Ocean Echoes - Treats Of Pair Play
( Originally Published 1922 )
TWO days later I rode into Jordan Valley, Oregon, a cattle and sheep country. I came upon a little town in the heart of the valley, and remained there one day,. It was a bad day for me, as I had to leave it on foot, having gambled my horse away.
An old prospector met up with me who had a horse as good as mine. Then it happened that a farmer drove into town with an old buckboard to sell. It was cheap; twelve dollars he asked for it. It was of no use to me, nor was it to the prospector, each of us having but one horse; and yet we both wished that we had it, for it was built for two horses, and roomy, and a stout hazel wood neckyoke stuck out of the front of it.
"Well," said the prospector, as we felt of the spokes and examined the tires, "we both can't have it, but I have a scheme for one of us getting it."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Come over to the hall," he said ; "there's dice there, honest dice."
"One flop out of the box," he continued. high. The high dice take both horses."
For a moment my mind wandered back to San Francisco, to my dice game of tops and bottoms, the last game I had played. I had learned a lot since then, but the thought of the comfortable buckboard, and the obvious honesty of the old prospector made me take another chance.
"Come on," said I. "It shall be as you say."
"You understand," he said, "the high dice takes both horses."
"How about the saddles?"
"Everything goes with the horse, and one flop out of the box settles it."
He shook first and rolled two fives.
I shook the dice, I blew on them; I swung them over my head three times. When they rolled onto the mahogany bar two threes were all I had. I felt a bit sad when I saw the prospector drive away with the two horses hitched to the buckboard.
Then commenced a series of makeshifts for me. I footed it through the hills and desert, getting work where I could to earn enough money for a grubstake, always with the prospector's thought that sooner or later I should strike it rich.
In 1915 I discovered a ledge not far from Mono Lake, California. "At last !" I thought. "At last !"
The ledge had all the ear-marks of a mine. It was three feet across with perfect walls, dipping at an angle of forty-five degrees. The ore was free milling, and although low grade on the surface it warranted work for depth to find rich values.
I set about with a feeling of optimism that I had never before experienced. For three months I worked and starved. I had to pack my grub sixteen miles, and poor grub it was. Coffee and very little bacon, and beans. Boiled beans for breakfast, cold beans for lunch, and warmed-over beans for supper. Day in and day out. No one to speak to, no news, and no new thoughts. Only work.
Sometimes I would get discouraged. Then I would look at the beautiful sugar-loaf quartz in the ledge, and my eye would catch a little glint of gold. That was all I needed, to go at it again.
One morning I made up my mind to go away. I was a slave to a rainbow, and I knew it, and wanted to break away forever. I knew that if I ever did break away I should never return to this or any other mine unless in later years and sanely.
But even then it is doubtful if my resolution would have held had it not been for the fariner. Pate surely brought him that very morning mounted on one horse, and leading another, with rifles slung across the saddles.
"Have you a little time to spare?" he called, stopping at the mouth of my tunnel.
"Yes," I answered. "All kinds of time."
"Come along with me," he said. "Get on this horse, and take this rifle. Three Mexicans killed the sheriff this morning. We are out after them. Come on."
Before I had time to more than snatch my coat we were off at a gallop down the mountain trail. I was never to see that mine again, and I suppose some other poor prospector got the benefit of my worn outfit: ragged blanket, blunt pick, beans, glittering hopes, and all.