A river stone foundation, thick timbers for walls and roof, every nail hammered true. Trapper and his men built a house to last the ages, a keep for the giddy treasure procured with his sudden fortune, earned by pillaging river, forest and mountain.
Trapper was aptly named. He learned beside his father, Abe Butterfield, trapping and skinning beaver, bear, fox, and bobcat. They traded with local Indians and the ambitious farmers, ranchers and lumber men seeking the boundless profits of the West.
It started as a lark, a way to have an adventure on his own, when Trapper camped at a bend on an unnamed Bears River tributary and panned for gold. Flakes at first, and small nuggets sluiced out of the watery gravel during a burning hot July. Then he blew apart a rocky bank with dynamite and gold poured from the torn river into his hands. He and his father and two Miwok men worked the claim for eighteen months.
The Miwok bought land in the valley and planted citrus orchards. Trapper's father moved to a San Francisco hotel where he died one night, his heart stopped by liquor and bad oysters. Trapper purchased a few thousand acres surrounding his depleted claim and the mossy cabin his father had raised him in. He would build a grand house with his fortune, and fill it with the books and treasures of a wealthy man. He would find a refined wife who could help him do this.
And when the house was done,
and filled with
children, he would travel to see the world.