The Big Reuben Vein

: The Boys Of Crawford's Basin

But it seemed as though Joe were destined never to get to Sulphide. I

was still in the kitchen, when, not more than twenty minutes later, I

heard the rattle of wheels again, and looking out of the window, there I

saw my partner by the stable tying up his horse.

"Hallo, Joe!" I cried, throwing open the door. "What's up?"

Without replying at the moment, Joe came striding in, shut the door, and

throwing his hat down upon the table, said:

"I came back to tell you something. I've a notion, Phil, that we've got

to go hunting for that vein ourselves, and not lose time by going up to

tell Tom."

"Why? What makes you think that, Joe?" I asked, in surprise.

"That's what I came back to tell you. You know that little treeless

'bubble' that stands on the edge of the canyon only about half a mile

up-stream from here? Well, when I drove up the hill out of our valley

just now I turned, naturally, to look at the scar on the mountain, when

the first thing to catch my eye was the figure of a man standing on top

of the 'bubble.'"

"Is that so? What was he doing?"

"He was looking at the scar, too."

"How do you know that, Joe?" I asked, incredulously. "You couldn't tell

at that distance whether he had his back to you or his face."

"Ah, but I could, though," Joe replied; "and I'll tell you how. After a

minute or so the man turned--I could see that motion distinctly

enough--caught sight of me, and instantly jumped down behind the rocks."

"Didn't want to be seen, eh?" remarked Peter. "And what did you do


"I felt sure he was watching me, though I couldn't see him," Joe went

on, "and so, to make him suppose I hadn't observed him, I stayed where I

was for a minute, and then drove leisurely on again. There's a dip in

the road, you know, Phil, a little further on, and as soon as I had

driven down into it, out of sight, I pulled up, jumped out of the

buckboard, and running up the hill again I crawled to the top of the

rise and looked back. There was the man, going across the mesa at a run,

headed straight for Big Reuben's gorge!"

Joe paused, and for a moment we all sat looking at each other in


"Any idea who he was?" I asked presently.

"Yes," replied Joe, without hesitation. "It was Long John Butterfield."

"You seem very sure," remarked Peter; "but do you think you could

recognize him so far off?"

"I feel sure it was Long John," Joe answered. "I have very long sight;

and as the man stood there on top of the 'bubble,' with the sun shining

full upon him, he looked as tall as a telegraph pole. Yes, I feel

certain it was Long John."

"Then Yetmore has started him out to prospect for that vein!" I cried.

"He is probably camped in the neighborhood of Big Reuben's gorge,

following up the stream, and I suppose he heard the roar of the slide

yesterday and came down this way the first thing this morning to get a

look at the scar."

"That's it, I expect," Joe answered.

"And you suppose," said Peter, "that he went running back to his camp

to get his tools and go prospecting up on the scar."

Joe nodded.

"Then, what do you propose to do?" asked the hermit.

"I've been thinking about it as I drove back," replied Joe, "and my

opinion is that Phil and I ought to go up at once, see if we can't find

the spot where that big tree was rooted out, and stake the claim for Tom

Connor. If we lose a whole day by going up to Sulphide to notify Tom, it

would give Long John a chance to get in ahead of us and perhaps beat us

after all."

The bare idea of such a catastrophe was too much for me. I sprang out of

my chair, crying, "We'll go, Joe! And we'll start at once! How are we to

get up there, Peter? There must be any amount of snow; and we are

neither of us any good on skis, even if we had them."

"Yes, there's plenty of snow," replied Peter promptly, entering with

heartiness into the spirit of the enterprise, "lots of snow, but you can

avoid most of it by taking the ridge on the right of the creek and

following along its summit to where it connects with the saddle. You'll

find a little cliff up there, barring your way, but by turning to your

left and keeping along the foot of the precipice you will come presently

to the upper end of the slide, and then, by coming down the slide, you

will be able to reach the place where the line of trees used to stand,

which is the place you want to reach."

"Is it at all dangerous?" asked Joe.

"Why, yes," replied Peter, "it is a bit dangerous, especially on the

slide itself now that the trees are gone; though if you are ordinarily

careful you ought to be able to make it all right, there being two of

you. For a man by himself it would be risky--a very small accident might

strand him high and dry on the mountain--but where there are two

together it is reasonably safe."

