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  • Writer's pictureTom Pinkston

Dead Letter

In particular, look here, item no. 1701

Dead Letter Office, Nebraska, United States, 1866

Property of the Smithsonian Institute by Congressional Act - heirs may lay claim.

Alaska Territory

June, 1864

My Dearest Daniel,

On that old rusted rumor, I paddled up that river and kept going.

Lived off free fish and a gopher or two I’ll admit.

I kept going, till the river became its creek.

I went up that too, dragging the canoe behind me.

Went til I found a spot, a real nice one. Promising - I am a prospector.

Water on one side, mountain on the other.

I diverted some of those headwaters, built a sluice out of the canoe,

checked my stores, made sure I packed the pick mattock cause I’d forgotten the wire for a shaker box and what else did I forget?

But I did have some pans.

And three sticks of dynamite with a twenty foot fuse, just in case, I remember thinking.

Found a fissure and used all three at once - you never heard such a godawful clap.

I survived it so me and that mattock got to work. We wore ourselves out daily.

Wore ourselves down. And that mountain? It couldn’t have cared less. But we kept it up, and we found a vein.

I have a tidy sum now. Plenty. Enough. And I’m on my way back to you and the farm, which I hope is still in your possession.

And if it’s not, my beloved, don’t worry. We’ll buy it back, and then some.

Either way, we’ll make it ours again.

I pine for simple suppers with you, easy conversation, a little gossip ripe on the vine and long, long silences, shared.

I’m on my way. I hope to see you soon.

Yours Truly and Sincerely for Always,


Clarence Sweetwater, born 1831, robbed, murdered and left for spring to rot.

Alaska Territory, 1865.

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