Orrin Travis decided to go home early. This caused his wife, Evie to suspect something was wrong when he entered the house. “What’s wrong Orrin?”
Orrin laughed. “Tarnation woman, can’t a man come home early without there being trouble?”
“No. You love your work, so spill it.”
“I got a telegram from Jacob.” Orrin said as he sat at the kitchen table.
Evie poured him a cup of coffee and asked, “And how is your baby brother?”
“Coming for a visit.”
“Really? That’s great.”
“They will be here for two weeks on their way to San Francisco. He wants us to keep the boys for the summer.” Evie didn’t respond. “What? No comment?”
“Those boys could benefit from country living. How long?”
“Probably about six weeks. Eight if you count Jacob and Elizabeth for the two weeks before.”
“Where will they sleep? We really don’t have room for four more people.”
“That’s another problem.” Orrin paused.
“I never told Jacob we adopted the boys.”
“Why not? It’s been three years since the orphan train came through.”
“I guess I never got around to it. I didn’t know how to tell him.” Orrin sipped at his coffee.
“No problem sweety. When you send word they are welcome, let them know the boys are welcome, but they will have to stay at the boarding house for those first two weeks. How old are the boys now?”
“Alexander is eight and Peter is ten. Where are we going to put them? We only have the four rooms and we’re bursting at the seams as it is. I know we started the addition, but it’s still weeks away from being done.”
“When are they due to arrive? We could try to get it finished before they get here.”
“They said they would be arriving in three weeks. That’s not enough time to finish before they get here unless I get some help.” Orrin got up for another cup of coffee.
“Well, let’s think this out. We could move Chris in with Nathan and Josiah since that room is the biggest.”
“Good. I think we should leave Ezra, Billy, JD and Buck alone though.” Orrin mused.
“Agreed. They seem to have worked out a good system for the most part. That just leaves Vin. Move him in with Buck and JD? ”
“That room isn’t big enough for three beds but I’ve been putting off getting the bunks build for that room so I’ll do that before they arrive. Then Peter and Alex can use Chris and Vin's room.” Orrin added.
“Great. I think we can do this Orrin.”
“If it’s too much we could move Billy back into our room for the summer.”
“Nonsense! I like having my privacy again.” She wagged her eyebrows suggestively.
“Such a wanton woman I married.” Orrin said as he hugged Evie close. “When will the boys be home?”
“In about an hour but it’s hot enough out that they’ll probably stop off at Miller’s Pond for a quick dip to cool off. Did you have something in mind?”
“Maybe a little privacy.” Orrin suggested.
“I agree. It’s much too hot to stay in these clothes.” Evie headed upstairs with Orrin right behind her.
“Guys? We need to get home.” Josiah said as he pulled his clothes over his wet body.
“Why?” JD whined.
“Because Ma will be wondering where we are and we have chores to do.”
“Ma didn’t say we had to come right home.” Vin argued as he splashed JD.
“True.” Nathan added as he got dressed, “But you know Pa said chores needed to be done before supper and Ma won’t keep it warm for us either.”
“Besides JD, you and Vin have to stay with me and I’m leaving, so please come get dressed.” Josiah turned to check the cinch on the horses. JD whined. “Now JD; you too Vin. No complaints or I’ll have a talk with Pa and he can take responsibility for you from school.”
“It’s too hot to go home yet.” Vin whined.
“Now!” Josiah boomed.
“Jo…siah.” Vin moaned. “Please.”
“No. I have a lot of chores to do and I’m hungry, so let’s go.”
JD crossed his arms, sat down and pouted. Josiah moved over to JD and grabbed his arms, picked him up and deposited him into his saddle. “Don’t move.” Josiah ordered the crying child. “And I’m tellin’ Pa.” Josiah didn’t need to say anything to Vin. Vin simply saddled up. Ezra joined them.
Nathan turned toward Buck and Chris as he mounted his horse. “You guys better not be much longer.”
“We’ll be along Nate.” Buck smiled as he backstroked away from shore.
“Can I stay with Buck and Chris?” JD asked.
“No.” Josiah quickly mounted up and motioned Nathan to go ahead and then put the younger brothers between them. JD pouted the entire way home.
When the boys entered the yard, they took care of their horses and started chores. Orrin had noticed their return and took note of the two missing. He let Evie know and then headed outside to see the boys. He encountered JD first, carrying the kindling in to fill the wood boxes. “Son? How was school?”
