to try to show off to his friend Mr. Millbank, a pessimist by nature, while they were hunting. He invited Millbank and his business partner Elmer Fudd to hunt with him and his new Collapso dog on the Ponderosa.

“Why can’t we hunt WABBITS?” Elmer Fudd angrily asked when he arrived on the Ponderosa with Jedediah Millbank. “I want to catch that Kwazy Wabbit!”

“Shut up you goldurn, bald-headed fool! We are here to get ducks!” Millbank ordered the hapless, bald-headed Elmer Fudd.

“That is daffy!” declared Fudd stomping his feet. “I wefuse! I wefuse!”

Trying to be a good host, Ben suggested that perhaps Fudd would rather stay around the house or go for a scenic ride around the Ponderosa or check out Hop Sing’s latest offering of Mary Kaye cosmetics. “My sons will gladly show you around if you want or tell you about their dead female friends.”

”Maybe you can help me and Hoss hunt for his missing Bible, Mr. Fudd?” Little Joe suggested.

“We are offering a $500 reward if’n it gits found,” added Hoss.

Fudd thought for a moment and said. “I would wather weturn to town, and wegister in a hotel and enjoy playing poker in a sawoon. Then I will take the morning stage back to San Fwan Cisco. Too bad you don’t have a wail woad twain here!”

Millbank quickly dismissed his partner and said “Good bye, Fudd! I’ll see you when I return to San Fwancisco! Er, San Francisco. Good RIDDANCE!”

Adam offered to accompany Fudd back to town and settle him in the hotel, but Elmer Fudd refused the offer. “Just wend me a horsie and I will go on my own.”

Adam thought something was a bit fishy with Fudd but wasn’t going to rude to Pa’s guests.  Later, after he saddled a horse for Fudd and sent him on his way, Adam  asked his brothers “Why would Fudd come all the way out to the Ponderosa just to turn around and go back to town and back to San Fwan Cisco… err San Francisco?”

“Don’t make no sense to me,” said Hoss.

”Maybe Mr. Fudd don’t like hunting ducks?” Little Joe said naively.

“I think there is something up his sleeve,” said Adam.

“His arm?” said Joe.

“No, Little Joe. Adam suspects Fudd of something fishy. Maybe some sort of fwaud…er, fraud. Mr. Millbank is a very rich man,” Hoss pointed out.

“Let’s just keep our eyes open,” Adam suggested.

“That’s right! Keep your eyes open, brothers, and maybe we can find my Bible too!” Hoss said.

**********

The next morning, at sunrise, after a massive, cattle baron breakfast of eggs, bacon, ham, potatoes, biscuits, bagels, lox and Lucky Charms (Hoss’ favorite cereal), Ben and Millbank set out to go duck hunting with the new dog. Ben unfolded his dog from an envelope in his vest and pulled out his shot gun.  Ben and Millbank waited by the shore of Lake Tahoe. Soon, a flock of ducks flew over head. They both aimed at the flock of ducks winging by. Ben fired, and a duck fell into the lake.

BAM

KERPLOP.

The Collapso responded and agilely leaped into the water. The dog, however, did not sink but instead gracefully walked across the surface of Lake Tahoe to retrieve the bird, never getting more than the tips of his paws wet.

Millbank saw everything but did not say a single word.

Ben couldn’t believe his friend’s silence and didn’t say a word until they headed for home.

On the ride home the Ben couldn’t remain silent any more. He asked Mr. Millbank, “Didn’t you notice anything unusual about the new dog that my boys gave me?

“I sure did,” responded his grumpy old friend.

My middle boy Hoss trained the dog.” Ben said proudly. “Hoss has a knack with animals.”

“Boy didn’t do a very good job! Crummy dog can’t even swim one bit.

**********

Meanwhile back on the ranch…

A small freckle faced lad, Freckles Freckleheimer (played by the same orange-haired kid who went on to make a career out of playing orange-haired, freckle faced lads. He later became a bald-headed dermatologist in downtown Denver, using his show biz earnings to finance his college education) showed up on the Ponderosa with a note for Hoss, who was alone in the house. Ben and Milbank hadn’t yet returned from duck hunting. Hop Sing had taken Little Joe to his orthodontist for a check-up and Adam was moving the plethers from the north pasture to the meadowlands.
Hoss took the mysterious note from the friendly, familiar, freckle faced lad who smelled a bit fershimilt. The note said:

I found your dead mama’s Bible. You will get it back when I get the $500 weward. Meet me in the alley behind the Wusty Bucket with the money at twee o’clock and you will get the pwecious book back. If not, you will never see dat Bible again.

