Hans reflected upon the story he’d told the shopkeeper about needing to bake more biscuits. Indeed, he would have been very pleased to have a batch of freshly baked biscuits, all nice and hot and flakey with big chunks of fresh butter melting into the pastry. Unfortunately the biscuits baked by the camp cook fell far short of this vision. In fact almost everything rustled up on the potbellied stove in what passed for the camp kitchen was rather far from appetizing. Mac could open a tin with the best of them; it was what he did with the contents that was objectionable!
The spring thaw had left the ground muddy. In sheltered places on the mountainside there were even a few patches of snow remaining. Hans swore as he stumbled over the handle to a shovel that was half submerged in the muck. Now that the ground was no longer frozen the time definitely had come for a cleaning detail.
They were a rough and unkept group of men at best. Several scowled at Hans as he gathered them together in front of the cabins.
“Men,” began Hans, “Look here. I know that the winter was damp and unpleasant.” He paused for effect. “But allowing the camp to fall apart will only make matters worse, won’t it? We must all work together and clean this area where we are living.”
Some of the men laughed. One said, “We were hired as miners, not as garbage collectors. So far this expedition has been a total flop. You spend all your time running back and forth to His Highness there in the tent while we get left to sit and rot.”
The entire group nodded in agreement.
“Yes, yes. Soon there will be mining work. This I promise you! But first we must clean a bit.”
“That’s women’s work! Ya want a maid, who don’t we head-out and grab us a few squaws. They’re hard workers and good for other things too, if ya know what I mean.” The man speaking looked around with a leer. “Am I right, fellas?”
“See here! No one, absolutely no one is to leave this camp without my permission! Do you understand me?” Hans was almost screaming at this point. “No one!”
“You told us we would come out here and stake claims and mine for copper.” chimed in another miner. “All we’re doin’ is sitting around on our backsides. And we are sick of it, do you hear me?”
Hans could feel himself losing control of the situation. “I hear more talk like this, I get gun! I get gun and shoot. Do you hear me?” Hans English was deteriorating as he became increasingly distressed.
“Alright, alright, hold onto your britches. No need to get all mad like. Some of the fellas have just needed to let off some steam so to speak. Now everybody just calm down a mite and we can put this thing to rest.” Nate was the oldest of the miners at 45 years of age and was also the most cool-headed. If shooting broke out, then no one would make any money.
Hans was so angry that he was shaking but he managed to nod agreement at Nate.
Nate turned and addressed Hans, Why don’t you talk with the doc about those survey maps and meantime me and these fellas can tidy-up the place a bit.” He turned back towards the other miners, “Sounds like a good idea, don’t it fellas? Then we can put on a fresh pot of coffee and have a bite to eat.
Hans nodded again. “Ja, um, yes! Is goot! I am going to talk with the doc now.”