“Thanks for the ice cream, Grandpa. It was scrumptious,” Emmy said as they left the ice cream shop.
“You are welcome, sweetie. That was a lot of ice cream for such a little girl,” Grandpa replied.
Emmy put her hands on her hips. “Grandpa! I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m eight and will be in third grade when school starts.”
After walking for a minute, Emmy asked, “Do you have another story about Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah?”
“I just might,” Grandpa answered with a grin.
“Okay, but without outlaws this time.”
Grandpa removed his sweaty, baseball cap and ran his fingers through his wiry, gray hair. “This is a story about Ol’ Melvin when he first struck gold in the Utah desert.” Grandpa replaced his cap and sat down on a wooden bench facing the busy street.
Emmy hopped from one foot to the other as she faced Grandpa. “Have you ever been to Utah?”
“Once a long time ago. I took your grandmother. She didn’t care much for the area, but I did. You should sit down and I’ll tell you the story, okay?”
She did as he asked.
“This was when Melvin was a younger man and he and Obadiah could get around better. They had been prospecting in Colorado but then decided to head west into Utah. The traveled for several weeks up and down the mountain and hills and across mesas and desert canyons. It was tough going and they hadn’t seen any signs of civilization for over a month.”
“Did they see Indians?”
Grandpa shook his head. “This was in land where not even the Indians lived. There was no water or any game. Finally, they came to an overlook high on the edge of a mesa. They could see for miles in every direction. There were canyons and way off in the distance he could see a small sliver of water with a few cottonwood trees.”
“I know what those are. I read about them in a book.”
“Ol’ Melvin looked down and could just make out a narrow trail heading down. It had to be over a thousand feet down a sheer cliff to the next level of flat land. He told Obadiah they needed to be careful and then started down the narrow path. One wrong move and they would slip over the edge and fall to their death.”
“Was he scared?”
“He wasn’t really scared, but he was nervous. The trail dropped down and then switched back and forth. One time they came to a place where the trail had been washed out. He stopped and looked at it. He looked back up the trail and there wasn’t enough room to turn around. They had to keep going. He looked Obadiah in the eyes and said, ‘We only have about a foot wide trail, but we have to keep going. I’ll unload the packs and carry them across to that spot where the trail widens. Then I’ll come back and you follow along.’”
“Did Obadiah understand him?”
“Yeah, because they had been together a long time,” Grandpa answered. “Melvin carried all the packs across by hugging the side of the cliff. He had done the last one and came back for Obadiah, who was pawing at the trail. Just then they both heard a loud rumbling noise from above. Melvin looked up and saw an avalanche heading their way. ‘Obadiah, you best hurry across.’ Obadiah scooted across the gap and they made it to the wider section just as tons of rock and dirt rushed past where they had just been.” Grandpa waved his arms and made a loud whooshing sound.
Emmy’s eyes sparkled as she stared at Grandpa.
“For almost a minute the avalanche thundered past where Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah had just stood. When it finally stopped and the dust cleared, they looked back. All signs of the trail were totally gone for over a hundred feet. ‘Whew! That was sure a close one,’ Melvin said and Obadiah brayed in reply. They kept heading down and made it to the creek he had seen from far above. It took three days to reach the creek. They set up camp and Melvin did some exploring. He found a spot that looked promising.”
“Did he find some gold?”
“He found a few small pieces and some flecks of gold, but not enough to make much money. But he did see something else that worried him.”
“What did he see?” Emmy asked as she stood up facing Grandpa.
“He saw mountain lion tracks and later that night he and Obadiah could hear the mountain lion growling in the dark. Luckily, he had his rusty, old Robnett rifle with him.”
“Did he shoot the mountain lion?”
Grandpa knew Emmy didn’t like to hear about any animal getting hurt, so he shook his head and said, “No, he saw the mountain lion the next morning. It was going after Obadiah, so he fired into the air and the mountain lion ran away. Melvin watched the mountain lion scamper up the rocks until it disappeared high above them. ‘Well, Obadiah, I guess that critter won’t harm you now and I might have found a way out of this canyon.’”
“Couldn’t they go back the way they came?”
“No, because of the avalanche.”
“Right! I forgot about that.” Emmy sat beside Grandpa again.
Grandpa rubbed his jaw for a moment and then continued. “They packed up camp and began following the trail of the mountain lion. It wound back and forth and up and down the side of the steep canyon walls. After a long day of climbing, they finally made it to the top of the other side. Melvin waited until he caught his breath and looked out across the wide canyon. ‘Obadiah, I reckon we better head to more hospitable land before we get trapped for sure.’ That’s when he headed north and eventually ended up in Wyoming.”
“And that’s when he struck it rich, huh?”
Grandpa nodded. “But that was many years later. Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah had many more adventures over the years before they found all the gold in Polanka Creek.”
Emmy stood up and took Grandpa’s hand. “We better get back before it storms. We don’t want to get caught in a flash flood or an avalanche.”
Grandpa laughed and stood up. “We wouldn’t want that to happen.”
“You will have to tell me more stories about Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah before school starts.”
“I hope I can remember all the stories. My memory isn’t what it used to be.”