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Dead Horse Creek

Adventure story set in the Alaskan wilderness

Dead Horse Creek

Based on a story
by Rich Eskew


In nineteen and ten, five adventurous men
headed out to the treacherous cold –
and propelled by their hope, would engage the North Slope
in pursuit of their fortunes in gold.

So ‘Big Bill’ was there with his buddy ‘Sinclair’
and a guy they referred to as ‘Slick’ –
there was ‘Roger McCoy’ and another old boy
that his buddies would call ‘Yukon Dick’.

But none of the five were discovered alive
when they failed to return from their trek –
one could only surmise how they met their demise,
because no one was left to suspect.

The weather was grand when their journey began
and the first forty miles were a breeze –
but their failure to dread any hardships ahead
only put their minds falsely at ease.

They felt the first blast up at Atigun Pass
when a blizzard blew up from below –
so they burrowed in tight to stay warm for the night
and awoke ‘neath a mountain of snow.

Their visions of gold helped them cope with the cold,
but their strength had begun to decline –
and their long arctic stroll would be taking its toll
by the time they hit week number nine.

They were aching and damp when they got to a camp
at a place where the trail seemed to end –
where the path they endured was completely obscured
by the drifts from the snow and the wind.

So they followed a tune to a canvas saloon
where a man on a banjo would play –
and they shuffled inside in their search for a guide
who would take them the rest of the way.

They walked to the bar and behind a cigar
was a man they called Eskimo Joe –
he was covered with hair and looked more like a bear
that was dressed for a hundred-below.

They stated their need and when Joseph agreed,
they would all celebrate with a beer –
and then after some rest, they continued their quest,
adding Eskimo Joe and his gear.

The creek at Dead Horse marked the end of their course –
where they’d chosen to stake out their claim,
and soon every man would be wielding a pan
as he searched for his fortune and fame.

But Joe took his pay and was off on his way
on a path that would take him due south –
so he yelled a goodbye with a gleam in his eye
and a half a cigar in his mouth.

The five would aspire for the chance to acquire
little traces of glittering dust –
though the water that flowed never yielded a lode,
the reward would be far from a bust.

At the end of each day, they would measure their pay
with a scale that kept everything fair –
so that each one would know, as their fortune would grow,
the amount that each member would share.

Then one day, McCoy – up from south Illinois,
was found lying face-down in the creek –
though he hadn’t been done by a knife or a gun,
he was felled by some other technique.

The five was now four and the aggregate score
would be shared by the ones that remained –
but they couldn’t relax from the fear of attacks,
‘till the death of their friend was explained.

Their work would resume and the profits would bloom
as they took what the creek had to give –
and the share of McCoy brought them bittersweet joy
‘cause they all would prefer that he’d lived.

To make matters worse, their indigenous curse
once again brought the reaper around –
and their friend, Yukon Dick, who’d been hit with a stick,
was found lying there dead on the ground.

They each grabbed a pick and they buried old Dick
then divided his bounty by three –
and the added largesse made it anyone’s guess
as to who the next victim would be.

The angst and the spite caused the trio to fight
when the stress became too much to bear –
and the sight of Big Bill being ready to kill
gave the others a sobering scare.

Some words would be tossed and the light would be lost
when the lantern was knocked to the dirt –
by the time it returned, the remaining two learned
that Big Bill had been fatally hurt.

He was lying in mud that was formed from his blood,
with his bowie knife stuck in his gut –
and since both would deny having caused him to die,
the discussion was open and shut.

Now that the crew was reduced to just two,
they would take all the gold that he had
and the tundra became his eternal domain –
was an ending both tragic and sad.

Since they had all the gold they could possibly hold,
it was time to leave Dead Horse behind –
so they packed up their gear while the weather was clear
and the trail was still easy to find.

They walked by the space where the markers were placed
on the mounds that were covered with snow –
and the thought of the men who were buried within
only caused their resentment to grow.

‘Cause each one believed that the other deceived
and was planning to go for the rest –
that he’d silently creep while the other would sleep,
just to bury a knife in his chest.

Slick was in back and was on the attack
with some words that would anger Sinclair –
there was no way he’d wait for an uncertain fate,
so they’d settle things right then and there.

He pulled out a gun as Sinclair tried to run,
and a bullet went right through his thigh,
but he got off a round as he fell to the ground
and hit slick in the white of his eye.

Slick would be dead from a shot to the head
and Sinclair would just bleed in the snow –
he could only hang on ‘till the following dawn,
for a death that was painful and slow.

Now, one might contend that the story should end
like so many ill-fated campaigns,
since the last of the five was no longer alive –
just the silence of frozen remains.

But a native cadet from the Barrow Gazette
was intrigued by a tale being told
by a local tycoon with a fancy saloon
that he’d purchased with ounces of gold.

His tale would begin with a group of five men
who had sailed from the mainland below –
and to settle an itch to be terribly-rich,
they would challenge the ice and the snow.

But they died one-by-one, from a knife, stick or gun,
by a killer who’d never be placed –
no record or facts of who’d planned the attacks
and no clues that could ever be traced.

Though he loved the suspense, he was less than convinced,
but the owner would swear it was so,
as he sat at the bar with his Cuban cigar –
“or my name isn’t Eskimo Joe!”

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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