The Gold Nugget

by Tony Diem

Old Willie and Maggie in search of gold.

Sutter’s Mill

Nevada City got its start as a gold mining town with the insurgence of 49ers during California’s Gold Rush. It is set in the Sierras with Ponderosa Pines and spruces interspersed. It survived most of the 1900's as a living ghost town and now booms as a tourist attraction and a center for high, cultured artisans. This was Mark's new home, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of "The Valley", just north of Los Angeles, where he grew up, went to school and worked for the municipal water district.

The Couch

The All-Star game had gone into extra innings and Mark found himself asleep on the couch. He reached for the remote to turn off the infomercial and saw something odd in the reflection of the crackling, black screen. He turned to look and there was a miner near the dinning room table, looking over his shoulder and around at the trees that were amongst his settings. He petted the nose of a mule; cupped his hand over its long twitching ear and asked it if she wouldn’t “keep a listen out there”. Mark had just sat up and to watch the man and the mule when the neighbor's motion light came on. Mark looked toward the window for a brief moment, but when he turned back, the miner was gone.

Robert Hermann

In his seventies, Robert Hermann lives above the Old Bernham Bar where the Hermann General Store stood over 150 years ago. "Can I help you?" Came the deep voice of the man in the doorway. Robert stood just over six feet, looked good for his age, spoke deliberately and had a comforting way about himself. A good-looking grandfather Mark thought to himself.

"Your mystery man, sounds like an old time local. He claims to have found a nugget the size of a pinecone. No one believed him."

"Well, is it true? Did he. . .did he have a nugget?"

"No one knows son."

A Cold, Moonlit Night

Mark approached the scene, but could do nothing but watch. He turned to see that Willie had carved his initials into the tree: "W E". As they closed toward Willie, Mark saw their young, but weathered appearance. The bottle carrier had his coat draped back over his gun. His palm rested on the butt end of the revolver--his fingers danced over the intricately carved handle. The bottle made its way slowly toward his lips, his eyes never blinked as the stare was unyielding. One look into his eyes and Mark became all too familiar with the term 'yellah'; it wasn't the night's cold air that sent that shiver down his spine.

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