Mountain Story

On a hill where the water springs that eventually winds its way down out of the Sierra Madre, that thunders finally into the mighty Los Angeles River; on that hill there, clings the spine of a human town. It’s just a store, really; and a post office and a couple of houses for no particular reasons. I lived there ‘cos I was born there. I never would have made up my mind to go there.

Well, I was outside sweeping dust off the porch of the Southland Corporation’s ‘Outpost’ store, when this weird old coot come roarin’ into town, hollering and spinnin’ his ancient pick-up truck in circles in the parkin’ lot.

“Come with me, boy, we’re gonna have a hellish time tonight!” he yelled and shuv a bottle of whiskey in my face. We wound up at Miss Lillie’s Saloon where the geezer dumped out a pile of glittering sand on the bar. “Drinks fer everybody,” he shouted, and suddenly he had more friends than he ever seen before in his life.

We got real plastered and Miss Lillie had on her friendliest smile, and there was dancin’ and live music on through the rest of the night.

In the morning he woke up and I was still dancing with Miss Lillie. Everybody else was either passed out or had gone. Gone, too, was the last of the metal dust. The miner pocketed his change and giggled a little foolishly. “Well,” he drawled, “I reckon I had me a real fine time,” and he started to leave.

“When are you coming back?” I asked him. He screwed up his face and scratched his head, and he figured a bit. “I don’t reckon I’ll be back,” he said. “See, I was seventeen when I started t’ mine. It’s sometimes a year’s worth of silt without a single nugget.” And he cranked up his old flivver and headed back up the mountain trail.