“Daniel, I have had just enough of your tricks. Your father, the mayor, can't have his reputation being spoiled by your pranks you play on the people who come to visit him." Lydia Carter sighed wearily to herself. Her seventeen year old son seemed untouched by the lecture she had just given him. In fact he seemed more sullen than ashamed. As her only child to survive infancy he had been, she feared, badly spoiled by her and her husband. Something had to be done, but what?
Later that evening Lydia brought it up with her husband, Benjamin. "Oh, Benjamin, what are we going to do about Daniel? His pranks are getting out of hand. That trick he played on Mayor Cleaveland and his wife from San Francisco was awful. I know I would be very disgusted if I was suddenly served raw fish and frozen tea, along with a side of moldy biscuits and sour butter. Is that how you want people to think of us whenever we are mentioned? If something is not done about him you may not be mayor next election. "
"You are quite right, my dear. We must put the burden on someone else, though. I received a letter from my sister in law. She said she would like to visit with us sometime in the near future. I shall write her telling her we shall send Daniel on the first train this coming Monday. Since today is Thursday, that will give them enough time to get the letter since I will send it by train. "
"Ideal, idea Benjamin, ideal."
Monday dawned bright and early. There was a little of a scurry of running around and getting last minute things packed, for Daniel was to stay at the Carter ranch the entire summer and maybe longer.
They arrived at the station at 6:15 in the morning, the train was departing at 6:30. Benjamin Carter went to go get Daniel a ticket. Leaving Lydia alone with her son.
"Now Daniel," she began, "I don't want you to cause any trouble to your Aunt Elizabeth and her children. It is very kind of them to take you in. No trouble, remember,” she added sternly as she spotted her husband coming through the crowd to where they were standing.
Mr. Carter handed the ticket over. "Absolutely no losing it for the fun of getting kicked off the train," he said with a strict gaze that made Daniel drop his eyes.How could his pa always figure out what he was thinking? On the outside he looked as if he didn't care that he was being sent away, but deep inside he was terrified at the thought of leaving his parents for the first trip he had taken by himself.
"All aboard," the conductor called, waving his arms in the air and hurrying people aboard, checking to see if they had tickets as they got on. Daniel gave his mother and Pa a hug and rushed to the conductor, not looking back. His mother was too overwhelmed with emotion to say anything. She waved her handkerchief in the air.
“Goodbye, Daniel" called his father.
The blow of a whistle and a stream of steam, the train was off, taking Daniel closer to the Circle C Ranch. Carrying him closer to a family he had seen three years ago, and met only twice.
At the depot in San Francisco it took about half of an hour for people getting off to get off and people getting on to get on. A tall, dark haired, dark eyed man sat across from Daniel and sort of stared at him. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but thought better of it and was silent. Finally the stranger said with a little laugh,
"A minute ago I thought you were my brother Mitch. My name is Justin Carter."
“Nice to meet you Justin. " Daniel shook hands but did not introduce himself for fear of being recognized by Justin. May as well avoid adult supervision as long as possible. He'd soon get enough of that on the ranch. Of that he was sure.
Justin seemed a bit taken back by Daniel not introducing himself, but ignored the fault and did not ask any questions. To pass the time Daniel asked Justin if he had a family.
"Oh yes, I have a wife and four children. My wife's name is Jemima and my four year olds son is named James; I have a twin boy and girl. They are three, and their names are Eli and Eliza-Beth. Last of all my son, Jacob, who is one. "
"Do you have any siblings?"
"Yes, I do. I am the oldest. Then there’s my brother Chad. He is married to a girl named Annika. She is Dutch. They have one boy who is two. His name is Isaac. Annika's sister lives with them; her name is Elise. She lives with them since her folks died with the scarlet fever. She also does some of the cooking at the family’s house. She has a tendency to burn the food though, if the meal is ten minutes late. If the meal is right on time, on the other hand, the meal is either just right or the food is undercooked. When the food is perfect it is really quite good.
“Then there is Katherine; she has five kids. Levi is her oldest who is thirteen, Elizabeth—Betsy for short—is nine years old and Hannah is six. Then there is Amelia who is four, and last of all Lianna who is two. Kate's husband used to be an outlaw, but he has turned over a new leaf. Poor Levi feels pretty out-numbered with all the girls in his family.
“Mitch is next. He is engaged to Felicity Livingstone, Melinda is courting Peter Wilson, and last of all of my siblings is Andrea, or "Andi" as most people call her."
"Wow, You certainly have a big family. Do all of them live in Fresno?"
"Yes. I have a lawyer office there, and Chad works on the ranch so his family stays there. Mitch also works there and when he gets married he plans to build another house on the ranch that he will live in. Katherine and Troy, her husband, live in town. Troy is working at the lumberyard. Andi and Melinda both live at home. ”
Time seemed to fly talking to Justin.
"Arriving in Fresno in three minutes" the conductor called.
Daniel and Justin both started to gather their bags up.
"So who are you visiting in Fresno?" Justin inquired.
"Seeing as you’re one of them, I may as well say I am visiting my relatives the Carters. 'Cause Ma and Pa want me learn the value of hard work.”
Justin seemed shocked, but quickly gathered his composure. "You must be Daniel."
At that moment the train pulled into Fresno.
"Welcome to Fresno." As they stepped off of the train, a pretty women with a pretty smile and a young man who looked quite a bit like Daniel came toward them.
"Daniel, Justin, I am so glad you have arrived safely, " Elizabeth Carter exclaimed. She hugged both boys.
Mitch introduced himself and shook hands with his cousin. They all climbed into the buggy and headed to Justin's house. On the way they met a group of boys who were hanging around Goodwin's General Store.
A dark-haired boy with freckles stepped away from the group and called, "Hey, Grandma, hey, Uncle Mitch! Howdy Uncle Justin. Aunt Jemima will be glad to see you’re back."
“That's my nephew Levi," Mitch informed Daniel.
The boy started running after the buggy and met them at Justin's. He hugged his grandmother and then looked at Daniel then Mitch then Daniel and then to Mitch again. He whistled. "Boy , you two sure look a lot alike. "
"Levi, this is our cousin Daniel." Mitch introduced them.
At that moment a small black-haired boy, the very image of Justin, ran out of the door and wrapped his arms around Justin's legs. Then turned to the door and called, "Mama, Papa's back."
"This is James," Justin said, "and this is my wife, Jemima." He motioned to where a lady stood in the doorway holding a baby on her hip. She was holding the hand of a little girl who had brown, curly hair. By the girl was a little brown haired boy, who had big eyes.
"Oh you must be Daniel," Jemima said. "Justin didn’t know you were coming because the letter arrived while he was away."
"We better be getting out to the ranch," Mitch said, "Supper will be ready soon and Elise will not be very happy if we're late. I remember when I was late and the fried chicken was burnt because I was so late she had had to keep it on the stove so long. She was not pleased." Mitch chuckled and shook his head.
"Yes, we had better be going, " Elizabeth said, “Come out for supper at six tomorrow evening. "
Justin nodded his head and waved and he and his family went into the house. Levi ran to go home. Elizabeth called after him, " Tell your mother to come out tomorrow for supper. "
"Sure thing," Levi called, and with that the Carter's headed out of town.