“Papa? Josiah maded me stop swimmin’.”
“Was it time to come home for chores?”
“That’s what he says.” JD pouted. “Then he grabbed my arms and yelled at me.”
“Really? Will Josiah tell me the same story son?” JD nodded. “You didn’t do anything to make him yell?”
JD paused. “Well…I didn’t do nothin’ but sit down.” JD said.
“And told me no and pouted.” Josiah said from behind JD. “He refused to get up and didn’t listen to me at all.”
“Is that true JD?”
JD nodded. “But Papa, it was too hot to comed home yet.” JD argued.
“JD? What have I told you about arguing with your brothers when they’re in charge?”
“Not too.” JD replied softly.
“So you were being difficult even though you knew Josiah was the boss. Correct?”
“Yes sir. I’s sorry.” JD had tears in his eyes.
“Finish your chores and then we will discuss your behavior after supper.”
“But…” JD stopped when his Papa raised his eyebrow. “Yes sir.” He quickly added.
“Good boy. Please finish your chores.”
Orrin turned to Josiah. “I’m sorry he didn’t listen to you Josiah. I’ll talk to him.”
“Sure Pa. Why do I always have to be in charge? JD and Vin always argue with me.”
“I’ll remind everyone again tonight. Okay?”
“Sure.” Josiah turned to walk away.
“Son? Is something else bothering you?”
“No. I just wish sometimes if I could not be the responsible one.”
“You mean with your brothers?”
“Yes sir. Can’t I have a break?”
“Let me think on it some. I have a few things to discuss with everyone after super, so I’ll let you know then. I know I rely on you a lot, but it’s because you’re the oldest.”
“I know. It’s my cross to bear.”
“Maybe, but I’ll see about getting you a vacation.”
“Are Buck and Chris still swimming?”
“Yeah. They said they would be along but they’ll probably be late. You know them.”
“I hope for their sakes they aren’t. Your Ma doesn’t take to kindly to tardy boys to the supper table.”
“No sir, she sure doesn’t.”
Orrin headed out to the barn as Josiah went to finish his chores.
Chris secured his cinch then fished out a cheroot from his saddlebags. He was lighting it when Buck approached drying his hair.
“Pa sees you doing that and you won’t sit for weeks.” Buck stated.
“Suppose. Whose gonna tell him?”
“Not me, but you can smell them things fer miles. He’ll find out, it’s just a matter of time.” Chris just shrugged as he dragged on the cheroot and smiled at his brother. “We best be getting home and finish our chores before someone comes lookin’ fer us.”
“I suppose.” Chris took a final drag and snuffed the cheroot out. He put it back into his saddlebags and mounted up. “Let’s ride.”
“Boys, you’re late.”
“Sorry Pa.” Both boys said.
“Better get to those chores before supper. Supper waits for no man, or boy.”
“Yes sir.” Chris and Buck quickly rubbed down their horses and rushed through their chores. They both knew they may have just enough time if Ma served late. As they finished washing up after chores, Evie rang the dinner bell. “Boys. Next time I won’t wait supper for you. You’ll go without. Do you understand?”
“Yes ma’am.” Both boys responded.
“Good. Now let’s go eat. Your pa has some news afterwards.”
After supper, Orrin stood from the table. “Boys? I want you to help your mother with the dishes then I have something to discuss with you all in the den. Chris I’d like to see you now.”
After he left, Buck looked at Chris. “What did you do now?”
“How should I know Buck.” Chris followed his father out of the kitchen and into the den.
“I would like you to go and get me the tobacco you have.” Orrin saw Chris about to deny he had any, and added, “Don’t lie to me about it Christopher. That would only make me angry and we would be taking a walk to the woodshed, so please go do as I ask before your brothers join us.”
“Yes sir.” Chris went to his room and retrieved the half smoked cheroot. He took the few whole ones he had and stuffed them under his mattress, then returned to the den.
“This is all you have?” Orrin asked after Chris handed him the half cheroot.
“Yes sir.” Chris lied.
“Very well. I don’t want to find you with any more tobacco young man. You’re much too young to be smoking. If I find out you have more or bought more, you won’t sit for weeks. Do you understand me?”
“Good. Go help your brothers. And Chris? Consider yourself grounded for the rest of the week and weekend.”
Chris groaned. “Yes sir.” Chris returned to the kitchen and passed his mother on the way in. Evie smiled at the sad young man and went into the den.
