NOTE: Ghost Town-ing is a series of stories that follow Pat and Sherry (Fast Break) as they explore some of the places Jesse and Jennifer (the Sweetwater Saga) visited. Although these stories are connected, each episode stands by itself and you do not have to wait for the entire series to be completed. Nor is it necessary for you to read the Sweetwater Saga series and Fast Break to understand these stories but it is highly recommended.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
PART EIGHT – GRANITE
by Mickey Minner
“You know what I like?” Pat asked. She was lying on her side, her head supported by her hand, arm bent at the elbow.
“What?” Sherry asked, lying on her back beside her lover.
The women were enjoying a lazy afternoon, stretched out on the grass in their backyard under the shady branches of a maple tree.
“I like spending time with you,” Pat said as her free hand trailed up Sherry’s tanned arm.
“Me too,” Sherry smiled.
“I like waking up with you.”
“I really like sleeping with you and holding you in my arms.”
“Oh, definitely, me too.”
“But mostly,” Pat looked into Sherry’s eyes, her love for her companion openly betrayed. “Mostly, I like the way you smile when you see me. Even if I’ve only been out of your sight for a few minutes, you always look at me like you are so happy to see me.”
“That’s because I am,” Sherry returned Pat’s look of love. “My world is empty when you’re not with me.”
“I love you,” Pat smiled.
“I love you more.”
Sherry reached up, slipping her hand behind Pat’s neck and gently tugging her lover down to her. Both women sighed at the contact when their lips met. Neither was in a hurry to end the kiss and they took their time exploring each others’ welcoming lips and warm mouths.
“Think we should go inside?” Sherry asked when they broke apart to breathe.
“I see them kissing all the time,” Pat grinned. “Why shouldn’t we return the favor?”
Sherry giggled at her lover. “Because there’s kissing and then there’s kissing,” she suggested.
“It’s okay,” Pat leaned close to resume their kiss. “They’re not home.”
“Good,” Sherry murmured, her lips already busy with her lover’s.
“Maybe we should go inside,” Pat said breathlessly several minutes later. She pushed herself off the ground then reached down to assist Sherry. Arm in arm, they walked across the lawn to the sliding door.
“We need a deck,” Sherry observed as she stepped directly from the lawn into the house.
“Well,” Sherry smirked at her lover, “it would be a great place to put a barbeque. And a hot tub.”
Pat pulled the glass door shut behind them, hesitating just a moment to study the rear of the house. Never one to enjoy yard work, she had done little to the area. The large maple tree stood at one end of the fenced yard, its branches providing ample shade to the yard and house on summer days. The rest of the area was a carpet of grass cared for by a weekly lawn service. “Yes, it would,” she said shutting the door. “We should check that out,” she smiled, reaching for Sherry. Pulling her close, Pat wrapped her arms around her lover and kissed her. “Now where were we?”
A ringing phone interrupted the women.
“Let it ring,” Pat protested when Sherry stopped kissing her to glance over her shoulder at the kitchen where the nearest phone was located.
“It might be important.”
“I don’t care if it’s the president asking us to tea,” Pat growled. “Let them leave a message.”
“We told Pete we’d be home today.”
“We are home,” Pat cupped Sherry’s face, guiding it back to her waiting lips. “We never said anything about answering the damn phone. And you’re a little busy right now,” she reminded her lover.
Sherry smiled at Pat. “Just let me get that and I’ll be right back,” she kissed her lover’s frowning lips.
“Remind me to turn off the ringers on those damn things,” Pat slumped down on the back of the couch, watching Sherry rush into the kitchen. Her lover’s inability to let a phone ring until the answering machine picked up was more than annoying at times. And this was definitely one of those times. Pat pushed up off the couch and headed for the bedroom.
“Hello,” Sherry said absently, her eyes following Pat as she limped down the hallway. “Damn, this better be worth what I just walked away from,” she grumbled into the receiver.
“Nice to talk to you too.”
“Oh, hi Pete,” Sherry said, insipidly.
“Um, did I interrupt something?”
“Yeah, sort of.”
Pete laughed, she was well aware of the couple’s inability to keep their passion in check. “Go back to it and give me a call later.”
“No, it’s okay,” Sherry sighed as the bedroom door shut behind her frustrated lover. “What’s up?”
“I was calling about tomorrow afternoon. I was going to ask what we could bring but I think we’ll just bring a bag of ice to cool the two of you down. Don’t you ever get enough of each other?”
“No,” Sherry smiled. “Do you ever get enough of Keith?”
“Oh, yeah,” Pete chuckled. “He’s gotten very used to cold showers.”
“Really? You mean you can go without… well, you know.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Pete answered. “Keith is good in bed and the first couple of years we were together we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. But now, to be honest, there are times I just don’t feel like doing it.”
“Boy, I hope I never feel that way about Pat.”
“She’s waiting for you, isn’t she?”
“I hope so,” Sherry sighed again, looking at the bedroom door.
“Okay, just tell me what you’re planning on serving tomorrow and I’ll bring a salad to go with it.”
“Good. Now go see to your woman.”
“Bye.” Before she managed to get the word out, the phone line went dead. “Hmm,” Pete tapped the receiver against her chin. “I wonder what my husband is up to.”
Sherry tentatively pushed the bedroom door open, smiling at the sight that greeted her. Pat lay naked on their bed, her hand between her legs.
“I thought I’d get a head start,” Pat grinned, devilishly.
“Mind if I join you?” Sherry walked toward the bed. She couldn’t wait to replace Pat’s hand with one of her own.
“Sorry, but no clothes are allowed on the bed,” Pat said. “You’re a little too overdressed right now.”
