THE BANKS OF SACRAMENTO
By J. London
“Young” Jerry was a fourteen-year-old boy with red hair, blue eyes and freckled skin. Together with his father “old” Jerry, he lived on the bank of the Sacramento in California. “Old” Jerry was an old sailor who had been given a job at the Yellow Dream mine and was in charge of the ore cables that ran across the river. On the bank one could see a steel drum round which the endless cable passed. An ore car, when loaded, crossed the river, carried down by its own weight and dragging back, at the same time, an empty car travelling in the opposite direction along the same cable. The Yellow Dream mine had been abandoned and the cars were no longer used for carrying ore, but “old” Jerry still remained watchman over the cables.
That morning “young” Jerry was alone in the cabin. His f ather had gone to San Francisco and was not to be back till next day. It was raining heavily all
the morning, and Jerry decided not to go out, when, at one o’clock, there came a knock at the door. A man and a woman came in. They were Mr. and Mrs. Spillane, ranchers who lived a dozen miles back from the river.
“Where is your father?” Spillane asked, and Jer – ry noticed that both he and his wife were excited.
“San Francisco,” Jerry answered briefly.
“We’ve got to get across, Jerry,” Spillane continued, taking his wife by the hand, “her father’s been badly wounded in an explosion; he’s dying. We’ve just been told. Will you run the cable for us?”
Jerry hesitated. Of course, he had worked t’he cable many times, but only with the help of his father.
I’ll stand for the risk,” Spillane added, “don’t you see, kid, we’ve simply got to cross.”
Jerry nodded his head. They all came out into the raging storm, and the man and the woman got into the ore car.
“Let’s get started!” Spillane shouted to make himself heard above the roar of the wind. Jerry slowly and carefully let the car go, and the drum began to go round and round. Jerry carefully watched the cable passing round the drum.
“Three hundred feet” he was saying to himself, “three hundred and fifty, four hundred -” The cable stopped. Something had gone wrong.
The boy examined the drum closely and found nothing the matter with it. Probably it was the drum on the other side that had been damaged…
He was afraid at the thought of the man and woman hanging out there over the river in the driving
Rain. Nothing remained but to cross over to the other side by the Yellow Dragon cable some distance up the river. He was already wet to the skin as he ran along the path to the Yellow Dragon. Safely across, he found his way up the other bank to the Yellow Dream cable. To his surprise, he found the drum in perfect working order. From this side the car with the Spillanes was only two hundred and fifty feet away. So he shouted to the man to examine the trolley of his car. The answering cry came in a few moments.
“She’s all right, kid!”
Nothing remained but the other car which hung somewhere beyond Spillane’s car.
The boy’s mind had been made up. In the toolbox by the drum he found an old monkey-wrench, a short iron bar and a few feet of rope. With the rope he made a large loop round the cable on which the empty car was hanging. Then he swung out over the river, sitting in the rope loop and began pulling himself along the cable by his hands. And in the midst of the storm which half blinded him he arrived at the empty car in his swinging loop. A single glance was enough to show him what was wrong.