Small Frye’s Big Adventure: Part Two

Leonard Lea Frazer

Mike Meets Violet, Finding a Partner, Dinner with Mom, & a Tough Assignment

Some of my staples were running short, so I decided to make a trip to Usk for supplies. I was also interested in seeing the town. It was only two miles from my cabin. Taking my pack-board and my poke of gold, now nearly two ounces, I took off down the railway tracks to town. It was a lovely summer morning and I enjoyed the trip very much.

I found a big general store and post office on the main street not too far from the railway station. It was owned by J. Lee Betherum as indicated by the huge sign on the front. However, I soon lost interest in the store when I saw a lovely girl about my own age in front of the station. I was positively smitten by her beauty. I got control of myself and walked up to her and asked her where would be the best place to go to see about recording a mining claim.

She pointed to the store and said, "The recording office is in that building, in the back of the store." Then, smiling at me, she asked, "Have you struck it rich up at Dorreen? I saw you up there yesterday. You were so busy digging; I didn’t want to bother you.”

"Well, I don't know what you call rich, but I did find enough to make me do more digging, and I like the country and the scenery around here. I think I'll settle for a bit." And, I looked right at her.

She blushed and smiled, "I'm beginning to like the scenery around here myself. How about having supper with me and my mother tonight? It would be a change from your own rough cooking. Don't worry; I was in your cabin while you were at work yesterday. I saw what sort of a housekeeper you are, so I thought it would be a good idea for you to have a meal with us tonight."

"Well now! I can't pass on something like that. I would be overjoyed to have a good meal. You can expect a hungry tramp for supper tonight. Hope I don't crowd you by coming," I answered her.

"Don't worry about crowding me and Mom. We will be pleased to have you over for supper any time. We live across the railway tracks from your cabin at Dorreen, just on the edge of the Skeena River in a blue and white house. We get our water from Lorne Creek," she continued.

“What luck," I exclaimed, "but I’m afraid you have a poor neighbour. I just hope I don't make a nuisance of myself, as I get terribly lonely at times. I get awful tired of talking to myself!"

She gave me one of her captivating smiles and said, "We like company. Not too many people come to visit us. I guess it’s because I'm a half-breed, and my mom is also half Indian."

"Well, if all the Indians are as lovely as you, I’m sure I’d like them, and, as far as that goes,” I added, "What is wrong with being an Indian?  There may be some Iroquois in me as far as I know."
“I'm like you,” she said, “I get terribly lonely at times too. Well, I guess I had better get my pack together and go home. I'll be looking for you around six, OK?"

With that she picked up her pack-board and shouldered it, and I'm sure there must have been a good fifty pounds or more in it. I forgot all about my food at the store. "How about you waiting a few minutes,” I asked, “at least till I get my gold sold and a few groceries together and I'll go back with you?" She consented to that and I got my stuff together as fast as I could and found her waiting for me.

We enjoyed the hike back and I asked her to come up to my shack and I'd walk home with her as I wanted to meet her mother. "That is a good idea. It’s early yet and I can clean up your shanty. By the way, what name do you go by," she asked.

"Mike is the name, Mike Frye, and can I guess at your name?" I asked.

"Sure, but I bet you miss," she said.

"I'd say your name is Violet. The last name I couldn’t say." I didn’t tell her but I'd asked the storekeeper who she was and he had told me, Violet Cruse.

She looked at me kind of funny and said, "Someone told you, Mike?"

"Well, yes," I admitted, "but I'd have said Violet anyway, as it sure suits the colour of your eyes. They're just like two violets."

"You know what I think, Mike?  I believe you are a wolf in sheep’s clothes, but I like it," she said.

By then we were at the bridge at Dorreen and as we crossed it I suggested she put her pack under the bridge and come on up to the camp with me.

