Hello friends! I’ve written a short story just for you! I wanted to let y’all know that I am still alive and to also tell you that I’ve decided to take on the unthinkable. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is happening this month. Authors and writers from all over the globe are participating in this writing challenge; that is to write a 50,000 word novel all during the month of November. So I finished up this short story today so that you all could read, hopefully enjoy and whet your appetite for the novel I am trying to have written by the end of this month. I don’t know what that will be, but I do know that I’ve put much of the work that has been piling up on me, behind me now and I am free to devote myself to the challenge of NaNoWriMo! I hope you enjoy “The Shaft”. If it makes you want to read more of my work, you cand find me at these links:
“Rescue of the Heart” by Joel Wilson http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008F050GG
“The Thorium Endeavor” by Joel Wilson http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BIOFKJI
(A Short Story)
Copyright © 2013
Mt. Sneffels is located in southwest Colorado, near the town of Ouray. It is one of the most photographed mountains in the state. Though not the highest peak in Colorado, it is among the twenty seven Fourteeners. Sneffels is a popular spot for tourists who want to travel through these Swiss Alps–like mountains and enjoy the scenery or to visit the quaint little mountain town of Ouray.
It was on such a trip that Ethan noticed something he could not explain. His curiosity was peaked and he studied the spot with the help of the three hundred millimeter zoom lens that was mounted to the body of his Pentax digital camera and supported by the tripod that Ethan had brought along to help insure the stability of his camera. The wind was blowing strongly near the top of the ridge that stood across from Mt. Sneffels and Ethan was glad he had brought the tripod.
From the point where he was standing he was able to find great scenery in all directions. Ethan though, was not there just to take pictures. His purpose was to recreate the quality photographs of the West that were taken by the great Ansel Adams. Ethan had been scouring the side of Mt. Sneffels searching for a bear, a mountain lion, big horned sheep, buffalo, and any animal that you don’t normally see in downtown Detroit.
As he searched the side of the mountain, he noticed a rock formation. At first, he thought this to be evidence of a rock slide. As he searched further down the mountain, he saw a massive pile of boulder’s and rocks resting on the bank of Sneffels Creek. These were most likely the biggest part of the slide. He wondered, while looking at the smaller pile, what had caused these boulders to rest where they did and not travel to the bottom of the mountain with the rest of them.
Just by looking through his camera and lens, he could not find an answer. He returned to the hotel in Ouray where he had booked a room; a haven where he could go to relax after a hard day of roaming the countryside of the Northern San Juan Mountains. He had enjoyed a steak dinner at a restaurant in town and returned to his room to study the digital photo’s he had taken during the day.
He had taken several shots of the rock slides and when he came across these photos’s he found himself immersed in the mystery of the rock slide. Ethan had questions that could not be answered given the information that was currently available to him. He knew that the only way he would solve this was to go there himself.
Ethan turned on the TV and lay in the bed, hoping to fall asleep. This was his normal routine when he was at home and it always worked fine. Tonight, though, he could not rest. Too much was on his mind and it all concerned that pile of rocks he had seen half-way up on Mt. Sneffels.
As he wrestled to find a comfortable position, his mind kept showing him the pictures he had taken of the rocks. His brain continued to wander until it latched onto a story which Ethan had read a week ago and was the inspiration for taking this trip.
The story told of the Lost Crazy Swede Mine. His name was Gus Lindstrom, a Swede who had gotten lost in a blizzard during the winter of 1906. He happened upon a rocky ledge that stuck out enough to protect him from the storm. It was here that he got lucky. He had stumbled upon calaverite; silver. He filled his knapsack with it and carried it down the mountain to have it assayed.
The blizzard continued and his landmarks were covered up. He tried and tried but could never find the place where he had gotten lucky. Gus had lost his mind trying to relocate the rocky ledge and was admitted to the state hospital in Pueblo, Colorado in 1909.
That location, to this day, has not been found. Ethan didn’t sleep at all that night. He kept thinking that this might be his lucky day and morning could not come sooner.
A ray of light parted the curtains draping his window and shone softly over his face. It was early morning and the sun was still climbing the other side of the mountain that stood between it the town in the valley below.
Ethan knew it was time to get moving and he rolled to his side that faced the mountain. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he examined the huge rocky surface outside the window. “This face of the mountain reminds me of the one on Mt. Sneffels,” he said to himself.
There were trails leading most of the way up the mountain formed by people who had ventured up it over the years. Above the tree line, however, the trails ended and anyone who would dare to reach the summit would have to climb the rest of the way.
