Galvanized Yankee Visits Confederate Gulch Old West Fictional Story
Billybuc had a challenge to write about a place the writer has never been to. This is an attempt to do that.Like many mining towns the place involved is now a ghost town, if anything remains at all.
Galvanized Yankee in Confederate Gulch
My partner in the search for gold met a girl and stayed behind. Probably a wise choice. As such I proceeded on to Montana where there were some gold strikes recently. Gold had been discovered in the area of Diamond City by some former Confederate soldiers in an area called Confederate Gulch.
I’m Jacob Brown and I was a confederate soldier myself. That was before I was a Union soldier. That was before I was honorably discharged from the United States Army. As a confederate I was captured and held at the Rock Island prison camp. Prisoners of war at Rock Island and other camps were offered to go in the Union Army and do duty on the western frontier. We were also promised that we would not be required to fight against any confederate troops. We became known as galvanized yankees.
The confederates that found gold in Montana were a different breed altogether. From what I heard they were renegade rebels who were paroled on the basis that they would migrate west and sort of just keep out of the way. As fate would have it, they had the dumb luck of finding gold. A minor strike, but gold none the less. Anyway, I figure there ought to be a bit of gold for another southern boy.
I don’t know what I really expected, but my first impressions were a bit dismal. I was glad I loaded up on supplies-food, extra boots, digging tools and a few other odds and ends. Because this town did not look like it had much to spare. I sold my riding horse and bought two mules, one to ride and one to pack in the supplies I figured I’d need in searching for a claim. I kept a colt revolver in my side holster and a scatter gun by my saddle. I had a Sharps rifle somewhere in the supplies, not figuring I would need it until I had something to protect. I’m not an ordinarily suspicious man but after years of protecting telegraph lines and stagecoach stations I was familiar with men who wanted to take what belonged to someone else. Some folks like to take shortcuts to getting rich.
As I approached Confederate Gulch what I saw was a rather small and narrow valley with two rows of buildings. A dirt road went between the buildings. The dirt was wet from recent rains and scattered with mud puddles. I was glad I’d gotten the mules. Just beyond the settlement I could see the mountains on both sides and beyond. I rode between the buildings which were mostly made of small logs, chinked with a mixture of mud, twigs and grass. To my left were a few corrals, mostly to hold some pack animals for the miners. A few horses were mixed in. As I got closer to the hills I could see a mist which gave a hazy look to the sky. Green pines grew as far as I could see on the hills.
I would guess that early settlers had cut down the trees to clear a space for cabins and other buildings which they built from the logs. Gold miners were not so fussy about long term housing, so patched up whatever they found.
As I made my way past a few corrals, a blacksmith shop and unmarked buildings I could smell the mixture of horse droppings and garbage littering the way. About halfway up the street was a log building that was a little more neatly chinked than the other buildings. Hopefully it kept the cold night air out and maybe the smell of the street. The sign above the door only said “Saloon.” I guess that’s all a guy had to know.
By that time my mouth was full of the bad taste of the street and the dust of the trail. I figured a beer might taste good. Pushing in the batwing doors I saw another sign reading: “Wipe your feet.” Always willing to oblige I did what I could to wipe of the dirt on a mud caked mat by the door.
“What’ll you have, young feller?” Behind the bar was a grizzled old gent. Probably about 50 years old or so. He wore a lumberjack shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
“I’ll have a cold beer, I reckon.”
“Don’t have no beer.” Not ‘til some muleskinner comes in with a load.”
“What do you have?”
I took one taste of the drink he shoved over to me and about choked. “Is this the best you got? “It’s all we got. We don’t get nothing from the big city places. The armies buy up everything before it gets here. There’s a war on, you know.”
“I have some awareness of it,” I said. “How much I owe you?”
“I gave him the money but thought a barrel of that rotgut wouldn’t be worth a dollar. I wondered what some good whiskey would be worth.”
“If I could get some good whiskey and other goods, do you think a store would have a chance here?” I asked.
“As long as there’s gold here, you could do real well.”
“Where’s the telegraph office? I know a guy where I was stationed that can make great home brew and he’s a teamster too. I think he could get a load up here in a week. What say you to a cut of the profits and operating right out of here?”
“I’ll rent you the space, but there ain’t any telegraph office. There’s wires’ going by about twenty miles from here.”
I learned the man behind the bar was just known as Joe. I left the mules and supplies in the barn behind the saloon, borrowed a horse from Joe and went to see the telegraph. I didn’t spend all that time guarding the telegraph lines without learning something. I found the line and the shack. The telegraph key was still in good shape and I managed to send a message back to Fort Dodge.
After that I fixed a blanket on the floor and took a nap until I heard the clicking of the telegraph. My message got through. I think there is more than one way to get gold, but that’s another story.
© 2015 Don A. Hoglund
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