Chapter 41:


Daisy glanced at the clock and was pleasantly surprised that once more she had woke up before Jimmy. He'd been sleeping just a bit later in the mornings lately which had in turn allowed her to get more sleep for herself as well. Something that she definitely appreciated since she'd been working more and more of the late shifts out at the Boar's Nest lately. The tips were always better in the evenings which was why she chose to work so many of them lately. Jimmy was growing fast and the money she got from the tips certainly came in handy. As the months have gone by the generous tips from some of the town's folk who had wanted to help her after becoming widowed had begun to dwindle little by little now that Darcy's death wasn't quite so fresh on their minds since that terrible day out at the clinic in town was nearly six months in the past. The rest of the people of Hazzard may have been able to forget about the events of that day but the Dukes hadn't.

Daisy knew that she wasn't the only one who was still affected by Ted Wright's visit to town; Kim was, too. In fact, even though no one talked about it, Daisy knew that she was still seeing the psychologist out at the hospital at least once a week. The appointments must have been helping since about a month back Kim had started working out at the clinic again. It was only once a week but it was a start. The thing was, the first day hadn't been planned. Doc Appleby had gotten sick and while he'd had Sue reschedule all of the appointments that could be there were some patients that just couldn't wait. As hard as Daisy was sure that it had been Kim took it upon herself to see to their treatment that day.

The rest of the family had tried to make it easier for her by stopping by and keeping her company between patients; even Rosco had been seen in the clinic. He'd sworn that he was just in to get some liniment for his shoulder to help with the cooler nights but Daisy knew better. He really did have a soft spot for the Duke Women; he just wouldn't admit it. As a result, Kim had very little time to reflect on the last day she'd worked out at the clinic back in the spring and the events that had occurred then. Afterwards, Daisy knew that Bo had taken his wife to a small roadhouse out of town to help her unwind. The same one that they always went to when they wanted just a bit more privacy than the one in Hazzard afforded them.

As Daisy walked into the nursery she grinned to herself as she thought about her cousin and how protective he was of his wife. If she could only go back in time and tell her younger self that her playboy of a cousin would be tamed by the unpopular, plain, bookish girl whom he couldn't stand in school. She was sure that she would never have believed it though.

When Daisy reached the crib she saw that Jimmy was already awake and gnawing on his fist. When he saw her standing over him he grinned and kicked and flailed his arms about in excitement.

"Well I see you are awake after all. You just figured you'd wait until I came on in for you, though. Huh?" Daisy picked her son up and changed him before taking him with her down to the kitchen. When she got to the kitchen where a bassinet was sitting next to her place at the table Jesse looked up from making breakfast in surprise.

"I didn't think you two were awake yet. I didn't hear you get up."

"Jimmy decided to just hang out until I was ready to come get him this morning. Got to love a happy baby."

Daisy got a bottle ready for him and went ahead and started feeding him while Jesse cooked their breakfast. It would be the last one for a few days where it would just be the three of them since folks would start to show up for Thanksgiving later in the day. By the end of the week the entire house would be full of family members; many of whom hadn't been to Hazzard in a year and of those who had it had been for Darcy's funeral when they had been in town last. In any case, Daisy knew that she could expect more condolences from those whom she hadn't seen in months.

She knew that they meant well but she wasn't really ready to make that wound fresh once more after it had finally started to heal slowly. She'd never be over Darcy's murder but there were some days that she'd not even think about it until she crawled into her empty bed at night and very briefly would reach out for him as she prepared to go to sleep. That or she'd look into Jimmy's face and see his father staring back at her. Even if it was just for a brief second. That was probably the reason why she asked Boss to schedule her in for a few extra shifts while the family was in town. She knew that Jimmy would be well taken care of between her uncle and her cousins so she didn't have to worry about him.

Jesse finished fixing breakfast just as Jimmy finished his bottle. He took him from Daisy so she could eat and burped the baby. He knew that the others would be over later in the day to start setting up for the onslaught of family coming in for the holiday so he decided to enjoy a quiet moment while he could. In no time at all he'd be hard pressed to find another one for a few days.

