Fiction

Depression Years

By: Raymond Greiner

The year is 1928, and the United States is suffering an economic depression.

James Abernathy graduated from high school in Indianapolis, Indiana and awarded a scholarship at the Chicago Electrical Institute.

James drove his Model T ford to Chicago to register for classes. He followed directional instructions and found the institute.

Posted on the door was a sign stating the institute would be closed until further notice. James became distraught and befuddled. He had twenty dollars in his pocket.

His first thought was to call his parents to send money, but decided to sleep in his car, and the next day look for some kind of employment.

The next morning he walked the streets and stopped at a small grocery store and purchased two oranges and a bag of pretzels.

During his street search a sign in the window of an abandoned apartment building stated “Help Wanted”.

James entered and a man was sitting at a desk.

“I noticed a help wanted sign in the window. I’m looking for work,” James said.

“I’m hiring laborers to tear down this apartment building. If you show up tomorrow morning I’ll hire you,” the man said.

James arrived the next day at the building to be demolished.

“We will pay you five dollars at the end of each day you work. If your work is not satisfactory we’ll release you,” the man said.

James was given an axe and sledgehammer to bust                               down walls on the apartment building.

He began in the bedroom of one of the apartments. He broke down a closet wall, and hidden behind the wall was an old suitcase covered with dust.

James opened the suitcase and it was filled with one hundred dollar bills. He filled his pockets and shirt with this money and escaped via a remote side door.

He returned to his Model T and began driving south to return to his parent’s home. As James moved away from the city he found a dirt road turnout and parked behind a grove of trees to count the money. His hands trembled. He had over fifty thousand dollars.

He arrived at his parent’s home. They were surprised to see him. He explained the school closing related to economic depression.

“I took a job wrecking an apartment building. As I tore down the wall in a closet I found an old suitcase filled with hundred dollar bills. I departed from the job and drove home. I have over fifty thousand dollars,” James said.

 “It’s a miracle,” James’s father said.

“What do you plan to do with this money?” His mother asked.

“I’ve always dreamed of visiting California. This money offers the opportunity.

“I’ll buy camping equipment and drive my Model T. It’ll be a great adventure,” James said.

The next day James purchased a quality tent and sleeping bag, and gave his parents five thousand dollars. They lived frugally on his father’s pension from many years for the railroad.

He studied road maps to choose his route west.

After breakfast with his parents he departed on his long drive to California.

He passed Kansas and Nebraska farmlands and continued west. The roads were mostly gravel or dirt with few paved sections.

Much of his travel follows the Trans Continental Railroad. The rails made a sharp sweeping turn and the engineer slows the train considerably when curves appear.

The road James was following made a sharp sweeping turn and near the passing rails was a hobo camp. The hobos were sitting on logs in front of a campfire. James was curious to talk with the hobos and stopped to visit.

There was a dog sitting near the campfire. James approached the hobos and introduced himself. The hobos were friendly, and invited him to join them.

“Whose dog?” James asked.

“We don’t know. He was here when we arrived. We fed him and he stayed,” one of the hobos said.

James enjoyed talking with the hobos. Most were successful in various professions prior to the stock market crash causing severe economic decline leading to the depression.

One of the hobos had a train schedule and a westbound freight train was due to arrive soon.

As the train approached the curve it sounded it’s whistle, and the hobo’s gathered their belongings.

James handed each hobo a twenty-dollar bill bringing smiles to their faces.

As the freight train passed slowly the hobos jump aboard.

James added wood to the campfire and the dog jumped up on the log and sat next to him.

“Do you want to go with me to California”? James asked.

The dog wagged his tail and put his paw on James’s knee.

“I’ll name you ‘Hobo’ since I found you among a group of hobos,” James said.

James set up his tent and the two new friends stayed up late enjoying the campfire.

The next day with Hobo on the passengers seat they continued to drive westward.   

They arrived at the California border and crossed into the Golden State.

After a few miles they came to an old sign with an arrow pointing to “Calico Ghost Town”. James was curious and they took the road to the ghost town. It was attached to a gold mine active during the eighteen hundreds.

The houses and buildings were falling down and desert animal made dens in the old buildings.

James gathered scrap lumber for a campfire and the town was a true ghost town.

They took a walk and found the mineshaft, and James imagined how it must have been a busy place during active years.  

Hobo was a good companion, as they shared the campfire.

They were up early and continued to drive west.

They came to an area where placer gold mines were in abundance in the mid nineteenth century during the California Gold Rush period. There were several small streams flowing into a larger river.

It was hilly terrain, and on the side of one hill was a small cabin with smoke coming from the chimney.