“Well?” She asked.
“He gave me a half smoked cheroot.” Orrin showed it to his wife then threw it into the fire.
“Is that all?”
“He said so. I guess we will see how well he obeys. I grounded him until Monday.”
“I hope he stops. I’ve seen too many people die from lung sickness because of smoking those nasty things.”
“I’m just sorry I didn’t notice.”
“Mama?” JD yelled.
“Chris and Buck are arguing.”
“JD? Stay here with your ma.” Orrin ordered as he left the den.
Orrin headed toward the kitchen and heard the arguing. He entered to see Buck and Chris yelling and pushing each other. He couldn’t tell what the fight was about but could tell it was about to become physical. “STOP IT NOW!” He yelled. The room went silent as the boys all looked at their father. “Would one of you like to tell me what this is all about?” No one answered. “I want everyone into the den. Now!” Everyone started to move. “Not you two.” Orrin pointed at Buck and Chris.
“I want an answer to my question.”
“I’m sorry pa.” Buck started. “I was just teasing Chris and he started to yell at me.”
“He was teasing because I got in trouble, pa.” Chris added.
“Buck, I’ve told you not to tease your brothers.” Orrin walked over to the counter and picked up a wooden spoon. “Come here Buck.”
“I’m sorry pa. Please don’t spank me.” Buck cried as he covered his backside.
“Now son.” Orrin took Buck by the arm, turned him and added several swats to his bottom. Buck danced to try to avoid the swats but it was futile. Orrin set the spoon down and gathered Buck into his arms. “No more teasing son. It’s very unkind.”
“Yes sir.” Buck hiccupped. “I’m sorry Chris.” Buck added.
“I’m sorry too Buck. I shouldn’t have gotten mad.” Chris said. Buck and Chris hugged.
“Chris?” Orrin crooked his finger to have Chris come to him. “You need to watch your temper.”
“I tried Pa but he wouldn’t stop.” Chris hung his head.
“I understand that, but there will be times in your life where people will be cruel and not stop and you need to be the bigger person and walk away. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir. Pa? Are you gonna spank me too?” Chris asked as he wiped the moisture from his eyes.
“Not this time because I know Buck’s teasing was hard to ignore after our talk. Next time I won’t be so forgiving.”
“Thanks Pa.” Chris composed himself and smiled as Orrin hugged him close.
“Let’s head to the den, I have something to discuss with the whole family.” Orrin smiled as they all went to the den.
When Orrin entered the den he saw everyone waiting. Orrin headed to his chair and lifted JD out of it and sat down with the boy in his lap. “I have some news. My brother Jacob and his family are coming for a visit. Your Uncle Jacob and Aunt Elizabeth will be in town for a couple weeks and then they will be going on a trip. They will be leaving your cousins Peter and Alexander here for the summer.”
“Pa? How old are they?” JD asked.
“Peter is 8 and Alex is 10. Now I know we don’t have a lot of room here so we need to do some shuffling to make room. I’m going to complete the bunk beds for Chris and Vin’s room. We’ll leave Nate and Josiah in their room and move Chris in also. Ezra and Billy will stay as they are and Vin will share with Buck and JD. Then Alex and Peter can have Chris and Vin's room.”
“Why do I have to move?” Chris grumbled. “Why can’t Buck and JD move?”
“Let me ask you a question. Would you rather sleep with your brothers or with cousins you’ve never known?” Evie asked.
“No son. You will move in with Nate and Josiah. No more arguments.” Chris just glared. “Do we need to discuss this outside?” Orrin warned.
“No sir.” Chris put his head down to hide his watery eyes.
“Good. We’ll discuss summer chores and stuff later. I want you to show your cousins around this summer and include them in your activities.”
“But not your mischief.” Evie added with a smile.
“I also shouldn’t need to remind you all, that if your brother Josiah has been put in charge you’re suppose to listen to him. Is that understood?” Orrin added.
“Yes sir.” They all replied.
“When are they due Ma?” Josiah asked.
“In two weeks. Jacob and Beth will be here for a couple weeks to get the boys settled and then return for them in September. Hopefully before school starts.” Evie answered.
“It’s been a long day boys so I want you to all go get ready for bed. I’ll be up in an hour to tuck you all in.” Everyone headed upstairs to get washed up. When all the boys were gone, Evie turned to Orrin. “You think Chris will be okay? He looked pretty upset.”
