I was en route from the small town of Eau Claire, Wisconsin to the West Coast - Portland, Oregon, to be precise. The stagecoach had made its way into the Black Hills of South Dakota and was planning to stop in the town of Deadwood for the evening.
When we reached the town, however, we discovered tragedy had struck: the town had suffered a fierce fire, and the entire central area was destroyed!
As I stood, surveying the damage, a rugged frontiersman by the name of Mr. Caed Aldwych appeared. I comiserated with him for some minutes, and asked him how the fire had started. "They say it may have started in the California, ma'am," but no one really knew. Reports were that a number of residents had perished. May God have mercy on their souls. Mr. Aldwych then left to recover his tools; he planned to salvage what he could of his property and start rebuilding that very evening. "You are a brave and determined man to do so in this hostile environment," I said. True to the image of the stoic frontiersman, he merely shrugged and set upon his chosen task.
I wandered the now-deserted streets, sketching the scene. Here are some of my efforts:
I was told that lone, sad-looking gentleman was a Mr. Clay Kungler, an important man in town. I dared not approach him in his grief.
We shall rest as well as we can in the coaches and set out again for Portland at first light.
(M. Sand Rau has made a 10-minute film of the incident, available here. - RJ)