While in Placerville on business, Ben Cartwright and his sons heard a familiar tune as they strolled down the boardwalk toward The Shanghai Rooster Inn. A robust, neatly dressed man with a full beard sat in a rocking chair in front of the inn. He was playing a harmonica and rocking to the beat of the song. The Cartwrights eyed the colorful rooster that adorned the sign by the door of the inn, and then turned their attentions to the source of the music.
The rocker’s motion came to an abrupt stop when the man’s cupped hands came down as he paused his playing. “Afternoon, gentlemen. Looking for some rooms?”
“Yes, do you have two rooms for the night?” Ben queried.
The man rose and extended his hand to the eldest of the group. “Sure do. Welcome to the Shanghai Rooster. My name’s Ike Moss. Happy to have you join us for the evening.”
Ben accepted Ike’s hand. “Thank you. Pleased to meet you, Ike. I’m Ben Cartwright, and these are my sons.”
Adam’s eyes widened. “Ike? As in Sweet Betsy from Pike’s, Ike?”
Ike’s head dipped slightly. “Yep, that would be me.” He stashed his harmonica in his shirt pocket and slipped his hands into the back pockets of his pants.
Adam and his father exchanged glances.
“Yeah, I can guess what your thinkin’. Reckon you’ve heard the words to the song.” Ike responded.
Father and sons nodded in unison.
“Sang it not long ago.” Joe offered with confidence and then flashed Ike a big grin.
“Yeah, I know it’s been going around the territory for a while. Some fella named Stone ran into Betsy few years back. For better or worse, he decided our story was worthy of a song.” Ike paused and shrugged. “Well, he pretty much got things right. I did leave my gal for the gold fields. Had a burr in my backside when I took off and said some things I shouldn’t of. Ya know how that sort a thing goes.” Ike’s brows shot up in chagrin. “Anyway, I hit a good strike and decided to come back and see if she’d still have me – and thank goodness -”
The swish of a skirt was heard as an attractive woman dressed in a pretty frock and fashionable bonnet approached.
“Gentlemen, may I introduce Elizabeth Boxley Moss, or better known as Sweet Betsy from Pike County, Missouri.” Ike swung his arm wide and pulled the lady in close to his side.
“Ike? These gentlemen our guests?”
“Yes, Betsy. These are the Cartwrights.”
Four men tipped their hats to the lady and exchanged pleasantries.
“I’m pleased to meet you, gentlemen. Welcome to our inn.” Betsy’s smile seemed to fit the song’s description of her.
“Thank you, ma’am”, Joe replied, still trying to sort things out in his mind.
Betsy examined the Cartwrights carefully and thought to herself that she had not had four such good looking guests in quite some time, possibly ever.
“Please excuse me, gentlemen. Isaac.” The look she gave her husband let him know that his respite on the porch was over.
“Coming, Sweetie.” Ike moved to follow Betsy into the inn. Glancing back over his shoulder, he gave the Cartwrights a sheepish grin. “Just step on in and we’ll get you fixed up. Pleasure to have you staying with us.”
Ben swiped his hand across his mouth to hide his smile.
Adam smirked and winked at his father. “Guess you’d call that atonement, huh Pa?”
“Atonement?” Joe wrinkled up his face in question.
Hoss pushed his thumbs into the waist of his brown pants. “Looks like ole Ike made things right with Betsy after leaving her high and dry for the gold fields.”
Ben nodded toward his big son as he struggled to keep the humor from his voice. “But something tells me that it’s going to be a long time before Ike’s account is paid in full.”
There were chuckles all around as Ben held the door open to allow his sons to enter The Shanghai Rooster Inn.
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