Hope and a Prayer

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em and making no money.

Chapter 1

To paraphrase Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong, will", and that's just the way Bo Duke's day started out. The morning was a prime example. He had just placed Maudine out in the small pen and had returned to the stall so that he could muck it out, when he heard Uncle Jesse yelling for the ornery critter to come back. Running outside, he saw that his uncle and Luke were now chasing down the wayward mule and she wasn't about to let them catch her either. Anytime someone got near her she would take off running just as fast as she could. It was after a half hour of this fun that Bo was quietly making his way closer to the wayward mule, only about twenty feet away with a lasso in his hand, when she took off running right into Daisy's clean sheets.

Bo narrowly avoided the painful sting that could come from the frying pan that Daisy was swinging at him in her anger of having to redo the bedding. He had seen her coming out of the house with the dreaded weapon and had tried to escape her wrath but her anger made her faster than she normally was. But pain did lance through his shoulder when she made contact and it made him glad that she hadn't gone for his head this time, otherwise he would be lying flat on his back on the ground instead of running for dear life. It was his yelp of pain, however, that actually caused Daisy to stop chasing him and allowed him to make his getaway from his female cousin. After another ten minutes or so, the three men finally captured Maudine and placed her back into the pen.

"Beauregard Duke, how many times have I told ya ta make sure that gate is secure when ya put Maudine out here in the pen?" Uncle Jesse yelled out loudly, his anger clearly heard in his voice.

"I did Uncle Jesse," Bo protested but his protest fell on deaf ears.

"If that was the case, then she wouldn't have gotten out," Jesse countered.

"And we wouldn't have spent the last hour chasin' after her too," Luke added, angry and frustrated over the incident. "I've got better things I could've been doin', ya know."

Bo went to protest his innocence again but was stopped by Uncle Jesse. "Now ya get back into that barn and muck out those stalls. We've got a lot of work ta do around here before Christmas Eve and only two days ta do it in too. Now get!"

Bo hung his head in defeat as he turned to head towards the barn. "Yes sir."

And that's the way Bo's day began. He was in trouble with everyone at home and he hadn't even done anything to deserve their wrath. Seemed the rest of his family was in a foul mood about everything that needed to get done that morning and were taking it out on him. "I know I latched that gate," Bo mumbled to himself as he scooped the dirty hay into the wheelbarrow. "Uncle Jesse didn't have ta yell at me like that. I've been tryin' ta tell him that that latch was broke beyond repair but he just wouldn't believe me and Maudine bein' as smart as she is, didn't take her long ta figure out how ta get out. It's like he doesn't think that I'm capable of doin' anything around here without bein' told."

He continued piling hay into the wheelbarrow as he continued muttering to himself. "And Daisy didn't have ta hit me with the fryin' pan neither. Not my fault that Maudine ran that way. Heck, I wasn't even near that dang mule when she took off into the clothesline. Daisy's got ta watch it with that fryin' pan too. That thing hurts," he grumbled as he rolled his sore shoulder.

"And don't even get me started on Luke. I have no idea what his problem is." Bo thought back at how much Luke had been badgering him all morning over petty little things like not picking up his socks that were still on the floor from night before, to accusing him of using all the hot water though it was Daisy that beat Luke into the shower not him. "I sure would like ta know what's got him so riled up," Bo grumbled some more as he continued to work. Luke had woken up angry over what, Bo wasn't sure, but his cousin was definitely taking his frustrations out on him as much as he could. Just as he was finishing up with the stall, Luke came over, grabbed him by the arm, and dragged him back to where the General was parked. Underneath their beloved car sat a large, black puddle of oil.

"I thought that ya said that ya took care of that oil leak yesterday?" Luke asked in an accusing tone.

"I did, or I at least I thought I did," Bo answered as he stared at the puddle.

"Well, obviously ya didn't do it right," Luke yelled back.

"Now hold on just a dang minute, Luke," Bo hollered back. "I did fix that oil line. There was nothing wrong with it when I was done. Something else musta broke, after all, it was you that jumped him over Miller's Creek yesterday when Rosco was chasin' ya. Ya musta hit something without knowin' it."

"Now don't ya go blamin' me for not fixin' the General right. Just because you're too lazy ta do the job the right way…"

Bo was hurt by Luke's accusations and felt his own anger quickly rise. "Just what it your problem, Luke?" he asked as he stood face to face with his cousin.

"My problem is you not doin' what you're told ta do the right way," Luke shouted back, not giving in to his cousin's towering stance.

