Gold Fever

The old Indian woman tried to dissuade the two men from crossing the river and going into the mountain. “There is evil up there,” she said in her native tongue.

Roscoe answered her in the Indian dialect, “We’re going, Maria.”

Delmore didn’t like what he was hearing. He didn’t like the tone he was hearing in either Roscoe’s or Maria’s voice. “What? What did she say?”

“She warned us not to go into the mountains. There’s devils up there.”

Delmore smiled and touched the gun hanging from his belt. “I ain’t afraid of no stinking devils.” Delmore was a realist, a practical man who only believed in his five senses. And he didn’t believe in no devil. Or ghosts either, for that matter. What he and Roscoe believed in was the gold.

The two men finished loading the burros and climbed on their horses.

Roscoe turned and tipped his hat and bid her farewell.

Maria looked up at him. She did not smile. “Adios,” she said. There was sorrow in her voice. She had done her best. She had given the two Americanos a warning. Like the others, they did not listen. “Miguel,” she called for her son.

A young Indian man came outside from the small store. “Si?” the son said to his mother.

“Get out the devils.”

Near 500 words: The stranger

On some mountain somewhere west in the Rockies, two men head their way to an outpost. They are on their way to relieve two others. The outpost is on the border between civilization and the frontier.

Jake and Jake pull up their horses to a good camping spot. They make sure the horses are pinned up so they can’t make a getaway. They throw up their tent, build a fire and make a hot pot of coffee. They make for the river nearby and toss out their fishing lines in hopes for a couple of catches. They’re both thinking how good fried fish taste. Right about now they’re good and hungry for fish. After several catches, they clean the fish with their bowie knives. They toss them into the skillet. Soon the pan is crackling with the best fish this side of the Rockies.

With their stomachs full, the dishes cleaned, the two sit around the fire and swap tall ones. They then take on the coming winter for a subject. They’re not men who worry. They’re just cautious. What will they do if such and such happens?

They hear a noise behind them. They turn and see a rider appearing out of the darkness. It’s as if the darkness parted the way the Red Sea did for Moses. The rider has a six-gun slung from his belt. He looks like he knows how to use it too. He’s wearing a pair of specs and a broadbrimmed cowboy hat.

“Mind if I join you?” the cowboy asks. He is polite about it.

“Sure enough,” Jake says. “We’ve got coffee. So you can have that.”

“We’ve finished off the fish,” Jake says. “Sorry we can’t offer you them.”

Then they notice the mule behind him. He’s carrying enough stuffs to last a hundred days in the wilderness. “Coffee’s fine. I’ve got my own makings if you don’t mind my using your fire.”

“We don’t mind. Just make sure you clean up afterwards.”

“Sure ‘nough,” the man says and gets off his horse.

He pulls out a skillet, some beans and some meat. Throws the whole thing on the fire and soon he’s got hisself a meal. A mighty fine meal for wilderness life.

“Where you heading, Mister?” Jake asks.

“Further up,” the man says. “Plan to do some surveying to see what kind of life winter will turn up.”

“I’m not sure much.”

“Well,” the man says. “It’s fur country. So I am going to make a killing with the pelts in the spring.”

Jake and Jake are doubtful of that but they don’t contradict the stranger.

Jake says, “By the way, I’m Jake.” He leans over, shakes the man’s hand.

“And I’m Jake,” Jake says, stretching out his hand to the stranger.

“Don’t you two get confused on who’s Jake and who’s Jake?”

Jake is the first to respond. “Not really. I know who’s which Jake. And so does Jake here.”

“Guess I’d better throw down my name too,” the man says. “I’m Teddy. Teddy Roosevelt.”