The Shady Rest Hotel is like a home, operated by the Bradley family who live there and who treat their guests largely like family. Kate Bradley runs the hotel largely with the help - wanted and unwanted - of her Uncle Joe Carson, a big thinker whose actions usually make running the hotel more difficult, that is when he decides to do something besides eat or sleep. Kate also has to oversee the lives of her three pretty daughters, man-hungry eldest Billie Jo, bookish middle child and romantic Bobbie Jo, and tomboyish youngest Betty Jo. The hotel is located along a spur line of the C&FW Railroad between the rural towns of Hooterville and Pixley. The hotel, which operates on a small financial margin at the best of times, is dependent on operation of the Cannonball, the train running along the rail line, to survive. As such, the Bradleys often are in battle with executives at the C&FW, especially the miserly Homer Bedloe, who does whatever he can to shut the train down.