Between 1849 and 1860 several important gold strikes were made in and around El Dorado County in California. One that has gained very little notoriety was at Grizzly Flat, about 20 miles southeast of Placerville with an elevation of four-thousand feet. Gold was discovered there in 1850 and is still being found until today. Every time there is a wet winter, nuggets lodge in the roots and rocks along the Consumnes River and its tributaries.
The year of the Odlin’s journey to California began in 1850 after they heard of the gold strikes there. Lindy and Cindy were born to the happy couple, Lee and Martha Odlin. There was not much fanfare at the birth due to a great storm which set in just as Martha felt birth pangs. The Mid-wife who delivered them prophesied, “Wal, ye won’t have much trouble with that boy, but ye better keep a eagle eye on the gurl”. All Martha could do for the children was to make them as comfortable as possible and pray that no harm came to them along the trail. Martha named the children, Lindsey Lee and Lucinda Lou.
When the Conestoga train reached Placerville, there was news of a gold strike at Grizzly Flat some sixteen miles distant to the south/southeast. Lee Odlin made his family as comfortable as he could and determined to go to Grizzly Flat as soon as possible. To reach the diggings, Lee had to leave his family and head out on one of his trace horses. He had a makeshift saddle and his trusty firearms. As he rode the trail to Grizzly Flat, Lee noticed the abundance of game along the way. There were deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, and once Lee thought he spotted a black bear as he descended one of the many inclines leading to the numerous creek crossings. Of course, there were mountain lions, as the cougar is called, and are usually around where there are deer. Lee camped the first night on a knoll overlooking the little town of Somerset just to the west of the Consumnes River. For his supper he had killed a young turkey and he knew how to roast it perfectly.
Grizzly Flat was named by a group of hunters who were camping on a flat knoll not far from the future gold camp. All of a sudden, a hungry Grizzly bear came lumbering into camp. One of the hunters shot at the bear simply grazing it and they had to chase it for several hours before finishing it off, thus the name of the area. One of the hunters thought, “this appears to be a likely place for gold”. He planned to come up later with a trusted friend and see.
Lee reached the camp on Steely Creek in Grizzly Flat just at twilight after a couple of days of hard travel with a few setbacks. He had fallen in the creek twice, gotten lost a few hours and slept very little because of his vigilance.
“Light and set a spell”, one of the more friendly miners invited Lee.
“Don’t mind if I do”, Lee agreed. His body was beginning to ache from the rough trail and from the Manzanita and buck brush rubbing against him as he rode.
“I’ve just arrived here from Maine, I’m a carpenter by trade and willing to work for my food and lodging until I can make some kind of a strike”.
“Strike”, one of the miners laughed. “If’n you get a strike, there’ll be a great rejoicing’ ‘round these parts”. We ain’t had one in several months, and besides that, we ain’t ‘spectin’ one. “Th’ only ones makin’ any money here is th’ Leone’s up at Leone Meadows”. They ‘sply all th’ vegetables and cornmeal that is sold in this heah camp”, and theahs talk of them startin’ a stage line to Plasaville in th’ near future. Many of us have left and the ones hangin’ on are hangin’ by the skin of thur teeth. Huh! Strike? Woncha listen t’ this tenderfoot. Thet beats all hens a’peckin’”
Lee didn’t say much except to agree with the disgruntled miner. He wanted to feel his way around a few days before he decided what he would do. He knew he could go back to Placerville and make a pretty good living as a carpenter, but he also knew that if he could somehow make a decent strike, he could better support his family in the new diggings. He also knew that if the resident miners were digging any gold they were not about to publicize it.
“Is there anyone needing a carpenter hereabouts?” Lee inquired.
“Sure, one of the miners replied, but you ain’t gonna make any big money doin’ buildin’ work, Th’ only hope is to make a strike on one of these God-forsakin’ creeks. Old man Tyler and Old man Brown are beginning’ to run some cattle heahabouts, and they’re gonna need corrals and barns built to house ’em. Lee figured that this was his best bet until he could get established and learn the lay of the land. He applied for a job with Mr. Brown and was hired promptly. Mr. Brown was from old Virginia stock and liked Lee’s demeanor at first sight.
