Chapter 5: “Trail to White Pine”
There were two women living with Evan Corcoran. He’d brought them here from White Pine, a small way-station – Trading-Post community, thirty miles north from his canyon home. One was a young woman, Eulie Canover, just a year older than Kellyanne. The other, an older woman, Eulie’s aunt. They’d lost the remaining members of their family in a Paiute Indian raid on their wagon train, when Eulie was just a young girl. Evan met them on a trip to White Pine to stock up on supplies. When he first saw them, they were begging for food. Eulie was fifteen at the time, her body already showing signs of a woman much older than her age.
There were two men harassing Eulie about going out to the barn with them, offering her a dollar each. After listening to that conversation for thirty minutes or more, in and around the store porch and store yard, Evan stepped in and told the two men to leave the girl alone.
He was packing his mule for his trip home when the woman and the girl came to him. “Take us with you, Mister. If you don’t, they’ll take my niece and make a whore of her. That’s all they want of a woman and she’s a better girl than that,” the woman, Vonda Hanes pleaded with him.
“I live in an old cliff-dwelling inside a rock wall, south of here. It’s rugged country and there are hardly any comforts where I live.”
“We have no comforts at all here and I’d rather live in a pig sty, than let those men touch me,” the girl spoke honestly with him.
“Do either of you know how to use a gun?” he asked.
“I do,” the woman answered.
“Then take this shotgun and stay with my horse and pack mule. If they come back while I’m gone, kill them!” he told her and walked toward the barn.
He came back a few minutes later, leading another mule. “This mule was all they had to sell me. You’ll have to ride double, there’s no way either of you can walk to where we’re going.”
He’d told them the truth when he admitted there were hardly any comforts. But the one comfort he had always loved, was the constant supply of water which ran down the wall of what he called his kitchen. He’d made a wooden tub out of hand-hewn pine staves, and sealed the inside with beeswax, to catch the water. Then, he took a short piece from a small pine log and beveled out a spout. He drove the pointed end of the spout into a crevice in the wall a foot above head high, which gave him a place to bathe as the water poured down from overhead.
When the women first saw the spout with the continuous running water, the soap and wooden tub, with the drying towels nearby, they stripped in front of Evan and bathed for the first time in weeks. Eulie pulled Evan under the water spout with them as they laughed and splashed and bathed
Over the next two years, the three of them bathed together daily.
Eulie was seventeen when she told Evan that she wanted to be his woman. He told her, “Eulie, you’re a better person than that. I’ve come to love you like my own daughter, but I cannot deny that I look at you and have other feelings when I see the way you’re body has grown. If you’re going to be my woman, you’ll have to be my wife.”
“Then I want to marry you. I’m a woman now and I have the womanly needs of a man. You’re older, but you’re the best man I’ve ever known. I’ll be your wife, if you’re sure you want to be committed.”
The next week, the three of them made the trip to White Pine for supplies. This time they went on a Sunday. The man at Frenchy’s Trading post, held Sunday services in his store and he’d marry anyone who wanted to marry – for free – Sundays only.
There was a man and his wife out in the store yard that day, who were selling off all their entire homestead goods, household furniture, hand tools and small farming tools. Evan bought all they had, even the wagon and team, so they could haul their purchases home with them. Eulie and Vonda were thrilled. Now, they would have a cookstove with a table and six chairs.
There were only two problems, but Evan had thought of a solution for the first one by the time they reached the north pass down into the canyon. The wagon was too wide to drive between the narrow walls of the steep pass.
With the women helping him, they removed the wheels, and both axles from the wagon. Then he took the double-bit axe with him, and rode the team of horses over to the nearest pine grove inside the canyon. There, he cut two pine trees, close to forty foot tall and ten inches across the butt. He cut the limbs off them before skidding the logs back to the stripped-down wagon. By prying, straining, shoving and lifting, the three of them finally managed to get the pine logs underneath the wagon bed.
They loaded the four wheels and the two axles on top the logs where they extended behind the wagon, then tied them down. They unloaded their two pack mules onto the wagon bed and hitched the mules and the team of horses to the skid logs, so they could pull it home like a sled.
They were too tired to unload the wagon when they arrived at the cliff house, so they took their food and needed supplies up with them, leaving the wagon for later.
Eulie went to Evan’s room that night after they had showered. He only had a straw mattress and an old army blanket. They would have been just as proud to sleep on the stone floor, if that was all they had.
When Evan and Eulie walked out of their room in the cliff-dwelling the next morning, there was no doubt about them being a happily married couple. They were all smiles and they were starved.
After they bathed, they ate the meal Vonda had prepared for them. Then, they dressed and went down to start unloading their new household goods.
