so close to the end of his journey, Red could imagine what San Francisco must
look like. It must be just as big as St. Louis, but everything new and alive.
The people must all be young and adventurous and thus be just like him. He smiled
as he remembered the first time he had heard of California. He had been ten
years old at the time and it was the first time he had gone with his father
down to New Orleans on a riverboat.
Red had been happy to get the chance to
spend more time with his father, who was a riverboat captain. His father rarely
stayed home more than a couple of days at a time and would be gone for a week
or two at a time on trips down river. His father had been showing him around
the boat when they passed by a card game. One of the men was boasting of the
gold mine he had staked out in California. Then another man said that he had
already staked and sold a claim on a mine, but that he was going back because
there was more action in San Francisco than in the East.
When Red and his father were outside on
the deck watching the paddlewheel, he asked his father about California. His
father said that there was money to be made in California but that every swindler
and thief in the country were going there to take that money from all the honest
people who had earned it. He said that going to California was more trouble
that it was worth.
His father then told him about the men at the
card game. The first man had actually killed another man who had made the claim,
then stole the deed from him. The second card player was a professional gambler
and had won his stake in a card game from a drunk prospector. None of the men
at that table had done a lick of honest work in their lives, but instead lied,
cheated and stole from honest men and those kind of cutthroats were all over
The things his father had told Red that
day stopped him from thinking about California and the West. When he was thirteen,
his father had been killed when his riverboat had an accident and blew up. He
had been taught to honor his parents. He knew that meant replacing his father
and taking care of his mother, so he started working on the docks when many
of the men had known his father and looked after Red and his mother. Soon after,
he had decided he would go to California and make a fortune to take care of