~01~

Jesse watched as his kids all prepared for the first Thanksgiving in the new house. This year they had both a lot of things to be thankful for as well as things that the family wished hadn't have happened. The family had two new babies on the farm but they had also buried the father of one of those babies. Not only that, but there had nearly been two other funerals; one for Kim after Ted Wright had left her for dead and then one for Kira after she nearly died in childbirth.

As Jesse headed down to the root cellar to get some canned food that would be needed while the rest of the Duke family would be in town for the holiday he continued to think about how his family had changed in recent years. True, life hadn't been the same since Bo had first found that envelope that had been kept hidden for years but it wasn't just because that had led him to bring Kira home at long last. Both of his boys, Bo and Luke, had matured in ways that he'd given up on a long time. Perhaps he hadn't given his boys enough credit when they were younger.

His boys had turned out to be fine men. Both had found them wives who could put up with their sometimes childish behavior not to mention their unusual relationship with the local law. In addition, Luke now had a pretty little girl who Jesse hoped would be the first of many children. A secret part of Jesse sort of hoped that he'd have a son to give him just as many gray hairs as Luke and Bo had worked together to give him. Of course Luke might earn his own fair share once his daughter got old enough to turn a few heads like he was sure she would.

His only regret was that Bo wouldn't be fortunate enough to know the same kind of frustration that his cousin would be facing in a few years. With Kim unable to bear children he wouldn't know what it was like to be a father. As it was, the couple cared for the children in the family as if they were their own; and there were quite a few of them at that. Five children under the age of three living on the Duke Land made the farm look just like it had more than sixty years ago when Jesse's brothers were all running around.

He could already picture the oldest of the Duke Children leading the others into one misadventure or another. Of course Mikey would be at the head of the pack with no fear whatsoever when it came to the consequences of his actions. He reminded him a lot of himself when he was younger; back before he'd met Lavinia, of course. Jesse chuckled to himself since he'd never admit that he'd been more than a bit of a handful himself when he was younger.

After finding the cans of food that he needed from the root cellar Jesse headed back up to the main part of the house only to be greeted by the sound of Faith screaming out happily as she took slow and unsteady steps as she attempted to follow the twins through the house. When she fell back on her bottom Jay stopped and helped her back up before he once more joined his brother as they led Faith from one room to another. Once the three were back in the living room the boys stopped running and let her catch them much to her delight.

In the corner Jimmy was in the playpen out of the way where he could still look out as the other Duke Children played. Earlier Bo had set up the living room with blankets and pillows to give the kids a fort to hide from the adults in which all three enjoyed crawling through and peeking out of when they heard any adults nearby. By looking at both Faith and Jay, Jesse had the feeling that if Mikey didn't keep them moving, each of them would end up curled up with a pillow before long. Of course, Mikey would try to hold out for as long as possible before he, too, would eventually join them.

Jesse made it back into the kitchen where Jo and Kim were both going over the list of the food that they needed to have ready to prepare for the big family meal in only a few days' time. Kira was nursing Crystal up in the nursery and hoped to put her down for a nap before joining the rest of the family downstairs. With the food that Jesse had brought up from the cellar the small cooking committee decided that they had all that they'd need for the next few days.

The particular foods that Jesse had gone to collect had actually been some that Jo had canned now that she had finally gotten the hang of home canning. With each new batch that the woman helped with Jo had sent at least one jar to her father up in D.C. to show off her new skill; something that she had become increasingly proud of. With the last batch Jesse hadn't even known that she was ready to start until he'd shown up at the house to help her only to learn that she was pulling the last jar out of the pot. She'd done it completely on her own as if she'd grown up on the farm canning all of her life. She was certainly much more of a natural than Kira had been when he'd tried to teach her. Still, each of the women seemed to find their own niche; even if Kira's wasn't in the garden or canning the proceeds from it.

