The Saga of Miles Forrest

For this trip I had Windy Dawson and Sam Wilson with me.  There were good, solid men, or so it seemed the few times I worked with them.  When we headed back down there would be another three guards added.  I wasn’t given information on how much gold we would be bringing out.  They were good men to ride with,; didn’t talk much and that gave me plenty time to ponder.
I was a mite concerned about Greta and Hannah.  Well, Hannah seemed to be all right, but Greta was on the verge of collapse.  I couldn’t blame them none for wanting to be away from me.  Indirectly or directly I guess I could be the cause of them becoming widows.  Haven’t figured that out totally for I’m of a mind that folks make their own choices.  Then there was the needing of help for Molly.  Well, something will work out.
We entered the narrow valley and were stopped.  This was my fourth trip to this area and now there was a gate built across the road.  The sign said “TOLL–stop and pay.”  Guess that was as good a way to make money as digging in the mountains.
We all dismounted and went to the gate.  A man came out of a little house with a shotgun in hand.  “You ridin’ through, or stayin’ awhile?”  He asked.
“Looks like you have an interesting business here.  Name’s Miles Forrest and we’re with Wells Fargo.”
“Heard there was a shipment of ore heading out soon.  Charge on that is $60 a ton,” he said.  He saw my frown.  “Might be goin’ up to $80.  Winter is comin’ on and I need the money to keep the road open.”
“Anyone been told of this ‘toll road’?”  I asked.
“Yuh asking, if it’s legal?  Well, it is.  I ran one for a while over on Ponca Pass,” he paused.  “It was legal, sanctioned by the State, and quite profitable.  The State knows of this road.”  He stopped to gauge my expression.  “Tryin’ to talk some gents to build a railroad in here.  I think it’ll happen if the mines stay operable.”
“Your name Mears?”
“That’s right, Otto Mears.”
“Heard of yuh.  I worked the Gunnison country a few years back.  How much?”
“Six-bits for the three of yuh.”
I paid him, and told Wilson to remind me to get reimbursed back in Durango.
When I first came through here the name of the place was Columbia, but had to be changed. Some of the folk that’s been here a while still call it Columbia.  I’m not near as fond of Telluride as Silverton.  At least Silverton has pretensions of some civilization and is somewhat spread out.  Telluride is a narrow valley that leads up into canyons.  Silverton, as evil as it is, shows a more saintly view than Telluride.  Perhaps if the strike continues there will come a more cultured state.  People are lusting for gold and things of a baser type.
My ol’ gizzard takes a conniption every time I come this direction.  I was in Abilene and Dodge City during the heydays of the cattle industry.  I worked in Central City, around Gold Hill, and Tincup, but I believe this place beats them all.
There’s lots of commotion here, with several folk moving in and searching for the bright metal.  Entering the narrow valley I pondered just how many people lost their soul seeking that illusive dream; that dream of striking it rich?  The allure of gold is a strange thing.  I heard stories of people leaving good homes to search for it, and then be lost to their families forever; maybe they went crazy out here in these mountains.  Fact is, few find it.
In between a couple of saloons there was a little rock building with the sign:  “Wells Fargo & Co.”  The building was secure.  If the saloons caught fire it would survive.  Inside was a company safe, but it couldn’t hold the ore that was coming through.  Plus Wells Fargo was sort of in the banking business as well.  Miners would come and deposit their ore in return for cash.  If this strike continued something would have to be done.
There was a guard outside and another inside.  When I went in the clerk said that it would be two days before ready to ship.  There would be three wagons of gold.  In fact, he had to hire a couple more guards.  There needed to be two in each wagon.  Wilson, Dawson, and I would ride alongside.
I didn’t relish staying here that long, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.  “Any place ’round here fittin’ to eat?”  I asked.
“Boarding house up the street run by a miner’s wife,” he scowled a little.  “Food’s good, but I wouldn’t sleep there.  Just a big tent with pallets on the ground.”
Walking out I said to the boys, “I think I’ll see if I can sleep in the livery.”