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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




BY and by, an old friend of mine, a miner, came down from
one of the decayed mining camps of Tuolumne, California,
and I went back with him. We lived in a small cabin on
a verdant hillside, and there were not five other cabins in view
over the wide expanse of hill and forest. Yet a flourishing
city of two or three thousand population had occupied this
grassy dead solitude during the flush times of twelve or fifteen
years before, and where our cabin stood had once been the
heart of the teeming hive, the centre of the city. When the
mines gave out the town fell into decay, and in a few years
wholly disappeared—streets, dwellings, shops, everything—and
left no sign. The grassy slopes were as green and smooth and
desolate of life as if they had never been disturbed. The mere
handful of miners still remaining, had seen the town spring up,
spread, grow and flourish in its pride; and they had seen it
sicken and die, and pass away like a dream. With it their
hopes had died, and their zest of life. They had long ago
resigned themselves to their exile, and ceased to correspond
with their distant friends or turn longing eyes toward their
early homes. They had accepted banishment, forgotten the
world and been forgotten of the world. They were far from
telegraphs and railroads, and they stood, as it were, in a living
grave, dead to the events that stirred the globe's great populations,
dead to the common interests of men, isolated and outcast
from brotherhood with their kind. It was the most singular,
and almost the most touching and melancholy exile that
fancy can imagine.—One of my associates in this locality, for


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 436. In-line image of a man leaning against a mound of earth, he looks like a miner.]
two or three months, was a man who had had a university education;
but now for eighteen years he had decayed there by
inches, a bearded, rough-clad, clay-stained miner, and at times,
among his sighings and soliloquizings,
he unconsciously interjected
vaguely remembered
Latin and Greek sentences—
dead and musty tongues, meet
vehicles for the thoughts of one
whose dreams were all of the
past, whose life was a failure;
a tired man, burdened with the
present, and indifferent to the
future; a man without ties,
hopes, interests, waiting for
rest and the end.

In that one little corner of
California is found a species of
mining which is seldom or never
mentioned in print. It is
called “pocket mining” and I
am not aware that any of it is done outside of that little corner.
The gold is not evenly distributed through the surface dirt, as
in ordinary placer mines, but is collected in little spots, and
they are very wide apart and exceedingly hard to find, but when
you do find one you reap a rich and sudden harvest. There
are not now more than twenty pocket miners in that entire little
region. I think I know every one of them personally. I
have known one of them to hunt patiently about the hill-sides
every day for eight months without finding gold enough to
make a snuff-box—his grocery bill running up relentlessly all
the time—and then find a pocket and take out of it two
thousand dollars in two dips of his shovel. I have known him
to take out three thousand dollars in two hours, and go and
pay up every cent of his indebtedness, then enter on a dazzling
spree that finished the last of his treasure before the night was
gone. And the next day he bought his groceries on credit as
usual, and shouldered his pan and shovel and went off to the


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 437. In-line image of a man looking at his hand with a shovel and pan at his feet.]
hills hunting pockets again happy and content. This is the
most fascinating of all the different kinds of mining, and furnishes
a very handsome percentage of victims to the lunatic asylum.

Pocket hunting is an ingenious process. You take a spadeful
of earth from the hill-side and put it in a large tin pan and
dissolve and wash it gradually away till nothing is left but a
teaspoonful of fine sediment. Whatever gold was in that earth
has remained, because, being the heaviest, it has sought the
bottom. Among the sediment you will find half a dozen yellow
particles no larger than pin-heads. You are delighted. You
move off to one side and wash another pan. If you find gold
again, you move to one side further, and wash a third pan. If
you find no gold this time, you
are delighted again, because you
know you are on the right scent.
You lay an imaginary plan,
shaped like a fan, with its handle
up the hill—for just where
the end of the handle is, you
argue that the rich deposit lies
hidden, whose vagrant grains of
gold have escaped and been
washed down the hill, spreading
farther and farther apart
as they wandered. And so you
proceed up the hill, washing
the earth and narrowing your
lines every time the absence of
gold in the pan shows that you
are outside the spread of the fan;
and at last, twenty yards up the hill your lines have converged
to a point—a single foot from that point you cannot find any
gold. Your breath comes short and quick, you are feverish
with excitement; the dinner-bell may ring its clapper off, you
pay no attention; friends may die, weddings transpire, houses
burn down, they are nothing to you; you sweat and dig and
delve with a frantic interest—and all at once you strike it!
Up comes a spadeful of earth and quartz that is all lovely with


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soiled lumps and leaves and sprays of gold. Sometimes that
one spadeful is all—$500. Sometimes the nest contains $10,000,
and it takes you three or four days to get it all out. The pocket-miners
tell of one nest that yielded $60,000 and two men
exhausted it in two weeks, and then sold the ground for $10,
000 to a party who never got $300 out of it afterward.

The hogs are good pocket hunters. All the summer they
root around the bushes, and turn up a thousand little piles of
dirt, and then the miners long for the rains; for the rains beat
upon these little piles and wash them down and expose the gold,
possibly right over a pocket. Two pockets were found in
this way by the same man in one day. One had $5,000 in it
and the other $8,000. That man could appreciate it, for he
hadn't had a cent for about a year.

In Tuolumne lived two miners who used to go to the
neighboring village in the afternoon and return every night
with household supplies. Part of the distance they traversed
a trail, and nearly always sat down to rest on a great boulder
that lay beside the path. In the course of thirteen years they
had worn that boulder tolerably smooth, sitting on it. By and
by two vagrant Mexicans came along and occupied the seat.
They began to amuse themselves by chipping off flakes from
the boulder with a sledge-hammer. They examined one of
these flakes and found it rich with gold. That boulder paid
them $800 afterward. But the aggravating circumstance was
that these “Greasers” knew that there must be more gold
where that boulder came from, and so they went panning up
the hill and found what was probably the richest pocket that
region has yet produced. It took three months to exhaust it,
and it yielded $120,000. The two American miners who used
to sit on the boulder are poor yet, and they take turn about in
getting up early in the morning to curse those Mexicans—and
when it comes down to pure ornamental cursing, the native
American is gifted above the sons of men.

I have dwelt at some length upon this matter of pocket mining
because it is a subject that is seldom referred to in print,
and therefore I judged that it would have for the reader that
interest which naturally attaches to novelty.