Signed….. a fwend”

“Someone found my bible!” Hoss exclaimed happily as the lad climbed back on to the banana seat of his not-yet-invented Schwinn Stingray bike.

Hmm….” Hoss called as the boy peddled back to town. “Freckles, who sent this note to me?”

”Don’t know Hoss. A stranger in town. Bald. Weird little piggy ears as if he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. Can’t tell you who he was but he was askin’ about wabbit hunting. He gave me a nickel to bring the note to the Pondawosa,” the lad called over his shoulder as he peddled around the side of the Cartwright’s barn towards the disappearing and reappearing rarely seen bunk house and then off camera.

Hoss was so excited at the possibility of having his Dead Mama’s Bible back, he didn’t notice the obvious misspellings revealing the vile miscreant who sent the note to poor innocent Hoss extorting a reward for a piece of property the vile miscreant didn’t even have.

Despite a momentary wish that he had a not yet invented Schwinn Stingray like Freckles, Hoss quickly saddled his horse Chub and rode into town, anxious to regain possession of his precious property, his dead mama’s Bible. Hoss trusted the anonymous stranger and assumed the stranger would trust him. He didn’t have the $500 for the reward but sweet dear Hoss sincerely believed that the stranger who had found his Bible would certainly return it to him and wait to get his reward.

Sadly, dear reader….. Hoss was WRONG!

**********

Two hours later, Hoss was found knocked cold in the dirty, rubbish strewn alley behind the Rusty Bucket by a patrol of ecological-minded not-yet-invented boy scouts. The scouts were doing a not-yet-invented Earth Day clean-up of downtown Virginia City. The scouts had just returned from planting pine tree seedlings in the Ari Ben Canaan Memorial Forest on the ridge above Virginia City and were hunting for empty bottles to cash in for the deposit when they stumbled over poor, unconscious Hoss Cartwright, a former member of the troop.

“Patrol halt!” declared handsome, wholesome, blond tenderfoot scout Gerald Ford (who later became not only the only Eagle Scout to become President of the United States but a popular male model). Sprawled in front of them, his pockets turned out, his battered head pillowed on a broken wagon wheel was Hoss Cartwright.

”Oh my!” gasped the patrol in unison. The boy scouts quickly went into action. Three boys each ran for one of the Doc Martins (Doc Martin one, two and three) and another ran for Sheriff Roy Coffee, who was coaxing Clem out of a tree where he had become stuck while trying to rescue a lost kitten. The remaining boy scouts quickly administered first aid to Hoss and revived their old pal.

”What happened, Hoss?” said Jerry Ford.

“GOLLYGarsh,” Hoss said as he came to consciousness. “A stranger lured me down the alley. He sent me a note claiming he had my lost Bible. Then he bushwhacked me.”

“Looks like that STRANGER tried to rob you too, Hoss,” said one of the scouts who saw that Hoss’ pockets were turned inside out as if the attacker had searched for cash or lint.

“He must have thought I had the $500 reward with me,” Hoss said, rubbing the enormous Mount Everest sized lump on his head.

“Looks that way to me too,” agreed the sheriff who had arrived. “Looks like a nasty feller lured you here.”

“It was a STRANGER!” said the scouts in unison.

”I have to get that Bible back!” Hoss sighed. He took a sip from Jerry’s scout canteen and tried to stand on rubbery legs. Hoss leaned heavily on two helpful boy scouts who almost caved in under his weight. Bravely, the scouts persevered and propped the large cowboy up despite their own distress.

“You need to raise $500 for the reward to give the guy. Maybe if you had the money, he would have given you back that Bible,” said Clem, not the brightest candle in the chandelier.

“My brothers will help me!” Hoss declared as the boy scouts quickly built a catapult from scrap lumber and shot Hoss up on his horse. Then, he headed home to the Ponderosa.

“That boy has a head harder than the titanium nose cone of a not-yet-invented jet plane!” exclaimed the sheriff.

**********

Despite a huge headache, Hoss was absolutely, positively determined to raise the $500 to get his Bible back and his brothers were determined to help him.

”Pa has loads of dough,” Little Joe suggested. “Why don’t we just ask Pa for $500?”

”Pa is still out duck hunting with Mr. Milford and Lassie Samsonite. They won’t be back for a few days,” Adam explained.

“So, we’ll ask him when he gets home. Pa is a cattle baron and has bucks up the wazzoo!” Little Joe said a bit too enthusiastically for Adam’s taste.

“Watch your language, little brother!” Adam warned.

“We can’t wait that long,” Hoss frowned. His lower lip trembled as he fought back tears of frustration. “What if the guy who has my Mama’s Bible leaves town with it before Pa gets home? We can’t wait!”