Out of curiosity James knocked on the door of the cabin and an elderly man with white hair and blue eyes answered.

“Hello, I’m James Abernathy and this is my dog Hobo. We’re on an auto tour and just entered California.

“I’d like to know more about this area,” James said.

“I’m pleased to meet you, James. I’m Thomas Rubin. and my wife Mildred and I operated this placer mine for thirty years. Mildred died two years ago and I haven’t mined the claim since her death.

‘My old dog died this year, and my life became an empty place. What’s your dog’s name? He’s a beauty,” Thomas said.

“His name is Hobo. I rescued him from a hobo camp I stumbled onto. He’s a fabulous dog,” James said.

“Hello Hobo, I’m glad to meet you. You and Hobo are welcome to stay here tonight. I have a fish trap in the creek and I’ll prepare a trout dinner.

“I go days without speaking to anyone,” Thomas said.

“We’d love to stay over you can tell us more about the area,” James said.

Thomas made a superb trout dinner, and Hobo had a whole trout to himself.

During dinner Thomas talked about the gold rush days.

“In 1848 gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. They kept it a secret for a year then it leaked out.

“Gold seekers traveled from all over the world to strike it rich. They had no clue of the effort it takes to work a creek for placer gold.

“Nearby towns opened bars and gambling casinos. What little gold they found was spent on drinking, gambling and prostitutes. A few hard working miners found significant deposits and became wealthy. Within five years the gold rush was over,” Thomas said.

Thomas showed James his photo album of the many years he and Mildred worked their claim.

“I’m impressed. You two shared a life few could imagine. The pain of Mildred’s loss will remain the remainder of your life,” James said.

“I know it will. What am I to do? I’ve thought about reopening the mine and hiring a crew. They could retain half of the gold they mine. It would take a major effort to organize this. I’m too old to work the claim, but can teach what I’ve learned to a younger group,” Thomas said.

“Hobo and I will stay with you and I’ll drive my Model T locally and attempt to make connections with those who may be interested in working your claim as you’ve suggested,” James said.

“If nothing else it would allow me a sense of purpose. In addition I’ve contemplated forming a foundation to apply the money Mildred and I accumulated over many years.  

“I’ll research to discover worthy causes and fund specific groups or charitable organizations. We accumulated twenty million dollars from gold mined from our claim. This would not only offer me personal gratification it would become my legacy. What is a seventy year old man going to do with twenty million dollars?” Thomas asked.

Thomas and James talked late into the night, as Thomas described the many experiences he and Mildred had during their marriage. 

The next day James left Hobo with Thomas and drove the local area to recruit a mining team.

As he traveled he observed two men sitting on a porch drinking beer. They waved at him and he stopped to talk with them detailing Thomas’s plan to reopen his gold claim.

After he explained his proposal one of the men responded.

“Let me get this straight. If we agreed to this we would be required to wade cold creek water and shovel gravel all day and give half of our gold to the owner of the claim?

“You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone interested in this proposal,” the man said.    

As James drove away he felt a sense of disappointment. James continued on the road and observed a small house on top of a steep hill.

He decided to drive up the hill to talk with the owner of the house. He got about halfway up the hill and his Model T’s engine stopped. He was befuddled and walked up the hill.

As he crested the hill two women were hoeing weeds in their garden among chickens pecking for insects and six goats grazing in a nearby pasture. Parked near their house was a Model T like his.

“Are you having trouble getting up the hill?” one of the women asked.

“I don’t know why my car’s engine stopped,” James said.

“Model T’s have gravity fed carburetors. You need to coast back down the hill, turnaround and back up the hill,” the older woman said.

James did as she suggested and when he arrived at the top he exited his car with a smile on his face.

“It’s mandatory to recognize when backwards is the proper direction to attain our destination, James said.

The two women laughed.

“I’m Denise and this is my daughter Jane,” the older woman said.

“Pleased to meet you both. I’m James Abernathy and I’m staying at your neighbor Thomas Rubin’s house,” James said.

“I’ve known Thomas for years. I know his wife died. How is he getting along?” Denise asked.

“He’s in a state of deep depression from Mildred’s loss and his dog died recently adding to his grief.

“He’s bonded with my dog Hobo who I rescued from a hobo camp on my drive to California from Indiana. I named him ‘Hobo’ related to finding him living at the hobo camp. He and Thomas have formed a bond.

“Thomas made us a trout dinner from his fish trap and gave Hobo a trout of his own. Hobo made Thomas smile. This made me feel good,” James said.

“Come into our house. I’ll make lunch and you can describe more about yourself,” Denise said.

Entering the house James was impressed. On one wall was a long counter with a scale to weigh produce and shelves with empty milk bottles to be filled with goat’s milk and sold at the local store.

