“How do we get to the top of the mill without going through it?” Cap asked.
“The wagon trail up there takes too long. We’ll just use the machine rails and pull
ourselves up the hill to the top. I can see the wagon up there from here.
Let’s go, Cap.”
The two used a
cable which seemed to be there just to pull oneself up the hill. The pulled themselves to the top of the wagon trail which leads to the Bonanza, Jumbo and Glacier mines.
The wagon was still being unloaded. A small building at the top of the ridge on the north side of the mill served as the temporary warehouse for the paint cans.
“Tomorrow we’ll starting building the scaffolding to attach to the north side. Then your crew
will scrape the walls while Cap and I begin our painting. We’ll extend the
scaffold all the way to there.” He pointed to the elevator cap at the front of
“We’ll build a platform along that end so the two of us can sling ourselves off it and paint
the west end.”
“What’s this about no scaffolding on the high west wall. Are you both nuts? Do you realize
how far down that is?”
“We know. We can save time. It’s narrow. We’ll build a rig to lower us down from the top.
We don’t expect help from any of you, except to handle the slings and pulleys
and stabilize the scaffolding. We’ll handle this high paint work ourselves.”
“I don’t mind helping with the scraping on the west wall, Johnny. I’m not afraid of heights.”
“That would sure speed things up, Henry. Appreciate it.”
Jensen appeared at the loading deck on the Jumbo tram side, bringing one of his carpenters with
“What do you think, Johnny? North side first?”
Johnny explained his plan to the carpenters. Jensen had some problem with the idea of
no continuous platform, but he could see Johnny’s point.
“I guess if you want to do it that way, we can build it to suit. We should be around the top
front with the scaffold and ready for that platform setup in a day or two.”
He took a another good look. Having satisfied himself, he indicated that Johnny and Cap
should follow him.
“The best way to the top is through the mill. Have you ever been through this building?”
“Last year we rushed through here on the way back from Erie. We came down the Jumbo tram and
followed Frank Buckner to the mid level where the outside stairs lead to the
office. But neither of us had time to get a good look at the route.”
“I’ll run you through it one more time. It’s a little confusing, so pay close attention.
We’ll be using the same route as you did.”
They walked past the grizzlies where ore was tumbling through into the Buchanan jaw
crushers. Ahead were two large conveyors emerged out of the floor, running side
by side to the very top of the mill, then dropping the ore back down into the
storage bins below. Beyond the conveyor drop were the two elevators which
returned the ore to the top for a second run through the system. The stairs
began at the extreme west end. These ran downward several levels to a point
where the group worked their way back to the center of the mill near the top of
the ore bins. There they found a long, dark, enclosed stairwell which delivered
them to mid-level. At the landing an indirect path eventually worked it way
over to the new Hancock Jig annex, the large attached building immediately above
The men passed through this brightly lit area with its closely spaced, tall windows. They
passed a large number of bins and a long working counter. At the extreme south
end were the double doors leading to a small deck. This was the top of a
machine hoist leading to the track grade. To the left was the stairway which
ended at the office.
As they stepped out to the deck, they had a good view of their shop just beyond the deeply cut
gorge where National Creek ran.
“Frank went ahead and sent a telegram to your brother, Johnny. He should be in late
tomorrow. When you hear the train whistle, feel free to come on down to meet
“No kidding. Frank sent the telegram? I should stop at the office to thank him.”
“You could if he was here, but he’s already off to the mines. Your brother will probably
arrive with the other five I ordered. They’re coming in from Cordova. We should
have a full crew by late tomorrow.”
It was a long way the stairs. They passed the office and then turned toward the tracks.
“We’ll check on the shop floor before heading back for dinner, since we just painted it,”
Johnny told Chris. The two Indians went through the carpenter shop. Everyone
was already gone for lunch. Cap lifted the lid covering the stairwell to the
paint shop. The fumes hit him hard. He dropped the heavy lid.
“No point in sticking around here, Johnny. Too many fumes.”
The work on the scaffolding proceeded faster than the men had anticipated. By mid-afternoon, it
was two-thirds of the way to the front on the level which was even with the
loading deck floor. It extended from the back of the Jumbo tram in the far
northeast corner to just above the trommel addition roof, where the men were
able to easily attach the platform supports.
Then Johnny heard the distant whistle, after being nudged by Cap, who had already sensed
it. Johnny never could account for Cap’s unique ability to sense things
happening before they did. But he was no sooner nudged, then he heard the
whistle reverberating up the valley. They stood up from the end of the platform
just above the trommel roof and rushed down the temporary walkway back to the
Jumbo tram loading dock.
The two stopped and looked at each other, then nodded. It would be a new shortcut. They
headed right over the top of the steep slope of the south-facing hill, heading
straight for the back of the superintendent’s house. In a matter of a few
seconds, they had stumbled their way past chicken coop behind the house. It was
easy going once they passed the coop. They crossed uphill from the
superintendent’s house to the walkway, just below the Birch house. The train
was getting louder as it reached the south end of the property near the dairy.
They entered the three-foot-wide long wooden sidewalk. It had a rail running along the
south end, protecting children from the dangerous National Creek gorge just
beyond the walkway behind the hospital.
The two reached the electricians’ warehouse in time to see the back of the tender heading
straight for them being pushed by the Mikado locomotive, which was also
traveling backwards, as it nearly always did. The engine was pulling the coach
and the usual line of freight cars. The men walked along the train toward the
coach, spotting Charlie as he stepped forward from the back end of the
His eyes were fixed on the mill, which was the largest and tallest building he had ever seen.
