We spent the remainder of that day setting up the sluices and getting ourselves organized. We cleared an area in the shade and started to put things where we would need them. The horses had plenty of grass, water, and shade. So they were comfortable, which made me happy, as they had been carrying us, and our loads for days. Especially after a week of non-stop travelling. Doc was helping us, and he also set up some snares throughout the brush near our camp, so we would have food. He also dug a large fire pit and bordered it with stones. Walter’s tent was put up and secured. He unfurled the canopy that we never used before as we never needed it because we always camped, once the sun was already down. We made Walt comfortable with his chair, and we used the stool that he brought for me as a table.
We decided to save all of the pannings, and operate the sluices for tomorrow. So we sat down and decided to relax for the hour or so of daylight we had left. We made tea and had the most civilized evening that we had had since we left San Fransisco. We had Hard Tack to dip in our tea, and it felt almost as good as biscuits and tea. It was a beautiful sunset, with red, pink, and blue skies, though on the horizon, we saw very large clouds coming toward us. It would probably rain tomorrow. I and Walt stayed up, as Walt usually would not fall asleep until late, so we watched the stars. We counted forty shooting stars in two hours. We never saw that many stars, or shooting stars in Boston. Not even when we were out of the city. Went to sleep, and I slept wonderfully, as the water of the river sounded so soft as it sang its sweet lullaby.
In the morning we were all fresh. Walt’s ankle was feeling less and less sore, and he could move around on his crutch quite well. He would sit on his chair in the river and would sieve through the river bed, filling buckets with the fine gravel, which we would pan through. Andrew was also panning, because he had little else to do, whenever he was not cooking or hunting. He also did it because we would give him a share in all of the gold found, so the more he found the more he would get.
I grabbed my pan and knelt down in the river. It was warm and soothing. I scooped up of some of the river beds and started the process. I was quite excited, as I thought for sure that there would be some gold in this river. I was almost done with my first pan when I saw a small glint for a split second, then it was gone. I dug around a bit, but couldn’t find it. So I continued until I was done. As I swirled the last bit of dirt off, I saw three small flakes of gold.
I jumped up in the air and shouted for joy
“HALLELUJAH”. I shouted to all that could hear me. “Doc, Walt. Gold. We found Gold!” I exclaimed happily and started to dance. Doc ran over and looked in my pan. He saw the three specks, he shouted happily with me and gave me a hug. I was so tired after my dancing and jumping, that I had to sit down.
We spent the rest of the day in the water. We found many flakes of gold and one very small nugget. By the end of the day, I reckon we found a fifth of an ounce of gold. We were very happy for that was our first gold. Even Walter found some, as he panned for a while, but his back hurt after a while from bending over in his chair, and he had to stop. It was our first success, our first gold, and we were overjoyed. We always knew we would find some, but we could not know what it would be like until we actually found the gold.
That evening, the clouds that we saw last night were now almost upon us, as there was very little wind. It started to rain around four o’clock, and it grew steadily heavier for the rest of the day. We covered the things we didn’t want to get wet with the flap from Walts’s tent, which was able to disconnect if we unlaced it. It was the first large rain that we had. The horse enjoyed the rain, and they would roll in the mud. We did not enjoy it though. It beat hard down on our tents. We brought the saddles inside of Walt’s tent, as it was the only one that had room. We also all sat in there and chatted until it was night.
In the middle of the night, the wind picked up, and the heavy storm became a thunderstorm.
The lightning was magnificent but terrifying. As it would strike the ground, the entire sky would light up as if it was day, then disappear, as if nothing happened. But then we would be reminded of it when the thunder sounded soon after. We could feel the thunder in our bones. Even the horses stopped enjoying the rain. And they started to whinny whenever the loud thunder boomed.
Though even throughout the wind, rain, and lightning, in the morning, it was all gone, and only the mud and water were left to remind us of the storm. When I crawled out of my tent in the morning, I walked to the river. The river was quite swollen, as the rain had flooded it. I noticed that one of the smaller sluices we had set up was gone, and I assumed it was swept away when the rain was the heaviest. I decided to walk downstream to see if I could find it. It walked for around twenty minutes and saw it was caught on a tree that had fallen over the river from the other side. I wade out to see if I can grab a hold of it. I stretch out my arm, as I hold onto a slender young tree on the side I came from. My fingers were only a few inches from it, and I was waist-deep in the water. I let go of the branch and grab ahold of the sluice which is floating because it is mostly made of wood. I pull it towards me when I turn when I see a large log floating quite fast towards me. I try to rush back, but the current is too strong. The log hits me in my side, and I lose my balance. I shout as I am dragged downstream. I let go of the sluice and grasp the log. I get a good hold on it, but the river soon deepens, and my feet no longer feel the ground. I pull myself out of the water and shout for help. Nobody would hear me, but I don’t know what else to do. The river soon gets much narrower, and much faster. I try to grab things, but I am too scared to let go of the log fully. I see a tree ways down the stream, and it is leaning over the river. I prepare myself to swim to it when I get closer, but when I push off to do so, the water is too strong, and it pulls me under. When I surface I hear a voice.
“I am coming Fred”. I hear Doc’s voice, and he is running along the shore. “I will thro….”
He is cut off as I am pulled back under. The river comes to a bend, and I am slowed down, where I can start swimming to the shore. He has a rope, and he throughs it to me. I reach out and miss it. He pulls it in as quickly as he can, while still running downstream. He throws it again, and I manage to grab it, and I start pulling myself, and he pulls also. I soon am at the shore, and he hulls me out with immense strength. He lies me down on my side, and I cough up water.
“Are you ok Fred?”
“You are the doctor, not me”. I say and faintly smile. “Yes, I am ok. Just tired, and full of water. If you weren’t there, I don’t know how I would have gotten out”
“I saw you were gone, and that the small sluice was gone, so I assumed you went to look for it. I decided to follow.”
“I am lucky that I brought a rope. I didn’t think it would be used for pulling you out”
I found the sluice, but lost it when I was swept away”
“If you are able, we can go look for it again, or you can return to camp, and I will go alone.”
“I will come. I might have to pull you out next”
We found the sluice aways farther downstream. It came to a shallow part and dug into the river bed. We were able to walk to it and get it without a problem. When returned, Walt was sitting by the fire, and cooking venison bacon. When he saw us he first asked where we were off to, then asked if we went swimming. I told him about what happened, and he reprimanded me for going without someone. We ate breakfast and did some panning and shovelled gravel into the sluice for another day.