Denise made spinach and kale salad with chopped walnuts, carrot strips and diced onions.

“Thomas expressed desire to reopen his placer mine. I’m exploring locally for members to join Thomas and I to reopen mine activity.

“I lack knowledge on how to work his mine, but he’s enthused to teach me and possibly others.

“I met two men on a porch drinking beer and neither had an in interest in wading cold creek water to prospect for gold.

“Observing how you two work together I’m thinking we three could be a good team to reopen Thomas’s gold claim.

“He’s offered to split the gold fifty-fifty with us. The remainder will go toward a charitable foundation he’s forming to fund specific causes.

“What are your thoughts?” James asked.

Denise and Jane looked at each other, as their minds absorbed what James said.

“My husband Harold abandoned us a year ago, and took the small savings we accumulated.

He jumped a freight train to Los Angeles. He was imprisoned for breaking and entering, and murdered by his cellmate.  

“Thomas knows how hard Jane and I work. We can match any male regarding physical effort applied to gold mining. We’d enjoy the opportunity to help Thomas and ourselves,” Denise said.

“I want to attend college when I finish my home study courses and the money I would earn could pay for my education,” Jane said.

“I want you two to meet with Thomas tomorrow. Anytime is fine. We’ll be home all day,” James said.

 “We’ll visit in the afternoon, Denise said.

Denise and Jane arrived the next day. They hugged Thomas and thanked him for the opportunity to assist him and James re-opens the gold claim.

“I feel reborn. Martha’s loss broke my spirit. When James arrived I enjoyed his and Hobo’s company.

“I can’t work with the intensity of my younger years, but I have a broad knowledge of how to extract gold from this claim. I’ll teach you everything I know,” Thomas said.

The next day Thomas ordered hip boots for the three new miners.

“We’ll pan near the river bank while we wait for your hip boots to arrive. Panning for color is essential to locate the most productive locations to set up rocker box separators. Denise and James will operate the rocker box and Jane and I will continue prospecting with pans,” Thomas said.

This team put heart and soul into their work. Denise and Jane prepared sack lunches for the crew. They were eager to begin the day’s work.

“I have a big nugget in my pan,” Jane screamed out.

Everyone stopped work to look at Jane’s treasure. This event stimulated the team.

They followed this routine for a week and their gold stash was significant.

Sunday was a scheduled day off, and Denise and Jane prepared dinner with an evening campfire stimulating conversations.

“Tomorrow I’ll drive to Hatfield. They have a library, and I’ll search for possible recipients of my charitable funding projects.

“I have an interest in contacting Indian reservations to offer support. They’ve been victimized by social separation,” Thomas said.

Thomas drove to Hatfield with Hobo sitting on the passenger’s seat. Hobo stayed in the car while Thomas studied the card catalog for books pertaining to reservation life. He selected several books to take home and read about their social struggles.

After absorbing these books his knowledge of the Navajo stimulated desire to assist address social inequities.

During weekly campfires and discussions Thomas revealed an outline of his intension to offer assistance.

“I’ve chosen a particular Navajo reservation in New Mexico to offer assistance. I want Denise and Jane to make initial contact.

“I’ll loan you my Model A Ford to make the trip. It’s a wonderful car far more comfortable than the Model T.

“You’ll be ambassadors to survey and analyze the overall situation attached to their daily lives.

“I’ll write a letter to tribal leaders describing our purpose and desire to offer assistance,” Thomas said.

A week passed and Thomas received a letter from Doctor Dezba Tsinnajinnie.

Dear Thomas: My name is Dezba. I was born and raised on a New Mexico Navajo reservation. I was a good student at the reservation Indian School, and tribal elders sponsored me to attend The University Of New Mexico where I received a medical degree and became a certified physician with a personal goal to offer medical treatments to reservation members.

Your letter offering fiscal support to improve social conditions within our tribal community displays someone of high character standards.

I’ve been living with my parents and converted their spare room to a makeshift clinic. I’m limited to minimal treatments from the lack of a critical patient care facility.

I expanded service-offering house calls creating broader coverage.

It’s my hope and dream to construct a medical clinic with selected modern equipment to increase efficiency and offer higher quality service to patients.

You are invited to visit at your convenience to gain a better perspective of my challenges, Sincerely Dezba

Thomas wrote a letter to Dezba.

Dear Dezba: I am sending two friends and associates as an initial visit to evaluate circumstances and challenges. A mother daughter team I work with at my gold mining claim. They are quality women and you will enjoy meeting them.

I plan to visit at a later time with a male friend who has been instrumental to change my view of life’s abundance.

