A/N: Dedicated to my pal, Dee, for thinking of Hickok when she read the email “Jasper and the Yeast Rolls.” Thanks! d;-)

It was the morning of Thanksgiving Day. Lou hummed happily as she prepared the dough for her special rolls. This was going to be the best Thanksgiving in years with a lot of family to add to the festivities.

Naturally Polly and Teaspoon would be there. And Jimmy had, after a few days of coaxing, convinced Buck to invite Millie Arrington. When Millie had accepted, Lou had been delighted because she so hoped that Buck would find someone to settle down with and Millie had Lou’s vote. The two seemed perfect for each other. Lou smiled at the thought as she kneaded the dough.

They also had out-of-town family visiting, as Rachel, Janusz and their ten-month-old daughter, Sarah, had traveled from Rock Creek to spend the holiday in Sweetwater. And, to top everything off, Emma, Sam and their children, Samuel Jr., Abigail and Jacob had also made the trip. Thinking of the youngest Cain child, Lou looked out the window.

Jacob was not quite a year older than Joshua and when the two had met as toddlers years ago, they’d become fast friends. Every chance they had to visit, the boys were off on adventures, and this time wasn’t any different. Jacob had spent the night so he and Joshua could continue the “Cain and Hickok Expedition” the two had started the day before. Their Grandpa Teaspoon always loved telling the boys about history and other exciting stories, so when Teaspoon had told them about Lewis and Clark a few nights earlier, the boys had fashioned themselves as a pair of explorers and were continuing the quest.

They’d gotten lucky with the weather, as the day dawned crisp and clear, with a slight chill in the air, so bundling the boys up in jackets and scarves, Lou was able to send them outside. She now saw they were squatting near the corner of the barn, peering intently at something and that had Lou worried. Heading for the door, she grabbed a towel to wipe the floury mess off her hands.

“Boys,” she called, from the porch, “what’re ya’ doin’?” Both boys’ heads whipped around and stared at Lou wide-eyed. Shaking her head, she started down the steps as the boys jumped up and ran towards her.

“Mama,” Joshua said, breathlessly running over to the porch with Jacob close behind. “There’s bunnies!” Jacob nodded his head so fast Lou was afraid it would fly off.

She followed the boys to their discovery and sure enough, in a bit of brush was a small warren with three bunnies. Lou wondered where the mother was, worried about the possibility. She was surprised that the mother would birth there since the barn was used quite a bit. Not to mention the dog.

“Well, don’t bother ‘em and make sure Hickok stays away,” Lou warned, looking around for the dog. “Where is Hickok?” Just as the name passed her lips a playful bark came from behind her. She turned and saw Hickok, his rear in the air, tail wagging furiously, and his front paws splayed out, with his head hovering over his rope toy that Jimmy had made him months before.

“Can’t play Hickok,” Lou said, laughing. As she walked by the dog, she scratched his hind end. “Boys, play with Hickok on the other side of the yard, away from the baby bunnies.” She hurried back into the house to finish preparing her part of the meal.

Cooking had never been her strong point, but baking, that was another story entirely. She loved baking, kneading the dough, feeling it squish through her fingers, being able to create delicious pies, cakes and other baked goods. Of all the yummy things she baked, her honey rolls, and her blueberry and cranberry pies were the best, at least according to Jimmy, Buck, and Teaspoon. So that was what she was providing for the feast.

Because Polly’s kitchen was larger, most of the meal had been prepared over there. Polly and Rachel were in charge of the meats – turkey, ham, and sausages. Emma had fixed the vegetables, stuffing and other sides for heating up just before dinner. The women had also brought preserves, pickle relish, cranberry jelly, apple butter and such that would be nibbled on as the main meal finished cooking. This left Lou with the rolls and her pies. Other desserts included Millie’s apple crisp and chocolate cake. When Teaspoon and Jimmy had asked Buck for confirmation that Millie’s cooking and baking were good, he had vouched for both, blushing the entire time.