"Come on, then, Joe," said I. "Let's be off."

"Wait a bit!" cried our guest, holding up his hand. "You talk of staking

a claim for Tom Connor; well, suppose you should find the spot where

the big tree was rooted out, and should find a vein there--do you know

how to write a location-notice?"

"No," said I, blankly. "We don't."

"Well, I'll write you out the form," said Peter. "I've read hundreds of

them and I remember it well enough, and you can just copy the wording

when you set up your stake--if you have occasion to set one up at all."

He sat down and quickly wrote out the form for us, when, pocketing the

paper, we went over to the stable, saddled up, and leaving Peter in

charge, away we rode, armed with a pick, a shovel, an ax and a coil of


According to the hermit's directions, instead of following up the bed of

the creek which led to his house, we took to the spur on the right, the

top of which being treeless, had been swept bare of snow by the winds

and presented no serious obstacle to our sure-footed ponies. We were

able, therefore, to ride up the mountain so far that we presently found

ourselves looking down upon Peter's house, or, rather, upon the mountain

of snow which covered it. But here the character of the spur changed,

or, to speak more accurately, here the spur ended and another one began.

Between the two, half-filled with well-packed snow, lay a deep crevice,

which, bearing away down hill to our right, was presently lost among the


"From the lay of the land," said Joe, "I should judge that this is the

head of the creek which runs through Big Reuben's gorge--Peter told us

it started up here, you remember. And from the look of it," he

continued, "I should suppose that the shortest way of getting over to

the slide would be to cut right across here to the left through the

trees. But that is out of the question: the snow would be ten feet over

our heads; so our only way is to cross this gulch and go on up as far as

we can along the top of the next ridge, as Peter said."

"Then we shall have to leave the ponies here," I remarked, "and do the

rest on foot: there's no getting them across this place."

Accordingly, we abandoned our ponies at this point, and having with some

difficulty scrambled across the gulch ourselves, we ascended to the

ridge of the next spur and continued our way upward. This spur was

crowned by an outcrop of rock, which being much broken up and the cracks

being filled with snow, made the walking not only difficult but

dangerous. By taking care, however, we avoided any accident, and, after

a pretty stiff climb arrived at the foot of a perpendicular ledge of

rocks which cut across our course at right angles--the little cliff

Peter had told us we should find barring our way.

Here, turning to the left, as directed, we skirted along the base of the

cliff, sometimes on the rocks and sometimes on the edge of the snow

which rested against them, until at last we reached a point whence we

could look right down the steep slope of the slide.

Covered with loose shale, the slope for its whole length appeared to be

smooth and of uniform pitch, except that about three-quarters of the way

down we could see a line of snow hummocks stretching all across its

course, indicating pretty surely that here had grown a strip of trees,

which being most of them broken off short had caught and held a little

snow against the stumps.

"There's where we want to get, Joe!" I cried, eagerly. "Down there to

that row of stumps! This is a limestone country--all this shale, you

see, is composed of limestone chips--but that tree-root in which we

found the chunk of galena held two or three bits of porphyry as well,

you remember, and if it did come from down there, there's a good chance

that that line of stumps indicates the course of a porphyry outcrop, as

Peter guessed, cutting across the limestone formation."

"Well, what of that?" asked Joe. "Is a porphyry outcrop a desirable

thing to find? Is it an 'indication'?"

"It's plain you're no prospector, Joe," said I, laughing; "and though I

don't set up to know much about it myself, I've learned enough from

hearing Tom Connor talk of 'contact veins' to know that if there's a

vein in the neighborhood the most promising place to look for it is

where the limestone and the porphyry come in contact."

"Is that so?" cried Joe, beginning to get excited. "Then let us get down

there at once; for, ten to one, that's where our big tree came from."

"That's all very well," said I. "The row of stumps is our goal, all

right, but how are we going to get down there? I don't feel at all

inclined to trust myself on this loose shale. The pitch is so steep that

I should be afraid of its starting to slide and carrying us with it,

when I don't see anything to stop us from going down to the bottom and

over the precipice at the lower end."

