Digging Up Dirt—And Maybe More Ore

By H.A. Silliman

Part 7, Where Two Rivers Meet: A Matter of the Mother Lode

Recovering editor Mack Boyd became, de facto, The Golden Gables’ first guest. The afternoon he arrived, he hobbled in on a cane with help from Sally. We settled him into a makeshift bedroom on the first floor of the main house.

“Much appreciate this,” he said, weakly. “I won’t stay too long.” He had lost 20 pounds. His yellow skin hung loosely on his face.

The boyish demeanor of “Coach’s Kid” had dissipated. Clearly middle-aged now, he was frail at that. Sally handed over a bag of medication with the instructions. She would stop in every day to check on him and bring food.

“Naturally, I couldn’t visit the golf course,” Sally said, “but we’ll go soon.” With that she dashed off, promising to return with a cheesecake for dessert.

By then, the children were in from school and excited to have another visitor. They fussed over him, brought towels, puffed up pillows and found magazines from Rennie’s library. Richie pitched in, too, and gave him the latest Ledger. So, just like that, another troubled soul blended into our routine and life went on.

Over my first cup of coffee with Mack, he asked for the latest gossip. I told him I’d didn’t know much.

“Any word on who inherits Rennie’s company?”

The subject of the Two Rivers Telephone and Telegraph Co. had, indeed, been on folks’ minds since Renwick died. In all the years I worked for Rennie, and though we’d been close, he hadn’t talked much about business affairs.

“The last thing I heard, Attorney Paul Bartley was working on it,” I said.

Babe also visited, checking in about newspaper business. Mack asked me to temporarily help keep the subscription list up-to-date. I converted the pantry into the inn back-office, set up my computer
there and also began organizing for The Golden Gables business. One evening, Judge Fergulia and Deputy Jack stopped by and asked to speak with Richie. They went upstairs to his room. When they left, they didn’t say a word to me! Later, the boy came downstairs and rummaged in the kitchen.

“I’m making hot chocolate,” he said. “Would you like a cup?”

I was at the dining room table and soon he brought in the mugs, sat down. “That was weird—those guys visiting,” he began. “They asked me if I’d ever seen any of Dad’s gold. He showed me a few small pieces. The rest he said he was in a safe deposit box in a bank. They asked me which one, and I said probably here.”

“Have you ever found gold?”

“Not by myself. I was with Dad some nights when he picked some rocks he said were gold out of the creek. I mainly dug dirt.”

Here, I thought, I could open a conversation about his mother, so asked, “What did your mom think about the gold?

“I don’t know. She went looking in the creek one time. Didn’t find any. Mom asked to see the nuggets, but Dad said they were already in the bank—or maybe sold—I forget.”

He shook his head, eyes watering. “When I think about this stuff, my stomach hurts. So I don’t. It’s better that way. I don’t care about the gold. I just want my old life back.”

I wondered if he really knew exactly what his old life had been—father a secret drinker, mother maybe having an affair. The boy rose then and walked over to the little fireplace in the kitchen. On the mantle were photos of the kids, my late husband and Rennie. He picked up the photo of Rennie, which showed him in his usual spot on the company patio. “Who’s this? Your grandfather?”

“No, that’s the man who owned the telephone business in town. Mr. Selleck. This was his house. You remember him?”

Richie said he didn’t, and I wasn’t surprised, since the Wyders lived out of town. “There’s some odd about him,” Richie said, studying the photo closely. “He’s looks familiar, somehow, like I’ve seen this face be-

The next day, Sally stopped by to check on Mack and then joined me for coffee. “He’s doing better already,” she said. “Would you know, Deputy Jack paid a visit at the deli. Wants me to chat up Mack about his digging in the graveyard. They know he found coins. Some were scattered around the hole. Anyway, they want the gold. Says it belongs to town since The Church of Peter and Paul is the town property.” I told her about Jack and the judge’s visit the night before—and what I’d found out then from Richie.

“Look at us—a real pair of sleuths. Grown-up Nancy Drews we are! That’s country living for you, keeping tabs on the neighbors,” Sally exclaimed, and then whispered, “So, do you think Barbara is really missing?”

We chewed on that for a bit—wondered if credit card or phone records had been checked for recent activity. Taking the initiative, I called Deputy Jack right then and put him on speaker phone so Sally could hear. He said that they hadn’t searched the Wyder home yet, but planned to soon.

“Greg Halsam at the bank says Don Wyder didn’t have a safety deposit box,” Deputy Jack added. “Maybe there’s one in Nevada City or somewhere else. The thing is, where’s all the gold that Donny-boy was talking about?”

“You think Barbara took it?” I asked.

“Don’t know. It would be better if she had––then that means she’s alive. The gold is the key. If there’s no gold, why was Don digging?” He left that thought hanging and hung up.

Weighing that idea, we sat silently, and then Sally said, “After the kids leave for school tomorrow, let’s go to Red Eagle. Barbara Wyder spent more time golfing then at home. Someone there must know something!”

Writer H.A. Silliman grew up in the Gold Rush country and now lives in California’s Outback on a small ranch with a dog named Bodie. Copyright © 2021. The people, places, and events portrayed in The Two Rivers Anthology are fictional or fictionally portrayed.

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