We hid her pack and climbed the hill to my cabin. Once inside, I started a fire and put on the kettle for tea, while she tidied up, cleaned the old cabin and even made my bed. I got out two cups and poured us some tea. She found a clean towel in my stuff which she spread on the table. "I'll bring you up a tablecloth tomorrow Mike," she said, drinking the tea.
"Well, Violet, I never thought I would run into such a lovely lady as you and so I never came prepared, but I'll get a cloth for the table next time I go to town,” I explained,  “but I sure would welcome one from you in the meantime."

She gazed out the door, looking across the river from us and said, "I have done a lot of travelling up and down this river and done some prospecting on my own. I've found some very good colours too, but the best I found was right against the far bank at the end of the canyon about ten minutes walk from here. I'm convinced that there could be quite a bit of gold there."

"That's where I have my sluice box now," I told her, "and I got some very good gold there already.”

"By the way, Violet, did you ever think of digging for gold," I asked her. "You know, I sure do need someone to rake the gravel as I shovel it into the sluice box. Right now the gold goes on through and I lose a lot. Would you be interested in doing that for half?"

"Well, I have thought about trying on my own a few times, but didn't quite know how to go about it. I know that there is gold there alright, and a lot of it has been taken out. I'd sure work hard if you would let me help you. I would be glad to do it, as I’m not that busy. I could use some money to help out at home."

"All right, tomorrow you come on over and have breakfast with me at seven and bring a rake, a plain garden rake," I told her. "We will give it a good try. You can have dinner with me too. We’ll see how it goes for a week or two anyway."

"That’s fine with me," she answered. "I'll be here at six, if you want me to. That way I can help you make breakfast. We will tell Mom tonight. Guess I'd better get going home now, and you be sure to be at our place at six tonight. I’m baking a chicken dinner. See you tonight." She took off down the trail and I watched her as she shouldered her pack and went across the tracks toward her home.

I enjoyed my supper with them very much. It was a change from my batching, and I liked her old rugged mother at once. We told her how we had met and all about her daughter wanting to try gold mining for a few days with me. She seemed to be well satisfied with the arrangement and gave us her approval. On leaving that night, she asked me to come for supper again soon and I felt pretty good about that.

My sluice box was made out of old lumber, ten inches wide and sixteen feet long made into a flume. I had two lengths of this and the upper one was placed so the water would run into it and on down to the other one. This gave me thirty feet of flume. At the end of the lower one I had a series of slats across at every foot of flume and under this I had a blanket made of wool. Here the gold would settle and at night I would quit shovelling gravel in and stir what was left in the sluice box on down through the rifts caused by my slats and this was what I would pan out at night. All the black sand and gold would settle on my blanket. I would just lift the riffles and take the blanket out very carefully, and pour it all into the gold pan.

What I wanted Violet to do was keep all the gravel well stirred as I shovelled it into the box. This way, all the dirt and gravel would be separated and no gold would be carried on past the flume. I was sure I was losing a lot of gold out through the tailings that ran on out over the riffles and into the river.

Violet was in and making breakfast before I was awake the next morning. The first sign I knew of her being there was when I smelled coffee boiling. Then, she was there with a hot cup of coffee at my bed. "Wake up. You sure can't get much gold by staying in bed all the morning."

That coffee sure tasted good and while she finished cooking, I got up and dressed. I found out she could cook! Boy, what a breakfast! I just couldn’t get enough of her hotcakes. Finally, I got stuffed. As I settled back in my chair I looked at her. "I sure am a lucky guy, even if I never find any gold, as long as I can keep you around to cook, I'll be satisfied."

I tried my best to be the ideal gentleman; it sure was a tough assignment. At times I shovelled the gravel clean over the flume, as I just couldn’t help staring at her lovely legs and form. She worked with her back to me all the time, but she had turned once and saw me throw a shovelful that missed the flume. She smiled at me. That was all…  just kept on working. Boy, oh boy, I was hot under the collar! I got mad at my own stupid self and worked all the harder. The weather was hot, and I was just as hot. The work was hard but I got used to it. We put out quite a bit of gravel even counting the amount that I threw over the flume!

… to be continued.

(From the Robson Valley courier – December 1977)