Sandy Canyon Terror

He was in his early teens when he first came west from St. Joe, Missouri. Frank Mueller didn’t intend on striking it rich but that’s what had happened.Frank started like any miner, with nothing more than a pick, shovel and a pie tin. He bought a length of land along the Russian River and set about to find gold.

Much to the surprise of those around him, he located a vain and chiseled out ounce after ounce of the precious ore. Within a month Frank was nearly as rich as any silver baron on the Comstock.

Suddenly, Frank found he could afford to pay others to do the work for him. He left the claim and moved to where he felt real adventure could be found; the city.

He had come a long way from his youth, filled with poverty, selling apples to help his widowed mother. When she died he saw no reason to stick around. Now as he grew older he reflected back and longed to see and do some of the things he had only dreamed about for so long.

Because of his wealth, Frank lived in luxury along the piers of the once infamous Barbary Coast. But even that wildness had long since been tamed by the civilized who roamed San Francisco.

He was amazed at how quickly the city had filled up with people. After years of easy living, Frank decided it was time to move on; to find some place less crowded.

As a young man he had always wanted to explore the high desert of Nevada. Frank heard there was a possibility of gold just a little north of Reno.

He wanted to find out.

It took only a day of travel for Frank to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He was surprised to find the small settlement established in his youth had grown so much.

When he was younger, Reno, along the Truckee River, was nothing more than a few buildings that served as a stop for the weary traveler heading elsewhere. Now Reno was a bustling metropolis, filled with saloons, hotels, businesses and city folk.

Frank found the atmosphere confining. He quickly found himself looking off into the horizon, searching for a place less inhabited.

Wanderlust led Frank to exploring the lands above the mine town of Wedekind City. There he found a small box canyon and several draws holding small shelves of what he believed to be silver ore.

Sandy Canyon, as Frank named it, was where he decided to set up a claim. For weeks he had poked around and through the rocks, searching for mineral deposits until he found what he knew to be color.

He had a small camp set up near the longest draw of the side of Sandy Canyon. Frank was comfortable with the small wooden shack he had erected to shelter himself against the elements of wind, blowing sand and the cold nights.

It was one evening, as the sun settled in the west; Frank discovered a length of outcropping that looked promising. The vein turned into the hill as he continued to follow the nearly invisible lines of the deposit.

The small thread of mineral slipped under a rock ledge. Frank crawled beneath the cleft to see how far it continued.

That’s when he heard it.

It was a sound unlike anything he had ever heard before. Frank lay quietly listening, trying to decide if he should he concerned.

It echoed through Sandy Canyon again. This time Frank froze in place as feeling of dread covered his being.

He asked himself, “Was that a man or a dog?”

Frank couldn’t tell.

As quickly as he could, he scrambled from between the rocky shelves. Frank wasn’t fully to his feet when something struck him from behind, knocking him hard to the ground.

Frank crawled to his knees and looked around for what had attacked him. He saw nothing as he made it to his feet.

However he heard the low, vicious growl of what he believed to be a dog from somewhere in front of him. Frank backed up and into the shallow draw behind him, placing his shoulders against the face of a short overhang.

Still couldn’t see what was making the malevolent sound, he could only hear what he thought might be a large, wild dog. Frank decided he’d climb onto the overhang to create a greater distance between himself and whatever remained hidden in the darkness.

On top of the overhang and about ten feet from the desert floor, Frank heard the beast moving from one side of the draw to the other. Frank continued to move higher onto the draw, until he could climb no further.

It was nothing more than a small ledge, some thirty feet high. There he found a few loose, dried sage brushes and a couple of rocks. Frank was trapped and he would have to wait out the night or until he felt certain the beast had gone away.

Darkness had long settled in on the desert as Frank huddled against the rock looking down the draw. Every once in a while he believed he saw a shadow from in front or heard a noise from above.

And twice he dosed as he sat silently. But the rest was short-lived as he heard the low growl emanating from the blackness of the lonely night.

The beast had moved closer to Frank’s perch amid the rocky crags. He wondered, “Is it my imagination or is it growing bolder?”

To find out, Frank struck a match and held it to a dried ball of sage brush and tossed it down the draw. What the flame uncovered terrified him.

What he thought was a large and wild dog was instead standing upright on two legs, looking menacingly at him. He felt his blood run cold and a chill race over his body as the sage burned out.

Frank remained tucked as tightly against the wall of Sandy Canyon as possible, until the sun had long risen over the Pah-Rah Range. He waited to make certain the thing he had seen, whatever it was, was no longer stalking him.

Only then did Frank move from his place of safety and climb to the ground below. He wasted no time in heading for Wedekind City as he craved the safety of civilization for the first time in a long while.

Frank went directly to a saloon and ordered a shot of whiskey to settle his nerves. The old-timers had seen him rushing along the narrow, dust-covered path that served as a road and could sense something was wrong.

At first Frank refused to speak of it, but slowly shot after shot of whiskey loosened his tongue. His tale was incredible and few believed what he had to say.

It would be several days before Frank would have the gumption to lead a small party back to his encampment. Once there, the group found little or no trace of what he had claimed to have seen.

Folks from all around came to consider Frank just another colorful character, a poor soul who lost his mind after too much time alone in the big emptiness of the high Nevada desert. He would spend much of the rest of his life in a drunken stupor and eventually would find himself committed to the Nevada Mental Asylum.

Eighty-three years later, Alycn Wold, searching through an old crate, found a yellowing and faded newspaper clipping. It told the tale of Frank Mueller and the Sandy Canyon Terror.

Alycn’s curiosity was piqued, because she knew.

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