POT OF GOLD
written by Debbie Williamson
Back in the early 1900's, there lived an old man called Gus and his donkey, Willie. Gus was a lonely sort of man because he didn't have any family.
Gus was a mountain man. He didn't know too much about anything else but he sure knew his mountains. He knew every name of every tree and every name of every animal that lived on his mountain.
One day, Gus was low on his luck. He had gambled his life savings away that night before, in the town nearby.
"Ah Willie!" exclaimed Gus sadly to Willie, as he loaded his few belongings onto his back. "I've been such a fool, gambling and boozing all my hard earned money away. What could I have been thinking of? Well, old boy, my luck is going to change. We're leaving these mountains and we're going to make a better life for ourselves."
For a few days, everything went quite well for Gus and Willie. They travelled through the mountains and across the lush green valleys.
"You know, Willie," Gus said one night beside the campfire. "I've heard there is gold somewhere out west, in that place they call California. I think that we'll head out in that general direction. Who knows, maybe we'll strike it rich!"
The mountains were far behind Gus and Willie as they travelled west. The trees became fewer and farther between. Gus saw nothing but sand for miles and miles.
Gus tugged on Willie's lead, but Willie wouldn't budge.
"Come on Willie," coaxed Gus. "We've come this far so there's no sense turning around and going back now. Besides, we've got nothing left to go back to."
Slowly, Willie gave in. The sun grew hotter with every step that they took. There was no end in sight for the sand. Gus and Willie trudged on. They farther they went, the hotter it got.
Finally, Gus could stand it no further. He plopped his tired body onto the sand. It was getting dark. He decided that he would camp right where he had dropped.
The desert cooled down during the night. Gus and Willie were both quite cold when they woke up the next morning.
After many days of travelling through the desert, Gus was starting to halucinate. Every hour or so, he saw a mirage. At one point, he thought that he saw his beloved mountain. It looked so clear and it looked so near. Gus left Willie's side and ran toward it.
When Gus realized that the mountain was not there, he collapsed in the sand, crying. Willie stood beside Gus and nuzzled him with his cold, wet nose. Gus was exhausted and ashamed. He knew that he had made a big mistake entering the desert. He also knew that he had put himself and his beloved donkey in jeopardy and now, he and Willie could die.
Gus passed out. He remembered waking up in a strange bed, in a strange house. A strange, but beautiful woman stood over him and placed a cool cloth onto his forehead.
"I see you're finally awake," said the woman who looked very relieved.
"Where am I?" asked Gus, weakly.
His mouth was dry. When he tried to sit up, he found that he didn't have much strength left.
"My name is Missy," the woman explained. "A couple of my ranch-hands found you at the edge of my property."
It all started to come back to Gus now. He remembered that he and Willie had been travelling through the desert. He remembered the mirages and the heat.
"You say that this is your ranch," said Gus.
"Yes sir," said Missy. "My Daddy left it to me. He died last winter."
"I'm so sorry," said Gus. "Thank you for taking me in. It was mighty kind of you. I reckon that my poor old donkey didn't make it though, eh."
"He's down in my stable," said Missy. "He was pretty hungry and thirsty but he's a strong animal. He's doing fine now."
"How long have I been here?" asked Gus.
"Mr. Reynolds," said Missy. "You have been here for almost a week."
"A week!" exclaimed Gus. "Oh, my! By the way, how did you know my name?"
"Well," blushed Missy. "I searched through your belongings. I wanted to see if you had any next of kin that I could call, just in case."
"Oh," said Gus.
Gus noticed that Missy was a very fine looking woman. She had long black hair and very pretty brown eyes."
"You live here all by yourself?" asked Gus.
"Yes," said Missy. "I do."
"How come a pretty little woman like you has never gotten married?" asked Gus.
"I haven't found Mr. Right, yet" said Missy. "There aren't too many men around these parts, what with living right on the edge of the desert and all."
"You said that you live on the edge of the desert," sighed Gus. "You mean to say that I was that close to civilization when I passed out."
"About one hundred yards," said Missy. "Anyway, what were you and your donkey doing out in the desert."
"Well," explained Gus. "We used to live in the mountains. I was down on my luck one day, so we packed up and moved on. I was hoping to find myself some gold."
"I see," said Missy.
Over the next few days, Gus regained his strength. He was soon back to normal. He was able to go to the stable to see Willie. Willie was very glad to see Gus. He perked up his long ears and rocked his tail back and forth.
"Willie!" exclaimed Gus. "You're looking mighty fine. Missy's been treating you right, hasn't she? What do you say we stick around here for awhile and help her out. I bet she could sure use an extra hand."
"I sure could," said a voice behind Gus. "I sure could use that extra hand that you were just offering."
Gus turned around as saw Missy standing right in front of him.
"You could," said Gus.
"I'm so glad that I overheard you a minute ago," said Missy. "I came down here to ask you if you would like to be my lead-man. Since Daddy died, there hasn't been anyone here to run the ranch properly."
"Wow!" exclaimed Gus, excitedly. "Did you hear that Willie? It looks like we've found ourselves a pot of gold after all."
"Hee-Haw," said Willie.
"Does that mean that you will stay?" asked Missy.
"It sure does," said Gus.