Lee Odlin was also handy with any type firearm. He had proved this when they had been attacked by Indians in Colorado. The wagon master had commended him in front of the whole train because of his prowess with a gun. Lee had learned to shoot in Maine as there were always turkeys to shoot and deer was to be had in the forests to the north. He had no tendency to use his weapons on a human being, unless it became totally necessary! He had been taught by an old retired mountain man who had worked for the Astors a while back in the fur trade. This man was one of the best shots in the whole outfit and saved many a white scalp by his sharp wits, keen eye, and a ready loaded weapon. Lee was very happy to have been taught by the best.
Martha, meanwhile, was getting established in Placerville. Not only was she a great cook, but she was also the best seamstress any of the women had ever seen who accompanied her on the wagon train. The new arrivals from the east had set up camp in a region not far from the main camp at Hangtown, as Placerville was known. This was due to the fact that anyone caught robbing a claim or stealing livestock were hanged soon by the vigilantes. Martha had used their old wagon as a home until she could secure better lodging. She was hired by the “better offs” to mend clothing, wash, iron and cook occasionally. Some of the women she worked for were not held in very high esteem by the moral crowd. Martha didn’t mind as long as she made an honest dollar.
Lindy and Cindy were almost identical twins in appearance. They even did things alike, such as smiling, walking, and many other things. Their only major difference was in their personalities. Lindy was somewhat shy, Cindy was very precocious and loved an adventure. They both had a shock of burnt brown hair and eyes that were partially blue and partially green, according to the outfit they wore.
Lindy was named for his grandfather, Lindsey Odlin, who had been killed by Indians on the trek to California from Maine. He was buried in the Colorado Territory. Cindy was named for her grandmother, Lucinda Odlin, who pined her heart away because of her husband’s death. They buried her on a lonely prairie in Utah. The twins were growing by leaps and bounds, even though food was sometimes scarce. Martha made sure the twins always had plenty of milk. She had suckled them until the weaning and now they were able to drink from a glass.
Martha was beginning to wonder if Lee was ever coming back. She only got word of Grizzly Flat occasionally if some disgruntled miner happened to show up from the diggings.
“Aw, he’s alright” they would say. he’s a’workin’ fur Old Man Brown keeping’ his corrals fixed and ridin’ fence to keep all his cattle in.”
Little did the other miners know that Lee was becoming very acquainted with the terrain, the nooks and crannies of his chosen residence. As spring approached Lee was thinking of other things besides riding fence and mending corrals and outbuildings.
“Mr. Brown, I’d like a little time off, on Saturday, if it is alright with you. I’d like to do a little hunting hereabouts and have something to eat besides beef. Lee announced with a sly grin.
Mr. Brown, knowing how young men think, replied, “Sure Lee, Take two days if you want, we’ve got most of the cattle rounded up anyway and won’t start a drive to Placerville for about another week.”
Lee was overjoyed at the prospect of going to Placerville and almost delayed his hunting trip, but Mr. Brown insisted on his going. You’ve earned a rest, boy, and I’m sure you need to start prospecting around for a place to live once we get back.”
Lee caught the word, “prospecting” and knew that Mr. Brown was privy to his plan.
The warm California sun had barely reached the edge of the horizon when Lee rustled out, ate a scanty breakfast and saddled his steed, Prince, in preparation for his “prospecting” trip. He could hear the Stellar Jays begin to chirp, the blue tailed squirrels squawked at him from the old oak which shaded the corral. The sturdy quarter horse neighed and trembled slightly in anticipation of the long ride. Lee had chosen this particular steed because of its endurance and sure-footedness on the trail.
As Lee rode down Steely Ridge, the beginning of what he thought would be a perfect day, his thoughts drifted to Martha and the babies.
“Wonder what they’re doing right now? I bet Martha is thinking of me. “I hope she has found some decent work to tide her over ‘til I get back”.
But Lee, knowing the resourcefulness of his wife was not too worried about that. All he was concerned about was that she might be missing him and that the children wouldn’t ever know their father.
