Cecil was a miner in 1850, something like a banker in 1848, a skinner through the summer of ’46, and married in 1844. He was not the sort of man prone to introspection before 1845, and less so after the pox took Jenny. What he had inside he pushed out, a constant birthing of dubiety and violence preceding him in crude syzygy to his infant girl Jenny almost gave him. With her last breath she vowed to deliver the child well and he nodded in his typical laconic fashion, certain her vow was sincere, thinking the Lord had other plans. But he wouldn’t second guess heaven and he would not allow the last word Jenny heard on Earth to be “No.”
After he buried her he went north and west to busy his hands cutting the flanks off steer. He spent nigh on a year without a single thought in his head, blood on his chest shoulder to shoulder with men much the same.
When word traveled up that California had joined the Union he greeted the news with a grunt and stuck his pan back in the river. It wasn’t until the next year that there was a proper town around his claim, his beard grown long, his dog curled up in a dead badger’s hole, still camped and washing his face in the near panned out river. Some folks from the town came stumbling out to the dark, the men and women cooing at the fireworks startling the dog and the women soon crying at the rough barks. The men put their hands up nose to nose with Cecil’s shotgun and one of them laughed, a young boy, and offered the man his bottle. They were celebrating California’s Admission Day. They were Americans at last, hallelujah. Wasn’t the Lord’s love certain, gold his gift, civilization mighty fine and on the march?
Cecil took the bottle and drank with them until his silence sent them off to celebrate with a louder company. And the next morning Cecil pulled up his stakes and packed his tent and he went north and west to see if there was an empty place to walk to over the ocean. The dog followed him.