Jasper Blankenship came in from the diggin's about 11 a.m.. At his age, it doesn't make any real sense to work 12-hour days with a shovel the way he used to.
For one thing, he had some money set by. But the main reason was, Jasper just didn't look forward to the digging the way he used to, when that vein was just out of reach and maybe he'd find it the next morning.
But he'd found enough, over the years. Enough.
Today his gold comes in the breaking of dawn, the mystic magic of a rainbow, and the gold-slabbed blood-red clouds of a sunset. His treasure is increased by watching the peaceful sleep of Arthur, his mixed-blood dog partner.
Arthur came in from the diggin's, too, hit the kibble in his dish for two quick bites, slurped down some water, and hopped up on the cabin's single bunk, where he happily collapsed.
It was then Jasper heard the voices outside. It was a young man and woman, faces flushed with the heat of the day. They seemed surprised to find a cabin so far out in the mountains.
"Mister," said the man when he saw Jasper, "can you tell us where we are?"
Jasper chuckled. "Looks like you two could use something cold to drink. Come on in."
Their summer hike had taken a wrong turn somewhere and they had ended up at Jasper's rather than back at their car.
"We'll have a little lunch," Jasper said, "and then I'll walk you back to your car. It really isn't far, you know."
The couple relaxed then and began to enjoy Jasper's hospitality. They had to sit on the bunk, which made Arthur move down a bit, but he didn't seem to mind.
"I guess you must get social security, to live out here," said the husband.
"Well, not the kind you're thinking of," Jasper said, "because I've been working for myself since I was about 18."
"Can't you apply for it?"
Jasper thought a minute. "Let's say I was to show up at your house on a winter's night. Would you give me a meal and let me sleep on your couch?"
"Of course we would!" said the young woman.
"Well," said Jasper, "that's what I'd call social security."
Brought to you by "Sun Dog Days," available at www.slimrandles.com.