“I can fix that,” Sherry grinned, already pulling her t-shirt over her head. It took only seconds for her to discard her clothing and crawl onto the bed. She lay down on top of her lover, pressing their bodies together. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, laying a trail of kisses down Pat’s neck.
Pat pulled her hand free, placing it on Sherry’s back to lightly trace the smooth skin with her damp fingertips. “Who was it?” she asked, not really caring about the answer.
“Pete.” Sherry continued kissing Pat, working her way down to an aroused nipple.
“Anything important?” Pat gasped, her back arching as she reacted to her lover’s mouth sucking on sensitive flesh.
“She’s bringing the salad tomorrow,” Sherry said without removing her lips from Pat’s breast. Slipping a hand between their bodies, she slid it between Pat’s legs and teased her clit.
“Okay,” Pat shivered. “Salad is good.”
Sherry sucked harder on the nipple in her mouth as her fingers explored Pat’s labia.
Her hands tangled in Sherry’s hair, holding her to her breast, Pat spread her legs encouraging Sherry to enter her.
Sherry didn’t keep her lover waiting. Pulling her knees up to lift herself off Pat and give her arm more freedom of movement, Sherry thrust her fingers inside.
Pat drove her heels into the mattress, her hips bucking upward driving Sherry’s fingers deeper inside of her. “Oh, god, yessssssss,” she groaned as her orgasm intensified. “Harder, baby.”
Sherry’s body responded to her lover’s words. She shifted again, spreading her legs over Pat’s thigh and pressing her throbbing clit down on the smooth skin stretched over tensed muscles. Her fingers withdrew from Pat just to be thrust back inside, harder and deeper.
“Yesssssssssss,” Pat screamed, her body on the edge of release.
Sherry withdrew her fingers again, this time holding them just inside the opening of the slick, warm tunnel. Rubbing herself on the thigh trembling beneath her, she continued to suck on the nipple in her mouth.
“Sherry, please,” Pat moaned. Her body was ready to burst and she needed her lover to release her.
Sherry released the breast she had been enjoying and raised her head to look at Pat. “I love you so damn much,” she cried as she drove her fingers into her lover.
Pat’s orgasm exploded, sending her body into convulsions of pleasure. Her vagina walls clinched around Sherry’s fingers holding them inside of her.
Seeing and feeling her lover’s orgasm, Sherry felt her own orgasm begin to release. She dropped onto Pat, joining their bodies as they reacted to the love of the other.
“Oh, god,” Pat moaned as aftershocks crashed inside of her. “Oh, god.”
Enjoying her own aftershocks, Sherry clung to Pat. “That was good,” she finally said as her orgasms faded.
“Glad you enjoyed it,” Pat chuckled.
“You telling me you didn’t?” Sherry smirked, wiggling the fingers still inside her lover.
“Oh, god, don’t,” Pat groaned, her body reacting to the sexual touch. “I need time before you start that again.”
“So you did enjoy it,” Sherry giggled, stilling her fingers.
“I’ll get it,” Pat told Sherry when the doorbell rang announcing their dinner guests had arrived.
“Okay,” Sherry said not looking up from where her head was stuck in the refrigerator as she searched for the missing but necessary ingredient for the salad. “I’ll be out as soon as I find those damn tomatoes.”
“I thought Pete was bringing the salad?”
“She called earlier and said she decided to bring desert instead.”
“Oh,” Pat patted the only part of her lover available, a very adorable backside. “Don’t be too long or Pete will come in here to see if she can help. And you know how bad of a cook she is. I hope she bought whatever she’s bringing,” Pat chuckled.
“Ah ha,” Sherry spotted the elusive tomatoes behind a gallon of milk. “There you are. I’ll just be a sec, honey,” she told Pat who was already on her way out of the kitchen.
Pat eyed the living as she walked to the front door, making sure everything was in place and no unwanted items or clutter had been left about for their guests to see. Satisfied all was right with their preparations, she pulled the door open to reveal Pete and her husband.
“Hi, Coach One” Pete grinned, walking past Pat to enter the house without a formal invitation. “Where’s Coach Two?”
“Don’t mind her manners,” Keith said. “I’ve signed her up for a night class next session to find out what they actually are.”
“’Bout time,” Pat groused in fun. “Come on in, Keith. It’s good to see you.”
“You too, Pat. Thanks for the invite.”
“We would have done this sooner but with the inquisition and all,” Pat shrugged. “Sit down. Sherry will be out in a minute.”
“I’m sure you’re glad to have that behind you. I know I am,” Keith said as he walked to the couch where his wife was already seated. “Pete was impossible to live with during it.”
“I was a little tense,” Pete defended herself.
“You were ready to go rip some heads off bodies,” Keith smiled at his wife. “Not that I would have blamed you if you had.”
“Hi,” Sherry entered the room carrying four bottles of beer. “Thirsty?”
“You’re a goddess,” Pete grinned, reaching for one of the chilled bottles. “It’s hot enough out there to fry an egg on my forehead.
“Ooh,” Pat smirked. “Let me get an egg and we’ll give it a try.”
“Smart ass,” Pete muttered as the others laughed.
“Seriously,” Keith said after swallowing a mouthful of his beer. “How are things since the whole fiasco ended? Any fallout or can you talk about it?”
“Sure, we can talk about it,” Sherry said sitting on the arm of the recliner Pat was settled in. “I’d like to see anyone try and stop us,” she handed a bottle to her lover before continuing. “Things are fine, to answer your question. Mac is happy. The league is happy.”
“Except for Goodsend,” Pat added, lifting the bottle to her lips.