“He’ll be fine. He’s just a little sensitive right now because he was caught with that cheroot and Buck embarrassed him later. I’ll talk to him before bed.”
“Thank you Orrin. I hope Jacob and Beth like the boys.”
"Everything will be fine. I need to go talk to JD and then I’ll tuck the boys in.” Orrin headed for JD’s room first.
Orrin knocked on the boy’s room and entered. What he saw made him smile. Buck was looking at a book on his bed and JD was under his bed with his bare bottom hanging out.
“JD what are you doing?”
“Papa? I losted my frog.” JD pouted.
“Frog? What’s a frog doing in the house?”
“It’s not a real frog pa.” Buck added. “It’s a pretend frog.”
“JD? Where’s your night shirt?” Orrin found a nightshirt and slid it over his son’s head. “Let’s go talk about this afternoon JD.” Orrin took JD’s hand and walk toward the master bedroom.
“Papa? I don’t want a ‘pankin’.” JD cried.
As they entered Orrin’s room, he gathered JD into his lap and hugged him close. “JD I want to talk to you, not spank you.” When JD calmed down, Orrin continued. “Why did you give Josiah a hard time today?”
“Papa, it was fun swimmin’ and Buck and Chris was stayin’. I just wanted to stay longer.”
“If I had been there and said it was time to go, would you have argued with me?”
“Then you shouldn’t argue with Josiah. He’s your big brother and he’s in charge when I’m not there. You need to obey him just like you would me. Understand?”
“Yes sir papa. I’m sorry. Can I go talk to Josiah?”
“I think that would be a great idea. Then go get in bed and I’ll tuck you in.”
JD ran out of the room and went to apologize to Josiah. He returned to his bed just as Orrin was tucking Buck in.
“Up you go young man.” Orrin tucked JD in and kissed him goodnight. “I’ll see you boys in the morning.” Orrin turned down the lamp and closed the door. He then headed toward Nathan and Josiah’s room. “Josiah? Did JD talk to you?”
“Yeah. He came in and said he was sorry and would try to be a good boy.” Josiah said with a smile.
“We’ll see how long that lasts. Sleep tight.”
“Good night pa.” Both boys said.
Orrin headed toward Vin and Chris’ room next. Vin was already in bed snoring. Orrin smiled as he tucked the blankets around Vin, then turned to Chris. “You doing okay son?”
“I don’t believe you son. Talk to me.”
“I guess I’m just having a bad day.”
“It could be worst Chris.”
“I could have spanked you for smoking.” Chris couldn’t stop the tears from running down his cheeks. “Son, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to room with Josiah and Nate when our cousin’s come.” Chris hiccupped.
“What would you like to do?” Chris shrugged. “Son, the only other option is to get the new addition finished. Your mother and I figured you wouldn’t want to sleep in a room with strangers.”
“I …” Chris just covered his face and cried.
Orrin gathered him close and gently rocked him. “Sh. Alright son, we’ll figure something out, okay?”
“I’m sorry pa.”
“Calm down and try to sleep. Things will look better in the morning.” Orrin helped Chris get comfortable and tucked him in with a kiss on his forehead. “I love you Chris.”
“I love you too pa.”
“Get some sleep. Good night son.”
Orrin turned down the light and quietly exited the room with a tired sigh.
“What’s wrong dear?”
“Chris is really upset about this whole thing. I don’t think he even knows why.”
“We’ll think of something honey. Tomorrow.”
“I’ll go lock up and be right up.” Evie headed for bed while Orrin locked all the doors and turned out all the lamps. Sleep didn’t come quickly but eventually.
The next morning, Orrin found all his boys up and doing their chores. Evie was making breakfast when he entered the kitchen.
“I see everyone is up already. They all sick?”
“No honey. I think the boys are a little anxious about their cousin’s visit.” Evie smiled.
“They aren’t the only ones.”
Before Evie could respond, the back door opened and a herd of boys entered. “Did you all wash up?” She asked.
“Yes ma’am.” Was chorused.
“Someone set the table then.”
“Settin’ tables is girl work.”
“Do you see any girls other than me?” JD shook his head. “Then I suggest it’s boy’s work too.”
“JD? Give it up. Ma’s right.” Chris said.
“But Chris. I’s not a girl.” JD stage whispered.
“JD? Why don’t you help me set the table?” Orrin suggested.
“Really Papa? But you’s a boy.”
“Son who ever told you that boys couldn’t set the table?”