"I did fix him right," Bo answered as he pounded his finger into Luke's chest. "I can't help it if ya don't know how ta drive without damagin' the General."

Fortunately, Uncle Jesse had just come out the door to see the two of them arguing and getting ready to start throwing punches. "Bo! Come over here!" Jesse yelled out.

The two of them turned to see their uncle standing there with a look on his face telling them to both to cool it. Bo knew better than to disobey his uncle, especially since he already got in trouble this morning, so shoving his hands in his pockets, he turned, ignoring the look that Luke gave him, and headed over to where Jesse stood.

"Yes sir?"

Jesse could see that imaginary black cloud that was hanging over Luke's head and saw the storminess in Bo's blue eyes, so he knew that he had better split the boys up before they did come to blows. "I need ya ta run ta the bank for me this morning and pay this month's mortgage payment."

"Me? You want me ta pay the mortgage?"

"Well sure. I've got things goin' on here that I can't get away from and I figure that ole JD has something up his sleeve ta try and get the farm this month, so I thought it would be nice ta get it taken care of early, just ta annoy him."

Bo couldn't help but grin. "Well if that's what ya really want ta do. But I'm gonna need ta borrow your truck. The General isn't goin' anywhere for a little bit."

Jesse looked over and saw Luke tearing the engine apart. "I can see that. Here, take this money and payment book and get goin' before JD has a chance ta pull something else out of his overstuffed sleeve. Make sure ya come back quick though, we's got a lot ta do today."

"Yes sir," Bo answered as he took the money, the book, and the truck keys before taking his corduroy jacket that Jesse was holding out to him. Running over to the truck, he jumped in, started it up, and took off, dirt flying from the spinning tires.

Luke looked up just in time to see his cousin leaving. "Where's he goin'?" Luke asked as he looked at his uncle.

"Ta make the mortgage payment for me. Thought that the both of ya needed some time ta cool off," Jesse said in an accusing tone while pointing a finger at his oldest nephew. "You especially. You've been more ornery than a wounded cougar still caught in the trap and done nothin' but take it out on your cousin all mornin'."

Luke sighed and dropped the wrench that he was holding into the toolbox. "I'm sorry, Uncle Jesse," Luke said as he looked at the ground, embarrassment written all over his face.

"It's not me ya need ta be apoligizin' ta," Jesse answered as he moved over to Luke's side. "What's wrong boy?"

"It's nothin' really."

"It's gotta be somethin' ta get ya this riled up."

Luke looked away from his uncle before he answered. "It's stupid really. It's just…Sue Ann and I had a fight last night."

"Is that all?"

"Is that all? Uncle Jesse, we've been seein' each other for the last few months and she decided ta tell me last night that she wants ta break up with me," Luke answered in exasperation.

"Did she tell ya why?"

"Said that when we go out that I'm always payin' more attention ta the other girls than her."

"Well are ya?"

"NO! At least not too much," Luke answered with a sheepish look on his face.

"Ya know for bein' so smart ya sure can be dumb sometimes," Jesse chuckled. "Do ya have any feelin's for Sue Ann?"

"That's the thing. I guess I didn't realize I did until she broke up with me last night. Now I feel just plain miserable that she doesn't want ta see me again."

"Well there ya go. Get your head straightened out and go and tell her how ya feel. She just might listen and decide ta take ya back and if she does, don't go and do anything dumb like ya were doin', at least not in front of her."

Luke grinned back at his uncle's advice. "Thanks Uncle Jesse."

"And ya might want ta think about tellin' Bo that you're sorry too."

Luke grimaced at the fact that he had been awful hard on his baby cousin. "You're right again. I did kind of take my troubles out on him this mornin'."

"And by the amount of oil under the General there, I'd say that he's got a cracked oil pan and the hose that Bo fixed yesterday seems ta be holdin' just fine," Jesse said as he leaned over the engine.

The scowl that appeared on Luke's face at the fact that Jesse was right once again caused the older Duke to chuckle. "I think I owe Bo a mess of apologies."

"I think you're right," Jesse said as he patted Luke on the back. "Now get the General fixed and then fix things with Bo."

"Yes sir!"

Jesse straightened himself out and turned to head back to the barn when he saw that Maudine was once again running around the yard instead of her pen. "Well now, it looks like I owe Bo an apology for yellin' at him too."

Luke turned and saw what his uncle was looking at. "How'd she escape again?"

"I'm not sure but I do know that I secured that gate myself, so it definitely wasn't Bo's fault this time."

"Probably wasn't his fault the first time too. I think we got us an escape artist on our hands," Luke sighed as he and Jesse started after the mule once again.

