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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




IT was in this Sacramento Valley, just referred to, that a deal
of the most lucrative of the early gold mining was done,
and you may still see, in places, its grassy slopes and levels
torn and guttered and disfigured by the avaricious spoilers of
fifteen and twenty years ago. You may see such disfigurements
far and wide over California—and in some such places,
where only meadows and forests are visible—not a living
creature, not a house, no stick or stone or remnant of a ruin,
and not a sound, not even a whisper to disturb the Sabbath
stillness—you will find it hard to believe that there stood at
one time a fiercely-flourishing little city, of two thousand or
three thousand souls, with its newspaper, fire company, brass
band, volunteer militia, bank, hotels, noisy Fourth of July
processions and speeches, gambling hells crammed with tobacco
smoke, profanity, and rough-bearded men of all nations
and colors, with tables heaped with gold dust sufficient for the
revenues of a German principality—streets crowded and rife
with business—town lots worth four hundred dollars a front
foot—labor, laughter, music, dancing, swearing, fighting, shooting,
stabbing—a bloody inquest and a man for breakfast every
morning—everything that delights and adorns existence—all
the appointments and appurtenances of a thriving and prosperous
and promising young city,—and now nothing is left of
it all but a lifeless, homeless solitude. The men are gone,
the houses have vanished, even the name of the place is forgotten.
In no other land, in modern times, have towns so


Page 415
absolutely died and disappeared, as in the old mining regions
of California.

It was a driving, vigorous, restless population in those days.
It was a curious population. It was the only population of the
kind that the world has ever seen gathered together, and it is
not likely that the world will ever see its like again. For,
observe, it was an assemblage of two hundred thousand young
men—not simpering, dainty, kid-gloved weaklings, but stalwart,
muscular, dauntless young braves, brimful of push and
energy, and royally endowed with every attribute that goes to
make up a peerless and magnificent manhood—the very pick
and choice of the world's glorious ones. No women, no
children, no gray and stooping veterans,—none but erect,
bright-eyed, quick-moving, strong-handed young giants—the
strangest population, the finest population, the most gallant
host that ever trooped down the startled solitudes of an
unpeopled land. And where are they now? Scattered to
the ends of the earth—or prematurely aged and decrepit—or
shot or stabbed in street affrays—or dead of disappointed
hopes and broken hearts—all gone, or nearly all—victims
devoted upon the altar of the golden calf—the noblest holocaust
that ever wafted its sacrificial incense heavenward. It
is pitiful to think upon.

It was a splendid population—for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained
sloths staid at home—you never find that sort of
people among pioneers—you cannot build pioneers out of
that sort of material. It was that population that gave to
California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and
rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and
a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto
this day—and when she projects a new surprise, the grave world
smiles as usual, and says “Well, that is California all over.”

But they were rough in those times! They fairly reveled
in gold, whisky, fights, and fandangoes, and were unspeakably
happy. The honest miner raked from a hundred to
a thousand dollars out of his claim a day, and what with
the gambling dens and the other entertainments, he hadn't a


Page 416


[Description: 504EAF. Page 416. In-line image of a woman in a covered wagon with a group of men outside of the wagon.]
cent the next morning, if he had any sort of luck. They
cooked their own bacon and beans, sewed on their own
buttons, washed their own shirts—blue woollen ones; and if
a man wanted a fight on his hands without any annoying
delay, all he had to do was to appear in public in a white
shirt or a stove-pipe hat, and he would be accommodated. For
those people hated aristocrats. They had a particular and
malignant animosity toward what they called a “biled shirt.”

It was a wild, free, disorderly, grotesque society! Men
only swarming hosts of stalwart men—nothing juvenile, nothing
feminine, visible anywhere!

In those days miners would flock in crowds to catch a
glimpse of that rare and blessed spectacle, a woman! Old
inhabitants tell how, in a certain camp, the news went abroad
early in the morning that a woman was come! They had
seen a calico dress hanging out of a wagon down at the
camping-ground—sign of emigrants from over the great plains.
Everybody went down there, and a shout went up when an


Page 417


[Description: 504EAF. Page 417. In-line image of a woman and her daughter talking to a man in a hat.]
actual, bona fide dress was discovered fluttering in the wind!
The male emigrant was visible. The miners said:

“Fetch her out!”

He said: “It is my wife, gentlemen—she is sick—we have
been robbed of money, provisions, everything, by the Indians
—we want to rest.”

“Fetch her out! We've got to see her!”

“But, gentlemen, the poor thing, she—”

Fetch her out!

He “fetched her out,” and they swung their hats and sent up
three rousing cheers and a tiger; and they crowded around and
gazed at her, and touched her dress, and listened to her voice
with the look of men who listened to a memory rather than a
present reality—and then they collected twenty-five hundred
dollars in gold and gave it to the man, and swung their hats
again and gave three more cheers, and went home satisfied.

Once I dined in San Francisco with the family of a
pioneer, and talked with his daughter, a young lady whose
first experience
in San
Francisco was
an adventure,
though she
herself did not
remember it,
as she was
only two or
three years old
at the time.
Her father
said that, after
landing from
the ship, they
were walking
up the street,
a servant leading
the party with the little girl in her arms. And presently


Page 418
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 504EAF. Page 418. Tail-piece of a line of men waiting to go inside of a building for food.] a huge miner, bearded, belted, spurred, and bristling with
deadly weapons—just down from a long campaign in the
mountains, evidently—barred the way, stopped the servant,
and stood gazing, with a face all alive with gratification and
astonishment. Then he said, reverently:

“Well, if it ain't a child!” And then he snatched a little
leather sack out of his pocket and said to the servant:

“There's a hundred and fifty dollars in dust, there, and
I'll give it to you to let me kiss the child!”

That anecdote is true.

But see how things change. Sitting at that dinner-table,
listening to that anecdote, if I had offered double the money
for the privilege of kissing the same child, I would have been
refused. Seventeen added years have far more than doubled
the price.

And while upon this subject I will remark that once in
Star City, in the Humboldt Mountains, I took my place in
a sort of long, post-office single file of miners, to patiently
await my chance to peep through a crack in the cabin and get
a sight of the splendid new sensation—a genuine, live Woman!
And at the end of half of an hour my turn came, and I put
my eye to the crack, and there she was, with one arm akimbo,
and tossing flap-jacks in a frying-pan with the other. And
she was one hundred and sixty-five[1] years old, and hadn't a
tooth in her head.


Being in calmer mood, now, I voluntarily knock off a hundred from
that.—M. T.