The "Canuck" That Saved Flour Gold
"A fellow must have something against himself—he certainly must—to live down here year in and year out and never do a lick of work on a trail like this, that he's usin' constant. Gettin' off half a dozen times to lift the front end of your horse around a point, and then the back end—there's nothin' to it!"
Grumbling to himself and talking whimsically to the three horses stringing behind him, Dick Kincaid picked his way down the zigzag, sidling trail which led from the saddleback between two peaks of the Bitter Root Mountains into the valley which still lay far below him.
"Quit your crowdin', can't you, Baldy!" He laid a restraining hand upon the white nose of the horse following close at his heels. "Want to jam me off this ledge and send me rollin' two thousand feet down onto their roof? Good as I've been to you, too!"
He stopped and peered over the edge of the precipice along which the faint trail ran.
"Looks like smoke." He nodded in satisfaction. "Yes, 'tis smoke. Long past dinner time, but then these squaws go to cookin' whenever they happen to think about it. Lord, but I'm hungry! Wish some good-lookin' squaw would get took with me and follow me off, for I sure hates cookin' and housework."
Still talking to himself he resumed the descent, slipping and sliding and digging his heels hard to hold himself back.
"They say she sticks like beeswax, Dubois's squaw, never tries to run off but stays right to home raisin' up a batch of young 'uns. You take these Nez Perces and they're good Injuns as Injuns go. Smarter'n most, fair lookers, and tolerable clean. Will you look at that infernal pack slippin' again, and right here where there's no chance to fix it!
"Say, but I'd like to get my thumb in the eye of the fellow that made these pack-saddles. Too narrow by four inches for any horse not just off grass and rollin' fat. Won't fit any horse that packs in these hills. Doggone it, his back'll be as raw as a piece of beefsteak and if there's anything in this world that I hate it's to pack a sore-backed horse.
"You can bet I wouldn't a made this trip for money if I wasn't so plumb anxious to see how Dubois saves that flour gold. You take one of these here 'canucks' and he's blamed near as good if not a better placer miner than a Chink; more ingenious and just as savin'. Say, Baldy, will you keep off my heels? If I have to tell you again about walkin' up my pant leg I aim to break your head in. It's bad enough to come down a trail so steep it wears your back hair off t'hout havin' your clothes tore off you into the bargain."
And so, entertaining himself with his own conversation and scolding amiably at his saddle and pack horses, the youthful prospector slid for another hour down the mountain trail, though, as a rock would fall, the log house of the French Canadian was not more than a thousand yards below.
It was the middle of May and the deep snows of winter still lay in the passes and upon the summit, but in the valley the violets made purple blotches along the stream now foaming with the force of the water trickling from the melting drifts above....