We steadily panned for gold for quite some time. Doc, Walt, or I would go to the nearest town for supplies and food items, like sugar and salt. But except for those rare visits to civilization, we lived entirely on our own. At that point, we had been there for a month and a half, Walt’s ankle was fully healed, and we had nearly a pound of gold, which is worth $330.72 Dollars, based on Doc’s report from town. We had a medium-sized bag full of gold dust and nuggets. But the adventure of panning for gold had somewhat died in my heart. I long for more, as many people do when they get what they want. Though I still enjoyed living out at our little camp, I wanted to move again.
“Walt, how does mining for gold sound? With explosives and picks, I mean”
“I don’t know, I like panning. It is simple, and it gets us a good amount of gold. I don’t really was to be swinging picks and running from explosives. I like the shovelling, and kneeling that panning and sluicing offers.”
“You will still be able to shovel, but there will be no water, and I will handle all of the explosives.”
“Well you haven’t steered me astray yet, but, won’t it be very dangerous? I hear of a lot more accidents when in town from that kind of gold prospecting than from panning.”
“Yes it will be more dangerous, but that adds to the adventure. And if God said it is time for me to go, it won’t matter whether I am, underground by a stack of dynamite, or kneeling in a river.”
“Well, that makes sense. But what about Doc? He never signed up for blast mining.”
“I am sure he will be fine with it, besides, his medical experience is wasted here, when he could be of real value when we work underground. And besides, we are finding less gold every day. This area will run out eventually”
“But we will have to blast deep into the mountains to find gold correct?”
“Not necessarily. Men find gold fairly close to the surface all of the time, though we will have a far better chance If we dig down.”
“Then how about we buy some land, that already has an old mine, then we just dig and blast new tunnels.”
“That could work, it would save us a lot of time, and we would be able to pick up, where the last people left off. Next time I go to town, I will ask around if anyone is selling mined land.”
“I am still not keen on the idea, but if it adds to your sense of adventure, I will follow you.”
“Goodman Walt, you are a true friend”
“I am a submissive friend you mean”
“Yes”. I winked at him then grabbed my shovel and started sluicing. I stayed at it for two hours straight before I took a break. I was very frustrated, as I couldn’t find anything. Maybe every three or so shovels, I would find a small flake, but that would be it. I then moved upstream about two hundred yards and tried there, but I had the same outcome. I knew that a few groups of men had settled farther upstream, but there was very little left where we were. We usually pull only a tenth of an ounce a day. Whereas, at the peak of our findings, we could get almost three-quarters an ounce in a full day with Walt, Andrew, and myself working. But that period only lasted for a week and a few days.
I am going to town to ask about land, because of the talk that Walt and I had a few days ago. I loved the ride, as it had rained the day before, and everything looks so fresh after the rain. It takes five hours of riding for us to get there, but the time flies when you are thinking. You hardly have to pay attention, for after an hour of riding you get the road, and the horse does the rest by itself.
When I arrived, there were many men standing on the road looking at something. I ride over to see what the spectacle is. A man was lying dead on the ground, and another man was yelling and cursing. I could hear him, though I was the outside of the group of people.
“I’ll get that lunatic, and when I find him I will kill him. That dirty swine…” He said many words that I do not care to repeat. I recognized the shouting and yelling man to be Bernard who I met in San Jose. He started asking questions. “Who saw it? Who saw that man shoot my best friend Gary?” A man walked forward. He was tall and authoritative.
“I did. And that lunatic as you call him was acting in self-defence. Gary here was raving drunk, and swinging his gun around. He pointed it at two women and fired near their feet. They screamed and ran, as he laughed, and fired two more shots in the air. Philip walked towards him to calm him, but Gary would have none of it. He took a shot at him, but missed, as he was staggering so much. Philip grabbed his gun but got a shot in this side. He then shot wildly and hit him in the chest. Your friend would have killed him if he hadn’t stopped him.”
“Philip is a murderer, Gary was just playing around, he wouldn’t hurt anyone. You are siding with a murderer. Where is your friend now? Probably being patched up, and being showered with praise for murdering a man in cold blood.”
“I am not siding with anyone, I am just calling it as I see it. I still fault Philip for being so brash, thinking that he was the one to calm Gary. He could have handled it better.”
“Where is Philip, I have something to say to him.”
“He is being tended to, and no, you will not be allowed to see him”. I then saw Bernard push through the crowd and walk to the doctor’s office, but I saw him stop when he got there and stomp and kick the door in frustration. The tall man turned to the people that were still watching and said that he was out tending Philip somewhere else, which explained his anger. Bernard did not come back, but went to the saloon, leaving his so-called friend dead on the ground.
I decided to leave this group, and I went to the general store, as there were usually a few different prospectors in there. I asked them if they knew anyone that was selling a mine, or land with an old mine on it. One of the men named Janssen told me to look for a man named Thomas Williams. He said I would probably find him in the saloon, so I went. Though I dreaded it, for my fear that Bernard would recognize me, I still remembered his threat to me. I walked in and asked the bartender if a man named Thomas Williams was around. We pointed to a table near the back, so I walked over.
“That’s me, what you lookin fer?”
“A man said that you know something about selling a mine.”
“Yes, I work for a man that is selling his mine and packing up. He is going back to New York.”
“Wonderful, I am looking to buy one, so could you take me to see him?”
“I am leaving in around an hour, so if you stick around here until then, I won’t mind taking you to see him.” I thanked him, and he invited me to sit down. We got to telling jokes and were having a good time. Many tables around us were joining in on the festivity, and we soon were attracting a lot of attention. By this time I had completely forgotten about Bernard, until he walked over to listen, and spotted me.
“You” he growled and pointed his finger towards me. “You are the man that made me overpay for a drink. I remember you, I thought you would have taken your rich pompous ass back to the east.” I tried to ignore him, but almost everybody had stopped talking and was looking at me. “You owe me two cents”.
“I don’t owe you anything”. That made him so angry, that I thought I best had paid him, but it was too late for that. He pushed the person sitting in front of him out of the way and walked toward me. We were around the same height, but I could tell that under his shirt, he was much stronger than me. He pushed me back, and I land in my chair. Immediately Thomas and one of the other men at the table with me had stood up, and blocked him from getting at me. He tried to plow through them, but they were both built like bulls and didn’t budge. Thomas was a very steadfast man, both physically and personality-wise. He highly disliked riff-raff, and that was all that Bernard was to him. Bernard’s eyes looked as if on fire, and his face was red with rage, and drunkenness. He tried to kick at me, but my friends just pushed him back, halfway across the room, and then threw him down. When he got up, he was slightly sobered, but still very angry at me. I could tell he had nursed his anger for me while we were gone, and he wanted to kill me.
“Fine,” I say, trying to do anything to deescalate the situation. “Here are two pennies”. He stomped towards me then slapped them out of my hand, and onto the floor.
“This is far past money mister, I want your hide.” He said that excruciatingly calmly, but with intense energy, then walked out. We sat back down, and I passed it off as an empty threat, and the others soon forgot about it, but I didn’t. For some reason, I thought that he was very serious.