Millie had asked Lou if she needed help but Lou had refused. Lou loved being alone to bake, lost in her own thoughts. Jimmy had taken the girls, Em, Maggie and Polly Ann over that morning to Polly’s to help and visit with their cousins. Lou and Emma had laughed the night before at how Maggie acted around Samuel. They’d thought it would be Em to take to Samuel but it had been Maggie, since they both shared a love of books.

Lou was glad that everyone was over there and she was in peace. Normally the kitchen was a bustling place but Lou had wanted a calm surrounding while finishing up. The actual feast was to take place here, in her home. This was the first Thanksgiving meal Lou and Jimmy had hosted. Normally the family ate at Teaspoon and Polly’s but Lou had asked if, this year, everyone would come over there. Finding out that there would be out-of-town guests added to Lou’s contentment but also to her nervousness. It would be close quarters but she didn’t care; she wanted that. Jimmy had been in charge of making sure they had enough seating for everyone so he’d borrowed Teaspoon and Polly’s dining room table. The house looked like a town hall but again, Lou was happy.

Pleased with how smoothly everything was running, Lou was once more humming happily, as she divided the dough and formed the rounds to set aside for rising a bit more before baking. This was going to be the best Thanksgiving ever.

*~*~*~*~*

“What’s for dinner woman!”

Lou turned slowly towards the front door, ready to give Jimmy a piece of her mind. She was shocked to see who was standing there.

Cody!” Lou squealed as she ran to the man and threw her arms around him. “I can’t believe it’s you!”

Cody laughed, picking Lou up and twirling her around. “It’s me alright. I followed my nose and found out where the best Thanksgivin’ dinner would be.” He placed Lou down gently and stepped back to look at her. She was just as beautiful as she ever was.

“Come in,” Lou said, pulling Cody into the house with Jimmy following behind. She saw that Buck and Millie were there and that Buck’s hand was on Millie’s back, as they walked through the door. Lou glanced at Buck and winked. She grinned when he blushed and ducked his head.

“Yeah, he was nosin’ ‘round town,” Jimmy said, slapping Cody on the back. “I was gonna arrest him but Buck talked me outta it.”

“Well, I figured Lou would’ve been a bit upset,” Buck explained, “not to mention Emma and Rachel and Polly and Teaspoon and –” He grinned and stepped back quickly as Jimmy took a swat at him.

“Seems things haven’t changed a bit,” Cody said, grinning. He raised his nose in the air inhaling deeply. “So, when’da’ we eat?” Everyone laughed.

“Well from what you’ve told me about him, things haven’t changed,” Millie teased, grinning at Cody. When Cody bestowed his best pout on Millie, the laughter grew.

“Nope things haven’t changed a’tall,” Jimmy said. “I jus’ hope there’s enough.” He winked at Lou.

“Don’t you worry,” Millie said, “we’re ready for the entire town to come eat here.”

“Speakin’ of,” Cody said, a wide grin on his face, “when do we eat?”

Suddenly a twister by the name of Joshua and Jacob came running from the side door into the house, followed closely by Hickok, who was barking and yipping. Giggling, the boys circled the adults as Hickok chased them. Jimmy grabbed both boys by their collars as Buck caught Hickok by the scruff of the neck.

“Whoa,” Cody said, holding his hands up. “Who do we have here?” He squatted down to eye level for the boys. “Now, you,” he pointed to Jacob, “and that hair of yours, gotta be Emma and Sam’s.” He poked Jacob in the stomach and the boy giggled, clutching his belly. “And you, well now, yer definitely Joshua Aloysius Hickok.” Joshua doubled over laughing as Cody tickled him.

Eyeing Jimmy slyly, Buck grinned and let go of Hickok. The dog immediately went to introduce himself to Cody. Hickok plowed into Cody, knocking the man over and proceeded to lick Cody’s face.

“Help,” Cody muttered, not wanting to open his mouth too wide for fear of what might happen with Hickok’s slobbery tongue. Joshua and Jacob joined Hickok and pounced on their uncle, returning the tickles they’d received. After a moment, Lou felt sorry for Cody and the pathetic pleas for help.

