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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




ONE of my comrades there—another of those victims of
eighteen years of unrequited toil and blighted hopes—was
one of the gentlest spirits that ever bore its patient cross in a
weary exile: grave and simple Dick Baker, pocket-miner of
Dead-House Gulch.—He was forty-six, gray as a rat, earnest,
thoughtful, slenderly educated, slouchily dressed and clay-soiled,
but his heart was finer metal than any gold his shovel ever
brought to light—than any, indeed, that ever was mined or

Whenever he was out of luck and a little down-hearted, he
would fall to mourning over the loss of a wonderful cat he used
to own (for where women and children are not, men of kindly
impulses take up with pets, for they must love something).
And he always spoke of the strange sagacity of that cat with
the air of a man who believed in his secret heart that there was
something human about it—may be even supernatural.

I heard him talking about this animal once. He said:

“Gentlemen, I used to have a cat here, by the name of Tom
Quartz, which you'd a took an interest in I reckon—most any
body would. I had him here eight year—and he was the remarkablest
cat I ever see. He was a large gray one of the
Tom specie, an' he had more hard, natchral sense than any
man in this camp—'n' a power of dignity—he wouldn't let the
Gov'ner of Californy be familiar with him. He never ketched
a rat in his life—'peared to be above it. He never cared for
nothing but mining. He knowed more about mining, that


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cat did, than any man I ever, ever see. You couldn't tell him
noth'n' 'bout placer diggin's—'n' as for pocket mining, why
he was just born for it. He would dig out after me an' Jim
when we went over the hills prospect'n',
and he would trot along
behind us for as much as five mile,
if we went so fur. An' he had the
best judgment about mining
ground—why you never see anything
like it. When we went to
work, he'd scatter a glance around,
'n' if he didn't think much of the
indications, he would give a look
as much as to say, `Well, I'll have
to get you to excuse me,' 'n' without
another word he'd hyste his nose into the air 'n' shove for
home. But if the ground suited him, he would lay low 'n'
keep dark till the first pan was washed, 'n' then he would sidle
up 'n' take a look, an' if there was about six or seven grains of
gold he was satisfied—he didn't want no better prospect 'n'
that—'n' then he would lay down on our coats and snore like
a steamboat till we'd struck the pocket, an' then get up 'n'
superintend. He was nearly lightnin' on superintending.

“Well, bye an' bye, up comes this yer quartz excitement.
Every body was into it—every body was pick'n' 'n' blast'n'
instead of shovelin' dirt on the hill side—every body was put'n'
down a shaft instead of scrapin' the surface. Noth'n' would
do Jim, but we must tackle the ledges, too, 'n' so we did. We
commenced put'n' down a shaft, 'n' Tom Quartz he begin to
wonder what in the Dickens it was all about. He hadn't ever
seen any mining like that before, 'n' he was all upset, as you
may say—he couldn't come to a right understanding of it no
way—it was too many for him. He was down on it, too, you
bet you—he was down on it powerful—'n' always appeared to
consider it the cussedest foolishness out. But that cat, you
know, was always agin new fangled arrangements—somehow
he never could abide 'em. You know how it is with old habits.


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But by an' by Tom Quartz begin to git sort of reconciled a
little, though he never could altogether understand that eternal
sinkin' of a shaft an' never pannin' out any thing. At last he
got to comin' down in the shaft, hisself, to try to cipher it out.
An' when he'd git the blues, 'n' feel kind o' scruffy, 'n' aggravated
'n' disgusted—knowin' as he did, that the bills was runnin'
up all the time an' we warn't makin' a cent—he would
curl up on a gunny sack in the corner an' go to sleep. Well,
one day when the shaft was down about eight foot, the rock
got so hard that we had to put in a blast—the first blast'n'
we'd ever done since Tom Quartz was born. An' then we lit
the fuse 'n' clumb out 'n' got off 'bout fifty yards—'n' forgot
'n' left Tom Quartz sound asleep on the gunny sack. In 'bout
a minute we seen a puff of smoke bust up out of the hole, 'n'
then everything let go with an awful crash, 'n' about four
million ton of rocks 'n' dirt 'n'
smoke 'n' splinters shot up
'bout a mile an' a half into the
air, an' by George, right in the dead centre of it was old Tom
Quartz a goin' end over end, an' a snortin' an' a sneez'n', an'
a clawin' an' a reachin' for things like all possessed. But it
warn't no use, you know, it warn't no use. An' that was the


