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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSix Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 13. A Surprise Coming
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Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 13. A Surprise Coming Post by :stevesandman Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :3210

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Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 13. A Surprise Coming


There was a nice-looking railroad station at Cavallo and some rather tall buildings in sight. There was a trolley line through the town, too, and the children saw the cars almost as soon as they alighted from the train. But they were all loudly wondering where the cow-ponies were, and the cowboys whom they had expected to see.

The little Bunkers, of course, did not know that nowadays even the cattle-shipping towns of the Great West are changed from what they were in the old times. Whether they are improved by the coming in of other business besides that connected with the raising of cattle, horses, and sheep is a question that even the Westerners themselves do not answer when you ask them. But, in any case, Cavallo had changed a good deal since the time Daddy Bunker had previously seen it.

"And what can we expect? The range bosses ride around in automobiles now because it is easier and cheaper than wearing out ponies. And I read only the other day," added Mr. Bunker, "of a Montana ranch where they hunt strays in the mountains from an airplane. What do you think of that?"

"Are you sure Mr. Scarbontiskil got your message, Charles?" asked Mrs. Bunker of daddy. "Perhaps we had better go to a hotel."

"Oh!" cried Laddie, "I want to go right out where the cows and horses are."

"So do I," said Russ. "A hotel isn't very different from a Pullman coach."

And they were all tired of _that_--even daddy and mother. But while they were discussing this point (the children rather noisily, it must be confessed) a big man in a gray suit came striding toward them, his hand outstretched and a broad smile upon his bronzed face. He wore a crimson necktie and a heavy gold watch-chain with a bunch of charms dangling from it, and a diamond sparkled in the front of his silk shirt. Russ and Rose noticed these rather astonishing ornaments, and although they thought the man very pleasant looking, they knew that he was not dressed as men dressed back home. At least, daddy would never have worn just such clothes and ornaments. But he did not look at all like a cowboy.

"I reckon this is Charlie Bunker!" exclaimed the man in a booming voice. "I'd most forgotten how you looked, Charlie. And is this the Missus?" and he smiled even more broadly at Mother Bunker.

"That's who we are," cried Mr. Bunker quite as jovially as the big man spoke. "And these are the six little Bunkers, Mr. Scarbontiskil."

"Oh! That's him!" whispered Rose to Russ. "And I know I never _can say that name!"

The ranchman, however, at once put Rose and everybody else at their ease on that point. When he took off his broad-brimmed hat to make Mrs. Bunker a sweeping bow, he said:

"Don't put on any dog out here, Charlie. I've most forgotten the name I was handicapped with when I was born. Nobody calls me anything like that out here. Call me 'Jack'--just 'Cowboy Jack.' It fits me a sight better, and that's true. I was a cow-puncher long before I got hold of a lot of good Texas land and began to own mulley cows myself. Now, let me get acquainted with all these little shavers. What's their names? I bet they got better names than my folks could give me."

Rose and Russ, and even the smaller children, liked Cowboy Jack right away. Who could help liking him, even if he did shout when he spoke and wear such flashy clothes? His smile and his twinkling eyes would have won him friends in any company of children, that was sure. And then, though the clothes were odd, the children were not at all certain that they were not more beautiful than those their father wore.

And what a game they made of telling Cowboy Jack their names, so that he would remember them--"get 'em stuck in his mind" as he called it.

"I can remember 'Russ' because he is the oldest," declared Cowboy Jack. "And 'Rose' is the sweetest flower that grows, and I can't forget her. And 'Violet'? Why! she's the first blossom that comes up in the spring, and I sure couldn't forget her. And this boy, her twin, you say? 'Laddie'? Why, that's just what he is--a laddie. I couldn't mistake him for a lassie, so I'm sure to get _his name stuck in my mind," and Cowboy Jack boomed a great laugh, shaking hands with each of the children as daddy presented them.

"And this is 'Margy,'" proceeded the ranchman. "I'd know that was her name just to look at her. She couldn't have any other name but 'Margy.' No other would fit. Now, that's all, isn't it?" added Cowboy Jack, his eyes twinkling very much as he looked right at Mun Bun but appeared not to see him. "Russ, and Rose, and Violet, and Laddie, and Margy? Yes, that must be all."

"There's _me_!" exclaimed the littlest Bunker, staring up at the big man.

"What's that I hear?" asked Cowboy Jack, looking all about the platform, and up in the air, and over the heads of the Bunker children. "Did I hear somebody speak?"

The five older Bunker children began to giggle, but Mun Bun did not take the matter as a joke at all. He was quite sure he was being overlooked and that he was just as important as anybody else in the crowd.

"Here's me!" cried Mun Bun again, and he laid hold of the skirt of Cowboy Jack's long coat and tugged at it. "You forgot me."

"Jumping grasshoppers!" exclaimed the big man, staring down at Mun Bun. "What do I see? Another Bunker?"

"It's me," said Mun Bun soberly. "I have a name, too."

"I--I wouldn't have seen you if you hadn't pulled my coat-skirt," declared the ranchman quite as soberly as the little boy himself. "And are you a Bunker? Honest?"

"I'm Mun Bun," said the little boy.