“Help him up,” she said as she pulled the boys off, “and you two take Hickok outside.” She popped her son gently on the rear, pushing him forward. He and Jacob ran out the front door with Hickok at their heels.

Buck held his hand out to help Cody off the floor. Gratefully, Cody took his friend’s hand and pulled himself up. “Good grief,” he said, blowing out a deep breath. “What was that?” He grinned as he brushed himself off.

“That was the double terror known as Joshua and Hickok,” Jimmy said, sighing. “Made a triple threat with the addition of Jacob.”

Cody chuckled. “Can’t say as I’m surprised,” he drawled, glancing from Jimmy to Lou and back, “seein’ as who his parents are.” Everyone laughed, but Buck seemed to laugh the hardest.

Jimmy eyed his friend, suspiciously. “It ain’t that funny Buck.”

“Yeah it is,” Buck said. Millie giggled too.

“You too?” Jimmy said, feigning a hurt look.

“Remember, I’ve watched them for you,” Millie reminded Jimmy. He grinned sheepishly and nodded in surrender.

“When’re we eatin’ Mama?”

Surprised that the boys were back so soon, Lou looked down to see her son and Jacob staring up at her grinning. When she looked up, she saw Cody, Jimmy and Buck grinning and nodding.

“Church, young man…and older men,” she said, wagging her finger at the group. “Church first.”

“Aw Lou,” Cody teased. “Ya’ sound jus’ like Emma.”

Laughing, Jimmy said, “Yeah, she seems to be doin’ that more ‘an more.” Lou pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes at him playfully. Jimmy raised his hands laughing. “Ready?”

“Almost,” she said, pulling her apron off. “Millie, would ya’ mind makin’ sure the boys are at least presentable. I’ve been so caught up in bakin’ I forgot about gettin’ ‘em ready.” She bit her lip, looking sheepishly at Millie.

“Sure,” Millie said, laughing. She looked at Buck. “You get one, I’ll get the other.” Buck sighed and took Jacob by the shoulder, ushering him out the door. Millie giggled and took Joshua’s hand, following.

“I jus’ need to cover the rolls while they rise.” She placed dishcloths over the pans of rolls.

“How many did ya’ make?” Cody asked, eyeing the nine pans sitting on the table.

“Well, seein’ as I thought there’d be seventeen of us,” she said, dryly, “I made about six a piece.” She saw Jimmy’s brow knit in concentration as he rubbed his chin. “Sweetie, I didn’t include Sarah since I’m guessin’ she’ll jus’ nibble on whatever Rachel gives her.” He smiled at her, and she knew he was amused at how she always knew what he was thinking. Lou eyed Cody, and added, “Don’t worry, there’ll be enough for ev’ryone.” She giggled when he blushed.

“They’ll be okay sittin’ there?” Jimmy asked, his brow furrowed once more. He was looking forward to the meal, and planned on making sure he had his six rolls.

“Let’s go,” Buck called from the porch.

Lou grabbed her shawl. “We won’t be long so they’ll be fine. They jus’ need some time to sit.” She hurried out the door, followed by Cody and Jimmy. Jimmy gave one last look at the rolls on the table before closing the door behind them.

Millie was seated in the wagon, Cody was on his horse, and Joshua and Jacob sat in the wagon bed. Jimmy helped Lou up onto the wagon seat and climbed up after her. Buck mounted his horse and the group set off for town and church.

Joshua and Jacob waved to Hickok as Joshua yelled, “Don’t worry boy, we’ll be back soon.”

*~*~*~*~*

Hickok watched as his boy and the family rode away. He plopped down on the ground, a cloud of dust puffing up around him. Hickok didn’t like being alone and normally he wasn’t. If the boy wasn’t here, the lady was and she would always take time to give Hickok a good scratch behind his ears or throw a ball or play tug with his new rope toy.

Sometimes the man would take Hickok to town and Hickok got to stay at the jail with him. Hickok loved sitting out front on the boardwalk because everyone would stop to say hello and scratch or pat him. He liked people. That’s why he didn’t like the current situation.