"Come ta think about it, Bo did mention something about that latch bein' broken. I guess he was right."

"Well, let's just keep Maudine away from Daisy's laundry though."

"Good idea," Jesse agreed. "I saw how she smacked Bo with that fryin' pan. That had ta hurt."

"I guess ya didn't hear him cry out, did ya? Now Daisy's upset 'cause she actually hit him with it."

"No wonder the boy was hidin' hisself in the barn all mornin'. After everythin' we said and did ta him…"

"I think we all need ta do some major apologizin'," Luke said as they neared the ornery mule just to have her run away.

"And then some," Jesse sigh as he continued to chase the stubborn animal.

As Bo drove along his thoughts kept returning to everything that had been happening to him. Daisy was mad at him because he inadvertently got her clean sheets all dirty again, Uncle Jesse wasn't too thrilled with him at the moment with him having let Maudine escape, and now Luke was yelling at him for not fixing the General right even though he knew he did. It was mornings like this one that he sometimes wondered if he shouldn't just leave the farm and try and make it on his own so that he wouldn't be such a nuisance to his family. But between racing the General and working the farm, Bo knew his work skills were somewhat limited and he figured he would only make enough to get by but not be able to afford much else.

Bo arrived into town and saw all the Christmas decorations that lined the streets and storefronts. The red and green trimmings helped set a festive mood in the town but that was the last thing that was on Bo's mind. Even though the holiday was only a few days away, he wasn't feeling all that jolly but he decided that he wouldn't bring anyone else down because of his bad mood.

Parking the truck, he picked up the fake fire hydrant that he parked in front of and threw it in the trashcan before heading to the bank. A few moments later he walked into the nearly empty bank and saw that there was only one other customer who was being waited on by Sue Ann Perkins. He gazed around at the cheap looking Christmas decorations that Boss grudgingly allowed to be bought while he waited for Sue Ann to finish up with her current customer. Bo nodded at the man as he turned to leave and couldn't help but smile at his cousin's girlfriend when he walked up to the window.

"Hey Sue Ann," he said in an excited voice.

"Hey Bo," Sue Ann returned sadly.

Bo stood there in shock for a moment as he realized that Sue Ann wasn't her normal, chipper self. "What's wrong with you? Are ya all right?"

"Luke didn't tell ya?" she asked as she took his money and payment book.

"Luke wasn't tellin' me much of anythin' this mornin'," Bo answered as his features darkened.

"What do ya mean?"

"Seems he was more interested in accusin' me of not bein' able ta fix the General and orderin' me around."

"Oh Bo, I'm sorry."

"Sorry? What do ya have ta be sorry about?"

"I'm afraid Luke's attitude might be my fault."

"How?"

"I broke up with him last night," she answered with tears shining in her eyes.

"Oh Sue Ann, I'm sorry. I didn't know. What happened?"

"I accused him of payin' more attention ta the other girls than me."

"Well was he?"

"He sure was," Sue Ann shouted and then quickly turned away in embarrassment at being so loud.

Bo shook his head in disbelief at how his cousin was treating Sue Ann. "Hey, if ya want, I'll go beat him up for ya or something," he answered with a sly grin on his face.

Sue Ann couldn't help but smile. "That's probably not one of your better ideas, Bo. I've seen ya after ya two have had a fight."

"Yeah, but he usually looks just as bad as me," Bo chuckled.

"Thanks for offerin', but I don't think that will be necessary."

"Just say the word and I'll do it for ya," he smiled.

"I know ya would, but I'm kinda hopin' that my threat last night will make him see what we have instead."

"Ya mean ya really don't want ta break up with him?"

"Of course not. I'm just tryin' ta shake him up a bit."

"Well if this mornin' is any indication, it worked. I haven't seen him this grumpy in a long time."

"Good," she smiled, causing Bo to chuckle. Now that he understood the cause of his cousin's problems, his mood started to lighten up a bit.

As Bo stood there chatting with Sue Ann, he heard the all too familiar voice of one JD Hogg coming up behind him. "Well, well, well, and well," Boss said as he stood in front of the younger, taller man. "Just what do we have here? A Duke in my bank? Rosco, I want you to arrest him."

"Arrest me?"

"Arrest him? For what?" Rosco repeated in confusion as to what Bo had done this time.

"Well since I can't get you for anything more serious, we'll make it loitering," Boss said with a grin as he plopped his cigar back into his mouth.

"Oooh, that's a good one, little fat buddy," Rosco crowed as he tried to pinch Boss' cheek.

