Chapter 13: Bernard

I tried to walk as often as I could, though I still needed crutches. I operated the pullies and Walt worked down underground, which was very kind of him, as he was not fit for the work as I was.

I was doing chores around our site and packing up. We were planning on leaving as soon as my leg was healed, so I was organizing things to sell, and things to keep. We would leave all of the excess mining equipment with the mine once we sold it. There were two different groups that were interested in buying the mine, and I had shown one of them around it, and the other was planning to come to inspect it later in the day, so I was cleaning up the yard. They were due to arrive in two hours, and Thomas was to give them a tour of the mine, while I would show them everything on the surface. The men that I had already shown the mine to did not seem that interested at the time, but he had come back to me twice with negotiations.

After I had finished cleaning, which had taken quite some time with me hobbling around, I sat down and made some lunch. I sat up early in the morning, as I do often, and I felt sad about what I will be missing when I go back. I saw the sunrise peak over the mountain and admired the many colours that filled the sky. I marvelled at God’s spectacular skies and promised myself that I would travel out of the city often to see a sunset or sunrise. The sky often looked the same, but it felt different, it made me feel like there were no boundaries to the earth, and that the sky went on forever. That just over the next mountain, there would be something new, and that over the next sea, there will be new colours and places that nobody could imagine. Of course, there are still plants, and creatures that we have not yet documented, and there will always be more to find. And it is not so mysterious if we know that there is something to find, because when we find it, we will have already been expecting it, then the excitement will be far less. But I didn’t have time to delve deeper into this rabbit hole of my thought, as the rabbit in the pan was sizzling and popping, and if I sat and daydreamed, it would surely burn, because what feels like ten minutes in your mind can take hours.

So I pulled the jack-rabbit off of the fire and divided it into equal portions. Thomas caught the rabbit yesterday while leaning against the fence. He saw it poke its head out of its hole, and decided to have a little bit of sport, and some fresh meat, so he shot it. It was an impressive shot of around 300 yards, with a decent crosswind. But he hit it in its neck. He was aiming for its head but had not calculated the distance quite right. Still, he killed it straight out, and then rode over and brought it to me to skin and salt, for whenever we would next eat.

I put some seasoning on it, then called up the others from the mine. We ate hurriedly, as the buyers were due to be here twenty minutes ago. And before we were done, we saw them riding up to our property. They were through the gate in a minute and dismounting.

“Hello Fredrick”

“Hello, let me introduce you to my friends. This is Morgan James, and this is Thomas Williams, he worked for the fellow I bought the mine from, and he is the most important worker here. This is Doc Andrews, who helps us with all of our medical needs, and voluntarily works in the mine. This is Walter Grayson who is an old friend that came with me here from Boston.” My friends all shook his hand.

“It is a pleasure to meet you all. This is my oldest son Richard, he is nineteen, and my brother Carson.” I shook their hands and after the introductions, we got to work. Thomas immediately led them to the mine, as that was the most important piece of information. When they were down there, Doc and I watered their horses and put them in the stable.

“What do you think of them, Fred?”

“I think that they are a good lot. I like them more than the last group because they seem a lot less industrial, and more like us. And it is always nice to see a father and son operation.”

“Yes, they seemed down to earth, and that might be what brought them into this field.” It took me a second to understand his joke, but when I did, I liked it.

“That’s good, you should tell that to them. It might convince them to buy this place”. He chuckled and we walked throughout the dusty yard to the mine shaft to see if they were coming up. They were, and we helped them out. Walt took their lanterns, and headlamps, then I showed them the property. We first went to the supply barn. Walt and I had organized it well, with everything in its proper place, they were impressed, as they remarked that the other places they had been to, the men just threw the stuff wherever it fits whenever they were done with it, but I couldn’t stand disorganization, as it would take far to long to find what you need. After the supply barn, I took them to the stable where they saw their own horses eating. This made them very pleased, as most were not that hospitable. I then led them to the gold shed as we called it, to show them the haul that we had got over the last while. They thought that it was a good amount, so we walked out for negotiating. We settled on a price that I was very happy with, as the last group had gotten me down much more. He said that he would be settling things with the bank, then he would be back to buy it. We shook hands, and I promised him that we wouldn’t sell to anyone else. They left quite happily, and so did their horses.

We were all confident that they were the perfect buyers for this place. And since it was getting dark, we did what we always do and sat by the fire. We ate supper, and when they went to bed I sat up watching the stars. Even after the fire went out, I just sat watching the sky. It was quite cool and I brought my blanket out of my tent and lay down on a bench looking up. The moon was just barely visible, it was just a sliver.

I lay there for a while contemplating many things, both random and philosophical when I heard a sound coming from the other side of the mine. I got up slowly and grabbed my crutch. I didn’t have my six-gun on me, but I assumed that it was a coyote, and I would scare it away. I walked over and heard the sound of rocks falling, and banging against wood. It was coming from the ore barn. I thought that it could be a thief, and maybe the same one that took our giant vein of gold. I rush over as quickly as I could, not thinking and opened the door. There was a lantern on the ground and a man grabbing chunks of ore and throwing them into a sack. I shout at him to stop what he was doing and raise his hands, but he didn’t. In a flash, he turned and leaped at me. He wrapped his arms around my chest and arms like a bear hug and knocked me to the ground. I looked up at his face and recognized Bernard. He got up and grabbed the sack which was half full of gold ore, and dragged it towards the fence. I was too winded to get up, and my leg was aching. I watched him get away and tried to shout but I couldn’t make a sound. I wheezed and puffed and I saw him climb the fence that was on the edge of the steep hill that our property borders, then heard a loud crack, and he shouted.

He fell off the other side of the fence. I heard him scream, as he obviously was rolling down the very steep hill. I look over and see Walt with a rifle, and soon I see Thomas and Doc join him. Andrew runs over to me, and Thomas runs to the place where he fell. I shout to him.

“Go help him, Thomas. He will be severely injured”. Walt’s shot obviously didn’t kill him, as he screamed and yelled for a while as he rolled to the river below. Thomas jumped over the fence and made his way carefully down to Bernard. Walt and Doc helped me over the fire. I was fine, but my leg hurt very badly, as it had not fully set, and might have been broken again. Walt told me that he hit him in the hip, but that would be the least of Bernard’s injuries, as the hill is littered with rocks and trees, and if he hadn’t already stopped before hitting the bottom, there was a rocky stream. Quite sometime later Thomas reappeared with Bernard over one shoulder, and a lantern in the other. I didn’t know if he was dead or unconscious, but I prayed he was only knocked out. Andrew helped lay him down on some blankets, and Andrew went to work. Half an hour later he came over to us and told us that he was alive, but has broken one leg and one arm, he also fractured his hip where Walt shot him. He was not yet awake, but he was alive. We were all tired, so we went to bed, but Doc stayed up with him. My leg was sore, but I was so tired, that I couldn’t help falling asleep.

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