Summary: Ben Cartwright casts a fatherly eye upon the important facts of family life at the Ponderosa.
Rated: T 1900
The Patriarch of the Ponderosa
Sitting in his favourite red leather seat in front of the hideous monstrosity of a fireplace, Ben Cartwright was reflecting on his life. He had been married and widowed three times, and had three sons. Together they ran the ranch, but Ben was a little concerned. The Giggly Sisters had recently come to live on the ranch, and Ben had no idea where they had come from. They wore outrageously inappropriate clothes, and they both seemed to be in love with Joe, and Joe was in love with them both.
It was very worrying. He was accustomed to a stream of girls coming and going. Quite a lot of them died in very unfortunate accidents, and a tremendous number of them seemed to have an affinity for blue dresses. Ben was used to the change of face every week, and indeed, quite looked forward to meeting each son’s new squeeze.
That was why he was so worried. Joe had never stuck with a girl – never mind two! – as long as this before. Where had they come from and what were their names? They were beautiful girls, slim and lithe. Ben thought that the blonde in particular looked like she would squeeze nicely. Probably so would the redhead, but Ben felt she was a little too cheeky, and had a strange dislike for Adam.
Sitting back and listening to the squeaking noises of the leather chair, Ben made a mental note to ask Hop Sing to have a good session with the saddle soap. He did so hate to see standards slip and housekeeping chores were remarkable by their absence on the Ponderosa. Barn chores took up much more time and indeed it was becoming increasingly difficult to get Hoss out of the barn these days. This was not altogether unwelcome, for Hoss did take up a fair amount of space and could fully occupy the hideously uncomfortable sofa all by himself. Nevertheless, it was a trifle worrying.
Walking outside, Ben once again thought of the tragic death of his third wife. Poor, pretty Marie had been squished right outside the front door and darling, dinky Joseph had nearly suffered the same fate not so long ago. There had been a backlash from the fans about that episode: not nearly enough maimed Joe and absolutely no dramatic squishing as a climax. However, at least no one had ever questioned why the Cartwrights had never felt the need to move away from the scene of this unfortunate accident. They were men: pioneers of the west and there was no need to shy away from the daily reminder of such a traumatic incident.
The sisters’ pet bear, Paw, was sunning himself on the porch. From long-distance shots, it looked as if the porch extended round the side of the house in a wrap-around fashion, but this was merely an elaborate tease by the Foley boys. Ben chuckled merrily to himself: how they loved their little jokes! They were great wags and just loved to fluster the script girl. She was a dear old soul, but had never quite worked out that she should be keeping an eye out for small details like continuity.
Stepping carefully over Paw, Ben saw that the bunkhouses had disappeared again. He wondered if all the ranch hand had been in them this time, or if one or two had managed to get out first. He wondered if they got any warning of the disappearance, as he certainly never did.
Joe and the sisters came out of the barn just then, and Ben could quite see why they were called Giggly. Joe was bad enough on his own, with that manic, high-pitched giggle. He shuddered to think what any children of the three of them would be like.
Ben stopped stock still, as this thought permeated his brain. Oh no! What if they had children? He would never live down the disgrace! “Hi, Pa!” Joe said, happily.
“Joseph,” Ben replied, gravely. He glanced down to check that his Conchos were sitting properly on his waistcoat. He was often rather perplexed when they suddenly would tie themselves, without his aid, it seemed. “Joe, I think we need to talk,” he said, trying to draw Joe away from the sisters.
“He wants rid of us again,” the redhead said, and Ben wondered how on earth she knew what he was thinking.
“If it’s about the ranch hands, Pa, Fred was still in the barn, and he said he’d saddle your horse for you.” Joe winked at the girls. “Buck’s just had his mane washed, so Fred said he’d tuck his forelock under the browband for you, to stop it blowing about so wildly.”
“I hate horses,” Ben muttered to himself, draping his arm round Joe’s shoulders. Gosh, that boy was handsome. The handsomest boy in Nevada.
“The handsomest boy in the world,” corrected the blonde, gently.
Ben raised his eyebrows at her. It was a gesture he used often and could convey all sorts of meanings, ranging from “My, you’re a pretty little filly” to “I wish that script girl would prompt me with my next line.” He used the latter one quite regularly, to great effect. He regarded Joe gravely. My, he sure was good to look at. Even if his ears did stick out a bit. When Joe was a child, he had often reassured the boy that he would grow into them, but sadly enough … Ben sighed philosophically. Well, even the greatest masterpiece had to have a minor flaw.
“What did you want to ask me, Pa?” Joe asked, wondering if he should use his big-eyed appealing look or his slightly downcast yet boyish mode. Both were equally effective, it has to be said.
Ushering Joe into the house, Ben closed the door and looked serious. “I was in Virginia City this morning and I heard some disturbing news,” he began, but the dramatic effect was somewhat spoiled when the girls and Paw burst in.
