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    Grumpy Bear
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Arctic Roots - 11. Gold Rush

“Who is ‘Samuel’, Papa?” Adam asked carefully. He knew that their friend Thomas’s cub was named Sam, but he was sure that this Samuel was someone else.

“Samuel is a complicated part of my story, Cub,” Axel replied. “Let’s get checked into a room and have a walk around town and I’ll try to fill you in.”

Axel went into the lobby and inquired about available rooms.

“By any chance, is the room on the third floor with the bay window on the right side vacant right now?”

“Uh, yeah mister,” the desk clerk replied, “We usually keep that one empty unless we’re full, on account of the… the ghost and all. I’m obligated to tell you that the room is haunted before you take it so you can’t claim I didn’t warn you later. Are you sure you want that room?”

“Positive. Ghost or not, that’s the one I want. What size bed does it have?”

“That’s one of our bigger rooms,” the clerk said, “So it has two double beds in it.”

“Fine,” Axel replied. “We can always push them together. I’ll take it for two nights to start, and then we’ll see if we extend our stay any longer than that.”

They brought their bags up to the room and looked around.

“The beds are new,” Axel said, walking around the uneven wooden floor, “And they carved out this corner of the room where the sitting area used to be to make a private bathroom, but otherwise, it’s still pretty much the same.”

“You stayed in this very room way back then?” Adam asked, “Is this where you lived?”

“I didn’t live in town, Cub,” Axel explained. “I lived in the mining camp where I worked my claim. This is the room where Samuel lived.”

Adam dropped their bags and Axel pushed the double beds together making a single bed large enough for two seven-foot men to share.

“More of this mysterious Samuel,” Adam replied after they had things arranged to their satisfaction. “Are you going to give me a hint about him yet?”

“Sure, Cub,” Axel said. “Here’s a big hint.”

He walked over to the antique dresser with the attached mirror standing on the wall and pulled one side of it away so that Adam could see the back. Carved into the wood was the inscription “Samuel & Alexei were here, 1898” inside a heart.

“Let’s take that walk around town, and I’ll fill you in on the big Gold Rush,” Axel said, sliding the dresser back into place along the wall.

****

Alexei arrived in Dawson City in the fall of 1896, before the first snows fell. He had beaten most of the prospectors there who would arrive in droves later, most of whom would have to wait until the spring thaws to make the rivers and roads passable again.

Alexei wasted no time getting started on his claim. He used his werebear sense of smell to locate the plot of land that was giving off the biggest indication of gold deposits underground. He marked his claim using stakes and flags and cleared a line of underbrush between them so that it was clearly marked to others. The size of his clam was just over a quarter of a mile on each side in a square. He then made sketches of the geographical markers within his claim area and took it to the mining recorder’s office in town to fill out the application and pay his $10 fee. He set up camp on his staked-out property and waited the thirty days for the mining recorder to verify that there were no competing claims to the land. Once he received the approval, he had one year from that date to mine his claim.

Gold mining in the Klondike was a two-stage process over the course of a year. During the first winter, Alexei dug a shaft into the ground down to the bedrock. Since the ground was frozen, Alexei would build a fire at the bottom of his shaft each night and allow it to burn until morning. The next day, he would dig through the ashes and charcoal remnants of the fire where the heat had temporarily melted the frozen alluvial gravel enough so that he could dig the shaft just a bit deeper. In this manner, Alexei was able to dig a couple feet of mine shaft each day until he reached bedrock.

When he had dug his shaft to the proper depth, he began digging drift tunnels perpendicular to the shaft using the same methods of building a fire each evening to melt the ground and then expanding the tunnel a bit more each day. The dirt excavated from the tunnels was placed in a pile on the surface simply called a “dump”, where it waited until the warmer weather. There was no need to shore up the tunnels of the mine or worry about cave-ins, since the ground was frozen solid.

When summer arrived, it was time to reap the rewards of the wintertime labor. With the warm weather, water flowed freely, and Alexei would set up a sluice box to methodically sift through the dirt and gravel in his dump pile. Slowly but surely, the lighter dirt, gravel and sand could be washed away, and the heavier gold would settle to the bottom of the sluice box. Alexei saved any bits and pieces of gold that he could find in a glass jar that he kept hidden in a hole dug underneath his tent and concealed with a trapdoor. He placed his bedroll on top of the trapdoor, and in many ways, it was like the tent where he had spent the first few months with his Old Man before learning of the underground home.

