Dick in the Desert

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Excerpt CHAPTER I. DICK'S DADDY.   etween Fox Peak and Smoke Creek Desert, on the western edge of the State of Nevada, is a beautiful valley, carpeted with bunch grass, which looks particularly bright and green to the venturesome traveller who has just crossed either of the two deserts lying toward the east. "Buffalo Meadows" the Indians named it, because of the vast herds of American bison found there before the white men hunted simply for the sport of killing; but those who halt at the last watercourse prior to crossing the wide stretches of sand on the journey east, speak of it as "Comfort Hollow." To a travel-stained party who halted at the water-pool nearest the desert on a certain afternoon in September two years ago, this last name seemed particularly appropriate. They had come neither for gold nor the sport of hunting; but were wearily retracing their steps, after having wandered and suffered among the foot-hills of the Sierras in a fruitless search for a home, on which they had been lured by unscrupulous speculators. Nearly two years previous Richard Stevens—"Roving Dick" his acquaintances called him—had first crossed the vast plain of sand, with his wife, son, and daughter. His entire worldly possessions consisted of a small assortment of household goods packed in a stout, long-bodied wagon, covered with canvas stretched over five poles bent in a half-circle, and drawn by two decrepit horses. The journey had been a failure, so far as finding a home in the wilds was concerned, where the head of the family could live without much labor; and now the homeless ones, decidedly the worse for wear, were returning to Willow Point, on the Little Humboldt River. The provisions had long since been exhausted; the wagon rudely repaired in many places; the cooking utensils were reduced to one pot and a battered dipper; the canvas covering was torn and decaying, and the horses presented a skeleton-like appearance. The family had suffered outwardly quite as much as the goods. Young Dick and his father wore clothing which had been patched and repatched with anything Mrs. Stevens could push a needle through, until it would have been impossible to say what was the original material; but to a boy thirteen years of age this seemed a matter of little consequence, while his father preferred such a costume rather than exert himself to tan deer-hides for one more serviceable. Mrs. Stevens and six-year-old Margie were in a less forlorn condition as to garments; but they also needed a new outfit sadly, and nearly every day young Dick told them confidentially that he would attend to the matter immediately after arriving at Willow Point, even if it became necessary for him to sell his rifle, the only article of value he owned. "Once across the desert, mother," he said, as the sorry-looking team was drawn up by the side of the pool, and he began to unharness the horses while his father went in search of game for supper, "and then we shall be well on our way to the old home we had no business to leave." "It is this portion of the journey that worries me most, Dick....
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