“Tight assed bitch,” Pete grumbled. She glared at Keith when he smacked her on the leg.
“Behave,” Keith glared back.
“She has a point,” Pat frowned.
“I’m content to leave Goodsend to Mac,” Sherry told the others.
“What about Palmer?” Keith asked. “I’ve been following the blurbs that have been on the sports news but they really haven’t said much.”
“I’m not sure there’s too much to say,” Pat said. “According to Mac, that investigation is just beginning. So it may be a while before anything official is announced.”
“At least Gail won’t have to stand alone against him,” Pete said, knowing that a second ex-player had come forward to accuse the coach of sexual misconduct.
“No, it doesn’t appear that will be a problem for her,” Sherry smiled sadly, thinking of the shy girl whose life had been affected so dramatically by someone she had trusted. “It seems that there have been two or three more players come forward since the hearing ended. Including one from his current team.”
“You’re shittin’ me,” Pete looked at Sherry, incredulously.
“No,” Pat shook her head. “It’s why the team owner finally got off his ass and fired Palmer. Until the player threatened to go public with her accusations, the jerk was perfectly happy to let Palmer stay on as coach.”
“I thought the league had suspended him?” Keith asked.
“They recommended he be suspended,” Sherry explained, disgusted that the league had reacted so mildly against Palmer considering how they had gone after her lover.
“Bunch of jerks, if you ask me,” Pete snarled. “They all need a good ass kicking.”
Keith shook his head at his wife, his lips twitching as he tried not to laugh at the look of determination on her face. “You can’t kick all of them, dear,” he chuckled.
“Be fun trying,” Pete smirked and everyone laughed.
“Come on,” Sherry said, standing up. “Let’s eat.”
“Beautiful evening,” Pete commented, standing in front of the sliding door. “Perfect night for sitting outside enjoying a beer and talking to friends.”
“I’ll loan you a camp stool,” Pat growled, stepping beside the other woman.
“Hey, don’t go getting all pissy on me, Coach,” Pete smirked. “I was merely making an observation.”
“We’re going to have a deck built,” Sherry injected from where she and Keith were sitting on the couch, her laptop on his knees, looking at the pictures she had taken of Garnet and Coloma.
“These are great pics, Sherry,” Keith said. “Who do you plan on having build the deck?”
“Thanks,” Sherry smiled. “Oh, we just decided on doing it yesterday. We haven’t even started looking into the who’s or how’s.”
“Well,” Pete spun around, leaning back against the glass door. “I could recommend someone. He does excellent work but he isn’t cheap. But that shouldn’t matter to you two. Not with the bucks Mac pays you to stay with the Cougars.”
“She doesn’t pay me nearly enough to have to put up with you,” Pat teased Pete.
“Ah, but the perk of being able to order me around is priceless,” Pete grinned.
“Ain’t that the truth,” Keith chuckled.
“So who is this wonderful deck builder?” Pat asked, believing she already knew the answer.
Pete pushed off the window, blowing a kiss at Pat as she walked past her to sit beside Keith. She dropped onto the coach, wrapping an arm around his waist, hugging him tight. “Why, my wonderful husband, of course.”
“You build decks?” Sherry asked, wondering for the first time why she’d never asked how her friend’s husband made his living.
“Decks, porches, houses, storage sheds. You name it and, before they kicked me upstairs to be a site supervisor, I’ve probably built it.” He held his well calloused hands up to prove he wasn’t making it up. “I sure like working with a hammer in my hand more than a pencil.”
“Yes, dear,” Pete patted Keith’s leg. “But you make a lot more money now.” It had taken many weeks of discussing the pros and cons of accepting the manager’s position at the construction company where Keith worked before they had decided they simply could not pass up the opportunity at the larger paycheck. Both had been unhappy with the decision knowing it would mean less time together and during basketball season that was already in short supply.
“But it’s not as rewarding,” Keith pouted.
“I know, dear,” Pete said sadly, leaning her head on her husband’s shoulder. “That’s why I think you should build our girls a nice deck.”
“That would be great,” Sherry looked at Pat. “Wouldn’t it?” she asked, unsure if Pat felt the same about having a player’s husband involved in the project.
“I’d have to run it past Mac to make sure it wouldn’t cause any problems from the team’s stand point. But, yeah,” she smiled, sitting on the back of the couch and placing a hand on Sherry’s shoulder. “That would be great.”
“I’d love too,” Keith looked at Sherry. “I really would. But I’m working twelve hours a day now. I don’t know when I could fit the time in.”
“Nonsense,” Pete brightened. Now that Keith had agreed to do it, she would not let a little thing like lack of time stop the project. “I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to let you work on it when you can. After all, Coach has done without a deck since she moved in here so it’s not like she has to have it tomorrow. She probably didn’t even know she was missing one until Sherry pointed it out,” she twisted her head back to grin mischievously at Pat.
“Tell me again why I put up with you,” Pat swatted at Pete, who jerked out of her reach.
“’Cause you wuf me,” Pete giggled.
“Will you think about it?” Sherry asked Keith as Pat and Pete continued to taunt one another.
“I don’t know, Sherry,” Keith really wanted to say yes but he was unsure how soon he would be able to find the time.
“I tell you what,” Sherry read the indecision on her friend’s face. “Why don’t you think about it? If you decide you can’t do it, you can help us find a carpenter who can.”
“Alright,” Keith relaxed, accepting the terms of the offer. “Give me a few days and I’ll let you know.”
“Ow,” Pete cried out when Pat finally landed a playful blow to her moving head.
“Some people’s children,” Sherry laughed, rolling her eyes.