I feel good about this project, but it will take time to arrange the pieces to move forward.

I will send funds for you to use in any manner you choose to improve your current situation, Sincerely Thomas

During the Sunday campfire Thomas read Dezba’s letter and plan was formed for Denise and Jane to drive to New Mexico and meet with Dezba to discuss issues related to the construct a medical clinic for the Navajo reservation.

They will depart in two days and take James’s camping equipment for overnight stays during travel and time spent on the reservation.

Thomas gave Denise a ten thousand dollar check to give to Dezba to assist serving residents medical services.

Thomas’s Model A Ford was pure luxury compared to the older Model T’s.

They camped near the road, and in two days travel they were at the entrance to the reservation.  

A woman was carrying a load of supplies and Denise asked if she needed a ride.

She accepted and Jane gave the woman her front seat and put the woman’s supplies in the car’s trunk.

“Do you know where Dezba the tribes physician lives?” Denise asked.  She’s been my friend since childhood. I’ll show you where her house,” The woman said. 

As she departed to go to her own home she pointed to Dezba’s house.

Denise knocked on the door and a young woman opened the door.

“Are you Dezba?” Denise asked.

“Yes,” Dezba answered.

“I’m Denise and this is my daughter Jane. We were sent here by Thomas Rubin to discuss the proposed clinic to serve the reservation’s medical service needs,” Denise said.

Dezba broke into tears, as she hugged them both.

“I can’t explain how fortunate I feel for Thomas’s support to construct our much needed clinic,” Dezba said.

“Thomas is a fabulous person. He’s unlike anyone I’ve ever known. He’s dedicated to use his remaining years to offer support to worthy causes.

“You’ll meet him soon. He’ll visit with his friend James Abernathy and his dog Hobo. You will enjoy these three,” Denise said.

Dezba introduced her parents Elsan and Enola. They will prepare the evening meal for their visitors, and discuss the clinic project.

“I’m excited to meet them,” Dezba said.

Denise handed Dezba a check for ten thousand dollars.

“Thomas instructed me to give you this check to purchase items related to your immediate needs prior to your clinic’s construction,” Denise said.

Dezba began to cry again.

Denise hugged her.

“Please understand. Thomas sincerely wants to sponsor your clinic. He’s aware of its value to your reservation.   

“Thomas possesses enormous compassion and insight. He suggested Jane and I make initial contact to gain an overall perception of the circumstances easing adjustment for those associated with your clinic’s development,” Denise said.

“I’ll apply his ten thousand dollar check to purchase antibiotics. These drugs save lives, and I’ve never had funds to stock them. I’m so grateful,” Dezba said.

“Thomas suggested you contact an architect to provide construction blueprints to submit to construction companies. He’ll supply funds to cover cost of these blueprints, and also pay for the clinic’s construction,” Denise said.

“Construction blueprints are my highest priority,” Dezba said.

“We’ll leave tomorrow to return home. Our meeting establishes personal bonding predicted to occupy our lives for years to come.  

“When the clinic is completed Thomas and James Abernathy will attend the grand opening,” Denise said.

Denise and Jane camped on Dezba’s parent’s property and shared breakfast prior to departure.

They arrived home after two days on the road.

James was waiting at Denise’s home and hugged them both.

“Welcome home I look forward to hearing about your trip,” James said.

There was a big white dog in the goat pasture.

“Where did the dog come from?”  Denise asked.

“She’s a Great Pyrenees. Thomas bought her to protect your animals from predators during times you’re absent while working the gold claim.

“He named her ‘Guardian’ the protector. They’re among the oldest known dog breeds. They are gentle and loving, but instincts to protect become dominant if a predator comes around. She loves the goats,” James said.

“She’s a beautiful dog. There’s no end to Thomas’s compassion,” Denise said.  

    They gathered in the living room to describe what occurred on their trip to the reservation.

“You can follow me tomorrow to return Thomas’s Model A. He’ll enjoy hearing details of our experience,” Denise said.

“I’m tired from the trip. I’m going to bed,” Jane said.

James built a small fire in the woodstove to quell evening chill.

Denise made tea forming a pensive mood.

What’re your thoughts about Dezba?” James asked.

“In one word, ‘dynamic’. I have no doubt about her making the clinic something special. She’s not only highly intelligent she’s driven to construct her clinic to serve reservation members.

“Thomas will be impressed at what she’s accomplished with no funding. She uses a small room in her parent’s home for examinations and counseling. She also makes house calls, and has a wide range of knowledge of ancient Navaho natural medicinal compounds combined with modern medicine learned at the University Of New Mexico’s medical school.

