January 15th, 2012
Would I like to baby sit the kids while Jacinta went Christmas shopping? Of course! Ever since I discovered their great love for High Chaparral and all things western*, I came to see my friend’s three children through different eyes. I couldn’t wait to go.
When I arrived, David, Kenny and Crystal were their usual charming selves. As they swarmed through the house like socks in a washer, I answered their thousand questions while admiring the various Christmas crafts they were making.
‘Did the people at your magazine like our stuff?’ asked David after a time.
‘Yes, very much,’ I said.
Crystal smiled. ‘I bet they loved my sparkly bag.’
‘They loved everything, I’m sure,’ I said. ‘I particularly love the Cannon’s prized bull. Where is he now?’
David shrugged. ‘In the toy cupboard somewhere, we’ve been playing Lego. I built a space station, see?’ He held up an interesting object with enough spiky things sticking out of the roof to impale any low flying UFOs. ‘Darth Vader’s going to come and threaten it.’
‘Oh! Guess what?’ said Kenny, looking pleased. ‘We got a whole corral of horses for our ranch, look.’
The brothers rushed to the Lego trunk and proceeded to pull out every horse they could find.
‘I’ll get Mom to take a picture for your next story.’
David tucked his thumbs in the waist of his jeans. ‘We’ll get a good price for these from the army,’ he said in his Big John voice.
‘Hey, Wendy hasn’t seen Hank yet!’ said Kenny dashing off. He shouted to me. ‘Hank looks after the horses. He’s the ranch hand.’
‘I think he should be called Reno,’ said David. ‘He looks like Reno and there’s no Hank on the show. But Miss Bossy over there said Hank is a good name.’
‘It is,’ said Crystal primly.
A minute later, Kenny produced Hank.
‘Isn’t he the guy from Toy Story?’ I asked.
Kenny shook his head. ‘That’s Woody. He’s Hank’s twin brother.’
They set up the corral with a disproportionately sized Hank keeping watch.
‘I bet the people at your magazine would like to see this,’ said Kenny. ‘You can show them if you like.
‘Thanks. I guess we’ll have to come up with a name for you all if I’m going to do another article. Let’s think of one now,’ I suggested.
‘Why?’ Kenny wanted to know, ‘We’ve already got names.’
‘Yes I know, but sometimes it’s easier to refer to a whole family by their last name. Since your folks are sticklers for privacy, we can make up a pseudonym for you.’
‘A what?’ they all asked together.
‘A pen name. It’s an imaginary name that people will know you by.’
‘How do you say that again?’ asked Crystal.
I repeated it then left her to practice, no doubt wondering how she might weave that one into a future conversation. It would certainly impress her teacher.
‘We need something western,’ said David.
‘Okay, so what will we choose?’ asked David.
‘Cannon!’ said Kenny.
‘Oh we couldn’t use Cannon!’ said Crystal, looking scandalized. ‘It’s their name,’ she said in a hushed, reverential tone.
‘Then what can we use?’ asked Kenny. ‘It should be westerny.’
His siblings agreed. They thought hard and came up dry.
‘Well, when you think of westerns, what comes to mind?’ I asked reaching for a notepad. ‘I’ll write it down and then you can vote.’
A chorus of words followed. These included tumbleweed, horses, ranch, Sam and Joe Butler, Gunsmoke, Miss Kitty (that was Crystal), Festus, stagecoach, guns and arrows, Indians, John Wayne, whisky and beer.
‘If we can’t use Cannon then what about other names of characters you like?’ I suggested.
‘The Gunsmokes,’ said Kenny.
‘That’s not a character,’ David corrected him.
‘It doesn’t sound real anyway,’ said Crystal giving him a superior look. ‘I don’t want to be called Crystal Gunsmoke, thank you very much! What about the Russells? Or the Montoyas?’
‘Or the Hagens?’ added Kenny. ‘I think Festus is so cool. I can read better than him now, you know!’ he added with pride.
‘Hey! Lots of people have more than one last name,’ said David, ‘We could do that. We’ve got a girl in our class named Caroline Bell-Rheese-Royal.’
‘You made that up!’ said Kenny.
‘I know her brother,’ said Crystal confirming the fact.
Kenny looked surprised. ‘Couldn’t her parents make up their minds?’
David shrugged. ‘I think everyone in the family wanted a go at being named.’
‘Let’s do that then!’ said Kenny. ‘I want Butler-Wind-Stagecoach.’
‘I want Russell-Dillon- Montoya,’ said Crystal as I madly jotted the names down.
‘I want John Wayne- Hagen, Tumbleweed,’ said David.
‘That’s not fair, he got four names,’ said Kenny. ‘I get to add Shindig, then.’
‘Then I add Chaparral,’ said Crystal.
They turned to me for an opinion while I scribbled shindig. I tried to be delicate as I looked at the list.
‘Actually, the idea was to shorten having to say Jacinta, Kenny, Crystal and David.’ I looked at the list again. ‘I’m not sure it would be an improvement to call you the Butler-Wind-Stagecoach-Russell-Dillon-Montoya-John Wayne-Hagen-Tumbleweed-Shindig-Chaparral family.’
I was fast learning what it felt like to be Jacinta for a day and was beginning to develop a headache. Then I had a brainwave.
‘What about West?’ I asked hopefully. ‘It would be perfect. You guys love the Old West so you can be the Young Wests.’
The children considered the suggestion.
‘I like it!’ said Kenny at last.
‘Me too,’ the others agreed.
‘West it is, then. Now, if I have to mention all of you at once, I will call you the Wests.’
Kenny giggled. ‘Sounds cool, doesn’t it?’
The others nodded.
Oh!’ said Crystal. ‘Hank will need a last name too!’
Oh no! I could well imagine Hank’s last name being something like Bunkhouse Boy-Cowboy-Wrangler-Flapjack-Faro-beer….
Fortunately, I was spared another debate when we heard keys in the front door. Jacinta was home!
‘Guess what Mom?’ The trio rushed over to her full of news about their new name.
‘It’s called a Sooindom,’ said Crystal proudly.
Jacinta sat down. ‘Sounds like you’ve been having fun.’ She leaned over and
frowned, ‘You look a bit pale.’
‘I’m fine, really.’
A look of recognition crossed her face. ‘Ha! Now you know where I’m coming from don’t you?’
I nodded. ‘Yes, but they were really good.’
‘They usually are. Just a bit full on at times. You’re lucky they weren’t having an El Lobo day! But not to worry, I have the antidote.’
As she unpacked the bags, Jacinta grinned and handed me the cure.
Excellent choice. There’s nothing quite so good at smoothing out the wrinkles of a tough afternoon than an Australian Shiraz.