“Speaking of children,” Keith grinned. “I think it’s time I took mine home.” He carefully handed the laptop back to Sherry. “Those were great pics. Ghost town-ing looks like a lot of fun.”
“Maybe we could go with you some day,” Pete said. “I mean, if you don’t mind. I know you’re retracing the steps of that journal and I don’t want to interfere…”
“Hey, that’s a good idea,” Pat stopped swatting at Pete who was now kneeling on the couch batting at her hands. “What are you’re plans for tomorrow?”
“To sleep in,” Pete announced, collapsing in a fit of giggles. “I never get up before noon.”
Pat looked at the player, slowly shaking her head in distain. “That explains why you’re always late for practice.”
“Actually, we don’t have any plans for tomorrow,” Keith said.
“Good, we’ll pick you up at seven. Wear a good pair of walking shoes and bring some water bottles.”
“I am not getting up at seven,” Pete protested.
“I said, we’ll pick you up at seven,” Pat grinned evilly. “That means you’ll have to drag your sorry ass out of bed around six or earlier.”
“Probably, five,” Keith said. “If you plan to eat anything.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Sherry laughed. “We like to grab breakfast on the way out of town.”
“I am not getting up at five,” Pete pouted.
“She can sleep in the truck while we eat,” Pat told Keith. “Maybe we’ll save a piece of toast for her.”
“Ha, ha, ha,” Pete said, humorously.
“Well if you want to come tomorrow, you’ll be ready at seven. It’s going to hot again and the sooner we get to where we’re going, the more time we’ll have to explore before it’s too hot to do it.”
“Where are we going?” Keith asked.
“That’s the ghost town near Phillipsburg, isn’t it?”
“That’s the one.”
Keith stood up then turned to face Sherry and Pat. “I’ll be ready. But,” he reached down, pulling Pete to her feet. “I’m not so sure about this one.”
“Ugh,” was Pete’s only comment.
“We’ll be at your place at seven. If you want to throw her in the back of the truck, we’ll help you.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Har-dee-har-har,” Pete grumbled.
“Thanks for dinner,” Keith said, pushing Pete toward the front door. “Next time it’s at our place. And I’ll let you know about the deck.”
“Take your time,” Pat said, walking around the couch to join Sherry who was trailing behind their departing guests. “Like Pete said, it doesn’t have to be done right away.”
Pete stopped at the door and hugged Sherry. “This was great. We need to do it more often. Thanks.”
“It was. We will. And you’re welcome,” Sherry laughed.
“Night, Coach,” Pete waved at Pat. As much as she liked the other woman, she still was hesitant to hug her.
“Thanks, Pat,” Keith reached out to shake Pat’s hand. “I’ll see you in the morning. Thanks, Sherry,” he started to reach for her hand but she stepped close and wrapped her arms around him.
“I’m glad you could come. Have a safe drive home.”
Pat and Sherry stood in the doorway and watched until Pete and Keith drove away.
“Granite, huh?” Sherry said as she pulled the door shut moments later. “When did you decide that?”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I was going to ask you about it after they left but when Keith said he’d like to go someday,” she said, apologetically. “If you had other plans, I’ll call and tell them we’ll make it another day.”
“No, it’s okay,” Sherry smiled, wrapping her arms around Pat to let her know she wasn’t upset. “It just caught me by surprise. Good thing I let Pete help clean up the kitchen after dinner. Now we can go straight to bed.”
“Um, is there any more of that pie left?” Pat asked, relaxing into the embrace of her lover.
“Are you still hungry? Goodness, you ate half the bowl of spaghetti tonight.”
“I know but that pie was good.”
“You’re in luck, there’s just enough for two pieces.”
“You weren’t planning on sharing?”
“Actually,” Pat leaned forward to kiss Sherry. “I was thinking more along the lines of you and me in bed, naked, with the pie.”
“Oh, you were, were you? Forks or spoons?”
“Ooh, la, la.”
Pat eased the pickup around another hairpin turn as she drove up the narrow, twisting, rutted, dirt road that would end in what was left of the once booming mining camp of Granite. She was driving slow, trying to avoid the deeper of the ruts in an attempt not to jostle her passengers any more than necessary.
“I can’t believe they use to come up here with a team of horses pulling ore and freight wagons,” Pete said as she looked out the window and at the edge of the narrow road. “What did they do when they met another one coming the other way?”
“Good question,” Pat answered, steering around another blind curve. “I would guess that on the really narrow stretches where two wagons would be unable to pass each other, they must have positioned men at each end and only let one wagon through at a time.”
“Like an early day traffic signal,” Sherry smiled at Pat. “I often wonder about the heat and the dust. Horses kick up a ton of dust. Sitting on those wagons behind the teams must have been nasty.”
“Not to mention, smelly,” Pete held her nose. “Dirty men, sweaty horses. Ugh. I’m sure glad I didn’t live back then.”
“Jesse and Jennifer didn’t seem to mind,” Pat said.
“They didn’t know any different,” Pete shivered, imagining what an awful experience living in the old west must have been.
“There’s what left of the mine,” Pat pointed up the mountain to the remnants of rock walls, jumbled timbers and enormous piles of discarded ore-less rock.”
“It was huge,” Keith leaned forward, resting his arms on the back of Pat’s seat to get a better look. From what he could see, the mine operation spread over the entire side of the mountain stretching several hundred feet from top to bottom and from side to side.
“Between the mine itself and the offices and work shops of the mining company and the homes of the company officers, that entire slope was covered with buildings,” Pat explained. “Over two thousand men worked in the mine.”
“Where is the town?” Sherry asked, as they drove past the collapsed log walls of an old cabin.