As he reached the ridge above the Consumnes River, Lee eyed the terrain leading down to the water. What he sought was black sand that might have accumulated in some of the eddies. The winter had been more rainy than snowy. Plenty of rushing water had come down the river bringing with it any nuggets that might have been lodged in nooks and crannies along the banks. Lee had learned this from a grizzled old miner named Loney.
“Boy, keep yore eyes open and yore ears tuned to th’ weather, more gold is brought down in th’ wet winters than what most of these fools can dig out in a lifetime. All you need is a little rocker, a pan to find it, and the rest is sweat and hard slavin’ a‘shovelin’.”
Lee was a fast learner he skirted the Cosumnes carefully, avoiding any bank that looked undermined by the winter’s raging water. Although he was very cautious, he soon reached a bank that looked solid enough at first glance. He rode out on the precipice, feeling sure it would hold him and Prince. Suddenly, the bank let loose with a shudder, landing man and horse in the deep, freezing waters of the Consumnes. All Lee could do was leap free of the saddle and hang on to the horse’s tail and let the faithful beast swim to the nearest sand bar. His whole body shivered as the snow fed waters rushed over him, but soon man and beast reached shore. The horse knew enough to swim with the current and work his way to safety.
Lee retrieved his scant supplies from the saddle bags, thinking only of the matches that were wrapped in oilcloth. Lee prayed that the cloth had not unwrapped enough in the turmoil to allow moisture to seep into his supplies. This ascertained, Lee set about to find some dry twigs with which he could start a small fire. He had found that buck brush, in its dry state, made a great tender to start a fire. It also burned hot once started as did Manzanita.
Once his fire began burning to his satisfaction, Lee set about removing the saddle and rubbing Prince down with dry leaves he found above the riverbank. This done, his thoughts turned to drying his own clothes. He accomplished this by shedding his soaked shirt first, drying it close to the flames and putting it on to keep from freezing. The sun had not reached the lower reaches of the mountains yet. He then shed his pants, dried them and set about drying his boots and homespun socks. This took Lee more time than he would have liked but could not be helped. By this time, he found that he was hungry. Fortunately, he had brought along several pieces of dried deer jerky and some hardtack in anticipation of any difficulties he might face on the trail. Lee consumed some of this as he contemplated his next move. As Lee glanced around the sandbar he noticed something glowing in the lowering sunlight. Had it been “fools gold” (iron pyrite) it would have glistened and not glowed. Gold has a distinct glow that no other metal has, especially if a lot of water has flowed over it. The man thought that his senses were playing tricks on him.
“Prince, it can’t be that my accident has turned up the very thing that I was seeking.”
Sure enough, as Lee looked about, there were several nuggets that had washed up above the black sand as the raging waters came down. This told him that there was more to be had in the very sandbar that he stood on. As twilight approached, Lee had panned out several large nuggets and some smaller ones, so he decided that he would take Mr. Brown up on his offer to stay another day. What was to force him to make the trek back to Grizzly Flat that evening? The blue jays had never sounded sweeter! The squirrels, which sometimes became a nuisance, never sounded better! Lee was a happy man with the knowledge that he now had enough money to build a cabin and bring his family to Grizzly Flat. He, being a man of faith, prayed silently in the twilight and thanked the Creator for his blessings.
Next day, Lee only worked part of the day then began preparations to return to Grizzly Flat. He marked several prominent trees with his mark so that he would not have trouble finding the place again. He then set about covering all his tracks, smoothing out the earth with branches and then strewing what loose loam he could find over the whole area. He meant to come back to this spot before the summer was over and once again pan to his heart’s content, God willing. Prince was anxious to get back to his familiar surroundings, he whinnied in anticipation.
Upon Lee’s return to Grizzly Flat, Mr. Brown and Mr. Tyler announced the upcoming cattle drive to Placerville. They knew Placerville would be ready for some fresh meat after having survived the harsh, overly wet winter. Sacramento had flooded that year allowing only the most hardy to come up to the gold fields. Supplies were at a premium. Lee prayed that Martha and the children had survived the winter’s wrath.
