Summary: The Cartwrights recognize that they have a great deal to be thankful for. So why won’t they do a Thanksgiving episode?
WC: 2,440 Rating: PG
Studio Executives Series:
STUDIO EXECUTIVES #6 — FAKE HISTORY
Scene: Conference room. STUDIO EXECUTIVE #1, STUDIO EXECUTIVE #2, and STUDIO EXECUTIVE #3 are gathered around the table. A plate in the middle holds a few doughnut crumbs; three empty coffee cups have been shoved aside in apparent frustration.
SE #1: I don’t get it. Why don’t they want to do a Thanksgiving episode?
SE #2: They’re not against Thanksgiving or anything like that. They just can’t figure out if it would be historically accurate.
SE #3: Since when does anybody worry about that?
SE #2: No kidding. I don’t think anybody in the writers room ever took history.
SE #1: Whenever I say anything, somebody always says, “This is fiction!”
SE #3: Is that why the Cartwrights have hay bales in their barn? ’Cause I don’t think hay balers had been invented back then.
SE #1: They have hay bales because otherwise the set would be a mess. Also, there needs to be hay around to keep the horses from wandering off when the guys dismount.
SE #3: I’m surprised the writers haven’t given them telephones and Chevy convertibles.
SE #2: Don’t suggest it.
SE #3: The sponsors would love it.
SE #1: Guys, let’s focus. Back to the main issue—there’s nothing wrong with Thanksgiving. I had one of the interns go to the library. Turns out Lincoln invented Thanksgiving in 1863. Lots of the show takes place after then.
SE #2: But there are a lot of episodes that come before 1863, too. The writers screw around with the chronology so much that nobody can tell what year they’re in at any given time. The guys have gotten very sensitive about this. Apparently, somebody made fun of them having Lotta Crabtree in the pilot.
SE #3: What? That’s insane!
SE #1: Yvonne DeCarlo is hot!
SE #2: Yeah, but Lotta Crabtree would have been about twelve years old in 1859. Yvonne was in her mid-thirties when she did that episode.
SE #1: Oops.
SE #2: It probably wouldn’t have been a big thing, except somebody decided to bring Lotta Crabtree back for another episode and have Hoss get a crush on her, and everybody’s trying to figure out how old she is in the new episode. It’s like season 8 or something. Tons of freaking out going on.
SE #1: Maybe we should go over and talk to the guys.
Scene: Interior. Ponderosa living room. Present: BEN CARTWRIGHT, ADAM CARTWRIGHT, HOSS CARTWRIGHT, LITTLE JOE CARTWRIGHT, CANDY CANADAY, JAMIE HUNTER CARTWRIGHT, HOP SING, SE #1, SE #2, SE #3.
BEN: Thanks so much for taking the time to come over, gentlemen. Hop Sing, would you get them some coffee?
HOP SING: Coffee! Coffee! Allatime coffee!
ADAM: What’s wrong with coffee?
HOP SING: Hop Sing have many other talents! Make many other things! (storms out in a huff)
SE #1: You know, he’s absolutely right. Hop Sing should get a chance to show off his culinary skills—and what better time than at Thanksgiving?
BEN: We’ve been over this. We’re tired of inaccurate history. It’s embarrassing.
CANDY: Your writers really need to learn about—well, how time works. I mean, look at this—you’ve got me, Adam, and Jamie all here. What’s up with that? I’ve never been in a scene with Adam. He just gets mentioned occasionally.
ADAM: What do they say about me?
JOE: Mainly that we made a lot more money once you were gone since we only had to split the profits three ways instead of four.
SE #1: Ben, we looked it up, and Thanksgiving started in 1863. So it’s perfectly okay if you all have Thanksgiving.
HOSS: Depending what year it is here.
JOE: Yeah, ’cause it’s not always logical. Like, I was seventeen in season 1, and by season 4 I was twenty-two.
ADAM: Maybe that’s not the show’s fault. Maybe you’re just lousy at math.
HOSS: And that little Shannon gal—Hallie, I think it was? She died in season 6, and I think her tombstone said she died in 1868. How’d we get there so fast?
BEN: Will you boys settle down? Look, we’re not against Thanksgiving. We’re very grateful for all our blessings. We’re just frankly a little tired of the way your writers play fast and loose with history.
SE #1: Can you give us a specific example? Other than that Lotta Crabtree thing, because we’re already on it.
JOE: Okay, here’s an example. You had me almost getting killed by Doc Holliday because he was in love with Calamity Jane.
SE #2: What’s wrong with that? People loved that episode!