“Just over the top of this rise.”
“How much of the town is left, Coach?” Pete asked. She hadn’t been happy when Keith shoved her out of bed at five-thirty. But after a hot shower and a nice meal at the restaurant, she had started to feel better about it. Once they arrived in Phillipsburg and she saw the brightly painted brick buildings and Pat told some of the history behind them, she started to share the mood of the others. Now she was as anxious as Sherry to reach the old mining camp.
“Not much, unfortunately,” Pat explained as she twisted the steering wheel to follow a sharp left turn and start up the last uphill climb. “A few cabins and a couple of the mining company buildings. Everything else is either in ruins or vanished to time.
“That’s too bad,” Keith said, still looking up the mountain side at the mine ruins.
“Here we are,” Pat told the others when the road leveled out. She pulled into a small parking area and drove into the shadiest location available. It was still cool but she knew the longer the sun was up in the clear sky the warmer it would become. Turning off the engine, she twisted in the seat to look at Sherry and the others. “We should carry water with us. We’ll be doing a lot of walking and most of it will take us a good distance away from the truck. So make sure you take anything you might need.”
“Okay,” Keith nodded. “Anything else?”
“Just a word of warning, this place is full of holes and mining debris so watch where you step. Oh, and rattlesnakes are not unknown up here.”
“You’re kidding right?” Pete asked, shocked at the comment.
The look on Sherry’s face showed she was also more than a little concerned by her lover’s casual announcement.
“No,” Pat shook her head. “Just pay attention and you’ll be fine. In all my trips up here, I’ve never seen one. But that doesn’t mean you won’t.”
“Thanks,” Pete frowned. “I think I’ll just stay in the truck.”
“No, you won’t,” Keith glared at his wife. “It’s time you got out and saw some something besides the mall.”
“But rattlesnakes,” Pete looked a little panicked.
“I’ll protect you if we come across one,” Keith said seriously.
“My hero,” Pete looked adoringly at her husband. “I just have one question.”
“Who’s going to protect you?”
“Just for that, you’re on your own,” Keith grumbled as Pat and Sherry giggled in the front seat. “Let’s go,” he told the laughing women.
“Give us a minute,” Sherry told Keith. “We like to read from the journey before we go. That way we know what to look for.”
“Oh,” Pete said. “That sounds good,” she sat back in her seat, happy to give Pat and Sherry the time they needed. After all, it meant more time before she had to get out and face the dangers possible lurking in the shadows outside the pickup.
“Here it is,” Pat handed the journal to Sherry.
“Momma said she was scared to death the first time she and Mommy rode up the wagon road to Granite. Ore wagons, freight wagons and miners, both walking and riding, raced along the road without showing any concern for the others using the route. They had to ride off the road more than once to allow for the big wagons to pass, once they almost didn’t clear the way before the stage raced by.
“Sis and I were with them that trip. Mommy said Sis was riding with her on Dusty and would squeal with glee every time a wagon sped past raising a cloud of dust as it went. She said I squirmed as far down into the carry sack on Momma’s back as I could get and they didn’t see me again until we reached the town. They were very glad when they finally saw the town of Granite. Only Sis seemed to have been disappointed that the perilous part of the trip was behind us.”
“That KC sounds like my kind of girl.” Pete laughed.
“There does seem to be a similarity between you and KC,” Pat smirked. “You both can find trouble no matter where you are.”
“Like I said, she sounds like my kind of girl.”
Sherry laughed as she looked for her place in the journal. “Shall I continue?” she asked when she found where she had left off. When the others nodded, she began again.
“Momma said that the road split immediately upon reaching town into numerous streets heading off into all directions. She was glad she had the letter she had received from Miss Leevie with the description of her home. After some discussion, Mommy led us across the road and along a street that hugged the top of the gulch behind Main Street. We rode past several houses before finding one with a long rock wall in front of it. Momma was overjoyed when Miss Leevie walked out of the cabin behind the wall.”
“So we’re looking for a long rock wall?” Keith asked.
“Yes,” Sherry answered.
“Won’t it be hard to find? I mean, you said most of the buildings are gone.”
“The wooden structures are gone,” Pat agreed. “But the stone foundations are still in place. So we should be able to find a long rock wall with room for a cabin and barn behind it.”
“You’ve been here before, Coach,” Pete said. “Don’t you know where the wall is?”
“I’ve been here a couple of times but I spent most of my time exploring the mine buildings. I’ve never went down into the gully where the residential area of town was. Let’s get out and see if we can figure out what street he was talking about,” she said, opening the truck’s door and climbing out. Standing beside the truck, she looked around to get her bearings.
“Lot’s of streets to choose from,” Keith said as he climbed out of the truck to stand beside Pat. “There’s a sign naming this street Broadway and that one Main Street,” he pointed to a recently erectly post. “Does the journal give a street name for the one the cabin was on?”
“No. But let’s see, the mining operation is behind us and up the mountain, so Broadway probably isn’t the right street,” she said of the street they were standing on that climbed sharply up hill. “And Main Street is over there,” she pointed off to the left where multiple stone foundations and a few ruins lined what was once Granite’s business district.
“Must be that one then,” Keith pointed to a street directly opposite them that dropped down into the bowl-shaped ravine between the two streets.
“No. Charley said the street they took hugged the top of the gulch. That one drops down into it.”
“I don’t see any other choices.”
“I do,” Pete said. After getting out of the truck, she had walked across the road and was looking down the tree and shrub covered sides of the gulch. The faint outline of a street could be seen all but hidden by the ground covering growing on its surface. “There’s a street going that way,” she pointed off to her right.