“Wal boys, we mought as well get a’goin’, Mr. Brown announced a couple of days later. We gotta get while the getting’ is good. Theah ain’t no use of us layin’ around heah anymore. Mr. Tyler’s gout is actin’ up so he won’t be accompanying us.”
Lee was elated at the sudden revelation that he would be seeing his family again soon. Three years had passed since he had seen them and his heart ached to hold them close and whisper love into their ears.
“Those young’uns must be pretty well growed by now.” Lee spoke as one of the miners.
He had shed some of his “eastern” ways and especially the vocabulary of the east. Hardship had fashioned Lee into a well-seasoned and serious individualist.
The trail to Placerville was beginning to look like a well-traveled turnpike by now. The drovers had only to keep the cattle in the trail and let the old moss horn steer do the leading. The only danger of the drive was that word had reached Mr. Brown that some renegade miners were robbing unwary travelers on the other side of Caldor on the Diamond Grade. Who was to say that they might try to rustle some cattle? Mr. Brown admonished his riders to be on the lookout for any unusual activity or strange acting individuals.
Lee slept at night like a drugged man. After his turn at watch, he would simply eat a light supper and roll up in his bedroll for a sweet reverie of his family that awaited him in Placerville. He had no thought of anyone trying to steal the cattle. But, peril arrives at the least expected moment!
Just below Caldor, one clear starlit night, Lee was awakened suddenly by the cracking of brush. His immediate thought was that some of the cattle had wandered out into the buck brush and was trying to find their way back to the main herd. As he listened, he was soon convinced that it was riders approaching silently thinking that no one was aware of their presence. Lee crept snail like, avoiding the dry grassy areas to lessen the noise, and was soon closer to the sound he had heard. He carried his trusty rifle and an old flintlock pistol that his grandfather had willed to him. He knew,
and trusted, his firearms. The moon was just beginning to filter through the scant oaks.
“Up with yore hands and throw down yore weapons! Lee cried, Move over this way and state yore business.”
Lee’s cry awakened the whole camp as well as alerting the man on watch who came to the cry as soon as he heard it. Three men approached cautiously,
“We ain’t wantin’ no trouble”, one said as the others began to join in his pleas. We’re just hungry and was thinkin’ we mought get a crumb of food heahabouts!”
“Light outta them saddles and sit down on the ground, we’ll let the boss decide what to do with you”, Lee warned.
Lee ruminated, as he saw the condition of their clothing, that he had never seen such ragamuffins as these. Their shirts were all but tatters, their pants, stained and torn were barely hanging on their hips. They each had mismatched boots that would never stand another repairing. It turned out that the only thing that they had of value were their up to date guns and their saddles. Such are the ways of transgressors.
Something looked very familiar to Lee as he was able to see the faces more clearly. One of the men looked like a miner who had been caught stealing food up at Grizzly Flat and the other miners had run him out. Now that he heard the voice, Lee was sure that it was the same man. This man, Bart Thompson, was a ne’r-do-well drunk such as lives in every camp where men assemble for honest work. The other men, Lee had never seen.
“What’s goin’ on heah, Lee? Mr. Brown inquired.
“I heard some rustlin’ in the bushes awhile ago and when I came to inspect, I found these three men riding silently up to our camp with their guns drawn, Lee replied. I told them to sit quietly until you could come and assess the situation.”
The three men moved uneasily not daring to speak lest they reveal their true purpose. The one called Bart Thompson even tried to shield his face with his battered hat.
“What’s your purpose in bein’ heah?” Mr. Brown questioned. What do you mean by sneakin’ up on us in the night?”
“We wan’t a’sneakin” one of the men whined. We was jus’ a lookin for some grub, we ain’t thieves!”
Mr. Brown almost chuckled, recognizing Bart Thompson.
“Then why did you have your guns drawn?” Mr. Brown quizzed.
“We jest didn’t know what to expect, was all, the one called Bart replied. If we’d a’ knowed you were peaceful men, we would ’av never drawed a gun on ye.”