"That's true," Joe assented. "No, it won't do to trust ourselves on this

treacherous shale; it's too dangerous. What we must do, Phil, is to get

across to that long spur of rocks over there and climb down that. It

will bring us close down to the line of stumps."

The spur to which Joe referred, connecting at its upper end with the

cliff at the foot of which we were then standing, reached downward like

a great claw to within a short distance of the chain of snow hummocks,

and undoubtedly our safest course would be to follow it to its lowest

extremity and begin our descent from there. It was near the further edge

of the slide, however, and to get over to it we had to take a course

close under the cliff, holding on to the rocks with our right hands as

we skirted along the upper edge of the shaly slope. It was rather slow

work, for we had to be careful, but at length we reached our

destination, when, turning once more to our left, we scrambled down the

spur to its lowest point.

"Now, Phil," cried Joe, "you stay where you are while I go down. No use

to take unnecessary risks by both going down together. You sit here, if

you don't mind, and wait for me; I won't be any longer than I can help."

"All right," said I; "but take the end of the rope in your hand, Joe.

No use for you to take unnecessary risks, either."

"That's a fact," replied my companion. "Yes, I'll take the rope."

With a shovel in one hand and the end of the rope in the other, Joe

started downward, but presently, having advanced as far as the rope

extended, he dropped it and went cautiously on, using the shovel-handle

as a staff. Down to this point he had had little difficulty, but a few

steps further on, reaching presumably the change of formation we had

expected to find, where the smooth, icy rock beneath the shale was

covered only by an inch or so of the loose material, the moment he

stepped upon it Joe's feet slipped from under him and falling on his

back he shot downward like an arrow.

I held my breath as I watched him, horribly scared lest he should go

flying down the whole remaining length of the slope and over the

precipice; but my suspense lasted only a few seconds, for presently a

great jet of snow flew into the air, in the midst of which Joe vanished.

The next moment, however, he appeared again, hooking the snow out of his

neck with his finger, and called out to me:

"All right, Phil! I fell into a hole where a tree came out. I'm going to

shovel out the snow now. Don't let go of that rope whatever you do."

So saying he set to work with the shovel, making the snow fly, while I

sat on the rocks a hundred feet above, watching him. In about a quarter

of an hour he looked up and called out to me:

"I've found it, Phil. Right in this hole. It's the hole our big tree

came out of, I believe. Can't tell how much of a vein, though, the

ground is frozen too hard. Bring down the pick, will you? Come down to

the end of the rope and throw it to me."

In response to this request, having first tied a knot in the end of the

rope and fixed it firmly in a crack in the rocks, I went carefully down

as far as it reached, when, with a back-handed fling, I sent the pick

sliding down to my partner.

"Don't you think I might venture down and help you, Joe?" I called out.

"No!" replied Joe with much emphasis. "You stay where you are, Phil. It

would be too risky. I can do the work by myself all right."

Still keeping my hold on the rope, therefore, I sat myself down on the

shale, while Joe, pick in hand, went to work again. Pretty soon he

straightened up and said:

"I've found the vein all right, Phil; I don't think there can be a doubt

of it. Good strong vein, too, I should say."

"How wide is it?" I asked.

"Can't tell how wide it is. I've found what I suppose to be the porphyry

hanging-wall, right here"--tapping the rock with his pick--"and I've

been trying to trench across the vein to find the foot-wall, but the

shale runs in on me faster than I can dig it out."

"What do you propose to do, then, Joe?"

"Try one of those other holes further along and see if I can't find the

vein again and get its direction. You sit still there, Phil. I shall

want you to give me a hand out of here soon."

With extreme caution he made his way along the line of stumps, helping

himself with the pick in one hand and the shovel in the other, until,

about a hundred yards distant, he arrived at another hole where a tree

had been rooted out, and here he went to work again. This time he kept

at it for a good half hour, but at length he laid down his tools, and

for a few minutes occupied himself by building with loose pieces of rock

a little pillar about eighteen inches high.

"Can you see that, Phil?" he shouted.

"Yes, I can see it," I called back.

This seemed to be all Joe wanted, for he at once picked up his tools

again, and with the same caution made his way back to the first hole.

"What's your pile of stones for, Joe?" I asked.