If Alexei wanted to renew his claim for another year, he had to make at least $100 in gold in order to pay the renewal fee. When the fall came, he took his jar of gold to the mining recorder’s office be weighed and cashed in. Before weighing his gold, they used a magnet to remove any trace amounts of fine magnetic sand. When all was weighed, Alexei had made $540 dollars. Enough to pay for the renewal on his claim for another year and have over $400 in profit to show for his efforts. It was not enough to make him rich, but it was certainly enough to fund his mining excavations for at least another year, with enough extra for food and the occasional entertainment in town if he so wished.

Pocketing his money, Alexei walked through the streets of Dawson City. He did not leave his claim to come into town very often, only when requiring additional supplies or food. Now that he had some extra money, Alexei noticed the many saloons and gambling halls that had sprung up over the last year to service the rowdy American prospectors.

It had been ages since he’d had a drink, and so he felt there was no harm in going into one of the saloons for an evening. He had worked hard the last year and deserved a break.

He walked up to the bar and ordered a double vodka. The bartender gave him a careful eye up and down while pouring his drink.

“Haven’t seen you in here before, Russian,” the bartender said. “You a miner?”

“Yes, but I am no longer Russian, I am an American from Alaska,” Alexei replied. “I’ve been here for a year now mining my claim and I’m celebrating the first dividends of my hard work.”

“I see,” the bartender said, and gave a discreet eye signal to a middle-aged woman across the room.

As Alexei enjoyed his vodka and took in the sights and sounds of the saloon, the woman drifted across the floor to stand next to him.

“Hey there, miner,” she said, leaning seductively against Alexei and throwing her arm over his shoulders. “Are you looking for some company? I have many girls here tonight. Any kind that you can imagine. I even have a Russian girl. What’s your type, handsome?”

“I beg your pardon,” Alexei replied, “But I am not interested in any girls tonight. I just want to enjoy my drink and then go home.”

“Suit yourself, big boy,” the woman answered, but she kept her eye on Alexei as he finished his drink and left the saloon. She knew that he would be back, and she would find out what type of company he needed. It was her job to get to know every man in town and to deliver their deepest desires.

When the weather grew cold once again, it was safe to continue the excavations in his mine. Alexei had spent some of his earnings on new equipment and was able to make faster progress, creating a dump pile nearly as large as the one he had the previous spring even before the end of December.

The holidays in Dawson City were a festive time, and Alexei found that he enjoyed spending more time in town and at the saloon. The business profits were good, and the owner of the saloon was already preparing for the construction of a larger building, one that would have hotel rooms on the second and third floors, a new saloon on the ground floor along with a separate “lounge” on the other side of the hotel entrance where the madam could operate her brothel.

Until the new structure was built, any ladies who wished to entertain a gentleman for the evening must take him out behind the saloon where they had a shanty-town mishmash of wooden shacks and canvas tents in which the girls lived and worked.

Alexei arrived at the bar and ordered his usual double vodka. He was well-known in town and by the saloon patrons and staff by now, and several men called out a greeting to him and wished him a Merry Christmas.

As he stood at the bar sipping his vodka, the Madam of the house walked up and took her usual spot at his side. Out of all the miners in this boomtown, he was still the only one who had not succumbed to the wiles of one of her girls, but she finally felt that she had figured out the giant Russian’s weakness.

“So, Alexei,” she said, leaning against him in the sensual way she always did whenever he came to the saloon for a drink. “I’ve decided not to bother trying to entice you with my girls anymore. It’s a hopeless battle.”

“I’m glad,” Alexei replied, “Does this mean I can come in here and drink in peace now?”

“Of course, sugar,” she answered, “Don’t let me get in the way of you having a good time!”

She turned to the bartender and ordered herself a beer. As the bartender handed it to her, it slipped from her fingers and smashed onto the floor at their feet.

“Oh, I’m so clumsy!” the madam cried. “Let me call my new boy to come and clean this up.”

“Samuel!” The madam yelled toward a doorway. “Fetch a broom and mop and come clean up this terrible mess.”

From a room behind the bar, a young man emerged carrying the broom and mop that she had requested. He was tall and blonde, thin yet muscular. His smooth face was that of one of the Greek gods, as if carved from alabaster.

Alexei could not help but notice and stare at the young man as he worked to sweep up the broken glass and mop the spilled ale at his feet. The madam cleared her throat, and after glancing at her, the young man intentionally bent over right in front of Alexei giving him a perfect view of his round, sculpted rear through his tight-fitting denim trousers.

“Thank you, Samuel,” the madam said as he finished his cleaning work. “Won’t you stay? I believe that Mr. Alexei here was just about to offer to buy you a drink. Isn’t that right, Alexei?”