“Alright, Mr. Brown informed them, get over to the camp and we’ll see if we can rustle you up some grub, meanwhile, we’ll search your horses and retrieve yore guns.”
The search revealed nothing as the men had nothing to hide. Their guns turned out to be later models, probably stolen, and as stated before, their saddles were of the best quality, also probably stolen from a livery in Placerville. Mr. Brown fed the men, who devoured the proffered food voraciously, and then turned them loose minus their guns and saddles. He figured they would wander into some mining camp either to be shot for thievery or hanged for murdering some innocent miner. At least they left with a full stomach.
After the drovers reached Placerville, Mr. Brown gave Lee a fairly large bonus for saving the herd. Not one steer had been lost and he had said that if the whole herd made it, he would give each man a bonus besides his regular wages. Word was also put out that some guns and saddles had been retrieved.
Lee went about searching for his family in a wonderful frame of mind. He just knew, instinctively, that he would find them in the best of health and eagerly awaiting his appearance. They must have gotten word that a herd was coming to Placerville and Martha already knew that Lee worked for a cattleman. He finally found them in a boarding house up on Schnell road. The joy Lee experienced that night could never be equaled though he lived to be a hundred years old. All three of his little family was in great health and spirits. Lee thanked the Creator for preserving his family.
After a couple of days of seeing the sights around Placerville Mr. Brown announced that he was ready to return to Grizzly Flat. A local livery man had identified the saddles as his property. No one ever claimed the guns so Mr. Brown gave them to his men as an added bonus.
Some of the men decided to take their wages and head to the new diggings up in the hills a ways, some decided to return to Grizzly Flat with Mr. Brown, Lee included.
“Yuh can bring youh family, Lee, and they can stay with me and the missus ‘til you get a cabin built, what do you say t’ that?”
“It sounds real promising to me, but first, let me put the proposition up to Martha. She has a pretty thriving cooking and sewing business goin’ here.”
“Wal, let me know pretty soon, I’ve gotta go down to the Studebakah works and try to jaw them down a little on a couple of theah wagons. We’re gonna need some transpatation t’ haul the supplies we’ve bought heah”.
“I’ll go to Martha right away.” Lee promised.
Lee pondered how he was going to convince Martha to move with him to Grizzly Flat. Just as he arrived at the boarding house where she and the children were staying, there was a ruckus in the front of the place. A drunken miner was challenging another to a duel. The other man, being sober, was trying to talk the inebriate into settling things peacefully.
“Yore the cause of all my troubles”, the drunk man accused. “If you hadn’t cheated at cards, I’d still have my grubstake!”
“You’re crazy drunk”, the other replied, I’ve never cheated at cards in my life, anyone can tell you that who knows me!”
Suddenly, the drunken one pulled his pistol intending to shoot the other. Lee quickly grabbed the accuser from behind, disarming him in the process. It turned out that this was a common occurrence in that section of the newly formed town.
As Lee entered the building, Martha met him with tears streaming down her face.
“I’m ready to leave this town as soon as I can get away! All I ever hear is someone going to shoot another person or someone knifing someone else. This is no place to raise kids!”
This is exactly what Lee wanted to hear. He tried to hide his elation as he related the offer that Mr. Brown had proposed to him
“So that’s it in a nutshell, he exclaimed! We can stay with the Browns as long as it takes to build our cabin and get established, besides, I have a big surprise that I have been hiding from you until the right time presented itself. I’ve found gold!! Enough to build us a cabin and get us started in whatever business we choose to pursue in Grizzly Flat. I might even find some more in the same sandbar if I can get back before winter sets in!”
Martha didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so she did neither. Being a practical woman she simply turned around and began packing for the trip to Grizzly Flat. She realized that this was the very thing she had waited for.
Lee, meanwhile, went back downtown to see if he could procure his wagon back that Martha had been obligated to sell to make ends meet while Lee sojourned in Grizzly Flat. The livery man that she had sold it to was a jovial individual who was not such a sharp business man, so he resold the wagon to Lee along with an extra old nag to help pull the wagon back to Grizzly Flat for not much more than what he had paid Martha for it.
