Authors: Nikki Tate
Copyright Â© 2006 Nikki Tate
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
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including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and
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Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Tate, Nikki, 1962â
Jo's journey / Nikki Tate.
(Orca young readers)
1. Cariboo (B.C. : Regional district)âGold discoveriesâJuvenile fiction.
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8589.A8735J64 2006Â Â Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â Â Â C2006-901017-X
First published in the United States: 2006
Library of Congress Control Number:
Fourteen-year-old Jo is determined to
follow her dream of finding gold in the Cariboo.
Free teachers' guide available.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support
for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies:
the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry
Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts,
and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Typesetting and cover design by Lynn O'Rourke
Cover & interior illustrations by Emily Carrington
Orca Book Publishers
Box 5626 Stn B
Victoria, BC Canada
In the United States:
Orca Book Publishers
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Printed and bound in Canada
Printed on 100% recycled paper.
Processed chlorine-free using vegetable based inks.
For my father
Without your encouragement
Jo would never have left home
And for Jane
Who else could have survived
Utah Territory with the likes of my
old horse and me?
As always, there are so many people to thank and my methods of record-keeping woefully inadequate. A big thanks is due to all the people at Orca. In particular, I must thank Sarah Harvey for getting on Jo's case.
Thanks to Emily Carrington for creating such a great cover and interior illustrations. Staff at the Royal British Columbia Museum were immensely helpful, and Rod at Galleon Books in Sidney went above and beyond the call of duty to help me find the information I needed.
“Bart? Do you ever miss Utah Territory?”
I tossed a forkful of straw and horse manure into the barrow. Bart grunted as he dropped hay into the manger at the other end of the horse.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“I suppose I miss the money,” Bart said. He unhooked the water bucket and dunked it in the rain barrel.
“The money? That's all?”
Bart and I had become friendly during the time we worked with the Pony Express. Course, he didn't know I was a girlâand I was glad of that. No doubt that would have changed things some.
After the telegraph line came through and the Pony Express stopped running, we traveled to San Francisco and found work at Finnigan's Livery. It wasn't exciting work, but our bellies were full and we stayed dry at night. But now, after a quiet winter in the city, restlessness stirred in my bones. I couldn't believe Bart didn't feel it too.
“So you don't miss anything else?”
Bart hooked the full bucket in front of the horse and shrugged. “What's to miss about Utah Territory? Snow? Sun hot enough to bake a man's brains? Robberies?”
The last point was for my benefit. I'd prevented a mail robbery, and memories of that adventure still kept me awake some nights.
I moved on to the next horse. “I know all that,” I said, surprised at the sudden pang of sadness I felt. There was no way to go back, not really. I waved my hand at the two long rows of horse backsides stretching away from me inside the stable. “Even you have to admit that this is boring.” The horses farther along the row nickered, anxious to eat.
“I'm coming,” Bart called back.
“Are you planning to grow old in here so they mark your grave with a picture of a pitchfork?” I wanted to rile him up.
With his arms full of hay, he chuckled.
“You're a funny one, Joe,” he said. “Always looking for something differentâlike different is always going to be better. That ain't always the case.”
“Just for that, I'll leave you behind when I go!”
I opened my mouth, but had no good answer. “Somewhere,” was the best I could offer. I had no plan, no place to go, and for the rest of the morning, I kept my thoughts to myself.
A week or so later while I was waiting for Bart outside the Red Bar Saloon, I recalled our conversation. The thought that it was time to move on would not leave me alone. “How much?” I asked Bart when he emerged from the saloon.
“Four dollarsâa little more,” he said with a wink. Bart had the magic touch when it
came to any kind of gamblingâcards or dice or the faro table.
When Bart had a pocketful of winnings he liked to buy a good meal for both of us. He tucked away the rest of his money for safekeeping in his poke, the leather pouch he always kept close by.
Bart was always excited after winning in the gambling houses and he moved fast, his boots clumping along the wooden boards of the sidewalk. I was grateful for my long legs and the fact I wore trousers. Even unencumbered by skirts, I reminded myself to swagger a little and throw my shoulders back. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window as we barreled past. Lanky. Skinny as a beanpole. Pockmarked face. No chest to speak ofâthank goodness!
“Took a little longer than I thought,” he said. “You keep busy?”
He turned down a side street and strode toward the docks.
I had been busy. “I read the front page of the paper four times.”
Bart laughed. “And? Any interesting news?”
“Gold! You knowâthat yellow stuff that makes men crazy?”
“I know what gold is. What about it?”
The word was splashed across the front page of the papers every day and on the lips of near enough everyone in San Francisco. Men from all parts crowded the docks, looking for passage north. Gold. “Joe? You ain't thinking about going north â”
I shrugged. North, in the Cariboo, that's where everyone said the gold was.
“I might find my brothers â”
Bart made an odd noiseâa sharp laugh that sounded like a bark. “Your brothers may be dead, for all you know.”
“And they may be picking up nuggets of gold as we speak,” I shot back.
“Joe,” Bart said, grabbing my arm and pulling me to a stop. “You're wasting your time looking for those two. And I only say that âcause you're my friend.”
I wanted to defend my brothers, but as always, sorrow and fury twisted my tongue into silence. When my brothers left me in Carson City at the Home for Unfortunate Girls, I know they thought it was for the best. They might have gone back to collect me, for all I knew. They had no way to know where I had gone or that I'd cut off my hair and run away, changed my name from Joselyn to Jo. But I could hardly explain all that without giving away my secret.
“Bart Ridleyâ“my voice wavered and I looked down at my boots. “You've got no right to tell me what to do.”
“Joeâall I'm saying is, it's best if you get on with your life.”
“Like you?” I spat the words out, unable to stop myself, furious with Bart for touching a grief I worked so hard to keep buried. “Get on with my life so I can shovel â”
We glared at each other, my fists clenched at my sides, his palms open and facing me.
“Don't get so testy,” he said. “You got some savings. You got no reason to be so restless.”
A small part of me agreed. It was true that I still had some of the reward money from the Pony Express. With talk of a stage line
running down to San Diego and more and more folks arriving all the time, settling in California wasn't such a bad idea.
But like my pa, God rest his soul, used to say, “Settling is for mud in the bottom of a river, not for a man with dreams.”
“What if we did go to the Cariboo?” I asked.
“We? Why would I want to go to the Cariboo?”
“Why wouldn't you? You've heard what they're saying. There's a fortune to be made in those mountain streams. All we have to do is get there.”
Bart shook his head. “Good way to lose a lot of money, I'd say.”
“What kind of gambler are you, anyway? If anyone should know you don't win wagers you don't make, it's you.”
“That's different,” he said, but not quite so strongly.
I talked faster, sweeping aside sad memories with a gush of happy plans. “We've got time to go this yearâif we leave right away. We could be rich. We could run a livery stable, not just work in one. Be honest, you
don't want to work there for the rest of your daysâdo you?”