“Her mission is to give maximum effort to improve lives of reservation residents. She’ll use Thomas’s ten thousand dollar gift to purchase antibiotic drugs desperately needed to prevent infections. These drugs are costly, and unavailable previous to Thomas’s support,” Denise said.

“The entire time you were gone I thought about you day and night. I’m deeply in love with you, and want us to get married,” James said.

“I fell in love with you when your Model T Ford couldn’t get up the hill to our home. Your reaction revealed a warm, humorous demeanor.  

“We’ll have our wedding at my house,” Denise said.

When we visit Thomas tomorrow we’ll reveal our wedding plans,” James said.

“I’ll sleep on the couch,” James said.

“No you won’t,” Denise said

The next morning Denise drove Thomas’s car and James followed with his Model T to retrieve Jane and Denise.

Thomas was sitting on his cabin’s porch with Hobo when they arrived. Denise and Jane hugged Thomas.

“I love my new dog ‘Guardian’ she’s so beautiful and loving,” Denise said.

“Great Pyrenees history is fascinating. They date back hundreds of years,” Thomas said.

“We had an experience of a lifetime visiting Dezba and her parents.

“This initial trip activates momentum to make the clinic a reality. Dezba and her parents are looking forward to meeting you.

“Loaning us your car was a true blessing. What a contrast from my Model T (tin lizzie).

“The clinic’s construction will progress quickly with your support. Everyone’s excited to meet you for the clinic’s grand opening,” Denise said.

“Denise and I are getting married,” James said.

“I couldn’t be happier. You two are a perfect match,” Thomas said.

“After our wedding we’ll resume mining,” Denise said.

“You three will retain the gold you find. I have enough to support my foundation until I die.

“Jane needs as much support as possible to attain her medical degree.

“You and James will assume responsibility to manage the foundation to direct funds to specific causes. It will become your life’s work.

“I’m having a bronze plaque made to mount near the entrance to the clinic naming it the Mildred Rubin Clinic in her honor,” Thomas said.

“We’ll meet with Reverend Johnson tomorrow to establish a date for our wedding at Denise’s home. 

“Those attending will be you, Jane, Hobo, and Guardian,” James said.

Wedding day arrived. The small group met at Denise’s home and Reverend Johnson performed the ceremony.

Denise looked ravishing in her gingham dress. James had never seen her in a dress.

After the ceremony Jane and Thomas teamed to cook the wedding dinner with a plates for Hobo and Guardian.

Reverend Johnson remained for the wedding meal consisting of trout from Thomas’s fish trap and vegetables from Denise and Jane’s garden.   

“It was a special pleasure to perform a wedding for such a unique couple,” Reverend Johnson said.   

“This is the happiest day of my life,” Denise said.

“Mine too, but more happy days are yet to come,” James said.

After the meal two cars pulled up. The Hatfield Ford dealership delivered a new Model A Ford to Denise and James as a wedding gift from Thomas.

Denise broke into tears and hugged Thomas.

“You two will need reliable transportation, as you confront a busy future. You may continue to mine gold, but managing my foundation will require travel.

“I’ll contribute the best I’m able, but age is descending on my old bones. I’ll make the trip to New Mexico for the clinic’s opening ceremony, but travel to promote our foundation will be shifted to you two.

“I’ll take care of your animals, and watch over your house when you are gone,” Thomas said.

Denise received a letter from Dezba stating the clinic will be complete in two weeks.

James and Thomas will drive to the reservation in time for clinic’s the grand opening.

Denise wrote down directions to Dezba’s house. During the trip they will use James’s camping equipment. Hobo will go with them.

When they arrived they followed directions to Dezba’s parent’s home.   

Dezba was excited to meet these two. She hugged them both and invited them into her parent’s home and made introductions.

“What’s your dog’s name?” Dezba asked.

“His name is Hobo, because I found him abandoned in a hobo camp,” James said.

“He’s a beautiful dog. He’ll enjoy the many reservation dogs,” Dezba said.   

James set up their tent next to their home, to provide a place to sleep during their visit.

Thomas handed the bronze placard honoring his wife Mildred to Dezba.

“I’ll give it to the construction company to be mounted in an appropriate place. They’re finishing final details on the clinic,” Dezba said.

“I’m so glad to be here,” Thomas said.

“The construction company will complete their work tomorrow. The next day we’ll have an opening ceremony and invite the entire tribe to tour the clinic.

“During this time gap we’ll walk the reservation and I’ll introduce you to key members of our tribe,” Dezba said.

Dezba lead the way and as they met resident’s introductions were made. 

One young woman they met was Doba.

“Doba will work as my assistant. She’ll greet patients at the front desk and do preliminary functions.      

  “Doba was my school classmate from first grade,” Dezba said.