“A boy at school. He says he don’t got any chores ‘cause he’s got nothin’ but sisters.”
“Well son, I’m a boy and I help your mother whenever she needs it and I expect you to also. I want no more arguments about girl or boy work. All the work in this family is equal opportunity.”
“Okay Papa.” JD took the plates and started to set the table.
“Nice save Pa.” Chris snickered.
“You know son, you are getting way to cocky for your own good.”
“You keep telling me that Pa but I just don’t see it.”
Orrin growled and pretended to go after his son. Chris just laughed and then helped put breakfast on the table.
The next few weeks went by quickly. Orrin had decided to see if he could get some friends to help get at least half of the additions finished before Jacob arrived. Josiah and Chris helped and with all of the volunteers, they finished the entire addition; adding two new rooms, up and down, to the house. Two days before Jacob and his family were scheduled to arrive, Chris approached his father.
“I was wondering, since we were able to complete the addition, who gets the new rooms?”
Orrin smiled at Chris. He was very proud of how hard Chris worked these past weeks. However, Orrin knew there was some motivation behind it. “Who do you think should get the new rooms?”
“I know what you’re thinking Pa. I don’t want one of the new ones. I think you and Ma deserve one and then maybe Josiah.”
“Yeah? Who get’s our old room?”
Orrin chuckled. “Always thinking of others son.”
“I was serious Pa.” Chris scowled.
“I know son. Your mother and I have discussed the addition and the room situations. I’m assuming you want your own room?”
“Is that asking too much?” Chris asked quietly.
“No son. I’m proud of how hard you’ve worked on the house and I’ll talk to your mother some more, but I should warn you. If we decide to give you your own room, it will be the small one.”
“Think about it son. If you don’t want to share a room, you don’t need as much room. It’s your decision so think about it. While your cousins are here though, you’ll still need to double up.”
“Okay Pa.” Orrin ruffled Chris hair and smiled when the boy glared at him.
That night, after all the dishes were done and baths complete, Orrin and Evie sat the family down to talk.
“Okay everyone. Your Aunt and Uncle are due in three days. Tomorrow we will do some room shuffling. Your mother and I will move to the new room downstairs. That will be done before you boys are home from school tomorrow. Then Josiah gets the new upstairs room. Ezra and Billy will stay where they are. Buck will move in with Nathan and Vin will move in with JD. For the summer Chris will share with Josiah and Alex and Peter will use bunk beds in Buck and JD’s old room. After your cousin’s leave Chris will move into that room permanently, without the bunks.”
“All by himself?” Buck complained.
“That’s not fair.” Vin added.
“While you all were out playing the last few weeks, Josiah and Chris have been right here working to get the addition done. They helped with the work they reap the benefits. I think they both deserve their own rooms.” When there were no more complaints, Orrin continued. “Tomorrow when you boys come home from school, most of these moves will be done, but I want you all home immediately after dismissal so we can get the house in top shape before Sunday afternoon.”
“Good. It’s late, so why don’t you all head up to bed.”
“Everyone headed upstairs and Orrin made sure they were all tucked in for the night.
The next morning, boys were up early making sure their parents knew exactly how to move their stuff. While Chris was getting ready for school, he remembered the extra cheroots under his mattress. He couldn’t get them out without someone seeing him, since the house was so busy with activity. He left his saddlebags and headed downstairs to find his father.
“What Chris? Are you ready for school?”
“Why don’t I just stay home and help you guys with all the moving?”
“No son. You’ve missed enough school this month. Josiah said the teacher is doing end of the year testing so you need to be there.”
“No Chris. Go get you books and get going.” When Chris hesitated Orrin stopped to look at Chris. “Now son.”
“Chris headed upstairs and hoped there was no one in his room so he could get the cheroots. His luck held long enough to move the smokes from the mattress to his saddlebags, however, one got missed.
“BOYS! Move it or you’re going to be late.” Orrin yelled up the stairs.
A stampede of boys can down the stairs and headed off for the day.
“Well, honey. Let’s get started moving things. Some of the guys from the construction are going to be by in an hour or so to help move the big stuff.” Orrin and Evie started in their room and work there way from room to room.
When all the boys returned home after school, the room moves were complete and the guest room was set up neatly. Saturday Evie had boys scrambling in every direction cleaning and scrubbing every inch of the house. With several townspeople helping, Evie and Orrin decided to have a pig roast for everyone who helped out. By sunset Saturday night, the house was ready, friends headed out to their own homes and Evie was tucking in little boys. Orrin, Josiah and Chris were cleaning up from the picnic.
