Later, the craft carefully maneuvered onto the run-way at Gulf Creek Airport. The boys got off the airplane and headed for a taxi stand. When they found a taxi that wasn’t occupied, they immediately hopped in.
“I had no idea how busy this place would be!” Tom exclaimed. They driver sped off. They drove to the nearest car rental and got a green sports car with a hood.
The brothers drove for four, long hours, along dusty roads that seemed to be deserted. No civilization was for miles. Dust clouds formed all around, covering their shiny vehicle. Finally, ranches started to appear. They saw a particular ranch that caught their attention. A large wooden entry-way read:
Lucky Shoe Ranch
“Tom,” Jake exclaimed. “This is it! We’re here!” The boys pulled up the long driveway and saw a large, ranch style house. On the front porch stood a man in overalls. He was tall, rather big, and had a bushy, gray beard.
“Jeanie! They’s here! Cousin Tom and Cousin Jake!” he hollered, swinging his arms. Jake grinned. The boys hopped out of the car, gathered the luggage, and met Uncle Sam on the porch.
“I’m so glad you came! Well just look at ya. The last time I saw you, Jake, you were barely walkin’ around. And Tom! My goodness, aren’t we fancy!” he said, pointing to Tom’s sliver belt.
“Tom, Jake! You’re here!” Aunt Jean exclaimed, running out of the house. She was wearing a simple dress, with a flowered apron. He brown hair was up in a bun.
The boys followed their Aunt and Uncle inside. They were immediately charmed. Everything was just like a ranch. A big moose head hung over the fireplace and bearskins on the floor, making it a comfy decor. A small eating area was in the kitchen. Off the living room was bedrooms, and Uncle Sam’s office.
“Well, why don’t y’all make yourselves at home. Your bedroom is right there,” Aunt Jeanie said, pointing to a door in the hallway. The boys thanked her, gathered their luggage, and went through the door.
“Whoa…this is awesome,” Jake stammered, seeing the cowboy themed bedroom.
“I guess every room out west is cowboy themed,” Tom said. Wallpaper with bull riders covered the four walls. Comfy cots sat on the left hand side, while the one door leading to the closet was on the other side. A bright window let in lots of natural light. The boys discovered oil lamps on their nightstands and gathered that there was no electricity.
After unpacking, the boys decided to wash up before supper. Scanning up and down the hallway, neither saw a bathroom.
“Oh, no,” was Jake’s simple reply. The boys ran through the living room, through the kitchen, and onto the back porch. There, by the barn, was what Jake had been afraid of. An outhouse.
“Great. Just Great.”
“Oh, did I forget to mention we don’t have runnin’ water?” The boys turned to see Uncle Sam.
“Yes, but that’s okay. We’ll get used to it,” Tom laughed. Uncle Sam smiled.
“Molly! Come on over here! I want’cha to meet your cousins!” he hollered. A teenage girl with dark brown braids and overalls came into view. She was in the corral, riding a cream colored horse. She hopped off, jumped over the fence, and ran up to the porch.
“You want me, Daddy?” she smiled, revealing her slightly crooked teeth.
“Yah, sugar. This is Tom and Jake, your cousins. Boys, this is Molly. She’s seventeen.” The boys, used to their Northern ways, were surprised when Molly gave them a handshake instead of the polite curtsy they always received at home. Jake smiled as he rubbed his red hand,
“Her nickname ought to be Iron Ball, not sugar.”
“Pleasure to meet y-” Tom was cut off by a loud holler.
“Come and get it!” Aunt Jeanie yelled.
“Grubs on!” Uncle Sam exclaimed, leading everyone into the kitchen.
After a hearty meal of rabbit stew, the boys went outside to enjoy the cool evening breeze and the lowering sun.
“So, what did you think of the rabbit stew?” Tom asked.
“I tried not to think to much about it,” Jake replied, solemnly. “I’m afraid it might hurt Cotton’s feelings.” Tom laughed as he thought of Jake’s white rabbit back home.
“Jake, Tom, could I see you in my office for a minute?” The boys turned to see Uncle Sam standing by the back door.
“Sure,” Tom said.
When the boys were seated in Sam’s office, he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out an envelope.
“Read this,” he said, handing it to Tom. Jake leaned over by his older brother as Tom opened the jacket.
Say one word about what’s been happening at your ranch, and you’ll be extremely sorry. Be careful what you say…Or we’ll be forced to take extremes.
“Is this a joke?” Jake asked, afraid of what the answer would be.
“This is no joke,” Uncle Sam replied, seriously. “In fact, this is why I asked you to come out. I need you help on deciding what to do. I don’t want to bother Jeanie with it, ’cause it just scares her.”
“Who is Phantom Spiral?” Tom asked, still inspecting the letter.
“I’ve got no clue. All I know is whoever he is, he leaves a spiral mark on whatever he sabotages.”
“Last week he ruined our too shed by fire. He left a spiral on the wooden pieces left. All the neighbors still think it was an accident. It’s getting harder and harder to explain all these incidents to the nosy neighbors around here.
“How many accident’s have you had?” Jake asked.
“Only three. But I’m sure many more are to come. I received the letter last week.”
“Why don’t we wait and see what happens next. If anything more happens that's serious and not just a little prank, we will have to contact somebody,” Tom said, wisely.