Evan knew there were some things they could never carry up the steep pathway to the cliff house. After some thought, he took his saw, his wood working tools and his longest length of rope with him down to the canyon floor. He sat on a stone in the shade as he cut two, six inch wide blocks off a pine log which was ten inches across. Then he drilled a hole in the very center of both pieces, making a wooden wheel. After stripping the bark, he started cutting two grooves around each of them. It took him three whole days, but he fashioned a block and tackle out of pine.
He didn’t have the luxury of a steel rod, so he made the two spindles from a pine limb, whittled and shaved to fit perfectly through the holes in the center of his double pulleys. His longest rope was on a hundred foot roll, but he was still short at least another hundred feet. Taking three ropes, he tied them together for the down side of the block and tackle. He was still short a few feet, so with the womens help, he raised the wagon bed, replaced the two axles, then the four wheels. He temporarily secured his block and tackle in a lower room.
Then, one at a time, with his block and tackle, he raised the cookstove, the four mattresses, the bed frames, and kitchen table and six chairs, back onto the wagon. From there, they were able to secure the block and tackle in the opening of the kitchen. Once that was done, they used one mule to pull each piece of their household furniture and cookstove up one hundred feet to the highest opening of the cliff dwelling.
There were some plants in the wagon, rolled and wrapped in wet burlap. When Evan took the wrappings off, he discovered two grape vines which had been dug up by the root. He took both of them out near the river, on a small rise and dug two holes as deep as the roots. There he set them out and watered them each week. Finally, after a month they put out new leaves and with the full sun and the rich soil near the river, the grapes grew and grew. The first year, they pruned back the new growth, the second year they picked nearly a gallon of grapes. The next year, they had over five gallons of grape juice when they mashed the grapes.
They made jelly and they made wine. Fine, homemade wine it was to Evan, Eulie and Vonda.
When Kellyanne first saw the water spout, the tub, soap and drying towels, she pulled Jeremiah over and suggested he take a bath.
“Are you trying to tell me something?” he asked and she nodded.
“I can’t bathe in front of you, and everyone else here!”
“Eulie will take everyone in the other room while I help you bathe.”
“Jeremiah, you’re a grown man and Kellyanne is a grown woman, you don’t need my permission or my opinion.”
She carefully loosened his gunbelt and laid it on the table. Then she turned to push him backward until he leaned back and sat on the side of the wooden tub.
When she had his boots, shirt and pants stripped off, she stripped her buckskins off and pulled him underneath the spout of water with her.
“I wanted you to join me in the lake last night,” she told him as she put her arms around his waist.
“I wanted to, but I was afraid to ... I mean, I didn’t know you wanted me to, and I didn’t want to offend you.”
“Please, never be afraid of me again, Jeremiah. Please?” She pleaded as she pulled him close. “Now, reach around and wash my back with the soap as I wash yours. Then, we’re going to wash each other all over,” she told him as she pressed her body against his.
Freshly bathed and dressed in clean buckskins, they took Kellyanne’s map cylinders to her father. She had waited long enough and now was the time to learn about the map.
“First, tell me about Ryan and why he’s not here with you,” her father said when she asked about the map.
Jeremiah spoke up, telling him what he had seen and heard, “Evan, your son has been plotting to get his hands on the map you sent them, and try to cut Kellyanne out of whatever treasure they could find. Neither of them knew if you were alive, and Kellyanne had prepared herself for the worst.”
Evan replied, “Somehow, I had a feeling that would happen. He’s so much like his mother, they even think alike. Speaking of which, where is she anyway?”
“Mother disappeared three months before we sailed. Ryan and I just knew she would have tracked you down by the time we found you.”
“Then she should have received the divorce papers before she left Ireland. My attorneys were to deliver them as soon as I sailed for America.”
“She knew all this time and never told us!”
“I wrote each of you a letter. You and Ryan were to come to America on a steamer as soon as you received the passages that I had purchased for you.”
“We never received the letters or the passages ... at least, I never knew of them. Mother told us we could not come here until our eighteenth birthday. Ryan and I both bought our own passages, ahead of time. When we sailed, Mother had been gone from home three months.”
“I knew something was up, when I kept writing and you never came or answered ... she’s somewhere here in America now. She’ll never find this place and Ryan need never set foot here for siding with his mother all those years.”
Jeremiah told him, “He has two friends working with him. One is an Irishman, from Ireland, I do believe. The other man is Irish, but lives here in America. Neither are in it to help him, their intentions are to take whatever riches he discovers and keep it for their own.”
“Only Gray Hawk and I know where the richest silver deposit ever discovered in Nevada is.”
“Evan, no disrespect intended, but if you filed your claim on this entire canyon, your name will show up on public records,” Jeremiah reminded him.