He thought he’d be going with them. He liked all of them and they liked him. Especially the old man and the brown man. The brown man took him when they all went fishing. Hickok loved fishing. He’d play in the water, get all wet, and then he’d shake and get everyone else wet. It was fun. But he wasn’t having fun now.

With an indignant humph, he stood up. He decided he’d wander around and see what there was to see. He went to where his boy and the other boy were looking at the furry balls. Hickok peered through the brush at the tiny creatures. The bigger one was back and made a funny noise. Hickok didn’t want to scare them so he pulled back. If his boy liked those furry balls then Hickok would do everything to protect them. Looking around, he saw his yarn ball the woman made him by the side of the house. Maybe he could toss it up in the air and play.

Wandering over, he sighed heavily. It was so boring when everyone was gone. Even the girls were fun, especially the smallest. She liked to play the same games his boy did. The bigger ones weren’t as playful but they did like to sit with him and pet him. Anybody that would scratch his tickle spot was okay by him.

Picking up his ball, he noticed the side door. It was opened just a bit. Curious, he wandered over and poked his nose through the crack. It opened further and Hickok could see the inside of the house. He was allowed inside but only when someone was there. And he liked it when it got cold because the lady let him sleep in his boy’s room. The man had been annoyed at first but the lady always got her way. Knowing it was wrong, he turned to leave but his very sensitive nose caught a whiff of one of his favorite things. Sweet.

When they let him stay inside, sometimes during dinner, his boy would sneak some food to him. Normally it was the mushy stuff that the boy didn’t like, and Hickok didn’t either but if he ate it for the boy, the boy would give him some of the yummy stuff. Hickok couldn’t help it, he followed his nose. And at the end, he found a bountiful treasure that he couldn’t resist.

*~*~*~*~*

“I swear I thought that man would go on forever,” Teaspoon grumbled, his stomach matching his voice. He jumped down from the wagon he was driving and helped Polly down.

Four wagons full of people and food had arrived back at Jimmy and Lou’s over four hours later. The service, which was supposed to last only an hour, had gone on for over two. Jimmy had barely pulled their wagon to a halt, before Lou hopped off and ran into the house. Everyone laughed as they watched Lou run by. Buck, Sam, and Janusz pulled their wagons around Jimmy’s and wearily jumped down. They completely agreed with Teaspoon.

“Now Teaspoon,” Rachel said as she held onto Janusz’ hand to climb down from their wagon. “It was very uplifting.” She picked up Sarah, who was bundled up in the back of the wagon.

“Not when half yer congregation hasn’t eaten in more ‘an a day,” Sam complained, helping Emma and Abigail from the wagon.

Samuel laughed at his father’s comment, receiving a grin from his father and a stern look from his mother. Sighing, the boy climbed down and quickly ran over to help Maggie and Em from the wagon. Emma smiled proudly as Jimmy eyed the boy curiously.

“I’m purty sure I could hear the entire congregation squirmin’ by the second hour,” Cody joked as he jumped down from his horse.

“And the chorus of stomach’s growling out sang the small choir,” Buck added, receiving a smack from Millie. Buck grabbed Millie around the waist and pulled her out of the wagon, receiving a small gasp of surprise. He grinned as he placed her gently on the ground. She blushed as she turned and saw everyone looking at them.

“We’ve been robbed!” Lou yelled from the porch. She ran down the steps to Jimmy.

Jimmy’s hand immediately went to his hip but he wasn’t wearing his guns. He never wore them to church. Looking at the other men, they had the same reaction with the same results. Nervously, everyone looked around so Sam ran up to investigate. Lou was shaking so Jimmy thought she was scared.

“Honey it’ll be okay,” Jimmy said, putting his arm protectively around her shoulders. Lou pushed him away.

“I ain’t scared,” she growled, “I wanna kill someone.”

Jimmy smiled as everyone came over to where they were standing. She was still Lou even if people called her Louise.

“What’s missing?” Buck asked, herding the younger children in front of him with Millie’s help.

Lou cleared her throat and fidgeted a little. To the people in front of her, the ones that knew her and her actions well, she was embarrassed.

“Honey?” Jimmy prodded.

