Theyíre riding up through
an enormous spruce forest, where black moss is hanging from the branches
waving in the wind like hair of an Indian. The ground in the forest is
soft and crunchy to ride on, and
animal paths make it easier to get ahead. Nicolai is feeling safe by
riding the brown horse, which walks
slowly after the others without attempting any kind of a race.
For a while they have
been following a river, which has carved itself deep into the cliff and
is rushing away deep down.
- Are there any gold in
that river? Nicolai shouts.
- No, we have to get up
to Red Deer River, says Bearspaw. - Do you remember that, Sam?
- Sure, we used to pan a
lot of gold there, says Sam. - Maybe that river leads to the
Mother load? Says Nicolai.
Yeah, where the gold in the river comes from, says Bearspaw. - Gold
doesnít rain down from the blue sky, you know.
Well, now weíve got the map. It shows, that the gold is much higher up
in the mountains, says Sam.
Late in the day they reach the Red Deer River. Bearspaw and Trapper
agree on setting up camp.
Lets get out the pans, shouts Sam.
Nicolai does not have to be told twice, before he gets the gold pans
pulled out of the saddlebacks and rushes down to the riverbank. He digs
down deep with the shiny pan and lifts it up filled to the rim with sand
and gravel. He starts to sift through the content with his hand.
Sam is just about killing himself laughing. He grabs his pan and says:
Nick, you canít scoop up the whole river in one mouthful. You pick up a
small portion at a time and check it out.
Sam takes some sand and gravel up from the riverbank. Just a little. He
dips the pan into the surface of the water and moves it around in quiet
circular movements. He is tilting the pan slightly, so a bit of water
and sand runs out. He studies closely the material in the pan.
Gold is much heavier than sand and gravel and water, he explains. - The
gold will always be left behind, when the other stuff has been washed
Is there any gold in the pan? Nicolai wants to know.
Patience, Nick. Youíve got to be patient, when youíre looking for gold.
Again Sam grabs some gravel with the pan and starts washing it with slow
Now Nicolai is taking very little material in the pan. He washes it
slowly in the water until thereís only a little sand and gravel left. Is
there something? Man, he would like to have some gold nuggets in his
pan. He has been dreaming about this for the last week. But there is
none. After the first ten pans there is still only sand and small
Are you sure there's gold in this river, Nicolai is asking.
- Didnít I tell you to
be patient, Nick. Now see what Iíve got in my pan.
Sam walks over with his
pan and points towards the edge. A tiny gold piece is sparkling in the
evening sun. It's no bigger than the size of a
grain of rice.
- Boy, itís small, says
Nicolai and feels somewhat disappointed. - Are they always that small,
- No way, somebody has
found gold nuggets the size of walnuts; he says and grabs a pair of
tweezers and a small medicine bottle. He carefully lifts the gold piece
over in the glass with the tweezers.
- I have seen some big
gold nuggets in the movies, says Nicolai.
- And I have heard of
one guy, who found nuggets as big as a man's fist, shouts Cowboy, who
has come down to fill the pot with water.
- Sure, Sam laughs.
Cowboy walks up to the
tent, where Trapper is busy getting a fire going. The two dogs are right
- Arenít you going to
try to wash gold, Nicolai shouts after Cowboy.
- No way. We are waiting
until we reach the mine. Then we will be busy digging.
Sam and Nicolai are
mowing slowly up the river while washing for gold. The slow circular
movements are relaxing Nicolai. They are jumping on the rocks at the
shore, and from time to time they have to step over or crawl under some
of the fallen spruce trees, which are lying out in the river. Nicolai
manages to slide of a rock, so his feet in the runners get soaking wet,
but who cares, when thereís gold in the river.
caw of a crow irritates Nicolais
eardrums. He sees the black bird land in a treetop over on the other
shore. And there, out in the deep rushing water is a
brown fur-bearing animal swimming by.
- Hi Sam, thereís a
beaver, he says quietly.
- No sir, thatís an
otter, says Sam. - Itís out fishing.
Sam follows the animal
closely, until its head disappears between the whirling current and the
rocks further down the river.
- Have you seen that
Whisky Jack, asks Sam.
- What kind of Jack?
- The bird over on that
Nicolai sees a grey
white bird with a pointed beak.
- Hi, Whisky Jack, he
laughs. And there comes another. They are sitting there watching him
curiously, while he is circling the pan, Circles and circles. And just
as he is thinking of everything other than gold, he sees a twinkle in
the dark sand in the bottom of the pan. He stares at it, and it is not
only one, but two little pieces of gold.
scream flies out of his mouth. And
then follows the words:
- GOLD! GOLD!
It echoes between the
trees, and Sam comes running down. And the other two are coming up
alongside the riverbank all the way from the camp.
- Iíve found gold; he
says a bit more quiet. - See for yourself.
He hands the washing
pan over to the others and Cowboy says:
- I canít see a thing.
But Sam takes out the
medicine glass and lifts the two little gold pieces down with the
- Wow, there are even
two of them, ehī Nick. Your first gold, kid, how does it feel?
- Darn good. But those
two are mine.
- It stays in the
That night the sounds of
nature enter the tent and awaken Nicolai. Itís howling outside. And this
time it is probably not an owl. It sounds much longer and almost
There is hardly any
doubt, that it's a wolf this time. Nicolai has several times heard that
sound in the movies.
And now some scratching
and tiny squeaky sounds can be heard.
A wet nose is finding its way in under the tent canvas and hit his hand.
