Chapter 6: First Stop [First draft]

In the morning, we got the horses loaded, then set off. On the road leading out of the town, I saw Bernard. The man fighting in the bar.

“Come here for a sec. I have something I would like to give to you”. As he said that angrily, I saw him clench his fist.

“Doc, Walt, let’s go. Bernard is looking for trouble”. We quickened our pace and left

“You coward!” He shouted as we left Main Street.

We soon forgot all about Bernard, as we travelled for two days, north. We stayed at a small village last night, but I doubt we will find lodging tonight. It will be our first of many nights in the bush. We enter a small forest and leave the beaten path. We stop at a stream and unload. Doc goes off to find dry wood, and we make the horses comfortable. Once I set up my tent, I start helping Walt with his. I go with a hatchet to cut down some good sturdy poles for the tent. When I come back, he is completely tangled up, and sitting in a large pile of cord, and fabric.

“How did you do that Walt?” I say when I see him.

“I was looking for the middle. And couldn’t find it. The darn thing is giant”

“You wanted it so, remember Walt. Here get out of that mess. I have the poles” I untangle him, and then help put up his tent. I then carry the two folding chairs, while he puts together the cot. Once everything is set up. I make us supper. I send Walt to get water from the stream, and once Doc got back with the wood, I made a fire and I boiled the water. We only had dried food, and that is all we would have to eat, but I could make us some hot tea, as we had plenty of it.

Doc then set up his tent, which was very small, but very light. We ate and then slept.

In the morning, I woke up stiff, tired, and jealous of Walts’s cot. I crawled out of my tent and saw that the sun was just poking through the leaves. I was tired of doing nothing but ride my horse, so I got my gold pan and tried it out in the creek. I sat there for an hour and a half with no success when Doc came and joined me.

“How’d you sleep, Fred?”

“No good. kept waking every hour or two, just to fall into another restless sleep. Guess I am still soft from city living.”

“It will take a while to get used to it. I have trouble too, though I haven’t camped out that many times. I was thinking of getting us some meat for breakfast, so we don’t eat through our rations so quickly”

“Oh thanks, Doc, I am going to go at this for maybe another hour around this stream, I’ll tell you if I find anything.” He walked off with his rifle, and shortly after he was gone, Walt soon woke and joined me.

“How did you sleep, Fred?”

“Not as well as you I presume. I awoke several times during the night”

“Oh. I slept just fine. It is not a feather bed, but it is better than the ground”

“I can only imagine”. I smile a jealous smile, but I am in too good a mood to be angry. “Grab a pan Walt, I will show you how to use it.” He went to the cart, picked out a nice pan, and then walked back.

“So do I fill it and then shake it?”

“Not at all, there is quite the technique. You don’t remember the lesson I gave you in Boston?”

“Not a word. I remember that you fill it up, and when you empty it, it should be full of gold”

“Well, that is the goal. No, you first sieve all of the large rocks, and pebbles out, until it is just the fine stuff. Then you hold it underwater and shake it back and forth. That’s right. Don’t let anything spill out. Once you have done that a fair bit, the gold should be settling near the bottom of the pan. Then, slowly let the water in the pan, spill out, taking the loose debris out with it. Then repeat until there is only the smallest bit left in”. We continued shaking, and spilling, until Walt’s pan, was nearly empty. He emptied his much quicker than mine because he was more impatient. Once we were both ready I showed him the last step “Take a small bit of water in your pan and swirl it around, to drag the sand to the near side, and it will leave the heavy gold at the far side. There like that”. He looked closely in his pan, poking around to see if he could see the gold colour, but, we both turned up nothing.

“Drat, nowt”

“Nope, sadly I haven’t turned up anything all morning, but we are not far north near what they call the mother load. After a couple of weeks more of travel, we should be turning up gold.”

“Well, I am going to do this for a little longer”. Walter continued panning for a half-hour, then we heard two shots.

“I suspected Andrew has gotten us some breakfast”

“Good I am hungry. This panning is hard after a while. Why don’t we use some of those sluices that you have?”

We aren’t going to stay here long enough to justify putting them up. They are meant for bulk mining. We are just doing some practice.” Doc arrived back with a fair-sized Hare, so Andrew gave us a lesson in skinning and the anatomy of rabbits. Soon it is over the fire on a spit, and we are preparing some food to go with it.

We eat, and then pack up the horses, and prepare to leave. We spill a pitcher of water from the creek over the dying fire, then I climb up onto the saddle, and we ride off. We find the trail and exit the forest. I am excited about the road ahead of us, and the different places we will stay.

Around halfway through the day, we come to a steep hill, and the horses are having trouble, with all of the rocks. They stumble, a few times but always catch themselves. This part of the trail was in poor shape. The cartwheels would get stuck behind medium-sized rocks, but we managed to get past the worst of it. Until Walt’s horse, Harry slipped after stepping on a late piece of shale. It slipped, and Walt went down.

“Walt”. I rush over and get his right leg out from under the horse. He yells in pain as the horse gets up off of him and walked forward for a ways. Doc, who had gotten his doctor bag off of his horse, was now at our side.

“May I lift your leg, Walter.” Walt replied to him ‘slowly’. He did so, and, Walt yelled again. “Your ankle is broken. I will have to make a splint. A hate to say so, but the horse ride will be hell.”

We fashioned him a splint out of young saplings, and Doc tied them to his leg with some twine he had. We lifted him onto his horse, and I saddled my horse as Doc gave him a lesson on riding without using that foot. After that was done we set off at a slower pace. The rocky area soon ended, and it was smooth riding the rest of the way, but it wasn’t as smooth for Walter, as his ankle would jostle, and he would grunt and want to shout. But he bore it well, and when it got dark, we helped him down, sat him on his chair, and we set up his tent for him. He didn’t want to stay up, and he went to bed promptly.

“I will check the splint in the morning and make sure it is in a good place for the bone to settle”

“Good good. I am very happy we hired you Doc. I have no doubt your help will be very necessary, through this journey”

“I hope to be, I would feel bad if I was hired with no use, though I am not hoping you get injured of course”

“Of course!” I replied with a laugh. We did not stay up for long, as we didn’t have much to say.

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