Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • Some real hardasses had dug about fifty feet straight into the mountain along a silver vein, then followed it about fifty five feet straight down, found nothing, moved to the next mountain range, kept digging, and about a century ago they all died and nobody remembered their names.

    Jerry found the mine late last year and no one knew exactly who he might talk to about it, so someone somewhere signed a paper saying it belonged to him now. He excavated the entrance and built a wooden platform over the vertical shaft, and we helped him shovel the debris out of the horizontal shaft. This you must do every time you’re there so you can see if the ceiling is sloughing off.

    He had a big party when we went down the vertical shaft for the first time. His older brother was there, and a bunch of the guys he used to go ballooning with when they were all a lot younger. It was snowing, but warm in the mine and the dust would catch in the ring of meltwater that gathered along the brims of our Stetsons. Everyone went down to the bottom and up again until the air ran out. Then we went back to the ranch and got falling down drunk.


    A few of us went back later that summer. Jerry and his buddy Oz climbed down with a backpack of beer and I sat at the top and belayed for a couple girls who’d missed the first party. Oz’s voice echoed up from the darkness; he was singing.

    I was the last to go down.We know the shaft is a little more than fifty-five feet down because we’d tied four twenty-four foot ladder segments together and you still had to hang and let go at the end. I made the wobbly descent, hands lit by my headlamp, and dropped to the bottom.


    Jerry’s light was off, I turned mine off. It smelled like dirt and beer and cigarettes. The darkness was so complete that the rock walls inches away disappeared entirely. Oz took a drag from his cigarette and for a moment I could see their faces in the orange glow. I heard the pop of a beer, felt it cold and smooth in my hand. Oz took another drag and I tipped my hat to Jerry and took a long drink as the darkness returned.

    “Oz you’re burnin up all our air.”

    He laughed and handed me the cigarette.

    I took a drag, handed it back, had a drink.

    I looked up at the single light some feet or miles away. From the bottom of a mineshaft that distant star at the top is everyone and everything you’ve ever known. Only sometimes does it glint on the ladder, otherwise you just have to trust that it won’t flicker out before you make your way back along that tenuous path.

    We finished our beers and climbed out.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.