We hit pay dirt on the twelfth day out. By the twentieth day we knew exactly what we had. I'd been confident all along, and the data were there to back me up, but that didn't prevent celebration when Richard ran the clicker over that pile of hot rock. Next morning we bought the mountain. Rancher Roe reckoned we were setting up a commune, or maybe a new close-to-the-clouds religious establishment, but even so he couldn't wait to unload. At the registry of deeds he kept saying how, if he had it to do over, he'd most surely lead the hippie life himself. I never saw a man more willing to please. When it was done, we hauled an electric typewriter up to Sarah's hotel room and group-composed the letter. Janet and Steve and I handled the technical stuff, Ollie the prose, Sarah the legal ins and outs. Then I sat down at the IBM Electric and cranked out seven copies, one for each Sister. We mailed the letters and waited. That was the hard part: two months before the first tentative reply, six months before Gulf brought in its exploratory team, another six months before we got any sort of bidding war going, then eighty days more before Texaco doubled BP and we finally signed the papers. A straight cash deal—it had to be that way. No options, no pie-cutting, no deferred payments. Who needs it? The check was for twenty-five million dollars. Of course there wasn't a banker in sight who'd touch it, so we ended up in Ned's van, all eight of us, heading for First National in Helena. Along the way we stopped. There, on the banks of the Little Big Horn, we conducted a ceremony. It was stupid, but the ladies insisted, so we each tossed a hunk of near-pure uranium into the river, and I uttered a few solemn words, and we left two clickers behind as a gift for the next generation.
In the van, halfway home, Sarah and I stretched out and she cuddled me and asked how I'd be using my cut. It wasn't something I'd thought about. Buy a town somewhere, I said, or maybe a sinecure at Harvard.
"Do they have a decent geology department?" Sarah asked.
"Decent," I said, but of course she was right. "I guess I'll go to Bonn."