Andi's surprise didn’t work out exactly as she’d expected it to.
No sooner had Andi walked into the ranch yard when her new pet decided the chickens looked really interesting and began to stalk the birds.
“No wait, stop!” Andi cried, but it was too late. The lion raced towards the chicken coop and batted a very terrified Henry the Eighth, who took off running and screeching. The lion chased after it like an overgrown house cat playing with a mouse.
The commotion brought all of Andi’s brothers out of the barn, not to mention a couple of ranch hands.
“The cougar!” Chad shouted, whipping out his pistol and aiming it at the lion.
“No Chad, no!” Andi screamed.
The lion chased Henry the rooster behind the barn just as Chad fired. Bang! The bullet bounced off the barn, missing the lion by a couple of inches.
“Chad, stop!” Andi demanded, running in front of her brother. “That’s no cougar, that’s a lion!”
“A cougar and a mountain lion are the same thing, Andi. Now get out of my way!”
Andi knew that tone only too well, unless one of her other brothers said something, Chad would not be stopped.Without hesitation she whirled towards Justin. “Justin, tell him to stop! It’s not a mountain lion or a cougar or a puma, it’s a lion lion! A real lion!”
By this time Chad had reloaded his gun and raced around the barn, ready to blow the intruder to smithereens. If Justin didn’t do something fast Andi’s new animal friend would be a goner!
“What are you talking about Andi? There are no real lions around here!” Justin exclaimed.
The next instant found Justin and Mitch on the ground and Andi with her back against the barn wall as Henry the Eighth ran right underneath Justin’s legs . . . followed by a very hungry lion.
“Lion, stop!” Andi cried, leaping into action and running after the feline. “Come back!”
The large animal slid to a halt and turned towards Andi, hesitating.
“That’s it.” Andi encouraged. “Leave Henry alone.”
“Andi! Get away from that thing!”
Andi glanced behind her to see Chad fifteen feet away with his gun loaded and ready to fire. “It’s alright Chad! He’s tame!” To prove her point she walked right up to the cat and patted him on the head. “See?”
Chad stared at Andi, then at the lion. Slowly he lowered his gun and then glared at Andi. “You have a lot of explaining to do.”
Andi grinned sheepishly. She was in trouble.
It didn’t take Justin long at all to find out who the lion belonged to. Like Andi had suspected Mr. lion belonged to the circus. Apparently when the circus train had stopped in Fresno so the animals could be checked on someone had forgotten to lock the door to the lion’s car and he had promptly made an exit.
The circus had wired Justin and asked him to hold onto the lion until they could get there. When Andi’s mother heard this she’d thrown her hands up in the air and exclaimed, “Where on earth are we going to put a lion for heaven’s sake? This isn’t a zoo.”
“Seeing how Andi was the one who brought him to the ranch in the first place I vote that should be her responsibility.” Chad muttered.
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault. He followed me home,” Andi argued. “Besides, he was already on the ranch. I just brought him to show you.”
“And disobeyed what I told you. You should thank God you’re safe Andi. Any normal cat would have killed you,” Justin admonished.
Her punishment fit the crime. She wasn’t allowed to ride Taffy for two weeks. “That ought to teach you not to disobey like that again,” Chad had grunted. “When Taffy came running home without you and we realized you’d left you can bet we were ready to scour the whole countryside. Maybe next time you’ll think twice before taking off like that.”
Now the only loose end to tie up was the loose end itself---the lion. What were they to do with it?
Mitch voted it could live in the chicken coop, to which Mother promptly disagreed. Chad wanted to chain it up to a tree and Justin just wanted to get rid of it.
“Good thing Melinda’s in San Francisco with Aunt Rebecca. Otherwise she’d be squealing and protesting for days,” Andi had whispered into Mitch’s ear, to which he’d cracked a grin.
In the end Chad and Mitch made a large cage for the feline and set some steak on the floor to get him to go in. Mr. Lion was not happy about the arrangement but didn’t put up much of a fuss as long as he was fed twice a day.
Two days after the incident found the circus ringmaster and his daughter in Fresno to collect their lion.
Andi was mucking the stalls when she’d heard the carriage wheels squeaking into the barnyard, causing her to drop the pitchfork and race towards the house.
“Is this the Carter ranch?” the tall, dark-haired man asked as he got out of the carriage and caught sight of Andi.
“Yes it is, sir.” Andi replied. “Are you here to pick up the lion?”
“You mean Magi is still here?” A girl about Andi’s age hopped out of the carriage, her red hair bouncing and her freckled face bursting into a wide grin. “Oh good! I was so afraid he’d escape before we got here.”
“I am Harold Spencer and this is my daughter, Amelia,” Mr. Spencer told her, gesturing to himself and then his daughter. “We were afraid we’d lost Magi forever and were so grateful when Justin Carter telegramed us he was here. He’s been in our circus for fourteen years and is very tame.”
“I hope he wasn’t too much trouble, he’s so sweet and adorable but can be really naughty sometimes!” Amelia exclaimed, turning to Andi and flashing her a smile.
“I’m Andrea Carter, but you can call me Andi.” Andi said, smiling back. “And it was a pleasure to have Magi stay at the ranch with us for a while, he’s been the most unusual guest we’ve ever had!”
They all laughed at that.