Chapter 8, Part 2
I remember thinking “why were they mining like this was coal.” We found the hidden shaft. It was open for about ten feet. I sent someone to get some wood so we can sure up the shaft as we dig. Someone said, “we should leave it alone. The dead should remain buried.” I just looked back at the crowd. The coward that said it didn’t have the guts to step forward. I turned to the crowd and said, “we don’t abandon each other. We don’t abandon our children.” With that we started to clear the shaft. Time slowed down. We had to go slow with all the debris. We also had a shortage of help. As we dug deeper the risk kept people away. About thirty feet in it was just Thomas and myself.
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One of the townsfolk came inside the tunnel and said, “you should come out side sheriff.” Just outside of the shaft was the Chief and several warriors. The Chief said, “what can we do to help sheriff.” We formed a human chain to help remove the debris. As we went deeper wooden beams were added. They came from the railroad workers who came to help. As we dug we found a tiny hand in the dirt. Then the arm and rest. It was the boy named John. Never Johnny just John. He was crushed underneath a heavy bolder. The mood of the site fell. Then a sound.
A tiny sound deep in the shaft. It was heard by one of the warriors first. Soon we all could hear it. Someone was still alive. I turned to the Chief as he turned to me. We started to dig faster. Then an agent from the railroad came running in. He said, “stop or you will kill whoever is left and yourselves.” He was Gregory Hunts an architect and structural engineer sent by the railroad to insure their work as safe as time would allow. He said they mapped the mines for a week until it was decided to go a different way. He said, “this mineshaft opens up into a cavern. The cavern is stable but the shaft has no supports about ten feet from here.” A new cave in would disrupt the side of the cavern and maybe collapse it.
He took us to a site about two hundred feet from the shaft away from the other cave-ins. He said, “we need to find an opening.” While they were mapping the shaft, they found the cavern. It had natural light coming from a hole in the top. Find the hole, find the cavern and hopefully find the children. This also means they may have air. Hunts said, “we need to hurry, they may be running out of fresh air.” From the search area, we could hear the wailing of John’s mother and see them carry his body away. Hunt took out a reel of twine. He went to the shaft opening and started to run the twine out. When he came to the end he said, “from this point we should find the hole.” He then nearly fell in a hole in the ground. The Chief said, “I guess that’s one way to find it.”
We carefully pulled the dirt away from the hole making sure we didn’t dump any in. The hole was small. Too small for a grown man. The town school teacher, a woman Susan said she would go down. She was small, maybe 5’3”. She was also the Chief’s new daughter-in-law. She said, “those are my children. They will listen and respect me.” She went to her husband and said, “it has to be me.” Hunt tied a rope into a harness and helped her into it as Fallon watched closely. Fallen said, “I didn’t realize you like being tied up.” Susan did a not so silent exhale. At the hole, the Chief tied the harness to a longer rope. He put his hand on her shoulder then he helped her down into the hole.
After a few minutes that felt like hours a tug on the rope meant raise it up. The rope was lighter. On the other end was two very dirty children. They said there was for more in the cave. One of them asked, “did you find John?” What do you say? The rope went down and two more children came back. The weirdest kind of fishing there ever was. Eventually the last two children came up and it was time for Susan. The rope went down but there was no pull back with her grabbing it. I yelled down to her but no answer. One of the children said it was hard to breath down there. When all hope was lost there was a tug on the rope.
We pulled her up about half way. She tied the rope into a loop with her foot in the loop. She had let go and the rope caught her from falling to her death. It had from the look of it broke her lower leg. The Chief grabbed a lasso and threading it through the rope lassoed Susan around the waist. I looked at him and he at me. He said, “what I know stuff?” We carefully brought her up. On the surface, she came face to face with the Chief. She said to him, “chief.” He replied, “daughter.”
That night we had a community party. We came together, which was something I would have thought would never happen again. Over the next couple of months, the three groups, the People, the townsfolk and the train crews grew into a stronger community. The Chief retroactively made Susan a part of the nation. He formally gave his blessings. He also said he would allow or insist the children in the village would start at the new school. He said, “we should learn as much as possible about the outside world. Isolationism would be death for us all.” For her part Susan said she would have lessons on Hopi culture as well as other nations. They would work out the details before school starts. The Chief would allow the students in the village for lessons and to demystify the village with the children in town. About three months after the incident we used explosives from the railroad company to destroy the fields of collapsing shafts. We also put a cap over the hole to the cavern.
These stories will be based in the old west and an attempt at a modern western (later on).
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