Adam and Joe put their arms around Hoss “Don’t worry Hossie Wossie. We’ll come up with the money!”

“You go upstairs and lie down and rest your clobbered head,” Adam ordered his distraught brother. “Joe and I will figure out what to do while you nap.”

After he knew Hoss was sound asleep based on the loud snores that reverberated from the upstairs, Adam said, “Joe, I suspect the fellow who slugged Hoss was just a crook going for ready cash and didn’t even have the Bible. Let’s set him up and the greedy guy will go for the dough! And we will get the guy.”

”How?” asked Little Joe, shouting above the cacophony of snoring that vibrated the entire log ranch house much like the roar of a buzz saw or a not-yet-invented Chevy Nova with a bad muffler.

Adam shouted, “I’ll tell you during the commercial break. No need for anyone to know what my scheme is, Little Joe. Besides, if we keep shouting like this we will wake up poor Hoss.”  Joe grabbed onto Adam and he held onto the lurching settee as the house vibrated violently.

As soon as the commercial was on, Adam filled his brother in on the scheme.

The plan involved setting up a high stakes poker game in Virginia City and luring in the anonymous stranger who had bopped Hoss. As soon as Ben returned from his duck hunting with Lassie Samsonite, Adam and his brothers set to work. In a few days they were ready to trap the thief.

**********

One week later in down town Virginia City…

Elmer Fudd walked by a table in a saloon. His pupil-less eyes noticed three men, a cat and a dog playing cards. The dog, a cross between a collie and a Lhasa Apso, was playing with extraordinary skill just as Little Joe and Adam had taught him.

“This is a vewy smart dog,” Fudd commented.

“Vewy…er, very, Adam Cartwright said proudly. By his calculations, if the Lassie Samsonite, the Collapso, won the next hand, he and his brothers would have the $500 to pay the reward to the guy who claimed he had Hoss’ Bible or lure in the man who attacked Hoss. Either way, the good guys would triumph over the bad guys and the episode would end on a high note.

“May I join you?”

“Sure!” said Mr. Tarjay, the owner of the mercantile, dealing Fudd into the game.

“That pooch is not so smart,” said the orange cat with the eye shade who was still working at the Enterprise. He scooped up all the chips and shoved them in his pocket.  “That dog can’t fool me. Every time Lassie Samsonite gets a good hand he wags his tail.” With that remark, the orange cat cashed in his chips and left the saloon with all the cash.

Now the Cartwright brothers were out all their ready cash and still needed the $500 reward money or a means to lure in the bad guy. They had to go to plan B.

**********

The very next day, the Cartwright brothers implemented plan B.

First, Adam and Hoss walked into the saloon and asked the bartender, “If we show you a really good trick, will you give us free drinks?” The bartender considered it, then agreed. Adam reached into his pocket and pulled out the Collapso who was all folded up.

“Ain’t that your card-playing dog, Adam?” asked the bartender.

“Yep…. Lassie Samsonite wasn’t much of a card player and is giving it up. He is picking up a new career as an entertainer.” Adam unfolded the dog and stood him up on the bar. Hoss reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a teeny tiny piano and placed it on the bar next to the dog. The Collapso dog stretched, cracked his knuckles, and proceeded to play a rousing rendition of “Buffalo Gal”, just as Adam had rehearsed with him. Adam smiled proudly as a crowd gathered.

Little Joe, peeped under the bat-wing saloon door. He waited and watched as his older brothers stirred up the crowd, just like Adam said they would. Joe was confident they would soon have the money they needed for the reward or they would trap the guy who bopped Hoss. Or both! The boys suspected it was Elmer Fudd, Millbank’s discontent associate. They just felt it in their bones, and besides, this story is getting far too long for them not to figure out the bad guy and wind up this entire saga.

After they finished their drinks, Adam asked the bartender, “If I show you an even better trick, will you give the whole place free drinks for the rest of the evening?”

Adam was sure this would get Fudd’s attention as the greedy man loved something for nothing. The bartender agreed, thinking that no trick could possibly be better than the first. The Adam reached into his pocket and pulled out the dog again. He reached into his other pocket and pulled out a tiny piano. The Collapso dog stretched, cracked his doggy knuckles, and proceeded to play the opening bars of a Rossini’s opera.

Little Joe ran into the bar and pulled out a small bullfrog from inside his green corduroy jacket. The frog began to sing an extraordinarily beautiful opera along with the Collapso dog’s piano music.

The Cartwrights knew Fudd could never resist opera. His favorite opera performance was Bugs Bunny singing “The Barber of Seville” and the bullfrog out did him by miles.

While everyone is enjoying their free beverages and an awesome operatic performance, Fudd confronted the Cartwrights and offered Adam $100 for the bullfrog.

