Chapter 5: On the Gold Trail [First draft]

In the morning, I leave to go get the horses ready before Walt wakes up. I go to the stables and bring the horses out into the yard. I hitch the cart to Sheila and fit as much equipment in it without it being too heavy, or unstable. The little bit that I have left I load onto her back. I strap Blankets, pans, and my tent, as well as my extra clothes, and personal equipment, onto my back, and Ralphs/my horse’s rear.

I bring out Harry and load Walt’s luxuries onto his back. Harry, is a very strong mule horse mix, so I expect that he will be able to carry three-hundred-and-fifty pounds. Walts tent alone weighs seventy-five pounds, but I get rid of the poles that come with it in favour of cutting the poles wherever we camp. I manage to secure everything of Walts onto Harry’s back. The chair was a little difficult, as it was thin but long and wide, so I ended up loading it last. Shortly before I was done, Walt came out and got out Bessie, and tied her to a post. He was really slowly getting used to tending horses. He has ridden many horses, but there would usually be someone he could hand the horse off to once he was done riding it. And he has never ridden a laden horse before. Bessie was a tall horse, which looked slightly funny, as Walt is not a very tall man. He got up though after a bit of difficulty.

“Fred, I am going for a small ride, so I can get used to this beast before we are plowing through all manner of brambles and brush. I will be back in a half-hour.” I waved, and he trotted away.

After I had gotten all of the horses ready, and they drank all the water they needed, I sat down on a bench that was nearby. Soon after our new friend and doctor showed up.

“Hello, Doc. Do you have everything in order?”

“Yes, Mr. Richter. You seem to be all set. That mule there is fully laden.”

“Please call me Fred, you sound like my employee, and I want us to be friends. And yes, those are Walter’s many luxuries that he insisted upon bringing.”

“Good good. I have all I need on my back, and on my horse.” Andrew had a tall pack on his back, a rifle at his leg, and a black box, that I assumed was his doctoring equipment.

“Where is your friend Walt this morning?”

“He left a while ago to get used to his horse before the left for the trails.”

We chatted for a few minutes until Walt arrived back. I went inside of the hotel to settle the bill, and I also asked where we should head for a good start to our gold-finding quest. The man said that you would have to go south first to go around San Fransisco Bay, and most people would travel for one day and stop at San Jose. I thanked the man, paid him, then left.

The three of us mounted our horses and left the stable yard. I told them we will head for San Jose, then go northeast up to where the places where people were finding the most gold. We walked slowly out of the town and were soon on the road to San Jose. I was loving every second of this. The hot sun touched my face as I looked up, and felt beautiful. The small animals in the grass would scurry away, as we got closer, and we would all whistle songs and tunes, as we went along. Even Walter who was very unsure about this trip was smiling. We all had wide hats to keep us from sunburn. We passed several ranches, as we road along, and miles of farmland. We saw large herds of cattle, walking up and down the plains. Every now and then we would come to a small brook and would let our horses drink if they needed it. As it was a hot day, and the horses were sweating a lot. Andrew would point out things in the landscape, that were unique. Trees that you couldn’t find in Boston, types of rock, birds and animals. Andrew knows a lot about nature and seemed to really enjoy living in it.

We stopped every now and then, to eat, and stretch our legs. We had various meats that we dried or salted, as well as some cheese and bread. But the breaks never lasted for more than fifteen minutes, and then we would be back on the horses after they had eaten and drank if they needed it.

It started to get dark, and Walt and I were getting quite sore. We are not accustomed to the constant jostling, bumping, and rubbing. Whereas Doc has been riding daily for a while after coming to San Fransisco. I knew I will get accustomed after a week or two of riding, but my bottom will be sore for a few days until then. We arrive in San Jose, just before it gets dark, and look for somewhere to stay for the night. We stopped at the first hotel that we saw. I went in to get us two rooms, while Doc and Walt took the horses to unload, groom, and make sure that they have food. They joined me once they were done, and we left to get a drink or two. There was a saloon down the road, where we went to sit, and drink until we were tired.

“I will get the drinks Fredrick. You find us a nice table”

“Here Walt, I would like a beer.” Doc handed a few coins to Walt, and then Walt left to buy the drinks.

“How are you feeling after your first long day in the saddle Fred?”

“A little sore, but I suspect I will get used to it after a while. Time sure seems to slow down when all you do is ride.”

“Yes, it does. It doesn’t seem as long when the road gets difficult because you are focusing on what to do next. But when you are on a simple trail, and the horse knows what to do. it is very slow. I tend to tell myself stories if there is no conversation. If I don’t know the end, I usually make it up.

I looked over to the bar and saw Walt. Down the other end of the bar, I seemed to see a man in a heated argument, with the bartender. I got up, and walked over, to see what was the matter. I heard:

“This is outrageous. Where I come from a pint of beer costs five cents, here it costs seven. You have no right to straight out rob me of two cents. I will pay five, and no more.”

“This is my Saloon, and you have drunk my beer, so you will pay me the price of that beer.”

Around half of the people that were sitting down, were now watching this argument with keen interest. Most were on the side of the bartender, but a few men, who were obviously drunk and looking for a fight, joined in with the man.

“Hold on,” I said, and I came between the man and the bar. “What is your name sir”

“It none of yer business”. I turn to the man behind the bar

“What is the price of a pint here?”

“Seven cents, and it always has been.”

“That is not a bad price. Who here has paid more in other places.” Three-quarters of the men raised their hands “Who here has never paid more than seven?” The man and his followers raised their hands. “Did you already drink the beer?”

“Yes, and I intend to pay the price that I always pay. Five cents.”

“Well, I don’t see what you can do about it, mister. This gentleman owns the saloon and made the prices. You have to pay the price, otherwise, you are stealing from him. And if you don’t pay, we are going to drag you to the sheriff, and he will make you pay.”

“C’mon Bernard. We don’t need the sheriff. Just pay and let’s go”

“Your name is Bernard then?”

“Mind your own business” The man reached into his pocket and drew out a nickel, and two pennies, then slapped them on the bar and left.

“Thank you, sir”. Said the bartender “Men like that just come into here looking for trouble. Your next drink is on the house.”

“No problem”. I walk over to Walt who was waiting with the drinks

“Well done Fred, you dealt with him well”

We both walked back and drank until ten, then thought we should go to bed, as tomorrow would be another long day, and the rest would be appreciated.

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