Next they approached a tall fit looking man who appeared to be in his fifties. His name was Chayton a decorated combat veteran during The Great War with Germany. Dezba made introductions.

“Reservation residents are most appreciative of our new medical clinic. Dezba has dedicated her life to offer medical treatment to our tribe.

“I was a platoon leader for an all Indian combat group during the Great War. 

“One of my platoon members was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor. He’s a Navajo and lives near my home.

“I’ve formed a militia group as protection from nearby white anti-Navajo residents. We’ve not experienced serious threats, but when Navajo women visit the nearby town to purchase necessities they’re often harassed and intimidated by white racists types.   

“I’m looking forward to the grand opening of the medical clinic. This is of great importance to our reservation,” Chayton said.

“We’re pleased to meet you Chayton,” Thomas said.

The next day the clinic will open at noon for tours led by Dezba and Doba. The construction company mounted bronze plaque to honor Mildred.

The entire tribe attended the grand opening of their new clinic.

Thomas, James, Dezba and Doba were official greeters.

Dezba and Doba will be tour guides to a few visitors at a time.

The first room has a desk and chairs with a file for patient’s charts. Doba will occupy the greeting desk and direct patients to an examination room. She’ll weigh them; take temperature, and blood pressure prior to Dezba’s examination and consultation. There are two examination rooms, an x-ray room and small pharmacy.

The next day Thomas, James and Hobo will depart for home.

“I’m unable to find the words to thank you enough for your kind support of our tribe’s clinic.

“I’ll send letters to keep you posted how things develop as we move forward with our medical service.

“This is the most rewarding and exciting event of my life,” Dezba said.

“I’ll look forward to your letters and respond in kind. James and Denise will continue to expand my foundation’s work to assist worthy causes. I’m losing ground restricted by old age,” Thomas said.

“Our tribe will never forget you,” Dezba said.  

During the long drive home the two friends discussed the event.

“It’s rewarding to help the Navajo. I anticipate Dezba will lead the tribe in ways beyond medical treatments,” Thomas said.

They went to Denise’s house for dinner to describe their experience attending the grand opening of the clinic.

“This clinic will become a valuable asset to the reservation for years to come,” Denise said.

“I have a new plan to continue the gold mining operation. I’ll contact the principle of Hatfield High School and sponsor a student essay contest for the senior class titled ‘How To Cope With Hard Times’.

“The principle and English teachers will choose four winners’ two girls and two boys. Each winner will receive five hundred dollars and given an opportunity to work the claim during summer months.

“They will retain the gold they mine equally distributed among the team.

“You two will be paid a salary and work for the foundation to seek worthy causes for the foundation’s support.

“Jane will be paid a salary to assist me teach student’s mining procedures.

“I’ll purchase two high quality wall tents one for the males and one for the females.

“The students will prepare their own meals and we’ll have nightly campfires fires to encourage discussions related to the future of humanity.

“What’re your thoughts on this?” Thomas asked.

“It’s an excellent plan. I’ll teach Jane to drive so she can use my Model T to drive daily to your claim,” Denise said.

Western Union delivered a message to Thomas.

“Dezba and Doba have been kidnapped.”

James and Denise departed immediately to return to the reservation.

They drove straight through taking turns driving.

When they arrived they went directly to Dezba’s house. Her parents were distraught with worry about their daughter.

James and Denise set up their tent.

Chayton and his former platoon sergeant Dasan and Medal of Honor recipient stopped by to inform Dezba’s parents they will search for the kidnappers.

Chayton and Dasan drove to the nearby town. They knew a few of the racists Navajo haters.

Chayton recognized a woman he knew and stopped and asked her if she had seen anything suspicious.

“I saw Horace Blake and his son driving with two young women in the back seat. Blake is an evil person,” The woman said.

“Which direction?” Chayton asked.

The woman described the car and pointed to the direction they were driving in.

Chayton thanked the woman and began driving in the direction she indicated.

On the outer edge of town was a small house with a car parked matching the description the woman gave.  

Dasan scanned the house with his binoculars with no sign of movement.

“We’ll wait until nightfall and move closer to the house,” Chayton said.

As nightfall came they stealthily approached the house. The two women were lashed to chairs sitting back to back. They appeared unharmed.

They evaluated the front and back door. The back door appeared weaker.

“We’ll hit the backdoor as hard as we can with our shoulders and it should break open. We’ll have our 1911 Colt .45 automatics in our hands when we enter,” Chayton said.

Blake and his son were completely off guard as the Navajos pointed their pistols at their heads.

Dasan disarmed them, and told them to lie face down on the floor. The son attempted to get up and Dasan kicked him in the face.