After covering their exposed skin with sunscreen and bug repellent and getting their day packs from the truck, the foursome started down the overgrown street. Once lined with shacks, cabins and tents, the slopes on either side of the road bore little evidence of the town’s occupants. Occasionally, they spotted a piece of log wall or shard of a cup or dish.
Pete had been surprised to kick loose a boot heel as she walked. “Look, it still has the nails in it that held it to the rest of the boot,” she said excitedly as she turned the fragile piece of leather over in her hands. “I can’t believe I’m holding something that belonged to somebody a hundred years ago.”
“Miner boot?” Keith asked as he examined the object.
“From the small size, I’d say it was more likely off a woman’s shoe,” Pat said. “This area was where the homes of the miners were, it’s where their families spent most of their time.”
“Can I keep it?” Pete asked.
“Sorry,” Pat told her. “Granite is on private property and it’s a posted historical site. You can look and touch but you can’t take.”
“I guess that’s only right,” Pete said. Instead of putting it back where she had discovered it, she placed the artifact an arm’s length off the side of the road on a flat rock. “That should keep someone else from stepping on it,” she brushed off her hands as she followed the others down the street.
After several minutes, they came to a split in the path. The street they had been walking continued around the gully, dipping slightly as it went. A second street bore off to the right.
“Now what?” Keith asked.
“This way,” Sherry said as she started up the new street.
“Why that one?” Pete asked.
“I’m not sure,” Sherry turned back to wait for her friends. “I just think this is the right one.”
“Only one way to find out,” Pat followed her lover. “If it isn’t, we’ll just come back and continue down the other street.”
Once they walked up a short rise where the new street left the old, it leveled out. They found the walking easier as the new street seemed to be an easier path and not as overgrown as the other had been.
“So besides the rock wall, what should we look for?” Keith asked as they walked.
“Charley wrote that the wall faced the street for over a hundred feet. Behind it the ground was raised and filled in to the height of the wall and the cabin and barn sat above the wall.”
“Like that?” Pete pointed down the street where the beginning of a rock wall was visible.
“I would say just like that,” Pat grinned. She looked at Sherry who was looking back at her, a huge smile spreading across her face.
“I can’t believe it,” Sherry whispered as Pete and Keith hurried past them. “I really can’t believe we found another place Jesse and Jennifer were.” She had thought that finding the cabins in Garnet and Coloma were too good to be true and now it seemed they were again about to step on the same ground the frontier women had walked over a century before.
“Let’s go see,” Pat smiled, reaching for Sherry’s hand.
Sherry held out her hand, entwining her fingers with her lover’s as they turned to walk toward the rock wall.
“Boy, someone put a lot of work into this wall,” Keith said as he walked along the top of the still sound wall. “Come on up here you two,” he called down to Pat and Sherry when they finally made their way down the street.
“There were two buildings up here,” Pete called out. “One a lot bigger than the other,” she said, tracing the rock outline that marked the location of the smaller structure’s foundation.
Pat led Sherry around the end of the wall and up a gentle slope to join their friends. “This is exactly what Charley described,” she said excitedly when she saw the two piles of debris where a cabin and barn had once stood. She slipped her arm around Sherry and the two women stood together silently for several minutes. Their thoughts full of the descriptions of the few days Jesse and Jennifer had stayed at the cabin with their own friends, Leevie and Dannie.
“Not much left, is there?” Sherry finally said, disappointed that the buildings had not survived the years.
“No,” Pat frowned. She walked to where a barn had once stood. With the toe of her hiking boot she carefully lifted a few of the boards to see if anything would be revealed beneath them. Finding only dirt and weeds, she let the boards fall back to their resting place.
“The house is smaller than I thought it would be,” Sherry said as she walked around the rock foundation. “Couldn’t have been much bigger than our kitchen.”
“That would sure be handy on cleaning day,” Pete chirped in. It wasn’t that she disliked housework but the less of it there was the happier she was. “Just sweep out the floor and you’re done. I could go for that.”
Sherry walked over to where Pat was still examining the ruins of the barn. “Let’s go see what else we can find,” she suggested.
Pat smiled sadly and nodded.
The foursome walked back the way they had come to the junction of streets where they had left Pat’s truck.
“What’s GGW?” Keith asked, spotting a small sign containing the letters next to a path that led into the trees covering the hillside.
“Granite Ghost Walk,” Pat answered. “It’s a trail through the residential part of town and what’s left of the mine buildings. There are signs along the way describing some of the remaining buildings and pointing out where other buildings once stood.
“Sounds like that’s where we want to go then,” Pete grabbed Keith’s hand and they walked across the parking area and onto the trail. She looked back over her shoulder at Pat and Sherry, still standing by the truck. “You coming?”
“Yes,” Pat answered, bending over to adjust her knee brace. “Go on, we’ll catch up with you.”
“Is everything okay?” Sherry asked, concerned that Pat’s leg might be troubling her.
“Fine,” Pat twisted her head to smile up at Sherry as she tightened the straps on the brace. “I just want to snug it up a bit. We’ll be doing some climbing and I want to make sure it’s tight.”
“Should we wait?” Keith asked.
“No,” Pat straightened up. “Go ahead. We’ll be along in a minute.”
“Alright,” Keith nodded then turned to follow Pete who had wandered ahead and was reading a sign next to the trail.
“Are you really okay?” Sherry asked again when Pete and Keith had disappeared into the trees.
“I’m wonderful,” Pat smiled.
“Why do I want them to go ahead of us?”
“So I can do something.”