“I’ve always thought it was rather over-egging the pudding to call it a city,” the redhead said nonchalantly. “It’s really more of a medium-sized town, isn’t it?”
Ben ignored her. “I hear you’ve been ordering some new pants, son.” His tone was stern and disapproving. Joe gulped nervously. He knew what was coming next.
“And you specified belt loops, didn’t you?”
Joe nodded mutely and awaited the eruption. He really hated it when Pa yelled at him and at times like these, having sticky-out ears was a decided liability, as they seemed to catch every single decibel.
“I don’t see why I shouldn’t have belt loops,” Joe mumbled. “You and Adam and Hoss all do. It’s not fair.”
“You are my youngest son and you will do as I say, even if you are a grown man!” Ben thundered. The redhead wondered why he was described as having a voice like a cello. It sounded more like a foghorn at close range.
The blonde decided a change of subject would benefit everyone. Paw was apt to get nervous when Ben bellowed and they didn’t want any little accidents in the house. She wandered over to the desk and picked up one of the picture frames.
“Elizabeth was a very distinctive looking woman, wasn’t she?”
A fond look came over Ben’s face, just as Adam and Hoss came in. They caught the familiar expression and knew what was coming next. “Ah yes, Elizabeth …”
“My Love!” everyone supplied dutifully.
Ben gave them all a sharp look, and took the picture from the blonde’s hand and returned it to the desk. Undaunted, she picked up the next one. “This is Inger,” she began, and everyone again added the necessary
The redhead joined them by the desk, Joe following after her. She picked up the picture of Marie, pleased to note that it was the one where she was beautiful, instead of one of the other ones, where she looked like someone’s Great-Aunt Fanny sooking on a soor ploom. Those other pictures had been distinctly scary. If Joe’s mother had looked like that, where on earth had he got all his stunning good looks from? Ben wasn’t bad, but definitely not in Joe’s class.
“Why did you call your mother Felice in the pilot episode?” the redhead asked, and everyone sighed with relief, because they weren’t sure they could face another chorus so soon.
“I was nervous,” Joe answered. “And the producer hadn’t written the bible yet. Either that, or he didn’t show it to us.”
“Joseph, son, the Bible was written by the prophets,” Ben said, gently. “Not the producer.”
“Yeah,” Joe said, uncertainly, looking at the face of his mother. “It’s a pity Mama got squished,” he said to the girls. “You’d have liked her.”
“It was like having spring in the house the whole year round,” Ben said, nostalgically, remembering those happy days, when he had a valid excuse to stay at home and could avoid the travails of riding. Not for the first time, Ben wondered why he had chosen a life where spending at least 50% of the time on horseback was de rigueur. Why hadn’t he plumped for a nice desk job?
Ben looked proudly at his three sons with fatherly pride. Positive: Adam was a fine fellow, what with his college education and all. Though now he came to think about it, Ben couldn’t quite recall which college Adam had actually attended. Perhaps he should ask the producer to check this small (but vital) fact in the bible? So like his dear Mamma, complete with her New England reticence, although luckily he had avoided inheriting her rabbitty-chin.
Comparative: Hoss was such a gentle giant, with a heart of gold and a rich seam of sentimentality. A dear boy, so helpful and kind, even if he was a trifle on the large side. Ben had only ever envisaged owning a small ranch, but he’d been forced to expand and diversify his business interests solely to keep Hoss supplied with food.
Superlative: dear Joseph. He’d saved the brightest and best of his three sons till last! Handsome, loving, irresistible to women (except that silly Irish girl in MBK, who was unmoved by his piteous writhing) and all together adorable. Ben put his arm around Joe’s shoulders and gave him a quick hug.
“Boys!” Ben announced in the penetrating tones that captivated millions and caused havoc to the sound engineers. “I’m very proud of you all. We’re a hard-working, clean-living, united family – what more could any father asked for?”
Adam realised this wasn’t quite the moment to tell his father that he’d quite like to leave the Ponderosa one day. He could see fame and fortune beckoning so clearly and sometimes felt a trifle restricted on the ranch.
Hop Sing shuffled rapidly towards his employer. “You still haven’t told the readers about me!” he said, in a pure and unadulterated English accent that sounded remarkably like Prince Charles.
Ben clapped him jovially on the shoulder; seemingly unaware that Hop Sing’s knees were in imminent danger of collapse from the hearty gesture.
“That’s another story altogether!” he advised.
Other Stories by this Author
- The Sporting Life (by the Giggly Sisters)
- The Horses (by the Giggly Sisters)
- In A Matter of Speaking (by the Giggly Sisters)
- An Indoor Bathroom (by the Giggly Sisters)
- I Beg Your Pardon (by the Giggly Sisters)