Chayton put handcuffs on both of the scum and untied the girls from their chairs.

Dezba and Doba hugged their rescuers with tears in their eyes.

Chayton and Dasan put the two kidnappers in the backseat of his car.

“You stay with the girls and I’ll deliver the kidnappers to the police station to be locked up.

“When I return and we’ll drive to the reservation,” Chayton said.

They drove up to Dezba home and Doba’s parents were waiting.

Denise and James had pitched their tent and just woke up trying to catch up on lost sleep from their marathon drive to get to the reservation. They hugged Dezba and Doba.

“Tomorrow night at the reservation’s campfire site we’ll have a Navajo native dance presented by our tribe’s young dancers to celebrate Dezba and Doba’s safe return from a frightening experience,” Chayton said.

Denise and James prepared a celebration meal.

“I’ve never been so frightened in my life,” Dezba said.

“I thought we’d surely be killed,” Doba said.

“How can white people hate us because of our ancestors? Native tribes were in this country long before the white European’s migrated here,” Dezba’s mother said.

“I read about the Sand Creek Massacre, the Trail Of Tears and Wounded Knee. It appears to me white people are the real villains,” Denise said.

“I’m looking forward to the bonfire dance tomorrow night,” James said.   

The bonfire circle is used for special celebrations with enough benches for the entire tribe.

The sun was low in the sky and the bonfire was lit.

The dancers entered wearing colorful native dress. The dance is performed in a circle. Tribe members know this dance performed in their early years.

As the circle formed one of the dancers came in front of Dezba and Doba and reached out to them to join the dancers. They responded to dance with their friends.  

It was a magnificent event and beautiful to watch in the moonlight with the flickering flames from the campfire.

Flashlights were needed to walk in the dark back to Dezba’s home.

Denise and James will leave in the morning.

They packed their camping equipment and shared breakfast with Dezba and her parents.

“What a horrible experience. I’m so thankful you and Doba escaped. We owe everything to Chayton, Denise said.

“Yes we do,” Dezba said.

Everyone hugged each other and James and Denise departed. 

         They arrived home and went directly to Thomas’s cabin. The new

mining crew and Jane were shoveling gravel and operating rocker boxes.    

 Jane also went to the cabin to greet Denise and James.

They described what happened at the reservation.

“Thank God they were rescued,” Thomas said.

“I can only imagine the fear they felt,” Jane said.

“I want you to remain for our evening meal and campfire to meet our new mining team. The two girls are Brenda Smith and Sylvia Helmericks. The boys are Arthur Waters and Michael Blair. These four are pure joy to be around,” Thomas said.

Thomas handed out copies of the student’s winning essays.

“You’ll enjoy reading these essays. It gives me gratification to connect with young people who have visions and hope attached to their future.

“I enjoyed reading all four essays. Sylvia’s essay impacted me the most,” Thomas said.

The young miners came to the cabin and Thomas introduced them to Denise and James.

They worked together to cook the evening meal, and Denise, James and Jane gathered wood for the campfire.   

After the evening meal James lit the campfire everyone sat on provided benches.

“You four are doing an excellent job extracting gold from the claim,” Thomas said.

“We enjoy working the claim,” Arthur said.

“We all live on small farms and accustomed to physical work,” Sylvia said.

“We’ve decided to give half of the gold to parents and the other half applied to advancing our education,” Michael said.

“Our small farms serve mostly for subsistence, but we sell some crops adding income to our families,” Brenda said.

“Your youthful energy makes me feel younger,” Thomas said.

“Time is the dictator everyone contends with. Each day is another tick of the clock. We’re faced with myriad situations, and challenged to assess which course offers the most return.

“When I first met Thomas he was mired in grief from the loss of his wife Mildred.

“My rescued dog Hobo put a smile on his face, and we stayed with him for a while easing his pain.

“We shared meals, and I suggested we reopen the claim. We recruited Denise and her daughter Jane and with Thomas as our teacher we learned the intricacies related to placer mining.

“Denise and I no longer work the claim. Thomas has assigned us to use funds from his charitable foundation to assist those entrapped in poverty caused by the economic depression,” James said.

“You four display the power of youth, as you extract gold from the claim Mildred and I worked for thirty years. She would be delighted to experience what I’m experiencing, as I observe you four benefit from our claim,” Thomas said.

When Denise Jane and James returned home James read Sylvia’s essay.

                                    How To Cope With Hard Times

I’m a senior at Hatfield High School and my brother is a freshman. It’s a mile walk each morning to catch the bus to school. It’s still dark as we walk to the bus stop and use a flashlight.