Oof. Nicolai shivers. Some kind of
animal is on its way in. It is whimpering,
while it forces its way under the tent, and now he recognizes the
- Holy smokes, is it you
Prince. You are perhaps scared of the big bad wolf. Come in here under
the blankets. Nicolai is letting the dog creep in close to him. He
embraces the dog with a protective arm and feels the warmth from the
animal. It is comforting to be two, when wolfs are howling outside.
The next day they are
riding so high up in the mountains, that they just about can reach the
clouds, which are drifting like fog between the enormous snow-covered
mountains. Her in the pass, where they are going to cross the mountain,
there are still snowdrifts, and it is muddy and wet from the melted
snow, even though the sun is baking and trying to steam away the clouds.
The horses are slogging undisturbed along and
are not letting the rocks or the numerous fallen spruce trees
struggle around the windfalls and
through the dense bush of spruce, so the men get
scratches all over. They are following
a path, which is fairly well overgrown.
An old Indian transport path for tepees and trading supplies,
says Cowboy. He is riding in front now. The eagle feathers are
waving in his black hat.
Suddenly they see him
lifting the hunting rifle to the chin and taking aim. In the dense
spruce two animals are standing. It is a moose cow with its calf. They
are both staring full of surprise at the men and the horses coming up
through the forest.
- Donít shoot, Cowboy,
Thatís enough for the
two moose to disappear between the tree trunks.
- You idiot, Cowboy
yells. - There was food for several days.
- As if we had time to
butcher them and do the carving, says Trapper.
Cowboy is lowering his
rifle and rides on.
Sam pulls out the map and
studies it, while his horse is standing still eating a
twining plant that has found a little
spruce tree to wind round.
-We are on the map now,
he says. - In a little while we will be riding through the Crows Nest
pass. On the other side we will meet Highwood River. Further up thereís
The river turns out to
be wide and is roaring turbulently.
Nevertheless Nicolai feels tempted to pan for gold. He is convinced,
that the river is full of gold nuggets.
- Canít we spend a
little time panning for gold at this river, he suggests.
protests are heard from Trapper and Cowboy.
- If you want to settle
for the trifles that the river can
give you, then go right ahead. - We are busy tracking down the big load.
Oh well, that made
sense to him.
The rest of the day they
follow Highwood River, and when Bearspaw is suggesting stopping for the
day, Trapper explains that he would like to carry on to the waterfall.
The moon is hanging
almost full over the mountaintops towards west. It is only missing a
little bit in the right-hand side.
- It is stupid, that we
have to set up the tent so late, complains Sam.
- We are not going to
set up tent to night, says Trapper. And his voice sounds so firm, that
neither Sam nor the others are asking any questions.
The waterfall, looking
like a showering blanket of silver in the moonlight, is rising up
towards a shelf in the rock. The last distance alongside the river they
have been walking with the horses in the reins
on a stony animal path a short distance away from the river.
Trapper shows them an area with a bit of grass, where they can tie the
- Bring your blankets
along, he says and starts to climb with his blanket roll under one arm
and a kerosene lamp swinging from the two fingers in his
Over the falls a rock
shelf is stretching in under the mountain. That's where Trapper
the devil did he go to, asks Cowboy.
They are working their
way up, and in the dusk they see the entrance to a cave. The flickering
light from the kerosene lamp shows them, that the cave is not that high.
Nicolai is tightening
his grip on the sleeping bag under his arm. He is feeling a strange fear
in his stomach. It is like he senses, that there is danger in there.
None of them can stand
upright in the cave, but it seems to be quite deep. The darkness
disappears forever over there.
And just as the men and
the dogs have lied down in the blankets, Prince gets up and disappears
with a gentle growling into the dark deepness.
The light from the lamp
is creating shadowy figures on the raw rock ceiling, and from the
outside comes the constant roaring
from the waterfall. Nicolai is lying uncomfortably and canít get rid of
the thought that some kind of danger is lurking in the darkness. And he
hears a voice inside his head saying:
- Be aware of the cave
at the waterfall.
A terrible growling
suddenly comes out of the darkness. Good god, what is happening?
-Prince, come here, Sam
But the dog has
disappeared in the dark. Now it starts barking like mad.
- What in the world is
making the dog so crazy? Says Sam and gets up and walks bend over
forward into the darkness.
- No, donít go in there,
Sam, yells Nicolai.
But Sam has already
disappeared in the dark. Prince is barking
furiously. And now they can hear Sam. He
roars of fear and pain.
God damn it, it is the
mad man who has woken up, mumbles
Trapper. - I thought he went up in the mountains a long time ago. He
grabs the kerosene lamp and crawls in on all four towards the darkness,
where Sam now yells like he is about to be killed. And they hear the
terrible sound from a furious animal roaring. When the lamp shines into
the cave they can barely see the shape of a furry monster. A huge bear
it is. It is standing on its hind legs and
lashes out after Sam, who desperately tries to defend himself
with his arms. It is wrestling him, squeezing his body and biting him in
the shoulder with the long teeth. Punching him with the paw so the claws
is ripping his clothes. Prince and Bastard is growling and barking and
are jumping around snapping the bear in the legs. The big animal is
frowning between the teeth and throws Sam a punch, so he falls to the
Nicolai hears a shot.
And one more. It echoes in the half dark cave, and the bear bends down
on all four and tumbles out. Trapper is being thrown to the ground, so
the kerosene lamp tumbles toward the rock floor and shatters. The cave
is pitch dark.
roaring of the bear and the barking of the
dogs can still be heard outside the cave. Then everything gets quiet.
All too quiet.