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The Fever

Nobody had seen "Pistol Pete" since the incident, but he was up and about today and agreed to help us out on our cabin. Billy and I weren't sure how much help he'd be but at least he was good company. His jokes were dirty, but they were funny, and laughs seemed harder to come by these days. After payday, Billy and I scraped together what we could for lumber. But, it took another 10 days before it was delivered to camp with the other supplies. I'd also become pals with Kelley, one of the local blacksmiths, who hooked me up with some extra building scraps he had out back. We didn't have much free time, but we planned to spend every moment we did have getting this shack erected.

This morning two more little ones were buried due to what Doc Stevens tells us is "Typhoid Fever". It has taken nearly fifty of our little ones so far. The desperate looks on the faces of the fathers and the tears running down the mothers' cheeks can turn even a heart of stone to flesh. I knew how they felt, it was exactly how I felt when Johnny passed. It's how I still feel. A traveling preacher is supposed to arrive next week to lead a service in remembrance of all those lost. Some of the ladies in town believe many of us men are awful "sinners" who need saved. I gave up on God the day he gave up on me. I don't think anyone will change my mind on that...

As the day came to a close, we were proud of the progress we'd made. Pete did pitch in and only managed to hit his thumb with the hammer about a half a dozen times (It didn't help that he'd started drinking by noon). It was getting harder and harder to resist the hooch. So much sadness, desperation, loneliness... it weighed heavy on a man's soul. I tried to remain strong for Carol. She hadn't written me back yet, but I kept writing to her. It made me feel connected to her in some small way. Some of the men had their families here with them. They were much happier than the rest of us scoundrels but, Carol said she wasn't chasing another one of my prospecting dreams. I suppose there's a better way to bring home the bacon. But us fellas who aren't too smart or talented, only have so many options. For me, the hunt for pay dirt was a lure I couldn't resist, much like a shot of whiskey. Carol didn't understand gold fever but once you'd been afflicted, you'd never be the same.

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