Oh Lordy, this is boring. I hate school and I hate doing stupid homework even more. Arithmetic is no problem, with it I’m able to help my Pa doing his paperwork occasionally. And I like reading, the stuff we read at school is quite alright. Of course I like dime novels much better. But – big BUT – writing stories? That’s good for nothing. Only girls like it. And now I sit here and have to “Write About Yourself”. I’m sixteen years old, how much is there to write about? But I better get started. As Pa would say: “There’s no way around it. The sooner you begin the sooner the job is done.”
My father, my real father, was Tom Hunter and he was a rainmaker. People think rainmakers are crooks, but he really could make it rain! And I did prove it, when… But first things first. When my father met Elisabeth Callahan in 1864, they fell in love instantly. She was twenty years old and the only daughter of Ferris Callahan, a wealthy ship owner in Boston. Mister Callahan was against her relationship with this moneyless roamer, but Elisabeth and Tom got married against her father’s will. My Ma broke with her family and left home to travel with her husband through the country. A year later I, Jamie Hunter, was born.
My parents loved each other and enjoyed seeing many different places together. We lived in a yellow painted wagon back then. It had a sign with Barnaby Garibaldi – Rainmaker – Master of the Atmospheric Arts and such on it, but that was a trick, there was no Garibaldi in the family. People are strange. They don’t believe that Tom Hunter, a simple man with reddish hair and a lot of freckles, can make it rain. But they would offer a bunch of money to a foreigner with a funny name and some strange titles for the same reason.
We were not rich but had enough to get along. We were happy – at least for a while. When I was two years old, my mother died of cholera. When I got older I understood how hard my father tried to give me a good and safe home despite the problems that came with his profession. We continued to travel, came through a dozen states and a hundred towns. Sometimes it went well, but more than once people became angry when the rain didn’t come fast enough and chased us away. When we were lucky enough to have some rain, people refused to pay my father. More often my father was beaten up and sometimes I received a few bruises, too.
Somewhere in Montana, when the promised rain didn’t come, my father got tarred and feathered and I had to watch it. He never recovered from that, but got terminally ill. Dusty Rhoades, a drifter who happened to come along, helped me to look after him and in the end helped to bury him. At that time I was thirteen years old. I had a lot of nightmares afterwards, and I was glad that Dusty didn’t leave me alone.
We traveled together and one day we happened to visit Virginia City. The town had been suffering from a three month drought. Optimal conditions – the townspeople were easily talked into paying for a rainmaker. I didn’t really care about the – but I wanted, needed to prove that my father really knew how to make rain.
We were given two weeks to make it rain. Dusty and I followed every word in the instructions that my father had written in his journal. Mister Ben Cartwright, a friend of Dusty’s, let us stay on his land, the Ponderosa. Mister Cartwright worried about the danger that could come to us from the disappointed crowd if we failed. He tried to talk me out of it. When I refused, he offered his help instead, even though he didn’t believe in my father’s skills. Sad to say, not a single drop of rain fell.
At the end of the second week, some furious men from Virginia City came to our camp. They knocked Dusty out cold, destroyed the wagon and everything in their reach. Worst of all, they threw my father’s journal into the fire. When the mob disappeared, nothing was left but ashes and burnt pages.
It started to rain two hours before our deadline. My father was no liar and here was the proof! Mister Cartwright offered us a place to stay when he saw our destroyed belongings. Dusty agreed to work on the Ponderosa and I agreed to stay for a while, too. I had to do some chores but I wasn’t treated like Dusty or any other ranch hand. The Cartwrights made me feel welcome in their home, I got my own room in the big ranch house, had my meals with them and Hop Sing made sure I got always an extra big share of dessert. Even when I messed things really up and broke that gold-plated rifle or when I wrecked that buckboard I wasn’t send packing. Instead, Hoss and Joe taught me important things like what to do when you get lost, how to find water or food, catch fish with your hands or rabbits with a sling when you are on your own in the wilderness. And Mister Cartwright explained to me the ranch work, the paperwork and the responsibility that comes with owning a big ranch. He also insisted I go to school. Oh drat!
Gradually, I felt at home on the Ponderosa. I didn’t forget my real father, but Mister Cartwright, Hoss and Joe treated me like a member of their family. Deep in my heart I wished it could be. It was like a dream coming true when Mister Cartwright decided to adopt me.
And then, just a couple of days before the adoption became legal, Mister Callahan, my Ma’s father, appeared on the Ponderosa. He wanted to take me, his only grandson, to Boston to live with him. I was devastated and so were Joe, Hoss and Mister Cartwright. Being blood kin, he had every legal right to do this, so I had no choice but to go with him. After we left, Mister Callahan and I had a bad accident with the buckboard. We only survived because I had learned so much from the Cartwrights. Mister Callahan then understood how much I belong on the Ponderosa and finally agreed to the planned adoption.
Now I am legally and for all time Jamie Cartwright, son and heir of Ben Cartwright and brother of Joe, Hoss and Adam (who I don’t know yet, because he’s traveling to see the world). It’s still a bit strange to be the fourth Cartwright son, but Mister Cartwright – now – Pa – told me it was an unanimous family decision and I’ll get used to it. I hope one day the people in Virginia City and everywhere else will accept it and get used to it, too.
Is this enough about me? I don’t know. Maybe I better reread and cross out some of the private thoughts and feelings before I hand it to my teacher. Somehow they are too…private, I guess. But I’m tired now, I’ll do it tomorrow.
Written by Bonanza Brand Member Heike
Photo collage designed by Bonanza Brand Member Heike