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Though written after the Civil War, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" takes place in the early 1850s, shortly after gold is discovered in the West. The main characters represent traditional wild West occupations that would be found in any prosperous mining town: Oakhurst, the gambler; Mother Shipton, the brothel madam; the Duchess, a working prostitute; and Uncle Billy, the drunken "sluice robber." (A sluice is the wooden decline used to filter diggings--and the occasional gold flakes--from the water that is run from the mine.) Like many Western towns, the citizens of Poker Flat occasionally decide to remove unsavory elements from their midst; the outcasts are determined to be worthy of eviction, but not hanging, as several other lawbreakers have faced. The group is sent packing and told not to return, provided with some provisions and a pack mule--common of the time for its endurance (and being less expensive than a horse). Oakhurst is allowed to keep his own horse, since the horse is considered both essential and valuable to its owner. After Tom Simson appears, the others head to the crude log cabin he has passed on the way. The group spend the nights enjoying "square fun"--telling stories around the fire and singing hymns to the accompaniment of Tom's accordion. In the end, Oakhurst--still carrying the essential gambler's tools of a Derringer, Bowie knife and deck of cards--leaves his own epitaph by his body so that his end will be acknowledged by whoever may find him.
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