Page 442
last we see of him for about two minutes 'n' a half, an' then all
of a sudden it begin to rain rocks and rubbage, an' directly he
come down ker-whop about ten foot off f'm where we stood.
Well, I reckon he was p'raps the orneriest lookin' beast you
ever see. One ear was sot back on his neck, 'n' his tail was
stove up, 'n' his eye-winkers was swinged off, 'n' he was all
blacked up with powder an'
smoke, an' all sloppy with mud
'n' slush f'm one end to the
other. Well sir, it warn't no
use to try to apologize—we
couldn't say a word. He took
a sort of a disgusted look at hisself,
'n' then he looked at us—
an' it was just exactly the same as if he had said—`Gents,
may be you think it's smart to take advantage of a cat that
'ain't had no experience of quartz minin', but I think different'
—an' then he turned on his heel 'n' marched off home without
ever saying another word.

“That was jest his style. An' may be you won't believe
it, but after that you never see a cat so prejudiced agin quartz
mining as what he was. An' by an' bye when he did get to
goin' down in the shaft agin, you'd 'a been astonished at his
sagacity. The minute we'd tetch off a blast 'n' the fuse'd begin
to sizzle, he'd give a look as much as to say: `Well, I'll have
to git you to excuse me,' an' it was surpris'n' the way he'd shin
out of that hole 'n' go f'r a tree. Sagacity? It ain't no name
for it. 'Twas inspiration!”

I said, “Well, Mr. Baker, his prejudice against quartz-mining
was remarkable, considering how he came by it. Couldn't
you ever cure him of it?”

Cure him! No! When Tom Quartz was sot once, he was
always sot—and you might a blowed him up as much as three
million times 'n' you'd never a broken him of his cussed prejudice
agin quartz mining.”

The affection and the pride that lit up Baker's face when he
delivered this tribute to the firmness of his humble friend of
other days, will always be a vivid memory with me.


Page 443

At the end of two months we had never “struck” a pocket.
We had panned up and down the hillsides till they looked
plowed like a field; we could have put in a crop of grain, then,
but there would have been no way to get it to market. We
got many good “prospects,” but when the gold gave out in
the pan and we dug down, hoping and longing, we found only
emptiness—the pocket that should have been there was as barren
as our own.—At last we shouldered our pans and shovels
and struck out over the hills to try new localities. We prospected
around Angel's Camp, in Calaveras county, during three
weeks, but had no success. Then we wandered on foot among
the mountains, sleeping under the trees at night, for the weather
was mild, but still we remained as centless as the last rose of
summer. That is a poor joke, but it is in pathetic harmony
with the circumstances, since we were so poor ourselves. In
accordance with the custom of the country, our door had always
stood open and our board welcome to tramping miners—they
drifted along nearly every day, dumped their paust shovels
by the threshold and took “pot luck” with us—and now on
our own tramp we never found cold hospitality.

Our wanderings were wide and in many directions; and now
I could give the reader a vivid description of the Big Trees
and the marvels of the Yo Semite—but what has this reader
done to me that I should persecute him? I will deliver him
into the hands of less conscientious tourists and take his blessing.
Let me be charitable, though I fail in all virtues else.

Some of the phrases in the above are mining technicalities, purely, and may be
a little obscure to the general reader. In “placer diggings” the gold is scattered
all through the surface dirt; in “pocket” diggings it is concentrated in one little
spot; in “quartz” the gold is in a solid, continuous vein of rock, enclosed between
distinct walls of some other kind of stone—and this is the most laborious and
expensive of all the different kinds of mining. “Prospecting” is hunting for a
placer;indications” are signs of its presence; “panning out” refers to the
washing process by which the grains of gold are separated from the dirt; a “prospect
is what one finds in the first panful of dirt—and its value determines whether
it is a good or a bad prospect, and whether it is worth while to tarry there or seek