“Well boys it’s been a long few weeks. This mess is cleaned up and I’m ready for bed.”
“Okay Pa.” Both Chris and Josiah followed their father into the house and went to their room. Orrin headed into his room and found Evie sitting on the bed looking at something. “Hey sweetheart. Everyone tucked in?”
“Everyone but Josiah and Chris. They’re still in the washroom.” Evie looked up at Orrin and handed him what was in her hand.
“The men found it under Chris’ mattress yesterday while moving the furniture.”
“Ethan handed it to me this evening at the picnic.”
“He lied to me.” Orrin closed his hand around the cheroot.
“It seems so. What are you going to do?”
“He lied to us Evie.”
“It’s late now. Deal with him tomorrow after church.”
“Jacob and Elizabeth will be on tomorrow’s stage.”
“If you take care of this tonight I guarantee he’ll be impossible to get up for church and you’ll end up tanning him twice.”
“I suppose you’re right. I’ll go make sure Josiah and Chris are settled in.” Orrin checked on the boys and found them both sound asleep. He returned to his room and after discussing the final details for tomorrow, both Orrin and Evie went to bed.
The next morning, everyone did morning chores, ate breakfast and went to church. As services ended, the boys gathered with the other kids from town, outside waiting for their parents.
“What do you suppose Alex and Pete will be like?” Vin asked Josiah.
“Probably trouble. Like we need more of that around here.” Chris grumbled.
“Boys let’s go home and get ready for you Aunt and Uncle.” Orrin said abruptly as he approached the group of kids then walked away.
“What’s wrong with Pa?” Ezra asked. “He’s been surly all morning.”
“Yeah he swatted me fer squirmin’ during service.” JD added.
“NOW BOYS!” Orrin yelled from the wagon.
“Later guys.” Buck said to his buddies and then ran to the wagon, with everyone following him.
“Pa’s mad about something.” Josiah said to no one directly.
Everyone piled out of the wagon and headed inside to change their clothes. Evie started lunch and the boys started their chores. After Orrin changed he went looking for Chris.
Orrin found Chris working on the woodpile. “Christopher?”
Chris looked up and immediately knew his father was angry. “Yes sir?”
“Come with me please.” Orrin headed toward the wood shed; Chris followed.
“What’s wrong Pa?” Chris asked as Orrin closed the door behind them.
“I’ll get right to the point son. You lied to me.”
“I asked you a few weeks ago if you had anymore tobacco. What did you tell me?”
“That I didn’t.”
“Was that the truth?”
Chris looked at his father and decided he was in enough trouble without adding further lies. “No sir.”
“Thank you.” Orrin produced the confiscated cheroot. “Your mother handed this to me last night. It was late or I would have hauled your butt out here last night. I’m glad I didn’t though, because I’m still angry but I was hot last night. I just want to know why?”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry! Not yet your not. I told you no more smoking. You not only lied to me but you disobeyed me when you kept this.”
“Yes sir.” Chris choked out. “I’m really sorry.” Chris wiped at the tears in his eyes as he watched his father reach for a switch. “Pa? Please not the switch. I’m sorry.”
“Lunch will be ready soon so let’s get this done. When we’re done here, you are grounded until further notice.” Orrin switched Chris until he wilted. When he was finished, he gave Chris a few minutes to get himself under control then hugged him. “I love you son.”
“I’m sorry Papa.” Chris hiccupped.
“I know you are now son, but I want you to know, if I have to address this smoking issue again, this tanning will feel like a bee sting when I’m done with you. Are we clear?”
Chris nodded. “Yes sir.”
“Good. If you have any more tobacco, you have 15 minutes to bring it to me without further consequences.”
“Let’s go eat.” Orrin left Chris to gather himself and headed inside. As the lunch bell rang everyone washed up and sat down. Chris entered and quietly handed 2 cheroot stubs to his father.
“That’s all of them Pa, I promise.”
“Thank you son. Let’s eat.”
After lunch the boys were released to play and Chris went to his room. Josiah entered to get a book and noticed Chris stretched out on his stomach, crying. “Are you okay little brother?”
“Pa found out I lied about having smokes.”
“Ouch.” Josiah knew how their father dealt with lying. Chris just nodded. “Pa and ma just headed out to get Uncle Jacob and Aunt Beth. He asked us to all stay within yelling distance.”
