Father and Mother

Father James Carter

James Carter was born an identical twin to Benjamin in 1822 in Boston, Massachusetts. The twin boys had an older sister, Rebecca, who was ten years older than they were. Their father (my grandfather) was a sea captain, and Father often accompanied him on his long voyages around the Horn to the west coast, where the trade in otter skins was sweeping the country. Benjamin, on the other hand stayed in Boston. He was no sailor but got seasick easily.

Grandfather’s (Captain Paul Carter’s) ship happened to be docked in San Francisco Bay in 1849 when the cry of “gold!” went out. With Grandfather’s blessing, Father left the ship and went looking for gold along the American River. He had no trouble finding the precious metal, since he was one of the first to arrive. By the time the gold-seeking hoards arrived, the gold rush was in full swing and my father was a very rich young man.

Mother Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth Carter was born in 1828, in Pennsylvania. Her father was a well-to-do shopkeeper in Pittsburgh. When he heard about the gold strike out in California in 1849, my grandfather Carl sold his business and packed up his whole family and headed for the gold fields. Twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth liked the idea of an adventure out West, but the trip ended in disaster. Her father caught influenza and died in a muddy gold camp only a month after arriving. His wife (my grandmother) immediately packed up the three younger children (Rose, Aaron, and Mark) and returned to Pennsylvania.

My mother, however, decided to stay and make a life for herself in the new boom town of San Francisco. She opened a store (I guess Grandfather Carl had taught her well), and being an intelligent woman with a whole lot of common sense, along with her Eastern upbringing as a well-bred lady, she made her store one of the most popular in town.

Of course, this is where my father comes into the picture. Out of all the young, crazy gold prospectors, Father was different. He never bragged about his gold or spent it on wasteful things. He was saving it up and eventually bought a ranch in the foothills (you can bet I’m glad he did that all those years ago).

To make what could be a long story short, they got married and left San Francisco for the new Circle C ranch. Justin was born a year later (1852), when Father was 30. And they pretty much lived happily ever after (until the sad accident when Father was killed).

I was almost six years old when Father took me up to the high country to round up the horses. My big brothers went along, as did a number of ranch hands. Father let me pretend to lasso a colt and then I went to the makeshift corral. A few minutes later, Father was thrown from his horse by a crazy-wild stallion and trampled. Sid McCoy (our foreman) shot the horses but it was too late. And . . . I saw it all.

Father’s twin brother, Benjamin, whom I don’t remember meeting, although Melinda tells me he, Aunt Lydia, and my cousin Daniel came West for Father’s funeral when I was five. But they still live back East. In 1860 (way before I was born), Grandfather and Grandmother died, and my father’s older sister, Rebecca, moved to San Francisco. She started interfering with her brother’s family right away and has done it ever since.

It didn’t take Father and Mother long to make the Circle C ranch one of the finest spreads in the entire San Joaquin Valley. For my part, I’m awfully glad Father chose the ranching life (even though Aunt Rebecca thought he was loco not to want to live in the city). I miss Father dreadfully, but Justin is a lot like him, so he has really helped me when I start feeling sad about Father being gone.

Mother is very patient with me. I think she sees some of herself in me, even if she won’t admit it. I once asked her why she stayed in California instead of returning home with her mother, and she told me she was tired of all the social expectations for women back East and wanted the freedom she had found in the West. I sure can relate to that. But Mother always expects me to act like a Christian young lady, even if she does allow me to dress as I please (as long as I don’t step a foot off the ranch in overalls). I love her a lot!

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