HOSS: She kept calling me a peeping Tom. I don’t even know what that is!
ADAM: It derives from the story of Lady Godiva. Apparently, there was a fellow who peeped at her when she rode naked through the town.
JOE and CANDY: (brightening) She did what?
BEN: More to the point, how would Jane have known about this story? I think it’s from England.
CANDY: I think we should all hear about it. In detail.
JAMIE: It would be good for my education.
JOE: I’m all for getting our hands on this story, especially if it has pictures, but that’s not even my point right now.
CANDY: Hang on—Joe isn’t interested in a story about a nekkid lady?
HOSS: He said “right now.” Believe me, if there’s a nekkid lady in this story, my little brother will get his hands on it.
CANDY: Or her.
JOE: (glaring at Hoss and Candy) My point is that Calamity Jane Canary and Doc Holliday never knew each other in real life.
SE #3: Well, maybe they did and it’s just not written down.
ADAM: Maybe not, but history did write down her age. Miss Canary was born in 1852, which means that if we were in, say, 1863 at the time of that episode, she’d have been eleven years old.
JOE: Trust me, the gal who was here was a lot older than eleven!
BEN: And according to history, Doc Holliday was only a year older than Miss Canary. So if she was eleven, he was twelve.
JOE: Maybe that’s why I was able to face him down. Huh.
HOSS: Sure, Little Brother. That’s why. (snickers)
SE #1: Okay, so that was a blip, but you have to admit—it was a lot of fun.
HOSS: Yeah. I got to see that pretty gal in the bathtub. Those bubbles didn’t cover as much as everybody thought.
JAMIE: I always miss the good stuff!
SE #2: So, fine. The writers messed up a touch with Lotta Crabtree and the Calamity Jane episode. But you have to admit that they’re accurate most of the time.
BEN: Really? Have you looked on my desk lately?
SE #3: Why? Did somebody give you a typewriter? (Ben glares) Sorry.
BEN: I have eight-by-ten portraits of all my wives on my desk.
CANDY: That’s why it had to be so big. (Ben glares) Sorry.
SE #2: Those portraits are great. We had to pay the women extra to sit for them.
HOSS: I got the wallet-size version of my ma’s picture.
JOE: So did I.
ADAM: (to Joe) You have a bunch of pictures of your mother, and she looks completely different in each one.
JOE: So she liked to change her hair color. So what!
ADAM: I guess that explains why you keep changing yours.
JOE: Beats wearing a wig!
JOE: Sorry, Pa—I was talking about Adam.
BEN: You’d better have been.
SE #1: Ben, I still don’t see what’s wrong with your wives’ pictures.
BEN: Other than the fact that they exist?
SE #2: What are you talking about?
BEN: Do the math. Elizabeth, My Love, died the year Adam was born. This show started in 1859. Adam is twelve years older than Joe, who was seventeen in that episode. So that means Adam was twenty-nine in 1859, which means he was born in 1830.
JAMIE: Where is he getting all these numbers from?
CANDY: Beats the hell out of me.
BEN: According to my research, the first permanent photographs were taken in France in the late 1830s. How can there be a photograph of Elizabeth, My Love, when she died before photographs were invented?
SE #1: Oops.
SE #2: But Inger was around in the 1830s, so she could have gotten a picture taken.
BEN: Let’s explore that one. Hoss is six years older than Joseph, which means that when the show began in 1859, he was twenty-three. Counting backward, that means he was born in—
JAMIE: (waving his hand) I know! I know! 1836!
CANDY: You could also have figured it out by just going ahead six years from 1830. (Ben glares) Sorry.
ADAM: Which means there couldn’t have been any photographs of Inger—
BEN: —My Love—
ADAM: Unless she was in France in the late 1830s which we know she wasn’t because—well. . . . (waves his hands to indicate her fate)
HOSS: Then how’d I get the wallet-sized reprints? I got that framed one up in my room. We had to get the glass fixed after Pa broke it. That’s how I got my memory back. If my ma never had a picture taken, how do I have my memory?
CANDY: I’m guessing that maybe the writers know even less about medicine than they do about history.
JOE: So let’s see. If I was born in 1842 and my ma died when I was five, that was 1847, so she could have had her picture taken! That means I’m the only one with a real picture of his ma! I win! (dances around victoriously)
ADAM: Except we don’t know which of those pictures is the real one. The one you gave Clay didn’t look anything like the one on Pa’s desk or in your room.
JOE: That was an old girlfriend. You didn’t think I was going to give away the real thing, did you? (sits on the settee and plunks his feet on the coffee table)
ADAM: But what about the picture that one-armed southern guy gave you? It was a miniature version of one we saw on the wall in the hotel in a later episode.
