Good day, all! I'm sorry for the large time gap between these parts. Hopefully after this they'll be closer together. This part is short but the next won't be.
Oh and, because I somehow forgot this before, the setting for this story is...
Mitch, Peter, and Andi had an uneventful and relaxing trip to Tonopah. They made good time and arrived the evening of the fifth day. Having spent the night at the Tonopah Hotel, they rode out to Mr. Ezra Gunthrie's ranch the next morning.
Leaving their horses at the watering trough in the care of Mr. Gunthrie's hired hand, Miguel, they strode over to a man leaned against the corral fencing. The man, whom Andi guessed to be late sixties, turned around when they approached.
"Good morning. I'm Ezra Gunthrie. What can I do for y'all?"
"Mitch Carter." Mitch shook the older man's hand. "This is a friend, Peter Wilson, and my little sister, Andrea."
"Andi." She quietly corrected her brother, which earned her a warning look from Mitch.
Mr. Gunthrie didn't seem to notice. He shook Peter's hand and tipped his hat to Andi.
"Carter?" Mr. Gunthrie scratched his head. "Seems like I outta remember that from somewhere..." He snapped his fingers. "Say! I know! Are you any relation to James Carter?"
Mitch grinned and winked at Andi. "Direct descendant. I'm Mitchell James Carter."
"Well, what do ya know!" Mr. Gunthrie chuckled. "I knew your father years ago in the gold fields. How's he doing?"
Andi and Mitch exchanged glances. "Uh," Mitch cleared his throat, "Father passed away 8 years."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Mitch broke the uncomfortable silent that followed. "I'm here to buy cattle."
"Now that is what I like to hear." Mr. Gunthrie nodded towards their surroundings. "I breed and sell mostly Herefords."
Mitch nodded. "That's what we came for. The family has a ranch outside of Fresno, California. I'm interested in raising breeds of cattle other than longhorns though my brother Chad isn't too gung-ho about it."
As the men fell into a discussion on cattle, Andi decided to take a look around the place. She patiently waited for a lull in their conversation.
"May I wander around while you're talking?"
"That's fine with me; just don't disappear. I don't want to spend all day looking for you."
Andi nodded to her brother and skipped off along the corral.
She spent the next several hours exploring Mr. Gunthrie's ranch. Wandering around the corrals; playing with five kittens she found in a corner of the woodshed. And lastly, playing with two small Hereford calves. Andi guessed they had been born late in the spring, but they were still rather small she thought.
Mitch bought about ten head of cattle from Mr. Gunthrie and Andi accompanied him and Peter in taking them into town. They took the few cows to the train station and sent them on their way to Fresno.
That evening Mr. Gunthrie had invited Mitch, Peter, and Andi to his house for dinner. So after seeing to the cattle they returned.
Andi remembered the two small calves and decided to ask about them. "Mr. Gunthrie, I found two calves out in the close pasture today. Were they born this spring? They seem awfully small to be several months old."
"You're very observant, young lady." Mr. Gunthrie smiled at the girl. "Yes, they are small. They're twins and their mother didn't make it. I'd about given up on them but my granddaughter was determined and she's kept them both alive."
"Twins! Like Sunny and Shasta!" Andi exclaimed, then quickly explained.
When she finished her story, Mr. Gunthrie nodded. "That's highly rare for all three to live. Your brother must've knew what he was doing."
Andi smiled. "Chad's good with horses."
"Speaking of horses, they have pretty much had the day off." Andi heard Mitch say to Peter. "They'll be fresh to start back tomorrow."
Mr. Gunthrie looked up. "You're not going back by train?"
"We hadn't planned on it. We came by horseback and we're going back the same way."
"Well, whatever you do, son, don't go through Breakwater Canyon."
"That's the little village near the state border, isn't it?" Mitch asked.
Mr. Gunthrie nodded. "Instead of taking the main road, folks go through there. It's quicker for traveling, but men have been disappearing."
"Disappearing? How?" Andi was quick to ask.
Mr. Gunthrie shrugged. "Don't know exactly. There is a prison there, Breakwater Prison. Some say that's where the men that've disappeared are. Being forced to work and treated badly."
"Why doesn't anyone do anything about it?" Andi wanted to know.
Mr. Gunthrie shook his head. "People are scared. Rumor has it, some very influential people are in on it. Just be sure you three don't disappear."
What happens next? On the way home?
Here's a picture of a cute Hereford calf.
Part - 3 coming next Monday! Will you be back?