In the short story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" by Bret Harte, four of the town's residents are banished for supposed immoral behavior, forcing them to hike over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to another town called Sandy Bar. The outcasts include a gambler named John Oakhurst, two prostitutes named Mother Shipton and the Duchess, and a robber and drunkard named Uncle Billy. However, only about halfway to their destination in a desolate isolated area, they stop, and everyone except Oakhurst starts drinking liquor.
It is at this point that Tom Simson and Piney Woods arrive on horseback from Sandy Bar. Oakhurst had once won all of Simson's money in a poker game and then had given it back with an admonishment never to gamble again. In this way, he made a lifelong friend of Simson. Simson and Piney Woods, a 15-year-old waitress, have eloped and are on their way to Poker Flat to get married. Simson and Piney share their provisions with the others, and they retire for the night to a nearby dilapidated cabin that the two lovers had found. The women sleep within, and the men sleep outside. During the night it begins to snow, and in the morning Oakhurst discovers that Uncle Billy has escaped with all the mounts.
The transformation that the outcasts undergo is a result of Piney and Simson's innocence and generosity. They are happy to share their supplies with the others, and they even look forward to their stay in the mountains during the snowstorm as a happy shared event. Their cheerfulness and optimism is infectious. It serves to pick up the moods of the others, who have been rejected and banished from their former home. A sense of community is created, and they play music, tell stories, and even sing hymns together. This feeling causes the outcasts of Poker Flat to become genuinely unselfish. Mother Shipton starves to death so that Piney will have enough to eat. John Oakhurst, before he shoots himself, gathers a load of wood for the women in the cabin. The Duchess cares for Piney as if she was her mother and then dies of the cold in her arms. Each in their own way undergoes a profound transformation because of the loving influence of Tom Simson and Piney Woods.