Alexei frowned at the madam, seeing through her ruse, but it was true that young Samuel was attractive and had immediately captured his attention. He nodded and turned to the bartender ordering another double vodka for the young blond man.

The two men found a table in the corner of the saloon where they could sit and talk. Alexei did not talk of his past, but Samuel readily told the circumstances under which he had arrived in Dawson City. He had grown up motherless, living with just his father on their small farm in Kansas before hearing of the Gold Rush. His father thought that this would be their chance to get ahead in life and so they made the long journey by land from Kansas to the Yukon that summer and fall. However, almost immediately after arriving, even before they could stake a claim, his father fell ill to cholera and died, leaving him all alone in this strange town. The madam was kind enough to take him in and keep him sheltered and fed in exchange for his services. Before today, those services had only included cleaning up around the saloon and emptying chamber pots from the tents and shacks of the girls, but she had told him that if he was able to catch the attention of a particularly large Russian miner, that there would be more services to perform and more rewards in return.

Alexei listened to Samuel’s story, knowing that the madam had groomed him to be a prostitute specifically to serve his needs, and he bristled, but Samuel touched his hand and looked up into his eyes with hope.

“Please sir,” Samuel said, “Will you let me take you my tent tonight?”

“How much will this cost me, boy?” Axel asked gruffly.

“Fifty cents if you want… fellatio,” Samuel said haltingly, trying to remember the words the madam had told him, “Or a dollar if you want to… bugger me.”

“Samuel, do you even know what those words mean?” Alexei asked feeling sorry for the boy.

“Not exactly, sir,” Samuel replied, “But I know it has something to do with having sex with me. I figured I’d let you tell me which one you wanted and then when you did it to me, I’d know what it was.”

“Samuel, are you even attracted to men, sexually, or do you prefer women?” Alexei asked crossly.

“I haven’t had… sex… with either a woman or a man yet, sir,” Samuel replied. “But in my dreams, when I’ve had time to myself and allowed myself to think about such things, I always imagined it would be with a big, muscular man like you. I couldn’t talk to my father about such things as they were contrary to the word of the Lord, but since I’ve been here, the madam has made me feel more comfortable with it, and told me that if I behaved well enough, that I could entice you to take me to my tent.”

Alexei stood up with a slight scowl on his face and took Samuel by the hand. He led the boy back across the saloon to the madam. Samuel looked slightly frightened, thinking that he had done something wrong, and that the big man was going to report his misdeeds and get him in trouble.

“Have you settled on the service you desire, then?” she asked.

“How much for the whole night?” Alexei asked in return.

“My, my!” she said, “That will cost you a pretty penny! Three dollars, Alexei.”

Alexei fished the three dollars from his pocket and handed it to the madam.

“Let’s go, boy,” he said to Samuel, “Lead the way to your tent.”

Alexei spent many hours with Samuel in his tent, simply talking to him and explaining the meaning behind the words that the madam had instructed him to use when quoting his prices so that he fully understood what he was getting himself into. As the hour grew late and Alexei’s pocket watch chimed midnight, Samuel finally removed his shirt and raised himself upon his knees to give the large Russian man a kiss.

“Now that you’ve explained it to me sir,” Samuel said, “I think that I know what I’ve been desiring all along. Will you please… fuck me, sir? I want to feel your body on top of mine and your manhood inside of me.”

Alexei removed his shirt as well and returned Samuel’s kiss.

“Tell me you want it because you desire me,” Alexei said, “And not just because I’ve paid your madam three dollars for the night with you.”

“No sir, I don’t care about the three dollars,” Samuel replied, “It is you that I desire, not your money.”

Alexei undressed Samuel and showed him all the things that he had spent so long carefully describing, introducing the young man to the pleasures that only a man can give to another.

When the sun rose, Alexei emerged from Samuel’s tent refreshed and content. He bundled up against the cold and began the walk back to the miner’s camp and his claim site.

As he passed the front of the saloon, he spied the madam standing in the entrance and smoking a thin hand-rolled cigarette.

“Come inside and have a cup of coffee with me,” she said to Alexei. “It will do you good to get something warm inside you before you walk all the way back to the mines.”

She led him to the bar and poured him a cup of coffee.

“I assume you left my Samuel this morning with something warm inside of him as well,” she said with a smirk handing Alexei the cup.

