After the gold rush the wagon train headed back East, with disillusioned prospectors at the reigns. A harsh winter through hostile Indian territory lay in waiting but that outlook was more enticing than another month in dug up Oregon, where the overriding stench of failure choked the atmosphere.
Barney Cooper was one such dreamer that had relocated his family to the West in search of fortune and the American dream. By the time he had arrived, there were thousands of his ilk sifting through the waters and hacking violently at rocks. Once in a while, one of them stumbled upon a nugget ever so tiny, but Barney Cooper never did.
He had been a failure since birth. Son to an idle farmer. Husband to a plain wife. Father to six dim-witted children. His most recent endeavour had been the latest in a long line of failed enterprises and shattered dreams. Odds were it would not be his last.
So when dawn broke over Monument Valley and Barney Cooper’s family found him nowhere near the wagon, they knew that besides a failure he was now a coward. They rode on without him and when they reached the Ozarks they lead lives as unremarkable and dull as Barney Cooper had.
Unbeknownst to them he had, to a chronicle writer on his spineless flight, told his life story for a dime, in such broad and inaccurate terms that it appeared like a triumph in the face of adversity. Printing presses could not keep up with demand. When the tale of this American hero reached the Ozarks, Barney Cooper’s children read it and wished that man had been their father.
As for Barney Cooper, his dime only lasted three hours.
The epitome of the American dream died nameless in an unmarked grave.
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