“Sorry, Mr. Fudd,” Adam replied calmly, “he’s not for sale. Pa loves that bullfrog as much as he loves Little Joe.”

“Maybe more!” Hoss added.

“More?” Joe gasped. “Pa loves a frog more than me?”

“Hush up, Joe, and just go along with Adam,” Hoss cautioned.

Then Fudd increased the offer. “I’ll give you two hundwed dowers!”

”Two hundred dowers? Er, I mean two hundred dollars?” Adam repeated. Suddenly the brothers knew they had the bad guy who had bushwhacked Hoss. Fudd’s unique mispronunciation exactly matched the spelling in the note from the mysterious stranger claiming to have Hoss’ Bible!

“No,” Hoss insisted, “he’s not for sale.”

“And neither am I!” Little Joe added for good measure, even though Fudd hadn’t considered the boy since he really couldn’t sing opera.

Fudd again quickly increased the offer, this time to $500 cash. Adam finally agreed, and turned the frog over to the Fudd in exchange for the money.

“Are you Cartwrights insane?” the bartender demanded. “That frog could have been worth millions to you, and you let him go for a mere $500! Your father will bust his gut yelling at you boys!”

“Don’t worry about it.” Adam answered. “That frog was really nothing special. You see, the Collapso the dog’s a ventriloquist. My brother Hoss taught him.”

Just then, Roy Coffee walked in and arrested Fudd for assaulting Hoss, extortion, and wabbit hunting out of season.

**********

Meanwhile back on the ranch…

Hoss who had lost his favorite Bible suddenly recalled that he had probably lost the Bible when he was mending fences out on the range. He told his beloved family that night while they ate supper.

”Well, at least you can narrow down the search to our 14 thousand linear miles of fence line here on the Ponderosa!” Ben said with a proud smile. “That shouldn’t be too hard!” He passed the platter of super spicey, taco grande gorditas with extra flame sauce and grated pseudo non-dairy cheddar made from recycled plastic water bottles that he had brought home from the Taco Bell drive-thru on his way home from the Cattleman’s Association. With Hop Sing out of town at the Mary Kay Cosmetic Convention getting his “salesman of the year plaque” and a pink not-yet-invented Cadillac, Ben decided he had better pick up some grub from Taco Bell for supper rather than risking another Pizza Hut delivery. The last time the Cartwrights called the Virginia City Pizza Hut on the not-yet- invented phone for take out, it took the delivery boy 17 hours to make his way to the house through marauding Paiutes, battling a pack of rabid wolves and a landslide. By the time the delivery guy hit the Ponderosa, the pizza was so cold and stiff that the Cartwrights wound up using it to patch the outhouse roof rather than eating it. Even Hoss refused to touch it.

Besides, Ben thought, the night was cold and it would make for a jolly family evening, eating tacos and fart lighting with the boys to sort out who would do which chores during the next week. If Ben was lucky, his boys would be extra gaseous and they could manage to singe some of that pesky mold off the shower that was left from showering the cattle who had gotten Texas tick fever from Todd McClarren’s plot in “Bitter Water”. Ben was secretly hoping to take a nice hot shower in a clean shower and condition his split ends and do something about the rough calluses on his heels in the Cattle Baron master bath, in preparation for his Saturday night date with Widow Barkley.

“I’m a gonna go hunting for my Bible on the fence line up while I check the cattle on the north, south, east & west pastures as well as while I check Giant’s Field at the Meadowlands,” said Hoss.

“Good thinking, son!” Ben nodded. He was proud of his middle son. Hoss was a hard worker, and wasn’t going to cost Ben money for college tuition or orthodenture like his other two sons.

“Hey! If you are going up to the Meadowlands, I’m going with you!” said Little Joe. “Maybe we can find Jimmy Hoffa’s bones!”

“Har har har!” laughed Ben, Adam and Hoss knowing that Jimmy Hoffa being buried in the Meadowlands was only an urban myth. Hoffa was really buried in the in a gravel pit in Highland, Michigan by the tulip planting VanderVoorts who wanted to avenge the death of their son Heinrich by a bunch of teamsters.

A few days later, when Hoss was in the Meadowlands, a cow walked up to him carrying the missing Bible in its mouth. Hoss couldn’t believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the cow’s mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “Thank you Lord! My dead mom’s Bible is back in my hands! It’s a miracle!”

“A miracle? Not really, Hoss,” said the cow. “Your name is written right inside the cover.”

Hoss kissed the kindly cow and they lived happily ever after.

*****The End (finally!)*****

 

Tags: Adam Cartwright, Ben Cartwright, Hoss Cartwright, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright

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