Mack Flanders pulled the shiny silver pocket watch his father had given him the day he left Ireland, from the pocket of his otter skin overcoat as he waited for the stage in Valdez. It was his last vestige of the old country, a reminder of the poverty he had left behind. Though the watch served little purpose, here in Alaska’s untamed interior, it gave him great comfort somehow to keep it wound and polished.
He had left behind a wife and child in the city to come here to this far away land of ice and bitter cold in search of gold. Gold that would enable him to provide for his family a better life, away from the squalor of the shanty towns of New York that swallowed the dreams of many an Irish immigrant when they finally arrived in America.
“Don’t go.” his wife had pleaded. “We’ll get along somehow. We always have. We didn’t come to this country to be separated. We came to build a new life together, not apart.”
“My decision is final.” He had answered sternly, in hopes that his steeled exterior was strong enough to mask his inner longing to do exactly as she asked.
He had taken a job with a logging company when he arrived in Anchorage. The work was back breaking, the hours long, and the snow and winds all but defeating as they cut a grizzled path through the vast wilderness, ending up in Valdez.
He and two of his fellow loggers would from here catch a ride on the stage into Fairbanks, where they would purchase a wagon and the necessary gear before they set out for the northern gold mines, to seek their fortunes under a summer sun that never set.
Ill prepared to face the ravages of an Alaskan winter, and with little gold to show for an entire summers hard work, the trio repacked their wagon in mid September intent to beat the harsh winter back into Fairbanks and put out again with the summer sun.
They never made it. An avalanche buried them, as they made their way through Jones pass, about a hundred miles outside of Fairbanks.
A wagon carrying four men with similar dreams came across their remains the following spring. A letter addressed to Mack Flanders wife, yet unmailed in his shirt pocket, provided the address to which one of the miners forwarded his pocket watch the following fall.
His wife, still eking out a meager existence submerged in the squalor of a shanty town, died of tuberculosis shortly there after. Leaving their only daughter all of their accumulated earthly treasures. Her far away grandmothers candelabra, her frail mothers pearls, and the silver pocket watch which once belonged to the fabled father she had never known.
Written in response to the generous prompt supplied by Peregrine Arc. Please check out the story starter for this one, it was a very unique challenge.