Pat grinned, reaching out to snag her fingers in the waistband of Sherry’s shorts. With a sharp tug, she pulled Sherry into her arms. “This,” she whispered leaning forward and pressing her lips to her lover’s. The women enjoyed the embrace for several minutes until the sound of a vehicle making its way up the road to town forced them apart.
“That was nice,” Sherry leaned against Pat.
“There’s plenty more where that came from,” Pat said, placing a kiss on Sherry’s forehead. “Shall we go see if Pete has fallen into any mine shafts?”
“I suppose we should,” Sherry said, reluctantly pushing away from Pat just as a SUV bounced up the road and into the parking area.
“Come on,” Pat slipped her arm around Sherry’s waist. “There’s some neat stuff to see along the trail.”
Pat and Sherry walked along the trail following the overgrown streets that once crisscrossed the hillside. They stopped to examine the rock walls of a church and the collapsed wooden walls of the mining company’s hospital. The trail climbed steadily as it worked its way back towards the residential area of the town and dipped back into the gully. The women walked past stone foundations where houses had once stood and depressions where cabins had occupied the ground.
“It’s hard to imagine this area without trees and covered with houses, shacks and cabins,” Sherry said as she made her way along the path that had narrowed until they had to walk single file.
“It is hard to believe this was once a street wide enough for a buggy or wagon to travel,” Pat agreed. “But it was, look,” she pointed to an object a few feet off the trail.
A broken wagon lay on the ground, partially covered by the growth of foliage on the gully’s slope.
“Broken dreams,” Pat mumbled.
“Broken dreams, that’s what I always think of when I’m in places like this. All the hopes of the people who came here expecting to find a better life for themselves and their families, instead most of them only found broken dreams. Like Jesse and Jennifer’s friends.”
“Some people must have found happiness,” Sherry commented, stepping around a bush growing in the middle of the path. “There must have been people who left town better off then they arrived.”
“Sure, the mine owners and some of the merchants did pretty well. But the men and women who did the hard, day-in and day-out work that made the town go, usually left with not much more than the clothes on their backs. Close to five thousand people lived in Granite during its peak and when the mine shut down the town was deserted in less than a day. Can you imagine? Five thousand people left in one day.”
“Wow,” Sherry muttered. “Guess there really wasn’t much to keep them here.”
“Just broken dreams.”
“Hey, slowpokes,” Pete laughed as she walked back down the trail. “We were beginning to think you got lost.”
“No, just taking our time,” Sherry answered.
“Well kick it into gear, there’s something up here I think you want to see.”
“Pat, it’s the school,” Sherry said excitedly as she read a sign in front of a large depression on the forest floor.
“I thought that Charlie said it was down the street from Leevie and Dannie’s place? The way the streets seem to run, I don’t think you could get here by walking along their street.”
“He did but this sign says the location of the streets changed. So maybe after they left for Sweetwater, the streets were rerouted.”
“Maybe,” Pat agreed.
“You’d sure never know it was here if it wasn’t for the sign,” Keith observed as he walked around the depression. Little was left of what once had been a four room, T-shaped wooden structure.
“I’m kind of disappointed,” Sherry said. “I guess I was hoping that they’d be some of the building left. Something to see and touch.”
“Something to contact with Jennifer?” Pat asked. She was feeling a little let down also. After finding Leevie and Dannie’s cabin and barn nothing but piles of decaying boards and now seeing even less remained of the schoolhouse, there was only the rock wall to connect them with Jesse and Jennifer.
“Yeah,” Sherry sighed, leaning back against Pat. Feeling her lover’s arm wrap around her seemed to make her feel better.
“We found where Leevie and Dannie lived, sweetheart,” Pat hugged Sherry. “I’m not sure we should expect any more than that.”
“Can you believe the view from up here?” Pete was standing on a rock wall at the top of the mountainside. At one time, two stamping mills had occupied the section of mountain, their heavy stamps working day and night to crush the ore bearing rock removed from the mine.
“Will you come back from there,” Keith asked, not for the first time after his wife decided the top of the ruins was a great vantage point. “Pete, that wall doesn’t look all that safe.”
“Seems okay to me,” Pete bounced lightly to prove her point. The wall made from rocks tightly stacked together was at least three feet wide and to her untrained eye seemed as solid as the day it had been built. “But to make you happy,” she said, backing away from the edge, “I’ll come back here and sit with you where it’s nice and safe.”
“Thank you, dear,” Keith smiled, patting the seat of the bench he was sitting on.
The bench, made from splitting a log in half and sanding it smooth, had been placed at the highest point of the mine providing a panoramic view of the valley below. Behind them was a giant hole in the ground surrounded by a security fence and signs warning of the danger of approaching the mine shaft. The head-frame had collapsed into the shaft years before and only the huge timbers that had been used in its construction gave any indication as to the size of structure.
“It’s amazing to think that all that rock used to be inside this mountain,” Keith said of the piles of crushed and discarded stone covering the slope between them and the Granite road far below.
“If all that came out of this mountain,” Pete contemplated the situation. “What is supporting us right now?” she asked looking at the ground under their feet.
“Probably a lot of nothing,” Pat chuckled. She and Sherry had been exploring what was left of a building on the other side of the mine shaft. Little was recognizable except the chutes used to load ore into the wagons that would carry it to the processing plant at the base of the mountain. “Nice view.”
“Look,” Sherry pointed off to the west. “You can just see the buildings on Main Street from here through the trees.”
“What was it like when the mine was operating and the town was full of people?” Keith asked Pat.