“What a setup! Lee exulted. I came here with hardly anything, now I have a chance to make good in the little settlement that I have chosen to follow my dream. Wow! How much better can a man have it?” Lee once again thanked his Creator!
Upon arrival to Grizzly Flat, the Odlins worked very hard pursuing their dream of having a few acres of land with a decent house to raise their children. This accomplished, the sometimes difficult years seemed to fly by until the twins were eight years old. They were well liked in the community, especially Cindy, as she was in the foremost of every adventure the twins encountered.
“She shore is a good’un,” the old timers would exclaim after the twins had been in some close scrape or other mischief.
The scarceness of children in Grizzly Flat at that time probably did the most to endear the twins to everyone’s heart. They seemed to be the property of all the families in their close vicinity. They were watched after by all the families as if they were their own children.
A sickness in the camp in the 1850’s did a lot to eradicate a lot of the children. The winter had been especially cold and wet and anyone who ventured outside subjected themselves to the sickness. Probably today we would call it the flu, but most of the old timers just simply called it the ague or croup. Thankfully, Lindy and Cindy were spared as they only were inflicted with a mild case of whatever it was. The only doctor in camp was a wizened old bachelor who liked ‘demon rum’ a little too much. If one found him sober, he could usually recommend some relief to whatever afflicted the other. He probably had saved more lives than he had ever received credit for. Lindy and Cindy surely loved him and would have fought anyone who talked bad about him. It was doubted that he had ever received a degree as a bona-fide doctor.
In the late summer of that year Lindy and Cindy ran into their cabin with the latest news from the combination store and post office. The stage from Leone’s was beginning to take passengers to Placerville via Caldor.
“Glory be! Martha exclaimed. What’ll they think of next?”
When Lee came in from mending a fence in the back acreage, Martha proposed a trip to Placerville on the next available stage.
“Oh, Lee, it would be such a wonderful opportunity for the children, and besides, I haven’t been to Placerville since we left five years ago, could we go?
“I have a cabin I’m buildin’ for the Fitches’ so if I c’n finish
it by the time the next stage runs, well, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Martha waited with anticipation for the trip and she even went so far as to ride down on Logan’s Grade and help Lee put up logs for the cabin in order to speed his work along. Finally, along about a Friday evening, the cabin was finished. Just in time for the stage to run on Saturday.
The twins were suddenly without words. All they could do was to whisper to each other about the wonderful trip that lay ahead. They thought that if they uttered the words out loud, the trip would suddenly vanish in thin air. Martha was beside herself. She had been saving her egg money and the skimpy wages she received for her sewing and mending the miner’s socks, underwear and overalls. Once in awhile she would be given an order for a wedding dress or a special outfit. She had plans for the small pittance she had saved; new shoes for the twins, some store-bought soap for her and a pair of those new type overalls, called Levi’s, for Lee. She could barely wait!
Saturday morning! The stage was to arrive at nine a.m. Lee arose early, fed all the livestock, chickens and pigs while Martha prepared a small breakfast, spending most of her time to prepare the basket of food they planned to take on the trip to Placerville. They arranged with a neighbor to care for the animals as they would be gone for several days. They planned to spend some time in Placerville as the stage that went on Saturday did not return until the following week. This would allow Martha plenty of time to make her planned purchases in Placerville. If all went well, this would give her a well-earned rest from the drudgery of running the household while Lee earned a living.
Finally, the stage pulled in to the Wells Fargo depot in Grizzly Flat. Lee, Martha and the children didn’t have far to walk as they lived on Nail Road, not even a mile from the stagecoach stop. The grizzled old driver, Mike Lawless, welcomed the Odlins on the stage, even helping them to deposit the children and what luggage they took. He tried to make them as comfortable as possible in the small passenger compartment. There were two other men on the stage, a deputy sheriff, John Hamilton, from Hangtown and his prisoner, Ted Rawlings, wanted in Diamond Springs for horse thievery. Martha and the children sat on one seat, the other being taken by the sheriff and his prisoner. Lee decided to sit up top with the driver. The sun started peeking over the cedars and ponderosas just as they got underway.
