Story type: Essay
Most everyone who has tried the publication of a newspaper will call to mind as he reads this item, a similar experience, though, perhaps, not so pronounced and protuberant.
Early one summer morning a gawky young tenderfoot, both as to the West and the details of journalism, came into the office and asked me for a job as correspondent to write up the mines in North Park. He wore his hair longish and tried to make it curl. The result was a greasy coat collar and the general tout ensemble of the genus “smart Aleck.” He had also clothed himself in the extravagant clothes of the dime novel scout and beautiful girl-rescuer of the Indian country. He had been driven west by a wild desire to hunt the flagrant Sioux warrior, and do a general Wild Bill business; hoping, no doubt, before the season closed, to rescue enough beautiful captive maidens to get up a young Vassar College in Wyoming or Montana.
I told him that we did not care for a mining correspondent who did not know a piece of blossom rock from a geranium. I knew it took a man a good many years to gain knowledge enough to know where to sink a prospect shaft even, and as to passing opinions on a vein, it would seem almost wicked and sacriligious to send a man out there among those old grizzly miners who had spent their lives in bitter experience, unless the young man could readily distinguish the points of difference between a chunk of free milling quartz and a fragment of bologna sausage.
He still thought he could write us letters that would do the paper some eternal good, and though I told him, as he wrung my hand and left, to refrain from writing or doing any work for us, he wrote a letter before he had reached the home station on the stage road, or at least sent us a long letter from there. It might have been written before he started, however.
The letter was of the “we-have-went” and “I-have-never-saw” variety, and he spelt curiosity “qrossity.” He worked hard to get the word into his alleged letter, and then assassinated it.
Well, we paid no attention whatever to the letter, but meantime he got into the mines, and the way he dead-headed feed and sour mash, on the strength of his relations with the press, made the older miners weep.
Buck Bramel got a little worried and wrote to me about it. He said that our soft-eyed mining savant was getting us a good many subscribers, and writing up every little gopher hole in North Park, and living on Cincinnati quail, as we miners call bacon; but he said that none of these fine, blooming letters, regarding the assays on “The Weasel Asleep,” “The Pauper’s Dream,” “The Mary Ellen” and “The Over Draft,” ever seemed to crop out in the paper.
Why was it?
I wrote back that the white-eyed pelican from the buckwheat-enamelled plains of Arkansas had not remitted, was not employed by us, and that I would write and publish a little card of introduction for the bilious litterateur that would make people take in their domestic animals, and lock up their front fences and garden fountains.
In the meantime they sent him up the gulch to find some “float.” He had wandered away from camp thirty miles before he remembered that he didn’t know what float looked like. Then he thought he would go back and inquire. He got lost while in a dark brown study and drifted into the bosom of the unknowable. He didn’t miss the trail until a perpendicular wall of the Rocky Mountains, about 900 feet high, rose up and hit him athwart the nose.
He communed with nature and the coyotes one night and had a pretty tough time of it. He froze his nose partially off, and the coyotes came and gnawed his little dimpled toes. He passed a wretched night, and was greatly annoyed by the cold, which at that elevation sends the mercury toward zero all through the summer nights.
Of course he pulled the zodiac partially over him, and tried to button his alapaca duster a little closer, but his sleep was troubled by the sociability of the coyotes and the midnight twitter of the mountain lion. He ate moss agates rare and spruce gum for breakfast. When he got to the camp he looked like a forty-day starvationist hunting for a job.
They asked him if he found any float, and he said he didn’t find a blamed drop of water, say nothing about float, and then they all laughed a merry laugh, and said that if he showed up at daylight the next morning within the limits of the park, the orders were to burn him at the stake.
The next morning neither he nor the best bay mule on the Troublesome was to be seen with naked eye. After that we heard of him in the San Juan country.
He had lacerated the finer feelings of the miners down there, and had violated the etiquette of San Juan, so they kicked a flour barrel out from under him one day when he was looking the other way, and being a poor tight-rope performer, he got tangled up with a piece of inch rope in such a way that he died of his injuries.