After leaving the women to finish the plans for the food he went out to sit on the porch swing to enjoy the fall day. On his way out he'd seen that his prediction of the children falling by the wayside had been accurate. Peeking under a blanket he saw Jay lying back on a pillow sound asleep with Faith curled up next to him. Mikey, on the other hand, had tried to stay awake by talking to his baby cousin. He was now face down on the floor in front of the playpen where Jimmy was still wide awake and gnawing some toys that had been left in there for him. Jesse smiled knowing that the oldest of the children had done his best to not take a nap since he was always so afraid that he'd miss something while he was asleep. That boy was so much like his daddy at that age.

Already Jebb had told the rest of the family that the two year old had been caught climbing around in the hay loft over at the other farm. Something that hadn't exactly set very well with Kira when she'd called the boys in from playing out in the yard after feeding Crystal only to learn that both were in the barn alone. Jay had actually been at the bottom of the latter and had looked as if he was trying to decide if he wanted to join his more adventurous brother when his mother found the boys. Ever since that day Jebb had taken to keeping a bit more hay beneath the loft since he knew that the day would come when one or both of his Duke Boys would decide to push their luck and jump down. He'd just figured they'd be a bit older before he'd have to start worrying about that. Jesse told him that he might want to remove the latter altogether for the time being. It'd buy him a little bit of time before Mikey could figure out how to climb up into the loft on his own.

Out in the farmyard, Jesse saw his boys all setting up tables and chairs for the family members who should be in before suppertime. From his place on the swing he could hear laughter and joking that reminded him of himself and his brothers thirty years ago. So caught up in his own thoughts he almost didn't hear one of his nephews call to him.

"Uncle Jesse, you and pop still plan on slinging a bit of chow at one another tonight?" Jebb asked as he referred to the Third Annual Duke Family Food Fight.

The first had been while Kira was still pregnant and Jebb had started it as a way to relieve some of the tension from a long and stress filled week after she'd gone into labor. It was only after John and then Jesse joined in that the rest of the family had thrown themselves into the food fight; much to his mother's displeasure. The next year it had been suggested that if the Duke Men insisted on acting like children then perhaps they should do so before the main meal that took the women so long to prepare. So the night before Luke and Jo came in and announced their engagement the farm had erupted in a food fight once more. It had been held over at Jebb and Kira's since the fight was their idea in the first place. As such, they were responsible for cleaning it up.

Granted, they'd skipped last year but that was only because the men were giving Bo a bachelor party instead. Now Jebb figured that the family could once more use an excuse to have a little fun. The year had been hard on everyone yet they still had much to be thankful for. So what if having a food fight was little less traditional. This year he knew that his own sons would be old enough to join in the fun. He hoped to have a camera set up so that he could record their first ever food fight.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world. In fact, John, Abner and I plan to take you three on and teach you a few things."

"You're forgetting something, Uncle Jesse," Bo chuckled since he still had a hard time believing that his stern yet lovable uncle had come to look forward to the food fights nearly as much as the rest of them had.

"And what's that, Bo?"

"We got the women to help us."

"You sure that they plan to help you or us?" Jesse laughed since he couldn't wait to see the women throw themselves into the fun as well. "Especially Kira. I think I heard her saying that she needed to get back at you for showing the boys a few things last week."

"Bo, you're dead," Jebb snickered.

"Too bad the general isn't coming in tonight," Luke joined in. "I'd love to see Jo toss a few spoonfuls of food at him; just to see the look on his face."

"Maybe next time." Bo couldn't help but laugh harder as he imagined the Marine General joining in with a free for all. Between the Dukes in Hazzard and all of the new in-laws, he figured that it would be the general that would have the best strategy when it came to war, even if it was only with flinging food.

"What's on the menu tonight?" Luke asked as he tried to imagine his father-in-law joining in on the food fight that had become a recent family tradition.

"Spaghetti," Jebb said with an evil glit to his eyes. He was already imagining the messy noodles in his mother's hair since he was bound and determined to get his mother with them. In his opinion, nothing could be more satisfying than if he could get his mother to join in with the fun. And eventually he would get her to join in one way or the other.

Jesse saw the look in each of his nephews' eyes and could see that the night's activity was bound to be one of the most memorable. After all, you couldn't be a Duke in Hazzard without giving into a bit of mischief from time to time. And he wouldn't have it any other way.

The End