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Living Among Ghosts

By Wolf Hall, Contributing Writer, Used with permission from the E-Town’s Touch-Me-Not Newspaper

New in Town - Ch 2, Part 1

Callum left his new employment at Froelick’s with his head held high and turned back up the hill to his hotel. The sun had warmed the day to a point of making his overcoat a hinderance. In his room, he left the coat and packed his jerky into a sack before embarking on what he hoped would be his real adventure.

Passing back by Froelick’s store, Callum soon was on a man bridge crossing the muddy gulch below Elizabethtown. Around little creek flows, Callum saw bearded grins and determined gazes from the ragged men who tirelessly panned for flecks of gold. When Callum left the gulch for the higher ground to the East, he noticed three men following him on a path similar to his own. They only spoke to each other, and they appeared out of place wearing black dress clothes instead of the tattered dungarees of the typical miner.

Climbing the increasingly steep slopes, Callum found a quiet place to rest and eat his jerky while observing what he could of the prospecting around him. The crowds of town and the gulch had thinned on the hillside, but the three strange men were still trailing him. They passed near Callum during his respite, and Callum could overhear them discussing claims and surveys. There was little for Callum to ascertain beyond this, and he felt an eerie sense that these men might also be surveying him. So, he retraced his path to the gulch and back into Elizabethtown feeling satisfied that he had at least seen what gold prospecting looked like.

The afternoon gave way to evening and a chill in the air quickly. So, Callum retrieved his coat from his hotel and set out to find a meal. The bustling streets of Elizabethtown were full of options, but many places seemed rather seedy to Callum’s previously sheltered eyes. After an hour of searching, he settled on the best lit and fanciest saloon. It was a brand new building with “The Popular Resort” painted on the window in gold leaf. Inside the wallpaper was hand painted red and gold, and there was a brass rail with brass spittoons. Gentlemen with cigars congregated along the rail of the bar and miners were gambling at the large round tables in the center of the room. Callum then saw the three men from his excursion seated at a far table in the back of the room. To his surprise, one of these men smiled slyly from his stringy mustache and gestured for Callum to join them.

“Welcome friend!” The stringy mustached man pulled out an empty chair for Callum and introduced the table. “These are my associates, Mr. Keefe and Mr. Stanley, and I am Theodore Kendrick.” He continued as each man shook hands. “May we inquire as to the purpose of your outing today?”

Hesitantly, Callum answered, “I’ve only recently arrived, and I hoped to observe the prospecting firsthand. Were you there for the same?”

Amid chuckles from his friends, Kendrick answered, “No, we represent the Virginia Mining Company, Mr. Maxwell’s outfit. We manage the his claims. So, friend, are you looking to strike it rich?”

Callum sensed this was a swindle, but he also didn’t want to miss an opportunity to prospect. He nodded.

“This may be a fortu-itous encounter, Mr…?” Kendrick continued. “Ennis.”, Callum provided.

“Indeed, Mr. Ennis. We have a claim with excellent potential and no man to work it. We could lease it to you for half the going rate, say six dollars, if you would pay us seventy percent of the lode.”

Even with this high commission, Callum knew this was a good deal. He had little capital with which to begin, and the rent was cheap. Despite the general lack of trust he held for these men, Callum reasoned that this was a way to make his start. It could be his way into the gold boom. He eagerly asked Mr.Kendrick, “How do I start?”

“That is up to you, Mr. Ennis.”, Kendrick almost seemed disinterested. “We would require six months’ rent up front for our security - fellas are always running out on these deals. Upon payment, it would be yours to start and work however you wished.”

Thirty-six dollars was almost all the savings Callum had scraped together for this adventure. He hesitated, but Kendrick pressured him, “You want in, or should we ask one of the miners at the table over there? I can have my associates draw up the claim right now.”

It was too much for Callum to resist. He looked around the table where Mr. Stanley was producing paperwork. Callum couldn’t help asking, “Where do I sign?”

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