"Why, I found the vein again, hanging-wall and all, and I set up that

little monument so as to get the line of the vein from here."

Taking out of his pocket a little compass we had brought for the

purpose, he laid it on the rock, and sighting back over his "monument,"

he found that the vein ran northeast and southwest.

"Phil," said he, "do you see that dead pine, broken off at the top, with

a hawk's nest in it, away back there on the upper side of the gulch

where we left the ponies?"

"Yes," I replied, "I see it. What of it?"

"The line of the vein runs right to that tree, and I propose we get

back and hunt for it there. I don't want to set up the location-stake

here: this place is too difficult to get at and too dangerous to work

in. So I vote we get back to the dead tree and try again there. What do

you say?"

"All right," I replied. "We'll do so."

"Very well, then I'll come up now."

But this was more easily said than done. Do what he would, Joe could not

get up to where I sat, holding out to him first a hand and then a foot.

He tried walking and he tried crawling, but in vain; the rock beneath

the shale was too steep and too smooth and too slippery. At length, at

my suggestion, Joe threw the shovel up to me, when, on my lying flat and

reaching downward as far as I could stretch, he succeeded in hooking the

pick over the shoulder of the shovel-blade, after which he had no more


"Well, Joe," said I, when we had safely reached the rocks again, "it's

just as well we didn't both go down together after all, isn't it?"

"That's what it is," replied my partner, heartily. "If you had tried to

come down with me we should both probably have tumbled into that hole

together, and there we should have had to stay till somebody came up to

look for us; and there'd have been precious little fun in that. Did it

scare you when I went scooting down the slide on my back?"

"It certainly did," I replied. "I expected to have to go down to Peter's

house and lug you home next--if there was any of you left."

"Well, to tell you the truth, I was a bit scared myself. It was a great

piece of luck my falling into that hole. It's a dangerous place, this,

and the sooner we get out of it the better; so, let us start back, at


Making our way up the spur, we again skirted along between the upper

edge of the slide and the foot of the cliff, and ascending once more to

the ridge, we retraced our steps down it until we presently arrived at

the dead tree with the hawk's nest in it.

Here, after a careful inspection of the ground, we went to work, Joe

with the pick, and I, following behind him, throwing out the loose stuff

with the shovel and searching through each shovelful for bits of galena.

In this way we worked, cutting a narrow trench across the line where we

supposed the vein ought to run, until presently Joe himself gave a

great shout which brought me to his side in an instant.

With the point of his pick he had hooked out a lump of galena as big as

his head!

My! How excited we were! And how we did work! We just flew at it, tooth

and nail--or, rather, pick and shovel. If our lives had depended on it

we could not have worked any harder, I firmly believe. The consequence

was that at the end of an hour we had uncovered a vein fifteen feet

wide, disclosing a porphyry wall on one side and a limestone wall on the


The vein was not, of course, a solid body of ore. Very far from it.

Though there were bits of galena scattered pretty thickly all across it,

the bulk of the vein-matter was composed of scraps of quartz mixed with

yellow earth--the latter, as we afterwards learned, being itself

decomposed lead-ore--to say nothing of grass-roots, tree-roots and other

rubbish which helped to make up the mass.

But that we had found a real, genuine vein, even we, novices as we were

at the business, could not doubt, and very heartily we shook hands with

each other when our trenching at length brought us up against the

limestone foot-wall. With the discovery of this foot-wall, Joe called a


"Enough!" he cried. "Enough, Phil! Let's stop now. We've got the vein,

all right, and a staving good vein it is, and all we have to do for the

present is to set up our location-stake. To-morrow Tom will come up

here, when he can make his camp and get to work at it regularly, sinking

his ten-foot prospect-hole. What are we going to name it? The 'Hermit'?

The 'Raven'? The 'Socrates'?"

"Call it the 'Big Reuben,'" I suggested.

"Good!" exclaimed Joe. "That's it! The 'Big Reuben' it shall be."

This, therefore, was the title we wrote upon our location-notice, by

which we claimed for Tom Connor a strip of ground fifteen hundred feet

in length along the course of the vein and one hundred and fifty feet

wide on either side of it; and thus did our old enemy, Big Reuben, lend

his name to a "prospect" which was destined later to take its place

among the foremost mines of our district.