“That’s the reason we filed the claim on this property in Gray Hawk’s real name, Jonathan Walking Bird. I’m his adopted son, Jonathan Bird Walker.”
Eulie laughed as she told them, “That’s the name he used when we were married, I’m Eulie Bird Walker now.”
Francis Flanagan had been in America for most of two years before she made her way west to Nevada. She had spent months searching records of immigrants from Ireland, having told the authorities she needed to find her husband. After giving up on searching the records, she was told that she should check with the freight companies who contracted to carry people west – immigrants who were not familiar with America and had no other means to transport their goods to the far west.
She had a portrait of her husband, Evan Corcoran, and after six months of searching, she was able to find a man who remembered the person she was searching for. Though he kept no permanent records, he did remember, that he personally took the man to Virginia City, Nevada. That was all he could tell her, or, as she wondered, would tell her. After finding no records or no evidence that Evan was ever there, she left Virginia City for Reno. From Reno, she went to Carson City.
In Carson City, she located two men who swore they remembered her husband. From the moment she met them, she had doubts about their integrity, and the men proved her doubts to be well founded within the first hour she knew them. Yet, both men knew too many facts about Evan for her to refuse their demands.
First, they demanded two hundred dollars up front, then three hundred more when they found her missing husband, and or his property. Second, they demanded she lay with them each night of their travels. Francis had used her body many times before to get what she wanted and this was just another way to pay these men without using the money she’d managed to accumulate. Now, they were finally headed north.
Francis Flanagan sat prim and proper on her horse as Denton Moss and Reed Pritty helped Mac McQuay onto his old mule. The man was drunk on his ass, as usual, and couldn’t even stand. She knew she should have never hired him, but she was told that the half-breed was the only man who could safely lead her and her friends north across the rugged terrain in Washoe County.
Francis Flanagan had dropped her married name, Corcoran, as soon as she was served the divorce papers back in Ireland. She was determined to find Evan and make him pay for her service to him all those years. She’d married him for his money, and now, he’s cut her out of his will.
She smiled as she thought to herself how shrewd she had been all those years she was married to him. She had amassed a small fortune by stealing from her husband’s purse, while he slept. She was almost certain he had a mistress, maybe even two, and she was building her own nest-egg for the day when she would file for divorce and take his massive fortune.
Her only downfall was being caught with the young gardener. Now she was kicked out and Evan had escaped her fury by sailing to America, while she raised their son and daughter. That daughter of hers was the cause of it all. She had spied on her and her lover, then set her up so Evan could see for himself.
That girl had always doted on her father, siding with him on everything within the family. Kellyanne will get what’s coming to her too, after she catches up to Evan and takes what is rightfully hers.
Ryan Corcoran has managed to create a mess of trouble for himself. Before he and Kellyanne left Ireland, he had approached, a friend of a friend, to travel to America and help him find a lost treasure. Letting Mick Hayden become involved in his scheme before leaving Ireland with Kellyanne, would prove to be the worst mistake he’d ever made. These thoughts ran through Ryan’s mind, riding between the two men as they followed their Indian tracker and guide. The other man he hired, Baker Murdoch, a fellow Irishman who Mick knew and who already lived in New York City, was the second worst mistake Ryan had ever made.
The man was a brute – a prizefighter – and he looked the part. Ryan never knew this about Mick’s friend beforehand. But the moment they met, he could tell that Baker Murdoch was a hateful, arrogant and obnoxious sonofabitch. The more he was around him, the more he was positive the man planned to do him harm ... just for spite.
When the train stopped in Carson City, Ryan was in a very heated and aggressive argument with Murdoch and Hayden. He accused them of stealing the map from Kellyanne as planned, then keeping it for themselves. They admitted they had stolen the cylinder with the map inside, but then, they confessed that they had somehow lost it.
They argued for hours ... before Ryan gave up. He remembered the hand drawn map with Washoe Lake on it. They were told that the guide they hired was the best tracker west of the Rockies. He was Paiute, so they hired him. The fact that he was a drunken Paiute, made no difference, they decided that once he sobered up he could lead them to find Kellyanne and Jeremiah ... and hopefully the treasure.
They had spent three days, asking questions – describing Kellyanne and the man with her – the Deputy US Marshall. Finally, at a small marketplace north of town, they were told about a young couple fitting their descriptions. He was wearing a buckskin shirt and wore a badge. He’d bought the young woman a full suit of buckskins.
The men and women at Silver Moon Canyon needed more supplies, and Evan wanted to stock up on picks and shovels when they went this time. Eulie and Kellyanne were both afraid for him to make the trip. He was sure to be remembered from the wedding and possibly followed back to the canyon, since he was stocking up on mining tools.