Finally, someone hollered “That’s a wrap!” to let us know this long strenuous day had come to an end. I could barely move a muscle. I sure hope I can keep on at this pace, it seemed to come so easily to the other men of the camp. Many of them had cabins, a hot bowl of chowder and families to go home to. As for myself and the other stragglers, we’d be heading back to the hotel. It could be worse though; I’ve heard stories about young sourdoughs that lost their lives in the brutally cold winters of this land. These Fall days were filled with such a warm beauty and contentment, it was hard to imagine how harsh it could become.
If I could survive here and make a little pay dirt, maybe I’d have a chance to show Carol that I truly am a good man. That is if I can stay away from the usual vices that drag me down. Many lost card games and late nights of whiskey drinking cost me my first true love. But, after we lost Johnny, I just didn’t know how to go on. Life lost all meaning for me until I met Carol and she made me see that the light at the end of the tunnel may not but be fully extinguished just yet. I know I never deserved her love, but she freely gave it anyway.
The long way back up the hill to the bustling town did nothing to help my aching muscles. A drop of whiskey sure would help to dim the pain right about now but I knew better than that. One drink turns into two and before you know it, I wake up with my arms around an unknown woman. I can’t do that to Carol again. I WON’T do that to her again.
I decided to keep walking past the saloon with its lively music and tempting spirits and go straight to the hotel. All I really needed was a bite to eat and a good night’s rest. I wasn’t sure either one would be forthcoming as I slumbered up the front steps of the hotel. I was still broke although many kind proprietors here will float a guy until pay day. Rosie didn’t seem to bat an eye at our financial woes. She already had a steaming pot of soup and fresh bread waiting for us. I don’t remember food ever tasting so delicious, 3 bowls later, I was ready to hit the hay. Our bed rolls on the floor weren’t the most comfortable sleeping quarters but at least Tom was kind enough to let us stay here. I was so tired the accommodations didn’t matter much. I was asleep before my head even hit my makeshift pillow.
In my deep sleep the dreams came fluttering into my brain. Johnny was a small boy once again and I took him on an early morning hunting trip. He was so excited, and his face just beamed after he hit that first deer. Sure, we ended up chasing it for a good mile after that, but he became quite a good hunter and fisherman. Truth be told, probably better than myself. We always ate and ate good when Johnny was around. No animal big or small was too elusive for that kid. Ann was an excellent cook too, making anything we had on hand taste splendid. Her skills may even have given Rosie a run for her money. I never was much of a cook. Meat thrown in a pan over a hot fire was my specialty. Thank Goodness for the sweet women in my life who have made “meals” rather than just a slab of meat. Mama made good meals too, I could still taste her legendary pot pie. I was about to take a heaping bite when I was startled awake by the sound of a bullet being fired, then another. I sat straight up and waited to hear another shot but instead the street was filled with yelling and fighting. A couple of feminine screams were heard in the bustle of it all. My buddy Joe came bounding up the stairs and shouted, “Pistol Pete is at it again, better come quick!”