Wrens sang, Stellar Jays squawked, deer could be seen from atop the Leone Stage as they made their way down String Canyon. Sometimes flocks of turkeys would swarm across the roadway and the stage would have to wait until the stragglers caught up to the main flock. Lee gloried in the atmosphere, scenting the cedars and pines along the way. He had not had time in the past five years to relax for very long periods of time. He reflected on all his blessings. As the experienced old driver, Mike, sang a popular ditty, Lee thought,
“Boy, you sure have done well in Grizzly Flat. Even though you haven’t gotten rich with gold, as some did, you prospered otherwise. You’ve got a beautiful wife, two lovely children, and a thriving carpentry business as well as a house and some acreage, who could ask for anything more?”
In truth, the sandbar that Lee had encountered by his fall into the Consumnes, had petered out after a few visits leaving Lee with enough gold dust and nuggets to start his carpentry business and become less and less dependent upon Mr. Brown and Mr. Tyler.
“You’ve sure got it pretty good, old boy!!”
Lee’s reveries were cut short by the driver’s announcement that they would be stopping in Caldor to take on some packages and a strongbox.
Caldor was a logging town which would eventually have a railroad connection. At the time Lee saw it, it was only a few cabins, a stage stop and a small trading post to supply needed supplies to the loggers. Lee ascended the stage as they rolled to a halt at the stage stop. The stop was a makeshift room annexed to the only boarding house there.
“We’ll be here for only half-an-hour” the driver announced.
Lee began to dislodge Martha and the children from the crowded compartment. The deputy and his prisoner came last.
A small crowd had gathered at the stage stop consisting of local idlers, children, and one man Lee could have sworn was Bart Thompson. He had not been heard of since his run-in with Mr. Brown’s cattle drovers. Lee supposed he had hired on with the logging company just long enough to earn some money for clothes, a horse and a new gun, and of course, his demon rum. Bart became scarce when he spotted Lee and was not seen any more at Caldor while the stage stopped there.
Martha gave the children some food and offered the deputy and his prisoner some, she being a generous soul. The deputy took his share but refused to allow the prisoner any. Cindy sneaked behind the deputy and put some bread with jam in the hand of the prisoner. When the deputy saw him eating it, he was afraid to take it from him as he did not like to have the public outraged against the local constabulary. No one saw Cindy doing her little act of charity except Lindy, and he wasn’t talking!
After little more than half-an-hour, the stage began rolling down Diamond Grade to connect back with Grizzly Flat Road, as it had come to be called. Lee was glad to be back on the road again. After he had spotted Bart Thompson, he had checked the load in his flintlock pistol and made sure that his rifle was loaded and sitting in the boot next to his right leg. There had been talk lately about some robberies in this area so Lee was taking no chances.
“What’s eatin’ you, Mike?” Lee inquired as he noticed a certain tenseness in the driver.
“Oh, I ain’t been sleepin’ too well as of late, the cagey old veteran sidestepped. I think I’ve been eatin’ too much before goin’ t’ bed”.
Lee thought he knew what was bothering the old man.
“Throw up your hands! Resounded suddenly from the rocks. Don’t try any tricks or you won’t be seein’ the beautiful sundown tonight. Jus’ slide that strongbox slowly over the side without makin’ any false moves!”
Lee eased his flintlock pistol out of his waistband and laid it on the seat beside him before he threw up his hands. A shot rang out from inside the stage as John Hamilton, without thinking of the safety of the others, got his gun into play. One of the would-be robbers slumped down behind a boulder, clutching his middle.
“Gut shot!,” could be heard as he fell.
The robbers began a fusillade of shots at the door of the stage. Lee heard someone curse inside as the shots rang out. Ted Rawlings, thinking the shots might hit the children, threw himself in front of them as a shield. He, being shackled, was only able to partially shield them because the deputy thought he was trying to escape. His last words were to Cindy,
“Thanks for the food, young’un”.
He redeemed his soul that day.
