Ranch at the Wolverine (Chapter 8, page 3 of 5)


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Chapter 8

By the time he reached the wolf den, the sun was nearing the western rim of hills, but Ward had time to examine the locality more carefully than he had done at first and to wash a couple of pans of gravel. The test elated him perceptibly; for while there did not seem to be the makings of a millionaire in that gravel bank, he judged roughly that he could make a plumber's wages if he worked hard enough--and that looked pretty good to a fellow who had worked all his life for forty dollars a month. "Two-bits a pan, just about," he put it to himself. "And I'll have to pack the dirt down here to the creek; but I'll dig a nice little bunch of cattle out of that gravel bank before snow flies, or I miss my guess a mile."

As nearly as he could figure, he had chanced upon a split channel. For ages, he judged, the water had run upon that ledge, leaving the streak of gravel and what little gold it had carried down from the mountains. Then some freshet had worn over the edge of the break in the rock until the ledge and its deposit was left high and dry on the side of the gulch, while the creek flowed through the gully it had formed below. It might not be the correct explanation, but it satisfied Ward and encouraged him to believe that the streak of pay gravel lay along the ledge within easy reach.

He tried to trace the ledge up and down the gulch and to estimate the probable extent of that pay streak. Then he gave it up in self-defense. "I've got to watch my dodgers," he admonished himself, "or I'll go plumb loco and imagine I'm a millionaire. I'll pan what I can get at and let it go at that. And I've got to count what gold shows up in the sack--and no more. Good Lord! I can't afford to make a fool of myself at this stage of the game! I've got to sit right down on my imagination and stick to hard-boiled facts."

He went home in a very good humor with himself and the world, for all that. So far as he could see, the thing that had been bothering him was settled most satisfactorily. He had wanted to spend the summer on his claim, making improvements and watching over his cattle. There was fence to build and some hay to cut; and he would like to build another room on to the cabin. Ward had certain fastidious instincts, and he rebelled inwardly at eating, sleeping, and cooking all in one small room. But he had not been able to solve the problem of earning a living while he did all this--to say nothing of buying supplies. And he really needed a team and tools, if he meant to put up any hay.

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