Story type: Essay
September does not always indicate golden sunshine, and ripening corn, and old gold pumpkin pies on the half-shell. We look upon it as the month of glorious perfection in the handiwork of the seasons and the time when the ripened fruits are falling; when the red sun hides behind the bronze and misty evening, and says good night with reluctance to the beautiful harvests and the approaching twilight of the year.
It was on a red letter day of this kind, years ago, that Wheeler and myself started out under the charge of Judge Blair and Sheriff Baswell to visit the mines at Last Chance, and more especially the Keystone, a gold mine that the Judge had recently become president of. The soft air of second summer in the Rocky Mountains blew gently past our ears as we rode up the valley of the Little Laramie, to camp the first night at the head of the valley behind Sheep Mountain. The whole party was full of joy. Even Judge Blair, with the frosts of over sixty winters in his hair, broke forth into song. That’s the only thing I ever had against Judge Blair. He would forget himself sometimes and burst forth into song.
The following day we crossed the divide and rode down the gulch into the camp on Douglass Creek, where the musical thunder of the stamp mills seemed to jar the ground, and the rapid stream below bore away on its turbid bosom the yellowish tinge of the golden quartz. It was a perfect day, and Wheeler and I blessed our stars and, instead of breathing the air of sour paste and hot presses in the newspaper offices, away in the valley, we were sprawling in the glorious sunshine of the hills, playing draw poker with the miners in the evening, and forgetful of the daily newspaper where one man does the work and the other draws the salary. It was heaven. It was such luxury that we wanted to swing our hats and yell like Arapahoes.
The next morning we were surprised to find that it had snowed all night and was snowing still. I never saw such flakes of snow in my life. They came sauntering through the air like pure, white Turkish towels falling from celestial clothes-lines. We did not return that day. We played a few games of chance, but they were brief. We finally made it five cent ante, and, as I was working then for an alleged newspaper man who paid me $50 per month to edit his paper nights and take care of his children daytimes, I couldn’t keep abreast of the Judge, the Sheriff and the Superintendent of the Keystone.
The next day we had to go home. The snow lay ankle-deep everywhere and the air was chilly and raw. Wheeler and I tried to ride, but the mountain road was so rough that the horses could barely move through the snow, dragging the buggy after them. So we got out and walked on ahead to keep warm. We gained very fast on the team, for we were both long-legged and measured off the miles like a hired man going to dinner. I wore a pair of glove-fitting low shoes and lisle-thread socks. I can remember that yet. I would advise anyone going into the mines not to wear lisle-thread socks and low shoes. You are liable to stick your foot into a snow-bank or a mud hole and dip up too much water. I remember that after we had walked through the pine woods down the mountain road a few miles, I noticed that the bottoms of my pantaloons looked like those of a drowned tramp I saw many years ago in the morgue. We gave out after a while, waited for the team, but decided that it had gone the other road. All at once it flashed over us that we were alone in the woods and the storm, wet, nearly starved, ignorant of the road and utterly worn out!
It was tough!
I never felt so blue, so wet, so hungry, or so hopeless in my life. We moved on a little farther. All at once we came out of the timber. There was no snow whatever! At that moment the sun burst forth, we struck a deserted supply wagon, found a two-pound can of Boston baked beans, got an axe from the load, chopped open the can, and had just finished the tropical fruit of Massachusetts when our own team drove up, and joy and hope made their homes once more in our hearts.
We may learn from this a valuable lesson, but at this moment I do not know exactly what it is.
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