white wolf part 4

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Chapter 7

He followed the Yellowstone River downstream for a few days and he knew it would eventually lead him to what people were calling 'the Coulson goldfields'. The river flowed through a wide valley with high sandstone cliffs on either side. It looked like the river valley had been carved out by the Yellowstone River over millions of years. The land flattened out now and as far as he could see to the east, were open plains. This was the first time John had ever seen such expanses of flat land. Having been born and raised in mountainous areas, it was quite a sight. On the third day he finally came across settlements and river traffic. Small ferries and boats were operating up and down this part of the river. Most were carrying cargo made up of food supplies and mining gear. Many ferried passengers as well and most were heading to the same place as John, the goldfields. John felt quite relaxed and content as he rode the black stallion along the side of the river. There were no real towns as such until he reached the goldfields and even that couldn't be called a town. It was all so new there were only one or two permanent buildings but there were many tent shelters and lots of makeshift lodgings. Recent rains had turned much of the area into a quagmire and the muddy runoff flowed straight into the river. He called into the Coulson store and purchased some ammunition and food. The store owners were two brothers called Peter and Christian who spoke with an unusual accent John had not heard before. He found out the brothers came from a tiny country in Europe called Switzerland. Like many others, they immigrated to America in search of adventure and gold. John found the men very friendly and helpful.

On his way out of the store, he noticed a commotion just along the street. A small crowd of onlookers gathered around to watch what was happening. It was obviously some sort of fight or scuffle. John had to go past it, in order to reach his horse and he saw four rough looking men kicking at a young Chinese man. The younger man was taking a fair beating and was trying to evade their kicks by hiding beneath a wagon. Two of the attackers wielded axe handles and were trying to smash them against the younger man's legs and body. John found the barrel of new axe handles out front of the store, so he grabbed one and walked up to the aggressors. He tapped one of the men on the shoulder with the hickory handle and told him to stop. This only infuriated the aggressive man who suddenly swung around and lashed out at John. John ducked the vicious blow and then smashed his handle right into his opponent's face. Now John was immediately confronted by the three other men. The one holding the axe handle charged forward, swinging the long wooden handle like a war club. John stepped backwards to avoid the intended blow then jabbed his handle sharply into the man's exposed midriff. John then supplied the coup de grace with a chop across the back of neck. With two of their friends sprawled unconscious on the ground, the remaining men decided to stay well back from the tall, well built stranger. They grabbed their injured friends and dragged both of them away. John went back to the store to return the axe handle which seemed undamaged. The two Swiss brothers smiled at him and said he could keep the handle as a memento. "I can't believe those men would pick on a youngster who was no threat to them," said John. It was Peter who said "many of the whites here despise the Celestials as they call them." "Oh why's that?" asked John. "I believe it is because they are different, a different race," said Peter. Then Christian joined in with "yes but it's more than that brother, it's also because the Chinese are successful." Peter nodded his head in agreement and rubbed his big hands together. "I've heard stories of white prospectors killing celestials, I mean Chinese workers and only the other day someone told me the latest cruelty involved removing their long pig-tails." When John's eyes narrowed in concern Peter continued, "several men hold the poor unfortunate coolie down while another ruffian uses a knife to cut around the outline of the pigtail where it joins the head. Then they rip the pig-tail right off his scalp and keep it as a bloody prize." Christian's loud voice boomed around the store "so lucky for that Chinaman you come along and save him, otherwise he go home bald!"

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