"Get a way from me you dodo, and Rosco, I ain't your little fat buddy," Boss said, slapping Rosco's hand away.

"You can't arrest me for loitering," Bo countered angrily.

"And why not? You're just standin' here, ain't ya?" Boss pointed out smugly.

"Yeah, but I'm standin' here payin' this month's mortgage payment for Uncle Jesse!" Bo replied as he pointed to the money and the mortgage book.

"Mortgage payment?" Boss yelled out in shock. "How'd you git the money for the mortgage payment?"

"That's none of your business how we got it, the point is we do got it and I'm makin' the payment."

"You can't do that!" Boss hollered, his face turning red.

"Yeah, you can't do that," Rosco parroted, looking even more confused now.

"And why not?" Bo demanded.

"Uh, yeah Boss, why can't he do that?" This time Rosco was way beyond confused.

"Because…because…" Boss' face turned a darker shade of red as he failed to come up with a plausible reason why not. "Oh, just go and make your payment. See if I care."

"But Boss, I thought that you had that deal with…."

"Dat, dat, dat, shut up you nit wit," Boss said through gritted teeth at Rosco, immediately quieting the sheriff up. "Go on, go make your payment and then get out of here."

"Yes sir, right away, Boss," Bo smiled as he turned back to Sue Ann, giving her a wink.

"Dang, dang, dang," Boss mumbled as he walked away from the young Duke boy, loud enough that only Rosco could hear. "Those Duke's did it to me again. I had the perfect plan to get their farm from them and they had to ruin it by making that mortgage payment early."

"Well, can't ya take over the farm next month?"

"No, no, no that won't be any good. By then it will be too late. The buyer I had set up was only willing to take my offer if he could have the land by the end of the year. This is not good, not good at all."

"That's too bad, little…uh Boss, but maybe you could convince your buyer ta wait another month."

"No, unfortunately it was a one time offer and it has ta be now," Boss answered angrily, almost biting through the tip of his cigar. "I just got to think of another way ta get that farm before the end of the year."

"Hey Rosco," Bo shouted as he headed over to the lawman. "You still comin' over Christmas Eve?"

"Ooh, ooh, Mama, Flash and me will be there," Rosco smiled back while getting a glare from Boss.

"What do ya mean you're goin' ta the Duke farm on Christmas Eve? Don't ya know your consortin' with the enemy?"

"What enemy? It's only the Dukes."

"That's exactly who I'm talkin' about, you idiot. How can you go over to their house on Christmas Eve?"

"Oh well, I always go over there for Christmas Eve," Rosco answered with a wistful look on his face. "Flash loves goin' over there too. Ya see the Dukes always manage to find special doggy num nums for her and she just gets so excited when we tell her about her about Santa Claus, and sing Christmas carols, and…."

"Rosco, you lame brain, I don't want to hear about all of that," Boss spat back. "I'm ordering you not ta go."

"You can't do that Boss," Bo replied with a smile.

"And why can't I do that?"

"Because Lulu called this afternoon and told us that you and her are gonna be there too, so it wouldn't be right for Rosco not ta come."

"What? Lulu did…Wait 'til I…"

"Now take it easy Boss, you're liable ta blow that little vein that's bulgin' from the side of your pudgy head there," Rosco said as he pointed out the one he was talking about.

"Get away from me," Boss ordered, once again slapping Rosco's hand.

"Everythin' starts around six and don't worry about brinin' anything ta eat. We'll have plenty," the younger man smiled back.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Boss said as he chewed his cigar even harder. "Just you git out of here before I have Rosco arrest you for jaywalkin' or something."

"Yes sir," Bo laughed, liking the fact that he flustered Boss so much. "See ya Saturday."

"Ghee, ghee, Saturday," Rosco laughed back.

Bo turned and headed to the door and was almost out when three men in Santa suits walked in causing him to stop dead in his tracks when he saw the guns in their hands. He gave a weak grin and nodded in compliance when one of the men motioned with his weapon to turn around and head back inside, while another one closed the door and locked it. Boss and Rosco both turned in surprise when they saw the youngest Duke coming back in with his hands in the air.

"Bo Duke I thought I told ya to leave this here bank," Boss bellowed out, glaring at the younger man, missing the scared look on his face.

"Uh, as much as I'd like ta oblige ya there, Boss, somethin's come up and it's better that I stay here," Bo answered nervously.

"And just what is that suppose to mean?"

"It means that everyone should put their hands up and don't do anything stupid and no one will get hurt," one of the Santas said as the three of them showed their guns.