During the excitement of it all, Ethan had noticed that the smaller rock pile on Sneffels was above the tree line. He knew that he would have to climb over many boulders to get to the spot.
Ethan was an amateur climber. Most of his experience was in hiking up pre-existing trails, usually with the aid of a walking stick. Today would be no different, he imagined, and he got dressed, brushed his teeth and headed for the restaurant where had eaten the night before, to fill up on breakfast.
After he had eaten, Ethan was eager to get started. He drove along the forest road as far as he could and parked his Land Rover in a small open area that looked like it was created for people to park their cars. Leaving his vehicle, he walked along the Blue Lakes Trail for a few miles and came upon another trail that looked to travel up the mountain diagonally.
The trail allowed him to travel up an easier incline and at one point turned sharply to lead you on up, but in the other direction. Ethan continued his trek up the mountainside.
Following the trail led him back and forth but always upward. At one of the turning points, Ethan stopped his ascent to study what appeared to be something out of the ordinary. The point at which the trail turned to go the other direction did so because of what Ethan had seen there.
Sitting on a rock that was beside the trail, at the turn, Ethan saw an area about thirty yards across and led all the way down to the creek at the base of the mountain. What he found so interesting was that the trees, all the way down were much smaller and less thick than the other trees that were in that area.
By looking through his camera lens, he saw at the bottom a large pile of boulders and rocks. Ethan then looked up and saw another, smaller pile of boulders about a hundred yards up.
Stuffing his camera back into its bag for protection, he decided to leave the trail and work his way, the remainder of the journey, upward to study the rock pile that had caught his attention and was the purpose of this climb.
He had brought a long rope that was in the backpack which he wore. The rope was tied to a grappling hook. He thought that it might come in handy and as it turned out, he was right. Ethan removed the backpack and withdrew the rope and hook.
Going up this part of the mountain was much steeper than following the already established trail, but getting to his destination would be faster this way and besides, he couldn’t be certain that the trail even went there. So he took the rope, made room for a little slack between him and the hook and swung it around. Letting go of the rope while guiding it on its flight, the hook sailed up the side of the mountain and wrapped itself around a tree. Finding it to be secure, he again put on the backpack and with the help of the rope, began climbing upward. He repeated the tossing upward of the rope five times in all and within an hour had arrived beside the pile of rocks.
Sitting on the side of the mountain and supported by a warped tree that served him as a bench, Ethan removed the crushable wool fedora, because it made him feel like a certain archaeologist, and rested it on the ground beside him. While catching his breath, Ethan wiped the sweat from his brow with the rag which hung out from his back pocket.
He stared at the pile of rocks before him and looking upward, saw a place from where, he imagined, they must have fallen.
Ethan was thankful that he had planned this trip for early August instead of the fall. Though it was a hot day on the plains of Colorado, the temperature at 10,000 feet were in the upper sixties; it wasn’t hot, but it was still warm enough to work up a sweat if one were exerting himself.
A strong gust of wind blasted its way around the mountainside and Ethan had to hold onto the bent tree to keep from falling down the mountainside. Thankfully, it was only a gust of wind and not a wind storm, but it was enough to convince him that he needed to secure himself better.
Looking at the rope and following its climb up the mountain he saw that the grappling hook was secured to another larger pine about twenty feet above and to the right side of the pile. He allowed for some slack in the rope so that he could move around, fashioned a loop about three feet wide and secured it with a slip knot. The rope would serve as a safety harness to save him if something happened and cause him to fall. He slipped inside the loop and drew it a little tighter around his waist.
Feeling secure, he decided to climb around the rock pile and examine it. Near the top of the pile the rocks were smaller and he figured that they would be more manageable, so he moved in closer, bracing himself with his feet resting on a large boulder.
The topmost stone was directly in front of Ethan’s face and about the same size. He grabbed hold, using both hands and relocated the stone upward and to the left so that it could rest against another stone. He repeated this with a few other such stones. Just as he was removing one more, he felt a slight breeze coming from behind the rock.
The breeze caught his attention and made him stop for a moment, considering what it was that he just experienced. Did he really feel that or was his imagination beginning to play tricks on him. “Wind can’t emanate from the side of a mountain”, he whispered aloud and to himself. He dismissed it as being his imagination.
The stones were getting larger and heavier, so he only removed a few more. On the last rock, he felt a bit of resistance to his attempt to remove it. Ethan struggled with it but finally won the battle. As he pulled the rock from its resting place, he felt the wind again. It was as though the mountain had exhaled in his face. The air was musty and had a smidgen of stench to it as well.
