When Evan and Vern rode off looking for the ox, the rest of the wagons continued westward. The two miners from Pennsylvania were in the lead with their unusual wagon, a wagon and a half. They said the machine they had in the little cart was a steam pump and they were going to blast the gold out of the mountains with water. In to the morning mist they went. Ruts from previous travelers were very clear, one of the miners was walking in front of the team leading them and the other was walking beside the wagon. Behind came Louise and her family. The gold seekers brought up the rear. The gold seekers had just arrived in the new country from Ireland. They had heard the reports of people becoming rich in the gold mines found in the colonies.
With slow sure footing the wagon collection ventured along the trail of ruts. With the rain and fog there wasn’t much dust rolling up and it was cool. The miners kept a steady pace as the rest followed along. The children were staying close and the cows were tied to a wagon. The two boys watched the pig and they had a small switch to keep him going in the right direction. They had fixed a leash of sorts and looped it around him and had a small piece of rope on it. One would tug the other would switch and the pig reluctantly went along.
Crossing over the ridge and descending there were patches of blue sky. The fog was rolling and in between the patches were openings. On the flats they continued. The fog was thinner and the sun was becoming brighter. It was now in and out of the fog, short distance in fog to a clearing. The sun was winning the battle the fog was thinning. Climbing the next slope they broke into clear sky... Here they could see patches of fog in the low spots but they were rolling on.
Ever on ward the group traveled. The miners were now walking beside each other talking about the storm they had just been in. The boys had taken the rope off of the pig and were herding it along. The sun was out and the storm was behind them. Now the thoughts of Louise were with her brother Evan. They were not going to make a full day’s journey today. This would give Evan and Vern time to catch up to them.
Spending time looking for the ox in the morning had delayed their start and now it was about noon. They were going down another slope into a slight depression. On the other side was a low bluff that offered some shade and a break. They decided to stop there for lunch. The miners pulled their wagon at an angle and set water out for the animals. The brothers put their wagons in a row and did the same. The gold seekers just kind of stopped in the middle. Soon sandwiches were being made or jerky was being chewed on. The wagons made a shady area and some stools were set up beside them.
Conversation quickly turned to the lost ox. There was hope it would be found, they were too valuable to be lost. It represented about a month’s pay. Most of all was having the extra ox to help get up the hills. The further west they went the longer the hills were and shorter the flat spots were.
Soon the wagons were rolling again. The procession marched around the hill to plain area. I was a long vast flat area. Here they could roll along real good. They could see a ridge in the distance and a couple of trees. Trees usually indicated a spring. Here they would stop for the night and wait for Evan and Vern.
The flat plain made for good traveling after all of the early struggles. The ridge began upward and it was a gentle climb. Just below the crest was a curl that would provide them a wind break and afford a good view over the area they had traveled. They lined up the wagons for the night and began preparing the evening meal. The gold seekers and brothers were helpful in the evening. They would help get the small stove off of the wagon and go out gathering buffalo chips for the fire.
Some coal and firewood were carried under the wagons for the cooking. It would get chilly at night but not cold enough to huddle around the fire. Soon the stove was set up, some small pieces of kindling started up and soon there was buffalo chips being stacked by the stove. Cooking over the stove was so much easier than an open fire. The fire could be banked to one side making for a lower heat on the other side.
Louise, Elizabeth and Rebecca hurried themselves getting the meal put together. Everybody in the party contributed to the evening meal. Soon the aroma was floating over the hillside. The children had gone with their uncles looking to see if they could find water by the trees.
There wasn’t a pool but there was wet sand and with some digging they had made a small pool. After setting the water cleared up and they could dip pails in and fill them up. Soon they were trudging up the hill with buckets of water. The little ones had half full pails and they would hand them up to be emptied into the water barrels. Back to the water hole they went to refill the buckets.
As the children and Uncle Joel were walking back to the stream they heard a yell. Looking back to camp Joel could see Louise waving her arms and pointing. Turning back to the other direction Joel could see some shadows moving across the plain. Buckets were dropped and Joel and the kids ran back to the camp. One of the gold seekers had a spyglass out and was looking.
It’s them, he shouted and they have the ox. Everybody started talking at once, shouting and waving. Ted jumped on a horse and was heading out to meet them.
Evan and Vern were slowly moving along. It had been a rough time getting the ox out and the ox was plodding real slow. Soon Ted reached them and took the lead on the ox from Vern. Nothing was said as they rode on towards camp.
Evan and Vern took care of their horses, watered them and staked them out away from the wagons. Wearily they walked into the camp. Sitting down they had some chow. Working on getting the ox out they hadn’t thought about stopping to eat. The focus had been on getting it out. Now was time to rest and catch themselves.
Tomorrow was Sunday, a day of rest and preparation. There would be washing, baking and cleaning. Get things together for another week on the trail.
The sun was low in the sky as evening began its descent. The stove was stoked with some lumps of coal to keep it going all night. Saturday they would make a kettle of beans that cooked all night and was used for the coming week. The gold seekers and brothers would go out and hunt for some game so they had fresh meat. It was a routine that had been worked out weeks back. Together the group worked easily among themselves.
After finishing their meal the brothers cleaned up and went to the water hole that had been dug to clean up some more. The hole had been dug out and was a small pond now and they could easily get water. The sun was just above the horizon turning a crimson orange as they trudged back up the hill to the wagons. The sun would be out early tomorrow.
The aroma of brewing coffee rolled over the wagons. Evan eased to one side and could see steam perking over the coffee pot, the sun was not on the horizon. There was a gray pinkish sky so a person could make out shapes. Evan slipped his boots on grabbed his shirt as he slid out the wagon. Louise was still sound asleep as were the kids. Trying to be quiet and not wake them up Evan shuffled to the stove. The aroma of the beans and coffee was tantalizing.
Evan found a coffee cup and filled it. Strolling around the wagons he was trying to see who was up and had started the coffee. Rounding the wagons Evan seen his brother Joel sitting on the grass looking out over the creek and below was a small herd of deer that had his attention. The deer were drinking out of the water pond they had dug.
Beside Joel laid his rifle. Evan kneeled down and sat beside him. Pretty long shot, Evan said. Yep, replied Joel, I’m hoping they will wander this direction some and get away from the creek. Fresh venison would be nice. Evan and Joel sat there, sipping on their coffee watching the deer.
Two of the deer wandered off to their left by the trees. Up the hill was a green patch of grass. A few more deer headed up the hill towards the green patch. Soon all were up in the area. Joel slowly turned, picked up his rifle. Put it to his shoulder.