Lou sighed heavily, causing a few to laugh. They knew her very well. “Some of the rolls,” she mumbled.

“Rolls?” Teaspoon said, incredulously.

“There’s a pan on the floor,” Lou said, sighing again. She knew it was silly but it was the truth.

“Ya’ sure they ain’t on the ground with the pan?” Teaspoon asked. Polly poked him in the side to make him hush.

“She’s right,” Sam called from the porch. “There’s a pan flipped over on the floor, nary a roll in sight.

“They ain’t all gone, right?” Jimmy asked a slight whine to his voice. He wanted his rolls.

“Naw, jus’ the one pan,” Sam confirmed, as he walked down the steps and back to the group.

“Maybe ten gone,” Lou said. “Who could’a taken –”

“I’d say that’s yer thief,” Cody said, pointing towards the barn. He’d walked away from the group, looking around the yard. Rolls were an odd thing to steal, especially by themselves, so he figured the culprit would be a four-legged thief. They looked to where Cody was pointing.

Hickok came lumbering over, looking like a furry hot-air balloon.

“Oh my word,” Emma said softly, watching the poor dog wobble back and forth. She curled her lips over her teeth to keep from laughing.

“Hickok!” Joshua yelled, running up to his dog. “Wha’did ya’ do?” He looked back at his father. “Daddy?”

“Lord his entire body’s puffed up,” Millie murmured. “Even his cheeks.” She put her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter.

Hickok tried very hard to wag his tail but only the tip would move and it went around in a circle.

“Daddy?” Polly Ann was at Jimmy’s side. “Help Hickok.”

Jimmy looked down at his daughter and then at the other children around him. They all had the same expression – make Hickok better. He sighed and asked, “Anyone got any suggestions?” He hadn’t expected the response. Everyone spoke at once.

“A pinch of ground ginger with some sugar in boiling water, sipped while very hot,” Emma said. “Best cure.”

“Ya’ don’t have to grind the ginger, just chew the root and get the pure juices,” Polly interjected. Polly and Emma eyed each other.

“No jus’ give him some bicarbonate,” Rachel said, waving away the other suggestions. “It’s the easiest.” The three women exchanged looks that had their husbands groaning inwardly.

“Naw,” Teaspoon said, “the juice of a radish and the juice of a lemon and drink.” Sam and Janusz stared at Teaspoon liked he’d lost his mind. And Teaspoon agreed when the women turned their looks on him.

“Pomegranate seeds sprinkled with salt and pepper and chewed thoroughly is supposedly good for stomach aches,” Maggie added, wanting to show her knowledge with the adults. Samuel looked at her and grinned, causing her to blush.

“Pomegranate seeds?” Jimmy exclaimed. “We got those?” Lou pinched Jimmy’s arm and nodded toward Maggie. Maggie blushed deeper and looked at the ground. Jimmy immediately felt contrite and was going to say something but someone beat him to it.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Samuel said, gently nudging Maggie. When Maggie looked up with a confident expression, Lou smiled at the boy in gratitude, while Jimmy grimaced.

“Y’all are all wrong. Put some ground cinnamon into a cup of warm water, let it steep like tea, and drink.” Shocked, they all turned to look at Cody. He pulled himself up indignantly. “What? Like I can’t know a remedy?”

“Um folks,” Jimmy said, putting his hands up. “I can’t get our young’uns to eat that stuff. What makes ya’ think the dog’ll eat it?”

“If we mix the stuff with food –“

“Cody, I doubt that dog will allow anythin’ past his lips right now,” Sam said. Emma snorted but coughed to cover it.

They watched as Hickok, finally exhausted from teetering on his feet, tried to sit down but with his protruding belly, he was unable to keep his balance and toppled over. At that moment, everyone released the laugher they’d tried so hard to discourage. Joshua didn’t find it funny at all and tried to help Hickok sit. Jacob hurried over to help.

“It’s like watchin’ someone try to ball up jelly,” Cody murmured. This caused everyone to laugh harder, but reminded a couple of them about food.

“Jelly!” Teaspoon whooped. “Cranberry, relish, ham, turkey! I’m starvin’! Let’s eat!” He started towards the front but stopped when no one else followed. Dejected, he turned around. “What?”

“Teaspoon,” Jimmy said, glancing at his son and Jacob trying desperately to set Hickok upright.

“The dog’s fine,” Teaspoon said, not as convincingly as he hoped. “He’ll get through this. Jus’ needs a good puke.”

“Teaspoon!” the women yelped, as the younger girls made disgusted faces and the boys giggled.

“He’s got a point,” Janusz said, nodding. Rachel rolled her eyes and he laughed.

“Does anyone know where Buck is?” Millie asked, as she looked around the yard. As if on cue, Buck walked from behind the barn, carrying an armful of grass.

“What’s he got?” Rachel asked.

Buck walked to the front of the barn and dropped what he was carrying. “Joshua,” he called, “you and Jacob bring Hickok over here.”

“We’ll try,” Joshua said, dramatically throwing his hands up in the air.

Leaning towards Cody, Jimmy said, “That’s when he reminds us of you.”

Cody eyed Jimmy and grinned. “Ya’ should be proud.”

Joshua and Jacob coaxed Hickok towards the barn and Hickok staggered along. As the boys sped up, Hickok tried to keep up and soon his front half went in one direction and his back half either went in the opposite or just flopped down on the ground in defeat.

“We really need to get this stuff in the house,” Lou said, not taking her eyes off Hickok and giggling the entire time.

No one moved. They wanted to see if Hickok made it to the barn. Buck had opened the door and pulled out some hay. He spread a blanket over that and hurried over to help the boys. When Hickok saw Buck coming towards him, Hickok got so excited that he tried to run and greet Buck. Unfortunately, his back legs over took his front and he fell head over end, finishing at Buck’s feet. By now, the boys were laughing too.

“Lou’s right, let’s get the food inside,” Emma said, actually pushing Sam and Samuel into moving. Soon everyone had something to carry and filed into the house, looking over their shoulder to see what was happening.

*~*~*~*~*

As the rolls were baking and the sides were cooking, the hungry group had bread, jellies and ham to munch on as they waited. Hickok was the primary topic of conversation.

“Do you know how he got in here?” Janusz asked. He picked up another piece of bread and spread a heaping dollop of jelly over it, topping it with a piece of ham. He ate it in three bites. Rachel shook her head and handed him a napkin.

“Yeah,” Jimmy grumbled. “The side door was opened.” As soon as they’d entered the house, Jimmy had immediately look around for some hole and found the side door opened. He had closed it without a word, hoping no one would ask. He glanced over to see Lou staring at him, her brow arched. “Alright, I didn’t check it after the boys ran in here, sorry.” He made a face at her and she laughed.

“I swear that dog looks drunk,” Sam said, looking out the window as Cody, who had gone to help Buck, tried to corner Hickok. Polly Ann tried to help with little success.

“I suppose that yeast is jus’ sittin’ there, fermentin’ in his tummy,” Teaspoon said, standing by Sam at the window. “He keeps runnin’ into the side of the barn like he’s tryin’ to go through the door. Jus’ keeps missin’ it.”

“Jimmy, go get the boys and Buck,” Lou said. “They should eat somethin’ too.”

Jimmy knew hollering from the porch would get him in trouble but he really didn’t want to leave the food. Grumbling, he walked out the door.

“I’ll go with ya’,” Teaspoon piped up, accompanying Jimmy. He’d had a number of pieces of bread with cranberry jelly and ham so his hunger was at bay.

“Yeah, I’d like to see what Buck did,” Janusz said trailing Teaspoon. Sam brought up the rear.

Out on the porch, Samuel jumped up to follow his father, grandfather and uncles. Em, Maggie, and Abigail stayed on the swing. They hoped Hickok would get better but weren’t interested in the process of making him well.

After the men left to investigate, the ladies were alone to chat. Hickok was still the topic of conversation.

“Do ya’ think that poor dog’ll be okay?” Rachel asked as she fed Sarah.

“Oh I’m sure he’ll get over this,” Polly said, optimistically.