Meanwhile, Lee seeing the shots being diverted to the door of the stage, sprung down on the opposite side taking his firearms with him. His first move was to open the door and get his little family out the opposite side and into an outcropping of rocks. He noticed that Lindy was favoring his right arm, and knew right away that one of the stray bullets had hit him. Martha and Cindy were both fine, except for being scared out of their wits. Soon as his family was safe, he ran back to the stage where Mike and John were pumping shots into the robbers just as fast as they could reload. Thank goodness, Mike had remembered to bring along some extra firearms.
Lee saw his chance to sneak across the road, just above the stage, and get in behind the road agents. There were three of them, besides the shot one, so Lee knew that the odds were on the side of right. He crawled slowly to where he could get the drop on them and cried loudly,
“Drop your weapons, yu polecats, and don’t even blink an eye, I mean business!”
Two of the road agents were in the process of reloading, the other was commencing to take aim on one of the defenders. Who should be the one that was taking aim but Bart Thompson! Just as he turned toward Lee, either Mike or John sent a bullet through his neck. Bart never knew what hit him.
Soon as Mike and John took over the other two robbers, Lee bounded back across the road to see what had become of his family. Lindy was not wounded badly, a mere flesh wound, and Martha had already stanched the blood with some of her torn off petticoat, using some more to wrap the wound. Cindy ran to meet Lee with a great bear hug, and Lee carried her the remainder of the space between them and the rest of the family.
“Oh, Thank God you’re safe! Martha cried. Lindy’s gonna be fine, I am whole and Cindy is still Cindy”.
“Well, we were able to subdue the road agents”, Lee informed her, and two of them will do no more terrorizing. Bart Thompson was the ringleader and he is no more. We should be able to go on to Placerville without any more trouble”.
As soon as the stage reached the Wells Fargo station in Placerville, Mike Lawless suggested that they take Lindy to see Doc Jones. Lee had already determined this, but allowed Mike to have his “take charge” attitude.
They had buried the two robbers and Ted Rawlings on a little knoll on Diamond Grade. Lindy and Cindy placed fresh flowers on the grave of Ted. The two remaining robbers were shackled securely by the deputy and handed over to the sheriff as soon as they reached Placerville. Lee heard later that the two had been hanged by the local vigilante committee for several unsolved crimes in the vicinity of the town. The committee figured that if they were the wrong ones, they should not have been committing crimes in the first place. This was the general attitude at this time in history. The sheriff only kept the peace in the town limits. Special deputies such as John Hamilton kept the peace otherwise.
Lee found himself quite a celebrity as Mike Lawless spread the word around about his prowess in the fight with the road agents. Had he been a drinking man, he would have been slightly inebriated by all the drinks being offered him. Lee, being a bashful man, tried to give the deputy and the driver credit for cornering the road agents. The deputy had gotten a change of attitude since the fray and was no longer interested in law work. He finally married a dancehall girl in Placerville and moved on to Grass Valley where the “pickins weren’t so slim”. Mike Lawless remained an employee of the Leones until he became too old to drive a team.
As the Stage passed through Caldor on the way back to Grizzly Flat, Mike again spread the word that Lee had saved the strongbox, not to mention several lives. The owner of the Lumber mill presented Lee with a reward as well as a matched pair of the latest in pistols. Mike was rewarded, also, with a bonus.
“Want a job with me?” the thankful owner asked.
“No thanks, Lee replied, I have everything I need in Grizzly Flat and can’t wait to get back.”
“Well if you ever do need a job, just look me up”.
Lee said that he would.
On reaching Grizzly Flat, Lee, Martha and the twins thanked the Creator for all their blessings. By the time Mike Lawless spread the word around about Lee’s prowess with a gun, Lee was hardly able to walk around without being accosted by some well-meaning citizen wanting to shake his hand. Martha and the twins had many visits from the families there wanting them to relate the story over and over. The twins played the story out with all the other children there until everyone knew the story by heart. No one ever knew that Ted Rawlings was a member of the very gang that had shot him when he sacrificed his life for two children and a woman he didn’t even know.