"Jumping grasshoppers!" ejaculated the ranchman, stooping down very low and staring at Mun Bun. "Another Bunker--and named 'Mun Bun'? That's a very easily remembered name, isn't it? I couldn't forget you--sure I couldn't! For you see every time I go to the bake shop I buy buns--and you are a bun, so you say. Are you a currant bun, or a cinnamon bun, or what kind of a bun are you?"

"I'm a Bunker bun," declared the little boy. "And you can't eat me."

"No, I can't eat you," admitted the ranchman. "But I can pick you up--this way--and carry you off, can't I?"

And he suited his action to the word and rose up with Mun Bun on one of his palms, and held him right out on a level with his twinkling eyes and smiling lips. Mun Bun squealed a little; but he liked it, too. It was just like being carried about by a giant!

The next thing was to get something to eat in the lunchroom of the railroad station. To be sure, breakfast had been not many hours before, but there was a long trip yet before Cowboy Jack's ranch would be reached, and one could always count on one or more of the six little Bunkers being hungry if not fed at rather frequent intervals. So sandwiches and buns--cinnamon buns, not Mun Buns--were bought, and milk for the children and coffee for the grown-ups, and a light lunch was eaten. There was really not very much to choose from, but the children were satisfied with what was got for them.

"Now, come on, all you little Bunkers," said Cowboy Jack. "We've got to start right away for my ranch, or we won't get there before supper time; and then Maria Castrado, my cook, won't give us anything but beans for supper."

"Oh! Where are your horses?" cried Laddie and Vi together.

"Out on the range," said Cowboy Jack. "Plenty of 'em there."

"But don't we ride out to your ranch on them?" Russ wanted to know, as Cowboy Jack strode around the railroad station, again carrying Mun Bun, and they all trooped after him.

"Got something that beats cayuses," declared Cowboy Jack. "What do you think of _these for cow ponies?"

What he pointed out to them were two great, eight-cylinder touring-cars, both painted blue, and behind the steering-wheel of each a smiling Mexican who seemed as glad to see the Bunker children as Cowboy Jack was himself.

"Pile in! Pile in!" said Cowboy Jack in his great voice.

He gave Mun Bun over to Mrs. Bunker, who got into one car with daddy and the hand baggage. But he put all the other children into the tonneau of the other car and got in with them. It was quite plain that he was fond of children and proposed to have a lot of fun with the little Bunkers who had come so far to visit him.

"I've got a lot to show you youngsters," he said to Russ and the others when the cars started. "And I have a surprise for you out at my ranch."

"What is the surprise?" Vi asked. "Is it something we can eat? Or is it a surprise we can play with?"

"You can't eat my surprise," said Cowboy Jack, with one of his widest smiles. "But you can have a lot of fun with it."

"What is it?" asked Vi again.

"If I tell you now, it won't be a surprise," replied the ranchman. "So you'll have to wait and see it."

They drove through the town in the automobiles, and it seemed a good deal like an Eastern town after all. People dressed just the same as they did in Pineville and there was a five-and-ten-cent store painted red, and a firehouse with a motor-truck hook-and-ladder just like the one at home. Russ and Laddie thought maybe they would not have any use for their cowboy and Indian suits after all.

But by and by the motor-cars got clear of the town and struck into a dusty road on which there were no houses at all. In the distance Rose spied a moving bunch of cattle. _That looked like a ranch; but Cowboy Jack told her that his ranch was still a good many miles ahead.

The little Bunkers liked riding in these big cars, for the Mexicans drove them very rapidly. The road was quite smooth and they kept ahead of the dust, except when they passed some other vehicle. The dust was very white and powdery, and Margy and Laddie began to sneeze. Then they grabbed each other's right little fingers, curling the fingers around each other.

"Wish!" cried Violet eagerly. "Make a wish--both of you."

"What--what'll I wish?" stammered Laddie excitedly.

"Oh, dear! Now you spoiled it," declared Vi. "Didn't he, Rose?"

"He can't make the wish after he has spoken," agreed the older sister. "No, Laddie; it is too late now."

Margy began to wave her hands and evidently wanted to speak.

"Did you wish, Margy?" asked Vi.

The smaller girl nodded vigorously. Cowboy Jack laughed very heartily, but Rose said to the little girl:

"You can talk now, Margy."

"I wished we'd have waffles for supper," announced Margy, hungrily. "I like waffles."

"And I bet we have 'em!" cried their host, laughing again. "Maria can make dandy waffles."

"Well, I would have wished for something--just as nice if you'd let me," Laddie broke in. "I don't see why I couldn't wish, even if I did speak first."

"That's something mighty mysterious," said the ranchman soberly. "We can't change the laws about wishing. That would bust up everything."

He talked so queerly that sometimes the little Bunkers were not sure whether he was in earnest, or only joking. But they all liked Cowboy Jack very much. And best of all--so Rose thought--they did not have to call him by his right name!

The sun was very low when the cars got into a winding road through a scrubby sort of wood and then climbed into the range of hills that they had been approaching for two hours. Mun Bun was asleep. But the children in the ranchman's car were all eagerly on the outlook for the first sight of the ranch houses which Cowboy Jack told them would soon appear.

"And then for the surprise," said Russ to Rose. "I wonder what it can be?"

"Something nice, I am sure," sighed his sister contentedly. "It must be something nice, or Mr. Cowboy Jack would not have mentioned it."

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