"Bang! Bang! Bang!"
"I'm coming!" Adam hollered from the top of the stairs.
Throwing on his robe and giving a lengthy yawn, Adam quickly descended into the great room. Peering over at the grandfather's clock, he saw the time was quarter to one in the morning. Who on earth could be calling at this hour he thought as he lit an oil lamp. Removing the gun from his holster which hung from a hook above the entry's side table he cautiously approached the front door. "Who's there?" he called.
"Adam it's me, Joe. Open up!"
Adam swiftly unbolted the door and threw it open to see his younger brother standing before him. Joe was a sight to be seen. He was dressed in his nightshirt, which was partially tucked into his brown trousers. Joe's thick curly hair was matted down in certain places and his bright green eyes were overshadowed by the dark circles beneath them. Seeing his brother's current state, Adam became distressed. "Joe what's wrong? What's happened?"
"The horse; I need that damn horse," he exasperated. Joe entered the house and went straight for the brandy decanter on a small table in the office.
"Horse? Joseph, what in the blazes are you talking about?" said Adam, now visibly irritated.
Joe poured himself a drink, which he promptly drained, then poured another before turning to face his elder brother. Before he could answer, another voice spoke.
"Adam what's happened?" Both men turned to see Evelyn standing in the middle of the staircase. Her long, curly auburn hair was gathered in a loose braid which fell down her back. The white, floor-length nightgown she wore was covered by a lilac coloured robe. Close behind Evelyn, also wearing night time apparel, were the four oldest children: Lizzie, Benny, Luke, and Maisy.
"Don't really know Evvy," Adam stated, "Joe has yet to inform me."
After motioning for her children to stay where they were, Evelyn continued down the stairs and joined her husband and brother-in-law. "Has something happened to Rebecca and the children?" she asked.
"In a manner of speaking," responded Joe. "We've lost Giddy-up. We've searched the house from top to bottom and there is no sign of it. When Becca mentioned she had been over to your place with the kids earlier today, I knew I had to come and check. Please tell me you've seen it."
"Asher's toy horse?" enquired Evelyn with a puzzled look on her face.
"The very one and Asher is inconsolable; he won't go to sleep without it."
"Joseph Cartwright, are you telling me that you woke up this entire house because you can't find some blasted toy?" questioned Adam, his temper starting to rise. Joe drank the second glass of brandy, nodded his head yes, and then plunked down on the settee. "For heaven's sake Joe," Adam continued, "swat the kid's backside and put him to bed!"
"Don't you think I've tried that," Joe defensively responded. "Both Becca and I have tried everything we can think of. We've tried food, warm milk, rocking him, scolding him, and yes even a swat! Nothing works Adam, he still cries for that stupid horse. I need to find it and quick, or none of us will be able to sleep." Joe then jumped to his feet and walked over to the children (Mary, Morgan, and Jake now in attendance) all situated on the steps of the staircase. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a large silver coin. "I will give a whole silver dollar to the person who find's Asher's Giddy-up," he proposed.
"Joseph!" Evelyn gasped as her money-hungry brood began to race around the room in a frantic search.
"FREEZE!" Adam yelled, bringing the children to an abrupt halt. "If you are to search for Asher's toy, you will all do so in an orderly fashion. Lizzie, Benny, and Luke will check the main floor; Maisy and Mary the front porch and Morgan and Jake will look upstairs," he instructed while glaring at Joe.
When the children had scurried off, Evelyn and Adam turned to Joe. "You did not need to bribe our children, Joseph," she snapped, "they would have searched for the horse without monetary incentive!"
"Desperate times call for desperate measures, Evelyn dear," yawned Joe.
"Would you care to describe what exactly this 'Giddy-up' thing looks like so we can find it and go back to bed?" Adam grumbled.
Joe proceeded to explain that Giddy-up was a six inch tall, wooden figurine. Ray Tucker, one of the Ponderosa's ranch hands, had carved the miniature horse out of a chunk of soft pine wood. He had made the carving for a nephew in Carson City, but Asher had taken such a liking to the toy animal that Ray decided to give it to the precocious three year old. Asher named his new friend Giddy-up, a phrase heard frequently on their small ranch. For the past two months, Asher and Giddy-up had been inseparable.
The boy even brought the pine pony to church, much to his father's displeasure. Rebecca's passive parenting style allowed their youngest much leeway. "If it keeps the child happy and quiet, what harm could there be in letting him have his way," Rebecca would sweetly suggest. Joe tried to put his foot down, including tonight, but each time would result with him doing exactly what he opposed from the start. Now he was at his brother's home in the wee hours of the morning hunting for a confounded toy with no recollection of how or when he agreed to this. As he searched the house with the others, Joe wondered how women were able to master the art of persuasion, his wife in particular. Was there a secret club or society that taught women how to gently manipulate their men? Ladies today's lesson will be how to make your husband believe that your idea was actually his idea. If he only knew, he would be in bed right now instead of rummaging through his nieces' and nephews' toy box.