After three days of riding on this coach, my body has reminded me that I'm not as young as I used to be. The last 3 days had been filled with tidbits of polite conversation and a persistent, dull headache caused from the bundle of joy riding across from me. Junior seemed no more confident in this trip than I was. But, since Mitchell built his new mill, the boys assured me that there would be plenty of work for us all. I prayed this would be true.
Before long, a dusty street lined with structures of all shapes and sizes came into view. The signs read; Butcher, Barber, Assay Office, Candy Shop... I spotted plenty of watering holes to wet my whistle. Boy, how I could use a nip right now.
As the locals wandered in and out of the various establishments, I found myself a bit out of place. I noticed the well known, 3 story J.K. Wells Hotel to my left. The double doors lined with stained glass windows were elaborate yet inviting. No doubt with what little change I had left lining my pockets, this would not be the place where I'd hang my hat tonight.
As I stepped out onto the road, curiosity found me walking straight towards those elegantly carved double doors and into a luxurious hallway with a massive staircase. I suppose my lack of luggage and unkempt appearance gave me away as I was greeted with "What business do you have here?" The tall, slender man gave me the once over as he led me into the hotel office on the right. As we passed the parlor, a beautiful young woman lent me half a smile and the wink of an eye. I could get into trouble here. From a large dining room straight ahead, I could hear china clinking among the lively conversation.
My stomach grumbled as a waft of fresh bread came rushing by me reminding me that my last meal was long ago. The man, introducing himself as Tom, gestured for me to have a seat as he took his place behind a large, neatly organized, oak desk.
Tom raised an eyebrow as I explained my tales of woe. I wasn't asking for much. Just a chance to earn a living and feel like a man again. I'd work for it and I'd work hard. Not unlike those that came before me and would surely come after, this was my last glimmer of hope. These mines could treat a fella real well or, in the next breath, blow you the kiss of doom. I had hoped this time wouldn't be the latter. After determining that I didn't have enough to pay for a private room, Tom's eyes filled with kindness as he offered me an option I could afford. The third floor of the hotel had a spot for guys like myself, down on their luck and in need of a helping hand.
That night, I made my way up the pile of stairs to the top room. Bedrolls lined the wooden floor. A young man looked up and said "You're over there." pointing to a vacant corner spot. "Don't cross over the line." And with that, he rolled over. I laid out my bed and lay there looking up at the stars shining brightly through the skylight above. Maybe this adventure would be a "brighter" one...