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Copper Streak Trail   By: (1869-1934)

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Author of Stepsons Of Light , Good Men And True , West Is West , etc.




The stage line swung aside in a huge half circle, rounding the northern end of the Comobabi Range and swinging far out to skirt the foothills. Mr. Peter Johnson had never been to Silverbell: his own country lay far to the north, beyond the Gila. But he knew that Silverbell was somewhere east of the Comobabi, not north; and confidently struck out to find a short cut through the hills. From Silverbell a spur of railroad ran down to Redrock. Mr. Johnson's thought was to entrain himself for Tucson.

The Midnight horse reached along in a brisk, swinging walk, an optimistic walk, good for four miles an hour. He had held that gait since three o'clock in the morning, with an hour off for water and breakfast at Smith's Wells, the first stage station out from Cobre; it was now hot noon by a conscientious sun thirty six miles. But Midnight did not care. For hours their way had been through a trackless plain of uncropped salt grass, or grama, on the rising slopes: now they were in a country of worn and freshly traveled trails: wise Midnight knew there would be water and nooning soon. Already they had seen little bands of horses peering down at them from the high knolls on their right.

Midnight wondered if they were to find sweet water or alkali. Sweet, likely, since it was in the hills; Midnight was sure he hoped so. The best of these wells in the plains were salt and brackish. Privately, Midnight preferred the Forest Reserve. It was a pleasant, soft life in these pinewood pastures. Even if it was pretty dull for a good cow horse after the Free Range, it was easier on old bones. And though Midnight was not insensible to the compliment Pete had paid him by picking him from the bunch for these long excursions to the Southland deserts, he missed the bunch.

They had been together a long time, the bunch; Pete had brought them from the Block Ranch, over in New Mexico. They were getting on in years, and so was Pete. Midnight mused over his youthful days the dust, the flashing horns, the shouting and the excitement of old round ups.

It is a true telling that thoughts in no way unlike these buzzed in the rider's head as a usual thing. But to day he had other things to think of.

With Kid Mitchell, his partner, Pete had lately stumbled upon a secret of fortune a copper hill; a warty, snubby little gray hill in an insignificant cluster of little gray hills. But this one, and this one only, precariously crusted over with a thin layer of earth and windblown sand, was copper, upthrust by central fires; rich ore, crumbling, soft; a hill to be loaded, every yard of it, into cars yet unbuilt, on a railroad yet undreamed of, save by these two lucky adventurers.

They had blundered upon their rich find by pure chance. For in the southwest, close upon the Mexican border, in the most lonesome corner of the most lonesome county of thinly settled Arizona, turning back from a long and fruitless prospecting trip, they had paused for one last, half hearted venture. One idle stroke of the pick in a windworn bare patch had turned up this!

So Pete Johnson's thoughts were of millions; not without a queer feeling that he wouldn't have the least idea what to do with them, and that he was parting with something in his past, priceless, vaguely indefinable: a sharing and acceptance of the common lot, a brotherhood with the not fortunate.

Riding to the northwest, Pete's broad gray sombrero was tilted aside to shelter from the noonday sun a russet face, crinkled rather than wrinkled, and dusty. His hair, thinning at the temples, vigorous at the ears, was crisply white. A short and lately trimmed mustache held a smile in ambush; above it towered such a nose as Wellington loved... Continue reading book >>

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