I checkout books from the school library, and after our evening meal we gather in the living room and I read short stories aloud as a source of family entertainment.  

We own a small farm inherited from my grandparents. We have a magnificent team of Persian horses and my dad earns income from plowing and cultivating neighboring farmer’s fields.

He often returns from plowing and cultivating in late evenings and remains in the barn for an hour brushing down and feeding his team.

We have a wagon, and hitch the team to transport us to the nearby town where we sell produce and purchase supplies.

One Sunday, as we traveled to town an older couple attempting to drive their Model T Ford to town were badly mired in a large mud hole.

My father unhitched the team and hooked a chain to the Model T and pulled them out of their predicament.  

They were very grateful, and gave my father a dollar for his assistance. He rehitched the team and we continued.

The town has a farmer’s market where we sell produce from our garden. It’s interesting and enjoyable to meet and talk with town residents.

We don’t go to church every Sunday, but if we sell out of produce early we’ll attend the service. The preacher often speaks of the hard times our country is experiencing, and use biblical scripture in an attempt to ease the pain and suffering of so many.

I don’t feel we are suffering because we have our farm to gain sustenance and provide shelter.

We work together as a family. Hoe weeds, do laundry, cut firewood, and everyone contributes to the total effort required to keep our homestead functioning.

This pattern of living has been in our family for three generations. I only know of life and functions as it relates to our lives.

I’ve studies photographs of large cities and from what I observe I’m glad I live where and how I do.

One real treat is a family of foxes live nearby and the parents bring their cubs and they play together in front of our house. They are such a joy to watch, and have no fear of us. I love the animals of the forest. I can’t imagine how I could ever live in a city.

I’m appreciative to be considered as a member of the gold mining team. The proceeds from our mining will go toward my continued education and to assist my parents. Thank you for reading my essay.  

                                                                     Sylvia Helmericks    

“We must read all the essays. Sylvia is an extraordinary young woman,” James said.

The next morning Thomas and Hobo visited.

Denise made tea and they sat in the living room.

“I want you two to use your new Model A to travel camping out as you drive. Your mission is to locate families who are in dire need of basic foods.

“You can load your car with quality essential foods and distribute them accordingly. Avoid handing out money, but as you analyze individual situations it will be your decision based upon what you learn about particular conditions.  

“This will be a long term project and you will gauge the extent of effort you want to apply.

“Jane will be going to college soon and aging is catching up to me,” Thomas said.

“We’ll do as you suggest. It will offer rewarding experiences and fulfill our ambition to continue with a meaningful purpose,” James said.

The young mining crew continued their exemplary performance and a new crew would be selected each summer.

Jane will assist Thomas teach new mining crews until she is accepted at a college or university.

Denise and James enjoyed their new assignment and were received like angels to those struggling to obtain enough food.

At intervals they returned home and shared meals with Thomas and the student miners.  

Thomas was declining physically, and stayed on his porch most of the day with Hobo at his side.

When mining season ended the student’s had their final campfire. Jane, Denise and James were present with Thomas.

The six students were intensely emotional to leave Thomas, and each student hugged him with tears flowing from their eyes. 

The gold split for each student was in excess of fifty thousand dollars.

The next day James drove the students to their homes, and during the drive they were extremely emotional sensing they may never see Thomas again.

Denise and James decided to remain home for a while, as Thomas’s decline became more apparent. They visited him every evening, as Jane and Denise prepared dinner.

They sat on the porch with Hobo and talked late into the night about the times they shared.

“I know my time is near, but I also remember the day James knocked on my door with Hobo at his side gave me new life and softened my despair from losing Mildred. I’m forever grateful.

“You two can continue using student miners and work your charitable foundation in winter months,” Thomas said.

The next morning Denise and James found Thomas in his bed. He died in his sleep with Hobo at his side.

Denise took Hobo home and put him in with Guardian. James drove to Hatfield to summon the coroner.

They will have Thomas cremated and scatter his ashes at selected locations on the claim’s property. It was a very sad day for James, Denise and Jane.

They will have a memorial service led by Reverend Johnson and invited Navajo friends to attend.

Dezba and Doba drove from New Mexico to attend Thomas’s memorial service.

They will sleep at Thomas’s cabin and Denise and Jane will cook the evening meal and have a campfire to celebrate Thomas’s life.

They brought Hobo and he seemed lethargic unable to find Thomas.

The next morning Denise, James and Jane prepared breakfast at Thomas’s cabin and Dezba and Doba will depart for their reservation.

“I feel a hollowness with Thomas gone,” James said.

“We all do, but memories remain,” Dezba said.

The hugged each other and drove away.

“We’ll visit them from time to time,” Denise said.

Categories: Fiction

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