“I hope so,” Lou sighed. “Joshua would be devastated if anythin’ happened to him.”

They were quiet for a moment, until Emma said, “If anyone can help him, it’s Buck.” She glanced at Millie and grinned. Millie blushed as she had done most of the day when Buck was mentioned. The others giggled and the subject changed to a certain Kiowa.

*~*~*~*~*

As the men approached, they saw Hickok was still tottering around. Polly Ann was also still trying to help but when Hickok leaned against the little girl, she fell over. However, this time Hickok wasn’t trying to sit, he kept trying to lift his back leg and she was trying to hold it for him.

“Lord, he’s tryin’ to pee,” Teaspoon whispered to Jimmy.

Jimmy was caught off guard and choked on his laugh. He hacked so hard, Sam slapped him on the back. He coughed a few times to clear his throat. He glared at Teaspoon. “Thanks ol’ man.” Teaspoon winked.

Watching Hickok, Jimmy realized Teaspoon was right and his daughter was in the midst of it. “Polly Ann, darlin’, um, come over here.” Polly Ann didn’t listen and trailed after the dog. Buck grabbed Polly Ann and moved her to the side. Jimmy smiled gratefully.

They watched as Hickok kept trying to lift his leg but the rest of his body refused to balance so he finally leaned forward and found relief. Once he was finished, Polly Ann went to Hickok and Hickok tried to walk forward to Polly Ann. Unfortunately his front fell but his back continued and he once more rolled end over end. And again, Polly Ann was knocked over.

“Sweetheart, go to the house,” Jimmy said, helping his daughter off the ground. Polly Ann started to argue but Jimmy held up his hand. “I don’t want ya’ to get hurt and ya’ might, even if Hickok don’t mean to.” Polly Ann stomped off towards the house and Jimmy chuckled as she left.

“That’s good Buck,” Janusz said, nodding encouragingly. “Grasses and sage, good for his stomach.”

“Now ain’t you the smart one,” Teaspoon quipped.

Buck rolled his eyes. “It would help if Hickok would just stay on the blanket and eat it.”

“Hickok’s not cooperatin’ Daddy,” Jacob stated, crossing his arms over his chest.

Sam grinned as the others chuckled. “Well, little man, wha’d’ya’ suggest?”

“He likes sweet,” Joshua said, looking hopefully at his father.

“We ain’t puttin’ sugar on it,” Jimmy said, ruffling Joshua’s hair.

Cody maneuvered Hickok over to the makeshift bed and the dog finally dropped heavily onto the blanket. A cheer went up and suddenly stopped as an odd smell filled the air.

“Does that smell like…?” Cody looked around, a perplexed look on his face.

“Baked rolls,” Buck finished. Everyone wore the same look Cody had.

“Here?” Samuel asked, shaking his head.

“Lou is baking,” Jimmy said, though doubtful that explained it.

“But the windows ain’t open,” Teaspoon countered a mischievous grin on his face.

Another whiff of baking rolls drifted up from below. To the surprise of the men, Jacob and Joshua squatted down beside Hickok’s back end. Suddenly the boys fell backwards, giggling hysterically. And another whiff of baked rolls followed. Soon the group was doubled over in laughter, each man wiping his eyes from laughing so hard.

The ladies came out onto the porch where the older girls sat completely bewildered, staring at the men. Polly Ann sat on the top step, pouting.

“Somethin’ new happen with Hickok?” Lou asked, watching as Jimmy leaned against Buck, the two men holding their stomachs as they laughed.

“What in the world?” Emma murmured as she watched Sam throw back his head and scream with laughter. She saw him grab Teaspoon’s arm and point towards Hickok. She looked over at Polly who shrugged completely unaware as to what was going on.

“Actually, Hickok finally laid down,” Maggie said, unsure as to why that would be so funny.

“He did try to hike his leg,” Polly Ann said, giggling a little.

“Polly Ann,” Em said, appalled that her little sister would discuss something so crude.

“That is just disgusting,” Abigail added, agreeing with her cousin.