“I left him with the knowledge of what it is that he’s getting himself into,” Alexei replied, frowning, and sipping at the black coffee. “He only knew the words to try to entice me to his bed. He didn’t know the meaning behind them. I made sure that he now understands what will be expected of him when he offers those kinds of services to men.”

“So, you did not deflower my virgin last night?” she asked coyly.

Alexei took another sip of coffee before answering the question.

“He is a virgin no longer. He made it clear that he desired me more than the money he was being paid. I broke him in as gently as possible. He’s a sensitive young man. Do not go offering him to men who would abuse that.”

“He must earn his keep,” the madam said frankly. “He will be offered to any man with the money to pay for his services. I was simply saving him until you had the opportunity to have the first taste of his forbidden fruit.”

Alexei sat his mug down on the bar and turned away from the madam.

“Thank you for the coffee, ma’am,” he said. “I must be on my way now.”

With that, he strode from the saloon and headed back to his camp.

“Merry Christmas, you big, soft-hearted Russian dope.” The madam said to herself as she watched him striding down the road out of town.

****

“You really cared about Samuel, didn’t you, Papa?” Adam asked. They had walked a full lap around the Dawson City business district and were now standing in front of the Westminster Hotel once again.

“I did, Cub,” Axel admitted. “Ultimately, that was my downfall.”

“Is this the saloon where you met him?” Adam asked.

“No, this is the building that the owner built the next year. The original saloon was over here where this vacant lot is now, and back there…” Axel said pointing, “Is where the prostitutes’ shantytown was set up.

“I continued to see Samuel all that winter off and on, and in the spring, construction on the Westminster was complete. Even now, they still have the separate saloon on the left and lounge on the right. When the Westminster opened, the madam would patrol the saloon looking for men who needed company, and when she found one, she would lead him through the building over to the lounge where they could mingle with the girls until they made their choice, and then the girl would take them upstairs to their room.”

“And Samuel’s room is the one we’re staying in now.” Adam replied.

“That’s right,” Axel said, “After my first time with Samuel, the madam started offering him to other men, and he quickly learned the ways of the world. I spent many a night with him, but none were like that first time, when he was still innocent to the world and wanted me to fulfill the role of the fantasy man he’d been dreaming of in his younger years.”

“So, was being gay acceptable back then, so anybody could just walk in the saloon looking for a male prostitute?”

“Oh, fuck no!” Axel replied. “That was a sure way to get your ass kicked or even killed. If you were a return customer, like me, the madam knew what you wanted and made sure that Samuel was available. If you were a new customer, you had to know the code. When the madam would ask a man if he’d care to go over to the lounge and peruse the young ladies, the man would reply that he’d rather go to the ‘cigar lounge’ instead. Hearing this, she would know that he was there seeking Samuel’s services instead of one of the girls.”

Axel walked over to the saloon door and opened it, walking inside.

“It really hasn’t changed that much over the years,” he said, looking around.

He walked up to the bar and ordered two double vodkas from the bartender.

“Papa, come here, look at this photo!” Adam called as Axel picked up his drinks.

He walked over where his cub was standing and handed him a glass. The framed photo was black and white and was a group shot of all the miners and regular customers standing in front of the Westminster Hotel building on the day that it opened.

“Papa,” Adam said, pointing at a spot within the group, “Is that…?”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Axel replied. “I’d almost forgotten the day we took that picture.”

There were many rough-looking miners and frontiersmen standing together in the group photo along with a bevy of saloon girls posing in front of the new hotel. In the back of the group, standing tall above the rest was Axel himself, or Alexei as he was known back then, posing with his arm draped across the shoulders of a tall, thin, and handsome blonde man.

“There you are Samuel,” Axel said wistfully, raising his glass and taking a sip. “Good to see you again.”

“I wish I could have met you back in that time,” Adam said with a sad note in his voice as he sipped his drink.

“Don’t be jealous of Samuel, Cub,” Axel replied. “The little bitch broke my heart, and he paid for that mistake dearly. But that’s a story for tomorrow. Let’s drink up and go find a steak big enough for a cowboy!”

Copyright © 2021 Grumpy Bear; All Rights Reserved.
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The last paragraph is wild! The demeanor Axel has set so far with Samuel got derailed from what I see. To be reminiscent of this man from a lost time, then recall he was a little b!&$#... very interesting, and I'm eager for the next chapter. 

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20 minutes ago, astone2292 said:

and I'm eager for the next chapter.

Eager for the next chapter indeed I Want More GIF

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So Axel had a good friend in Samuel for a while, but Axel says the bitch broke my heart. Can't wait to see what Samuel did to break Axel's heart.

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