JOE: (on his feet, fists clenched) Are you saying that one wasn’t my ma?
HOSS: Calm down, Little Brother. He’s just saying maybe your ma was so famous at the hotel that they put up her picture.
CANDY: Um, you should probably stop this explanation right there.
ADAM: I agree. There’s no way this is going to get better.
JAMIE: I don’t understand.
BEN: (glaring at Candy and Adam) That’s just as well. Joseph, sit down. (Joe sits) As I was saying before we took this delightful trip down Memory Lane—there’s no historically accurate way I could have had photographs of all my wives in solid gold frames for that Frenchman to steal. So that’s another “blip,” as you call it.
SE #3: Fine. We’ll get rid of the photographs.
BEN: Hold your horses! I didn’t say I don’t like them. I just said they’re not historically accurate.
JAMIE: Neither was that story about Mark Twain solving a murder, but it was still good.
ADAM: There was no murder when Mark Twain was here.
JOE: Different season. When he came back, he’d gotten a lot taller, and I think he had red hair.
HOSS: You lend him some of your hair dye?
BEN: Look, we could go on all day. The point is that we’re tired of looking foolish by getting our history wrong. I mean, really—when Adam shot Joe in season 4, you made him say there was only one doctor within fifty miles when everybody knows there were full-fledged hospitals in Virginia City, plus all the doctors in the Chinese section which we already knew about from that time in season 3 when we sent that nice Chinese girl to work there.
ADAM: You had to bring that up again, didn’t you? About me shooting Joe.
JOE: We know how you enjoy it.
SE #3: Look, fellows, I promise you—there’s no question that Thanksgiving existed from 1863 on. You’re not going to look foolish.
SE #2: Just wait until everybody sits down to a Thanksgiving feast prepared by our own Hop Sing. Won’t that be terrific?
SE #1: (calling) What do you think about that, Hop Sing?
(Hop Sing storms into the living room)
HOP SING: Hop Sing hate it!
BEN: But why? You were just saying how you want to cook other things.
HOSS: I’m already looking forward to you roasting the biggest turkey in Nevada!
JAMIE: I want a drumstick!
JOE: I want cranberry sauce!
HOP SING: Hop Sing have to roast the only turkey in Nevada! Because Nevada not have turkeys! Or cranberries!
SE #1: Oops.
SE #2: Well . . . you can have something else, right?
JOE: Like what? Thanksgiving fried chicken?
CANDY: Or maybe Thanksgiving roast pork?
ADAM: Why not a Thanksgiving trout while you’re at it? We can send Hoss down to the fishing hole if it hasn’t frozen over.
BEN: (to the SEs) I think you know what we’re saying.
SE #3: Um, yeah. No Thanksgiving episode.
SE #2: But we need to do more holiday stuff. People are starting to ask why the Cartwrights don’t observe holidays.
SE #1: Maybe we could have Charles Dickens come for Christmas!
SE #2: That’s a great idea! He could read “A Christmas Carol”!
SE #3: Come on, let’s get the writers going on it right away!
(The SEs depart, eagerly planning)
ADAM: Think we should tell them Dickens actually came to the U.S. in 1842?
JOE: And never got west of St. Louis.
BEN: He did get back to the U.S. in 1867 or 1868—I don’t recall which—but he stayed in the Northeast that time.
HOSS: So he didn’t ever get to Nevada, did he?
ADAM: Not according to real history.
CANDY: Have we even gotten to 1867 yet? For all we know, his visit could be next year.
JAMIE: Those writers get mighty confused about history, don’t they?
BEN: Yes, they do.
JAMIE: There’s one person I always wondered about. That lady—I think her name was Julia Bulette—didn’t she come to town for real?
BEN: (hastily) I think it’s time for you to go and do your homework.
JAMIE: I heard she was really popular.
HOSS: That’s one way to put it.
JOE: Actually, Jamie—
BEN: HOMEWORK! NOW!
Author’s note: The Cartwrights never had a Thanksgiving celebration on the Ponderosa even though much of the show took place in and after 1863. They did, however, meet quite a few historical figures, some of whom really did come to Nevada during the show’s timespan.
Luckily for Little Joe, Julia Bulette was one of them.
Other Stories by this Author
- A Ponderosa Christmas . . . Or Maybe Not (by pjb)
- Studio Executives #4 – Men of the Ponderosa: A Valentine’s Day Treat (by pjb)
- Studio Executives #2 – Little Joe Cartwright’s Very, Very, Very Bad Day (by pjb)