“Oh you two,” Millie said, “it’s a part of life.” She, Emma and Lou laughed at the expressions on Em and Abigail.

“What are they laughin’ at?” Rachel said, bouncing Sarah on her hip. “I believe this one needs to be put to sleep. You’ll jus’ have to tell me what ya’ find out. Excuse me ladies.” Rachel went inside as the others waved absentmindedly to her. They were more interested in what was so funny.

“My rolls!” Lou hollered, drawing the attention of the group of men. Amazingly, this made them laugh harder. She ran into the house.

“They’re laughing more,” Polly said. “Is that possible?”

“Well, I’ve had enough,” Emma announced. “I want to know what’s so funny.” She marched down the steps, followed by Millie and Polly. The girls weren’t missing this and trailed right behind.

Just as they were within a few feet of the group, a distinct aroma hit them. And it wasn’t baked rolls.

“He’s burpin’ now Daddy!”

“Good heavens,” Polly said, her hand flying up to cover her nose. “That smells like a bad bender.” She chuckled causing her to cough. “Or good bender, depending on how you look at it.” Teaspoon grinned and winked at his wife in appreciation for her humor.

“Ewwwww,” Em, Maggie and Abigail shrieked and ran back to the house.

“Oh my goodness!” Millie waved her hand in front of her face, as if it would make the smell go away. “Jimmy, that smells like Old Charlie after payday.”

“I believe it is time to leave this poor dog to his –”

What goes in must come out and in Hickok’s case it did tenfold. The women shrieked as the girls had and ran to the house. Polly had to drag Polly Ann, as the little girl laughed hysterically.

“Wellllll,” Teaspoon murmured. “Ya’ know, if I ate ten blobs a’ dough, ya’d have to stick a pitchfork up me to get it out.” The boys giggled so hard they weren’t making any noise.

“We did not need to know that, thank you,” Buck groaned, covering his face with his hands.

“Aw Teaspoon,” Cody grunted. “Buck’s right. Not necessary.”

Sam just chuckled knowingly and nodded. “But he’s right.”

“Fine but we don’t have to know,” Jimmy grumbled.

Janusz walked into the barn and pulled out another blanket. Jimmy followed and got another pitchfork full of hay. After spreading it around, Jimmy held the pitchfork up to Teaspoon. “Ya’ need it?” He grinned evilly as the others snickered. Joshua, Jacob and Samuel were laughing so hard by now, they had to sit on the ground.

“Let’s see if we can move the, eh, the blob,” Buck said, looking at Cody.

“Me?” Cody said, hesitantly.

Janusz covered the hay with the new blanket and said, “Either you get dog or mess.” He grinned when Cody moved quickly to Hickok. Janusz gathered the soiled blanket and moved it to the side of the barn.

“Ya’ don’t seem too bothered by that,” Sam said, his face contorted in disgust as he eyed Janusz curiously.

“Being around animals as much as I am….”

“I’m around animals a lot but that wasn’t normal what came outta him,” Sam said, as the others nodded.

“I take care of animals, like doctor with people,” Janusz tried to explain.

“A veterinarian?” Teaspoon asked.

“Ya, that,” Janusz said, proudly.

“Well, good for you,” Cody said, slapping Janusz on the back. The others shook his hand. They stood quietly and watched as Hickok settled down.

“I think we should let Hickok rest now,” Teaspoon whispered. Hickok was munching on the grass mixture Buck had gathered and seemed much calmer. When Joshua looked up, anxiously, Teaspoon added, “We’ll come out and check on him from time to time.” Happy with that, Joshua jumped up and took hold of his grandfather’s hand.

“Let’s go eat, boys,” Sam said, turning Samuel and Jacob towards the house.

“Time to eat!” Polly called from the porch. Immediately, Cody took off for the house at high speed.

“You’d best not eat my rolls!” Jimmy yelled after his friend.

“You can have mine,” Buck said, a sour look on his face. “I think I’ve lost my taste for rolls right now.” Jimmy laughed.

As they started up the steps, Joshua exclaimed, “This has been the best Thanksgivin’ ever!” The men all groaned.

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