At first, he turned his head away as though he could run from the smell, but running away was not the purpose of his coming there. He decided to man-up and face it head-on.
The late afternoon sun was lighting up the upper half of the mountain and was casting a ray of light through the hole which had been made by the efforts of Ethan moving the rocks. He looked into the backpack sized hole and was able to see beyond the rock pile.
The excitement rose in his chest, his heart beating faster and it seemed that his imagination had taken on a new life. Behind the rocks was a cave and his thoughts turned toward discovering lost treasure. Eager to see what lay hidden inside, Ethan crawled head first inside the hole. He was stopped in the cave entrance and atop the stones because the rope that was around his waist had run out of slack. Scooting backwards, he released the tension of the slip knot and slithered out of the self-made harness and continued crawling over the rocks until he was inside the cave.
He rose to his feet and looked around but the ray of light seemed to run out of luminosity before the cave ended. Ethan removed his backpack and withdrew the flashlight that he had packed inside. He pressed the switch with his thumb and cast the light down the cave as though he were fishing. Following the beam of light, he ventured further into the cave and around a few corners.
It wasn’t until he rounded the second corner, about fifty yards inside the cave that he saw it. He shone the light along the ceiling, wall and floor of the cave in order to investigate as best as he could. Just as he was sweeping the beam of light across the wall to his left, a sudden flash was reflected back to him, causing him to turn his head quickly to protect his eyes. Ethan shook his head in an effort to shake the sudden brightness of the flash from his pupils.
He swept the area which had produced the flash and there it was again. Stepping to the side so that the reflection did not again invade his eyes, he stared at the cause of the reflection, not believing what he had found. The reflective surface escaped the confines of the ring of light which had been cast on the wall by the flashlight. Following the reflective surface, He traced the vein downward and to his left and passing behind him along the floor of the cave.
Ethan was shaking from the excitement. He already knew the answer, but he tried to convince himself by performing the math out longhand with his finger in the dirt that dusted the ground. He knew that silver had been trading for somewhere over twenty dollars and ounce. Looking back at this discovery, he was sure that he could get at least ten pounds of it and without a whole lot of effort. “Let’s see,” he spoke to the vein before him. “How many ounces are in ten pounds?”
He performed this calculation in the dirt and came up with one hundred and sixty ounces. Then he multiplied that by twenty and found that the value would be three thousand three hundred sixty dollars. His mind raced as he covered the dirt floor with his calculations until he found that he could not complete the equation because he was never very good at math. He knew, though, by just looking at this vein of silver with its length and width, that there was probably enough to make himself become a millionaire.
Ethan looked at his watch and saw that it was becoming early evening and knew that the sun had dropped below the horizon. It would not be safe for him to travel back down the mountain just so that he could sleep in that hotel bed. He was too excited to eat, too, and decided to stay where he was and work through the night. In his backpack there extra batteries and beef jerky and a bottle of water. He was determined to make it last through the night. There was also a three pound hammer in the backpack and he removed it along with the chisel that he had carried up the mountain to have in such a case as this.
Too excited to sleep, he spent most of the night beating chunks of silver out of the wall and floor. He had built a pretty good pile which he figured must have weighed somewhere around fifty pounds or sixteen thousand dollars, by his way of thinking.
Ethan took a short break to eat some jerky and drink water. He then returned to his new found life of prospecting and dug more silver from the wall.
His eyes were getting heavy and fatigue was setting in as he slumped to the ground, sitting on his left hip and resting his head against the wall of the cave. It was here that sleep had overtaken him and he rested in this position through the remainder of the night.
Sometime in the wee morning hours, Ethan awoke while clutching his chest. Sharp pains were shooting down his left arm and he knew that he was having a heart attack. His heart felt as if it was going to explode, and he lay on his back along the dirty floor. Rolling his head to the left he cast his eyes on the silver which he had piled up and thought “All my troubles were gonna be over.” His body jerked and he exhaled one last breath as his soul left his body.
Ethan died after having found the treasure of the Lost Crazy Swede Mine. No one knew where he had gone or what he had been up to. He had no immediate family to miss him.
Two years later a man and his wife were climbing the mountain and happened upon the pile of rocks, noticing the hole near the top of the pile. Together they climbed the rocks to the top. Once there, they looked through the hole that had been made a couple of years earlier by Ethan. Shining their flashlight into the hole, they could not see anything. Ethan had made his discovery around the corner, not visible from the mouth of the cave.
The man and his wife decided to continue their climb up this Fourteener and, so, left the cave behind. No one has ever found the mine which led one man to lose his mind and another to lose his life.