While he was in the cabin, Jack decided a cup of hot coffee wouldn’thurt. Besides that, he had at least a day left before Pete was due back from
the Seven Devils. There was no rush to dig anywhere else but the streambed.
He contemplated pulling the sluice box from beside the mine and putting it near the spring, but joked to himself that he might as well get used to
enjoying his new-found life of leisure.
Someone had a different idea. Jack wasn’t paying attention when hecame back around the corner of the cabin, heading to the stream. His
thoughts were consumed by the gold and he made noise like a city slicker,
banging the pick against the pan and padding heavily along on the ground.
Of course, being the only human within twenty miles didn’t lend to
feeling a need for being quiet, but nature has a way of making you pay for your transgressions.
A God-awful scream jerked Jack’s eyes from the ground in front of him to the streambed. His startled body reacted to the scream with a shiver that ran down his back like a lightning bolt. Before him stood an angry-lookingmomma cougar between him and her two cubs that scrambled up the
hill. Her ears were laid back flat against her head and her teeth looked likegiant daggers protruding from her jaws. She was back on her haunches and
her long tail flipped like a super-charged fly swatter. If Jack hadn’t been so
scared, he would have been thoroughly impressed with watching Mother
Nature at work.
All he could think to do was raise his pick and hold the pan out like apoor imitation of a gladiator’s shield before ever…so…slowly backing off
from the big cat. Her low, guttural growls synchronized with each of his
movements. Her eyes were locked onto his implements. He couldn’t
remember if you were or weren’t supposed to look cougars in the eye. It
didn’t matter. He was trying to stay on his feet backing up, so he spent most
of his time watching the ground anyhow.