One of the men behind him, bumped into Charlie, knocking him off the train.
Johnny rushed forward and knocked the man down with his left fist.
“You have a problem with my brother here, you have one with me. You want to go for it?”
Cap rushed forward, prepared to do battle. The other four piled on him. Johnny pulled
Charles out of the way and watched in astonishment as Cap made short work of all
five of the men. It was over in less than half a minute. He’d made his point.
“I never heard anything about Siwash here,” the first man said, as he pulled himself up off the
ground. Upon hearing that, Cap knocked the man down again. The others started
to get up, but something frightening in the eyes of Cap caused them to stay put
on the ground. Cap stood by calmly as the five pulled themselves up, one at a
time. Johnny was the first to speak.
“You’re the new yard crew hirees, aren’t you?”
One of them nodded. Every one of them looked angry enough to resume the fight, but the
presence of Cap was like being held at bay by a large guard dog.
“Well, the bad news is, you’re working with us. We don’t care what you think of us. Do your
work and let us do ours. And leave my brother alone. He caused you no harm. We
don’t have time to teach you guys manners. The office is up there. You
better check in.” He pointed to the building at his rear while still facing
the four men. The one who had pushed his brother off the coach ramp pulled
himself off the ground first.
“We didn’t come here to work with no injuns.”
“Get used to it. You’re working with us. We can handle the smell of you five, so you just
do the work, like I said, and we can all get the job done. We don’t have to
like each other to work.”
Johnny turned his attention to his younger brother and hugged him.
“Am I happy to see you, little brother. Sorry you had to see the worst of how it can be here
so early. Sometimes it can get like this.”
“I was looking up when I should have been stepping down.”
“Cap, you’re amazing. Reminds me of Cascade.”
“Exactly,” he said. Then he went over to shake Charles’s hand.
“Hey, Cap, what you said about getting me here, was it you that did it?”
“It just worked out well. Good to see you, kid.” He hugged Charles.
“Let’s get your gear over to the barracks. It’ll be dinner time before you know it. You’re
staying with us, kid. Come on.”
For the first time ever, there were three Natives to be seen walking down the tracks in front
of Kennecott, headed for the west barracks. Others close enough to view the
brief one-sided fight would talk about it years later. Cap’s brief encounter
with the five men became legendary, not just among the Indians, but even among
the whites. No one had ever seen anything quite like it.
There was no longer any remaining doubt that Indians could and would hold their own. Sal
Reed watched the altercation from the cab of his train. He was prepared to
enter the fray with a large iron in defense of the Chitina Indians if he was
needed, but Cap single-handedly ended it before it really started. Sal smiled,
then pushed the reverse lever as he continued to inch the train consist farther
north into the ore loading dock.
Chris came up to the three Indians seated alone at the end of one of the tables.
“I heard what happened. You know that fighting is not allowed up here. It sounds as though
that those men got what they deserved, but you have to be careful about that.
Those guys won’t forget their humiliation.”
He wandered off to join Henry.
“If I had seen it coming I could have handled it, Soon-ga.”
“I know, Charles. You’re strong and fast. That man was a coward to push you off the edge
of the coach like that. If he had faced you head on, I have little doubt that
he would have lost. At least now everyone knows that we Indians stick together,
even if it means getting fired. That’s not as important as sticking up for our
own. You know that already. We’ll just have to keep a close watch on those
five men. They already made it known loud and clear what they think of Indians.”
Johnny gave Charles a long look.
“I never imagined you would ever be here with us, Charles. It wasn’t that long ago that
there were no Indians here at all. But here we are. We’re the first ones. Maybe
the only ones. I’m so happy to have you, you can’t believe it. Now we have to
show the rest of them how good we are as workers. Cap and I have always done
that. Mostly the others leave us alone.
“Try to avoid the men you know are trouble. Troublemakers are always troublemakers. They
don’t change. But they’re also cowards at heart, so just be wary and you should
be fine. We’ll watch out for you, too.”
The three Chitina men returned to the room and talked about home for over an hour. Then
Charles stripped off his dusty clothes and fell off into a deep sleep on the
lower bunk which Cap had used. Cap looked at him sleeping there, apparently
exhausted. He shook his head, pulled off his shirt and took the upper bunk,
quickly falling off to sleep himself.
“Two deep sleepers. I wish I could do that.”
Johnny also removed his stiff heavy shirt.
clothes. What a relief to get out of these at the end of the day. Can’t
imagine how those white men can sleep in these stiff things. I could sure use a sezel about now.
He pulled off his trousers, then slid into the lower bunk below Cap and across from his
younger brother. It was quite warm in the room. It had been getting warmer,
but the steam heat was still on. Johnny found he was sweating and his heart was
beating hard. He got up to fully open the window.
Johnny finally drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
Above him, Cap bolted upright and opened his eyes
wide. It was Nicolai again. He was not one to sweat, but he was now. He
felt tense. Then he looked down to view the peaceful look on Charles’s
sleeping face. Charlie did not seem to be affected at all by that altercation.
Charlie had a wonderful way of innocently drifting through life. Cap fell back
on his pillow and slipped off into his own special world. He found himself on
the tracks with the spirit-dog, walking into the sun in the direction of
Nicolai’s camp. It was a beautiful day. For the moment, all was still well in