Monday, January 03, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Prologue, Part Two

Begin with the beginning.

The other customer frowned. "I'm no Injun, partner. My parents were Mexican. The Injuns murdered them. But they adopted me into their tribe and raised me as an Injun."

"What's your name — partner? Mine's Adams."

"I've got no name. Or rather, I've got four names. The Injuns called me Picked-up-by-the-Wayside. The Mexicans call me Injun, and the Anglos call me Greaser." The young Mexican touched his ear. "And some call me Gotch Ear." Obviously, he did not care for that moniker, either.

"Tough luck." Adams took another swig. "What are all those prospectors doing here? What the hell is up here?"

From a crate, Cash produced another bottle for himself, for his liquid lunch. "You can ask questions. What will draw prospectors? A gold rush, that's what."

The man with no name laughed. "Some rush. I don't know what they rush for."

"Nuggets. Gold. You think that's not worth rushing for? Have you vegetated among the Injuns so long you don't appreciate gold anymore?"

"I like gold well enough. Only that they get excited over those tiny nuggets… I know a place where the nuggets are as big as hen's eggs."

Several prospectors had joined them to buy their lunchtime whiskey from Cash. Most of them snickered at the Mexican.

"I thought you Injuns can fry in the sun all day long without any ill effects — but you sure got sunstroke," chuckled one of the newcomers. " 'Cause…"

"Not so fast, sir," interrupted Cash. "This man is not an Injun. He's a greaser, and he's exceptionally levelheaded for a greaser. Lemme tell you, sir, that this man is among the most honest people I know. Not that I know too many honest people."

"Damn right I'm honest. I do know a golden canyon. With the Injuns, I used to live in a canyon like from solid gold. You can take your pack horse there, load him up with gold where he stands, and go home as rich as Astor and Vanderbilt at night…"

The prospectors still did not believe him. "As rich as Astor and Vanderbilt in a day. Hah! I…"

And thus it went back and forth for some minutes, until Adams began to question the Mexican carefully and logically. It turned out the Mexican knew his tale well. He was able to describe the trail to the canyon and the geology of the latter without contradicting himself.

"Listen, senores," continued the Mexican. "I don't want no gold for myself. I will guide you to that canyon, and if I have spoken the truth, give me two horses, a saddle, a rifle with ammo, and a hundred dollars cash. And if you find that I lied to you," he added in half-jest, "I'll be at your mercy and you can kill me."

So much modesty and selflessness convinced the prospectors.

Adams, on the other hand, smelled a rat. "Well, compadre, why would you be willing to risk getting shot dead in case you get lost — only for the chance to get two horses and a rifle? After all, you might just return to the canyon alone, gather as much gold as you can carry, and retire to your own ranch. Even if it's too far to walk — why would you refuse to pick up a fortune for yourself once we take you there? Maybe you're a bit loco? Or suppose you don't wanna stick around that canyon 'cause you know it's a dangerous place for some reason?"

"If you have to know, I had to kill some Injuns during my getaway from the tribe. I reckon it'll be better for my scalp if I fight shy of Injun country these days. That's why I want that stuff from you, to get out of here rĂ¡pido."

Was that really the reason why the Mexican was afraid of the gold canyon? Adams remained skeptical.

That afternoon, when Adams had loaded his horses with provisions, he saw that a bunch of prospectors had completed their outfits as well. Some of them had been with the crowd in the back room, but there were others as well. Apparently, some of Cash's customers had brought their partners, brothers, and friends. Back in the store Adams had recognized some familiar faces, but been too busy buying his own stuff to greet them. Some of them had joined the prospecting party. Now they were preparing to quit the village, but seemed to be short on horses. Those they had were already staggering under their loads, while additional sacks remained stacked on the ground.

"Adams, you old rattlesnake!" a voice boomed from the group across the street that very moment.

Davidson. Adams crossed the dirt street to greet him.

"Hey, Adams, why don't you join us?" asked another.

Adams nodded at the store. "Guess I better buy a pan then."

"Ain't got no pan to fry your chuck in?" wondered Davidson.

"I sure do. I mean a pan for gold washing, you greenhorn."

"According to Gotch Ear here, we ain't gonna wash no gold. You don't want a pan, you want a shovel and many, many sacks. We'll give you all you need, and an equal share of the gold, in exchange for horses."

Adams grinned. "OK — partners. I'm kind of, uh, underemployed anyway since the Injuns burned my wagons."

So the party of explorers set out into the wilderness. At first their guide headed east, up the Gila River. Adams saw peaks and mountain ranges in the distance. However, he did not recognize most of the landmarks. After all, he was a teamster, not a scout, and this was not his regular route to Tucson.

They traveled day in, day out. Up, up they went into the mountains, and back down again on the other side, crossing the Continental Divide. While they were traversing a plain, the Mexican suddenly turned north. The others wondered how he had known where to turn, as there were no landmarks or trails. But he only smiled.

Read on…

Or buy the full story.

No comments: