Summary: After a last minute cattle drive that almost drove Hop Sing away, can the Cartwrights hope to have a calm Thanksgiving? Perhaps with a little help from some friends.
Rating – K Word Count – 1288
Blessings of Friendship
Calm had finally settled over the Ponderosa. Afternoon rays of sun peeked through the pines, creating patterns on the ground all around the ranch house. It had been a difficult Autumn with much rain and a last minute November cattle drive to San Francisco. All four Cartwrights ended up going as well as Hop Sing as chief cook, since some of the hands were already gone for the winter.
Finally back at home, the five men felt they would never get clean from the mud and water they had encountered but the drive was successful. They had sold the cattle at a good price and would now have the funds needed to purchase some grazing land in the Spring.
Hoss lumbered down the stairs to join his family by the fireplace while they waited for dinner to be served. They’d only been back home for two days so were trying to settle in before the holidays and snows began. Joe was sitting on the settee, nibbling on an apple, his feet resting comfortably on the table. He stared at the dancing flames in the fireplace as he spoke.
“Who are we going to invite to our Thanksgiving dinner this year Pa?”
Ben put his pipe down and addressed his son. “Joseph, kindly remove your feet from the table.” As soon as Joe complied, Ben continued, “We’ll just have Paul and Roy this year. I promised Hop Sing we’d keep it simple.”
Hoss lowered his big frame down to the hearth. “Yeah, after all that happened on the drive I’m just thankful Hop Sing is still with us. I thought fer sure he’d be in China by now and I’d be wastin’ away from starvation.”
Resting a book of poetry on his lap, Adam couldn’t resist a jab at his brother. “It would take more than a few days for you to waste away Big Brother.”
Everyone chuckled except Hoss who frowned.
“Hey, ain’t no laughin’ matter. I really thought Hop Sing was a goner when that boulder rolled over the chuck wagon after the mudslide.”
“Yeah, but it was the flood that had me spooked. When I saw him floating down that river, and I couldn’t get to him fast enough…” Joe let his voice trail off and threw his apple core into dancing flames. “Good thing older brother was there with his lasso.”
Adam nodded, “After we got him out and dried off, it was all I could do to keep him from staying in San Francisco when we got there.”
Ben’s dark eyes looked at each one of his sons. “And don’t forget, one of the promises we had to make to him was no more cattle drives for a year and a simple Thanksgiving meal. So we’ll just have Roy and Paul over.”
Joe sat straight up and snapped his fingers. “Hey I just remembered. They’re bringing a couple of lady friends with them.”
“Huh?? You’re kidding, right?” Adam nearly dropped his book.
“Nah, it’s true. Straight from the horse’s mouth.”
“Ahem.” Ben cleared his throat and glared at Joe.
“Sorry Pa. Yeah, Roy asked me if it would be alright when I was in town yesterday. He said to keep it quiet and that both ladies would be a surprise to us but I got a feeling he knew something we wouldn’t like.”
“Oh, it’s probably that Paul and Roy don’t want to be seen with any lady friends. It would sure start the tongues to wagging.” Adam said as he stretched out his long legs toward the fire.
Hoss stood and stretched his back then moved away from the hearth. “You’re just afraid, older brother, that they might be bringing some lonesome female to hitch up with you.”
“They wouldn’t do that…would they?” Joe nearly sprang off the settee, his green eyes flashing.
“You boys have some mighty suspicious minds.” Ben puffed on his pipe, an amused expression on his face.
“Pa you don’t understand what it’s like having nearly every mother or father in town trying to get one of their daughters, nieces, cousins or whatever married to one of us. All they want is to get a rich husband for them.” Joe’s voice rose about two octaves.
Ben put his pipe down and laughed. “It’s not that bad boys.”
Being the more logical one, Adam tried a different approach. “Yes, but Pa you do understand though, since a certain someone has tried to rope you at the town dances a few times.”
Ben went pale and his black eyes glared at Adam.
“That’s enough! I need to speak to Hop Sing about the menu. You boys best stop your own tongue waggin’ and get to your chores”.
Thanksgiving Day arrived and the Cartwright household was in near chaos. After Hop Sing’s near fatal cattle drive experience, the family wanted to help him all they could.
Ben took on the role of director, telling his sons what chores to do to help Hop Sing get the food ready. Hop Sing allowed Adam in the kitchen to help with chopping, since he, being the oldest, could be trusted not to nibble or steal food. Hoss and Joe were relegated to chopping wood and fetching whatever Hop Sing needed.
However, the four Cartwrights were all in such a tizzy over who the ladies were that were coming for dinner that none of them could focus on their assigned tasks for long. After the diced carrots were knocked to the floor, the kindling scattered outside the kitchen door, and a few dishes were dropped, Hop Sing finally lost his patience with all of them. “You go far away and leave dinner to Hop Sing! Go now or I go to China and never come back!!!” Muttering in his native language he began to clean up the mess and get back to preparing the meal.
The men scurried and found other places to be away from the house for the next two hours.
When Hoss’ stomach started rumbling the family decided it might be safe to return to the house and get ready for dinner.
Once they were cleaned up and dressed in their best suits, the Cartwrights settled in the living room to await their guests. None of them was willing to bring up the subject of their guests so they waited in silence.
The sound of horses in the yard and a loud knock on the door almost had the men jumping out of their skins.
Hop Sing shuffled out of the kitchen shaking his head at the skittish grown men. He opened the great wooden door and cheerfully invited their guests inside. Four pairs of eyes widened in surprise at seeing Daisy Slade on Roy’s arm and Clementine Hawkins on Paul’s arm. No one moved until Hop Sing happily announced that dinner was ready and invited everyone to sit at the grandly decorated table. Once Ben regained his senses and calmed his nerves, he offered an opening toast.
“To the blessings of friendship.”
Everyone lifted their wine glasses in cheerful agreement.
That meal turned out to be one of the best Thanksgiving dinners the Cartwrights had ever had. The conversation was light and full of laughter, compliments over the meal and desserts filled Hop Sing with pride.
After their guests returned to town, father and sons helped their cook and friend clean up, thus sealing the fact that the venerable cook wouldn’t be going back to China any time soon. Hop Sing’s heart was so full of joy he knew he couldn’t think about leaving anytime soon. Well, at least not until Mr. Cartwright asked him to join another cattle drive.
Happy Thanksgiving to All