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The Trouble with Gold

By Jim Davis

Chapter 2 - Dutch

(See Chapter 1 - The Volcano)

Deep in the Portland Mine, a mile from the Cresson excitement, the hoist cable creaked and snapped as it stretched between the man cage and the spinning hoist drum two thousand feet up the shaft. As the cage gained upward momentum in its trip from the depths of the mine, its guides bumped sporadically on the shaft rails. Heavy grease on the rails smacked like a crude miner eating with his mouth open.

Dutch Wyatt felt the cage shudder as it passed rough spots on the worn rails. Momentary flashes of light marked the mine stations at hundred feet intervals as the rising cage whispered past. Dutch yawned to release the pressure building in his ears.

Dutch and a fellow miner, Tom Hoskins, their faces grimy with drilling dust, stood in the cage as it took them from the warm dampness of the mine toward the inevitable chill wind of November on the surface.

Hoskins broke the silence that usually rode with them at the end of a day. "Dutch, did ya hear about the cave full of gold they found on the 1200 level at the Cresson? Every miner in the district is trying to figure out a way to high-grade some of it."

Dutch, stooping slightly to fit his tall frame into the cage, pursed his lips and tugged at his sweeping mustache. "Yeah, I heard. They're fooling themselves to think they can get any of that gold. Old Dick Roelofs is nobody's fool. I hear tell he's put in a solid iron door there. Nobody will get into that cave except the mine bosses. They'll just shovel the gold into sacks, then keep a shotgun with every bag until it's locked in a railroad car."

Dutch thought of times, long past, when he had helped Butch Cassidy rob a train or two. "If I were in Roelofs' boots I'd load the train half with gold and half with guards. Nope, I'd as soon work down here in the muck of the old Portland as try to steal some of his gold."

Dutch preferred to lose himself in thought but today his partner was excited about the news from the Cresson.

"I bet old Paddymack will find a way to get his grubby mitts on some of it."

"I doubt it. Paddy's a clever thief alright, but he won't get any of this stuff."

Dutch put the Cresson gold out of his mind. He'd been at the Portland Mine for more than three years now, and the dollars were slowly adding up. But it was honest money, and in a couple more years he could buy a ranch somewhere up in Wyoming. There the breezes keep the views sparkling clear for a hundred miles and you can ride for three days and not see a soul.

I'll buy a few cattle. Just enough to make a living so's I'll have time to fish and read some good books. It'll be a quiet life. A hell of a lot less adventure than robbing trains, but at least I won't have to worry about getting caught and sitting in prison while the songs of spring are calling.

Dutch had been in jail once, falsely convicted of stealing a horse, and those few months had been pure hell.

Damn, I'm near to forty. I'd best get this dream to happening. I wasted too many years chasing money. Bad money for the most part. Spending it for the moment instead of making my dreams come true. A Wordsworth phrase floated across his mind and the words were unsettling.

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
        Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers."

Dutch worked his mind hard to imagine the feel of his horse under him. To hear the soothing creak of saddle leather. To breathe deeply of the rich incense of sagebrush. The image faded as the cold air sweeping down from Pikes Peak found its way into the upper reaches of the mine. He closed his eyes tightly, wanting badly to feel warm spring sun on his back. Damn. Two years is a long time to wait for a dream to happen.

I wonder how many guards Roelofs will have on the gold train? The train would wind through rugged hills on its way down the mountain to Colorado Springs. An easy place to stop a train. A posse would need hours to mount a pursuit. He gritted his teeth, angry at his thoughts. The dismal walls of the mine fomented forbidden ideas, ideas that ran through his mind like the devil's messenger. One good heist and I could take away more than this job as shift boss will pay in five years. Enough to buy that ranch.

No, Dammit!

Shaking his head to dispel Temptation's voice, he impatiently waited as the hoist neared the surface. "Up to grass." Instead of taking the electric trolley that ran from the mines to Victor, he walked off Battle Mountain to his little cabin at the lower edge of town. He always walked when he needed to cleanse his mind of Temptation's badgering. His rented cabin cost a little more than the boarding houses, but he liked the quiet. Within the boarding houses snores of a hundred men crowded out sleep, dreams and even wakeful thoughts. Only nightmares seemed to survive.

As Dutch walked in the twilight of the cold November evening, he reminisced again about his train-robbing days.

Those were the times when train robbers enjoyed a certain degree of respect that other bandits didn't command. It was different then, not so many people out west and a lot easier to disappear-or at least be where nobody asked questions. I wonder what it would be like today?

As he walked, the snow crunched and squeaked under his boots. It would be a cold night. Normally he felt good about getting to his cabin and cooking a meal, but tonight the whispers of past devils seemed to haunt him. "Damn, I belong in the sun, not in the bowels of the Earth."

He felt a shiver, not from the cold, but from an inexplicable sense of dread mingled with excitement. It was a familiar feeling. He always felt it just before a hold-up.


Excerpt from the book, “The Trouble with Gold”, by Jim Davis.



The DREGS collection of memoirs from this page can be found at www.dregs.org/memoirs.html