Part of the Magnificent Little Britches series
NOTE: According to what I found out, the Easter Bunny and some of the celebrations we know today were fledgling 'traditions' after the Civil War. Hope you enjoy!
In the darkness of night, two little voices could be heard whispering to one another.
"Yer fibbin', JD."
"Nu-uh! It's true... my Ma told me all 'bout it, and she didn't never fib to me!"
Vin Tanner backed off when his little friend mentioned his mother. "Well, all I mean is, I ain't never heard 'a no giant rabbit that visits kids an' gives 'em treats."
"Well, that don't mean I was fibbin'," JD replied, a pout evident in his voice.
"I'm sorry," Vin whispered in an honest tone.
The smaller boy sighed heavily. His mother had told him stories about a very large, friendly rabbit that brought treats to children. He remembered waking up on Easter morning to find boiled, decorated eggs, candies, and a toy. All of them would be tucked away inside her sewing basket. JD sighed again, this time fighting back tears as he thought about his mother.
Hearing the sound of the other boy trying not to cry, Vin tried to come up with something to distract him. "So, tell me 'bout this Ee-stir bunny."
"Easter," JD corrected. "Well, my Ma said that he's kind 'a like Santa Claus."
Vin frowned. "Who?"
"You don't know 'bout Santa?"
The older boy shrugged. He didn't want to admit it to JD, but a lot of the time he felt dumb when they talked about things. He finally managed a soft, "Nope."
"Oh." JD didn't know what else to say. He thought all boys and girls knew about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. True, he didn't get the big, fancy surprises that the Mister's children got. But his Ma explained to him that Santa and the Easter Bunny understood that they only had a small place to live, and they didn't want his gifts to take up too much room.
"JD?" Vin thought perhaps he'd gone back to sleep.
"Yeah?" The little brunet was drawn back from his thoughts.
"So... what's this Easter Bunny like?"
"Well, I never seen him... he don't like boys and girls to see him, 'cos then his treats wouldn't be a surp'ise. He sneaks into your room when you're sleepin', and leaves things for you."
"Oh... well, maybe that's why he ain't never visited me... I ain't had a room before."
"That's probably it!" JD was relieved to have found an answer to why Vin hadn't been visited by the Easter Bunny.
"So, do ya think he's gonna come visitin' us tonight?"
"Imagine so," the younger boy said around a jaw cracking yawn.
"Hmm..." Vin began to think about this mysterious Easter Bunny. "So... did ya ever wanna see him?"
"What?" JD was drifting off to sleep.
"Did ya ever wanna see this Easter Bunny feller?"
"I guess." He'd never really thought about it. He had always accepted his Ma's explanation that their special visitor didn't like to be seen.
Finding himself becoming excited, Vin sat up in bed. "Well, what if we set a trap for him?"
"What?" JD asked again. Then he came all the way awake and he, too, sat up. "You can't hurt the Easter Bunny!"
"I ain't gonna hurt 'im. I just wanna catch 'im so we can meet 'im."
"Oh... well..." The little brunet was still not convinced. "I reckon that'll be okay."
A short time later, the boys were creeping around their room, gathering up things to use for a trap to catch the elusive Easter Bunny. Being little boys, they had gathered up quite a collection of things... rocks, arrow heads, shell casings, marbles, bits of rope and twine; even a few discarded horseshoes that Mr. Yosemite had allowed them to carry off.
Vin had less knowledge of building traps than he let on, but they soon had an elaborate device constructed to catch the Easter Bunny with. Stepping back to admire their creation in the moonlight, the boys smiled at one another.
"Now we gotta hide," the older boy said in a knowing tone.
"How come?" JD asked.
"'Cos, we don't want him ta know we're waitin' for 'im!"
"Oh." The little brunet wasn't convinced, but decided that his friend knew what he was talking about.
"'Kay, let's go hide under the covers, so he'll think we're sleepin'."
Scratching his head, JD followed Vin back to bed.
Sometime, just before dawn, a horrendous noise woke half the boarding house. Two little boys, having gone to sleep hours before, jumped and grabbed hold of one another. Suddenly the idea of meeting a very large rabbit didn't seem so appealing.
"What the --!" Chris' voice could be heard as he rushed through the adjoining door from his room. Then the children heard him say, "What are you doing in here at this hour!?"
The muffled sounds of a response told them that he was being answered, but they couldn't make out the words.
"Well, let's get this mess cleaned up... where did it come from, anyway? Never mind, I'll ask the boys in the morning."
"Vin?" JD whispered.
"Shhh," the older boy cautioned, placing his hand over his friend's mouth.
"But - " JD said, the word muffled behind the other boy's hand.
They listened as Chris and their visitor cleaned things up. Then Chris said, "You sure you're okay?" After another unintelligible response he said, "All right. Well, you'd best get out of here, before you're found out. I'm shocked that they've slept through all of this as it is."
The sounds of closing doors signaled the fact that they were once more alone in the room.
Two very sleepy little boys were roused from their restless slumber a scant hour or so later. They looked up into the smiling faces of their adopted fathers.
"Hey, Little Bit!" Buck crowed as he looked down at the little boy, whose dark hair was standing on end. "Happy Easter, son!"
"Good morning, Papa," JD responded through a yawn.
Chris was sitting on the edge of the bed, smiling down at the child of his heart. Reaching out to brush long, dark blond hair out of the little face, he said, "You boys were sure sleeping sound last night."
Not certain what else to say, Vin responded, "Um... yeah."
"Well, you boys' best get up and get ready. We're going to breakfast and then we're going to Josiah's Easter service," Buck explained.
The children complied slowly, their little bodies sluggish from their adventurous night. As they shuffled over to the chest of drawers to retrieve their Sunday clothes, they were shocked to find a pair of baskets sitting atop the piece of furniture.
The men smiled at the shocked and excited expressions that quickly spread over the two little faces. In unison they nodded to the boys, and then each man retrieved a basket and handed it over to their son.
Vin lovingly stoked a finger over the brightly colored bandana that had been loosely tied over the basket's handle. Then he looked down into the basket. Beside him, JD giggled as he removed the string tie that was bound to his handle, and he, too, began to peruse the contents of his basket.
A short time later the two fathers and their sons entered the restaurant. The boys were dressed in their good clothes, hair combed and shoes shined. Vin proudly displayed his new bandana, tied around his neck. Beside him, JD wore his new tie, already slightly askew. Both boys were smiling broadly, and each of them held intricately carved horses in their little hands.
The foursome took seats at one of the tables, ordering the special Easter breakfast. They spoke about their plans for the day, fathers telling sons about the games and other activities that Mrs. Travis and Mrs. Potter had planned for the town's children after the Easter service, and the big, picnic the townspeople would have later in the day.
Chris, his chair facing the rest of the room, nodded at someone entering the dining room. The others looked up to see Ezra Standish coming toward their table. He was limping, and there was a bruise on one cheek. As he reached their table, gratefully dropping into the chair that Buck offered, JD piped up.
"What happened to your face Mr. Ezra? How'd you get an owwie? And how come you're limping?"
Standish blushed and stammered for a moment, then looked across the table at Chris. To his dismay the blond simply offered up a slight smile.
"Well, you see... I... well... "
Deciding to offer the thoughtful and generous man a hand, Larabee explained, "Well, Ezra's horse got spoked last night when he was on patrol, and he got thrown. So, why don't you boys tell him about the surprise you got this morning?"
As the children began to chatter about their gifts, the two men exchanged thankful looks. Ezra for not being found out, and Chris for having a friend so thoughtful that he hadn't forgotten two little boys on this special day.
Next: Wagon Train Part 1