“I’m grounded until further notice so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.” Josiah smiled then left to give Chris some privacy.
Orrin and Evie stood hand in hand as the stagecoach rumbled into town. As the stage stopped and unloaded its passengers, Orrin saw Jacob disembark followed by his wife.
“JACOB!” Orrin engulfed his baby brother in a massive hug.
“Orrin! How are you brother?”
“I’m good. You remember Evie.”
“Certainly. Beth was just here.” Jacob looked for his family.
Evie laughed. “They headed over to the outhouse Jacob.”
“Oh good the boys have hated this traveling. Orrin you look great. What have you been up too?”
“There have been a lot of changes here Jake but lets get you settled into the hotel and then out to the house.”
“You never did say why you didn’t have enough room.”
“That’s one of the changes.”
“Yes to both but we also have seven adopted sons and that’s why there is limited space.”
“Seven boys? Now that’s a story I can’t wait to hear.”
“Then let’s get you settled and then we’ll go meet them and have supper.”
“Lead the way brother.”
“Boys!” Orrin yelled as he entered the house with Jacob and family. “Come downstairs please.” A noise resembling a herd of horses came down the stairs. Orrin saw everyone but Chris. “Where’s Chris?”
“He’s asleep Pa.” Josiah replied.
“I’ll go get him. Have a seat in the den and introduce yourselves.” Orrin jogged up the stairs and entered Chris’ room. He smiled at his son sleeping on his stomach. Orrin could see the dried tear tracks and went to the washbasin to get a rag. He sat down on the bed and started to rub Chris’ back to wake him.
“Son? Time to wake up.”
“Pa?” Chris slurred.
“Time to get up son.”
Chris started to roll over but when his backside made contact with the mattress, he hissed and went immediately back to his stomach. Tears leaked from his eyes again.
“Hey, that’s enough of that. Let’s get you up and presentable.” Orrin picked Chris up so he wouldn’t need to put pressure on his sore backside. Orrin handed Chris the wet rag to wash his face. “Wipe those tears. You’re fine.”
“I’m sorry Pa.” Chris wiped his eyes and let his father straighten his clothes.
“I know son. It hurts me too, but I would be a bad father if I let you kill yourself with smokes. Come on, let’s go meet your Uncle and Aunt.”
“I don’t have to sit do I?” Chris asked as he rubbed his bottom.
Orrin smiled. “No son, you don’t have to sit. Just be polite as usual.”
“Thanks.” Orrin and Chris went downstairs and joined into the chaos in the den. Introductions were made and everyone got caught up until Evie announced dinner.
Dinner was a well-organized chaos that impressed Jacob. He had assumed with eight kids the house would be pure insanity but everyone moved together like a well-oiled machine.
Jacob and Orrin retired to the den while everyone went about chores and clean up. “I’m impressed Orrin. I expected chaos with this many children in one house.”
“There was some adjustment and some days where it is crazy, but the boys work well together before we adopted them.”
“What was wrong with young Christopher? I noticed he was a little fidgety at dinner.”
“We dealt with his smoking and lying this morning out in the woodshed.”
“Ah. I assume the same way our father would have?”
“When I asked you to watch the boys I didn’t know you already had eight. Are you still going to be able to keep them too?”
“Certainly. We’re ready for them. Besides, after the first seven what’s another kid or two.”
“Well if you’re sure. We’ll be in town for about 12 days before that stage gets here. We plan on staying in San Francisco for a few weeks and then head up to Seattle. We’ll be back by the middle of August. Will that be a problem?”
“No. I do need to make it clear to the boys that I expect respect and there will be chores assigned. And they also need to know what the consequences of bad behavior will be.”
“You deal with everything like father?”
“Not everything, but yes. Will that be a problem?”
“No problem. I’ll explain it to them and to Beth. We’ll give you complete authority.”
“Good. Can the boys ride? What do they like to do?” Orrin asked.
“They ride well enough to not fall off but they don’t ride much in the city. I’m not sure what sort of things they like to do. They tend to wander around and get into trouble. I’ve tried to guide them but Beth doesn’t like to discipline them and so they run wild with few or no boundaries.”
Orrin laughed. “Brother, they are in for a reality check here then. My boys eventually always get caught and I have no problem with a little hand to backside action.”
Both men shared a laugh. The summer wasn't going to be boring.