“Well, first, there would not have been any trees between here and the town,” Pat said. She had seen pictures of Granite during its heyday and there were few trees in evidence. Most had been cut down for the lumber used to build the houses and stores of the town or to fuel the fires in the mills. “Behind us the mine’s head-frame would have dominated the top of the mountain and all of these walls below us would have been covered by an enormous building. Further down the mountain you would have the various mine offices and shops. Down there,” she pointed to an area of trees, “that’s where the mine office was and the company store was next to it. Only thing left today is the brick vault where they kept the payroll money. There was an assay office, powder house, blacksmith’s, and all kinds of workshops and storehouses used for the mine operation. Below that was the street where the company big-wigs lived in a row of fancy houses. Then you had the hospital, barn and stables for the horses that pulled the wagons and scattered about were several churches. You can always tell how many women were in a town by how many churches it had. Judging by the size of the school and the number of churches, Granite was unusual in that there were many families that lived here.”
“It must have been exciting,” Pete commented.
“Most likely, it was noisy, dirty, a lot of non ending hard work,” Keith corrected his wife. “From what I’ve read of the mining camps, the miners worked round the clock, the stamp mills never stopped and the saloons never closed.”
“Speaking of which,” Pete turned to look at Pat. “Are we ever going to see the actual town of Granite?”
Pat grinned. “Yes, but you’re going to be disappointed after seeing what we have so far. There really is almost nothing left of the buildings on Main Street.”
“I’d still like to see it.”
Pat had been right. Except for rock foundations, one stone vault from a no longer existing store and the walls of the burned out Miner’s Union Hall nothing remained of the business district of the town. The foursome walked along Main Street which was a continuation of the road from Phillipsburg looking at the few remnants of the town. At the far end of the street, the road dropped off sharply as they walked past a few log cabins in various degrees of collapse. The road dissolved into a narrow trail marked by a sign that said “Ball field”.
“What’s that mean?” Pete asked, reading the sign.
“Baseball was a big thing in Granite,” Pat explained. “The trail leads down to the town’s baseball field.”
“This I’ve got to see,” Pete grinned, starting down the trail followed by Keith.
“Are we going?” Sherry asked when Pat failed to follow the others.
“I think I’ve done enough climbing for the day,” Pat said. The trail down to the field was steep and rocky and she could already feel her leg protesting the day’s activities.
“You guys go ahead,” Sherry called out to Pete and Keith. “We’ll going to hang out up here.”
“You can go if you want,” Pat told her lover. “I’ll wait back at the truck for you.”
“Nah,” Sherry shook her head.
“Yeah,” Sherry smiled at Pat. “What I would really like to do is go back to Leevie and Dannie’s place. If you…”
“I can make it,” Pat turned to walk back through the town. “In fact, I was thinking the same thing. Why don’t we stop at the truck and grab some sandwiches.”
“Great idea,” Sherry reached for Pat’s hand. “I’m starved.”
It didn’t take long for Pat and Sherry to walk back to where the pickup was parked. After removing their lunches from the ice chest, they left a note on the windshield telling Pete and Keith where they could be found and headed back down the street that led to the stone wall.
“Seems a little weird,” Pat said as they walked.
“Huh? Sherry asked, her nose crinkling as she waited for an explanation.
Pat took a bite of her sandwich, chewing slowly as she thought how she could explain what she was feeling. “Reading the journal is one thing,” she finally said. “But to actually be walking along the same street they walked. To see the same things they saw, it just seems weird. Not in a bad way but in a… I don’t know. In a weird way,” she struggled, hoping Sherry understood.
“I know,” Sherry sighed. “It’s like we know them but we really don’t know them.”
They had reached the stone wall and walked along its length in silence. Turning at the end, they walked up to where a cabin and barn had once stood.
“Looks like the only place to sit is on top of the wall,” Sherry said, approaching the edge of the wall.
“Seems so,” Pat stood beside her. She handed the items she carried to Sherry before carefully lowering herself down to the ground. Once she was settled, she reached up to retake her water bottle and the bag of oranges they had taken from the cooler. “Whoever built this wall sure knew what they were doing. I think it’s the sturdiest structure in town.”
“The journey doesn’t say,” Sherry mused as she settled on the wall beside Pat. “I suppose Dannie could have built it.”
“What are you thinking?” Sherry asked after several minutes of silence broken only by a few bird calls and the sound of her hiking boots striking the stones of the wall as she tapped them lightly against it.
“I was just wondering if Jesse and Jennifer had ever sat here like this,” Pat handed a peeled orange and napkin to her lover. “Back then, none of these trees would have been here and it would have made a nice spot to sit and watch the sun come up. Or go down.”
“I’m sure they must have,” Sherry said, popping a section of the juicy fruit into her mouth. “The way Charley describes them, they seemed to enjoy that sort of thing.”
“Do I what?”
“Enjoy just sitting and watching the sun come up.”
Sherry had to think about the question. Unlike the way she had lived most of her life, since she had met and fallen in love with Pat, she had discovered the joy of doing a lot of things she never had before. And just sitting and letting life go on around her was one of those things. “I do now,” she smiled, leaning against her lover.
Pat slipped her arm around Sherry’s waist, pulling them close. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“We’ve got company,” Pat whispered. She pointed across the street to a small clearing in the trees.
Sherry noticed the bushes rustling more than the light breeze could cause. Then a dark shape stepped out into the sunlight. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked, doubtfully.
“If you think it’s a moose, then yes,” Pat grinned.
The moose stopped when he spied the women. Taking a long look, he turned and started down the gully slope. After a few steps, he stopped. His head twisted back over his shoulder as he took another look. Then, with a shake of his head, he lopped away, disappearing back into the forest.
“Perfect end to a perfect day,” Sherry smiled.
To be continued in the next episode of Ghost Town-ing
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Pat and Sherry visit in these stories
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